Lately I've wondered why I haven't had anything to blog about in so long. I guess we've been in China for over two and a half years already, and we're just used to it. I guess it's not that things don't happen, just not things that I think of as interesting enough to blog about.
But lately I've noticed that some of the things I've grown accustomed to are things I might think of as odd, or different from the States.
Today, as I was coming home from the grocery store, riding the elevator up to our apartment, there was another man in the elevator. He had a delivery box of some sort, maybe he was delivering it, it had a bunch of shipping labels on it. He looked at me curiously as there are not many foreigners in these parts.
After a few floors he looked down at my two grocery bags and said "You bought that much?" His meaning was that I bought a lot more that was normal. Becky and I have often noticed this viewpoint when we go grocery shopping. It seems that the locals like to buy food every day, like it's part of their routine. Even we buy some fruit or something at the fruit stand on the side-walk near our apartment building almost daily, but we try not to go grocery shopping more than once a week. Why not? Well, because we don't want to, and because it doesn't seem like the best use of time, does it?
I think back home, when we had a car, we'd push going to the grocery store out to two or three weeks if we could. So two bags of groceries doesn't seem like much to me. But I guess to my companion in the elevator it was way more than I needed for dinner and breakfast.
I was thinking about this very thing as I was grocery shopping earlier. I was keeping note of how heavy my basket was getting, I knew that I would have to carry it, on foot, all the way back home. This a new thing I've had to learn here. Back home where we drive our cars everywhere we don't limit ourselves so much to how much we're going to buy. We can fit a lot of groceries into our cars. The more you buy the less often you have to go grocery shopping. Sounds like a good idea to me. But here, I was thinking as I was carrying my extra deep red plastic shopping basket, even if we did have a car they don't let the shopping carts out the front door. Why would they? There is indeed an area in front of the store where people park their cars, but you don't see people rolling their shopping carts up to their cars and unloading them into their trunks.
And don't get me wrong, there's lots and lots of cars here, and lots of people have them, but not most. So things are different. Different things make sense.
I tried to explain all of this to the guy in the elevator, and he seemed to understand, but I'm not sure.
Another thing that's different here I noticed when I was at the checkout. Here, not unlike new bag policies back home, you have to ask for and pay for grocery bags. I always ask for two bags, but they always give me one. Then, a minute later, I have to ask them again. Here, I guess, since the bag is not free, you pack it as full as you can, until the handle holes won't touch each other. But I'm always worried that a bag will break, and I'd rather carry two medium weight bags than one heavy one, especially for a longer distance. In other words, especially since I'm not just walking to the car, I'm walking all the way home, maybe taking a bus... But here bags don't break. Bags here are made of something tougher than I'm used too. In Taiwan too, I'd buy soup and they'd put it in a bag. The bags never broke. Can you say that about a plastic Safeway bag? So, again, here, different things make sense.
Another thing that's different about grocery stores here is something I was reminded of when we had guests a few months ago. We walked into a very western style grocery store and they sort of gasped, and I think one of them said "Oh my goodness!" I thought "What is it? What did I miss?" but then I remembered: In China, not unlike in the States, you have various people selling things inside the grocery store, they usually give you a taste test in the States, maybe it's on sale. In China they do that too, just more often, sometimes you get a taste test, but usually they just sell things like a auctioneer with one price, by yelling over and over again what they're selling and the price. Often they have what I'd call a "personal P.A. system," a microphone with a speaker attached to their belt. They don't look at you, they don't say "Hey mister, these eggs are only 20 RMB, hey you!" It's more like a monotone chant: "Eggs 20 RMB, Eggs 20RM, Eggs 20RMB..." they never look at you. I think they keep doing it even even no one is in the store...
Oh, and the last thing I'll mention that's different. Most food, other than meat, is about one fifth the cost as it is in The States. So we'll get four bags for like $35, depending what we get.
Also, I mentioned having to walk "all the way home," but I live in the same building as the grocery store. It's a big building at least a block wide, and I have to walk outside and all the way around it. And there's a dozen little restaurants along the way there just in case I change my mind about getting groceries. So I guess the convenient distance makes up for the annoying egg hawkers yeah?