I just got back from eating a midnight snack in the kitchen, it's about one in the morning actually.  Everyone else is asleep, and has been for at least an hour and a half.  Dave and Irene Rice have been a little extra tired with Jet Lag for the last couple days.

I ate a pepperoni stick from a bag that Dave and Irene brought back, a small slice of Pepper Jack cheese, and an even smaller morsel of smoked gouda.  Delicious.  It's the kind you get from Costco. 

I'm sure there are people who might read this and cringe at my midnight selections.  But you have to understand that I close my eyes when I eat smoked gouda, to enjoy it more, and I only eat the smallest possible pieces to make it last as long as possible.  Remember I'm ten thousand miles from where anything like smoked gouda is made, and I feel those miles in my heart.  I love cheese and I miss it, let's put it that way.

Northern China seems to be a land of contrasts, at least in weather.  For about a week it's been swelteringly hot and humid, reverse opposite of the painfully dry and cold winter we experienced not so long ago.  It's the type of muggy here that you feel yourself sweating as you towel off after a shower, wondering if you need bother take showers.

It's a good thing that it's warm outside too because the hinges broke off of our bedroom window.  One of the two large openable window panes is sitting, somewhat dangerously, on the window sill leaning against the frame.  A small pile of hinge parts and screw drivers is sitting next to it. 

The window pane that is sitting on the window sill, leaning against the frame that it once sat in, might be unlike anything you've seen before, unless you've lived somewhere cold like the Midwest.  It's a triple pane window, just imagine two double pane windows sandwiched together.  The hinges have an extra piece in them to support about 75 pounds, pretty heavy for a window barely two feet wide.  We're really lucky that the hinges didn't break all at once and crash down and hurt someone.

Even as I'm typing this I can hear men unloading a truck outside our un-closable window.  We live on a busy street.  We live on a busy street that is also a huge construction zone, they are redoing the storm drains and building a subway station pretty much right outside our window, not more than 60 feet from where I'm sitting.

The hinges we bought to replace the broken ones are not the right size.  We take this hinge-lessness very seriously.  We know that there is a clock ticking somewhere, counting down to when the temperature will drop to thirty-five degrees below zero.  Buying the correct hinge parts will be a great challenge, like climbing a mountain, I'll even be wearing my backpack.  I'll keep water, and the broken hinge parts in a little zip lock bag in my back pack so that I can point to them when I try talking to people who look like they might sell hardware.  No Home Depot here.

It's funny even when you use the simplest possible tactic you can think of for communicating:  You put a broken hinge in a bag and point to it saying "Do you have?"  A simple yes or no answer is all you want, but there are inevitably questions that are asked.  I know that my Chinese should be better, but I think the questions they ask are a lot more complicated that what I learned: "I would like to buy an apple."  or "I would like to give you these magazines.."  I can't tell you what the are asking me when they ask, but it's kind of fun to guess.

If you ever talk to someone who is learning English you might want to learn how to use simple words.  I think this is a challenge for most people, especially if they have never learned a foreign language.  You might think that the word "hinge" is a simple word.  But is the "hinge" on a door called the same thing as the "hinge" on a window?  After all a door has a "knob" but a window has a "handle."  Why is that?  Why aren't they both called "handle" all the time?  Of course if you call it the wrong thing the person you are talking to is bound to explain the difference to you, and you, who are already confused are bound to wonder what they are talking about, because you had to look up the word "hinge" on your smart phone anyway.

But the biggest thing about this word "hinge" that you are trying to buy one of, is like I said, you had to look it up in a dictionary.  Unless you work in a hardware store or in construction it's not a word that you use every day is it? 

But imagine the array of questions they might ask you about this hinge you are trying to buy:  "Do you want aluminum or steal alloy?"  "What is the hinge-pin diameter on that?"  "Are you interested in our rewards program?"  "Is that a metric hinge or some weird American hinge.?"  "Do you want a repurposed (used) one or a new one from the factory?"  "Do you want that in a set or just the single one?"

A couple of those questions would be reasonable I think, but I swear, I get the "rewards program" question all the time, and I never get it.  It's ridiculous how many places, little tiny shops and restaurants, have phone-app rewards programs.  But of course you have to fill out forms, and eventually they'll ask you for some government ID number that you don't have because you're a foreigner and they never thought about it.

But eventually, usually, they stop asking the complicated questions that they've been trained to ask every customer and they tell you whether or not they have a hinge that looks like the one you brought in the little sandwich bag.  And then the day is over, and if you're lucky you've only spent two days buying hinges.

But this morning the light in the bathroom just went out, and it's not just a normal light bulb, it looks special, a special size and a special socket, wedged between heat lamps.  I wonder where I can find one…