What’s a Dryer?

2000 > England

Like a kid, Jingmei can’t stop asking ‘why?’

Did I remember to add soap?
Jingmei knows how to wash
Look!  There go my panties!
Honey, get in to dry your hair
Yeah, get a shot of that black girl's hair
Mom will never believe this!
With the washer out at the
apartment, we’re staying at; Jingmei and I headed to the Laundromat down
the street. As I threw in the wash, Jingmei was captivated by the row of
machines on the far side of the shop. She was in awe of the simple
Laundromat dryer. China has plenty of washing machines, but no dryers. The
desert on the north and the tropical heat of the south negate any need for
mechanical drying in China, so there she was, staring at the dryer like a
little kid, all eyes and smiles.

Jingmei is in awe often these
days as she wanders around England. Never having traveled outside of Asia,
all these Western scenes are new and shocking to her. The first day off
the plane, Jingmei was so inundated with new impulses she looked out the
bus window in silence.

Now, after a few days to adjust,
she’s asking a question a minute about everything under the sun. My
favorite question so far was ‘Why are all the grocery stores run by
Indians?’ I asked her why Chinese ran all the restaurants and we had
a good laugh.

The laughs continued when we went
shopping in those very grocery stores. Jingmei loved ginger beer (like
Root beer, but made from ginger), flavored tea (rose hips beats basic
Chinese), shopping carts (no Chinese stores are big enough for them) and
she finally understood my Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream fixation.

As she accompanied me to
different apartments, she’s still not adjusted to the level of openness
and communal living in England. Chinese are not known to be extroverts,
and the instant familiarity renters and occupant hopefuls show is new to
Jingmei. Also, as I will be sharing the bathroom and the kitchen, Jingmei
doesn’t understand how I can accept just my room as private space. To
think I want it this way, which I do, is incomprehensible.

She does understand the transport
system though. London’s tube, while huge, is simple once you have a map.
Jingmei figured out the buses too, once she realized you have to press the
button to make the driver stop, unlike China or Russia, where the bus
pauses at each stop automatically.

We did have an interesting
problem with the banks here though. To open an account in England, you
have to show proof of residence, such as a bill in your name or a previous
English bank account. Since Jingmei will be living in the dorms, and has
never been to England before, we took a signed form from Oxford saying she
would be living in their dorms. Apparently, that wasn’t good enough for
those green eyeshade freaks because they said they couldn’t verify the
signature on the Oxford letterhead. Yeah, it made no sense to us either.

Finally, we were able to open an
account with her through the bank her University uses, though only half
her money can be in a UK bank, with the other half in an offshore
subsidiary. How very odd!