Yesterday I saw some bottles of Chinese wine in the little convenience store down the street and thought it might be fun to try some.
BLONDIE: Chinese wine is like grape juice.
MAGGIE: Well, which bottle has the highest alcohol content?
BLONDIE: Let me see!
But we needed to go find a police station (explanation below!) and didn't think it'd be appropriate to haul a bottle of wine around town, especially in front of police. So last night we went back to the store and while Phillip bought more yogurt and Tang disguised as peach juice, Blondie asked the store owner which wine he suggested. (This was the third time we'd been to the store that day. We are now his favorite customers.) Of course he suggested the expensive bottle on the top shelf and cornered some teenager in the store to climb up there and get it down for us. 12%- score! The teenager was also a little confused because the foreigner speaking Chinese was the loud blond girl and not the tall Chinese-American man and started up a little conversation with Blondie about, and I quote, her "excellent Chinese." By that time we had acquired a small audience of Chinese boys who were standing outside the store trying to get a pack of cigarettes out of that arcade game with the claw. You know, the game in Toy Story with the cute little alien toys who are all, "Oooooh, The Claw!"
The store owner rang up the peach juice and the yogurt and the wine and then asked Blondie if we had a corkscrew. We had no idea. The apartment we're staying in belongs to none of us and who knows if the actual residents drink wine? Visions of happy wine-soaked evenings were beginning to drift away when the owner began to rummage around in some boxes and pulled out his OWN corkscrew. He then offered to uncork the bottle for us right there! What a saint!
BLONDIE: We can start drinking before we get home!
MAGGIE: Why not party with the store owner?
STORE OWNER: Hee hee!
PHILLIP: Uh, I find this all to be slightly embarrassing.
On second thought, Blondie and I decided that we were not utter lushes and did not have an urgent need for Chinese wine right that very second. If we weren't able to find a corkscrew in the apartment, we'd walk back to the store and ask the owner to open the bottle. We tried to explain this, but the owner wanted to send the corkscrew home with us. (Did I mention that we are his favorite customers?) We talked him out of it, thanked him profusely (the only Chinese word I've learned so far is 'thank you' and I barely whisper it because I'm so afraid of mispronouncing it), pried our way through the crowd of boys snickering at the Wacko Foreign Girls, and went home.
Where we immediately checked to see if our recently purchased DVDs were any good. Here I should mention that China has somewhat of a counterfeiting problem. The Britney double disc I bought the day before (there will be no slandering of Britney, thank you) cost about 90 cents. Anyway, our DVDs were no good. The Terminal kept skipping around and Collateral looked as if someone brought his camcorder to the movie and dubbed it over with his own voice. I guess you get what you pay for.
Oh yeah, the police station. Well, we're supposed to register ourselves with the local authorities. The government is able to track us up to our night in Beijing, but since we're not staying at a hotel, anyone who wants to pick on us wouldn't be able to find us. Bummer! So off we went to placate the police- and they turned out to be super nice! Unfortunately, they weren't the right police- they were just extremely helpful when we asked a group of them walking down the street where we might go to Follow The Rules. They led us to the right building and one of them even took us to the right office and knocked on the door. No one was there. That officer was probably still out on his afternoon break playing mah jongg somewhere. Kind of embarrassing for our friendly officer who quickly escaped and let someone else deal with us. Then they told us this wasn't the right office anyway. We had to go to another office across town. So we get back on the bus and with the help of Blondie's mad rad Chinese skillz, we found the second police station. (After walking by an entire block of people selling fish tanks and all the little plastic things to put your in fish tank. I mean, DOZENS of fish aquarium stores. ???)
We walked into a room that contained one desk, one young lady, one old lady, one newspaper, and one sign in the window that probably said something like, Don't Bother Coming In Here, We Have Absolutely No Interest in Helping You. The younger woman informed us that she had nothing to do with registering foreigners and that, duh, Blondie just needs to tell her school that we're here. Which is contrary to everything Blondie has heard thus far, but we were all a little tired by then and not terribly interested in making any authorities happy. So we took the bus to Blondie's university where, instead of registering with the local authorities, we tried to get a good look inside the dorm rooms (there are EIGHT girls in one McMahon-sized room, people!), checked out the future Yao Mings on the eight million basketball courts, and were heavily disappointed when we realized the beautiful green grass in the middle of the track was FAKE.
It's a good time. Oh, and we had pizza last night. Yay cheese!