At 9:00 yesterday morning, I had two very welcomed visitors. Repairmen to bring me a new toilet. My old toilet has been broken for 3 months, continually leaking water. I felt guilty everyday listening to the hissing of running water. At the same time, I am helpless; I am not a plumber and the plumber who came to fix the toilet in the first month simply said, “Mei banfa” which means “There’s nothing I can do.” So, I have been waiting for the funds to go through from the school before I could get a new toilet. Finally, the funds must have gone through, and the two repairmen who showed up took about one or so hours to install the toilet. As they left, they told me, “it flushes hard” and “don’t use the toilet until tomorrow morning.” I listened to their advice; I didn’t use it yesterday. I flushed it hard this morning, and would you know….the new toilet has the same problem as the old one. It is continually flushing a little bit of water. I opened up the tank to find that after one flush, the flusher is stuck. I kind of feeling like crying this morning, but I guess I’ll just blog.
After the toilet men left yesterday, I headed out to do some errands. On the walk, I saw two memorable things. First, a dilapidated chicken was lying on the grass. Surrounding the chicken swarmed a group of other chickens. It seemed they were tending to the sickly chicken. But as I got closer, I saw they were pecking at him. It was disgusting so I told the gate-keeper. He looked over and with a cigarette in his mouth muttered, “It’s not our chicken; it’s fine.” At that moment, the man’s wife comes out of their apartment to invite me to dinner. I have already lost my appetite for a good day or so.
I walked out the gate and what else should I see, but an old arm chair up in flames. About 3 or 4 people were standing around the chair watching it burn. “Kao Huo” the store-owner said to me with a big smile. Kao huo refers to the small coal burning pit that Hunan people use to warm themselves. The actual translation of “kao huo” means “to warm ones’ self by the sitting close to the fire.” I guess this was one cheap and practical way to stay warm for half an hour or so.
On my way back from errands, I stopped to buy some sprite for my sick team-mate. I was sporting some mittens that a class of students had given me as a Christmas present. The store-owner, (the one who perpetually gives me advice and comments on my appearance) told me that my mittens were very romantic. In response to his comment, I closely examined my mittens to try and see what could possibly be considered romantic about them. These mittens are grey with small black polka-dots on them. They have fur trimming and on the fur, a big stuffed plaid bow. If these are romantic, then I am a poor student of romance.
China seemed very strange and foreign to me yesterday. I understand, and yet I don’t. I am compassionate to a point and then sometimes one word or strange look from a stranger pushes me over the edge. I don’t want to judge, but the noise pollution from hissing water everyday and fireworks every morning at 4 or 5 has done something to my sense of fairness. My reality feels arbitrary, annoying, and completely out of my control. I feel a bit like the dilapidated chicken, with the stresses of living in another country pecking away slowly at my exterior shell of competency and adaptability.