Most of my time this past week was spent on polishing and exporting part two of my two-part series on an Italian shoemaker in Guangzhou, so when the weekend finally came, it felt great to be free of both this episode and the HSK.
Without going into too much detail, exporting shows to tape is the biggest pain in the ass. I’m not joking when I say I’m 100% willing to pay someone to take care of that for me. It’s that terrible.
Anyway, let’s review the week.
1 — Returning HSK Books
On Wednesday, I made my way back to Sinolangue to return two prep books, one I paid for but didn’t write in so figured might as well give it to my teacher.
I had also given her my voucher for the W Guangzhou’s hair salon. Story time: I had called to make an appointment after my HSK exam, but I frankly didn’t feel like speaking Mandarin or Cantonese when booking, assuming using English at an international hotel would be totally fine anyway.
Very unfortunately, the two female employees immediately revealed their complete lack of professionalism. How, you ask? They literally laughed in my face—technically into the phone, but you get my point—when they heard that someone was speaking English.
The first woman, I could hear, laughed as she beckoned another woman to come answer the phone. Speaking in Cantonese, she’s giggling as she tells the other woman that I speak English.
While this is happening, in the back of my mind, I’m thinking of what my coworker told me about how he had given his wife his voucher for a free haircut but didn’t think it ended up being very good.
After begrudgingly making an appointment (wanted 6 p.m. but was asked for earlier because I guess they didn’t want to work so late, those whiny unprofessional bitches), I ended up complaining to my friends and family, soon booking an appointment with a stylist that a friend’s friend has been going to for years. Much more reliable, much more expensive (friend’s friend is rich, so this should’ve been expected), but also decidedly much better service. Since the process ended up taking four hours, this stylist went out of his way to make me feel as well-attended to as possible, giving me a plate of grape tomatoes, hot water with lemon, magazines, and even two mini packs of Bacio Perugina chocolates. You can check out my photos from my last post.
So now that I’m never going to W’s hair salon, I figured my Cantonese-speaking Mandarin teacher would like the voucher.
ANYWAY, long tangent aside, after returning the books, I inevitably made my way back to Feel More Coffee & Bagels (remember, walking distance from Chinese class!) and texted Randy to tell him I was going back. He had been wanting us to meet again, so I figured might as well let him know.
We ended up chatting for over an hour until he had to pick up his son from school, and then I got the chance to sit and talk to the Hongkongese owner who spent a few years in Vancouver and in the hospitality industry.
And this is key.
As I walked from the bagel shop to catch the BRT home (Guangzhou’s speedy bus service with its dedicated bus lanes), I thought about how much I value such interactions. This year of being away from home has forced me to view my life back at home in such a different way, suddenly seeing the value and joy in random interactions. Whether it’s our foreignness or ability to speak English, something draws us together with a force that I now (mostly) welcome with open arms.
That’s not to say I will go up and speak to everyone here whom I overhear speaking English, but it’s refreshing to be surrounded by this inviting openness among the English-speaking community. We Americans indeed can be selfishly close-minded.
2 — Hazza’s Birthday
Thursday was Hazza’s birthday, and despite remembering telling his class of young wannabe hosts about his upcoming birthday, I ended up completely forgetting until a few days before when he invited me to an event the day after that he’d use as a way to celebrate instead of hosting something big of his own. (Really, it’s a wonder I remember anything with this shitty memory of mine).
On his birthday, we happened to have a meeting with W4 to discuss our future plans to work with him. After English news, we had some time to kill in the TV station’s café, so while I scrambled to finish adding subtitles to my episode, he tried to read from his Kindle as some apparently famous Hong Kong-based singer/actor was being interviewed on camera right next to us.
We had no idea who he was, but Hazza was smart in asking to get photos with him, because it turns out this Kenny Kwan actually is quite famous, with a casual 40k+ followers on Instagram and Hazza’s friend’s favorite singer. OK.
That night, we met up at Oakwood, a luxurious hotel and apartment that was hosting a special event for employees working at the consulates here in Guangzhou. He got two free tickets (worth about 700 RMB total), so we basically crashed it.
As the event was organized by That’s PRD, I saw my face everywhere—as in, they had their latest issue of the magazine blown up on a poster right at the check-in table, where copies of the magazine were also spread out.
The event was quite nice, with raffles for some awesome prizes (stays at Oakwood, trips to Chengdu), and although we didn’t win anything, I enjoyed getting to meet more people and see employees from That’s PRD come up to me, asking if I’ve seen the June cover.
That’s a resounding yes.
3 — Cashing in on My Free Massage
Finally, about two months after receiving vouchers for a free massage and a free facial, I booked and used the free massage. Definitely needed after a week of video exporting stress (really, I’m desperate to outsource this job).
What I didn’t expect: To be massaged by someone a year younger than me who says she’s been working in the industry for three years. The massage itself wasn’t bad but wasn’t great. I guess I found it weird just because I still have that American mindset of upward mobility for all, but in a country with a population of over a billion, that’s not quite possible.
What I did expect: To be harassed by the employees afterward to sign up for a membership. As I saw waiting to be taken in, the sign on the table haunted me with its membership pricing list. Surprisingly, as soon as the massage ended and I changed out of my comfy robe and back into my clothes, the 22-year-old masseuse led me straight to the elevators to leave. Legitimate shock.
I suppose they still have the opportunity to harass if I choose to cash in on my free facial, but we’ll see.
4 — Saturday Shopping
Since the weekends leading up to the HSK have been mostly spent studying and stressing, I really just wanted to go shopping again. Remembering that China Plaza is a walkable distance from my apartment, I took advantage of Saturday’s sunny blue skies to enjoy a walk to the mall, with the idea to also grab a bite to eat and read. Note: The walk also involved plenty of sweat—the humid heat in Guangzhou lately has been unbearable.
The Hong Kong-style restaurant Capital Café recently opened downstairs from my apartment, but China Plaza also has a location. I only took a quick glance and decided to avoid the noisy crowds there. But then something on the menu caught my eye: “Remove the previous D Porkneck.”
I bought a fitted long black dress from Mango—clearly with high hopes that I won’t be gaining the slightest weight and will be keeping up with this workout regimen 😛
On the way in and out of China Plaza, I saw a giant tent promoting Galaxy C outside, where super-thin Asian models were scantily dressed holding the products and walking up and down the area between two display tables. The only gawkers in this extreme heat were nerdy men standing by the tables.
5 — Mystery Online Treasures
If there’s any reason for you to learn Chinese while in China–if it’s not to use for survival—it would simply be to unlock all the fascinating treasures found deep within WeChat, Taobao, Dianping, and even Didi. As any Chinese learner would understand, even if you know each character in a given phrase or paragraph, it’s likely you still can’t understand its meaning. So while I am able to understand enough to navigate to “secret” passages, I end up stuck in not knowing exactly what treasures I may have unlocked or how to use them.
WeChat: Official Accounts can be incredibly impressive in how flexible WeChat’s platform is for brands to create versatile portals—or apps within the app. Wallet and W4 Deals are about as far as I go in terms of getting discounts, but as I’ve discovered this week, you can play your luck and spin what looks like digital penny slots to get free data from China Mobile. I still am not sure how it worked, but I didn’t win, apparently.
Taobao: Shocker, Taylor Swift ended a relationship with yet another man? A coworker sent a screenshot of—no lie—what he calls Taylor Swift break-up insurance. Buy it for 1 yuan, get 2 yuan if Taylor ends her next relationship within a year.
Dianping: I’ve been using China’s version of Yelp so much more often these couple of months. Thanks to Dianping, I’ve been able to find so many cool local spots to eat. Even better, the addresses are always correct—unlike Foursquare’s—so when I bumped into a familiar face today on the street who told me about a new bakery, literally just by going off the store name and street name she casually mentioned, I immediately Dianping’d and made my way over to this shop down a narrow street to buy the most delicious buttery chocolate croissant. Other discoveries just this week: A Vietnamese pho shop and a Thai noodle shop that I discovered also on Dianping a couple weeks back in Tianhe and was so overjoyed to find that there was a new location within a five-minute walk from my apartment. YUM!
Didi: This discovery was a couple months back, but every ride taken adds points or “Didi money” that you can use to actually buy stuff in its own online store within the app. Imagine Uber having its own online store for you to spend points and buy everything from wine to clothing. I’m not kidding. What is this crazy Chinese world we live in. I haven’t actually bought anything, despite the not insignificant number of points I’ve collected, because the last time I checked, actually using points involves quite a bit of fine print that even my cousin thought was confusing.
6 — Cantonese Pastry Baking Class
I learned how to make 老婆饼 laopo bing，老公饼 laogong bing，and 花生酥 huasheng su (wife, husband, and peanut pastries?) at an event for both foreigners and locals on Father’s Day on Sunday 🙂
The last time I made pastries was in Morocco with Kelly, where we had a blast, so I jumped on this opportunity as soon as I heard about it. For the long afternoon at an eclectic co-working space with an open kitchen at the Yuancun metro station, I enjoyed not only knowing what goes into these yummy pastries, but also meeting cool, new friends in Guangzhou!
After sharing a few of these photos on WeChat, the cameraman who loves me asked me about it, so I inevitably brought the whole box of pastries to the office today. After having already gifted the office my aunt’s desserts and eggs, I feel like I’m being known in the office as the girl who brings delicious snacks lol.
What a long update 😛 and I still have lots to record, e.g., my weird-ass dreams lately.
Until then, I’ll leave you with this one last photo that captures pretty well my new ombré, heh.