Amazingly, I felt almost human this morning. I had several cups of black tea for breakfast, with some kind of delicious cake I’d picked up the night before. I then walked to the main administration building on campus to find Selina in her office. She introduced me to some co-workers, and a student assistant then accompanied me to a hospital where I was to have my foreigner’s medical exam. We took an air-conditioned taxi, and I tried to take in all the sights of this crowded, bustling city. Brand new luxury condos rise above old, traditional buildings of timber or brick, many of which are crumbling. I saw one whose roof had halfway collapsed, but which was still occupied by shopkeepers on the ground floor. We went through underpasses, down broad avenues, past Starbucks and KFC and luxury stores, to the hospital. We were in and out very fast, visiting about five different offices where I was poked, prodded, had blood drawn, got an X-ray and an ultrasound (!), and did poorly on an eye test. We taxied back to campus.
I met my teaching assistant Sue in the afternoon, and we went to Classroom Building 2, where I’ll be teaching. Turns out I only teach one class, Listening and Speaking, but I have to repeat the class four times a day. Each class will have about 28 students. I hope the classrooms are air conditioned. If they aren’t, I quit. We went to another building, where we sat in a classroom and went over my textbook and class schedule. I mentioned that I wanted to find a Chinese teacher, and Sue volunteered to teach me, in return for helping her with English. I gave her my elementary Chinese phrase book to review for our first lesson.
Bicycles, Motorbikes, Cars Everywhere
Corner Shop and Road Construction
I had a much better lunch at the 2nd-floor dining hall, and then decided to explore. I have not yet found a map of Chengdu, so I am turned around and have no idea which direction is which. I walked toward a commercial area, past some street construction (all of Chengdu is under construction, in China’s great push to modernize), and past many run-down single-family shops, open to the street with no doors or windows, where the storekeepers sat in the soggy heat, fanning themselves. I saw a welder operating without eye protection, and I covered my face as I passed, sparks flying everywhere. I had no luck locating a bookstore or anyplace that sold a map, but I did buy two bunches of plastic hangers. I learned one new thing: if you ask the price and someone holds up one finger, it actually means ten yuan, not one. It’s happened to me twice. I am quickly discovering the value of writing and pantomime. I’m keeping track of how many Chinese characters I can recognize in signs, for example “center,” “horse,” “moon,” “person,” etc.
Two-Level Traffic Circle near campus. Notice that no one wears bicycle helmets here.
My clothing was now soaking wet, as it is whenever I go outside, so I headed home, walking back through campus and visiting my friendly local store for laundry detergent and candy. I debated whether to buy moisturizer, but decided I didn’t need it because, as everyone here says, “the humidity is good for your skin.”
I took a nap, did laundry, and skipped dinner, not wanting to brave the heat and wetness again. I ate some organic goji berries, which I’d bought at Wild Oats in Tucson. I finished reading “South of the Clouds,” Seth Faison’s memoir of his years as a journalist in China, and went to sleep. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.