53 - Life in ZQ | Scoins.net | DJS

53 - Life in ZQ

I write this having lived in ZQ from September. You should have already looked at the new flat in ZhaoQing (#46). I have a very few comments received on any aspect at all of my writing, but one of the few (thanks, Sarah) asked for more comment and observation of life as it occurs. Sarah’s message was from Facebook, so it is, as usual, unavailable to me to check quite what she was asking for. Be that as it may, shortly after said message I added some titles to the index page so that I would eventually get around to writing something more. This is that moment. On the screen (well, the other screen) I also have the developing election resultswhat is 15:30 for me is 08:30 for you and called eight hours difference—but the sound cannot stream no matter which country I pretend to be working from (pause and switch to Manchester, since China has not streamed a word for five minutes).

What do you want to know about? I thought you might be interested in food... and shopping for it. No doubt, in my scatterbrained way, other topics will appear and maybe even take over... as happened almost immediately.

Now I am more used to a smaller personal space.....


<switch from Manchester to Seattle. Not used to trying to stream anything. Like the snooker I have been missing...> I gave up on television when in Xi’an, repeated the experience more quickly in Nanjing and here in South China (actually in the tropics) can get a little English broadcast work on channel 53 and occasionally on channel 6. Everything else is in Chinese. All channels are interrupted at far too frequent intervals by advertising, which itself is incredibly repetitive and drives me and any other viewer into channel hopping. Downloading to disk would be worthwhile if the coverage was predictable, but that doesn’t happen – I could then take out the adverts and have, say, a film to keep to watch at other times. When visiting elsewhere (recently Macao and HK) I don’t bother to turn the tv on, but then I didn’t do that in Britain when there in February, either. I find myself very (very) critical of content, bias, muddled thinking, etc etc, and that’s before we get to sacred cows, my own pet hates and inconsistencies. Ooh, example right now: Paxman trying to get an answer from a politico unable to recognise the need to even listen to a question. Saved by loss of signal via Seattle. Amazing how 5 secs in any ten minutes is sufficient...

So I spend (a ridiculous amount of) time working on downloading stuff. I have a sizeable collection of tv and film recorded from my time in PMC, which I can add to slowly. It is difficult to get good copy. I have failed to find a video shop in ZhaoQing. The several I found in Nanjing (with help) were well supplied with films in English and added Mandarin subtitling – but were frequently at the same level of quality as I can get myself in under a gigabyte of download, often with greater honesty.

[Simon Schama says, 08:57, he expects a Tory government with Liberal support – surely it is the only sensible alternative, say I? Why is no-one interviewing Kiwis, where minority government is a fact of life? The UK will have some sort of minority government and right now I see a need for sensible thinking – oops, covered that already. Well I don’t, since the signal is on the blink again so much for 4000 thingys per whatsit]. So television is a bit of a waste of time. The nice young lady (ever so) who lives with me turns the tv on and two hours later is still watching drivel; slowly I am persuading her to be just a little critical of the content she is staring at. Not infrequently she turns the thing on well before 2200 and comes to bed the following morning. At least when we watch a film of low content, we have no interruption and that poor content is viewed from choice - actually, if it doesn’t grab the attention, it is binned quite quickly. Examples: several Nick Cage films recently failed, as did two from Bruce Willis - a pity, since they were non-trivial to capture in the first place.

Going to the supermarket is not much different to any other all over the world, but have a read of my comments on the experience in Xi’an (week 0: arrival). In ZQ we have large examples from RT Mart (“ah ti ma”) and Walmart (“Wah mah”, rarely, ‘wah mah tuh’). Large by British standards. At times other than early (before ten) or late (after 2130), usually too crowded to be in any sense a pleasure. Both markets reside upstairs in large monolithic buildings, on two floors, typically arranged so that you walk past various small internal shops on the way to the entrance, and then find an internal escalator / walkway downwards that allows you to the tills, forcing you to go past everything they have to sell. Food is nearest the tills usually. What is for sale is not, perhaps, what you would expect. I photographed some fruit/veg in RTMart recently to show this off; above, besides the watermelons – which I have bought from a white van man in the street and seen eaten immediately, sat on the kerb – you have durian (dee you’re ian) – an incredibly smelly but quite tasty (not the same thing) thing best collected already cut and well wrapped. You may not take durian on a plane; you shouldn’t take it in a car without great care – this is because you cannot remove the smell. No, really.

Here you have above (colourful, isn’t it?) the veg stall in the smaller RT Mart (one floor) and you may recognise some of the goods. This is April and local. Working from the right in columns:, tomatoes and egg plant;  a cabbage (eaten in soup with noodles), courgettes (edible gourd on the label); more courgettes and cucumber; those are not potatoes but it is corn; carrots and the bottom box is radish (!!)

Oh, want to argue? I got  closer, ‘cos I didn’t think so either…. Carrot, green radish, radish; taro, taro and kudzu; taro, taro and yam (root); burdock and lotus root in the bottom left corner.

Yes, those radishes are large. Burdock root?

What about these things, called dragon fruit? I’ve not knowingly eaten one. Apparently I’m wrong and I ate some in HK yesterday in a fruit cup.

Here on the right are two types of  flavoursome and colourful tea: this is quite expensive, sometimes. There are shops devoted entirely to sales of tea, but most of them have tiny samples to view and hugee containers of stuff for sale.

The twits on the tv have just realised (sorry, announced) that a hung Parliament is now certain. The talking heads occasionally say something almost intelligent, but the twittering prevents the intelligent comment from being absorbed. The twitter stuff is enlarged by the crap comments (e.g. all the derogatory stuff) so that again the intelligent or thoughtful is swamped into insignificance.

Here’s something different, from the same trip to the supermarket. I saw this next to the nice man cutting salmon (big fish, isn’t it?), which we eat with wasabi, now realised to be horseradish not mustard. Tasty.

I’ve commented elsewhere how quiet dogs are in China. That is simply because the noisy ones are eaten. A typical (not special) restaurant menu offers donkey, a wide range of coarse fish (utterly meaningless). I’ve not noticed dog for sale in the supermarket. Yet.

Street markets <pause to look for pictures, need more to help this along> run in odd bits of spare space at odd times and without any of the controls you would expect in Europe. Somewhere here you have a better view of durian, real live banana growing beside the road here and what I am told is dried fungus (but looks, even close to, like some sort of stone). I’ll tighten the shot if someone asks….

The fungus was on sale from behind glass in a ‘pharmacy’. You cannot use this ‘shop’ without asking for help, so unless your problem is visible or your command of the (local) language is good, meaning at least as good as the person serving, you have little chance of making a successful transaction. A pharmacy does not help sports injury; I sprained my ankle recently and discovered that elastic bandage is unknown, support devices are found in sports shops, that the medical business has no recognition of sports-based damage – not very different from the best of Britain (and its medicine) in the early 70s.

As I started to write at the top, now that I am used to a smaller personal space, I have fewer issues with trespass. I was stood in the fruit section of our larger RTMart (much quieter than Walmart) in front of the biggest display I could find. Why? So as not to be in anyone’s way when they come to select from whatever I was standing in front of – a pallet of cooking oil, stacked to head height (mine, so high for here). The first customer wanting oil just had to pick from behind me; this is a display covering 6 square metres and selling two sorts of oil in one size of bottle (maybe as big as 5  litres) at (I looked, eventually) ¥40 & ¥70 (divide by ten for sterling, not the 15 from when I arrived in China). And she needs to pick the bottle behind me. Actually she took two, when the sign says take a maximum of one. She came back ten minutes later and—you guessed it, perhaps—took two more. Fooled me, too. Half of all the sales (well, movement from stack to trolley) involved making me move. If I accept that I was stood in front of the higher seller—and I did move once I’d looked at the signs—then I cannot explain this behaviour. I suspect that another person has no personal space. I stood in front of the ¥70 yuan oil for a while (reading my current book on the iPhone while ‘’herself’ enjoyed picking from the fruit selection) – and guess what? The oil behind me is assumed special and the only people who looked at the more expensive oil required me to move – was there an assumption that I am hiding something for my own, selfish, reasons?

DJS 20100507

Top pic actually bananas growing in the road verge on one of my regualr runs in ZQ

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