Simple pleasures are the best,
especially in China.
That’s because in China, finding them is anything but simple.
Take for instance, this trash can with a swinging lid. This
top of the line model model wasn’t available in Kunming until recently (and
even if you could find the trash bin, you couldn’t find trash bags). But I
schlepped all the way to the north side of the city to snag one, which I found at another simple pleasure called Metro. It’s the German equivalent of Costco.
The trip to the North side of Kunming from where we live is anything but simple. A twenty minute cab ride if there is no traffic, ninety minutes by bus, and who knows how long by ox cart.
In Chicago terms, the distance would be from Sox Park to Wrigley Field, but not on the red line, but by cab, during construction and some big festival you forgot about in Grant Park.
But in Kunming, the cab fares are another simple pleasure. The ticker and tip was still less than a beer in the right field
So now we can fill our trash can with all those other simple
pleasures, items Westerners love with anything but simple packaging. Tide detergent, Gatorade bottles, Pantene shampoo bottles with English labels, TimTam wrappers, and
itty bitty cartons of shelf stable milk that hasn’t been fortified with malamine.
But uh, no toilet paper.
Even though Asians customarily don’t flush their paper work, I’m not ready to make a two pointer with my Chinese Charmin.
Here are a few other simple Chinese pleasures:
Bootleg DVDs, hot off the press. (These three cost about $ 4, but were only worth about $2).
Flower flavored condoms. You can make your own comment.
A bowl of jelly ice at Meet Fresh, after working out. Yes, it is a yummy incentive, whatever the “it” is.
Clouds that look like waving kittens.
Assorted chicken parts to go.
Headgear for headaches. Ok.So that one isn’t so simple.
So, I thought it would be fun to share relics from a time long past with my ESL students. I’m not talking treasures excavated from King Tut’s tomb or the Mayan Ruins of Tulum but from a place equally as mysterious: my storage locker in Chicago. Over the summer, I uncovered a folder of homework I kept from Watervliet High School.
I know. I also have a trunk full of diaries, dating back to the early seventies.
Since my school folder weighed less than a loaf of Velveeta, I thought why bring it to the flipside? It could be fun in class.
The blue Mead folder was covered with doodles etched in Mr. Hanson’s class, the inside flaps filled with antiquated BG writings (before Google). The literary loot included a ditto copy of Mrs. Spivey’s class’s poetry collection (which amazingly still had the essence of the purple ink) and stories from Mrs. Brigham’s class, penned with a Bic. The loose leaf collection included a tale about a Guru named Sue, an elephant with a gambling problem and a pestering fly buzzing around Mr. Feric’s class.
To me, the writings were priceless. But to my students?
I kicked off class by telling my students I had a surprise from the States.
“Did you bring us Jolly Ranchers?” Sun Min asked.
“Supersized Tootsie Rolls or Nerds?”Jingran was hoping.
“Gum’s not allowed in class,” I reminded them.
“Well, what is it, Mrs. Mac?”
I revealed the folder from behind my desk.“I brought my writing folder from when I was your age.”
My class’s response was less than enthusiastic. After giving me the Asian version of the stink eye, my students rampaged through the folder’s contents. One student pulled out a one-thousand-fifty-six word essay I pecked out on a manual typewriter.
“So you find my words interesting?”
“No, we never seen something written on one of those typing machines.” Jingran added. His curious fingers rubbed the erasable paper.
“It feel so strange,” Zhou Ling commented.
“It’s what we called onion skin.”
“Mrs. Mac’s so old, they wrote on onions!”
YuYa and Young Il got a kick out of doodles on the folder but completely ignored my handwritten stories.
“Students,” I started, “don’t you want to read the assignments I wrote when I was your age?”
They just stared at each other. “We can’t.”
“We don’t know how to read your hand writing.”
I guess cursive is going to the wayside with caveman drawings.
Next time, I’ll bring the process cheese.
Jeff and I once again slipped down the rabbit hole to China.
And just what did we pack in our 200 pounds of jabberwocky?
Along with 24 pounds of tortillas, thirty of Jolly ranchers and atomic fireballs, my bag was packed with tubes of Wineberry Red, Sugared Maple, and Sugar Spice, thanks to a friend who has a lipstick addiction.
Yes, a lipstick addiction. She keeps on ordering tubes online, which means her medicine cabinet is packed with more tubes of Chanel Hydrating Rouge Crème than Coco had herself.
My anonymous friend (who’ll I call DEEP VINTAGE WINE) also gave me a free gift bag with my “purchase”. It included a brand new pair of Prada boots. High heel, low cut, soft black leather. Oh yeah. They cost more than all of the shades of Dior, Lancome, Urban Decay, MAC and Bobby Brown put together. Deep Vintage wine couldn’t return them and wanted me to wear them places in China where fashionable feet have never pounced. squatties, wet markets, Buddhist temples, the Great Wall, the stinky tofu stand.
But not stomping or standing on a western style toilet at the Kunming Airport.
So stay tuned for pictures from the Prada Cam.
Even if we didn’t pack the girl glam, there were a few things that didn’t make it through customs inspection. They include:
A Whopper off the grill.
The San Clemente Beach.
The Herman Miller chair in our Chicago storage locker that I bought from “Jeff the Chair Guy” that started this crazy adventure.
Oh well. I guess we’ll just have to make another trip back.