Sunday, May 10: I’d like to invite you to join me for a Sunday night cocktail hour in my laundry room. It’s a bit of a nondescript and narrow space, but I’ve been imagining it’s something nicer, and I’m hoping you can stretch your imagination as well. We’ll imagine we’re in an embassy house, sitting on a screened-in porch in a Mediterranean country somewhere, perhaps. That’s what I’ve been doing, ever since I read American Romantic by Ward Just.
I always wanted to be in the Foreign Service, but I failed the Foreign Service exam in 2007 and I never bothered to take it again. Never mind; it’s too late now. Their cut off for entering the Foreign Service is 59 1/2 and I’ve already passed that dubious benchmark.
I’m afraid I don’t have any hard liquor, but I do have some red wine that I bought from Wal-Mart. It was a good deal, 3 bottles for 99 yuan, or less than $16. Now you know that’s a really good deal for red wine, but of course you can’t expect the wine will be very good. That’s okay. We can imagine it is and we can sip on it and enjoy some nice conversation. I have three kinds: a Brise de France Cabernet Sauvignon, a Marques del Norte Rioja, and finally a Merlot Vin de France. Which would you prefer?
I can also offer you a Tsingtao beer, but I only have one and it’s a small one. Maybe next time we meet, you can tell me what you’d like, and I’ll make sure to have it around, and in larger quantities.
Today, in honor of your visit, I washed my prettiest sheets and hung them on the line to create a special atmosphere. See how much nicer I’ve made it look just for you?
The view through the windows isn’t very nice, as my laundry room looks out over a characterless courtyard behind a hotel. We can observe the laundry hanging from the hotel guest balconies. Maybe we can make up interesting stories about the owners’ lives by looking at their drying clothes.
I meant to buy a couple of houseplants to make it more homey, but now that it’s hot, I don’t imagine we’ll want to sit here for long. We might even have to go inside to the air-conditioning as it’s so hot and humid out in this laundry room, which is really an outdoor room, like a patio, but not.
If my laundry room were on the other side of my apartment, and if it were a balcony, like most of the other apartments in our building, we’d be overlooking a pond. Of course, if we were on the pond side, we’d have to talk VERY LOUDLY to be heard over the screech of the crickets and the gurgle-swallow-burp noise of the thousands of frogs.
I’m sorry that I only have one comfortable chair that I bought from Wal-Mart, the only place in town where you can buy some useful Western items. I’ll give you the comfortable chair, although when I actually have real people join me, I’m often quite selfish and give them the hard chair. The hard chairs are the only chairs provided for us at the university. I apologize for their hardness, their total lack of comfort, but these are the chairs the Chinese use. We better get used to it, I guess, if we’re going to be here in China.
Anyway, welcome to my humble abode and cheers! Clink! I’d love to hear about your week. Did you go anywhere interesting or do anything extraordinary? Did you do anything at all, even something mundane? Did you see any good TV shows, watch any movies, read any books? Did you hear any good music or possibly make a playlist you’d like to share? Did you have any deep conversations about how you always wanted to straighten your hair when you were younger? Or did you maybe talk with someone about the meaning of civilization? Did anyone reveal their deepest darkest secrets to you? Did you have an altercation with anyone? Did you have a romantic liaison?
I really want to hear about your week, but I’ll tell you a little something about mine first. I returned from Shanghai on Monday by noon after a fun but partly rainy weekend. On the plane, I finished the book I was reading, The Memory of Running, by Ron McLarty. I could relate to it as it was a kind of quest for the protagonist, Hook, to find meaning, and to find himself, after growing up with a crazy sister. I know about crazy. I grew up with it too. I don’t want to do crazy any more; and I’ll avoid it at all costs.
Upon finishing that, I immediately embarked on reading The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian. I’ll tell you more about it when I get further along.
I had to invigilate for midterm exams on Tuesday morning, which was deadly dull, as always. The Foreign Service it’s not! Then over the rest of the week, I marked 146 essays that were mostly poorly written by Chinese students who tend to say, “You should turn down the voice” (meaning turn down the sound of the music) or “You often listening the loud music late at night,” and “…so I often lose sleep and it let me can’t get up on time in the morning,” and “Is it convenient for you to stop the way of life?” Or they have to explain a not-so-complicated bar chart that they make ultra complicated in their analysis. I wished for someone to put me out of my misery, but no one came to my rescue. It’s okay. It’s over now, thank goodness.
I had dinner one night at a Korean restaurant and another night at the Red Sign Dumpling place which has suddenly gone upscale. They used to have metal chairs and uncomfortable tables with a bar across the space where your knees should go, and they used to have no air-conditioning. But they got new tables and cushioned chairs and they even have a brand spanking new air-conditioning unit! It was like heaven eating dumplings, mashed potatoes, pork wrapped in wonton skins, and chicken with vegetables there. Accompanied by a tall bottle of beer. It hasn’t always been so pleasant to eat there, although the food has always been good.
I walked 3 miles several times this week and did sit-ups and edited a lot of pictures and wrote a lot of blog posts in between marking my exams. As a matter of fact, I can only stand to do ten exams at a time and then I need an hour of another activity. Some of the hour-long filler activities included watching episodes of Homeland Season 3, Grey’s Anatomy Season 5, and the 21st episode of Scandal‘s Season 4, which just aired in the U.S. I even began watching the first episode of Madam Secretary, which seems pretty good. By the way, do you know that here in China we can watch any TV series we want for free on Youku?
It’s been very hot and humid here in Nanning, and I am inclined not to go outside unless I have to. At other times, we’ve had the sky let loose in torrents of rain. It’s not very pleasant, and I find myself counting the days until I go back home to Virginia.
I find myself quite depressed here lately. My income in China is very low, and it barely pays for the travels I’ve done. I was hoping to go somewhere on my way home from China, but that’s out. I want to take a CELTA course in Washington when I return home and I don’t want to work next semester, so I won’t have any more income coming in until I find another job in spring of 2016. This is the worst-paid job I’ve ever had, about half what I made in Korea and much less than half what I made in Oman. In both of those places, I also earned one month’s salary as a gratuity for completing my contract. I don’t get that here. Of course, Mike supports me and I have a home to return to, but by not having my own money, I forfeit my independence. I don’t like that.
But that’s not the real reason I’m depressed. I’m depressed because I don’t have a partner in crime here. There is no one I connect with here who is adventurous or fun-loving. In short, there is no Mario. It’s often a lonely existence, and that’s why I waste my time with a lot of ridiculous activities like watching all these TV series, something I have rarely done before. I usually am not a TV watcher at all.
I do have some friends here, but I find we have an unbalanced relationship. I am a very open person. Anyone who reads my blogs knows that. I’ll always tell anyone anything they want to know. I’m an open book. But I find it’s always me talking and never getting anything in return. I feel like the friends I have know everything about me, and I know almost nothing about them. They’re reticent, reserved, or unwilling to open up. These are not the kinds of relationships I like, and I find myself getting annoyed at the one-way nature of them.
I’m tired of people here who have never lived or worked anywhere else but China, and who have blinders on. Not knowing any better, they think China is the be all and end all of existence. It isn’t. I can guarantee you that.
It’s time for me to go home. I hope I’ll survive my loneliness and my deteriorating attitude for two more months.
As you can see, it hasn’t been a very exciting week for me here in Nanning. The most exciting thing in fact is this cocktail hour in my laundry room. Please come again. I promise I’ll give you the soft chair next time around. But only if you’ll stay awhile. And only if you’ll share a part of yourself.
This post was inspired by Robin’s Weekend Coffee Share over at Breezes at Dawn: If we were having coffee
Please, tell me something about your week in the comments. I’d love to start a conversation. 🙂