Colin and I have high tolerances for discomfort fostered over years of traveling on 3rd-class trains to stay in 1-star hostels. But age or having a salary or the combination thereof are apparently making us soft.
Air quality in China is not very good: some days the sunlight takes on a distinctly orange tint. We have top-quality blue-ribbon air filters in all of the rooms of our apartment, but we also wanted some plants for their added filtration and general zen.
At the end of a metro line, the Lingnan Flower Market spreads out several blocks with individual vendors selling not only apartment plants, orchids, and small trees, but also ceramic planters, bamboo fencing, silk flowers, water features, and popsicles. An old hanger is filled with nothing but cut flowers. Lovely, no?
The narrow roadway that cut through the market was busy with rumbling trucks delivering plants and silent electric scooters delivering people. Motorcycles with trailers honked their annoyance at pedestrians with nowhere else to walk but the gutters. I had not yet acclimatized to the intense heat and humidity, and the tarpaulin coverings we walked under kept off the worst of the sun but also trapped some of the heat. I was melting.
“This isn’t fun anymore. I want to leave.”
Fast forward to last weekend and our first trip to the big-box store that has been described as the German Costco. A cart each, we loaded up with the greater variety of imported goods: canned tomatoes, pickles, Campari. I noted a gallon of ketchup and 10 kilos of mozzarella, but mostly it was just normal amounts of product at a significantly cheaper price than I can get at the supermarket in our underground mall.
The noise level increased as we approached the frozen section and met a crush of carts and people and women shouting into microphones about… frozen shrimp? Pork dumplings? There were samples of hard-boiled eggs and children playing foursquare with a ball from the outdoor section. Colin looked nauseated by the onslaught and not any better by the time we’d navigated to the dairy. I grabbed my butter for baking; he got his milk for yogurt-making.
“Do we need anything else?” I eyed the Mission tortillas even though we have no appropriate beans or cheese. “I don’t know anymore. I have to get out of here.”
So we’ve gotten soft. We need cool, calm, quiet environments where there is no risk of being mowed down by teenager with scooter or granny with shopping cart. No problem.