Day 1 in Chengdu, China

I arrived in Chengdu, China, on Tuesday afternoon, nearly two days after I left Washington D.C. Soon after I checked into my hostel, I was already out and about, fed by a curiosity to discover what the neighborhood was like. I picked a direction and just walked, observing as I went along. Home appliance stores, which all seem to be selling the same stoves and heaters, line up the street I live on. Once in a while, the sweet, tangy smell of fresh pineapples will fill the air, an indication that a pineapple cart is nearby. The locals can’t seem to get enough of the fragrant and colorful fruit. Out on the streets, honking cars, buses, bicycles, mopeds, and pedestrians are all moving in a sort of organised chaos. It’s a wonder how they never seem to run into each other, even when close calls appear to be the norm.

On my walk, I ran into Carrefour, a French hypermarket chain, where I thought I would make change and stock up on snacks and bottled water. Having grown up in France, my family and I used to shop at Carrefour regularly. The layout and appearance of this store looked very familiar, but the selection of foods was mostly Chinese and everything was labeled in Chinese characters. Since I can’t read Chinese, I relied on the images outside the packages–and if there were none, on the color, shape, and texture of the foods–to figure out what might be inside. Food shopping this way takes a bit of imagination, which is kind of fun!

As I explored the store further, I came upon the gigantic meat and seafood section. I didn’t dare look too closely, though I thought that any kind of meat or seafood a Chinese would want to eat would probably be there. Those unsuspecting large fish who were swimming in the water tanks and crawling creatures that gave me goosegumps at the mere sight of them would surely find their way to someone’s dinner plate tonight. If there were any turtles, I did not want to lay my eyes on them. I quickly made my way to the cash register.

The cashier mumbled something in Chinese and I found myself naturally responding with the “I have not the slightest idea what you’re saying” look. I asked, “do you speak English?” Then it was the cashier’s turn to give me the blank look. Following a brief moment of silence, he went on scanning my items, business as usual, and I quietly paid, not saying another word. He didn’t give me a bag, so I asked for one using my hands, then nodded with a smile to say thank you.

Having made it through my first day in China, I went back to my hostel room feeling content. I was ready to explore the city the very next day.

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2 Responses to “Day 1 in Chengdu, China”

  1. Arun April 22, 2011 at 10:44 pm #

    Hi Cinthia,
    WOW – I am impressed and a little envious as well of your trip! It sounds really exciting, a lot of fun and very adventurous. I’m sure you will have a great time and I will be keen to read how it’s going on your blog.
    It’s great to be back in touch :-)
    Chengdu sounds like fun – I guess you will go see the pandas. I was in Beijing on work just after the Olympics and in the Beijing zoo they had brought together the best panda specimens to show off to the visitors – the local press dubbed them the Olympic Pandas and they were quite cute!
    I’ll drop you a mail and look forward to staying in touch.
    Wish you a safe and fun-filled trip with lots of memorable experiences.
    Ciao,

    Arun xoxo

  2. Natasha April 29, 2011 at 3:39 pm #

    Sounds like a nice first day! Glad to hear you got through it. –Natasha