Saturday – the day when I force myself out of the apartment and head to the supermarket in the vain hope I’ll find something I can eat and run the gauntlet of the toilletry tarts trying to flog me expensive shampoo.

it started off a slow morning – mainly due to me wasting about half an hour of my life watching a man trying to herd sheep across the desert at the back of the apartment.  The sheep seemed happy enough to be munching away on the gorse, but the man was determined to move the sheep (where did they come from?) and his method of moving the sheep was to throw sand at them.  Normally when sheep are scared they  move – not these sheep, they barely even baa-ed.  Unfortunately I missed the end of the sheep show because Tony appeared with a cake for me (very nice it was too, for breakfast!)

so off to the supermarket – sharing a taxi with a schoolgirl.  This totally confused me when I first starting taking taxis – no matter how many people are in the taxi, it will always stop if someone hails it – and because taxis are so cheap everyone uses them.  Now I’m used to it – last week I was squashed in with three other random people – I got to see parts of the city I’d never seen before!  I decided to try the supermarket that was beneath the electronics store we bought the routers in last weekend as it looked fairly good and it’s always a challenge to try and find food I even recognise.

Upon entering the supermarket there is a fairly large section of wine – result 🙂  No white wine, but I pick up a bottle of red costing about 50 yuan (£5) on the basis surely being so expensive it must be drinkable.  Upon motioning to the shop assistant that I wanted a corkscrew, she disappears and re-appears with another woman.  I motion again for corkscrew and she starts rummaging around other bottles of wine, before handing me a packet thing with two bottles of wine and a corkscrew.  I go alongside her and check the price and it’s 32 yuan (£3.20).  So I’m now the proud owner of two bottles of red wine that I suspect will only be usable to clean the toilet with – but at least I have a corkscrew!  I will try a glass later but I’m not holding out the slightest hope that it will be drinkable.

Again this is where my ignorance comes is – the woman who I can only assume was the store manager was so lovely – she even said “help?” to me but I managed to convey that I was a teacher and that I wanted food.  Further on when I was shopping, she suddenly appeared with her daughter who was perhaps 8 and the daughter said in perfect English what her name was and she was pleased to meet me.  I felt incredibly humbled and my determination to be able to even have a brief conversation now is stronger – I know the basics – please, thanks, no problem, nice to meet you, but I really wanted to say to this woman how much I appreciated her help.

And wow what a supermarket it was – I got food 🙂  I even saw lots of things I recognised – mayonnaise, tomato ketchup, canned tuna, some sort of sauce stuff which I can only assume is bolognaise sauce for putting over pasta (it says in English on the back “pour over noodles!) so I managed to stock up on quite a few things – including two nice bowls for food.  Total cost including my dodgy wine – £20 for two massive bags of shopping.  However the highlight of the shop – potatoes 🙂

Supper tonight was mashed potato and some of my processed ham stuff.  Absolute heaven 🙂  My problem is that I’ve never cooked for five years, literally I pricked it and shoved it in the microwave, even my mashed potato.  However I peeled the spuds, boiled them on my terrifying gas range cooker (boiling water makes a helluva flame!) and using a combination of a fork and what I think was a flat cheese grater – mashed potato with mayonnaise.  It was a little lumpy but I’m so proud of myself, for using the cooker and for having the initiative to think of it.  Now I know what I can use the microwave for – baked spuds!  I am going to have to take one of the Chinese English teachers with me thought next time I go shopping, I can’t find milk or cheese or butter.  And in the freezer section of this supermarket they even had frozen beef and chicken pieces, so I might be able to do stir-frys.  As always, the desert will not defeat me!

I also received a really lovely message from Ping, who is the director of Buckland, the company who placed me here.  I’d emailed her about something and she came back with the answer but also, and I quote “Your school actually told us many times that you are a lovely person and great teacher and they are very happy to have you there”.  How nice is that 🙂  It’s really nice to be appreciated – I’m very conscious of the fact that I am the only westerner 90% of the people here have ever met, so I always smile and say hello to anyone I meet – and at times to random people in the street!  I want to give a good impression, not just of me (I’m sure the supermarket lady won’t forget me) but also of the western world, to show that we’re not miserable, we’re happy, we’re willing to make an effort even though we can’t speak the language.

So a good day was had – now if Astrill would only help me sort out my VPN which runs out on Monday on my ipad I would be happy – I tried to pay by credit card last night and got a message this morning to say it hasn ‘t gone through.  So I email them, they tell me to call an 0871 number but of course I can’t, so I email them and get another email address of a company to contact.  I’ve emailed them but they must be in the States as it said the time was something like 5am.  I’ve got flyvpn as well, and that works, but it’s really frustrating at times when things don’t work -touch wood the netbook and the internet and VPN connection on this has worked perfectly for a few days.

So Saturday night in the desert – 8pm so time I think to pour a glass of this wine, sit down with the BBC and listen to a panda programme that was on last weekend.  I wonder if the BBC realise how important there service is to people around the world – a few of my students have said that they listen to Radio 4.  However for the second time tonight there is the most amazing fireworks display outside, the Chinese really love their fireworks – so much so that there was a display at 9.30 the other morning when I was about to start a class – sounded impressive but really – 9.30am!!