28 September 2009

My Last Two Weekends



Just because I haven’t blogged about any events these past two weeks doesn’t mean that I haven’t done anything blog-worthy. No, I haven’t jumped from the highest bungee jumping tower in the world or anything (YET!), but I’ve done a few interesting/fun things:

The weekend before last started early, on a Thursday night. Even though we had class the next morning, Kathleen, Karim, Caitlin, Yonathan, and I finished our homework early and went back to Zapata’s, our favorite quasi-Mexican restaurant in SIP. We really just wanted some good food, but near the end of our meal, the owner came around to our table and asked us if we wanted to participate in a game of bar trivia that would be starting about 20 minutes later. We still had some time before our curfew, so we obliged and began to think of a winning team name.

Well, our name - “Beer and Skittles FTW” (it’s an inside joke) - came in second in that contest, and we actually placed third in the trivia competition - not bad for some first-timers, we thought! Question categories included food and drink, movie posters, sports movies, flags of the world, caricatures, and true or false. We vowed to brush up on our knowledge and return soon!

The next evening, we took a class trip to see the Suzhou Opera. It was short, but none of us (not even our Chinese teacher) could understand anything that was being said - it was all in Suzhou dialect. That being said, I liked it much better than the Beijing opera; the music was soothing and had a bit of a bluegrass feel, to put it in American terms.

After the show, we convinced our professor, Xu Laoshi, to come out to a hookah bar with us. It was a tad disappointing, because the place was out of the cheesecake and tiramisu that we had heard about online, but Kathleen and I passed the time there by making up our own board game with provided pieces. It was a chill evening, and for the rest of that weekend, we all slept, studied, and did little else.

That week passed with classes and few notable events. The next weekend, which is last weekend, was slightly more eventful, as we again started off the weekend on Thursday, celebrating Mexican Independence Day (September 16!) at a different SIP Mexican Restaurant, Casa Zoe, followed by a trip to our favorite, Cold Stone Creamery (yes, they have one here!!) We took another class trip Friday afternoon to the Suzhou City Wall: it was most enjoyable, as the walk through the surrounding park was peaceful and gorgeous and Xu Laoshi then led us in a rousing Chinese language game atop the ancient bricks. Yonathan, Karim, Caitlin, Andreina, and I tried out a new bar/club Friday night (FAIL) and then Caitlin, Karim, and I wandered the streets of Suzhou for SIX HOURS Sunday evening (WIN). Most exciting for me, though, was meeting Wil, the editor of More Suzhou, the website that we refer to for EVERYTHING in this town! Andreina, Caitlin, Karim, Kathleen, Cao Chi, and I had just gone to get some food on Sichuan Jie when a white guy casually strolled by and murmured “That smells good” about our cooking food - and voila! We struck up a conversation. I was in awe.

Last week passed relatively smoothly, as well, with a few events meriting blog entries. However, they will just have to come at a later time, as I have yet to complete tomorrow’s homework.

27 September 2009

Update

I just wanted to let everyone know that I’ve posted three (well, this makes four) new blogs after my unexplained 2-week absence and that I have not died or been detained or forgotten about my blog or anything. Rather, I have been out DOING more things rather than sitting here writing about them; in addition, my 8:30-class-everyday-schedule seems to have finally caught up with my nocturnal lifestyle, so I have been desperately trying to log more sleeping hours. I feel that I am caught up now in terms of rest, so while I am still not simply hanging out or chilling at my desk very often, I will respectfully try to catch you up on my recent (mis)adventures within the next day or two. Happy reading!

The Quest for Calcium - Introduction

I like to think of myself as a nutritionally aware person. Being vegetarian, I believe that I have to be extra-concerned so as to assure that I get necessary vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients and that I am eating a variety of foods of a variety of colors from a variety of food groups. Besides, I just LIKE nutrition - I am interested in it.

So, early in my journey to China this fall (but not before I left, thus leaving myself no time to mentally prepare), I remembered from last summer that Chinese people just don’t drink milk - at least, not the kind of milk that we Americans are used to. Barring studies on how we really shouldn’t drink milk and it is bad for us and yadda yadda yadda, I consume skim milk as a main source of calcium back home. Here, however, as I quickly realized, I could not do the same. I therefore set out on a mission: THE QUEST FOR CALCIUM.

Stay tuned for Episodes I-III!

26 September 2009

PLANS

China has a national holiday, the Mid-Autumn Festival, coming up this week. Because of huge celebrations happening all over the country, we receive a week off school - think Fall Break with Chinese characteristics. From October 1 through October, no one works or goes to class, and everyone eats moon cakes (LINK). Since last spring, when we learned of the event (but not exact dates), us Furman students have been eagerly anticipating a full week rather than a weekend available for us to travel.

To make a very, very long booking story short, Karim, Kathleen, Caitlin, and I will be traveling to Hong Kong and Macau for these eight days. We are flying into Shenzhen, China, on the evening of the 1st before taking a train or bus across the border and staying in a hostel in Hong Kong for the next six nights. During our stay, we plan to eat some unique cuisine, wander the streets, maybe shop a little, explore some nearby mountains, trails, and sights, and go into Macau for a few days to complete the HIGHEST BUNGEE JUMP IN THE WORLD and mix things up with a bit of Portuguese flavor. On the seventh night, we will travel back into Shenzhen with the help of our re-entry visa and spend the night there in order to catch our flight back to Shanghai the next morning. We should arrive back here in Suzhou around dinnertime to prepare for class the next morning.

I am so excited! Karim and I talked about this bungee jumping trip before we ever left the U.S. Now that we have our plane tickets, things are actually starting to seem real. I am just eager to get out of China (well, kind of) and see another part of the world. It should be a fun week with friends!

21 September 2009

Leader of the Pack? (Vroom-vroom)

I slept on and off until 2:00 yesterday, as I had stayed up late the night before watching Ratatouille after roaming late at night with Karim, Caitlin, Andreina, Cao Chi, and Kathleen. When I woke up, I was hungry, so I quickly got dressed and headed outside into the nice weather to hit up Snack Street for some Korean tofu (yum!) When I walked out of the dorm, though, I met up with Robert, Matthew, Geena, Allu, and Rajesh on their way back from lunch after church. Allu was letting Robert and Geena have a try on his friend’s e-bike. When they urged me to try it, too, I excitedly yet timidly accepted, because I had only ever even been on a scooter once or twice, let alone having driven it.

Allu sat behind me and told me what handles and levers controlled what, and we were off! I got the hang of going straight pretty quickly - in fact, I saw Caitlin and Karim on their way back to the dorms after I had only been driving for a few seconds, and Karim said that I looked like I knew what I was doing in that I wasn’t veering to one side or the other. I took a few left turns around the block, never going too quickly for fear of all of the other pedestrians and bikers, and ended up back where I’d begun.

This may not sound like a very exciting trip, but I definitely enjoyed it. I was also proud of myself - I hadn’t believed that I was capable of maneuvering the omnipresent e-bike - and I half-expected Allu to have to take the wheel (okay, so there was no wheel) halfway through - but I did it!

NOTE: I like the song that I reference in this blog title, but a true electronic bike does not make the vroom-vroom noise. Sad day.

10 September 2009

“Oh, I’m the Intern”

Well, today was my first day on the job.

I LOVED IT!

Instead of reporting to the Suzhou Daily office between 1:30 and 2, as we had decided yesterday, right after class, I received a call from Ms. Yang inviting us to an English interview this afternoon. (It’s a good thing that this was invitation was given over the phone; if it had been in person, I very likely would have awkwardly jumped into our boss’s arms.) Obviously, I accepted on mine and Stephanie’s behalf, so we met Ms. Yang outside the building at 12:30 and walked about 15 more minutes to a hotel, the interview site.

Our subject was a Finnish man of about 60 who has lived in Suzhou for almost 11 years and regularly reaches out to the community through volunteering and teaching English. He has become somewhat of a local celebrity through various tasks he has completed.

Today, Stephanie and I took notes as Ms. Yang translated for her colleague, who had a short interview with him; we then watched him participate in a judging panel of a skills contest at said hotel. Then, we went back to the office and, before proofreading a page of the Suzhou Review, WROTE A STORY ON HIM TO BE PUBLISHED ON PAGE TWO OF THE REVIEW ON MONDAY!!! Ahhhhh...I love my job! I’ll try to post the finalized story once it comes out.

Chinese Calligraphy and Painting


In addition to our three regular classes and our internship, we have the option of taking an extracurricular class during our time in China. While I was initially disappointed in the sparse selection (okay, so there was only one offered), now that I have been to two classes, I am so glad that I’m taking it!

Every Tuesday afternoon, we go to a middle-aged man’s house (at least, I would assume that it is his house) to learn traditional Chinese painting and character calligraphy. You know all of that Chinese art that you see on the streets and in the movies, with some ink and a lot of white space? That’s what we’re doing, in a nutshell. Our instructor is apparently quite famous, in Suzhou, at least. He speaks very little English, and his method of teaching consists of painting something for us to copy with the occasional stroke on our own paper. Yesterday, he actually took my hand and moved it along the path in which it needed to travel - that really doesn’t happen too much, so I must have been really screwing it up. Anyway, it took a while to get used to, but now, I like it.

At our first class, we jumped right into painting, recreating scenes of a stone, bamboo, and a mountain. Yesterday, we switched gears to calligraphy and wrote the characters for “big,” “under,” “horse,” “people,” “day,” and “white.” I assume that we will alternate weeks between painting and calligraphy. I prefer the painting, but I do think that his calligraphy looks really cool (just not mine - YET.)

I just want to say that the ink that we use smells SO...GOOD. It’s like incense or something! Oh, that might not make sense if you haven’t taken Chinese with Zhang Laoshi or traditional painting with this guy (I don’t know his name)...you do a little something like this:

1. Take brush out of the water in which it has been resting.
2. Swirl brush in the water on top of the block of black ink.
3. Squeeze out the extra moisture by pressing the brush on the side of a bowl or the ink...plod.
4. If painting, paint. If writing calligraphy, make sure that the brush is held upright with three fingers. Then calligraphate. Calligraph-fy? Mayhaps it is only “write calligraphy.” Thoughts?

So, that’s basically what we do for an hour and a half. It’s harder than it sounds.

Internship briefing!

Today, in my Chinese Society class, which is taught by Meng Laoshi, a. k. a. Harrison, who, incidentally, is also our Program Facilitator, Professor Meng talked a bit about the internships that he had been organizing for us. We had not been given very much information about them to date; Dr. Kaup had only asked our preferences back at Furman and vaguely mentioned them. Anyway, today, we got a finalized list of five choices, and we each chose our location. I, of course, chose to work as a proofreader and editor of the English section of the Suzhou Daily, the local newspaper. Little did I know that my internship there would actually begin today...

At the end of class, Harrison mentioned to Stephanie (the other FIC girl who will have the same position as I) and I very casually that we would go this afternoon to meet our editor. No big deal, right? Right, except that, sooner than expected, we were off to Shizi Street to meet our boss and discuss our job, which starts TOMORROW!

Basically, I know very little right now: our boss, Ms. Yang, speaks good English...sometimes. For instance, she could describe the newspaper very well, but when I asked her whether or not there was a dress code, she told me that I could help with interviews if English skills were needed. Hm...from what I can gather, Stephanie and I will go to work in the Suzhou Daily building (Free Spirits: it’s not USA Today, but it is rather classy) on Thursday afternoons for an hour or two. We will take turns each week either proofreading a page with local news in English or editing a different English page. Though the newspaper comes out daily, the special English section, which has grown in the past four years from one to four pages, comes out on Mondays. We are also allowed to contribute to the paper, for which we will be compensated, assuming that our writing is published. (The rest of our job is for no pay.) We will get our own ID pass to get into the building and then report to a cubicle on the second floor next to Mrs. Yuan’s and her assistant, Carrie’s, cubicles.

I am so freaking excited.

Stay tuned!

FUN FACT OF THE DAY

Props to Maddie Horrell for sending me the tie-dyed Collegetown Bagels shirt for my seventeenth birthday. (At least, I think it was seventeenth...) Today, my Chinese professor saw me wearing it and said that he had frequented that bagel shop during his time earning his doctorate at Cornell! Small world! (And awesome Zhang Laoshi) Peace, Love, and Bagels...

07 September 2009

“I Gotta Feeling...”

I don’t know about everyone else, but Friday night, I had some of the most fun that I’ve yet had on this trip.

Before the evening even began, a group of us watched a >$1 copy of “The Hangover” - hilarious! To everyone who had been telling me to see it all summer: thanks, and you were totally right! Yes, I’ll admit: I was a bit skeptical of its merits before watching, but it really was quite funny. I now understand a lot more of the jokes that people have been making

I hurriedly showered, changed, and got ready to go out with everyone. Fourteen of us (nine from FiC, two former Furman students-turned-Suzhou-profs, our Mexican friend from our hall, a random Swede living downstairs, and one of our Indian friends) went via various taxis to the Industrial Park (SIP) to see the laser/water show that we saw last year. It was no less amazing nor any less beautiful the second time! It reminds me of Burkowski’s Christmas lights in Vienna each year - water, fire, and lights squirt and burn and shine on and off over Jinju Lake to different songs for 30 minutes each Friday and Saturday night. If you ever come to Suzhou, check it out - just be careful not to sit too close, or you will get soaked (as we did)! I’ve included a 30-second video clip of it - it’s rather poor quality, and you can’t get the true experience by just watching it onscreen, but it’s a start.

In our haste to change gears from relaxing movie time to “hurry-up-and-get-to-the-show-on-time” time, many of us had neglected to eat dinner, so we opted for some faux-Mexican at Zapata’s, in a huge shopping center just beside the lake. Andreina and I ordered an appetizer plate of nachos to share, as we thought we weren’t that hungry: THEY WERE THE BEST NACHOS I HAVE EVER HAD IN MY LIFE. Man, they were good. All it was was beans, cheese, peppers, olives, and tomatoes on top with guacamole, sour cream, and salsa on the side, so even now, I’m not sure what was so good about them, but we absolutely dug into them to the point that we were scraping cheese off the plate after we had eaten every single crumb - and then, we ordered another plate! (They were pricey by Chinese standards, but still cheap for Americans.)

After our dinner, we split up into two groups, one of which returned to our dorms, and one of which decided to check out a popular disco in the area called Club Scarlet. (Guess which one I was in!) I had hoped that there would be a bigger group to go dancing, but the six of us who went - Yonathan, Allu, Geena, Staci, Andreina, and I - had a good time, anyway! At least, I did: when we first got there, it seemed loud and crowded (well, it WAS loud and crowded), but once I got used to that and could appreciate the classy decor and fun atmosphere, I realized that there was live music going on. First a girl and then a guy were singing and moving from platform to platform about the club. After that, the club put on a mix of American songs, including, but not limited to: “Low,” “Right Round,” “I Know You Want Me,” AND “COUNTRY ROADS” - the techno version! It was at this point that I jumped up onto the platform and rocked out myself. (Unbeknownst to me, Geena caught this on video - I will post this in a later, once she uploads it for me.) Alas, after one last song - the Black Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling” - it was time to leave. Sweaty, thirsty, smoky, partially deaf, and exhausted, we quickly hailed taxis and headed back to SuDa to make our curfew.
video

05 September 2009

Navigating the Laundry Room

The day that I arrived in Suzhou, I was aching to do laundry. I don’t particularly enjoy the act; however, I DO really enjoy feeling clean and smelling nice...or at least having people willing to stand next to me because I am wearing clothes that are at least relatively odor- and stain-free.

This was easier said than done. Remember that I am in China...naturally, all of the buttons are in Chinese. After an initial attempt to do it myself, which failed, and then asking for help from a woman next door who apparently speaks no Chinese, my roommate, Andreina’s roommate, who is one of my roommate’s good friends, and I all went down together. This was very helpful in that they could, for example, translate and tell me what the buttons said and how much detergent the chart on my bag told me to use. However, neither of them had used a washing machine before, which just made for an interesting mix.

After some time and lots of questions from all of us, we each found an empty washer and put in our garments. Forty-five minutes later, when the cycle was supposed to be over, we found that mine had, in fact, never started...never fear! Just press some more buttons and try again. At least, that’s my strategy, and it seems to be theirs, as well.

Somehow, the other FiC participants seem to think that I am the laundry authority because my clothes “smell good” after coming out of the washer, and theirs apparently do not. Maybe I just put in too much detergent.

India

My knowledge of India, of all places (yes, India - not China or Japan or the United States or anywhere else seemingly logical) has increased tenfold on this trip. It is not because our national tour suddenly veered far West or because I have been doing independent research in the library whenever we don’t have class. It IS because I, along with many of the others in our Fall in China group, have met and befriended many SuDa fourth-year male medical students who are from India.

When Robert, Geena, Staci, and I were leaving church last weekend, a man named George came and introduced himself to us because he was also an American who has had to navigate SuDa. (We introduced ourselves during the service, and he sought us out.) He had ridden his bike to the building and thus would be returning on it, but he kindly directed us to the shuttle, which had a drop-off point near one part of the massive SuDa campus. So that we would surely know our stop, he also took the time to find other English-speaking SuDa students on board. We sat in front of them and chatted for the 15-minute or so ride. We found out a little bit about them and their studies, and then we walked along the same route to our respective dorms for a few minutes. When it was time to part, they invited us to eat lunch with them in the “mess hall.” We were hungry and eager to explore new options, so we of course assented!

This mess hall, which serves all Indian food, all the time, is now probably my favorite meal option. The meals are nearly always exclusively vegetarian, always DELICIOUS, and I can get more food than I can eat for 11 yuan - less than two dollars. Plus, it seems that every time we go, our friends are there, who introduce us to their friends and their friends’ friends...so we now have a network of Indian buddies. Last night, one of them invited a group of us to go out with him to a show, which turned into a show, dinner, and a disco, and the night turned out to be some of the most fun that I’ve had in China!

In addition to expanding our network and having great food, I’ve also had some meaningful conversations with some of the guys. We have talked about everything from school to 9/11 to country comparisons to family to tradition to China. I definitely have learned a lot from them, and they seem to be interested in our customs, too. Their English is sometimes a bit quick or garbled, but I’ve become used to it (with the help of Karim. haha) They’re really nice guys, and I’ll be forever indebted to their exposure of me to daal, roti, gobi, nan, samba, and more (all foods, of course!)

Church: A Gateway to the Suzhou Expat Community

I went to church last Sunday with Geena, Staci, and Robert. I had initially been looking to get the experience of Christianity in China. To my disappointment, I found out that it was actually an international church - and Chinese citizens were not allowed to go, per local government regulations. I’ve asked around, and I now believe that it has to do with funding. Still, my roommate was interested in coming with us, but she couldn’t, and once we got into the service, it didn’t even feel as if we were in China. I’m not sure whether I like that or not. It’s not that the service itself was not good - everybody was nice, welcoming, and international; there was a lot of music; everything was in English - but I’m just not sure where to direct my frustration now.

[For those of you who may have questions regarding China and religion, I can give you my very limited understanding: China is often deemed a “Communist” country because it has a system of one-party rule, and this party is currently (and has been since 1949) the Chinese Communist Party. The official religion of the party is Atheism, so government officials and all hopefuls may not practice religion of any kind - at least, not legally. However, there are five religions that are recognized by the government, and as long as said recognition is granted, believers are allowed to practice in peace with I think relatively few restrictions. You want to know the five religions? I knew that you would ask...I believe that they are Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Daoism...and I can’t remember the last one. They’re major religions, anyway.

In addition, China is 92% Han nationality and also home to 55 recognized minorities. The qualifications for approval of a minority group include a unique culture, which often includes dialect, dress, religion...so traditional religions are practiced, as well.]

So, this visit to the international church opened my eyes to what I’d been hearing is a fairly sizable expat community in the city of Suzhou. More on that is surely to come...

01 September 2009

Shanghai Tour


Our time in Shanghai was originally short, as less than 24 hours were allocated for our stay in the city. It was made shorter, however, due to both a plane delay and then rain on the evening of our arrival.

Nevertheless, we found ways to make the best of our time. From the airport, we immediately went to the Oriental Pearl TV Tower, which is the highest building the Shanghai and I believe the third-highest in the world. One of the observation decks a few hundred feet up has a glass platform surrounding it on which you can walk and view everything below; of course I took advantage of this and walked around the entire circular deck on the clear glass.

It was after this visit that the rain started, so we went back to the hotel. I think that everyone in our group took advantage of the next couple of free hours before dinner as nap time; at this point, the last day of our ten-day tour, we were all dragging, and many (not myself, thankfully) were feeling somewhat under-the-weather.

We woke up, had dinner, and then embarked on a short riverboat cruise down the Huangpu (Yellow River), which led to Shanghai’s main port. I so wished that there had been music; it reminded me simultaneously of the eighth-grade and Free Spirit D. C. cruises on the Potomac.

That night, Andreina, Geena, and I decided that we wanted to go out. (Originally, more people had agreed, but due to a variety of reasons, it ended up just being the three of us.) We wandered around outside the hotel, eventually ending up at our proposed destination, East Nanjing Road. The street reminded me of Times Square: it seemed to become even more lively at night; it was big, bright, multicultural, and cosmopolitan. The three of us strolled down it, stopping in a store here and there and eventually finding a bar where we partook in beer and fries (don’t worry; there’s no drinking age in China) before heading back in a taxi in order to make Zhang Laoshi’s hotel curfew. The next morning, we departed for Suzhou.

Yan’an Tour

We entitled our Yan’an tour “Communism Day” because we visited many former residences and meeting rooms of Communist revolutionaries from the 1940s. I sat in Mao Zedong’s chair in his old residence! After viewing those places, which were in town, we traveled out of our way to see a very rural village, which turned out to be a perfect example of communism at work: basically, the government gave some farming land to a community of people. The people who worked more received more; everyone was comparatively poor but relatively equal.

FUN FACT: Zhang Laoshi was very excited to see a lot of the sites - I’m not sure whether or not he had been to them before. Incidentally, his camera battery was also dead. Well, one thing led to another, and I ended up being his photographer and thus now have about five pictures of Zhang Laoshi posing in front of various buildings on my computer.

That night, we had a traditional hotpot dinner. Hotpot, huoguo, is basically just that - a pot of boiling, seasoned liquid into which you put, well, whatever you want, really. Typically, there is a lot of meat, so I actually had a completely separate hotpot (yes, I initially felt bad, but I wouldn’t have had much to eat otherwise!) into which only went noodles, vegetables, and tofu. Um, can you say delicious!? It was double-sided; one side was seasoned with vegetables, and the other with pepper and spiciness. Guess which one I preferred!

Anyway, the trips to and from Yan’an were supposedly four hours but were, in all reality, around seven. This was not fun, as you might imagine: our bus was very hot, and we did this trip two days in a row. We did everything from talk to sleep to play camp games, and it still was just plain two days of driving, more or less. HOWEVER, I got some sweet souvenirs from a Communist paraphernalia shop and we ate lunch at a revolving restaurant, so the trip was almost worth it.

Xi'an tour

Our days in Xi'an were divided. Upon our arrival via plane on Sunday afternoon and learning some brief history in the airport, we immediately went to the Xi'an City Wall. Robert and I rented a bicycle built for two and had great fun riding the perimeter until we had to turn back (check out the video at the end of this entry for a fun glimpse at our ride - we later saw the sign that said "The Prohibition Of Riding A Bike Downhill." Whoops!) That night, we had a dumpling "fist" (a feast...with poor pronunciation) that was DELICIOUS. There was a wide variety of vegetarian food, which was very welcome, and the dumplings came in so many different shapes, sizes, and flavors that it was very exciting. Some of us took another walk that night and found dancing again; however, instead of line dance, it was more of a freestyle, circle, partner dance. Nearly all of us girls, including myself, got asked to dance by at least one Chinese man, and we gladly obliged while the boys kept a close watch from an elevated platform nearby.

The next day, we went to the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, which was very near our hotel and whose courtyard had been the site of the dancing the night before. We climbed all the way to the top - I believe that there were seven stories. We then journeyed an hour or so away from town to view the Terracotta Warriors.


In a word, they were absolutely stunning: the sheer NUMBER of soldier statues found underground simply to honor an emperor was breathtaking (upwards of 7 or 8 THOUSAND), let alone the degree to which they had been preserved, paint and all. We visited different pits that showed different levels of excavation, from fragments to reconstructed with everything in between. This day trip was one that I had been most looking forward to from the beginning of our tour, and it did not disappoint.

We then took a day to go to Yan'an (see other entry) before returning to Xi'an on Wednesday for one last day consisting of a trip to the Qian Tomb, the Famen Temple (China's first Buddhist temple), and the Muslim quarters of the city, which are known for housing the Great Mosque, one of the largest mosques in China. We got on another plane Thursday morning.

video

Soochow Daxue de Sushe

First of all, let me preface this entry by saying that I am living in the Overseas Student Dorm; I’m fairly certain that my accommodations, and thus, those of my roommate, are much nicer than what other Chinese students have here.

Some of you have been asking, though, for a more specific description of my dorm room. Well, you are in luck: not only am I going to tell you, but I will even SHOW you, now that I have my own computer up and running!

My bed is the one on the left. Our arrangement is, I would think, one of a typical dorm room anywhere, with a shared TV, refrigerator, and cabinet in the middle and our own possessions under our own bed - including our desk, complete with attached lamp, and wardrobe. This room has no closet, but it does have its own spacious bathroom...all of my clothes, shoes, and accessories for three months fit into the wardrobe with space to spare, anyway. Plus, my desk has plenty of storage, especially since it has a hutch with four shelves and a drawer on top.

There are wood floors in the dorm rooms and tile in the bathrooms. There is a nice, big window on the outside wall opposite the TV cabinet, which is on the bathroom wall. The window provides a view of part of the yard area outside as well as to other buildings in a quad of international dorms.

My biggest (and probably only) complaint is the mattress: I don’t know that anyone in China actually has a comfy bed, for that matter, as I complained about the hotel beds, as well: they seem to just sleep on wood, a pad so thin that it may as well not be there, and a sheet, with a heavy, cushion-y comforter going to waste as a blanket rather than padding underneath. I would simply sleep on top of said comforter if I didn’t have a complex about going to sleep without a blanket. Also, I’m sure that I will need it in the winter.
Which reminds me: the dorm is nicely air-conditioned with personal units in each room; however, lately, we’ve often just been opening the window, as Suzhou has been unseasonably cool.