Just How Hot Is It? Darn Hot!
The past four days have seen our wide college avenue dotted with pastel-colored umbrellas, fringed in lace or edged in colorful trim. It’s not rain students and teachers alike are shielding themselves from. It’s the sizzling heat beneath our hazy, steaming sun that has us sweating and breathing hard when we enter the classrooms.
All across the campus, everyone is wilting in this high-humidity, 95 degree weather.
The elderly wander slowly about, cooling themselves with hand-held fans. Our female students without umbrellas hold textbooks over their faces to protect the rays from damaging their skin. The boys roll up their T-shirts to cool their flat, muscular bellies. The rugged construction workers move at a slower pace than usual. They’re still putting on finishing touches around the new dining hall building, getting the road, railings and sidewalks completed. Kitties flop helter-skelter on the pavement and stray dogs take care to trot under our school’s shaded areas.
In other words, it’s pretty darn hot!
Currently, the only ones using an umbrella indoors are my elderly neighbors living below me.
For a month now, my toilet has been dripping down on them. Our apartments are exactly the same with my cubby-hole bathroom directly above their cubby-hole bathroom. Every time they go to the toilet, they carry an umbrella with them to protect their heads from splattering sewage.
Our buildings are so old and in great need of repair. Believe me, this isn’t the first time such things have happened nor will they be the last.
The manager of the teachers’ housing units has been contacted numerous times to fix this leak yet he continues to stall.
His most recent excuse has been: “All the school workers are very busy preparing the dormitories for the new students. After they have arrived and settled in, I will send someone over right away.”
Ah, we’ve heard that before.
But my neighbors are very understanding Chinese folk. They know things take time to get done in this culture so they wait patiently, umbrella close at hand, and continue in their usual routine to protect their heads from my toilet droppings.
Our Vocational School’s New Arrivals
The truth is that the workers at the school are, indeed, incredibly busy getting ready for our new college students. We’ve already had our first small wave of fresh arrivals 3 weeks ago when the Qing Hai University students came to this campus, their Sichuan branch school. There were only about 500 of them.
Now we’re having the full load of 2,000 freshmen descend upon us. They trickled in from Monday to Wednesday and have been swarming through the gates in full force yesterday and today. Tomorrow will be yet another huge wave with Sunday beginning their 8 days of military training.
The rest of us, upper classmen and teachers, will be enjoying the 1-week National Day holidays along with the rest of the country.
Little Flower and I will be going to Chengdu for the week. Jalin and her family are looking forward to our return and so am I. I’ve already chosen the hotel, the one where Richard stayed at within our quaint little red light district. It had very friendly staff, lovely clean rooms and the manager had no qualms about a dog staying there. And it was cheap. $15 a night is a good deal, especially with an Internet café around the corner and Jalin just a block away.
I do hope for these newcomers to our school that the weather cools off soon. Everyone at present has been so hot and tired as they walk through the front gate. Parents and students alike collapse exhausted under departmental tents while volunteers scurry to bring them water or helpfully haul their things to the dorm rooms. The line outside the infirmary, where students are getting their physicals, has grown longer and longer. Our freshmen stand in the burning sun, fanning themselves with their physical exam papers, while their eager parents wait nearby under trees or find a cool place to sit around the tennis courts. (The courts are directly in front of the school’s medical clinic.)
Our Dormitory Potpourri
But if it’s hot outside, imagine how it feels inside. The students report to me constantly of how ruthless it’s been for them. The dorms are sweltering at 8 to 10 to a room with no fans or breeze blowing through day or night.
The newest addition for housing has been the conversion of the old music building into dormitories. This is what has been keeping the school workers busy practically 24 hours a day. Walls had to be repainted and re-plastered, new light fixtures added, bunk beds with their boards and thin padding carried over, and the sparse restrooms given more faucets and trough sinks for usage.
We now have a very odd potpourri of dormitories stretched across campus, all different prices per year with different amenities. We have the newly built dorms with 4 to a room, a balcony and a shared toilet (1,200 yuan, $190). Next on the list is the 1998 dormitory buildings with 8 to a room, balcony and shared toilet (1,000 yuan, $158) or 8 to a room with toilets at the end of the hallway (800 yuan, $126). Third we have the ancient dormitory with 8 to a room and shared floor toilets (700 yuan, $110). Fourth gives us the music building conversion at 600 yuan ($95) with 8 to 10 a room. Fifth is the classroom building conversion for the male students, 30 to a room with dinky trough toilets at either end of the building (400 yuan, $63).
Last on the housing list for males is a one-story, narrow building once used as offices in the 1960s. These have outside shared toilets and faucets for washing with 8 crowded inside each office space, the grand yearly price being 300 yuan ($47).
If you’re a very poor student from the countryside, whose parents are barely able to afford your tuition, that 300 yuan dormitory is a lifesaver. It may not look like much but it’s a place to sleep. There’s also a very strong bond that forms between those living here, all fellow schoolmates toughing it out together.
For a majority of the students at our college, it’s the education, not the comfort, that matters. They take their studies very seriously. In my opinion, putting up with such living conditions for 3 years makes these young people a true inspiration to all of us “whimpy” Americans.
Before closing, the National Day holidays will find me without personal computer access so it may be a week before I’ll be back in touch. I’m sure I’ll have plenty of stories to tell upon my return.
Until next time, stay safe, everyone, and “Ping An” (peace)!