Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Don't Drink The Water
Tap water in Shanghai is undrinkable. It is chock full of...I don't know bad things. Sick things. Bacteria and what not that will make you very ill if you drink it.
Or so they say. I wouldn't know as I'm not about to try it.
They say, in fact, that it is so bad that you can get sick from even using it when you brush your teeth. I have friends who used to get stay-home-and-puke sick from using the water in this manner. (Obviously the didn't realize this was the problem at first, but when they stopped, so did the sickness.) Others say they get weird things like canker sores from using tap as teeth brushing fluid.
Basically it is good enough to wash your body, wash your clothes, and wash your dishes. Otherwise you might as well throw it out.
For drinking water we have to buy those big water bottles you find in the local office cooler. We have the little dispenser too (although ours doesn't cool, but it does heat!) Most people go to the local market where they have to pay a large deposit for the dispenser and then go back to for ordering refills.
We have some other local guy, known through whatever secret channels my sisters has. We didn't have to pay a deposit for the dispenser as the same sister seems to have had an extra one lying around. The bottles are ordered by phone and cost 14 RMB which is slightly less than two dollars.
Ordering the water has become quite an interesting task, as I don't speak Chinese and the water folks speak no English. That handy little sister of mine wrote out a little phonetic chart for me to order the water. She even wrote the translation of it underneath so I'd have a clue as to what I was saying.
In the end, as per usual, I still don't have a clue.
The setup usually goes something like this. I call a number, someone answers. I quickly run through the little schpeel Bethany wrote for me and then pause. The person on the other end says something I can't understand, and I repeat the last two lines of my Chinese (the first part was basically "I want water" and as they are the water people, I figure they already know this part.)
I listen very carefully to what the Chinese then say because often they are repeating back to me what I just said (which is the part about where I live.) I then repeat some more and add "ok?"
When I am lucky they say "ok" back and we're all set. When I'm not so lucky they say something else I don't understand and I resort to reading the whole thing again. Sometimes several times very slowly.
I am quite sure I totally butcher the pronunciation and tones of the Chinese, but usually they do get what I'm saying and we end with both of us using agreeable "oks." Sometimes I'm still not sure they get it but I don't know what else to do so I hang up and sit around hoping they show up at our door.
So far they always have.