I was feeling a little down yesterday. It was a boring day. There are a lot of boring days out here in the sticks, which I’m normally okay with. I can usually entertain myself doing various things — reading, walking, working out, studying Mandarin, cooking, cleaning, surfing (the web — not the Yellow Sea).
Yesterday was different because I was missing home for the first time. I don’t really get homesick. I just never have. Besides, it’s hard to get homesick with all the communication options out there. I can video chat with my family and friends over Google, I can text, I can email, I can Facebook, I can Google+, I can be happily surprised by comments on this blog from former co-workers…lots of options that leave me never truly missing the important people in my life.
But the people part of home wasn’t what I was missing. It was the convenience part. I miss jumping into my car to do whatever it is I want to do. We can’t do that here because we aren’t allowed to drive. Why? It’s simple: it’s too dangerous and therefore too much of a liability for the company that sent us here. There are no rules when it comes to driving and there are lots of people who are new to driving here, which creates disastrous driving conditions. I may have previously stated this, but I’ve stopped looking out through the front window when we are being driven anywhere — whether it’s in a taxi, a bus, or a private car. It’s too damn nerve-racking — especially for this backseat driver.
It’s the little things that can become major annoyances here, but I’m trying to keep all these things in check. Yeah, it sucks not having a car. It sucks to have to take a short bus to the grocery store, finish your shopping in 45 minutes, and then wait in a cold store for another hour fifteen until the bus comes back. Then you get on the bus and — shocker shocker — the driver hasn’t turned on the heat for the drive back home. But it doesn’t suck to not have to stop for gas and fill up on a rainy, dreary day or have to look interested and pretend that I care as my husband “shows” me how to change the car’s oil (isn’t that what Jiffy Lube is for?). It especially doesn’t suck when I think about all the bills associated with my old car that I no longer have (insurance, gas…you know them all).
Then there are other annoyances, which are clearly first world problems, like the lack of canned whole peeled tomatoes. For most people, that’s not a problem. But for me, it’s huge considering I make a ton of vegetable based soups, which I would love to have at this very moment in this very cold climate. Last night after being disappointed again at our local grocery store, I decided I just have to suck it up. There are a ton of awesomely weird-looking vegetables and fruits here that I’ve been neglecting and that needs to and will change. I’ve been thankful for the little things like finding red lentils and couscous in Qingdao (to which a whole Saturday must be sacrificed to travel there and back on a coach bus that also lacks heat).
I even splurged on a bread maker. I never thought I’d be making my own bread, but one of the first things I learned upon arrival was that the bread is subpar, and that’s putting it kindly. It has a sweet taste and is more cakey than bready. Its delicate structure makes it too weak to withstand a big slather of peanut butter, which means it’s not up to my standards, and so something had to be done about it.
That’s the good part. For all the hassles that have been encountered in our first six weeks in China, life is not too bad. In fact, it’s about to get pretty darn good when our air shipment arrives tomorrow (knock on wood) and I get reacquainted with my kitchen gear (hello immersion blender and soup pot), yoga mat, and running shoes. Until then, I’ll console myself with some delicious homemade bread.