Dr. Lomino in China: February 11
February 11: Housekeeping
I’ve been in a whirlwind this week, and it’s good to take time for familiar activities like house cleaning, grocery shopping and washing clothes. These are the things that ground me and provide a sense of normal life. But they also remind me of my own home that is so far away right now.
However, there are few things that are actually ordinary about these tasks in China. Grocery shopping is an adventure unto itself—sorting through the many unfamiliar foods, with labels in mostly Chinese characters. Some of the product names bring smiles: spray cream (aerosol whipped cream), warm toilet seat pad, and shrimp flavored peanuts, just to name a few. I did buy a little space heater today, since I’m very nervous about turning on the big unit again. I bought enough fresh vegetables to make a nice stir fry meal for tomorrow and finally found saran wrap, which has been one of the more illusive items on my list. I still haven’t found cinnamon for my oatmeal, but I did find a pumpkin pie spice mixture that will work. I’ve given up finding half and half and also popcorn to pop up the old-fashioned way. I occasionally see small bags of already popped corn with flavors like seaweed and sweet cream!
Then the laundry. First of all the washing machine is outside on the kitchen balcony. That is okay, but trying to decipher the directions, mostly in Chinese, was a trick. I finally pushed enough buttons to get it going. Dryers are rare here, even in these high end apartments. Everyone hangs their laundry outside on their balconies. So that’s what I did. It actually makes me feel good that I’m using the sun and not electricity for drying. It’s a little more work, but I remember very well helping my grandmother and even my mother hang the wash outside. It is a satisfying thing to bring in the dry clothes, smelling like fresh air and sunshine. Of course when the rainy season hits, drying clothes will be a greater challenge—it may take all week. I was lucky today. The humidity was quite low and a nice breeze has been blowing. Even my towels are almost dry. I just brought everything in since it got dark a little after 6:00.
I did have some time today to explore more of the cupboards and closets to see what previous “foreign directors” may have left behind. I found several bags of pasta maybe from the Italian director. Flour, with possibly Russian writing, may have been left by the Finland director, and I’m pretty sure strawberry jam and biscuits are reminders of the British director. I also found another duvet cover and extra pillowcases for my bed. I rearranged the kitchen cupboards to accommodate my short stature, putting the things I use more often on lower shelves. Basically I puttered around the apartment today, cleaning and organizing and trying to focus on the ordinary in this extraordinary place.
Now I’m looking forward to doing Facetime with my family. That’s the reward at the end of the day!
Today’s Insight: The more life is different here in China, the more it is the same as anywhere else.