Stopped by the supermarket on my way home from work and picked up some chocolate. Nothing exciting there. Cost me 12.60. What was interesting was the exchange. And the only reason why it struck me as really interesting was because it happens all the time and slowly it’s becoming less weird to me.
Cashier: (scans chocolate) 12 yuan 6
Me: (hands her a 20-yuan note)
Cashier: Do you have 1 mao?
Me: (digs through coin purse)
Cashier: Better yet, do you have 6 mao?
Me: (hands her a 5-mao coin and a 1-mao coin)
Cashier: Do you have 2 yuan?
Me: (hands her 2 yuan coins)
Cashier: Okay. (hands me a 10-note in change)
Maybe I should give a brief rundown on the currency system. For the price 12.60, one would say 12 yuan, 6 jiao (also called mao), and 0 fen. Though the conversion is way off, yuan = dollar, mao = dime, and fen = cent. No worries about the fen though because I’ve never actually seen a fen coin and I don’t think they’re even made anymore. Prices always end at the yuan or jiao because 1 fen is the equivalent of .15 cent … and that’s just too ridiculously little. Denominations that one actually sees are bills in the form of 5 mao, 1 yuan, 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 and coins in 1 mao, 5 mao, and 1 yuan. That overlap of 5 mao and 1 yuan appearing in both coin and note form is very annoying. It’s why people in the US don’t use the Susan B. Anthony.
Chinese currency really isn’t that weird, but how they use it is different than in the US, especially since most people pay everything in cash. Cashiers here seem to hate giving out change in the form of small coins. When I was still new to Shanghai, a cashier started asking if I had specific coins and I looked at her confused. My wallet was open in front of me, so she just stuck her hand in my wallet and got the correct change. Okay sure, if the total was $12.01 and the cashier asked me if I had a penny, I’d look for a penny. But if the total was $12.26, I’d think she was mad if she asked: Do you have a penny? And a nickel? How about two dimes?
China is a huge country with a long history, a distinct culture, and a notable cuisine. Unfortunately, that cuisine ain’t always to my liking. Sure, I will eat the Chinese food and I’ll try all the weirdness, but at the end of the day, I will probably always prefer a hamburger. Against chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes, no amount of mooncakes or pan-fried dumplings could compete.
The other day I had a ham and cheese sandwich on ciabatta bread. Fantastic. Unfortunately, still lactose intolerant, so I felt sick for the rest of the day. But in my opinion, a few hours of feeling absolutely queasy were worth it. Last night, made spaghetti with meat sauce. Again, fantastic. Well, not fantastic because the pasta was slightly overcooked and the sauce came from a can (that same can from a few posts before), but still good. This evening, I made myself a grilled cheese sandwich. FANTASTIC. Granted, it was cheddar cheese instead of my usual colby jack and I didn’t use as much butter as I usually do because it’s so expensive, but wow … I’ve missed that. And now, due to my lack of overcoming lactose intolerance, I will probably be queasy for the rest of the night.
See the attached picture below. Those are potato chips that are lemon tea flavored. Does that sound good, disgusting, or simply interesting to you? I had seen commercials for ’em, so I was fairly intrigued. Bought ’em, tried ’em, and … I would say “tossed ’em” but I’m too cheap for that. They’re just weird, but I will brave through it and finish ’em. I don’t think one’s tastes can really be changed. I might become more accustomed to certain foods, but I’m still going to like what I like. And lemon tea-flavored potato chips will never make it on my list.
This fine Sunday morning I went to class. I had class on a Sunday. Sunday, I woke up early and went to class. It’s still blowing my mind. This Wednesday is the Mid-Autumn Festival aka Moon Festival, so I don’t have school Wednesday through Friday. And in China, when there’s a holiday, you make up for it on the weekend. THE WEEKEND. So, I went to class today, which is a Sunday. I woke up at 6:30 AM on a Sunday. I can’t remember the last time I woke up that early on a Sunday. Therefore, it feels like a Monday because it’s essentially the beginning of the school week. It’s weird. And if you’re a bit confused, this is a national thing. People go to school or work today – it’s considered an actual business day. Now that’s just confusing. It’s technically the weekend, but what’s the weekend if business days occur during the weekend?
It’s always nice when someone says that you’re pretty. The other day I was in the elevator of my apartment complex and a lady stepped on, looked at me, and said, “Oh, you are so pretty.” Aw … thanks, lady. She was an expat, spoke English, probably in her 30s-40s, and spoke with a smile. That is fine. However, when people tell me I’m pretty and then proceed to FOLLOW ME DOWN THE STREET … oh hell no. Don’t touch me, get away from me, and stop asking me if I have a boyfriend. Ew.
I also need to get better at saying no to people. I’m used to being friendly and other people being polite, so if someone gives me a flyer I feel like I need to take it. Unfortunately here that usually leads to a short conversation, the person following me, and/or someone trying to drag me off. Even though it’s really rude, it’s so much easier to just pretend that I understand what they’re saying, shake my head, act all exasperated, and say bu4 yao4 or vyo. Should’ve done that today … bad bad bad. No matter, I am now home and safe.
Quick recap of everything else: First week of school and all is well. Found the foreign language bookstore and it’s fabulous. Need to figure out a better sleep schedule. Need to figure out how work is going to work … id est, when I work next and what I need to do. So all in all, things are just fine.
Registration for the new semester of school? Check. Only took me three and a half hours. Get a part-time job to avoid boredom? Check. Now I need to refresh my very rusty vocab skills. Starting Monday, I’ll be on a regular schedule of classes. Then we’ll see how much work I end up getting. And I might have a language partner lined up as well. And I need to visit the grocery store. And … you get the idea.
About grocery shopping, I’ve been to many a foreign grocery store (Freshmart, Carrefour, and City Shop) and the small street-side fruit markets, but not Lianhua, which is the standard Chinese grocery store around here. I need to buy flour and baking powder. Because I want pancakes. Still battling with myself about whether to buy cheese or not. On the one hand, I would really like to make a grilled cheese sandwich. On the other hand, including the price of bread and butter (both rather expensive), a single grilled cheese sandwich will end up costing about 2 USD. Hm … decisions, decisions.
Mid-Autumn Festival (also known as the Moon Festival) takes place September 22. What does that mean? MOONCAKES! Some of my favorite things in the world. Below is a picture of mooncakes that have meat inside and a flaky pastry outside. These are delicious. We also have the more common kind of mooncake here, my favorite being the lotus seed paste with an egg yolk. YUM. So much variety!
Yesterday morning I took part of the SAT. Oh standardized testing, how I have NOT missed you. Blah. Anyway, so I think I might have a job, a different one. This one would be to teach the SAT and some AP tests. The last one, which was to teach a public-speaking class in English kind of fell through, mostly because the boss guy didn’t really have his deal together and was annoying me.
Anyway, all went well. I made my own lunch – pasta. Easy, right? The classic staple “I don’t know how to cook, but I’m hungry” food. Went through a lot of pasta (of all different shapes) with Roommates 3 and 4. Especially 4. Wow, lots of pasta there. Fond memories. But hey now, I’m getting distracted. The reason why I bring attention to my luncheon of pasta is that it was supposed to be easy … if you have a can opener.
Who doesn’t own a can opener!? The pasta sauce was in a can (and expensive – yay for imported stuff). I searched all over the apartment and while the pasta was already boiling, I finally accepted that we own no can opener. I ended up opening the damn thing with a bottle opener and a garlic press. That was talent right there. I was darned proud of myself, and you should be too. Who knew making pasta could be such an adventure? But I have one question: Why do we have a garlic press yet no can opener?
One week of vacation almost done. And not much to show for it, unfortunately. Tomorrow’s going to be a fairly busy day though, so I should have more to post this weekend. Below is a sign from a subway (metro) station. I find it weird to call it the metro, because CapMetro in Austin is for the bus system. But anyway … this sign made me crack up because in Shanghai, this really is a necessary sign. Disgusting, eh?