21 Dec

It was a December evening like any other.  Rachelle and I had gotten back from a snack run at our new favorite store (to be described in a future post), and were preparing to watch a Harry Potter movie on Pearl.

“We need to get the apartment clean so I can get work done tomorrow,” she explained, adding, “Make sure you take out the trashes.”

“Yes, dear,” I rolled my eyes as I gathered up the trash bags from the kitchen and headed for the front door.  Uh-oh.  The knob turned, but the latch stayed in place.   We were stuck.

After unsuccessfully fiddling with the latch, we decided to call a friend who was better able to explain the situation to the front desk than I could with my broken Chinese.  We finally got through to someone, and she called us back after a few minutes to tell us they were sending someone up.  A moment later we heard someone at the door.  After some back-and-forth, we established that we would need a little more help.  Rachelle and I looked at each other, excited to use the appropriate movie reference.  “Call the locksmith!”

And of course, after a few more minutes we heard more footsteps and some more fiddling with the door, followed by some talking, and a knock on the door next to us.  “What are they doing now?” Rachelle inquired.

“I don’t know, maybe he needs a good lock to look at to plan his attack,” I replied.  Moments later our cellphone rang.  It was our friend, telling us that he was on our balcony.  I looked out back, but there was nobody there.  Then Rachelle saw him.  Outside our front window.


Hanging from this.

Our window, by the way, is on the fourth floor.


It’s kind of a long way down.

Before Rachelle could get to the window to open it, he reached up, opened the window, and climbed through with his bag of tools in his other hand.  Which raises the question, just how the hell was he holding on, anyway?  Our surprise had barely started to wear off by the time he got the doorknob removed and started to remove the jammed latch.


Everyday superhero at work.

He soon had the whole assembly replaced and even tightened the hinges so the door didn’t catch on the frame anymore.  We got our new key and he started to gather his stuff.  I offered him a beer (the least I could do for such heroics), but he declined.  Well, that’s more for me, I guess.





24 Sep

Well, aside from celebrating my first year in China this month, there’s another special date I’m celebrating today, in fact.  That’s right, two years ago today, I married my wonderful wife Rachelle.

We were lying in bed last night and suddenly Rachelle was like, “Wait, our anniversary, what’s the date?” and I was all, “Oh shit, we almost forgot!” and Rachelle was like, “No, I think today’s only the 23rd so it’s tomorrow!”  Close call.

Who would have thought that that baseball game four years ago would lead to such adventures?  I got her some anniversary baozi from the restaurant downstairs for breakfast.  They didn’t have her favorite oat and honey buns so I settled on black sesame, which is also tasty.  Hooray for team Ophums!  Rigel wanted in on the festivities so she hopped up on the bed and started digging on my leg.  Ow.  That adorable little shit.

Heroes of China

15 Jul

Chinese history is full of heroic figures, from the ancient founding emperors, to the genius strategies of Zhuge Liang in the Three Kingdoms era, to modern China’s George Washington, Ben Franklin, and Thomas Paine all rolled up into one–the venerable Dr. Sun Yat-sen himself.  One might think the days of such great figures are far in the past, but my experience on the Metro last night convinced me that the tradition of great heroes is still alive and well in China to this day.
At most of the Metro stations in Guangzhou, the floor in front of the doors to the trains are marked so that the area is divided into two or three sections, with arrows denoting which sections are for boarding the train, and which sections are reserved for people exiting.  This is pointless in light of the Ancient Chinese Traditional mindset of “Whateva, whateva, I do what I want,” and people will pile up in front of the door as densely as Chinese physics will allow, and of course trying to board or exit the train is in fact more of a contact sport than anything else.  Such was the case last night; although the station was less crowded than it often is, a group of ladies in front of me had started the crowd off by spilling into the exit lane as the train approached.
A young transit guard standing nearby decided he would have none of that.  He strode over the the women, who were starting to be joined by other scofflaws in the group, and although I don’t remember his exact words, they were to the effect of, “Please wait over there,” as he gestured for them to stand back and clear the area.  Of course, this had little effect, as a uniform of any sort in China has the approximate effect of an Invisibility Cloak.  But he persisted, raising his voice and advancing on the group while making little pushing gestures with his hands, and to my surprise, the crowd moved, vaguely conforming to the approximate shape of the denoted area.
The train arrived, and the wall of people inside appeared shocked and confused at the lack of a corresponding wall in front of them.  They stood there for a moment, still braced for an impact that never came.  “Exit the car,” the transit guard said, in the same mildly authoritative tone he had just affected.  The people in the train, bewildered, began to file out of the car.  The people outside waited until there was enough space, and then peacefully boarded.  It was a thing of beauty.  I didn’t even take an elbow to the rib or accidentally palm a fat woman’s breast in the process, nor did I have to frantically grab at my bag to keep it by my side.
I thought to myself, “Anonymous transit guard, when your shift is done, you should head to the nearest C-Store and get yourself an ice-cold 青岛啤酒.  You’ve earned it.

Midday Market

7 Jul

Sunday and Wednesday are the two days I set aside for grocery runs these days. After my morning Pilates teaching, I had stopped to get some things at the supermarket, but I save the vegetables and such for the neighborhood market, as they are fresher and usually cheaper there.


Knowing that everything shuts down around lunchtime and for a couple hours thereafter, I decided to wait until 2:30 to head out. The sun was peeking out behind just a smattering of thin clouds, but somehow there was a respectable drizzle coming down, heavy enough to dampen my clothes (but not my spirits!), but light enough that a careful eye could watch the air currents through the movement of the droplets. It took me around ten minutes to arrive. Alas, I was still too early. I was able to grab some potatoes, and some greens, and a block of tofu, but the produce I wanted most were all covered up and unattended. Naptime wasn’t over yet.


I waited around and got to watch the market slowly reawaken. The butchers set out their wares again and turned on the lights over their counters. Vendors filtered in and uncovered tables covered with produce. A middle-aged woman sat up from her worn reclining lawn chair, rubbed her eyes, and started putting her change box in order. As the market eased back into life for the afternoon, I finished filling my red Trader Joe’s bag with young Shanghai greens, cai xin, and a bag of lettuce for the rabbit, and began to walk back home.