Okay, so, this is not exactly news. I returned to China over a week and a half ago.
You’re probably wondering where my latest installment of Stuff I Really Kind of Like About My Life in China is, huh? You know the series I started to remind myself of all the stuff I really kind of like about my life in China… besides the dumplings, that is.
You are wondering that, aren’t you?
Well, the truth is I’ve been having trouble feeling the love for China since my return from my trip to Japan.
Mostly because it’s hard to feel the love when you’re freezing cold.When I returned to my apartment, I discovered the heater was on the fritz and the place had this weird chemically smell to it. It took me a few days of wandering around my apartment sniffing at stuff until I realized what that weird smell was.
It was the smell of cold.
Yep, cold has a smell. And it smells like it will probably kill you in your sleep.
Luckily, the smell is gone now thanks to this lovely candle I bought at the 10 RMB store.
(Yes, I bought it for its name. I felt “After the Winter” sounded like a promise. Like if I lit the candle, it would make all the winter go away. So far this has yet to happen. Stupid 10 RMB candle and its stupid promises!)
Unfortunately, my heater is still not working. And since everybody’s off for the holidays, I can’t get any workmen in my place until mid-February. Until then I’m forced to wear five layers of clothing and carry around a little portable heater everywhere I go — kind of like those girls in Beverly Hills do with their Chihuahuas.
So, yeah, China is not exactly warming the cockles of my heart at the moment. Not that I know where the cockles of my heart are, but I’m sure they’re really cold right now. Especially because I can’t put five layers of socks on them like I can with my feet.And, well, I think it’s possible I left my heart back in Japan. Or at least a part of my heart – you know, the cockley part.
So rather than waxing on about the wonders of China, I’m going to wax on a bit about the wonders of Japan. At least until I start to feel the love for China again… which I suspect will happen about the same time I’m able to feel sensation in my toes again.
The languageI lived in Japan for a total of four years.
You’d think I’d be pretty good at Japanese, wouldn’t you?
Wow, it’s like you really don’t know me at all.
It’s not that I didn’t try.
Okay, maybe it is that I didn’t try. At least not very hard.
You see, I’m pretty lazy, and I also have really low expectations for myself. My main language learning goals were to be able to order pizza delivery and to be able to sing a Japanese song at karaoke. Once I achieved that, I pretty much gave up on studying ever again.
I know I should have learned more Japanese.
But Japanese is hard, people.
I mean, Japanese has three written systems. Three! That always seemed like two too many for me.
And then I moved to China.
Where they have four tones.
Wow, China, way to show up Japan.I’ve learned embarrassingly little Chinese since moving here a year ago. While I’ve found it’s not that hard to get by in China as the village idiot, it was a pleasure to be back in a country where I kind of almost knew what was going on.
I could ask for directions.
I could read menus instead of using my trusted “Point and grunt and hope that’s not duck neck” method of ordering food that I usually use in China.
I could even sing along at my friend Reiko’s wedding.
This was almost as fun as singing at karaoke — except, sadly, no pink pleather cop uniform was provided. I can’t really understand why not. I mean, nothing says “dream wedding” like letting your guests dress up in pleather. Am I right or am I right?
The rulesIn my imagination, I am a rule-breaking bad ass.
Of course, in reality, I am nothing of the sort. Mostly because breaking rules requires a backbone, and I don’t really have one of those.
Japan is pretty much the only country in the world where a wimp like me can be a real live, rule-breaking threat to humanity.
There are rules about pretty much everything in Japan. There are even rules about things you wouldn’t think there would be rules about.
There are rules about where to stand on the sidewalk.
And how to act on the train.
And what slippers to wear in the bathroom.
So usually I ended up doing whatever it is I’m not supposed to do.
Or not doing whatever it is I was supposed to be doing.
Plus, I tend to be a bit slow on the uptake. Like, it took me two full years to figure out that everyone stands together at the same place on the train platform because that’s where you’re supposed to stand. And not just because everyone just really, really likes each other.
The cute guysLet me tell you, there are a lot of attractive men in Japan, and I made it my personal mission to stare at them all. It’s really any wonder I got anywhere in that country as I was so busy gaping at all the hotties and running into poles and forgetting to get off my train and stuff.
I love all the cute hipster boys and the clean-cut guys in their fancy business suits. But I have something of a soft spot in my heart for all the macho, bad boy construction workers.
I imagine this has something to do with my imaginary bad ass alter ego.
I imagine this also has something to do with the big puffy pants the construction workers wear in Japan. I realize puffy pants don’t sound really macho and bad ass, but for some reason these guys totally pull it off.
Every time I walked past a construction site, I was the one ogling the workers, not the other way around. I’m sure they were totally flattered by this. In a creeped out kind of way.Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m surrounded by plenty of attractive guys in China, but seeing as I live and work on a college campus, most of these guys are not exactly age appropriate for me.
At least in Japan, I saw plenty of guys who looked about my age.
Or I saw a lot of guys I could at least pretend were about my age in the little fantasy in my head — you know, the one where I’m walking past the construction site and one of the workers stops me to ask me where I’m from and it turns out he speaks perfect English and has always wanted to date a loud-mouthed American lady with a very flawed grasp of the Japanese language and a penchant for pink pleather. (Listen, it hasn’t happened yet, but a girl can dream, can’t she?)
The bathroomsThe toilets of Japan are most definitely a feat of modern engineering. They come equipped with everything from warm-up seats to bidets to music that starts up as soon as you sit down (to cover up the, ahem, indecent sounds you might be making).
I’ve even heard tell of toilet seats that scan for prostrate cancer.
After a year of dealing with Chinese toilets, even the garden variety toilets in Japan had me charmed. You see, the toilets in China are not exactly known for their ability to multi-task. Heck, they’re not even known for their ability to complete simple tasks like flushing toilet paper. But, in Japan, not only can you flush toilet paper down the toilets, they insist that you do!But it wasn’t just the toilets of Japan that had me cooing in wonder; the bathrooms themselves are pretty downright amazing.
They’re usually sparkling clean.
There’s almost always soap. Sometimes there are even other items available like Q-tips or lotion.
Compared to visiting a bathroom in China, going to a bathroom in Japan is like going to the spa. Except all that New Agey music is coming from the toilet.
The vending machinesRight before my trip to Japan, I bought a new purse that is just a little bit smaller than my old purse. It isn’t quite big enough to hold a bottle of water along with all my other stuff.
If I am going somewhere for the day and suspect that I might at some point get thirsty, I have to lug around my backpack to hold my water bottle.
Or I have to carry around the water bottle in my hand and run the risk of losing it somewhere as I lose pretty much anything that isn’t surgically attached to me.
My life is just so hard sometimes. How I even cope without the help of hard drugs is really beyond me.In Japan, I didn’t have to worry about this issue. There are vending machines everywhere in that country, which meant I never had to be my own personal Sherpa.
I could just buy a bottle of water from one of Japan’s millions of vending machines whenever I got thirsty no matter where I might be.
I could be walking on the street:
Or, heck, even if I happened to be in the middle of a deserted field:
And, not only do the vending machines sell your typical refreshing cold beverages, they also sell hot beverages.
And alcoholic beverages.
And floral arrangements.
Because, you just never know when you might need a refreshing teddy bear topiary.
And that topiary was totally not going to fit into my purse.
The foodDid you really think I’d get through an entire post without mentioning the food?
Wow. Seriously? Have you met me?
While Japan may be synonymous with sushi, there is so much good food that doesn’t have anything to do with raw fish in that country. In fact, I only had sushi once while I was in Japan because I was too busy stuffing my face full of other stuff.
And all of this:
And maybe a little bit of this:
Okay, so maybe in addition to leaving my heart in Japan, I also left any hope of ever being able to fit back into my pants. But it was totally worth it.
Besides, all that extra weight I gained in Japan, will just help keep me warm in China while I wait for the workmen to show up and fix my heater. I hope they’re cute and wearing puffy pants! (Hey, a girl can dream, can’t she?)Which country warms your heart and why? And, can anyone tell me where the cockles of the heart are? Because I’m pretty sure mine are freezing right now…