The last week has been fantastic! The atmosphere at the school has been far more positive this week, we got out of the city last weekend and had a mini adventure and today, I got to hang out with an adorable kitten at my favorite restaurant:)
But I think the biggest thing that’s made this week awesome, is the little bit of extra money we’re making tomorrow doing overtime for the school. We save this money so that we can treat ourselves to some of the little things we miss from back home. Of course, we can’t find everything we miss from Canada in Guiyang, but the things we can find are always a big deal. A chocolate bar can make up for missing some of the things you can’t buy on Tao Bao or at Carrefour…
We officially hit Month 3 in Guiyang on November 15th (My brother’s birthday!), and the end of this first quarter abroad is notorious among travelers for being when you really begin to miss things. I’ve mentioned some of those things in previous posts, but today I’d like to focus on the things we HAVE managed to find in Guiyang, that have made our stay here a little less ‘homesicky’.
1. Western Stores
I’ve mentioned in past posts that Guiyang is home to several North American food chains, such as Dairy Queen, Pizza Hut, KFC and Mcdonalds. But we’ve also found some western stores that have made our stay here easier. Walmart is common here, and Guiyang now has 4 locations. Walmart has come in handy for household items, such as: spray bottles (couldn’t find one anywhere else…), soft pillow cases (the ones that we originally had actually hurt my face), drain cleaner and stationary supplies. Carrefour is a weekly lifesaver as well. We were able to find everything we needed there when we left for China while our luggage stayed in Vancouver. Carrefour also has a fantastic ‘foreign foods’ section, that sells Cuban rum, Perrier sparkling water and salty popcorn.
And there are even many western clothing stores here! H&M was a lifesaver during our first week in Guiyang. The biggest problem I had when our luggage went missing, was that I had no clothes. I’d been smart enough to pack some deodorant, my tooth brush and dental floss in my carry on…but I only had 2 pairs of tights and 3 shirts (that did not work with tights!) with me, so when I had to start work the next day, I would have been screwed if it weren’t for H&M. Women in China are tiny, so finding clothing that fit my Canadian Curves was a huge deal. I’ve since learned that China’s gained weight (probably from all the western fast food that’s popped up in the last 8 years), and it isn’t as much of a problem to find clothes that fit now, but at the time I had no idea where else to go, so it was a relief to find a familiar store, with familiar clothes.
2. Coffee: The Nectar of Life
There are many small cafes in Guiyang that make excellent coffee; definitely more than there were 8 years ago in Xiamen. There are times when my monthly Venti Caramel Machiato with an extra shot of espresso is my reason for living, and although I’d love to have this wonderful liquid more often, it’s monthly for a reason…coffee costs the same here as it does in Canada. That’s ok, for someone who’s making a Canadian salary, but for me…well, I just can’t justify it. So coffee is one of those things that we do rarely, and only when we’ve stuck to our budget for a while. Don’t get me wrong…I’m paid well here in Guiyang…but we are trying to save our pennies (or jiao, rather) so that we can do as much traveling as possible, so daily coffee is out of the question. But we do treat ourselves when we can!
Any time I work overtime I save my money for coffee. No matter how crummy my week has been…1 whiff of that delicious espresso and it all fades away. We actually spent 4 hours at Void Cafe today, here in Zhong Tian. We sipped our coffees and I corrected my students tests. It’s funny how such a seemingly boring day can be such an amazing one. Plus…correcting tests is always more entertaining than I expect it to be…
3. Online Shopping
I’m not sure how many people in Canada are aware of Alibaba, or it’s extremely popular shopping site, Tao Bao…but for us…it’s a life saver. Last week was China’s ‘Single’s Day’. Some students in Beijing decided to name November 11th (11.11) singles day, so that people who have no significant other can feel justified to buy something for themselves one day a year. Of course, online shopping companies turned this holiday into a money making monster and this year’s Single’s Day broke records. Over 80 billion RMB was made on Tao Bao and other Alibaba sites, and I have to admit, we took part in that great feat.
Online shopping is a huge industry worldwide, and it’s easy to see why. You can shop from the comfort of your living room and you can find almost anything you could possibly need online. And you don’t even need to lug all your items home…they come right to your doorstep!! But online shopping is even more awesome for Lao Wei living in China. Here’s a breakdown of why Tao Bao is a lifesaver for the expat:
One of the items we bought was a foot warmer for Dave. There’s no indoor heating in Guiyang, so while he’s at home, working on the computer all day, his feet get very cold…even with slippers and an area rug to help. But to find a foot warmer in China isn’t as easy as just going to the store and getting one! First, you need to find a store that sells them. This isn’t always easy, as was proven during the month it took us to find a spray bottle in Guiyang. Then you need to find the right product IN the store. Once more…it might seem simple from where you’re sitting, but in China, finding the right product is an ordeal. The packaging on most items is in Chinese so you have to base everything off of the picture on the box . When looking for something of good quality (that’s actually going to warm your feet without catching fire), you can’t even rely on brands here, because all of the brands in China are foreign to us.
Buying things online is just SO…MUCH…EASIER. For starters, you can punch what you’re looking for into Google translate, and search websites in Chinese. Then, Google Chrome translates the entire page for you so you can find out the wattage and other important stuff, and even check reviews online from other buyers. Best of all though, is that you don’t have to deal with a Chinese sales person trying to help you. They try so hard to be helpful, but they hardly ever speak any English (retail doesn’t pay well here either, so if you speak English, you’re most likely working somewhere that ISN’T a store…), so they talk to you in Mandarin…constantly…no matter how many times you tell them that you don’t understand. It gets very frustrating, and I often end up walking out of stores as a result. On Tao Bao…I don’t have to worry about that!
And when Google Translate or Chrome fail you, it’s easy to bring your laptop over to someone at the school and ask for help. The Chinese staff at Interlingua are great, and they are always happy to help translate if we need. One girl in particular, Lumi, has helped me on several occasions. Just this morning she called a number that had been calling me all morning to find out what they needed (It was about a tao bao delivery haha!). Today is her day off, but she was happy to help. So I try very hard not to abuse that help and I can tell you this: It is much nicer to bring your laptop over to Lumi while she is at work, than it is to have her play translator via cell phone on a Monday afternoon!!
So there you have it folks; 3 of the things that make our lives in China easier. Now I need to head to bed because I’ve gotta make some coffee money first thing tomorrow morning!!! Goodnight, my lovely friends!!!