The Key Master

bya Gabrielle at 4:03 AM

It is the closest thing to a Ace Hardware Store that we could find.

Phil and I were walking the streets of Fuyang one day trying to find a place to eat. We were starving. We were tired. And we were hot. (This is before we started teaching by the way.)

I would have never imagined it would be hard to find food in a city that houses 600,000, but apparently it is. In Hangzhou, all you had to do was walk down an alley way and see a tasty and interesting shop you might feel brave enough eating at. Here in Fuyang it is a little bit different. If you can’t read the signs – you probably won’t know it is a restaurant – unless of course there is a window and you see people eating. A lot of places are upstairs, and unless you know that it is there, you probably won’t be a paying customer. Finding a restaurant can be hard, but it is even more difficult finding food that you can eat – or rather food you know you want to eat. If you find a picture menu – you have found heaven. If you find a restaurant that understands your broken Chinese and doesn’t rip you off because you are foreign, you better thank your Guardian Angel. A part of me feels I am back in Portugal – meaning that there are about 100 billion more shoes, clothes, cell phones, and snack shops than there are actually restaurants. But anyway, that is beyond the point. Onto the key master. . .

In the very beginning, Mr. Zhou,the Foreign Affairs Director of the school, gave us one key to our apartment. One key. There are two of us. Two. And one key. Which means that either we had to go everywhere together or chance leaving the one or the other stranded on the door step. Quite by chance, while trying to put food in our tummies, we came across a key making street vendor. We had asked for another key prior to this, but in China, things are never certain, so we decided to take a chance and get one made ourselves.

I took the key out of my pocket and walked over to the man. I pointed at it, hoping he would understand, and then said how much in Chinese. He held up his fingers in a cross shape which means 10 yuan. Seemed like a good deal to me, so I said sure, why not?

The Chinese Key Master proceeded to make a key more or less by hand right in front of us. It wasn’t like anything you would see at Wal-Mart or a Hardware store. He had to measure and gauge every little notch and then reproduce it on the new key. If this computer wasn’t being such a retard, I would post more pictures, but it will only let me upload the one. Grr. But anyway, about 5 or so minutes later he handed us the key back – we looked at it, thought it seemed ok and handed over the 10 yuan. We had a key. The question was whether it was going to work or not.

We got back to the apartment after trying a noodle shop – where we ate noodles and avoided the intestines. Gross. Phil put the key in the door and it wouldn’t turn. Well, I thought, at least it wasn’t Y100. Phil twisted it a bit more. Still nothing. I went to give him my key, but he told me to wait. He jiggled it a little more and the door opened. The key isn’t perfect, but hey, we both have a key now. And now we have a key that Mr. Zhou and company don’t know exists. Maybe in a few years, we can come back to Fuyang, and take a nap or come in to watch TV or something crazy like that, although I doubt the new people living there would like that very much. Heh.

I’ll post again soon. Maybe tonight. But the school computer hates me and won’t let me do much.

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