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Journeys to the 17th floor

I’m going to start this post in true British style with the weather. Although it’s definitely getting colder outside, indoor temperatures are kept almost too warm, which I wouldn’t mind so much if my teachers also didn’t mind facing a class of sleepy students. This also means that when I enter my room, I’m enveloped in lovely warmth, but could also be the reason I’ve been feeling constantly sleepy recently…. However, the indoor heating is controlled by some higher power, we have no control over it. It just magically came on itself about 3 weeks ago, and I just hope it’s switched off again at an appropriate time when warmer temperatures make a reappearance  otherwise I’ll have to be a bad citizen and turn my air conditioning on at the same time.

I kind of haven’t been writing about the everyday things that happen to me here, which is what I had originally wanted to do, regardless of whether it makes for interesting reading. So I decided (today), I was going to come home from class, not be so hypercritical about what I want to include/exclude, and just write the way I talk.  For those people who know me well, they will probably have just taken that last sentence as a cue to stop reading.
(We learnt the word 挑剔 tiaoti today in class, with the textbook definition given as ‘hypercritical’. My excellent Chinese dictionary app – Pleco, for all you interested people out there – translated it much simpler as picky/fussy, but I much preferred to use the word hypercritical, because.)

So, last week (or maybe it was 2 weeks ago), I had a slightly unfortunate incident with the lift. As some of you may know, I live on the 17th floor of a block of flats, and the lift journey is one of the most annoying things about a journey anywhere. God only knows how the minds of those lifts work… I’ve learnt that I have to leave 10 minutes earlier than the actual time it takes to walk to uni to get to class on time. This particular day, I was scheduled to arrive to class on time. But no, the lift would not let it be. The lift suddenly dropped a way, and then jerked to a stop, somewhere between floors 5 and 7. Thankfully I was on my way to an 8am class, so I was not alone in the lift. A middle-aged couple, an older woman, and a man taking his young daughter to school all made very Chinese exclamations of surprise: aiyaa, aiyoo, oo (No guys, it’s actually not ching chang chong), and said father hit the emergency call button (which I didn’t expect to actually be working in these lifts) and shouted 电梯坏了!dianti huai le! The lift is broken! Also unexpectedly, there was someone at the other end to answer! In the wait that followed, while my mind was occupied with thoughts of how long it would take for us to get out, what an excellent (real) excuse I would have for turning up late to class, and thinking that the lift was probably going to drop the rest of the way down any second, the little girl was being quizzed on English words by her father (I’m certain it was because I was there…) and then being told the story of The Hunchback of Notre Dame! About 15 minutes later, someone started trying to prise open the doors from the top, and then going down a floor (we were hanging between two floors), to push them open from the bottom, and we all then had to jump out of the gap onto the floor below. After this, I decided it was not at all worth waiting for the next lift to come down and headed for the stairs, followed by some of the others. Unfortunately, I was not asked why I arrived late to class…

Having said that, lift journeys are actually the source of much amusement. Once, as I was casually making my way down, a young boy got in with his grandmother, and as soon as he saw me inside, mischievously started shouting 外国人外国人! waiguoren waiguoren! Foreigner foreigner! and then hiding behind his grandmother, occasionally peeking out at me and giggling. Sometimes it’s fun to scare them a little more by saying something to them in Chinese… In a park in Shanghai, a little boy pulled away from his grandmother to walk closer behind us, commenting that he’d found foreigners and staring at us. When we turned to him and said “come on, we’re not foreigners…”, I’m sure he jumped a bit, before running back to his grandmother. He then built up courage to come back to stare at us, and asked us where we were from, to which his response was: Why??!
We didn’t really know how to make sense of that, let alone how to answer…

I plan on writing some stuff about various food-related things tomorrow so stay tuned!

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About Ibtehaal

I graduated with a degree in Chinese and Economics, which involved spending a year studying Chinese in Beijing. This turned out to be the hardest but most rewarding thing I think I have ever done. I've now returned to China for another year, to study in Shanghai and figure out my next steps.

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