My friend A had invited me to lunch at the Mongolian restaurant and I’d been looking forward to it all week. (See Week Twelve). I finally had a chance to sleep in a bit and then ate a bowl of the Bob’s Red Mill oatmeal I got in Hong Kong. I put the space heater at the door of the bathroom in an attempt to warm it before I went in for my shower. Sadly, it only warmed the air and did nothing for the ice cold tile floor or the terrible chill seeping in from the exterior wall.
Once I’d showered and dressed, it was time to head out to meet A at her school. She was going to drive us, with a couple of her teachers, to the restaurant. Of course, once I got outside the gate there were no taxis to be seen. Five minutes, ten minutes, fifteen minutes. Finally one stopped but when I showed him the address on my phone, he refused to go there. Ok, back to waiting. I got a text from A wondering where I was. I texted back that I couldn’t get a taxi. She texted that she’d pick me up.
I went back to the gate and waited. I got another text that D would be picking me up instead. He arrived fifteen minutes later and we went to the restaurant. A had invited about dozen of her high school students, as well as four native English speakers to help the students practice their English.
We were in the same large yurt that I’d been in before, but the atmosphere was totally different. It was daytime instead of night, and instead of boiled mutton and spicy noodles, we had roasted lamb and vegetable side dishes, including sugar coated sweet potatoes, which tasted like candied sweet potatoes back home. It felt like a taste of Thanksgiving!
The other native speakers were H, from the UK, who came with his (Chinese) wife; M, from Canada, who also brought his (Chinese) wife, and S, also Canadian, who currently teaches at the local college, but will be teaching at Liugao next term.
H and I sat at opposite ends of the large table, but the Canadians sat together across from H, so I had to speak to the six kids at my end of the table by myself. A couple of the boys didn’t really want to speak, and just sat playing video games on their phones when they weren’t pigging out on the food.
A had asked a friend of hers to perform for us. She played a lute and it was very beautiful. After her performance, the Mongolian staff entered the yurt and performed the welcome/blessing. Since we were there to speak English, we didn’t get the full performance that I’d seen on my first visit.
The students who did speak were quite good. I found out that three of them go to Liugao! And one girl, who spoke with the ease of a native speaker, is only 12 years old!
One of the students’ mothers brought some wine for us, which she had made herself. She owns a winery outside of town. It was delicious and I had a chance to talk with her after dinner (with her son translating!). She was so happy that I enjoyed her wine that she gave me an unopened bottle to take home. She also invited me to come visit the winery sometime. I’m definitely gonna take her up on that!
Once the students had all left, I asked A if there was a post office nearby, or one on the way to campus. I wanted to send a Christmas present to the US. She said that I didn’t need to go to the post office, because they will come and pick up the package. I was skeptical, since I know that I’d need to fill out a customs form. She said she’d take me to her office, so that the post office could come there to pick up the package. We drove over and D got on his phone to arrange the pickup, while I sat and drank some tea in their lounge area. After he had typed in all the information and spoken with someone, it turns out that I needed to go to the actual post office because my package was going overseas.
Not a problem. A had said she would take me to an appliance store to buy a good space heater for my apartment.
But while D had been working on my package pickup, two men had arrived and were speaking with A. When D discovered I’d have to go to the post office in person, he interrupted A and told her. She then introduced the two men, L and C. L is a director and she said that he was going to make an advertisement for her school. C is his friend, and is also an English teacher. They had been speaking in Chinese, but A said, ‘we should speak English so Robin can understand’.
Both men speak excellent English and we had a great conversation. L showed me one of his videos (on his phone) and talked about wanting to go to Hollywood. C told me about living in Kenya, where he had been living until recently. I didn’t have any other plans for the day, but A said she needed to be somewhere and asked me if I minded if C took me shopping. I said ok. Then she told me that she thought my package would arrive faster if I used a shipping company. I told her that I didn’t care, as long as the package arrived before Christmas.
A, C, and I went downstairs. A said she’d drop us off at the shipping place and then C and I could go to the appliance store, and he could help me sign up for delivery so I wouldn’t have to haul the space heater back to campus. Great! Transporting the space heater home had been a big concern of mine.
We got in the car and A started driving. We crossed a bridge into downtown. We drove right past the post office, which was still open. It was 4:45. Shortly afterward, she pulled over. C and I got out. We were on what appeared to be a small residential street, with a few shops. We went into what seemed to be a driveway and it looked like distribution center for UPS, with lots of bins and packages. C had a little trouble flagging down one of the busy workers. The worker told him that they couldn’t ship the package overseas without a customs form, and they didn’t have any there at the distribution center. He said to go to the post office.
I told C that we’d driven right past it just before we’d stopped. He called a taxi. (In China it’s called DIDI, but it’s just like UBER). We got to the post office in just a few minutes, but it was already after 5:00 and it was closed.
At that point I was ready to just go home, but C said we should still go to the appliance store. So, he got another taxi, and we went to the store. It was further away and in a part of town I’d never been to. When we arrived and went inside, it looked pretty much like a Best Buy with different appliances and electronics. We were directed to the area with space heaters and a salesman came over to help. First he pointed to the small ones, a few ceramic heaters and others that looked just like a fan, only will heat coils behind the blades. Meiyou. That’s not what I was looking for.
Then he showed me some huge ones that were expensive, and too bulky. I did enjoy his demonstration of the waterproof heater, which was sitting in a clear box with a showerhead over it. He turned on the heater, let me feel the warmth, and then turned on the water. It went right on the heater! That would be perfect for my icebox, I mean, bathroom!! But it also was huge and expensive. My tiny bathroom is only 4×5.
Finally, he showed me some that were not so large, yet powerful enough to heat my 600sf. apartment. (C had to help me do a quick calculation to convert square feet into square meters, since I’d measured like I would have back home). They still cost more than I wanted to spend, but I remembered what Carol had told me when we got my mattress: always bargain. I looked at the price tag, took off 30% and told C to tell the saleman that was what I wanted to pay. We finally agreed on a price that was 25% off.
Relieved that I’d finally gotten a decent space heater, I went to pay at the cashier and that’s when the fun began. The salesman had said that I could have the unit delivered. He asked what time I wanted it. I looked at my schedule and told him that I was free between classes from 9:30-11:00. I also asked C to tell him that it shouldn’t be delivered to the front gate, because that’s across campus from my apartment. I showed him my address, in Chinese, on my phone. He said he wasn’t sure where that was. Also, he was concerned that I although I had given him my Chinese cell phone number, he wouldn’t be able to speak to me when he called to tell me that he was at the gate with my heater. I tried calling and texting Carol so she could explain to him, but she didn’t answer.
I think C needed to get home and since it was uncertain when and how the salesman could deliver the heater, they came up with a plan. The salesman carried the heater out to the street and when the DIDI taxi arrived, he put it in the trunk. Then we went to the A’s school so C could get his motorcycle. C explained to the driver that I wasn’t going to the main gate. I was taken to the correct gate and God bless him, the driver carried my heater over to my building and up to the third floor!
Today was cold with a high of 64. Currently it’s 54, with a projected low of 46. I’m comfortable sitting on the couch with the heater on the lowest setting.
Now if I could just heat up the bathroom…..