I was so tired in class today. It wasn’t so much that I didn’t have any energy – more like I had never had any energy, ever. I sat in class and, as much as I wanted to return to my bed, dreaded the thought of the three flights of stairs I had to descend, the 100 meters I had to walk, and the three flights of stairs I had to ascend in order to get there. The very idea exhausted me.
It might have been the heat. The classroom was alright, but outside was oppressively hot and muggy in that special way that only Xiamen (and, I suppose, particularly warm saunas) can be. I could feel my internal heat trying to escape from my body, only to find out that outside was even worse and return to me. In this way, the several inches around my skin seemed even hotter than ambient air, occupied as it was with these comings and goings.
I managed to get myself back to my room, where I collapsed on my bed and slept for four hours. It was magnificent.
The only thing that could get me to go back outside was our dinner plans. We went to a restaurant serving food from China’s northwestern Xinjiang province, which has the distinction of being my favorite place in China that I’ve never been to. If you ever eat their food, it will be yours, too! Yerkin, our Kazakh buddy, was our guide through dinner. Their food is apparently quite similar, which makes me even more determined to go visit him after we all go home. Basically, each dish is some combination of meat, bread, and onions, occasionally with other veggies thrown in for color, often doused in flavorful sauce. We started with a huge plate of chicken and onions in sauce, then had a huge plate of meat and bread and onions, then a huge plate of meat and bread and veggies in sauce. Then a basket of bread, some bread stuffed with meat, and some other bread stuffed with other meat. Amazing.
The staff at the restaurant are mostly Uighur, one of China’s ethnic minorities, and with some of them Yerkin’s Russian was actually of more use than our Mandarin. Our waitress was a super cute young woman who said everything in the singsongy voice that we all used when we were just starting to learn Chinese. There was a note of accomplishment in her voice each time she said something, as if “Shay-shay!” was an amazing triumph instead of the word for “thank you”. But, you know, when you’re just starting to learn this language, it is an amazing triumph, so I guess she wasn’t that far off at all.
Despite Diederik’s constant fretting, we made it back to campus in plenty of time to stake out the best spots in del Mar for the football match. The game started at 10, Netherlands vs. Brazil in the quarterfinals. I watched Brazil’s first goal but by halftime was feeling so tired and weak (see first paragraph) that I had to go home. This, unfortunately, meant I missed the second half – the fall of the Brazilian Empire, basically – in which one of their players scored an own goal and Wesley Sneijder, that lovable Dutch striker who stands shorter than me, scored on a header. (Seriously, though, I do really like Sneijder. He was the third player whose name I learned, he’s both good and good-looking, and he’s Catholic!)
I saw the final score online but by that time I was already in bed. I watched the new Karate Kid as I went to bed. I thought it was pretty good but had a little bit of a hard time believing the aggressive young Chinese boys. If Chinese kids are anything like the guys I see in their 20’s, there’s no way on earth that a gang of them would have confronted a young foreign boy for talking to a girl.
Also, I’m getting a little tired of the “China is so green” idea. Jackie Chan shows Jaden Smith how the Chinese only heat water when they want to take a shower, slipping a comment in there about how “this saves the planet”. That’s fine, but can we acknowledge two things? First of all, 80% of the time complimenting China on how “green” it is, is like complimenting starving African children on how thin they are. It’s not what they want, and they would change it in a heartbeat if they could. Wow, isn’t that amazing how everyone takes public transportation? Look how small their homes are, how high they’re stacked! In fact, ‘as the living standards of Chinese have improved’ (which must be, by the way, one of the most-written sentences in the Chinese language), these “green” habits are going out the window.
Secondly, I have a hard time drooling over the low carbon footprint of the average Chinese because I can feel wasted energy seeping through cracks and gushing through open doors. Yeah, I think it’s probably a good idea to just air condition the classrooms and leave the hallways open to the outside – but if you’re planning on leaving the classroom door open, then any benefit is totally negated. I like walking down a street and shopping, being able to buy things without having to go inside, but while the blasts of cold air may feel good physically, I actually feel sick when they hit my skin.
It’s everywhere here. Small restaurants are usually fairly good about keeping their cool air inside, and I guard the seals of my dorm like Gestapo, but everyone else seems to think they can combat global warming by air-conditioning the world. Man, the Laws of Thermodynamics are a bitch, aren’t they? I think the more energy wasted, the higher class or more expensive an establishment is; it’s gotten to the point that I know when we’re walking by they jewelry store on Zhongshan Lu just by the piercing 16°C air that billows around me. (This store, as with many others, has no doors at all.)
I hate it so much. In America, I go around opening doors for people. In China, I wait for them to go through and then I close the doors behind them.