Phew! Buying groceries in China is not a spectator sport–you’ve got to go in with purpose. A quick wrist and a threatening demeanour help. Geoff and I met at the bus stop, then walked to RT Mart to pick up a few things for dinner. All the vegetables have to be weighed and stickered before you can take them to the till, so there I was politely waiting my turn, watching the aged grandfather throw his lotus root on the scale, by-passing the elderly granny who hesitated oh-so-little but just enough to lose her place in line. Even though I was standing there with my two items on the counter, another women came after me and forced her things onto the scale. I picked up my cilantro and spinach, moved in and waited for the next person to try to jump queue. Sure enough, a hand reached out from the crowd, but before it could drop it’s cabbage on the scale, I was there! On went my cilantro! As soon as it was weighed and lifted, I deftly slid the spinach into position, throwing the hairy eyeball at the person on my right. The crowd moved back a pace as I glared at them and took my purchases away. They won’t mess with me again.
Next, we stopped at the postal service to mail a letter to Shanghai. Simple enough, right? Nooooooo, not so. I had neatly printed the address on the envelope and put my postal code into the boxes provided on the upper left. She looked at it, said something to me in Chinese, another fellow looked at it, they pondered together. What could be the problem, I wondered? She understood it was going to Shanghai–I could recognize that when she spoke–but clearly something was amiss. Phone David, says Geoff. Right. So she and David have a brief chat, then she hangs up and looks at me. Well? I gesture. Wait a moment, says she. David is coming.
David arrives and tries to make sense of the envelope. It turns out that I have addressed it backwards! For international delivery, letters are addressed the way we do it in Canada, return address top left, etc. But for internal mail, it is reversed. The clerk could not figure out why I wanted to specially post it to Jiaxing! David then tried to translate into Chinese but it wasn’t going quickly. I was getting an uneasy feeling, as the letter was to claim health care expenses and the company will only accept original receipts, which were in the envelope. Finally, we decided that it would be best if we started with a new envelope and Chinese address tomorrow, or maybe even Fed-ex. Remember, one supplier of something we ordered did not recommend we use China Post. We also recalled it took three months for a few postcards to reach Vancouver, so the letter is still in my purse. This after a day when I was able to call my bank in Port Coquitlam and talk to a person via Skype, find the info I needed and move on. As a friend says, “TIC”: This is China!
Meanwhile, back at school, we are experiencing some plagiarism issues and having to get down to brass tacks with some of the kids. The answer is to avoid the whole thing is to only ever do in-class writing assignments. If they are writing right under our noses, the chance to cheat is minimized and only the very daring would try. Not saying they wouldn’t but it would be harder. As if we can’t tell the difference between the English in Wikipedia and their own.
I really have to marvel at how far our kids have come, overall. English 10 in not intended to teach English language, it is literature based, so for most of them to be as fluent as they are is quite impressive. A smaller number can write well but we are making steady progress with most. It certainly is rewarding although tremendously frustrating at times.
So after a few days of really cold weather again, we hit 19 today and Geoff and I are sitting like a couple of old folks on our rockers on the (sun) porch, enjoying a glass of cold white before the sun sets and we have dinner. Life is good.