Day 76 - Mall Catacomb

Saturday, April 23rd, 2016
Smog Level: 0/3 Mountains

Apartment Water Systems

For a brief moment, I forget that we don’t have hot water. The system is strange here: they have water for the kitchen and water for the bathroom. Bear in mind that the water heater is in the kitchen. So, “kitchen water” effectively becomes “hot water” in general. To have a hot shower in the bathroom, you need kitchen water. Well, I guess I’ll sort that out after I go to the gym.

Shimou orders us Yoshinoya - Japanese fast food (rice, bbq meat, steamed vegetables) - which is enough to fit a workout in and get back to bidniss. 

Gyms and Beggars

Gyms seem to be anti-weekend warrior places. By that, I mean they’re completely dead Saturday and Sunday, but packed on weeknights. Sweet. On my way back from the gym, I witness a beggar on the walking overpass. He’s on his knees, crouching forward and… holding a fat stack of bills. That has to be the dumbest way to beg for money in any culture that I've seen... and that's including a drunk, homeless guy in Australia tackling me.
...Is this real life?

On my way back, I think about real life vs rpg/video game character stats.* But it makes sense to make the comparison: some of the game systems are meant to mimic real life. Despite that, it seems like a lot of tabletop nerds neglect their health, somehow not making the distinction. 

This particular line of thought was brought to mind because I tripped. I trip a lot here, but I have yet to fall: perception check: failed; dexterity check: passed. I've learned a number of skills for the added benefits they give you and breadth of knowledge. Why? Because a) they might be cool to know, and b) maybe they'll come in handy. I don't the world's going to end, but I wouldn't mind having an edge if it does. Again, “The Misadventures of Understanding” is my fictional autobiography.

Knife Man

While sitting in my room, waiting to go to the water office, I hear that familiar clinking of metal plates from out the window (see the video). Finally, it’s happening at the same time that Shimou is here: What is that?!

Why is this man on a bike rattling these chain-linked shingles? He’s a knife sharpener, apparently. According to Shimou: they used to be abundant, but people don’t need their knives sharpened anymore. Instead of sharpening, people just throw them out and buy a new one. This result is similar to that of North America: the overall lowering of quality, and cheaper products means we can just toss and replace. And we wonder why we’re in the environmental situation we’re in.

Mission: Water Cannon

Back to the task at hand: Showering. Apparently we need to take one of the two “water cards” to the “water office.” Josh had tried, but the employee never returned. Shimou asked me why that was. Sometimes the answer is as simple as “It’s China.” She shook her head and chuckled at my response.

The two of us, Shimou and I, wander to the office. The signs are vague and only in Chinese. The woman seems to only speak Mandarin, so I’m glad I brought Shimou with me. The “office” is a tiny bedroom - smaller than mine - with a desk/computer on the other side of her door. The door itself has a 1’x1’ peephole to allow business to be conducted. I could see her/a bed while we did business. She was less than impressed. The “office” across the way from hers had the sounds of video games blasting. Maybe we were interrupting her gaming sesh.

I try to get Shimou to ask where to insert the card, but she assumes it’s the same spot as the gas. I’m skeptical, but trust she knows what she’s talking about. 

No Hide, Just Seek

She didn’t know what she was talking about, at least in this regard. After searching around for 10-15 minutes, we finally locate them. One was hidden beneath the kitchen sink in a cupboard that’s largely obscured by the fridge, and the other is hidden under a table in the bathroom. Well, future reference, I guess.

Mall Catacomb

The rest of the day was spent in a mall called “Solama” far across town. The intent was to buy a phone there. 

Problem: I had less money than originally anticipated. 

Solution: borrowing from a friend. 

This would have been dandy - problem solved - because we now had enough money to buy the phone and last me for the week until reupped from my educational endeavors. 

Unfortunately, the damn ATM would only allow you to dispense or insert money before a certain, unspecified time. Goddamn it. We wandered around the poorly laid out mall, asking around for directions. They inevitably kept leading us back to the same ATM, even in the face of us explaining that we didn’t want the ATM we'd already been to. They each assured us that it wasn't the same one. It’s was. It always was.

Pregnant Invasion

We’re both starving and grumpy at this time because of the listless wandering. One thing I do notice in the endless wandering: There is an excessive number of late-pregnancy women. I used to have a theory that pregnancies were seasonal and speculated that the most births would be in the spring. The only data I found on that was that it was actually August where they were most common, which doesn’t quite verify my theory. 

Back on point: there were between 30 and 50 women in this relatively small mall. Sure, there were some kids stores.. but that doesn’t quite explain it. I reflect on this while we eat dinner at the cheapest place we can find.

Balloon Smack

After more wandering and more bad information, one of them literally pays out. We found a functional ATM. Buy the damn phone, wait for a cab. We tell them we’re near the woman selling balloons on the corner.

That would have been a good marker, but the 60-year-old woman started sprinting around, sporadically, smacking me in the head with her swarm of balloons as she jolted by. Shimou speculated that the police may have shown up. Hah.

One cab and a very long subway ride later, we arrive home. I try to set up my phone only to run into the fact single most frustrating part of living in China: I need a VPN.

Stuff this, I’m calling it.

*As if I weren’t nerdy enough, right?

Words of the Day
English - Mandarin [pronunciation]


Editing Music

China Boy
Stephane Wrembel

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