Days 60 and 61
Sunday was started having trouble with the electrical in the apartment. The one plug-in in the bathroom is loose and we can only have the water heater plugged in or the space heater or the hair dryer. I was trying to cook potatoes and carrots for the potluck dinner and of course it went off right in the middle of cooking them. We didn’t know where a circuit breaker was and why all of a sudden it was kicking it off. Just as David went out the door to get some help, Pam, who lives above us and have taught here for 13 years, was coming down the stairs and showed him where the breaker panel was. We got it turned on, but it kept kicking it off, so we decided that the heat was not an essential for this morning. I was able to finish cooking the potatoes and carrots and then dry my hair. I went in to check the computer one more time before I left and found the screen was a blank! I was afraid that the power going off had damaged it. There wasn’t anything I could do then, so I shut the lid. I was a little upset by all this, but just knew I had to get to Church and see what we could do when we got back.
We had another first in our Virtual Branch today. The Branch President announced that at 4 p.m. they would be having a Sunday School class in Chinese for those members that understood in Chinese better than English! I know there are areas that have Spanish and other languages that do this, but President Britton was quite excited about it as were we. We also found out that they would be having a practice for the Primary Program in two weeks. We are all wondering how that is going to go off, but we do have Primary, YM and YW in our Branch and YSA! It may be all long distance, but it works!
Potluck was fun afterward. We were missing two of our teachers because they had to judge speech contests on their campus. One of the brothers had to leave right after we ate to go do that also. We stayed around and talked for a while and then headed home. Just as we were about to get home, Sophia from my sophomore class called me and asked if we could come join their class party. She texted me the address of the place so that we could take a taxi and show it to the driver.
We changed clothes and tried to get a taxi for about 20 minutes or so and then a car stopped and asked if they could help. We told them what we were trying to do and he said that he would take us there when I showed him the address. His name was Wang Bo and he had gone to college in Vancouver, BC and he said that he was shown kindness by strangers in Vancouver to help him get around and he wanted to help us. It was really great of him to do this. He asked if we had gone to Church that morning and we said that we had. He wanted to know what the Priest had said. We said we didn’t go to the Catholic Church and that we were Mormon. He said he had studied Christianity but decided he didn’t believe there was a god. He did believe in being kind to others and in doing good things. I think that is good in life. He may just need to find something else to make him believe in God.
We called my students after we were dropped off and three of the boys came running down to get us and bring us to the apartment they had rented. They said the place was a mess because they had all decided to try and cook something. It was funny when we got there because you could tell there had been a lot of stuff on the floor, but they had gotten most of it cleaned up.
We started playing Jenga and on the Jenga blocks are different things you have to do if you are the one who makes it fall over. David was the first one to make the tower fall and the dare was to buy drinks for everyone. Not having brought anything with us, we couldn’t do that, but one of the students brings over two cans of beer and proudly sets them before us. Gulp! We kindly say that we don’t drink any alcohol and they all look rather dismayed and even a little embarrassed. It was a rather expensive kind of beer (at least that is what I have heard here; you buy that brand of beef if you want to impress someone). There was a little discussion that went on and a few minutes later, one of the boys comes back from the store with bottles of orange juice and lemonade. I’m not sure they ever knew that there was any one in the world that didn’t drink liquor.
We did play some other games. They were hoping that David would bring his guitar and they could all sing, but we didn’t bring it. We did play another game and had fun with that. We said we were going to leave about six and take a taxi back. Four of the girls and one of the boys were leaving with us. They tried to help us get a taxi, but once again, no luck in the taxi department. After about 15 minutes of trying, two of the girls said they were just going to go catch the bus. The other three would have stayed and helped us get a taxi, but we said we were okay to take the bus, so we walked with the two girls to find a bus station. It was rather a long walk and since they were unsure of the area themselves, they had to stop and ask a couple of people where the bus stop was. The other three walked back to campus. We were able to get home without any problems.
We woke up to absolutely NO electricity this morning. Not even lights. Had to eat a cold breakfast and then find out how to go about getting the electricity back on. We are supposed to have 200 units of electricity provided to us each month from the university as part of our contract, but we are toward the end of the month and our little space heater may have used up more than that, or they may just be giving us 100 units, not realizing that we have two teachers in this room. Whatever the case, we didn’t have power and David had to get to class. (No he did not take a cold shower… its bad enough not having heat in this place until November 15!) That left it up to me to figure out how to get electricity.
David told me where to find the office of the liaison for the foreign teachers, but when I got to the building, I went to the stairs that he said and climbed to the top and it all looked like a dorm, so I was not going any further. I went to the desk downstairs because I had a hunch she could help me. I showed her the card that had our apartment number on it and that I thought was supposed to be used to get power and indicated that I needed to get the electricity back on. She took the card and said something about 100 (yi bai- the word for 100) so I took out a 100 Yuan note and gave that to her. She showed me on the calculator 117, which I thought she wanted more money, but I realized later it meant that it would give me 117 more units of electricity.
I take the card back to the apartment thinking that they now just turn the power back on. Not so lucky… I waited around for about 15 minutes. Nothing is happening… I up the stairs to see if Pam is there and she can help me. No answer. I go down the stairs and try to see if Mrs. Chen the housekeeper can help me. No answer. I go down to one other teacher’s apartment and see if she is there because she had to do this shortly after she got here. No answer.
I head back over to the place where I had to buy the power in the first place and see if she can’t help me. Of course, she speaks NO English, and indicates that there is a place that I need to put the card into. Okay, I go back to the apartment and look for a place to put the card in. There is nothing in the apartment. I go down to the bottom stairwell and look at a panel with blinking lights and all out apartment numbers on. I don’t see any way to put my card in there, but there is a panel to the right of that a ways and there is a slot that the card might fit in, so I put it in. No change in the power. I go back up to the office and the poor gal at the desk is sick of seeing me by now (not really, she was very kind) and decides to call Mrs. Chen for me. I did understand that much of what she said for me!!! Yeah me!
So I go back to the apartment and wait by the panel for Mrs. Chen (pronounced “chun”) and when she comes, she didn’t quite understand what I needed. She speaks some English, but not a lot. There are still a lot of gestures and guessing that goes on between us. She says I need to go back over to the office and get them to put money on. I tried to tell her I had, but she said to go back anyway, so I do. Just as I am about to go back into the building, Mrs. Chen is riding up on her bike yelling, “Hello, Hello, Hello!” She had not understood what I needed but now she did because she got the call from the office that explained it. I went back to the apartment and she showed me where to put the card in and I had power again. It wasted 90 minutes of my time that I needed for doing school work, but that is life here in China!
We went to lunch on the 4th floor of the canteen and we found WARM food up there! We were so glad to find warm food. The free teacher buffet (we are given a free meal for every four hours that we teach) is supposed to be warm. They have these lovely chaffing pans that they use, but there is no heat under them, so it is cold by the time we get there. It was okay, but still on the greasy side. We will probably go there again, but we have to pay for it. At least, like I said, it was warm!
We were in need of some fruits and vegetables, and we had passed by a street that had a lot of vendors there that looked like they had what we needed. We walked down there and we were greeted by lots of smiles. After a while, we decided to start buying. Several people that had their children or grandchildren with them wanted to show that their child could say “hello” and “goodbye” in English, so they would get our attention and have the child say it. That was so fun! We will be going back there again! It is closer than the one we had been going to down by the old campus and I think the foods are just as fresh. They had live fish in containers and fresh raisins and nuts, it was all so fun!
This evening, David had a square dance group over and then his class monitors over for a meeting. I showed them how to make cookies. Butter, chocolate chips (well, we used M&M’s) and vanilla were all new concepts for them. They did seem to enjoy the cookies though, and David is happy to have his stash refilled.