Thursday, July 05, 2007

The last 2 days

Apologies to my future self (and anyone who happens to care whether I update or not) for my delinquency. You know how it is when lots of smaller significant things happen and you don't want to write about all of it because you think you might be sitting in front of the computer a long time and somehow cheapening the actual experience with poor diction. I might as well mention a few things though. I don't know when people start showing up here to start using the computer, so we'll see how far I get.

So that "last thoughts" entry didn't work out at all, for the obvious reason that I didn't want to spend my last day in Baotou sitting in our sweltering apartment just blogging about it. Would you believe that I wasn't packing up until the last minute this time around? That isn't to say that things weren't hectic though or borderline dramatic even. The greatest obstacle, and a number of people have noticed my rants about this, was the disappearance of running water from my life. I've been doing anticipatory loads of laundry for weeks, and was systematically storing everything in my suitcases as I went. The weather got wet and chilly just before Chen's visit, causing me to break out a few heavier articles, but things were going more or less efficiently. Until Monday. I got up at 6:30 to put an early end to all the laundry business, and managed to wash the vast majority of everything, but then spent the rest of the morning at the children's home. I was back and ready to dig in again at about 3 in the afternoon, at which point I managed to dampen what remained of my dirty clothes with just enough water for things to be really difficult before never having water again. Ting shui isn't the rarest occurrence around there, and often will just result when one of the upstairs households uses the shower or something. Typically if they actually just shut the water off, it's back within hours at the most. So I spent pretty much the rest of the day going back and forth, checking the status of the shower, and subsequently cursing the heavens above.

No water has a lot of other consequences too. Water is an integral component in the operation of flush toilets. To wash your hands, you traditionally need water. And really, just forget about showering and all the other trappings of personal hygiene. For a while, the toilet situation was workable. Just hold it for a few hours as water trickles into the tank, and complete one satisfying flush cycle before hoping that you won't have to pee again anytime soon. Then, for post-potty handwashing, take advantage of the tiny 5-second jet that spews out of the faucet (also once every couple hours) and remove residual suds with baby wipes. And that worked fine for a while, and I still sustained the hope that our water would, at some point, return.

Packing went smoothly enough, though I did get very gross and dusty in the process. Even as my luggage filled, it seemed there was still plenty of just plain crap sitting around EVERYWHERE.

But I went off to Alice's house for dinner with her family, and when we all came back, there was still no water. Flushing became hit-or-miss. Around 11, we took our toothbrushes and biked back over to her apartment so that we could at least wash up a bit before bed. Her mom said that if water didn't come back the next morning that I could finish my laundry there.

Got up early the next day, came comfortably close to being finished, then called up Alice's dad about borrowing their machine only to discover that they no longer had water either. In fact, most of Baotou reported that there was no water. Well, most as in everyone Alice and I talked to. As the day went on, lower floors got water back... The fruit guy had his usual bucket of water on the sidewalk... other signs like that... but for us on the 5th floor, well... the toilet had quit flushing altogether. The situation still hadn't resolved itself by the time I left, and all I could really do was apologize for not having been able to do the dishes or clear the toilet of its... contents.

I hadn't showered in two days, which while bearable, was undesirable in the Baotou heat/dust.

As for the laundry, it wasn't clean and it wasn't dry. So that all went into random plastic bags to be dealt with here. The problem was that my Cornell sweatshirt actually managed to bleed all over my other things while they were sitting in the washing machine (it bled like a wounded animal), so... that was a nice discovery.

But anyway, I was at a stopping point at about 3... maybe earlier, and was pretty much just this bundle of nervous energy. You know like when you can't stop moving at all and nothing can calm you down. I was extremely aware of the heat and stuffiness, and also of the toilet being the way it was. So, in my final hours, I took my book and my ipod and went out for a stroll.

I got through a few pages of Lolita then had to stop. I couldn't really calm myself down. It had started after lunch time-- I had lunch with Dave at a Muslim noodle shop, as kind of a book-end to our first solo meal back in February-- and on the way back just got to thinking about being home and about being in Beijing, and doing something new at last. It got my blood circulating and I went off like a runaway train. But more like a sentient runaway train that suddenly realizes that it has no track. So I closed my book and began walking. The idea was to go to the fruit stand, but the fruit guy was across the street. As an alternative, I started walking towards the training center. It seemed like a place I should visit "one last time." The campus was really pleasant and quiet. Still on kind of an internal rampage though.

On my way back, YJ was back on his side of the street. So we talked until Alice came home and I had to get back to crunch time.

I already miss him a lot. You really don't expect in this day and age to meet someone that you can never see or communicate with again. But that's what happened in this case. There is absolutely no practical way for us to keep in touch at all, and slim is an optimistic way of describing our chances of ever running into each other again. I dunno, I have really strong yuanfen with some people sometimes, so I guess we'll see. But it's all just very sad and poignant.

There was actually some drama on Monday night that I'm not going to get into here, but it's a really... interesting story.

Getting to Beijing was another thing entirely, and I'll have to talk about it separately. I need to go check out my phone options. Trying to decide if I should just recharge my Baotou number or just forget it and replace it with a Beijing sim.

I'm ok though, if a bit itchy, and I showered twice last night!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Thoughts on this, the day I leave Baotou for good

A few things:

Mostly they concern the past couple days.
... Actually, what is there even to say?

I've really enjoyed my last couple weeks in Baotou. It made me feel really good to know that some of my students will remember me for a long time. The last lesson I had was pretty much effortless, just speed dating. I still jive better with the first years than the second years, and we had a pretty good time (from my point of view) before adjourning for pictures. It was really chill, and I appreciated that. Chen came by last weekend, which was pretty exciting. Additionally, he helped me out in my two rowdiest classes, so things were more controlled than usual. I did get to see all of my favorite students a last time, which rules. I may have had specifics, but toootally forgot.

I attempted a batch of brownies on Saturday, with a few slight modifications. I don't know if it was the measurements or the oven, but well... some would say that I failed in my endeavor. Be that as it may, a cold pan of half-baked brownies has really come in handy every now and then since then. What is that like? Well, the majority of the center is definitely still liquid. But that can be cool.

The children's home has seemed pretty empty for a week or so, since Xin Cheng was put into foster care and a lot of the other babies I knew went hither and yon.

Ok. Sooo. Wound up not finishing this after all. More later I guess!