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

Chinese Electricity

It’s the same as English electricity. Today, I went with my housemate to buy some electricity for the apartment. China runs on a pre-payment system. This is handy for me because I would otherwise need a bank account, which is hard for a non-Chinese to get. However, it did mean a one-hour queue at the bank. There were at least 70 other Chinese people in front of us when we arrived. It stretched out of the door and my feet painfully froze. If I had not woken up an hour late, I could have saved my feet.

The whole year’s electricity will cost me just £43.33 (650 RMB). Which is a lot less than the large sums of money that I handed over to nPower (British utility company) whilst I was living in Nottingham. Later, I managed to work out that electricity costs three times as much in Britain. It is 3p per unit in China compared to about 9-12p per unit. (Incidentally the units are kilowatt-hours for the technically minded).

So it is not worth buying energy saving bulbs unless you run it for more than 2 hours a day and plan to live here for more than a year. Yes, I was calculating this when I was shopping for light bulbs.