When one sidewalk ends…

…nothing else is there. This city is undergoing the biggest sidewalk renovation I have ever seen. It’s no joke. Though I keep asking myself, “are they joking?”. Every. Single. Sidewalk. And pretty much from August until now. A friend asked me a few weeks ago what I thought the lifespan of a foot path (he’s Aussie) was in GZ. We joked, saying it was about 12 months, and it’s so crazy that they are all being torn up. And two days later we noticed a path that was once complete, now was missing, well more like torn up, bricks removed, sand underneath exposed, and no where to walk.

The lifespan of every sidewalk/footpath in Zhujiang Newtown is non-existent. I swear many of these paths were just torn up and re-laid only earlier this year. So what is happening is this: they close off a sidewalk, put barricades up, don’t really make any safe way around and then also tear up the opposite side of the street. Allowing for no way to actually walk, except for a busy road. And roads are not safe in GZ. Cars do not give way for any people, ever. Busses like to get as close as possible while pulling up to the curbs. So once you figure out a way around all the mayhem, dodging cars and staying as close to the barrier as possible, you get back on to the path, walk about 10 meters, then have to detour again. Frustration does not come close to how I feel when trying to walk anywhere these days. Have a look for yourself…this is what my neighbourhood looks like:

So another fun part about this is when there is a “walk-way” made for people to get through, it is not a real walk-way. It is just barriers put out to guide people across areas that are torn up. Some businesses have to make their own pathways. It’s all very professional.

My favourite though is the river. While the river walkway has been torn up over the past few months, it is now solid and clear, but now you can’t even get to the river. Massive chunks of the paths are cleared away, making it difficult and at times impossible, to get across. With all the rain we’ve been having, it turns it into a moat-like area where no one can pass through unless you have your knee-high gumboots on. Needless to say, I haven’t been to the river in a while.

And with all this deconstructing and reconstructing we’re able to see how they assemble these lovely sidewalks around GZ. Basically, they dump heaps of sand down, flatted in, the lay bricks on it. The bricks are always in nice designs, multiple colours, and usually don’t fit together properly and have big spaces between, making them very unstable and when it rains, they float. And sometimes you get really lucky and get “mud-bricked”, which is when you step on a brick and there is so much water underneath is squirts up all over your feet and legs. And usually you have no idea what kind of water was sitting underneath that brick. It’s all very exciting. You never know what you’re going to get walking around here!

And in other news, we’ve had rain. Lots and lots of rain. And not just the usual Guangzhou summer downpour, there has been proper typhoons. A few of them actually. But we have been lucky and our area was not hit that hard. Others, however, were, like Hong Kong and Zhuhai. They were hit pretty badly and are still in the process of cleaning up. The only major damage I have seen was these two trees blown over during the typhoon. It really shows you how hard the wind was blowing that day (the bikes were just piled there, nothing to do with the typhoon, just people being lazy and annoying).

 

But the rain continues here. Everyday between 1-2pm there is a torrential downpour. I have been stuck in it, many times. An umbrella does not do much, only protects the top of your head. No matter how large it is. I have learned that I am either going to be super sweaty (because it is 35 degrees-feels like 42-every day, all day) or soaked because it is raining cats and dogs. No pun intended. Well, maybe. That is my life. Cats and dogs. So if it’s not in my house, it’s outside.

 

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Please remove your shoes at the door …

Having guests makes you think about different aspects of your daily life. You think about your routines and your household jobs you must get done and your eating habits and especially your buffers to China.

One buffer to China I have is removing shoes. This may not seem like a buffer, maybe just politeness, but trust me, it is necessary to keep a lot of China out. But in order to get this across to any guest (long distance or neighbour) you will think about is how can I make these people that came from half way around the world or across the complex, comfortable? First: tell them to take off their shoes. No matter what. Every time. Do not walk around the apartment in the shoes you wore out in China. While my positive views of Guangzhou become stronger every day, I will always feel negatively about the variety of disgusting stuff I will be treading on. The most common “stuff” you will encounter is bodily fluids. The street are filled with bodily fluids. And this isn’t the occasional spitting type of fluids, this is everything. Spitting is a regular occurrence, you don’t just see it on the ground, you hear it everyday and mostly all day. Sometimes it’s pretty mild and you can kind of ignore it, other times, such as just this afternoon, there is a wind up, a full blown build up to the forceful expulsion of phlegm from one’s throat or lungs rather because that is what it sounds like. Luckily with the man today that had the most intense build up and multiple stages of hacking up something, I was able to get away before the final blow. My husband thinks that their level of noise and effort to complete said activity is very un-proportional to the end result. No one needs to cough and hack for 20 seconds before bringing something up. But it happens. All. The. Time. So now that I’ve severely grossed you out, you understand why shoes, which are always stepping onto this stuff, whether you like it or not, need to be removed.

Other things that will be stepped on: vomit (strangely common), food, dog poop, and sometimes human feces. Usually a baby’s but still nasty and should not be a common thing to avoid when walking around. And if you have to go to a wetmarket for your fruit and veg, always wear closed toed shoes and always remove them. Try to find a mat somewhere first to do a quick wipe. But do not find water to do a little splash for the soles because you have no clue why that water is there and where it came from. Revolted yet?

So, my guests immediately were told all of this as soon as they walked more than a meter into our apartment. They quickly obliged and eagerly (because we can all understand how gross this is) dashed back to the front door and removed their shoes. I probably scarred them but they always remembered to do it!

Aside from disgusting my guests, I think we did a pretty good job of hosting them. Like I said, having guests make you think about things in a new way. Daily life, definitely, but also daily Guangzhou. I wanted to make sure that our visitors saw GZ the way we see whilst also reassuring them that we are ok here. We are happy and healthy and doing fine. (note-it was Joel’s parents visiting so having this reassurance was key, parents worry.) So as I tour guided around I made sure to notice the good of GZ, the positive and the really cool. After nearly 9 months here, the daily things that we get used to are still interesting to outsiders, and I love that experiencing them again makes me appreciate where the heck I am. I am in China! In a crazy city that no one visits, people only work in and heaps and heaps of manufacturing and trading goes on. Everyone knows Beijing and Shanghai and even Chengdu (because of the pandas) but no one really knows GZ. People go to Hong Kong, never even thinking about crossing the border, where things are so cheap and food it super tasty and there is space (even if it is slowly being filled up with expansion of GZ and Shenzhen and Foshan so on and so forth). But still, appreciating the Pearl River Delta (aka southern china, aka Guangzhou) is something that has taken time. It is something we struggle with but can still step back and just enjoy and marvel at the immense differences between Asian cultures and Western.

But back to my point, simple differences of Australian life and an Australian in China life make for large adjustments for anyone. Reiterating the shoes issues is something I will not let up on. Just please always watch where you are stepping. Surprises on the ground are never a good thing here.

Tour Guiding…

GZ is officially a tourist spot. At least it is for the Kaldasaun’s tourism group. We have hosted our first set of visitors and it went pretty well. No one got sick or hurt or lost and I’m pretty certain they had a great time. It was also the busiest and most consecutive days out in GZ I have had thus far.

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OuIMG_2105r first visitors are direct from Melbourne. With only a 3 week lead up to the trip, they booked in, got a great deal and made the most of this city (technically it was one Aussie and one American, but both from Oz). We had 6 days together and made the most of it. Their trip started off with a walk along the river on a gorgeous Friday evening, drinks with some of our “local” friends and completed their first night in GZ with KTV.

Saturday we ventured out on bikes to a local art district and wandered around, Genni making friends with everyone and Helena using her few Chinese phrases with locals. We also had a first with the girls-visiting Canton Tower. It is the second tallest tower in China and the 5th tallest free standing structure in the world. It makes sense, then, to go on the thrill ride at the top of the tower. Which is also the highest vertical free fall in the world. My thrill seeker friend, Genni, was the brave one that conquered this and came down with a renewed love of life.

Sunday was another big day: shopping. The girls got their first taste of real China and the GZ markets. We took them to the Western Clothes Market, which is massive and overwhelming and filled with clothes that mostly only small Chinese girls fit into. The fun was trying to figure out how to let us try clothes on. If it was possible, most likely something was purchased, however neither of my friends were very good at the haggling part of the transactions. If I was there I would go for it, otherwise it was a full priced item (or even more because they were pretty easy targets even if they didn’t mean to be). Joel and I are pretty good at the bargaining thing and like to try it out every chance we get. I am more of a hard bargainer than he is-something I am proud of!

After our big Sunday out and about we stayed in and played a IMG_2147traditional Chinese game of Mahjong. This is one of my favourite games at the moment and I was so impressed my friends caught on so quickly! We actually had 2 nights of Mahjong in the end-I may have created some new followers!

On Monday I took them on my favourite activity in GZ: Cycle Canton. We spent the day riding around GZ (with only one other on the tour from the states). We pedalled our hearts out all day, exploring the temples, family halls, kung fu academy, markets and so much more!

Tuesday was a special treat: making dumplings at a local restaurant. The restaurant is a new one opened up by GETCH and run by students with handicaps that attend GETCH. It is run by a former student, has many staff members and a full time chef. We were lucky enough to be invited in and taught how to make dumplings like a local. This was not entirely successful but we all had a blast and had an amazing lunch! Afterwards we popped into a local temple for some peaceful wandering and a bit of chanting (Helena joined a prayer march in one temple, unsure of what she was actually saying but getting involved nonetheless!)

The final day of their visit, I took the girls back to the market (always more shopping to be done!) and to a local shopping mall. The mall was unimpressive but they had to see what it is like here for all types of shopping! We had a great time braving the metro (train) system and attempting only one taxi ride as people with motion sickness don’t do well above ground here in cars! It was a whirlwind of a trip and showed me how far I’ve come since moving here nearly 8 months ago! I felt like I could handle the city and everything it it entails to get around and explore! I look forward to more visitors and showing off the awesome, if exhausting, city!

 

No space in a hazy city…

Guangzhou may not be considered the most polluted of the Chinese cities, but it seems that the pollution never really goes away here. This leads to many things: trouble breathing on a daily basis, no blue sky, no desire to go outside, and a confined feeling. While the pollution levels haven’t gotten out of  hand, they are still high enough to second guess a run outdoors, or leaving the windows open all day. We tend to attempt to balance our exposure to the nasty air quality. If we spend a day outside, we spend the evening inside. We limit physical excursion outdoors. But we don’t wear masks. This may change as the months turn into years and we realise the long term affects it may have on us, or we find some super trendy face masks to wear around.

The feeling of being enclosed and almost claustrophobic in GZ doesn’t only pertain to the think blanket of smog that sits around us. Everywhere you go here, you most likely are going to feel limited. An example was right in front of me a few weeks ago. On a train, the vertical bars for holding on to are a top spot for standing against. Sometimes people lean their whole body and do not allow others to use the space, or twelve hands are stacked one of top of the other all the way up. In my example, a young woman was using the bar to wrap her arm around, so she could therefore still use both hands, to play a game on her phone. I was standing behind, trying to keep balance and there was no where to hold on to. At one stop, a woman came on and reached directly in front of the young woman’s face, to grab the bar. The young girl continued to play on her phone, with a stranger’s arm reaching across her line of sight. If this were me, I would alter my position so I didn’t have someone have more access to my phone than me, but I suppose they are used to it here and just go with it. No space.

Another place you have no space is the road. I have yet to get a video or even a picture of the roads here, but I can assure you there is no space. If there is an opening on the road, someone quickly fills it with a bus, car, truck motor bike or bicycle. When you want to cross the street on foot, your space will be filled with people on bicycles running the lights in every direction. Don’t expect space in 7-11 either, your purchase is much less important than the person behind you, and they will quickly shove their way in front, or just next to, you in order to get their shopping done first. I have learned to hold my ground in such situations. Hand on hip, elbow out, is a good stance. Probably my least favourite place with lack of space (unfortunate because I love these places) are the markets. The Western Clothes Market is amazing, however as soon as you step foot into the shop, you will be followed. No one will ask you what you need (language barrier most of the time), they will just follow, closely. You pick something up, they will be there to use their 2 or 3 English phrases to sell it. But most likely there is only one size and it won’t fit so their effort, your annoyance and the whole situation was useless.

But in terms of spaces around GZ, I have been exploring a few new ones in the past few weeks. I have gone on a few new Cycle Canton tours and seem some awesome areas around here. And space is still an issue no matter where you go. The coolest kind of spaces are the lane-ways. I’ve explored a few since being here and they always confuse me and amaze me. The tiny alleyways are never ends, never straight and never easy to find. I’ve also helped on some cycle tours and gotten to re-visit some of the areas and still would have gotten lost without a guide. Every time I wander, either on a bike or on foot, around the city I see new things. This city can be explored over and over and over again and will always amaze me.

Weather and air quality hasn’t improved either. The city gets lost is a haze of smog, pollution and rain clouds almost daily now. The most annoying thing about it is trying to figure out an outfit that will suit the inconsistent weather/pollution patterns. For now, take an umbrella, have a mask handy and always, ALWAYS bring tissues. A downpour may happen or you may sweat yourself silly.

Back in the concrete jungle…

My how time has flown by…back nearly a month from the states and it seems like yesterday I was breathing clean air, understanding the barista at Starbucks and driving on roads where rules are followed.

In the 4 weeks since returning to GZ, a lot has been going on. Birthdays and festivals mainly. My birthday was first with a lovely little party 4 days after getting back to China. Many friends came over, we ate,

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My birthday party

we drank and we watched tennis. This is what a 33 year old’s birthday looks like.

 

This was also coinciding with the Lunar New Year, or Chinese New Year. And this was probably the best way to come back into GZ…a city of over 14 million shrinking in size to about 5 million. Seems like a lot still, but the whole city was empty. This included shops and restaurants with no staff so no service so no opening hours. But suited us just fine as we sat around most days, enjoying the nice weather and few friends that stuck around for the week of holiday. I am sad to admit that I didn’t take many pictures during this time. Maybe jet-lag, maybe laziness, but I wish I would have captured to enormous amount of decoration that this city embraced. Red is lucky for the Chinese, therefore red was everywhere. Mandarin trees also are symbolic of something, so every place of business had a little, or big, tree with bright orange fruits hanging off it (apparently they are no good to eat though, such a waste). More info about Chinese New Year! This is also the time of the red envelopes. Check out the link to learn more. You’ll probably end up knowing more than we do! At least we have 2 more rounds of CNY to participate, enjoy and learn from…or travel during.

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Joel’s birthday beer

Once my birthday passed and we got through CNY and the city started to buzz again, we were planning Joel’s birthday. For those of you that know Joel, you know he loves karaoke. Here, we have KTV. It is pretty awesome. You hire a room, get everything delivered to you and sing for hours and hours. 8pm-130am we spent in one room, about 15 of us, singing our hearts out and dancing the night away. I think it may have been the best birthday party Joel has ever had (sorry Joel’s mum, I’m sure his childhood parties were pretty awesome too).

 

 

And now that festivities have come and gone and we’ve gotten our parties out of the way, we are back to the daily routine of working and training and enjoying our foster dog. Joel is working the same long hours, but seems to be enjoying this line of work he’s involved in, even catching a few work trips in the meantime. We’re both attempting to get going with our running training as our marathon (Joel) and half-marathon (me) is just under 3 months away. Our Great Wall Marathon is going to be a challenge but a once in a life time experience that will be amazing. I am still involved in some coaching here on the side. My fitness has vastly improved and I am going to undertake another K2Fit Challenge in about 2 weeks. Poor Joel will go from noodles for lunch every day to a kale salad with boiled chicken. (Not really, we have amazing recipes to choose from so we eat pretty well). Our dog is still a handful but a fun handful. We are now ready to find him a forever home. He’s been with us about 5 months and he’s adjusted very well and while he still has issues he will do great in a home that is patient and loving. And if there are any readers out there that know of a good home for him, don’t be shy because we can send him anywhere! Plus he’s trained in English, not really a bilingual dog set up for a Chinese speaking owner.

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Moppy showing off…and me showing off how much free time I have.

And that is our life, up to date. I plan on being more regular with my posts and sharing some of the more interesting things I experience here. Honestly, it never ends. Every day there is something new to marvel at or be grossed out by. Never a dull day in GZ!

A market full of quirks…

I have been thinking about writing a post about the odd things I encounter everyday, but I noticed this perfect article to give those people who have not yet travelled to GZ, or even China, a better understanding of things here. Just because there is some sort of explanation doesn’t make it easier to tolerate or understand: Chinese Cultural Quirks. But you need to also understand, this is another culture. It is so different than where I have come from, first the US then Australia. Even the move from one westernised country to another was difficult and I still comment/complain about “Aussie-isms”. Just ask my husband.

Being tolerant of these interesting behaviours and cultural norms is something I am working on. I would guess many of my posts seem negative. And they probably are. I am not the first person to feel that way about China or living overseas. I know I will not be the last. Just because the entire world is becoming more westernised does not mean China is going to change their customs. Everyday it makes for an interesting adventure.

For example, yesterday Joel and I used the day to go to a massive market. It’s called One Link International Plaza. Many friends here talk about it and it seems you could get anything you want there (it is also known as the toy market but that was not the majority of “stuff” there). Challenges Joel and I face when going out shopping include, but are not limited to getting annoyed with the other’s shopping style, not finding the right items, getting hungry and too many people. These are issues we face in Oz, put us in China and it is all multiplied, mostly dealing with people. But also finding the right items in a place like this is a nightmare.

I need to explain this place first. I have been to a few different markets so far in GZ (the shopping here is amazing when you have time, patience and no clue what you actually want). All markets are indoors, multiple levels and usually have a theme: clothing, shoes,, accessories, leather (bags, wallets, shoes), etc. No theme at OneLink. Except that there are lots of speciality shops. Specialities like magnets, key chains, butterfly accessories, miniature figurines, dried flowers, beach themed homewares, scarves, the list can go on and on. Photos were not encouraged so no proof of these shops but they are there. The speciality shops were one thing, the other was the two wings to the market and the many, many levels. Joel and I separated briefly for Christmas shopping and we both got lost. Overwhelming was an understatement. However, the crowds weren’t the biggest problem. in the narrow aisles between shops people would stand in the middle, sometimes smoking a cigarette, other times (or at the same time) watching their young child skate, scoot or just run amok between other shoppers. The best part is when the shopkeepers sit in front of their shop with tea or a meal, mostly ignoring you until you step into the shop and look at something closely then you are questioned, sometimes in Chinese, or they use their minimal English shopping vocabulary. If you don’t want to buy, then get out otherwise you may be harassed. But if you do want to make a purchase, always haggle. I have even gotten better at it than Joel.

Joel and I spent a few hours wandering the place, passing the same shops when we would get lost, eventually buying a few items we actually came for (throw pillows, a clock and Christmas lights). Overall is was a success. But in order to see it all, an entire day has to be given to take it all in. And maybe hiring a driver because you need a secure ride home (our taxi back home, while a woman driver, still wouldn’t use the meter and charged us pretty high). We did find another little gem before we left after crossing the street to grab a taxi. Shoes. We only scratched the surface of this new market area, but shoes. So many beautiful leather shoes. I was after some tacky boots for a dress-up party and couldn’t find any! They were all so nice (the tacky ones they did have didn’t come in my size). We didn’t have much time to shop as we had a dog back at home to attend to, but we will be back and Joel even agreed on it. I think he is actually liking shopping in China. We’ll see how he feels after I take him to the next market…

So, that is China. Specifically GZ. Sounds like I had a positive experience shopping. My limit is usually 2-3 hours out and about. This time I surpassed and got to nearly 4. You just get used to the quirks. They seem so different and so strange but I am sure the Chinese think they same of us…I should look for an article about Westernised Quirks from the Asian perspective. I know we have a lot!

Just go with it…

I feel as if the blog posts are going to get more and more boring. Life here is not the most exciting. It is always interesting and most days I wish I had my camera/phone out ready to document the things I see. The more time we spend here out in the real China world (away from our bubble of Canton Place) the more I have to accept how things go here. It’s not always easy to keep my mouth shut and go with it, but I am learning, as is Joel. He, of course, is much more patient than I am.

Things that drive me absolutely insane are, in no particular order, nose picking, spitting, snot rocketing, coughing loudly, bike riding on the footpath, no one stopping at cross walks, everyone walking slowly and most importantly nose picking and spitting (yes I repeated this because it really drives me crazy/grosses me out).

Annoyances are one thing, interesting, odd and just weird day to day happenings are another.

For example, down the road from us is a very small rubbish transfer depot (or something along those lines). There is usually a large garbage truck and small piles of rubbish on the ground of the bay it’s backed into. It’s like a carport where all this rubbish from the area is taken to and one truck takes it away, but not before it is sorted. Things are sorted out into things like plastic bottles, cardboard, and my favourite, styrofoam. These items are then piled onto the back of a bike and taken to another location by an individual on a bike (peddled or motorised). I do not know the logistics or details of these transactions, but it seems to be a private enterprise taking these things away. So, last week it was quite windy and as I walked down to street I saw a massive plastic bag tumbling down the road filled with styrofoam. This was a huge bag, two people could fit into this bag, and it was rolling into the street. As I walked nearer to the corner I saw the bike to which it was supposed to be attached, which had another 2 bags strapped on. This is what happens here, people collect these items to be redistributed (recycles, reused or re-purposed). And they don’t want to make more than one trip, so the largest amount possible is attached and cycled away. In this instance, the three bags were visible but I am sure there were another 2 waiting to be carefully piled onto the rider and peddled away.

On the topic of not wasting things, being annoyed and just going with it, apparently bin bags are not thrown up when full, only sorted through (note story above). I have discovered this only today when I was walking around our garden level with the pup. My new method of collecting dog poo is one I learned here. People just place a piece of newspaper (or in my case, a magazine page) under the pup’s bum and when finished, the paper is delicately collected without having any contact with the poo. This works great when a) you have a small dog and b) when there are bins every 50m. So this is how we have been doing it for 4 weeks. Today I was caught (not in the middle of the poo, only in preparation when I carry the paper) by the cleaner/landscaper/gardeners that takes care of the level 2 gardens, and bins apparently. Whether he was speaking Cantonese or Mandarin, yelling or just telling me calmly (one can never tell because of the language) I deduced he does not like me using paper as it allows the poo to get all over the bins. And maybe it stinks and tastes bad or something like that because he mimed hands and fingers near is mouth and nose. So, now I must use a plastic bag. Well, this made me feel awful. For two reasons: I am so good at cleaning up every bit of poo and never leaving any out which makes his life easier and cleaner, and how dare he criticise me for actually picking up poo! It’s not my fault that the bins are hand-picked through.  I use the rubbish bin, not the recycle one, and it’s better for the environment, less plastic floating around out there! So I think a battle is going to ensue. Picking up poo is nasty either way, I just have to figure out how to do it the right way.

Other interesting things that happen here…Starbucks does not open until 730am. I finished a boot camp last week and thought a coffee would be great to walk home with. It was quite a cold morning and I wanted to treat myself. Well, never mind that because at 645 NOTHING is open. Good luck finding a coffee, even if it is from Starbucks. I had to trudge home and make it myself. Other things that open late, our gym. The huge club we’re members of doesn’t open until 7am. This is frustrating for those that work and catch a bus at 8. Luckily the small gym in our building is open at 445am. Not that Joel and myself will get up that early to use it. But if you stay up late, everything is open late. Cafes, at least 11pm. Restaurants, at least 11pm. But it appears the staff doesn’t work til all patrons have left. Regularly the tables at the restaurants below us have bottles of wine and glasses and sometimes plates left out in the outdoor seating area. When I say regularly, I mean every night there are people sitting outside. Mostly I just think of all the wasted wine on the tables. It’s an expensive beverage to leave half a bottle of.

And to bring it back to the beginning, going with the flow is difficult. Getting used to all the differences in culture is difficult. Not speaking the language is difficult, but as I have seen with other expats here, the more you go with the flow and try not to stress too much, the easier life will be here. I need to take a page from Joel’s book: just relax and ignore it all.

 

The servicing…

Two times a week my apartment gets serviced. Never having grown up with a housekeeper or maid (except my mother, of course), this concept is strange and awkward for me. It is going to take some getting used to. The month at the other apartment was an easing into the servicing. Because it was a smaller apartment they took a relatively short amount of time and it was usually at the same time (morning, about 9am). Here, at Canton, I can’t run away every time the sweet little ladies knock on the door and announces “housekeeping”, not announce so much as say it with a little inflection almost asking if they can come in to clean my apartment. The past few weeks I made myself scarce, going out to the shops, walking, gym-ing, eating, anything to stay out of the way and out of the apartment. I have sat on the balcony reading, but it’s also been very hot so I usually just sweat myself silly until they finish. And they aren’t as consistent on the timing. I think they clean all apartments on this floor the same days so they may just choose at random (between the 4) which to start on. Monday, mine seems to be last, usually starting after 1pm and finishing up after 3. Thursday (second week in a row) it is first on the schedule with a knock at 930am. Today I cannot leave, I need to use my apartment. Luckily my coffee was just done brewing…so this is my first day staying in my apartment the entire time it is being serviced.

While the wonderful cleaner is doing her job today, I plopped myself in the little study to give a detailed account of this bi-weekly event. My study has a lovely balcony and the weather today is perfect. a breezy 26° with a light cloud cover. And this is my view…

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But, let me start from the beginning of these servicing days. As I have learned from others that have had cleaners, you clean before it gets cleaned. I do this too. I put all the used towels in a pile ( I should strip the bed, but I have to make it every morning so I won’t do both). I make sure all the dishes are put away. The tables are cleared of all our crap (probably won’t be possible when all our crap is here from the shipment). All the clothes are put away and laundry sorted. This is how I prepare the apartment twice a week. Overkill?

So these wonderful little workers (one usually) come bustling in and turn on every light. They check every light bulb to make sure it is working. And there are a lot. 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a study, the kitchen, the balconies and the living area. Then the beds (we only use one so it’s quick) are stripped and remade. Towels are changed over. The bathroom is scrubbed (I think. I haven’t seen it done but she has been in there a while with gloves on). She then moves on to the next bathroom (rarely used but it’s closer to the living area so it can be used occasionally). The kitchen is cleaned followed by everything else dusted and wiped down. Finally the floors are vacuumed or swept and then mopped. And I can’t stress this enough, this is a large apartment. The whole thing has shiny dark timber-it takes a long time to do ALL the floors. I have complained about the quality of work but really, it gets done and I am not doing it. I do love my cleaning time and enjoying tidying, but mopping is my worst enemy so if someone else will take care of it, I will sacrifice my need to clean.

And because my time is not spent cleaning this place, I have time to do things like go shopping with new friends (grocery shopping but still it’s getting out). My newest friend is a fellow American, an Oregonian in fact, and from Beaverton. Her husband works for Nike. Small world it is, but since manufacturing is massive here it actually makes sense. She has a driver and offered to take me to Metro for some shopping. It was a huge relief since it was going to be a massive outing for me with taxis and grocery bags and all that rigmarole. Having a driver meant buying a nice little coffee maker. And getting to know my new friend better.

My social outing today is spent celebrating another new friend’s 50th birthday. A lovely ladies lunch at cafe in the 4 Seasons Hotel. It’s a pretty flash spot so it means dressing up and all that stuff. No ball gowns this time fortunately. But no flip-flops either.

This weekend we have two outings planned. The first is visiting a dog shelter My Paws and Me. We are hoping to find a sweet pup to foster for a few months and help it find a permanent home, also know as its “furever home”. I am prepared for a tough visit but also know these dogs were saved and have a better life at this shelter than any other place they’ve been. Sunday we have a day outing with friends to Kaiping. It was planned for us so I have no idea what is there or the reason for going. Joel, of course, has done his research, but I like to be surprised.

And finally, my biggest accomplishment this week is stocking our fridge, freezer and fruit bowl and vegetable drawer. There is not really a “one-stop-shop” like home (Australia or US) so I shop around..and around and around. I made a few online/We Chat orders for fruit and veg, another for some dairy and dried goods and more fruit, a trip to the super market for meat and another outing to the wet market for more veg. It is an all day event when attempting to organise food and meals here. I’m pretty sure my sweet husband thinks I just sit around sipping coffee and snacking on almonds (which he would approve of) and although some days are like that, days like yesterday, were a lot of planning, organsing and shopping. It really does make you appreciate those simple things back at home…but I feel so much more accomplished after making a simple meal here.

“It is better to move than to be motioness*…”

*Spelling mistake intended…these are direct translations.

This morning before my day got busy, and the temperature rose into the 30s, I decided I needed to explore the area. A few streets away from our complex is a beautiful park. This city amazes me with all its greenery. The lush parks are not only well groomed, they are also well used. Today I saw a true peek into daily China (early morning) life, and it was magnificent.

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Zhu Jiang Park

The park has a lot of boasting throughout the walk. They are proud of their awards..

Along with these placards, there are also a variety of others…

And we don’t want to forget motivational placards, reminding us how important our health is…

Needless to say, it was an educational, and motivational, meander. And I do think the Chinese take these “proverbs” seriously. The park was packed. Runners, joggers, speed walkers all were utilizing the track around the park. Everyone, however, was going counterclockwise, no one was going against the flow. This may be a cultural norm, an unwritten rule to always move in that direction (mahjong is played counterclockwise as well). Along the way, at large open areas, many people of the older generation were practicing tai chi, kung fu, choreographed dancing, and my favourite, a man practicing calligraphy with a large brush and water. It was beautiful. Never was there a dull moment on this morning walk.

The best part about finding these parks is realising I am in the middle of a massive Chinese city, but surrounded by so much nature and greenery. It really is a wonderful thing when an (obvious) foreigner can take a walk through a beautiful park on a stunning autumn morning and enjoy the surroundings like everyone else. I am enjoying being able to take it all in, appreciate this place for what it is and how lovely the people really are.

 

Gardens in the CBD…

I thought I might as well go outside and enjoy the tepid morning. A lovely 28° outside with teeny tiny spots of blue sky. Oh what a way to enjoy the morning. No, that was not the right choice. The humidity is at 89%. Just walking outside feels like stepping into a steam room, skin becoming damp as soon as it hits the air. And it doesn’t dry out. But I powered through. I took a 2.5km walk through Huacheng Square. There are a few different parts to the park and I don’t know that any of them are. I just took the pictures and enjoyed my walk (and sweat)

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The signage as you walk into the corridor…fun to figure out what they all mean. I broke a rule-I took photos.

There is a memorial to firefighters in the square which include a firetruck and many bronze statues throughout the gardens.

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Once through the firefighter memorial you enter the Eco Corridor. In the middle of Zhujiang New Town is a very peaceful park with ponds, benches and pathways through the zen-like gardens.

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It feels like a peaceful retreat from the busy city, but you’re still surrounded by the massive CBD skyscrapers. Fish were hanging out in the shallow waters, risking their lives as a grandmother and her grand-daughter had their nets out attempting to catch anything swimming past.

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And my favourite part of the eco-corridor was this little spot. I don’t know the significance but it’s pretty adorable.

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The city is slowly showing me its little spots to enjoy. As I venture out more and more (as the temperature drops and becomes more tolerable) I will find these areas which make GZ feel livable (I know it is, but my standards are different and I need to accept the things that make me feel comfortable, not everyone else).

I know I’ve said it before, but it’s these little triumphs that are my proud moments. Moving to a massive Chinese city is not easy, but it is achievable to learn how to become part of it. 4 weeks on and I am making my own way.