Maria Holland

A Library Where You Can’t Touch The Books Is A Museum

In Uncategorized on March 11, 2010 at 1:22 am

Our Grammar class was the place to be today.  The results of the placement retest were posted yesterday, and we were flooded with former 二年上 students aspiring to 二年下 greatness.  One of the Dutch guys, Jelle, has joined us while another friend, a former classmate, has moved up to take their place in 三年上.  On a side note, apparently this friend cheated on the placement test.  It brings up memories of the cheating scandal that ‘rocked’ XiaDa last semester, but this is even more puzzling to me.  While I don’t condone cheating, I certainly understand the appeal of using illegitimate methods to improve your performance on tests.  I don’t, however, understand cheating on placement tests, which could falsely inflate your abilities and cause you to be placed in a class that’s beyond your abilities – thereby causing you to again resort to cheating?

We started a new lesson today and it is already causing me to struggle with my resolution to value all knowledge, and scorn nothing there is to be learned.  Our vocabulary list includes two different kinds of peonies.  Truth is, I’m not super clear on what a peony is.  In my world, there are roses, carnations, tulips, daisies, daffodils, and flowers

After class, we went to the malatang soup place for lunch.  If I may say so myself, it was a great idea.  Today was really cold (high 40s) but clear, so sitting outside in the sun eating hot soup was the perfect set-up for lunch. 

This afternoon, I took Aleid to the Xiamen library.  I brought my passport and was very excited to 办 my library card (which, by the way, I think is worth at least a dozen Actual Resident Points).  I had to fill out a form – surprise, surprise – and hand over a security deposit.  You get to choose the amount you pay, and then are authorized to check out books up to that value.  So basically it’s less of a library than a book store with a liberal return policy . . .

At any rate, I was soon the proud owner of a library card and went in to see which books I wanted from their random English section.  I chose a book about everyday design, a collection of travel writing, and Joy Luck Club (for an informed second read), and headed downstairs to check out.  But then I happened to see a sign by the stairs that said something about books from the second floor and not being able to check them out.  I called Aleid over and she got the same thing out of it, so I went to ask the woman at the information desk – sure that we were misreading it somehow, because the very idea was ridiculous. Unfortunately, though, I had accurately grasped the meaning of the sign.  Books on the second floor – including the entire English section – are not allowed to be checked out. 

Incredulous, I went downstairs to return my library card and reclaim my deposit.  The man at the desk, who had given me my library card a mere 20 minutes before, was slightly surprised when I told him the card was worthless because I couldn’t check out English books.  He disagreed and, in a desperate attempt to save face showed me some English books on the first floor that I could check out.  So, to be fair to the Xiamen library, I should say that they have a nice collection of Chinese-language learn-English books, as well as approximately four English volumes hidden in the Chinese language foreign-literature section (ask a librarian, because you have no chance in hell of finding these rare gems on your own).

Apparently the reason we can’t check out the second-floor books is because they’re too expensive.  Ironic, because I’m pretty sure 97% of those books are outdated battered hand-me-downs from former expats, but then again according to the law of supply and demand, English-language literature is worth its weight in gold to me right now.  At any rate, I just don’t see anyone reading a Tom Clancy novel or a thesis-level discussion of the culture of Chinese food in an afternoon, which means these books will never be read.  And if they can’t be read, then it’s less of a library than a museum.  

They apparently show free movies upstairs every week.  I wonder what the catch is . . . Are foreigners even allowed?  Maybe we just have to close our eyes?

One of Xiamen’s two 冰雪君后 (Dairy Queen) franchises is in the Cultural and Arts Center, so Aleid and I enjoyed a chilly treat on this chilly day.  We had a great view of the shoppers coming out of the RT Mart across the way, which provided us with ample entertainment.  Chinese people don’t seem super aware of standard shopping-cart use.  We saw two people pushing them backwards, one pushing theirs sideways, and a few strolling along with one hand on the cart dragging lazily off to their side.  There was also an epic pileup after about 20 customers abandoned their carts immediately in front of the escalator.  

When I got back to campus, Maja showed me the place on campus where we can play the piano – about 15-minutes away in the Arts College.  I must say, this is the first time since coming to XiaDa that I have found a facility that is better than its counterpart at TU.  The building is really large and includes about 60 practice rooms, each equipped with a piano.  (Mine actually had two, as well as an upright bass, but I’m assuming that was an aberration.)  The rooms were reasonably clean and among the warmest that I’ve been in here at XiaDa.  The process of getting a room was surprisingly – blessedly – simple; I handed over my student ID and the worker handed me a key.  They didn’t care that I was a foreigner, or a non-music-major, or that there is apparently a standing order in all local libraries to not lend books to me.  I will be going back :)

I finished the day with a visit to Lester in the hospital.  Our friend XuLei was there as well and after I recounted my troubles with the library and Entry Exit office, it kind of turned into a venting session.  It felt good to be honest with a Chinese friend about the frustrations we feel about our lives here, and to get some feedback from her.  As I suspected, speaking to department heads doesn’t happen really often and any letter we write may or may not be read.  She did suggest, though, speaking to some of the men that we dance with.  Many of them are teachers but as they’re from different departments, they aren’t personally involved and could give us advice on how to proceed with making suggestions.

  1. Your blog never fails to make me laugh…I love your wry and dry sense of humor. Keep your chin up…you’ll be back in a country that lets you borrow books pretty soon!

  2. You can and you MUST change these policies Maria! Make it your mission and keep us posted! You go girlie!!

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