Alex and I just finished the last episode of Glee's first season. Three or four nights a week for the past two months have been devoted to watching Rachel being a diva and drooling over Puck and Finn. Granted, the disks had some damaged spots and they wouldn't always work (we bought them for less than $1 next door) but we made it through the entire season.
We've been joking that we're like a married couple -- we have our routine of working out, eating eggplant and rice, and settling down to watch Glee. We know each other's looks, we finish each other's sentences, we do all the cliche things that sisters or husbands and wives are best known for. It's like we have an umbilical cord that is about to be cut in a day and a half.
It appears that Alex will leave China much the way she came in, still convinced (as am I) that this country is an abusive boyfriend. Today was a gut-punching kind of day, which thankfully are becoming less frequent. I spent 90% of my day in a taxi or hunting for a taxi. As a result, my legs, elbows, and back of my head have all been grazed by trucks and mopeds zooming through intersections (don't worry mom, your daughter has quick reflexes).
The cabs today were angry and impolite. This morning I rode in one for 30 minutes to go to a store that sells Canon products. I needed to buy a battery and a memory stick for my camera and they thankfully understood what I needed when I showed them. Even though the employees knew what I wanted, they proceeded with a 10 minute monologue of Lord knows what. I kept telling them "Wo ting bu dong! Wo ting bu dong!" (I don't understand!) Which only prompted them to speak louder and faster. (Take note America, this is a bad habit you have when interacting with non-native English speakers).
At any rate, I managed to escape the store with a headache and new camera accessories. Later this afternoon I had to go pick up my passport from the police station. I needed to get my visa renewed before I leave the country this weekend. Again I repeated the routine of hailing a cab for 20 minutes and trying to explain to him where I needed to go (I resorted to calling a Chinese friend).
The police station was filled with overly helpful people who jovially shouted me to go in a direction I couldn't quite interpret. Another headache was on its way. I finally got my passport and checked my new visa; China has now staked its claim on a full five pages of my passport, gotta love bureaucracy.
I went home to get Alex so we could do some last minute shopping. In order to go shopping, we needed a taxi. Between 3 and 5 p.m. taxis are impossible to snatch because all of the drivers are switching shifts. For 30 minutes we waved down green lights who shooed us away (they were on break). Locals were trying to give us advice we couldn't understand, and at one point we had the crossing guard lobby on our behalf to a driver.
We cursed. We flipped people off. We gave pleading looks. We slammed doors. We shouted. We begged. We tried to be respectful and then we tried being the opposite of respectful. We both broke and followed every cross-cultural communication rule in the process of talking with nearly 20 drivers. No one would take us.
Dejected, we came back to our apartment. (In the process I knocked over some man's bike, I helped him pick it up and thankfully he wasn't angry... I was quickly crumbling).
Today was a bad China day. I know when I come back next month, there will be many more bad China days in store, but I won't have Alex to commiserate with. I know I can do it on my own, but it won't be nearly as much fun. Our apartment already lacks character, subtract our antics and the place will be downright desolate come mid-February. In August, I was ready to tackle this place alone. That was before I knew what I was getting into. Having experienced it, I know I will be just fine -- it'll just be a little less comfortable.
When I was little, I would see pictures of huge cities like Tokyo, Shanghai and Hong Kong and be terrified by the dizzying lights, monolithic buildings, and mysterious symbols I couldn't interpret. I remember thinking that must be the most terrifying feeling in the world not being able to understand anything around you.
During one of my many unpleasant taxi rides today, I looked at a sticker that was describing the fuel surcharge. The only part of it I could read was the price of gas. The rest of the symbols were beautiful but meaningless. I thought of those movie scenes I used to be scared of and the last emotion going through my body was fear. It was the most peculiar sense of accomplishment I've ever felt.
We have everything set to go for Saturday (except for packing, which must be done tomorrow). Overall I feel rather clueless about my trip, this is the longest and most spontaneous vacation I've ever taken. Though, spontaneity often leads to serendipity. If anything, the past three months have taught Alex and I that if the absurd is a possibility, it will often become reality. As Alex goes to the US and I head to southeast Asia, we'll cut our chord knowing we're capable of handling the most outrageous of situations.
We'll also leave each other not knowing when or which country we'll see each other in. What a fantastic thought.