I had my hand under the water for a good two minutes before realizing that it was taking longer than usual to get warm. Sometimes when it is windy, the gas vapors inside of the water heater blow away before they can catch; standing in the kitchen, I took a moment to use the socks hanging on the drying rack as a gauge of wind, and waited until things were still….still……nothing. Going outside, I listened to the brown metal box while the water ran through, hearing the spark, the opening of the gas valve, and nothing else. Yes, They had turned my gas off, and right in the middle of finishing the dishes. Not even dishes from a meal I had just cooked, but instead from a day past, with the preparation for a meal that will now sit cold.
It’s not terribly cold in Guangzhou, but it certainly isn’t warm – houses in the southern half of China (anywhere below the Yangtze River) rarely have heating as part of the air control, leaving a good portion of the population to live in heavy jackets three to four months out of the year. Guangzhou isn’t so bad. It’s late December, and we’ve still seen nothing near the freezing point. I find myself, however, caught with a cold, and in a desire to get just a bit warmer I periodically box myself into the kitchen and turn the burners on blast. It only takes a moment the make the kitchen feel like summer, but if I had to guess, this small luxury in combination with my desire for long showers has now left me without a means to cook my broccoli. I don’t even like the stuff, and on those occasions when I go so far as to purchase it, it often sits in the fridge until it goes bad – No gas, and the needless waste continues.
Things could have been worse – I could have been half way through cooking the greens, only to find that the flame had died, leaving me with a luke-warm, undercooked pile of vegetable that I already abhor. The building could have chosen to cut the electricity instead, leaving me with nothing but a few Ikea designer candles and a limited amount of time before their scented goodness caused me to hallucinate. No, I have decided to interpret this fuel cut as sign from above, and have chosen instead to order a pizza, and rewrite every bit of the story that I’ve worked on for the last week. As it happens, inconvenience is far more interesting to read and write than most other subjects – it keeps us focused, as we review the reality and periodically attempt to place ourselves in the moment, envisioning how we would react.
This is the 200th post that I have written for this blog. Two hundred posts has been an education, with subjects ranging from history to web design, and marketing to an audience with both varying levels of intelligence and degrees of attention. It has been a test of patience and a trial of my stubborn nature – there was never really a goal, other than to document the experience for what it is. There have been any number of occasions when it seemed illogical to continue the process, long pauses in which I had nothing to contribute, and yet the posts continued to come through. The longer I spend in China, the more I wonder about how to make an end. Will the blog continue when I am no longer abroad? Will people continue to read if I start to diverge from the original theme? 200 posts is a book. A small and rather inconsistent book, but a piece of publication nonetheless. After three years of documentation, I think it would feel very odd to stop.
Tomorrow, I will go to work, and after coffee number four, I’ll sit with my assistant, have a laugh over my horrible language skills, and, together, we’ll conference call the landlord to request that the gas be restored (Yes, I did in fact pay all my bills on time). On previous occasions, we’ve made similar calls in regard to other matters of daily life – getting internet installed, sending money to other countries, and convincing the local police chief that I am not, in fact, obligated to teach her son English. It has become a part of the routine that I accept as a life abroad. It isn’t always enjoyable, but as long as I am here, there will always be something to discuss. Whether it’s here or at home, here’s to 200 more-