13 January 2013

Lucky numbers


I'm in America attempting to get a temporary phone number for my unlocked Iphone 4S.  The whole reason my friend bought me this phone from the Apple Store was so I could use it in China and the US.  It's a big deal to have a phone that was never locked.  In China, I have a great China Unicom phone number that I had a say in choosing.  It has a bunch of lucky numbers.  But in America I'm limited to computer generated phone numbers.

Four is an unlucky number because the word four or Sì 四 sounds a lot like the word for dead or Sǐ  死.  Nobody wants a four!  Many of the buildings in China do not have a fourth floor, for example.  Many of the ex-pat buildings have no 4 and also no 13.  Also, no 14, etc.

Eight, on the other hand, is a lucky number.  Eight, or Bā 八, means prosperity.  So, we love our 8s.  Many airlines like the dreaded United have flights like its back and forth Beijing PEK to San Francisco SFO that are flight numbers 888 and 889.  In China, the little corner shack stores that sell SIM cards and top up your phone have little stacks of SIMs labeled, "NO 4s"  or just "8s."  You pay extra for 8s.

But here I am in America, unable to control the computer generated numbers and using the auto-phone-tree-change-your-number thing at Net10 over and over so many times that I locked my SIM and have to get a new one.  That's greed.  Greedy for 8s.

12 January 2013

AQI Beyond Index

BJ AQI 805

In our year there we never experienced it that high, that we knew.  They say schools will not open on Monday.  Everyone is trying to stay indoors.   The air, alone, may be the reason we don't move back.  Because otherwise, the longing is with us.  The missing China.  But the air.

Just breathe

Beijing AQI              472

San Francisco AQI     32

07 January 2013


On Friday we went down to the San Francisco Unified School District offices to re-register for Mandarin Immersion school in case we decide to stay in SF for awhile and go back to school here.  If they have openings one can only join a class above 1st grade if one tests in.  Nevermind that we left the very same MI school in 3rd grade and have spent the last year in, you know, Beijing.  The whole thing took over two hours and involved lots of paper forms.  A Spanish-speaking mom who is apparently a teacher in Oakland fumed because the tester didn't know the name of the test she was supposedly administering to the teacher's son.  I got even less from our tester.  SF schools' bureaucracy is the subject of much scorn.  But LiLi tested fluent and we got into school.  Waiting and annoyed, I kept saying to myself, "it's free...it's free...it's free."  School starts tomorrow but LiLi won't go for a few more days because we are still jetlagged and a bit wiggy with culture shock.  Or Mama is, anyway.

04 January 2013

Culture shock

1.  Empty.  There are no people.  Or there are few people.  On the roads driving.  On the streets walking.  Inside the stores.  We keep finding ourselves saying, "Look!  On this whole block there is only one person!"  This is 800K vs. 22M.
2.  Traffic.  I drove yesterday because LiLi had a dentist appointment.  It felt like a movie.  It has been a year so of course I can still drive.  But watching traffic and checking intersections...it felt very surreal and quite scary.  Today was much better but still:  at some friends' for dinner tonight I declined wine.  I figured driving home in the dark on SF's hills would be tough enough, I hadn't oughta be adding alcohol to the impairment mix of jetlag and culture shock.
3.  Seeing friends.  I find myself declining invitations and even LiLi says no to playdates and uses the phrase, "I'm feeling overwhelmed."  We're taking it slowly and seeing only one family at a time.  I have nothing to say and also so much to say.  My brain is fuzzy.  I'm profoundly inarticulate.  I need to be around people who are patient and forgiving.
4.  My house.  I'm still in love with my soft bed and great view, and am still annoyed with the long list of broken things from the tenants:  the special red chair half eaten by their dog; two shower curtain rods, two!; two floor lamps; my desk chair; pantry shelf; bathroom doorknob; wrecked finish on the antique Chinese bench coffee table; dog toe nail pock marks in my fir floors; food encrusted pots and pans; nonworking burners on the gas stove...etc etc.  It's all small stuff but like a friend says, a list you'd expect after a decade, not six months.
5.  Jet lag.  Last night was my first slept-through-the-night and a BFF called and came over early, two hours before our new normal wake up time.  We didn't nap this afternoon though we both wanted to.  Tonight I hope we both sleep through---knock wood.
6.  English.  Everyone speaks it here.  We heard Cantonese at a home store but haven't been out enough yet to hear Spanish and Chinese.  That will come.
7.  Sticker shock.  Fruit at US$7.50 a pint.  Cheapo casual lunch at US$17.00.  Plastic trash bin US$14.55 (made in China no doubt.)
8.  Two hands.  In China it is polite to hand passports, credit cards, money, with two hands.  While I was paying for something today, LiLi said, "Mama, you don't have to DO THAT here!!!!!"
9.  Breathing.  The air is so so so clean here.  I am still breathing it in and noticing.  I suspect in a week I will have forgotten.