This week has been FILLED with excitement, as I am faced with an enviable array of challenges: uncertain employment, the termination of our current lease, the securing of a new apartment (the collateral pain of packing up and moving buildings) and of course the ever-present headache of accomplishing all tasks with a gigantic language barrier. Although I must admit, I have surprised myself with the amount of Chinese I’ve been able to employ in the past 5 days – getting all my basic points across: “too expensive,” “too dirty,” “too loud,” “no, i won’t pay an entire year up front,” “no, i cannot only have a squat toilet,” etc. I have no doubt annoyed and impressed many a Century 21 real estate agent; I believe I’ve toured at least 20 apartments with at least 6 different agents. It’s been intense.
At least there have been moments of amusement thrown in. Like the most recent canine additions to our street – 3 TINY, squinting puppies stumbling around on wobbly legs under the watchful eye of the mama dog. They’re “owned” by a man who runs two businesses out of his small street shop – pirated DVD’s, and real estate. He offered to throw one in as a bonus if we got an apartment through him, but I’m pretty sure the free puppy offer still stands (and my resistence is waning). Another highlight was my mahjong lesson tuesday afternoon; a skill I’ve had a slothful desire to acquire all year and so was more than happy to be included in my friend Ashley’s final Chengdu mahjong session before she heads off for Bangkok on Monday. Our friend Ivy, the resident mahjong queen, is a sassy combination of typical Chengdu-ren and the kind of local you become after spending most of your waking hours surrounded by foreigners…. in other words she is an expert on all things Chengdu and a very, very useful friend to have. We played a couple open hands before diving into the real deal. I will gloat that I had some pretty legit beginners luck and won 2 rounds my first afternoon. Of course, Ashley and Ivy were most likely humoring me. I fully intend to keep practicing until I can someday throw down a challenge on an unsuspecting elderly Mahjong-pro in one of the underground gambling parlors that seem to occupy at least one level of every other building on every street; unmistakable by the relentless click, click, click of the tiles hitting the table. Ivy mentioned that death by mahjong-induced-heart-attack has been known to occur amongst the overexcited elderly of Chengdu. One more noteworthy moment occurred tonight, when a random Chinese dude approached asking me – in complete awkward sincerity – whether I like China or Japan. My answer of “um, both” befuddled him so he inquired “but why?”
Life here is not always easy, but it’s almost always easy to be amused.