by Quarter Over
|My father hands me a hundred rmb.
"I will be back at 6, you have to buy lunch yourself." His eyes wander around the room before resting on the shoes in the foyer.
"It'll be a good learning experience, to buy food independently!" He grins at me.
I roll my eyes. All you had to do was point at a thing on the menu, get the money, and boom! Transaction complete! How hard could it be?
He shuts the door, and I'm left by myself in the 2 bedroom apartment.
Taking out my phone, I decide to pass the time until lunch.
An accidental google.ca typed on my search bar makes me frown in frustration, then I settle on an unblocked yahoo and catch up with world news.
Usain Bolt trips at his last race! North Korean tensions with Guam!
The doorbell rings. Without so much as a second passes before a woman opens the door with feather duster in hand.
She seems surprised when she sees me splayed out on the couch and yells out some indecipherable riddle. I give a short "I don't know" and she nods in understanding.
It becomes uncomfortable with the newcomer, and I look at my phone again. 11:30.
A short wave goodbye, and I'm out the door when a torrent of warm air blasts me in the face. I miss the air conditioner already.
I go down the elevator, through the eternally empty lobby, and into the streets below. Since the apartment complex looked identical to the 5 other ones right beside it, I decide to take a photo of the big label displaying APT #4 for future reference.
Opening my bikeshare app, I locate one right by the entrance of the building block.
Technology really is amazing these days, being able to scan and pay for something right with a tap of the finger.
I'd hadn't gone out much by myself yet, so I wasn't very familiar with the area. Picking a direction at random, I start my quest.
I stick to the side of the 2 car width street, trying not to get in the way. One thing that stood out to me while riding was how angry drivers were here. A car blows its horn full blast at me as it passed. "Fuck off!" I yell back.
Pretty soon, I come across a large crosswalk where a bunch of other various scooters and bicycles waited. One guy takes his chances and crosses when the light was red. Many horns were honked.
The sheer danger of driving in Wuxi astounds me. This was so stressful! Every few seconds I turned my head back to check if a car was gonna hit me.
A cursory glance indicated that I had made it out of the residential block and into a road with some local stores. I quickly headed into one at random to discover a crucial problem.
No english! The front board which listed all the foods and prices had only the pictography on it. No english, no pictures, just characters.
Ok, I thought. So this store was out, so what? There's got to be another one. I eventually find a sign that had some english that said it was a japanese sushi place. This turns out to be a bust too, since a quick look in the window indicated it had been abandoned long ago.
By the fourth shop, I realised the second problem.
You see, in my shortsightedness, I forgot my glasses.
It was a sweet shop, and it definitely had some english on the board. I paced back and forth 3 or 4 times trying to catch a glimpse of the name before I lost my nerve and tried somewhere else.
Then, I tried a different approach.
After some time I had chanced upon a familiar brand. KFC.
I scolded myself a little for choosing fried chicken that I could of eaten anywhere else instead of chinese food.
At least the menu would have english.
The store was fairly empty, perhaps containing some other foreigners who couldn't read the language as well.
It was a brief shock when I saw even the american fast food giant didn't have english on it's menu. Good thing the cashier had quickly pointed an english menu on the counter.
At this point, I just wanted to get out of there. Some random fried chicken sandwich is bought, and I clumsily pull out the cost of it, around 20 yuan.
But I fumble with the change, bringing out canadian 5's and 200's and making a big fool out of myself. It was super obvious I was a tourist.
If only I could blend in. I wouldn't have to search for english writing, or tell confused people what languages I don't speak. The biggest pet peeve I have is that look of disbelief in their eyes when I tell them. Why? They say, did you not learn the language.
The next person in line orders something and pays with his smartphone. It was if I was a light was shining on a pitch black night. I'm an outsider, looking in.
In hindsight, no one probably cared.
Dad came back from work and we ate some watermelon under the cool A.C.