Everything here is so interestingly inconvenient. Tried to buy a bike this morning. The impossible dilemma is (more or less) between a marketplace at the other end of town where they sell stolen bikes and buying a new bike closer to campus and navigating the kafkaesque bike licensing system. We spent a couple of hours this morning working on the project, finally deciding (not only for moral reasons, but also for infrastructure ones) to buy a new bike close to campus. We waited a long time for service and were eventually told that the staff member who sells the bikes had left for a bit and we’d have to come back in the afternoon. We’ll try again in a couple of hours. Same trip, we bought a sim card for my new phone, only to discover that it’s twice as big as now-standard sim cards. Two options: you can get the standard size by going to a proper China Mobile store, where it is extremely difficult for a non-resident to buy a card (everything here requires a Chinese identity card) or you can get a local MacGyver to cut your big card up with scissors until it fits. With some trepidation, I went with the MacGyver. (An earring was also necessary for the project.) Shockingly, the phone works.

In other news, today I went for lunch on my own and had a series of successful conversations in Chinese. I’m at the cash looking over the menu, but I can’t see what I want. “Excuse me,” I ask, “Do you have noodles with vegetables?” “Uh huh,” she says, pointing them out on the menu. “Good,” I say, “and a Coke.” She hands me a large bottle of Coke: “No, small,” I say. She switches the bottle for a can. There’s nowhere to sit except for a table where a man is alone, checking his phone, not eating. “Excuse me, may I sit?” I ask. “Sit,” he says. After he leaves, a man who’s ordered take-out is looking for somewhere to sit. “Please sit,” I say, gesturing toward a chair at my table. Later, the waiter comes out with the noodles. “Who ordered the noodles?” he calls out. “Here!” I reply. You have no idea how much easier it is to be here when such intreractions are possible. The noodles were delicious, and the whole meal came to 11.5 RMB or just under $2. Of course, I then wasted all my savings by going around the corner to buy a coffee at 20 RMB (just $3.30). :-/