Living in a Haze

We’re back to the land of hazy sunshine and skyscrapers. I’m told we have missed the oppressive heat but we’ve been back for 3 days now and the thermometer has vacillated between 78 and 93. Thank goodness for cooler weather.

When we were home, it didn’t really phase me that I knew exactly what was going on wherever I went. I knew exactly what I was buying. I knew what everyone was trying to tell me. I could understand every fabulous commercial I heard. There was a clarity of understanding that I only now am appreciating. Have you seen those videos of people who have lost their hearing finally getting to hear all the glorious sounds of life? (Truth be told, I haven’t either but we can imagine what that must be like, right?) I feel like the reverse is happening to me. I’m back to walking around feeling like I’m only getting about 30% of what’s happening around me.

I went to our local Family Mart (convenience store) to pick up a few things, like the orange juice with the white cap instead of the green cap which we have deduced from the picture means “with pulp.” When I got to the counter, the women asked me a question which I have learned from repetition is, “do you need a bag?” She was very smiley and while she carefully rung up my goods, her friend placed a circular box in front of me, motioned for me to put my hand in and held up two fingers. Uh…ok. I had the good sense to peak in just to make sure it wasn’t a snake pit and sure enough I pulled out a cardboard token with a picture of a lemon on one side and Chinese writing on the other. She smiled excitedly and held up her two fingers again. Her friend was silently cheering me on with eager nodding and still more smiles. I was getting exciting. I pulled out another token with a picture of a papaya. She squinted and read the writing on the opposite side and they both gave me the, “sorry, you’re not a winner” face. But then she discounted me 5 RMB (75 cents or so) and held out her hand for the money. I paid her for my goods and left wondering what’s so good about the lemon tokens?

Then I had to buy more rice. Buying rice here is probably the equivalent to buying crackers at home…there are endless boxes of basically the same thing. Shelves are filled with what all looks to be exactly the same thing. But I know there must be differences. Some bags have a clear window where you can look at the grains. To these Western eyes who only ate Rice-A-Roni until I left for college, all grains of rice look exactly the same. I feel like some half-deaf person trying to read lips as I desperately stare at the packaging hoping to understand. In the end, I buy based on price. If I can’t see the difference, I’m sure I can’t taste the difference.

And of course, there are my daily interactions with Jiang the Ayi. Day 1, I tried to convey the fact that we were jet lagged and the boys had not slept at night and instead were up playing. I did a mean charade of frantic playing and no sleeping. She knows the English word “play” and I know the Chinese word for sleep so it’s like we’re practically speaking the same language. Hunter and I left to check out his new school and I told her Nolan would probably need a long nap soon. When we returned a couple of hours later, Jiang happily reported that Nolan had not slept a wink and she’d been keep him busy playing. Great. What’s Chinese for, “can you come back at 2am and fix this?”

So, welcome back to the blog, my friends. Hears to the haze that has infiltrated my brain, blurring the clarity I so carelessly overlooked at home, and helping to remind me that even when you know you’re missing something, what you have suddenly becomes good enough. The rice was fine…Nolan is fine…and there’s always the promise of more lemon tokens.

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