Wednesday, July 20, 2011

"Oh, I Get it Now!"

How curious are you about day to day life here in Nanjing, China? 

My perception of what goes on has been fertile ground to spew and blog and capture the essence of my experience as an ex-pat from the middle of the USA. As one day leads to the next I try and keep my eyes wide open. I don't want to become complacent as I "Embrace the New Normal in Nanjing".  If I did, Cricket's Voice would stop chirping, you would stop reading and I wouldn't have a collection of inner thoughts to recall in upcoming years. Because of that I feel obligated to wear a Blog-worthy Detective Hat at all times. Of course this is just fantasy but let me WOW you with it's features:

Imagine this...

  • Picture a light colored pith helmet keeping the direct hot sunlight off of my fair head and fair skin. I love the fact that it helps hide that I am a blonde blue-eyed creature.*
  • Behind a shimmering crystal in the forehead of my helmet hides a hidden camera which captures significant images with just a purposeful blink of my right eye. Snapshots are always in focus and the lens automatically zooms IN and OUT with a wiggle of my nose.  
  • My ear piece and microphone were pricey but a feature I was willing to pay extra for.  
  • I find myself saying "Roger, that!" from time to time, just to test it out. I don't speak but a few choppy "Chinglish" sentences while I'm out there, so you see it's good to test it now and then.
  • The wireless device embedded in the crook of my left elbow has internet service and I can Google Translate if necessary or look up anything on the world wide web. [Except for the 'embedded in the crook of my left elbow' part, I could be describing an I-phone 4, right?]

Yes, my Blog-worthy Detective Hat is just wishful thinking and I agree, pretty silly, especially in a local eatery or bustling street.  My point being that I am using all of the tools I can, whenever I can, to bring my readership, the inside skinny on how things are going a world away from most of you.  I can hear your gratitude - ::::crickets::::

Here is my tale~

At first blush everything in our new home town was NEW and DIFFERENT and ODD. Now we are more than three months into the adventure of a lifetime and many things have switched from

 "THAT'S ODD"                 to                 "OH, I GET IT NOW!"

Here's an example. Our home state of Michigan is one of a few states in the USA that has a refundable bottle and can deposit (10 cents) on soft drink beverages and beer.  Empties are rinsed out and taken back to the store for 10 cents each and trucked off to a recycling center instead of a landfill.  Add to this the prevalence of curbside or recycling depots and the result is significantly less roadside trash.  Michiganders feel more 'green' and less 'trashy' & seeing beverage cans & bottles strewn about is rare. We have a lot of shoreline to be concerned about.

[Michigan offers more than 11,000 inland lakes and 36,000 miles of rivers and streams, including 1,000 miles of the finest blue ribbon trout mainstreams in the country. We have 3,000 miles of freshwater shoreline (more than any other state) - and more total shoreline than any other state, except Alaska. Our two peninsulas touch four of the five Great Lakes, which contain 80 percent of the nation's fresh water and 14 percent of the world's fresh water. In Michigan you're never more than six miles from a river or stream, and never more than 85 miles from one of the Great Lakes.] - Department of Natural Resources

Imagine my surprise when we arrived in China and noted that cans, glass and cardboard were just tossed away.  After all, there are 1,339,724,852 ** people in China and that can add up to a lot of trash. How ODD that they didn't recycle, I thought.  So I began depositing refuse into a trash can like the natives, feeling good old Puritan guilt with each toss. It was odd to me until I put on that detective hat and started paying attention.  Throughout the city streets were vehicles stacked with cardboard, metal and plastic bottles.  Most are pedal-bikes and how they maneuver through busy streets and cross crazy intersections is an art.  The Chinese DO recycle.  It's the less fortunate who do the collecting, sorting, smashing and hauling.  They take their finds to recycling centers around the city and get paid a very small sum for their cargo. Our moving boxes, all ninety-one of them, were emptied one by one as we put our house together.  Once dragged to the curb they were snatched up within an hour by someone who sought their value.   What was once in the "THAT'S ODD" column jumped immediately into the "OH, I GET IT!" column.  Recyclables are a source of income for some people.

Because the level of income is quite low in China every resource is conserved.  You won't find a light on that doesn't have a very important purpose. All bulbs are the squiggly-wiggly energy efficient ones and some cast the oddest blue light I've ever read by. Electricity costs money and money does not flow like the Yangtze river does here.   It is not unusual for scooters, cars and buses (yes, I said BUSES) to drive down the street with the headlights OFF at night!  So dangerous to my way of thinking, that's for sure. Is risking one's life (and others) worth the few pennies of electrical charge necessary to have your path safely illuminated? I'm all about safety and watching out for the other guy, sadly this one remains in the "THAT'S ODD" column. I consider people a worthy asset and not expendable.

Imagine my surprise when someone 'called me out' when I rinsed out a pickle jar in their presence.  "Well, that is very 'Chinese' of you," they said.  I laughed, because I had no real need for the jar, it just looked like it might be useful someday for something.  And so my pile began to slowly grow as we finished off the contents of lidded glass jars.   The jar thing reminds me of my Dad's & Grandfather's workbench area.  Lots of pickle and jam jars were filled with this, that or the other thing.  Baby food jars were suspended from a wood beam having had their lids nailed tightly to the rafter. They held similar "you just never know when you might need one of these" treasures; nails, thumbtacks, screws, wire nuts.
Some of my "You just Never Know" Jars

Then there is clothing.  The Big Guy had an oxford shirt that had seen better days.  In the States I would have thrown it in the Salvation Army donation pile but here in Nanjing, China, I kept it...just in case.  

In the USA an unnamed male relative of mine went through a Gap boxer shorts with "Penguins Only" phase.  Each fashion season the Gap would feature boxers with penguins.  He had them all, for years.  The fondness didn't wear out when the waistlines gave out. 

 I became the steward of his "Penguins Only" boxer shorts... 

...  and with a hand on my heart I promised that he would see them again.I brought them with me to China. :0)    

While unpacking several boxes of fabric, I came across those coveted penguin boxers giving
me a quirky dose of Chinese recycling inspiration. I began playfully plotting....and...

Between the oxford shirt and the boxers I fashioned a quilt top made entirely from cast-offs,

thus preserving a favorite "Penguins Only" theme and keeping a promise.

A Promise of Penguins - July 2011

How very "Chinese" of me, right? 

I am beginning to appreciate what millions and millions of people in this country have learned out of necessity; look at something really close to see if it offers a useful alternative in it's cast-off state.  
 Moving from
 "THAT'S ODD"       to          "OH, I GET IT NOW!"

has had an impact on my resourcefulness here in Nanjing, China.  I'm not alone either.  The Big Guy brought home a tall box with red twine wrapped around it for the security of it's contents.  I offered him a pair of scissors to lop off the twine. He quickly said, "NO, I will untie it.  I want to save the string, I may need to use it for something down the road!"  I don't doubt that there will be a use for that string.

Now, what to do with my burgeoning jar collection... "Hey, Big Guy, rinse out that salsa jar and the parmesan cheese shaker and toss them in the soap suds, you just never know..."

Thanks for Reading,


..."Roger, that!"

Cricket Sports her Blog-Worthy Detective Hat

 *A creature so rare in the Middle Kingdom that little children tug at their parents and point at me. Older children say "Hay-Lo," in English and smile proudly. I give them my biggest teacher approval smile and say "Hello," back to them.



Becca said...

Wow! I enjoyed reading this so much. There are so many things to learn when you move to a different culture.

I love your jar collection. You could start saving the string in one of those, I guess :)

And I especially LOVE the quilt top. That's very inventive.

Life over there certainly keeps you on your toes!

Buff said...

Quilting with castoffs - back to basics and oh so green! But mind you me missy: I'll not have you motoring around in the dark of night lightless!
I'm reading Prayers for Sale - Colorado gold mining town, land of quilts from castoffs.
Gold Mining Gold Dust close?

Jim Rowan said...

BTW - Where are you in the plan for you and the Big Guy to get motor scooters? Sounds like fun, and more "green". I want pictures?

Glee said...

Keep 'em coming, Carol!! Reminds me I am still collecting Travis/Mertie t-shirts etc to send to you someday...


rita said...

Well, he got more string to add to the collection today.... perhaps he needs a JAR to put it all in???

Love the insights... and you're right - we get a-ha moments all the time here! Never a dull moment!!!!


Josh Allan Dykstra said...

I think it's safe to say that is the coolest quilt ever made.