Day 28 - Bathroom Differences

Sunday, March 6th, 2016
Smog Level: 1.5/3 Mountains

Sleep in, tutor, and navigate the mall in search of a red pen. The fabled red pen that everyone at Carden needs. Every teacher in China, really, as both students and parents are not cool with anything but the finest, bloodiest red from the tip of the mightiest of pens. Seriously, I've heard stories about writing in black pen “Good job!” or a good ol’ checkmark just will not do. It must be in red!

Completely Innocent, Unless Read in the Right Way
However, there are certain things that should never be in red. People’s names, for instance. Never write people’s names in red in China - they could see this as a bad omen, or something akin to death/blood. Think about how you’d feel if you found your name written in blood on a wall - that’s my best guess as to why it bothers them. Likewise, never write any letter to parents in red. A good number of them might not be fluent in English, and all they’ll see it a big ol’ message in red, which is often associated with being wrong. Bit of a no-no.

We have another prospective student for tutoring, but their parents want to come by and see us first, like an interview. The interview goes well enough, but the daughter is extremely shy and will barely speak to us without first relaying it through her parents, who then relay it to Shimou, who then relays it to me. Nothing like broken telephone, I assure you. *cough*

My roommate suggests charging for an initial lesson. If they don’t like the lesson, they pay the one time and leave. If they want to continue, they can negotiate or move forward from there. Sounds like a better deal, otherwise you’re left with a bit of wasted time “interviewing” to tutor their kid. Not really interested, and foreign teachers are in high enough demand that it’s basically a waste of my time. I still have very little cash flow, so I’m not being very picky. Eventually… that will change. Let's give it another month.

I Used to Think This Said "HI!"
But Now I Think it's a Musical Joke, "H!"


One thing I haven’t talked much about is the washrooms in China. They do have Western toilets at higher scale places, but most places have those “squatty potties” as one of my coworkers dubbed them. The Chinese sewage system is built for human waste, and not for toilet paper. This leads to a… “pleasant” solution of putting soiled toilet paper in a trash bin, sometimes uncovered, beside the toilet. 

Home bathrooms often seem to have the shower, toilet, sink, and even washing machine (dryers are rare) in one small room. The entire room is tiled and a single drain in the floor. I wish we had a long squeegee to push the water, but instead we have some mediocre sponge mop thing. This can be a pain when you are getting ready, as you sometimes need to go back in there after a shower - with socks on. I'm guessing this is one of the reasons why they wear slippers/flipflops indoors. Not the only one, I bet.

In our apartment, there is one water heating unit (which you may recall me struggling with earlier) that is in the kitchen, alongside a gas unit. You turn on the gas, turn on the water heater, and set the temperature of water you want. The shower uses only that temperature of water. There is only one knob, and it’s on/off. In our washroom, there are shower curtains, but they’re around the non-shower stuff to keep it dry, but no other real division.

Big ones: Heaters
Small one: Just a Light
They have heat lamps on the ceiling of the washroom, alongside the normal light bulb. I suppose this is to compensate for it being an open room instead of a shower cell? I don't really know. I only found this out by perusing a book that was talking about "objects of China," and this was the page I randomly turned to.

One final thing: you'll often find people smoking in washrooms. I guess they're not allowed to smoke inside, so why not just smoke in the bathroom stalls where it's obvious, but no one will stop you? I'm not sure if this happens on the women's side, but various washrooms in various buildings all over town have cigarette butts in the toilets and smell of smoke. I imagine a Chinese man in a creased grey suit, forearm on knee, one foot on the toilet seat, and holding the cigarette between his forefinger and thumb. "What the hell am I doing with my life..." he mutters to himself before taking a final, extended drag. As he turns to leave, he flicks the cigarette into the bin, leaving the unnoticed, soiled kindling to start a blaze.

But maybe that's just me.

I’m keeping unrelated cultural comments for boring days, by the way. Stay tuned!

Words of the Day
English - Mandarin [pronunciation]
Purchase/buy - (gòu)mǎi [go-my] (the full thing is “purchase,” just mǎi is “buy”)
sell - mài [my] - note the tonal difference from “buy.” sell is down, buy is down-up
must (be) - yīdìng (shì) [E-ding shur]
lazy - lǎn [lawn]
straight (direction) - zhí zǒu [jurr zoh]

Editing Music
I Am Not An End

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