Sunday, August 28, 2005

In My New Room

I’d love to talk about registration, but all I can think about is the humidity. My room does not have air conditioning. I got the lowest kind of room possible because I’m on this scholarship. To upgrade, I’d need to pay the remainder. I must be feeling awfully defiant today, because instead of paying the fee, I bought a fan. Yes, that’s right. I’m going to tough out the summer. Twice. I’m going to get more of an authentic experience than I bargained for, right down to the public bathrooms. Check me out; I’m a Chinese university student.

I think part of the reason I’m not changing rooms is that I’m trying to break myself of being a pampered Westerner to some extent. Obviously, I still have plenty of amenities here. But I think I can live without air conditioning. I refuse to believe that I am unable to adapt to a new situation. If I can only handle living in the U.S. or Europe, then I am seriously limiting myself. We’ll see if I’m still singing this song in two weeks. I think as long as the windows block the sandstorms from getting in, I should be grateful.

Registration went more smoothly than I expected it to. I have some forms to return tomorrow that I got today. I got housing first, and then headed to Run Run Shaw building to get – umm – I don’t know what actually happened there. I think a lot of paperwork happened. I can say for sure that I’m happy I’m here in 2005 instead of 1980, or earlier. I get the feeling that this was the most streamlined process I could ask for.

Understand, however, that streamlined, in this case, means that I: went to a jumbled line of Americans, line 3; was told to fill out several forms and return them when finished; finished the forms and tried to return them; was turned away and told that I must have the residence permit form filled out, too (even though the man gave it to me as he mentioned it); then I was told to go to line 10 to collect my settlement payment and stipend; went to line 10 and was told to go upstairs; went upstairs and was told to go downstairs to line 10; went back to line 10 and found a new person working there; signed some papers in line 10 and had my form stamped; and was told by the man that I must go to some room on Monday to collect the money.

I’ve been running in about 70% Mandarin, 25% English, and 5% grunting and gesturing. Overall, it’s been a pretty efficient communication system. My Chinese wasn’t nearly as bad as I was expecting it to be during registration. I still had some problems, of course, but not as many as I certainly could have. I felt really bad for the students who were having the kinds of problems I thought I would have. I tried to help them out.

When I arrived in Run Run Shaw, there was an information desk with gruff looking Chinese woman attending. She was gesturing wildly and speaking very loudly to a guy who looked very confused. She kept screaming, “Visa form! Do you have your visa form?” I walked up behind the guy with mine, and the woman pointed to me. “That! Do you have that?”

That guy could have been American or European, I thought, so I took a chance with English. I asked him if he had his visa form, and he explained that the consulate took it when he applied for the visa, and that he didn’t have any copies. I translated for him, and the woman then just wanted to know what country he was from. He was Italian, so he got sent to line 4. I hope everything turned out all right for him. That visa form is important. I saw him a little later in the process, and he seemed okay.

While I was waiting in line 3, I met a guy named Ryan from Kentucky. I also met Donny, the scholarship student from Ohio State. I went to lunch with Ryan and his friend Steven, who is from Alabama. I got some really awesome eggplant. You always have to go to meals with other people in China. The portions are way too big for one person. I had sticker shock again when I realized that we each only paid about 1USD for two huge platters of food, three bowls of rice, and a pot of tea.

The three of us went to a grocery/generally whatever you can think of store after lunch to pick up some things. I bought my fan then, as well as some hangers and hand soap. I’m so happy with this fan. It’s sitting on my desk and keeping me very pleasantly cool. We also went to a Kodak store so Ryan could more passport photos. I had to order for him because he’s only had one year of Chinese. After shopping, we checked out Ryan’s room. His is very nice, and he has a balcony. I’m not going to be jealous, though. I’m getting an authentic experience. I haven’t decided if that last statement is sarcastic or not, yet.

I still don't know who is living with me. I wonder if she'll like the heat in the room. It's so comfortable.


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