Oh No Metro

One of my favorite supermarkets to shop for imported foods like milk, cereal, lunch meat, butter, and cheese has been Metro. It’s a German company with stores in nearly every major city in China. The one nearest where I live is about a 45-minute walk each way, but it’s absolutely worth the trek, even if my shoulders nearly give out from carrying 4 liters of milk plus assorted coffee making ingredients.

On my most recent trip to my not-so-local area Metro, I was struck by just how empty the store shelves were. In fact, there were large empty spaces within the store where entire isles of goods had previously been displayed for sale. At first, I thought perhaps Metro had just been scrimping on the holiday pay during the Spring Festival my not having employees restock the shelves in order to save some money. But as I traveled deeper into the large warehouse, I found more and more such vacant areas. In fact, the entire office technology (my favorite) department was simply gone. It was at this point in the nearly fruitless shopping excursion that I hypothesized that the store must be depleting its stock in order to prepare for closure. Shit!

I continued to mull this idea as I continued shopping. I picked up 4 boxes of muesli cereal, 2 liters of milk from New Zealand, 2 plastic cereal/noodle bowls, and a bottle of Hersey’s Chocolate syrup. Other items on my list were nowhere to be found, including toothbrush, ham, cheese, butter, and bread. I suppose I’ll need to re-source these particular products because of what I found upon leaving the store after bagging my meager groceries.

Beside the exit stood a notification board (entirely in Chinese) which confirmed my hypotheses and explained why the store would be closing on February 25th. Of course, I had to use Google Translate to convert the text to English so I could understand it, and after doing so, a mild melancholic feeling descended over me as I trudged home, heavy with despair if not actual food-stuffs.

The next nearest Metro Supermarket location is at least a 45-minute metro (oh the irony!) ride away from home, but I doubt I’ll be making that trip anytime soon. I suppose I’ll just make do with the Carrefour, Bravo, Tesco, Lotus, and Walmart still within walking distance. Besides, I can spend the time I’ll be saving by not walking so far on less productive things like playing video games and binge-watching TV shows.

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What Flavor Is the Wrong Question

A couple of weeks ago I bought some purple hand soap in a pump dispenser because I thought my previous soap was getting low, and I didn’t want to live in a world without hand soap. So I bought this purple soap without really looking closely at the label or even giving much thought to what it might smell like. After all, soap is soap, and I’m a guy who’s not particularly particular about such things. As it turned out, my old soap dispenser apparently still had a couple of weeks of soap left in it (insert lame joke about me not washing my hands often enough here).

By the time I finally got around to focusing 100% of my tiny little brain on the daunting task of twisting, jerking, shaking, and pulling the nozzle up and open, I had completely forgotten why I chose the purple colored soap in the first place. I’ve never been a huge Prince fan, and I don’t like the Minnesota Vikings. I don’t even care for grape bubble gum. So imagine my confusion when I finally squirted a big foamy white pile of soap onto my hand; confused not because the soap suds were white but because they smelled super good!

The soap smelled so good that for an ever-so-brief moment, I wondered what flavor this soap could be that it smelled so delicious. Resisting the urge to dip my tongue sudsward, I looked at the bottle instead. I can’t read many Chinese characters but I’d have to be some kind of an idiot not to have noticed the picture of a flower on the label. Using the camera function on my phone’s Google Translate app, I was able to focus in on the words in the lower right corner to solve the mystery of what flavor, no that’s the wrong question, what scent this soap actually is. The answer might surprise you. Google says it’s “Blue flowers bleeding”. Mystery solved.

A Difference of Opinion

Today was the day we teachers at my international school were supposed to turn in our final exams to the heads of our departments. My exams turned out to be quite long, about 10 pages of mostly multiple choice questions plus a written section at the end.

I got a request from the head of the English department suggesting I change some of the multiple choice questions. Get this, the problem isn’t that my questions are too easy. Oh no. Her complaint was that some students will simply scribble letters into the blanks as quickly as they can, then use the remainder of the exam time to sleep.

Apparently, she and I have a different philosophy when it comes to designing tests. I prefer to test what the students may know. The head of the English department seems to think the purpose of the test is to keep students awake. WTF?! So, I guess I’m going to have an argument tomorrow when I meet with her, and I really don’t think her argument has a leg to stand on because students who can’t read can’t answer any questions regardless of whether they are multiple choice or fill-in-the-blank. I fail to see any difference except that my test at least puts the correct answer in front of them. Her way guarantees that the worst students will not even be able to write something relevant on their answer sheets, and I’ll have to wade through that garbage as though I’m actually measuring their knowledge and not just wandering through a landfill searching for pearls.

What’s New Tuesday?

For the Love of the Game
Let’s see, what’s new? That’s really not a rhetorical question. I got bashed in the right eye by an errant elbow this afternoon in the school gymnasium while playing basketball with some hyper-aggressive (and slightly uncoordinated) teachers who visit from other schools every Tuesday to play basketball. This wasn’t my first basketball-related injury this group has inflicted upon my face. Last Tuesday a teacher went all viper-style on me, springing from his coiled position straight up into the bridge of my nose giving me a swollen schnoz and a black right eye. I’m sure I’ll have another shiner come tomorrow morning despite my early exit from the gym to ice down my face. Many of the players messaged me on WeChat to check if I’m OK, so that was nice. The sad thing is that I’ve already begun to change my playing style; becoming less aggressive on defense. Now it’s time to stop being such a ball-hawk on the boards as well.

The Taobao of Pooh
I recently joined the zillions of Chinese shopaholic in properly setting up a Taobao account, complete with online debit card payment (please don’t hack it!) and a correctly entered shipping address. Not only that, I successfully ordered a few things, and already received my first package, a replacement USB type-C power cable for my notebook computer. I know that doesn’t sound very impressive, but it’s going to save me from packing and unpacking a power cable every single working day. Now I’ll just leave one of the cables on my desk in the office. Yeah!

Cleanup

Just below my window, the workers who’ve been remodeling five floors of the building across the way are finally cleaning up the debris they’ve been tossing out of windows for the past three days. My curtain is closed, but I’m aware of their presence from the rumbling bulldozer they’re using to scoop up the rubbish and dumping into the back of a dump truck. Hopefully, this is a sign that they’ll move onto working on the teachers’ dorm rooms soon. But I know it’s probably not a priority for them, and I’m not likely to move out of the students’ dorm until just before the students return.

Secret Walmart

I don’t know how I missed it before, but I finally found the Walmart located at the nearby Wanda Plaza. I guess I must have walked right passed the unmarked entrance at least twice while wandering through the mall. I suppose I wasn’t looking for it because, according to Google Maps, there isn’t supposed to be a Walmart inside Wanda Plaza, but it should be across the street, right beside Carrefour; Google Maps fail.

I felt pretty happy about finding the secret Walmart, but they didn’t have the big can of coffee I wanted to buy. Instead, I bought a medium sized jar and one of creamer. I bought white sugar and brown sugar. I bought some seaweed snacky-snacks and some strawberry cream cookies. I also bought a couple of stainless steel forks with smiley faces on them. The last thing I picked and placed in my cart was a plastic container to put either sugar or oatmeal into. I haven’t decided which. Oh, and I bought a couple of salt/pepper shakers too. I think that’s all I bought at the secret Walmart.

A New Life

It’s the 10th day of my new life in Shanghai, China. Although I’ve been to Shanghai a few times, everything here is quite unfamiliar to me; new neighborhood, new people, new school.

Although I haven’t been blogging, I have been writing about my experiences every day. It’s high time I begin transferring some of those daily journal entries over here for others to read.

No One Now

As recently as April 28th, I was kind of a big deal; a big fish in a small pond. I was the only remaining foreign teacher at a high school whose main objective is preparing Chinese kids to study in western universities overseas. Every single student at that school knew my name, and about 90% of them would say “Hi!” as they passed me in the hallway. No matter how rubbish my day was, their greetings would always make me feel good. That’s long gone.

Now that I’m in exile, I’m no one, working nowhere, and I feel I’ve become practically invisible. Invisible is growing on me. I think I could get used to this. When I go back, I’ll be the littlest fish in the biggest of ponds, and I think that’s exactly what I need.

Keep Your Mouth Shut

Unfortunately, the best advice I can give to a westerner planning to travel or move to China is this: Keep your mouth shut. No, I don’t mean breathe through your nose. I mean keep your critical opinions (and you will have many of them) to yourself. Nothing good will come from telling Chinese people what you see as wrong with their government, their environment, or their culture. Most of them are not ready to hear criticism of these things, even if they know you are right.

Instead, they will blame you, the messenger, even if the message is full of wisdom and truth. It won’t matter that your words come from a good place of concern and caring for the Chinese people. They will point their accusing fingers back at you, throwing every (obvious) flaw and criticism of America (and there are many) they can think of, in your face as though two wrongs make a right or somehow cancel each other out. They will use logical fallacies and motivated reasoning to make false equivalents between problems like China’s pollution and America’s presidential election and endemic racism.

So save your breath. Keep your mouth shut. Don’t speak your mind unless it’s 100% positive, non-critical flattery that reinforces the Chinese belief that their country is the center of the universe and soon will rise to power and dominance as America’s form of democracy falters and its influence around the world continues to decline.