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England, August 28, 2000

What's a Dryer?

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!

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