Ron and I laughed today when we were in a Japanese department store. There were Christmas trees, wreaths, White Christmas playing over the intercom and a TV had a Christmas movie (the one with Martin Short). Although this was a Japanese store, all the clerks were Chinese (dressed in dark blue pants suits looking like flight attendants). To make the scene complete, large posters on the walls of the store had American models. Outside the store on the sidewalk, a very tall artificial Christmas tree was colorfully decorated. It will be interesting to see what other Christmas scenes come alive in the next month.
Shopping for groceries is truly fun in a foreign country. The basement floor of the Japanese department store is a grocery store. Everything looked good - packaged beautifully, arranged like pictures in a magazine and clearly marked with prices. There's everything imaginable in this store (and about half of the things are unimaginable and unidentifiable). Every kind of weird sea life is displayed. A wide variety of dried beans, nuts and dried fruits can be purchased in open bins.
We didn't buy much because we will leave for Yibin, Sichuan Province on Monday. The contract was never signed for the property where we hoped to build the Jackson Family Foundation orphanage. Yibin may be a better location anyway, so we will go meet with the government officials in that city to see if they have an interest in having an orphanage built there. One of our dearest Chinese friends in Montreal, Julie, is from Yibin. She still lives in Montreal and keeps in touch with us. Her sister will meet us in Yibin, get a hotel for us and help us. Julie said her sister's English is not very good but she can get by enough to help us out.
It is good to have a contact in cities because it is helpful in many ways. Foreigners are only permitted to stay in certain hotels (*** or better hotels, which suits me just fine).
One important thing to remember when coming to China is to use the bathroom in your hotel or apartment before you go anywhere. Public restrooms are so bad! There's only an open hole in the floor and the floor is always so wet you can slide down. The odor is so bad you want to hold your nose but you can't handle your clothing in a squatting postion and hold your nose at the same time!
There are strange odors in China. Many markets have a distinctive odor that may be from dried fish or shrimp. I have never truly identified the smell. I did not detect, however, any odor in the Japanese market in spite of the large variety of seafood and other things. I notice odors I cannot identify in hotel lobbies, hallways of the apartment building or just walking along the street. I think it is coming from various foods much as you would smell the strong curry scent if you were in India.
I told Ron that in about one year a foreigner would know their way around and be able to blend in with life and customs in this city. People are the same all over the world. We all need the same things in life. Most people want to be helpful and are very polite. There is little fear living here even if we do stand out because of our appearance and cannot speak the language. The Chinese call America "beautiful country" but there's beauty everywhere because HE made it all!
With Thanksgiving coming in the U.S., there's much to be thankful for no matter where we live. We are so very blessed!