Someone asked me what my accommodations were like over here. They’re nothing extravagant. I live on the 14th (top) floor of Dormitory 1, where they put the scholarship students because they can charge more for the other, nicer dorms. For me, the location is great. I can sleep in until seven o’clock and still easily get to class on time.
My room is a double room, but I haven’t seen any clues that my roommate exists, other than the bicycle and clothes rack in the middle of the room. I did find a receipt dated July 19, one week before I arrived, so maybe he’s just traveling. Who knows? It’s good for me that he’s gone because I don’t sleep much here and would probably bother him when studying or writing at night. The room isn’t bad. The bed is a bit lumpy for my tastes, and the pillow more so. I have air conditioning for those days when it gets really hot outside, but most of the time I just leave the window open. The a/c dries out the air and gives me a cough.
Our floor has about 20 rooms on it. I don’t know how many people live up here—people mostly stay inside their rooms while they are here. The three people I did meet were from South Korea, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. We all share a common shower and bathroom area, as well as an automatic clothes washer. I mention this because the first week and a half I washed my clothes by hand in the sink. Then I figured out how to ask for the washer operating procedures (that was a good day, for my clothes and my Chinese). There is a clothesline on the western balcony where they dry.
My floor has three showers—not the water-saver type, which is nice (water comes straight downward out of a pipe)—and we have hot water so I have nothing to complain about. The toilets are not Western style. In fact, I’ve only seen one of those since I’ve been in China. I know that the “squat shots” are something that Westerners are nervous about when they first come here, but you get used to them. In fact, they’re more sanitary than the Western-style toilets that are often improperly used (people still stand on the seats—don’t try that at home. ha ha). If you can accept the fact that the toilets are just different, most people will have no problem adjusting (though do I wonder how people with weak legs cope). The part that is hard to get used to is the smell. Can you see the blue basket in the picture? It’s for more than just Kleenex. You don’t flush paper over here, and I tell you what, at 4pm on a 95 degree day, just walking into the bathroom can knock you over. It’s worse when you’re trapped in a stall with the stench.
Despite this inconvenience, overall I have enjoyed my stay in Dorm 1. It’s not the Ritz, but it will do.
The Flaming Shirt Incident
Sometimes weird things happen in China and you don’t know why. I mentioned before that we had a clothesline at the western end of the building. It hangs just outside the bathroom window. One day after working out, I hung my shirt up to dry. I forgot about it and left it there for a couple days. When I finally went back to get it, I found it lying in a heap on the ground. To my surprise, it had been on fire and was burned in several places. What the ----?
After giving it some thought, I came up with two theories. First, the shirt was wet and it slid off into a pile on the balcony. The moisture in the cotton material began to ferment the fibers, creating enough heat for the shirt to spontaneously combust. I dismissed this theory as unlikely because there probably was not enough material to produce that much heat.
The second theory, which I find much more feasible, is that the shirt dried out on the line and later blew off into a heap by the bathroom window. Someone came in to take a shower, decided he didn’t couldn’t really smoke in the shower and tossed his burning cigarette out the window, where it landed on my shirt. The wind stoked the fire, causing the shirt to burst into flames. Talk about bad luck. . . I guess when you are in an unfamiliar place, you have to expect the unexpected. But a flaming shirt?