The Good, the Bad and the Scary – Just in time for Halloween

Surgery is no fun and recovery is tough.  Kim has been home only four days and both of us miss our fabulous exciting “Pre-surgery life”. This was a fast paced, hectic ride of wandering the city and exploring new areas, eating out 3-4 times a week and getting a ton of exercise.  We seem to be tied to the apartment and both of us are ready to go stir crazy.  Kim is too sore to walk very far and the hospital’s starvation liquid diet has prevented Kim from returning to a normal diet as quick as she would like.  We spent our Saturday morning Skyping and phoning friends and family.  They must think we are always such bozos when we call because it’s early in the morning and we always sound so sleepy.  For those of you in Vancouver it’s around dinnertime.  Between the post surgery pain, the inability to eat these great meals we have been spoiling ourselves with and being cooped up with me, I know she is going nuts.  There isn’t much I can do or say to make it easier.  Some cleaning supplies and other minor shopping are required so I need to do some shopping.  This brings us to the tale of the Good Store and the Scary Store.


The Good Store 

Kim and I make a weekly trek to the grocery store. There is the good grocery store which can be defined as pretty expensive, but covers all your needs, high quality, refrigerated Canadian type food.  This is a great place to shop.  Most of the labels are in English so stuff is easy to find and you always know what you are eating.  They have a refrigerated wine section.  There are always some good buys.  The food is fresh.  This place is called City Shop.  The store is about a km from our place so sometimes we have to haul heavy groceries back. It is a tough haul.  Well, City shop delivers.  If you buy over ¥200 worth of groceries it’s free.  That’s only forty bucks.  What’s really cool is you can go online and select all of your food.  Tell them you want 4 apples, 2 cucumbers, a package of fresh frozen chicken breasts, etc and they send one of their workers to do all of your shopping for you and they deliver it the same day provided you phone in the morning.  That’s how Kim got her groceries on Saturday.  How cool is that for all those shut in foreign teachers with appendicitis?  It’s the same rules as the delivery.  Spend forty bucks and it is free.


The Scary Store

Then there is the scary shop.  Century Mart!!!!  Scary, because you walk in there and you ask the same question every time.  What will be the surprise meat hanging in the butchers window this time?  This place is a lot more traditional.  Often you will see Expats in City Shop.  At this place it is rare.  It’s kind of like the Chinese Wal-Mart.  It sells everything and the prices are really cheap, but it’s scary.  Let me describe today’s visit so you’ll get a better picture.  Kim and I always go together because it is so scary.  She holds my hand the whole time as we both are trembling with fear.  But alas, Kim can’t make the trek with me today, because she isn’t moving too well.  So I set off on my own.  

The first part of the scariness is getting money from the bank next door.  China is a cash place.  Century Mart won’t accept debit or foreign visa.  This is true with about 99% of all small restaurants and businesses. So I have to go to the bank and withdraw some money.  None of the banks accept my debit card so I have to use visa.  How scary would it be if my Visa card fouled? Or got stuck in the machine?  Or was damaged?  How long do you think it would take the Royal Bank to get me another card in Shanghai? I could end up unable to access my money for a long time. Scary.   Now I enter the store.  I can already tell it’s going to be an extra scary visit.  It’s about 1:00pm and the meat in the butchers section has not started to smell like road kill on an August day in New Mexico, so the management decide to help the process along by turning the heat up in the store.  Honestly!  It’s 26 degrees outside and some rocket scientist has decided that just because November is around the corner, he better bump the heat up to 33 degrees.  Scary Canary.  So I enter and ride the first moving sidewalk up a flight of stairs.  ( I know that sounds confusing, but that’s exactly what happens.  This way it takes twice as long to get up to the second floor.  The suspense scares the crap out of us foreigners.). By the time I reach the second floor I am sweating profusely.  The bad news is the food is on the third floor.  Three times the suspense.  Alfred Hitchcock couldn’t have planned this better.  I finally arrive and have to by some simple things.  Now I want to be clear at this point and say that we don’t buy a lot here and most of the stuff we buy is inedible stuff like soap, deodorants, toothpaste etc.  So getting in and out quickly is my second highest priority.  Avoiding the butcher section is the highest priority naturally.  Today as walked thru the produce section I look at some of the vegetables and I see a fruit (or vegetable) that can only be described as a small Audrey 2.  Yes, if you watched Little Shoppe of Horrors, it was the same plant.  Not similar, I mean identical. Now I am petrified!  Very Scary Canary!  I make my way over to the laundry soap section.  I need to buy laundry soap but we have a brand new washer and it takes High Efficiency laundry soap only.  Century Mart carries all sorts of laundry detergents however; none of the writing is in English.  So i enter the section of the store that smells like soap and start looking.  I don’t know if I am buying fabric softener, bleach, dish soap, or toilet cleaner.  It smells like soap of some kind.  Now most of you know me pretty well and will agree I can be a fun person at a party. So I want you to imagine me in the middle of the Century Mart playing a game of Charades with 4 century Mart employees and 7-8 Chinese ladies who don’t speak a word of English and I have to get them to guess I want HIGH EFFICIENCY laundry detergent.  It wasn’t going to happen.  So I grabbed I large plastic bottle of what I felt must be the correct stuff because there was a neat pile of laundry folded on the label and that was the goal of this exercise so at least I thought I was in the same ballpark, and I ran in a blind panic.  I hate losing at charades.  I stumbled into the scary Chinese wine section.  To be fair Kim and I have never bought Chinese wine.  We never will. Mother Mary Very Scary Canary!  Enough said.  I have to move to the back of the store to take the moving sidewalk to the top floor so I can get back to the bottom floor again.  (Note to readers:  I saw that look!   I am not making this stuff up.  You honestly have to go to the back of the store, ride to the top floor walk to the front of the store so you can ride the moving sidewalks back down again to get out of the store again).   Hitchcock, you’re brilliant!  Fortunately, I successfully avoided the butcher and did not see anything like a water buffalo or a rhinoceros, a seagull or some albino rodent being cut up for someone’s dinner.  At last I return home with my purchases, a gallon of Nangfoo water and our new electric blanket to keep us warm in the winter.  All of this tension.  We will not miss Halloween!


Carabine Chart of Relative Scariness







Mild uneasiness.  Your boss says to you “We need to chat.” 


Scary Canary

Rather unnerving.  Like going to a matinee performance of Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds.”  (Hence the canary.)


Very Scary Canary

This is like watching 4 episodes of the Walking Dead in a row at home, alone, in the dark.


Mother Mary Very Scary Canary

So scary you start making your peace with Jesus.  Running into the clown guy carrying a chain saw at the PNE on Fright Night.



One last topic for the blog this week and that’s Sherpa’s Food Service.  A Sherpa in one of those guys who live in Nepal and are known for carrying food and supplies up Mount Everest for the explorers.  They have a company here called Sherpa’s and they go to any restaurant in town that does take-out. Pretty much everyone does. For 15 Yuan (about $2.50) they will take your order and pick it up and deliver it to you on their little bicycles.  What is really cool is that they all speak English really well when you phone and they call the restaurant to place your order for you.  The prices are the same as if you bought the food in the restaurant.  This is a great service and it’s so inexpensive.  Until next week.


2 comments on “The Good, the Bad and the Scary – Just in time for Halloween

  1. Such a good commentary….details are GOOD!!!!! Your description was so good, for a moment I thought I was shopping in Shanghai…but no, I’m back in Maple Ridge. Kim, I hope you’ll be back in circulation soon…but for sure, Bruce is HOPING harder than me….greetings to both of you.

  2. Bruce and Kim
    I am so much enjoying your entries – I / we can relate – you describe it so perfectly as difficult as that is – but at the same time it us such a wonderful heart warming experience – frustrating yes but you have to love it!! Keep up the positive attitude and the great posts!!!!

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