During the week Nate and I worked Wednesday- Friday 1:00 pm- 8:00 pm, so we had lots of time to ourselves. Saturday and Sunday we made up for it by working a brutal 10 hour shift each day. Lounging on our colleague, Katrina’s couch became a regular Sunday night activity. Every convenience store sold alcohol in Jinan, and so it was easy to come by cheep bottles of wine that tasted like grape juice and left us with brutal hangovers the next morning. Katrina had an open door policy about guests, and lived just down the street from us. Plus her apartment was much nicer than ours. Nate offered to cook the first time we came over, but soon discovered that besides having no cooking supplies, Katrina did not even have a working stove!
One particular Monday morning, after a late night of movie watching and fruity wine at Katrina’s, both Nate and I woke up with the predictable brutal hangovers. “Can you pass me the Tylenol?” Nate groaned, and I reached beside the bed without opening my eyes, for the small bottle of pills we had brought with us from Canada. “Why are these pills so huge?” Nate moaned. We had brought Tylenol liquid jells, but for some reason the pills were twice the size of regular pills, and were egg shaped. In the end Nate couldn’t manage to swallow one without choking on it. The small mercy was that our apartment had come with lovely red Chinese style curtains that hung all the way to the ground and stretched from one end of the room to the other. They were really heavy, and blocked out almost all of the sunlight, leaving our bedroom soothingly dark.
Eventually the two of us crawled out of the dark and into the living room. I hate wasting time, and was determined to salvage my day back from the clutches of my pounding head. I stumbled to the small fridge and pulled open the door. We had eggs, and some bean sprouts that badly needed to be eaten. I pulled both out, along with some very dry steamed buns called “mantou”.
“Shit,” Nate muttered, I turned to look at him. He was standing next to our water cooler staring at the empty jug, “We forgot to get water.”
“Better call Lainey,” I replied.
Lainey, our supervisor at work, good friend, and mother hen, had just been by our house to look at our internet the other day. She went way over the call of duty to look out for her foreign “children”, and was the only way we could call and order water.
Nate pulled his cell phone out of his pocket, and dialled Lainey’s number. “Hello Lainey, could you order water for us?”
“Nate, yes I will call.” Lainey’s voice came through the phone.
“Thanks so much, I hate to bug you. I wish we could just call by ourselves.”
“Don’t worry, don’t worry.”
Nate hung up the phone as I walked to the gas stove with my bits and pieces of food that would serve as breakfast. I turned the gas on, and held the lighter close to the element, jumping back with the flame shot up. I quickly turned the heat down, and the flame shrunk until it was barley there. Frowning, I turned the heat back up a little, and out shot the flame as if there were a bonfire in the element. I sighed, poured some oil into our wok, and cracked the eggs in. They cooked in about 10 seconds flat, with the bottoms stuck firmly to the base of the pan. I knew we’d have some scraping to do later.
Nate’s phone rang, “Hello,” he said into the receiver.
It was Lainey again, “Nate, the water man says he will be there in maybe an hour. You can let him in.”
“Ok, thanks so much Lainey.”
“Nate, you have the number for the water man?”
“Yes, but he only speaks Chinese.”
“Don’t worry, I told them that if they hear someone speaking the funny Chinese then they will come to your place.”
From then on, to order our water, we just had to say “shua” (water) into the phone, and an hour or two later a man would show up with our new jug!
By Wednesday Nate and I were recovered from the wine, but I had a new ailment to deal with. Wednesday marked my first bout of food poisoning since arriving in China. All day I yo-yoed back and forth between my classroom and the bathroom. By the end of the day I just wanted a hamburger. couldn’t get the image of a big juicy burger full of beef, cheese, tomato, onions, lettuce, with honey mustard, mayonnaise, ketchup, and relish in a thick fluffy wheat bun. “I want a burger so badly I’d probably trade all of my remaining money for a chunk of barbecued beef meat on a bun.”
It was my first experience with real home sickness since I had arrived.
After the worst of the food poisoning had passed, a foreign food restaurant called “Jenny’s Cafe”, recommended by Katrina, finally satisfied my hamburger craving. The patty was the thickest I have ever seen, I could barely bite into the burger.