“You gotta be kidding me!” Feng shouted from the hallway as I stepped out of the apartment. At first, I didn’t see what the problem was. Mark was all bundled up and sure, he was whining, but we were about to go out so he would be fine despite the cold weather.
And boy, it was cold. We had been enjoying very warm weather (around 25°C) but that morning, the temperature had suddenly dropped to 5°C, probably even less with the north wind. Oh, and it was raining. It sucked. We didn’t bring a lot of warm clothes.
I walked to the elevator in front of which Feng was standing.
“Oh, fuck!” I said, looking at the “up” and “down” arrows.
No light. No power. The elevator was not working.
And we live on the 27th floor.
Change of plans. We left Mark with my mother-in-law, at the apartment, and Feng and I went downstairs.
When we saw the traffic outside, we realized that there was no power at all in our area—the stores were closed, the traffic lights weren’t working and it was complete mayhem.
“I guess this is what North Korea looks like,” we joked. Ironically, we had just discovered “Little Korea” the day before. Except that since this is China and North Korea is technically a friend, restaurants and hotels display the flag of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. It’s weird from a Western perspective to be so close to one of the last dictatorships in the world.
I headed to “Fashion Street”, a very cool underground city that goes on for miles around Taiyuan Jie, the main avenue. It’s another world down there—the small alleys are packed with clothing shops, accessories and food vendors. It’s a giant indoor market where you can get lost for a few hours and this is exactly what I did, a cup of hot coffee in hand.
Eventually, we had to come back home to figure out what to do. We couldn’t leave Mark at the apartment for the entire day, he would go crazy, and water was being shut off as well.
We climbed the 27 floors.
It was not fun.
And then we went down, Feng carrying the stroller and me carrying Mark.
“One! Two! Three!” I counted the floors with Mark as I was going down. I think I stopped around fifteen. Mark seemed to find the situation hilarious. I was just trying to make it downstairs. This kid owes me a new hip. And new knees.
We took the subway to another district, close to Feng’s aunt’s place—they had power over there. We had lunch in the mall and walked around, then walked around some more. Mark didn’t feel like sleeping but Feng and I were getting tired. The power was supposed to be back around 8 p.m. and there was no way we were going to climb the 27 floors again with Mark, so we had to wait around.
We took the subway back to “Fashion Street” and explored the alleys. This underground world looks like something out of a sci-fi movie. It’s definitely a happening place, favoured by young people. (South) Korean fashion seems very popular (and quite expensive). China used to sell a lot of fake Western brands but it’s no longer the case. You can see the odd “Calin Clein” or “Fanrce 1998” t-shirt (these always come with a spelling mistake), but the most popular brand is the face of a little monkey—Paul Franck? Something like that? I don’t know the brand and I can’t Google it.
The rest of it is typical Chinese fashion—flowery lace dresses, cute garments with Winnie the Pooh or other Disney characters, tiny pairs of jeans and platform shoes. Many items come with some weird English printed on them, either complete nonsense (i.e. “aggt ehe uytss”) or kind-of-make-sense-but-not-really (i.e. “Lovely the bear home back happiness”).
We eventually came back after 8 p.m., cold and tired, crossing our fingers. “I really hope the power is back on!” I said. See, I’m turning Chinese, I’m stating the obvious.
It was. I thought I was going to cry when I heard the “dong!” of the elevator coming down.
We were able to resume our normal evening activities—nothing exciting, really, but water and power make a huge difference!