The Chinese Spring Festival, the Year of the Rooster, is January 27 and is nearly upon us. My college’s Fall semester ended January 9, and finally, I find a moment to breath. All I can say is: What a crazy, chaotic, topsy-turvy semester!
Let me start with catch-up news, of which there is plenty. It started with doing without.
The New Campus: Unprepared and Unfinished
No consistently working elevators. No Internet. No hot water. No washing machine. No gas for cooking. No remote for the air-conditioning units. No nearby grocery stores for shopping.
There was an even further dilemma of trash control. There were no bins or trashcans yet on campus so rubbish from the the student dorms, cafeteria, and offices was piling high in the most unusual places.
One of those huge heaps was near our building.
Eventually, a giant iron garbage bin was hauled in to be plopped in the middle of our campus roadway. Some improvement not to have to step over and through all that had been discarded but I can tell you, the smell (and the sight of this) was pretty disgusting.
Yes, it was a challenging move to the new campus (at the outskirts of Luzhou), for Jackie Zubin (a Peace Corp volunteer) and myself.
Moving Into a Building Not Yet Ready
Our new faculty apartment building for single teachers, with 66 units of apartments (6 on each floor), was fairly empty the month of September because no one wanted to move into a building that wasn’t yet truly ready for inhabiting. It was the last building to hastily go up before the school opened, thus the one that had the most problems. Many of the teachers held off moving in until December, when things finally settled down.
We two foreign teachers, however, had no choice.
Our lease was up at the posh apartments we were temporarily housed at and the landlords refused to allow us to stay longer. Also, the school administrators wanted us on campus for safety reasons, with no commuting from far away distances to reach the school.
Thus off Jackie and I went, a full two days of the 3-man-company movers coming back and forth in their small truck, loading and unloading our furniture, boxes, heavy appliances and other items we had.
Luckily on that day, one elevator was working to haul everything to the 9th floor where we finally settled into.
However, as we soon found out, there were many things that were not yet taken care of.
We had no hot water or gas hook-up for cooking for 3 weeks. We had no washing machine usage for 6 weeks (The workers were too busy to connect our machines for us). We had no Internet for 6 1/2 weeks until the school finally negotiated Internet terms with China Telecom. The students all had WiFi connection via the entire campus system, as did all the offices, but the wiring in our building was defective. We later learned that finding where in the building the faulty line was located would be next to impossible without electricians tearing through the entire network, located in the walls.
The astronomical cost and timely feasibility of correcting the error was pretty much dismissed as not doable. Thus it was decided that each apartment unit would have to be connected to the city’s communication’s system, China Telecom. For the foreigners, the school took up the cost of monthly payments but for the other Chinese teachers living in our building, they would have to pay the $200 US a year on their own.
Many decided not to bother and just use the campus WiFi once they stepped within the campus WiFi network.
And while the air-conditioning wall units had been installed, the remote controls were nowhere to be found as they were tucked away in someone’s office drawer. We sweltered away in Luzhou’s horrible September heat for a good week before they finally were thrust into our hot little hands.
God Bless Elevators!
We struggled through all the above with great fortitude and understanding . . . . until it came to the elevators.
After our first week, suddenly, the two elevators were turned off.
I admit, the turning off was partly my fault.
I was actually stuck in one of them on the 1st floor and had to call out for help. A worker came and jumped up and down on the top of it (the entire compartment shaking and rattling as he did so) until the doors slowly jiggled opened.
Needless to say, I didn’t step back into that elevator again.
Not a problem in doing so again because once the word got out that the foreign teacher had been stuck inside, both were immediately turned off until a proper inspection could take place. This left me and Jackie to hike up and down 9 flights of stairs every day for 3 days.
It would have been longer except I decided enough was enough.
I sent out 5 text messages to 5 different leaders. I profusely apologized for bothering them but I was an old lady (in my 50’s), very tired from teaching so many, and walking up and down 9 flights of stairs every day was very difficult for me.
Could someone please turn on at least one elevator for old foreign teacher, Connie? It would be greatly appreciated.
Within 1 hour of those texts, in the drizzling rain, 3 administrators arrived to my building: English Dean Horace He, Mr. Liu (foreign affairs director) and housing affairs director Mr. Chen with the elevator key. All gathered around the right-hand elevator while Mr. Chen ceremoniously placed his key into the lock and turned it on. After that, we all took turns going up and down 3 times to make sure it was in proper working order.
Mr. Chen posted a Chinese sign on the outside of the elevator that said if something went wrong, call him. (Why on the outside, I’m not sure because if you’re stuck on the inside, how would you know his number?) I was then cautioned to bring my cell phone with me at all times so I could call for help.
Didn’t exactly restore my faith in the elevator but as long as I didn’t have to hike up 9 flights of stairs several times a day, I wasn’t going to complain. I learned my lesson the first time!
November finally had Jackie and me settling in nicely, although here it is in January and I still have many boxes yet to dig through. There just was no time in between teaching, swimming, church choir ( a huge commitment), 4 animal rescues (too many to report quickly), decorating and baking for the holidays, Christmas open houses (12 in total) and end-of-term testing plus grading.
Visiting the States
Unpacking those boxes, by the way, is certainly not on the agenda today.
I’m back in Illinois, visiting my mom for my Chinese New Year (Spring Festival) holidays. We’ve just returned from a trip to the Windy City where we enjoyed the lyric opera (The Magic Flute), Broadway’s “Hamilton”, a visit to the Museum of Science and Industry, as well as a few shopping ventures plus lunch in the Walnut Room, located in what is now Macy’s but before Marshall Field’s.
Now it’s back to smalltown living where I am getting my newsletter in order and repacking the suitcase for my return to China on Feb. 7. It is a very short holiday this year, only 4 weeks, so not much recuperation time from last semester.
This next semester won’t be any easier than last, either.
Our school’s second Peace Corp volunteer, Garett the lawyer, didn’t return after the summer holiday last August. His surprising exit meant that all of his courses had to be divided between Jackie and me. It was a bit of a chore but we managed and will be doing the same this coming Spring.
It’s added a lot of extra hours that we haven’t had before, thus the very long silence on my website. Most likely, after I return to China, the same will happen but for now, just thought I’d update a bit.
As always, wishing you Ping An (Peace) for your upcoming weekend and smooth sailing into the Year of the Rooster.