Day the Second – August 19th 2013

  • Since I have been granted two days to settle in, I decide to take them fairly leisurely. Hard work will begin on Wednesday.
  • I continue my project to collect a range of water bottles in different sizes which I fill with cooled, boiled water so that I always have drinking water at hand. I will probably take to buying big bottles of mineral water soon, but so far I have decided to spend my arm power bringing back things I cannot provide myself from the shop.
  • After the thunderstorm ceases we have some blue sky for the first time since my arrival, and the climate turns from muggy-hot to searingly-hot.
Random street-shot. For ambience.
  • There is nothing for breakfast at home, so I guess an approximate opening time for the Wal-mart down the road and set off.
  • Then again Chinese opening hours works thus: if a shop closes at 2130 hrs on a weekday, it will close at 2330 hrs in the weekend. Please extrapolate from there.
  • I want to buy ALL THE SNACKS, but restrain myself to a selection of “proper” food, tea and coffee (and something in which to drink them), and miscellaneous toiletry items.
Oh yes.
  • I gawp at the offerings of the fish-monger: amphibians, crustaceans, and all kinds of fish. Most still alive, of course.
  • The frogs were in open boxes, but were rather well-behaved.
  • The prices of fruit and veg is total bliss, even though this is a mart and not a wet market. The price of simple dining out in China is still very affordable even on PhD grants, but the I can certainly entertain the thought of cooking at home, especially since, despite the lack of mugs and glasses, the flat comes with an amusing quantity of crockery and pottery.
  • It’s not completely unbearably hot on my way back, so I eat something brunch adjacent, and then go out to walk around the block to see what’s around, and to try and acquire a mobile phone. I take sunglasses and an umbrella.
  • I locate the nearest hospital next to the river, and then turn back to walk further downtown.
Scenic shot. For ambience.
  • The heat by now is something else, yet there’s enough wind to cause trouble for the umbrella. How does this even work?! The wind of course, has no cooling effect whatsoever.
  • The traffic. I have never sympathised more with the road-crossing-froggy.
  • On a more serious note, I was told that the biggest killer on the roads these days are the electric scooters, and I completely see why. They make no sound – or whatever sound they make is drowned out by the honking and engine noises of the cars – but move swiftly; the drivers thereof seem in favour of relying on their ability to swerve quickly rather than any warning signals. Back home, I am almost always plugged into music when I commute by foot. Here? No way.
  • Anyhoo, it all gets a bit too much for me, so cede defeat after an hour and a half and go home.
  • While I didn’t really see any mobile retailers on my walkabout, I find a tiny shop – with an official China Telecom sign above – which sells phones across my road. Here, the prices range from 200-300 Yuan for a basic call-and-text phone, to 900 Yuan for, e.g., a lenovo touch screen thing with all the bells and whistles. Basic connecting charge is 50 Yuan, and then PAYG. I decided to browse some more.
  • Given that I’ll probably be returning several times, I am still deciding whether I just want the basics, or if I also want internet. To give you an idea of the costs: local calls are 0.2 Yuan/minute; national calls are 0.3 Yuan/minute. Frankly, it’s just the matter of whether I want internet or not. If I do, I’ll need to get a smartphone. I’m open to input on this, but at the moment, the basics seem to be all I need really… (but I know I’ll see people being hipstery and go “augh!”)
  • There is a juice/cold beverage bar just before my road, and I get a large bubble tea for 8 Yuan. EIGHT. I’ll have to try hard not to become one of those people with a disposable mug glued to my left hand at all times.
Yes please.
  • My little venture into town has given me something of a headache, and I decide to stay in the cool indoors for the remainder of the day, dealing with some emails, drawing out transport links on maps, setting up VPN (which is how I’m posting this), etc.
New city, new work-station.
  • I try to plan my trip to Beijing to register and meet the professor who will be supervising me here. But since I don’t know how or when Hanban will be paying out my scholarship, how should I approach the situation? I won’t be able to pay any tuition myself… *emails admin some more*
  • Well, I did contemplate going out after dinner, but I always forget how quickly it gets dark after dusk as I’m much closer to the Equator here.
Ready meal. Shameful.
  • One thing I haven’t done yet is turn on the telly. Anyone care to enlighten me on what television programmes are popular in China these days?

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