In Chicago, water wasn’t really a topic of talk. In China,
Kunming is experiencing a drought, meaning the dry mountain
air is even drier. The winds kick in about 4 pm, causing red dust to fill the
air, so you don’t want to hang your wet laundry outside to dry. The sculptured gardens in our xiao qu are decorated this time of the year with a few lacy panties that blew off balconies.
Trust me, there are unmentionables hidden in this picture than in a Highlight Magazine.
The drought and winds lead to a big fire just across Lake
Dianchi in a small resort town called Anning.
Helicopters have been getting gigantic pails of water from
the lake to douse the fire. The fire has not reached Kunming. Keep in mind that
Lake Dianchi is about the size of Lake Michigan and is about as clean as a
toilet. Either the water will put out the fire or the three eyed fish will scare the flames to death.
Speaking of water, the little there is in Kunming is undrinkable.
Once a week, the water guy delivers two ten gallon jugs to
I have his phone number on speed dial. Plus, I memorized how to say I need
two jugs of water, please. “Wo Yow Leon Tong Schway.” If you drop the “n”
on Leon and say Leo, you’ll end up with a half a dozen.
Water is about a buck a bottle. I’d pay a bit more if the despenser wasn’t so butt ugly.
Tap water is safe to wash veggies in, but not to drink. When
you scrub your cucumber, you use this special soap. It’s also good for dishes. You
can see your reflection on your plates…and on your apples!
But with the Kunming draught, we are taking our part in
First, is instituting Stinky Day. No explanation needed.
Just say, though we save water, our cuddles suffer a bit.
Our second effort is recycling water.
While we’re waiting for our long hot Western style showers to
warm up, we catch the tepid water in a Hansel and Gretel style
bucket (pictured earlier). The water is used to flush away our business.
Yes, the water is Kunming is disappearing, including the fish ponds.
When we first moved to
China, we were kept up by the chorus of frogs croaking in the ponds out back. But now, the ponds have croaked. The fisherman village right from the pages of Nat Geo Magazine are being replaced with a hustling and bustling road.
The sounds of frogs at night have been replaced with the sounds of construction crews. In China, they work around the clock.
But this summer when we visit America, we look forward to kicking back around the Great Lakes and get our fill of water. We will be staying in a waterfront sort of like this one, except it will have indoor plumbing, direct TV and a door.
Speaking of the Great Lakes, you can buy Great Lakes juice in China, which I don’t think comes from oranges grown in Michigan.
False advertising at its finest!
My mother, who keeps me in the loop on America’s talk news
shows and investigative reports, told me that China is the sock capital of the
world. Sure enough, she’s right. Detong, northwest of Beijing, produces an annual 13.5 billion pairs of socks, enough to
provide two pairs of socks for every individual on the planet.
Now considering how many socks are made in China,
you’d think I could find a pair that would cover one’s calf. Is that too much
to ask? I’ve searched in Wal-mart, Carrefour,
fancy department stores such as Parkson’s and Golden Eagle, and even the blanket
displays in bootlegger park.
Yet all the socks for sale barely cover one’s
Mind you, in China you can buy everything sports related, including chicken frisbies, but not sports tube socks.
You can get cotton candy balls, but no
cotton knee highs.
There are little old ladies willing to make
you a custom pair of shoes, but sorry, no socks.
For those who want to stitch together
your own designer wardrobe, you can get bootleg labels by the dozen.
If you don’t mind get ticketed by the fasion police, you can get this panty hose fuzzy slipper commuter combo, but not
a pair of Hane’s sweat socks.
Even finding underwear is under weird.
Pepsi is now competing with fruit of the loom.
I wonder if they make your nether region
Luckily, my mother in law sent me socks for
Christmas. Of course, they were made in China, shipped to America, marked up
800% at Nordstrom’s then shipped back here, making them the most expensive item
in my wardrobe.
So where is this secret place where they sell socks for those who don’t dare to bare their calves? Probably inside one of these government buildings.
Most of the time, I don’t feel like I live in China: just a
tough place to find Tootsie Rolls.
And I definitely don’t feel like I work in China.
You see, the school that I teach at is located in a
la-dee-dah gated community called Hu Pan Zhe Ming (it rhymes with Poupon
Dijon). Just imagine a swank country
club where the 18 holes and fairways are replaced with 90 apartment buildings; the
19th hole with the world’s worse five star restaurant (voted most likely
to give you the squirts). And the clubhouse transformed into a school. That’s
where I work. It’s not China.
But people outside of this gated community? They work in China.
I doubt if you’ll find any of these jobs listed on Craig’s
Take for instance this electric line tight rope walker. I don’t even know where to start with what’s wrong
with this picture.
Or the ostrich monger.
He competes with the mummified meat man.
Recycler tricyclers sort through garbage every day. He has a
field day going through the trash of westerners like me who actually buy
This guy is making a net. I could have watched him for
Street side seamstresses are easier to find than thread and
needles. I think I saw her machine in the Smithsonian.
There are those in arormatic trade: incense ladies located outside of temples
and stinky tofu vendors, who I wish were located outside of the city.
Shoe washers can breathe life into your old sneakers
Shoe polishers who use black charcoal that’ll end up on your pants
Street cleaners with old school brooms…
Got waxy yellow build up? This Chinse ear cleaner can help!
What store wouldn’t be complete without an under-aged
And oh yes, a cop who
sleeps on the job. China has a few, too.
For those of you in Kunming who are reading my blog, you are probably bored
already with this post.
cares about some Chinese guy with a reusable shopping bag? Well, let me tell you about that shopping bag.
is a Treasure Island shopping bag, the kind I used to hoard in Chicago to Jeff’s
Treasure Island is a specialty grocery on the north side of Chicago. You could
get stuff my taste buds only dream about here, including prosciutto, rabbi-blessed matzo balls, fresh chewy bagels topped with melt-in-your-mouth-lox, honey drizzled baklava, homemade tiramisu and Greek olives the size of your thumb. Plus, they’d put your groceries in sturdy bags that wouldn’t self-destruct on the way home.
oh yes, Julia Child once called Treasure Island “the most European supermarket in America.
Which makes it so weird to see this Treasure
Island bag in our new neighborhood, which
is approximately eight thousand miles away from the store on the corner on
Broadway and Cornelia.
So how did that Treasure Island bag end up in
Did this man just happen to come back from a bagel run and I coincidentially ran into him waiting for the Bus165?
According to a ”yesterday publication” of USA Today, over a half a million Chinese would visit the USA in 2011, and only
travelers with a business, government or educational reason …not to get
their fill on Moussaka and feta cheese.
I highly doubt that the man pictured here
is a highly influential government official.
Jeff and I have a seen two Treasure Island
bags so far.That’s twice as many as impossible.
We are guessing that the factory that prints
the Treasure Island bags is located somewhere around Kunming.
Either that, or the “Most European Supermarket
in America” just opened an 8th location…in China.
(This picture, by the way, was taken in front
of the Lou Si Wan shopping center. The other Treasure Island bag sighting was
on Foreigner Street.)