May 31, 2005

In the past week, I have:
– Broken my toe by tripping on my way down a steep flight of stairs. I take comfort in the fact that I did not actually fall down the stairs. It’s the little things that count.

– Spent over 24 hours on trains on a quick jaunt from Beijing to Shanghai, then Nanjing and back to Beijing, and discovered that overnight train tickets are quite easy to change if you miscalculate the amount of time it will take you to complete your business in Nanjing and have to extend your stay a couple days.

– Rode on the all co-ed car for my overnight train down to Shanghai, sandwiched between study tours from the University of Michigan at Flint and the University of Pittsburg. Drinking games on my right (20 is legal in China! Dinning car beer run!!) and angst on my left (sounded like a love triangle, but I’m not certain). Flash back to dorm life.

– Had a jammed door opened by a drunk locksmith (At my friend Caitrin’s place. And how do I know he was drunk? I submit the following evidence: 1. He introduced himself to me – he already knew Caitrin – three times 2. He kept pushing too hard on his tools while crouched in front of the doorknob and then falling over, all the while giggling hysterically 3. He propositioned Caitrin, me, and the 40-year-old (male) building superintendent 4. He said he was.)

– Sliced open my thumb rather catastrophically (or so it seemed by the amount of blood loss) at midnight (cutting up an apple) and was forced to attempt one-handed Creative First Aid with toilet paper and packing tape.

– Gotten my residence permit exchanged for a multiple re-entry visa (necessary now that I am contemplating heading out of China through Hong Kong and on to Taipei and Singapore when my grant ends in August. My return ticket is out of Shanghai, but I’m leaving my suitcase in Beijing, so I’ll have to race through these cities as well after the swing through Southeast Asia before heading back home. It’s all research related, and these are all destinations I visited for research sometime in the last year, but instead of sullenly thinking of how disorganized I am to require return visits, I’m calling the trip my East Asia Victory Lap.)

– Helped translate for two French tourists who wanted to extend their visitor visas, but spoke no Chinese and whose English the man at the Public Affairs Office couldn’t understand (though listening to him try was rather amusing), thus earning me bonus points with this same man, who therefore agreed to get my visa done a day early so I could get back to Beijing.

– Closed my blasted Bank of China account that I learned, too late, was only valid in Nanjing (my bank account was only accessible from Jiangsu Province. At the same time, my cell phone can only be recharged in Nanjing. Coincidence? Nope, try annoying little ways to control unauthorized migration).

– Got into a fight (no, no fists) with a librarian about what constitutes a ‘fragile’ book that should not be subjected to the stress of copying (I’m all for historical preservation and care of materials until it’s something I want to copy, and then I find myself in the ridiculous position of claiming that even if all the pages do fall out from damaging the book’s spine, they’re still there and readable, really.)

– Set off the security alarm at the library. Whoops. (No worries, I’ve done this the world over).

– Copied 700 pages of articles and book chapters on my dissertation, all in Chinese. Maybe I’ll have it all read by the time I’m 50. That will, incidentally, likely be right around when I’ll be ready to graduate.

– Caused a minor gas leak in my apartment, which resulted in the gas being shut off and led to a parade of helpful neighbors tramping in and out trying everything they could think of to adjust in my hot water heater and gas line to fix it, mostly in the realm of adjusting the water pressure, before we collectively decided that all we needed to do was hit the gas line’s reset button. Then it only took another 24 hours to find it.

– Discovered that the Natural History Museum in Beijing is NOT the home of the best dinosaurs in Beijing.

That was, in fact, merely a red herring. The good stuff is way over by the zoo in the bottom two floors of the Chinese Academy for Sciences subsection for the study of Ancient Animals. I literally ran into a large plastic dinosaur on the lawn on my walk from the National library to the subway. Being both uninjured and inordinately fond of dinosaurs, especially in unexpected places, this made my day. There was, I’d like to add, only one English sign in the entire museum. It read: “Roaming about, you will unconsciously savor the profound sense of the evolution in biology. Retrospecting, you will certainly be astonished by to comnipotent creativity of nature.” I suspect I’ll run back for more roaming and retrospecting before I leave Beijing.

As you can see, I’m managing to keep myself busy, and if not entirely out of trouble, at least out of jail. Only two weeks left in Beijing, then I’m on the move again as I head south for fun with Guangzhou (Canton) in the summertime. It’s not necessarily the single hottest city in China in the summer, but it is close. This is remarkably bad planning on my part, but such is life.

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