My apartment has two gates, one in the front and one in the back. I live close to the back so I almost always use that gate. I love using this entrance. It's on a calm street, lined with green trees and quiet apartment complexes- very Western-feeling, very peaceful and very convenient. One of my favorite things about this back gate is that at any given time there are at least one, usually two or three Chinese families sitting out by the road, selling freshly picked fruits and vegetables. It's a convenient way for me to get some of my grocery shopping done the Chinese way- buying a little bit every day. I know this goes against all Sam Club memberships and those of you who buy groceries for a week at a time, but here in China, when you're walking up 5 flights of stairs (have I mentioned I don't have an elevator?), it's next to impossible to carry a big load. Only a couple of bags are practical. Therefore, I buy a few fruits or vegetables every day, sometimes twice a day depending on my coming and going. Right now in my fridge I have cucumbers, carrots, nectarines, grapes, and apricots. I must say China has the best fruit and such a variety. If I had a better camera (hint, hint) I would be displaying lovely pictures of said fresh goodness.
Besides the deliciousness of this routine, it also gives me a great opportunity to practice my Chinese. “How much is that per jin?” and “What kind of fruit is that?” and sometimes simple conversational stuff like “I’m from America.” and “I love living in China.” It’s fun to be able to use my words that I so rarely have an opportunity to use in my Western bubble of friends.
And that leads me to my favorite thing about this Southern gate. I get to interact with everyday-Chinese people. I know that may shock you. “You live in China, Jen. Of course, you interact with Chinese people.” And you’re right. I do. I take the bus and taxis. I shop at stores and buy things. But it’s not often that I get to have daily interaction with the same people over and over again- to smile at them and say “hello” even when I’m not shopping at their little market. I’m excited about this opportunity to make friends with these few lovely Chinese people. It’s been a long awaited moment, mostly because of the language barrier. But, as I learn more, I hope to make some non-English speaking Chinese friends right outside my home. How’s that for getting out of the bubble?