written/non-written things by me (from 2005-2008)

Sunday, November 12, 2006

When I get steamed up...

This evening, I was walking my private students from my apartment. I usually see them off. One the way back, I stopped at the entrance, as there was a large pile of tea kettles of varying densities and shapes. Most all of them were heavy and filthy and very old. I group of older people were gathered around the tea kettles; and they had set up a table right next to it to sell brand new shiny tin kettles and double steamers. Their are no ovens here, few microwaves, few refridgerators even (at least in many of the apartments I've seen). I have a water dispenser that heats the water from my 5 gallon jug, but it doesn't get piping hot, and the Beijing winter will require piping hot mugs of tea...

I picked through. The group gathered around me and we started chatting. One man actually told the other men that maybe they shoul slow their speech. I was grateful for that. See, sometimes they assume that because you can say a few things quite naturally that you are also capable of having a full on conversation. This is so not the case, of course. We chatted about this one really heavy iron kettle that I was examining. One man told me it was 65 years old... that's a Cultural Revolution kettle, maybe even a Great Leap Forward Kettle! I opened it up, the unsmooth metal interior was thickly coated with sand. I don't imagine it could ever be clean, nor ever producing decent tasting water. I put it down and peaked around the back and under the pile where I found this little baby kettle. Just a cheap and lite single cup kettle, I suppose I could find it anywhere in the market. But it was one of my neighbors' kettle and they let me have it, as a gift. Its nothing but it made me pretty happy for a little tad of a turn up the stairs.

Why? Maybe because I can see it dangling off my bicycle panniers when I take my long bicycle trip to the southwest of China next March (only 3.5 months!). I imagine I'd pick up a small piece of coal cylinder (what most people use to cook food and heat their homes) and keep it with me to boil up some water when I'm camping or resting. I know I haven't written anything about it, but my impending bike trip through Guizhou, Yunnan, and Sichuan provinces is one of the main reasons I came to China. But I suppose the details have been steeping, but soon, I hope, they will be ready.

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My name is Hannah Pierce-Carlson