June – 8 Short Stories

There were no over-riding themes in June. Just more busyness, activities and a realisation that my time in China was coming to an end.

I had a kimbab making lesson. Kimbab is the Korean equivalent of sushi but with meat and rice substituted for seafood. Excellent for the person with a seafood allergy. Read about a recipe here.

2008_06_29 Kimbab Making 01

The Firm asks me to read the ethics manual again as a condition of my third revised contract. I’m still grateful that they allowed me to defer my start for 2 years. But the time is coming where I must wear a suit + bad shirt instead of jeans + bad shirt.

A party was organised for the British expats in Tianjin. There would be the usual fare of tea, cake, singing the national anthem and discussing the weather. However, I got caught up in the China vs. Qatar World Cup qualifier game. I had to walk the last half mile. I made the most of the situation by buying a red souvenir T-shirt which read: "China Wins!" China lost the game 1-0.

I needed to buy a water bottle desperately and one for 18 RMB. I bargained down to 16RMB but the seller refused to go any lower. So I walked away. I spend the next week in persistent need of a water bottle. I return to the same shop and buy it for the original price of 18 RMB. My students tell me that I got a terrible deal. The other teachers tell me that the Korean characters written on the bottle are nonsense. I still use the water bottle.

I scratch the site of a van while riding my bike. I end up handing over 100RMB to placate the driver. I can’t afford to buy any more water bottles for the rest of the year.

fuse The flat continues to have electrical problems as the fuse can only support 2 out of the following devices out at any one time:

  1. Washing machine
  2. Air-conditioning
  3. Water heater for the shower
  4. Microwave

The fuse wire blows and I fix it using a pair of chopsticks. My health insurance is invalidated.

I make another trip to "Computer Street" to buy 5 hard drives. Computer Street is a geeks dream. There are hundreds of shops selling any kind of gadget and computer equipment. The shops range from clean glass displays to dark slime pits. I wonder how these places make any profit – it turns out that they are more solvent than the average Western bank.

There is a wedding in the park. Beautiful and touching.

2008_06_14 Beth and Jeremiah's Wedding_015

How China Has Changed Me – Part I

I’m impatient. I hate waiting. For example, I will always run to catch the train. I apologise to those I’ve knocked over at London Bridge rail station while trying to catch a train that has already left. Although the next train is usually just 4 minutes away I continue to treat my work shoes like a pair of Nike trainers.

A few weeks ago, I finish my first day at the client site. I had spent a whole day auditing, which actually meant sitting around staring blankly at an Excel spreadsheet wondering how the numbers add up. I went back to the hotel tired and in need of quick food. We ordered at the restaurant but the food had not arrived after an hour. Waiting when hungry is not a good combination for me. So, I got up to the waitress, used some hand movements and asked for the food to come.

This was polite by Chinese standards, but was overly bold by British standards. I didn’t even think it was a big deal because I had got so used to demanding everything quickly in Tianjin. I used to feel that I greatly offended waiters whenever I asked for something. I’d use timid gestures and try to transmit my thoughts by telepathy. That inhibition has now gone, I get to eat sooner but I’m a little less British.