I woke up at 9 am. Thursday. I’d set my alarm because I had to call Selina, My contact at the university, who would pick me up in one of the school’s cars. I went to the restaurant on the second floor of the hotel for breakfast, which was included with the room. I expected something along the lines of a “continental” breakfast with bread and coffee, like European hotels, but instead was confronted with the most lavish breakfast buffet I’d ever seen. I stuffed myself with scrambled eggs, bacon, spaghetti, steamed squash, and potatoes, and drank some wonderful strong coffee. I had to skip the pancakes, Sichuan specialties, and dessert table.
Views of Chengdu from my window at the Tibet Hotel
I met Selina in the hotel lobby, and we were driven to my new apartment, in a cluster of apartments across a small river from the University. I got my morning exercise by dragging my 110-pound suitcase up four flights of stairs to Apartment 14 on the fifth floor. I was sweating buckets. I was still not fully functional, since I’d only arrived in China hours earlier. The building manager turned on the blessed air conditioning, and I paid the key deposit and signed the apartment inventory list. I was home at last. I watched the rain run down the outside of my windows.
Sand River – I cross a bridge to get to the university
Rainy day window with the “Rear Window” apartments opposite
I started making mental notes about decorating – table lamps, wall hangings, rugs – then decided I was too tired and gave up and lay down. At 4 pm my teaching assistant, Sue, called me. She came to meet me, and gave me a tour of the University of Electronic Science and Technology. It’s a smallish campus, quite pretty really, with several new buildings and a couple of interesting older art moderne structures. The university is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.
My living room
Sue pointed out the student dining halls, and gave me my dining card, one of those magnetic things that records how much money you add to it. We put 50 yuan on the card, and when you order food at one of the many food stations in the dining hall, you simply put the card into a machine, which deducts the price of the dish you order.
I went back to the apartment and rested, because our walk had left me a soggy, overheated mess. I was reminded of why I’d left the Midwest – I never could deal with the humidity. I began to have second thoughts about living in a tropical climate, and about arriving in the height of summer.
My apartment building is a relatively new one in an enclave of older, gray-stucco buildings that make up much of Chengdu’s residential landscape. Some of these buildings house university personnel and professors. There are also a few deluxe single-family houses in the compound built for distinguished professors. The view from my window reminds me of the set from “Rear Window;” I look right at the apartment building opposite, and have a view into most of the apartments where I can eavesdrop on people’s daily activities. Maybe I’ll witness a murder. I did hear a screaming match at 2 am one night.
I ventured to the student dining hall for dinner. There are two dining halls in one building, on the first and second floors, and I went to the first floor. The food was putrid – some kind of fatty pork stuff and bland steamed green vegetables. I decided to try the second floor for lunch the next day, and it proved to be more palatable. I then went to a small store on campus and bought a few basic supplies. I still have no idea where to find a grocery store here.
I went to bed and got my first real night’s sleep.