There are so many interesting things that happen in China that I could not write them all in 1 post, so here are 6-10.
6. Smells – everywhere has an interesting smell. The grocery store can smell like fish, meat and spoiling fruit which can be overwhelming at times. For the first week I found it was very strong and was not used to it, but John didn’t notice. After his cold cleared up he said “what is that stink?” and I explained it always smelled this way… he just never noticed until the cold went away. On the street there are smells too -don’t walk too close to the sewers… yuck! One day we saw the public workers (all in little blue jump suits) open a tile on the plaza floor and use a large ladle with a very LONG handle… I went another way… I wasn’t that curious to see what they were going to pull out. Household cleaners are stronger too. The Ayi (cleaner) comes every morning after snack and night afterschool and wipes down the children’s tables, chairs and railings. I am glad they keep the school clean – there is a large team of them and they work long hours. Whatever cleaners they use though are very strong and burn the nose. I leave the room and wait until it disperses. Our apartment was clean and ready for us to move into. It smelled clean too, except the 1 closet that smells like bacon. I am not sure why and airing it out doesn’t seem to matter. So when it is time for jackets I hope the smell doesn’t draw every dog in the neighbourhood. Then there are the good smells. Smells that remind you of home, like walking by McDonald’s or Starbucks coffee. It just makes me smile to smell something familiar. Hagen Das draws you in as you walk by when they are making waffle cones (although we have never gone). And my favourite place Paris Baquette -a little French bakery in the middle of China. They have cookies, donuts and fresh bread as well as savory pastries. We have discovered this little sweet bun filled with cream cheese… yum! It melts in your mouth.
7. The whole country smells funny (in places) and they appear to be germ a phobic. Each morning at school we have our temperature taken and a squirt of hand sanitizer given. The thermometer is a little hand-held thing that they point at your head and it beeps. First time we had it done it freaked out one of my fellow teachers because she said she felt like she was going to be “shot” as it looks like a little pistol. Now it is just part of routine and you are almost disappointed if they miss you in the crowd as we all get off the bus.
8. The Chinese are a very fit people and you see them riding bikes, no matter how hot, to get from A to B. When the sun goes down more people come out for an evening stroll with their families to walk around the plaza or the building courtyards. Then there is the clapping…. many older people walk and clap their hands with their arms outstretched. Not sure why… to work their arms as they walk? Keep a steady pace? Freak out the foreigners so we wonder what the heck???
9. Some buildings have what we thought was play equipment for children, but turns out it is a “gym”. Nothing like the one at Venice beach in California, no weights or muscle heads here. They are usually bright yellow metal with pulleys and ropes where you can pull the handles and work your arms. Others work your legs… The building across the street has this gym and you can hear the metal squeak as people do their workout.
10. Street Dance Parties – at night groups of people gather and dance in the street. Walking by the park, which is gated and closed at dusk, had a big open area near the entrance and 20-30 people were dancing to a small ghetto-blaster. This is quite common as we have seen it in other locations and occasionally here in our open courtyard. More common than couple dancing is what looks like a form of line dancing as there are rows of people all doing the same moves. It looks so choreographed and emotionless most times. We just find it funny because at home you pay to go to clubs to do this and here as long as you have a large space and some music you can do it anywhere!
This week is a busy one at school with special events planned and report cards (small version) are due next Monday. In just over 2 weeks we have our first break – 10 days off. Stay tuned for more if not next weekend after reports are done and handed in!