I have been feeling sort of quiet for the past few days, hence the lack of posting.
However! Celebration is in order because I have officially finished a full week of work (6 business days, even). Hooray for me. I am beginning to settle in to things here, I think. I have yet to cook myself a proper meal at home yet (my hotplate is not very inspiring and, in Kunming, the economic arguments for eating at home don’t really hold water), but I have done all of the following normal life things:
- Successfully bargained (with a key-copier to make a key for RP). This is kind of a dumb story, but here goes: There are these guys all over the streets of KM who sit under giant umbrellas. Their business is key-copying and bike-fixing. The key I wanted to copy is really big and heavy, and I was going around from guy to guy getting an estimate on copying this key. Finally I get to a woman who says she’ll copy the key for 7 yuan (basically, a dollar). This is outrageously expensive! She claimed that it was because the key was so large, and that smaller keys cost less to copy (even though it takes the same amount of time and effort for her…). She was not in a bargaining mood. No dice. So I move on to another guy.
“10 yuan,” he tells me. “10 yuan?!” say I, “That lady back there will do it for 7!” BIG MISTAKE. I should have said that the lady back there would have done it for 4 yuan. Because guess what I ended up bargaining the guy down to? That’s right, 7 yuan. So I felt slightly triumphant because I had bargained with the guy, even though I could have just had the damn thing copied with no hassle from that lady. In addition to which, that lady works right across from my building entrance, and now gives me the stink eye every time I come out. Great.
- Ordered water over the phone: Since you can’t drink the tap water in China, most people have water coolers in their apartments and use a delivery service to bring them a giant top-up of water periodically. I had never done this. The delivery guy had an accent on him like you wouldn’t believe. But hey, I’ve got water now, so I must have said something right.
- Taken a city bus somewhere successfully: I took it to the southwest part of the city, half an hour from the center, to the Yunnan Nationalities Museum. This was a classic Chinese museum experience, featuring me as the only patron of the museum. At all. It is a museum devoted to Yunnan’s ethnic minorities, and was mostly handled in a decent way (although when a group of people is classifiable as belonging in a museum, I get extremely anxious. I’ll talk more about China’s relationship with its minority populations some other time). The best thing about it was the textiles section. These were my favorite examples of dress, a Lisu woman’s outfit (sorry for poor pic quality):
…and an Yi woman’s outfit.
They also had some mentions of the T’rung, the group of people on whose language RP is doing research. These two placards were it in terms of representation for the T’rung in this museum:
And apart from these things, I attended a meeting at work today in which I actually understood most of what was said, and even contributed a few things myself. YES.
Finally: the apartment is still not in good enough condition to show you here, but I will show you the view out our window – a garden/courtyard that is accessible for walking and contemplating by going on floor down. If I ever see the sun, I’ll be out there in a second.