This morning in class, we were told that there are no thermometers available for us right now. Supposedly we’ll get them on Monday, but we’ll see about that. It is certainly very interesting observing China’s reaction to the swine flu from inside. I don’t mind these precautions (at least not yet, although I’ve heard things are totally ridiculous in Beijing), but it bothers me that they are completely reactionary towards H1N1, instead of being precautionary measures against all sorts of health problems. A lot of the suggestions they’re making are logical and completely necessary, like not spitting on the ground and considering your health before going out in public, but because they’re so oriented towards swine flu, I fear that they won’t be continued once this danger has passed. I wish people (not just in China) would take a look at the underlying habits that contribute to the spread of diseases in general and work to change those, instead of going way overboard for a short period of time until the perceived threat is gone.
One of the least helpful pieces of advice that we were given was to “avoid places with a lot of people”. This is difficult to do in China. Chinese people say Xiamen is a small city, but if it were in America, it would be the 4th largest in the nation with a population of 2.5 million. Anyway, right now my university is welcoming the rest of students to campus, bringing the population of our small area up to 20,000+, so even going to school is dangerous.
I definitely ignored this advice today. In the evening, I headed out to find a large bookstore rumored to be up north of the train station. I took bus 809 there, along with approximately 1/3 of the population of the city; it was quite ridiculous. The bookstore is large and wonderful and would be very dangerous (i.e. expensive) for me if 99.9% of the material were entirely in a language that I can’t read. They also have several electronic stores, where I started looking at electronic dictionaries.
I’m definitely contemplating making this purchase, but it’s very hard for me to do so. Since coming, the only times I’ve spent more than 100 yuan in a go have been for moving in early, a key deposit, the health examination, my cell phone, and my textbooks (which should be refunded). These dictionaries, however, cost anywhere from 900 to 3,000 yuan. These prices actually compare to prices in the US, as opposed to things like food and public transportation.
I’ve been trying recently to change my thinking about spending money here in China. Mentally converting to dollars is a bad idea, as is converting to kuai once you return to America. This creates false judgments of value based on a situation other than the one you’re in. It seems much better to judge prices in comparison to other local goods and services. For instance, when I went to KTV with the UNC students, we paid 16 yuan (between $2 and $3) for the taxi ride. This seems like a great deal, compared to the price of taxi rides in America. But today I took a bus to the same place for for only 1 yuan, so the taxi doesn’t seem like such a bargain anymore. The taxi was over 15x more expensive! (Note: we did fit four students in each taxi, so the price per person was actually just 4 yuan, but it’s the only taxi price I knew.)
With that said, it will still almost kill me the first time I go out to a simple restaurant in America and am charged $15-$20 for my meal. I do think it’s a good thing to strive for, though.
The way home from this bookstore was an adventure. I was in legit downtown, which is as big, busy, noisy, and confusing on a Saturday night as any place I’ve been in America. It took me two buses to get home because it turns out that Zhong Shan Hospital is not on Zhong Shan Road, nor is it anywhere nearby. Oops.
I hadn’t eaten by the time I got back, so I went to the KFC/McDonald’s building for a snack that I’d been eyeing for a few days. Still don’t know what it is exactly, but it was pretty tasty – and only 3 kuai, because today is the building’s first birthday and everything was on sale. This celebration felt weird because earlier in the day, I had been reading articles about the anniversary of September 11th, which was also today. Eight years . . .