There is probably nothing which ruins a summer vacation more than rain. For some reason, we humans just don't like to be wet, especially wet while wearing clothing. So we do whatever we can to avoid being struck by those tiny drops of water. When I went to Beijing to teach a university course this summer, I was on my own, just me and a collapsible travel umbrella.
On Monday, there was a little rain as I was leaving the building where I have my class. I did not have my umbrella with me so I dashed across the parking lot to the student dining hall and had lunch with some students. "What? Chinese food again?" I quipped. By the time I'd finished eating, the rain had stopped so I took the opportunity to go over to the convenience store on the campus and buy my usual allotment of drinks and snacks, then went home to my off-campus hotel room as usual.
|The "Avenue of the Great Water" - on a sunny morning! The building on the left housed my classroom.|
Wednesday morning I awoke at 2:30 am because the rain on the windows was so loud. I could not get back to a deep sleep until just before my alarm went off. The rain was coming down strong but I knew I had to go to the class. I made it to the classroom with little problem, my clothes dry. It was just a 10 minute walk. When the class was done, however, the rain was very heavy. And I only had my collapsible travel umbrella.
|Chinese students carry colorful umbrellas, and neatly arrange them in the hallway to dry during class.|
After class, I paused on the front stoop of the building, under the cover, deciding what to do. When we canceled lunch, I decided to go to the Subway restaurant across the street from the campus. I had tried it before and it was more American than the Subways in the US. A footlong could be made to serve as two meals.
So I left the safety of the building and walked quickly across the parking lot, slanting the umbrella to meet the rain. I got to the gate of the campus and people were stopped there. The side of the avenue passing in front of the gate (the main street) was running with streams of water. The avenue sloped on both sides, for drainage (hah hah), so it was deeper there. People did not want to cross the street. I had to go, so I stepped into what I thought was only a couple inches of water. Instead, the water went over the tops of my shoes - like stepping into a deep puddle. Once I had committed that faux pas, I had to continue. I stepped gingerly across the avenue - trying to mind the traffic lights and the errant traffic dodging frantic umbrella-blind pedestrians! Walking all the way across the avenue the water was over my shoes! My steps made the water splash, too!
|Qianmen shopping district - the Friday at the end of a rainy week!|
As I entered my hotel room, I carefully stayed by the door and pried off my shoes and pulled off my dripping socks, then my pants which were soaked below the knees. I didn't want the dirty water of the streets to pollute my room. I cleaned myself up and sat to enjoy my lunch. I saved the second half of the sandwich for later. After a while, I took the hair dryer the hotel provided and spent an hour using it on my shoes.
Want some background music? I recommend this:
And that is my rainy day story. It got boring in my hotel room as the rain really came down hard the rest of the day. I read a book, I edited my book*, I took a nap, I watched TV (only in Chinese), and I ate the second half of the sandwich. I rationed the bottle of water (cannot drink water from the faucet here).
|At the original Beijing duck restaurant in Qianmen district, I take my Beijing duck seriously.|
I went out on Friday for a Beijing duck dinner and souvenirs. It was a lovely day of blue skies - not the yellow haze Beijing is notorious for. I got the duck but not any souvenirs. When I finished walking around and decided to go home, I still had to ride the subway, which meant going up and down stairs and walking through long passages. At least this time I did not go out the wrong exit and walk the wrong direction!
However, as I was on my very last allotment of footsteps, hot and sweaty and just trying to make it back to my hotel room and cool off, I knew I had no food or drinks in my room so I planned to push myself past the hotel and on to the 7-11 store around the corner.
|Discussing the weather with some learned gentlemen - after consuming massive amounts of duck.|
It was! So I stocked up as much as I could, then carried the bag and the two big water bottles (3 liter) back to the hotel. When I got close, I saw the lights were on inside the hotel. The automatic sliding door opened for me. It was cool inside! I went up to my room on the elevator, thankful that my hotel was not affected by the power outage. When I had left that morning, I saw men working on some power grid at the corner of the block (the power had been going off and on before then). With only an additional mile of walking, I could relax in my comfy room! But the power kept going off for 10 or 20 minutes at a time all through the evening.
Saturday morning the power went off at 4:30 am. I awoke because the noise of the bathroom fan I usually kept on no longer blocked other sounds. I heard my hotel neighbors talking (complaining?) and I got up to look outside. It was hard to tell whether the whole neighborhood was off or not at that hour, but the dawn was beginning. I was still sleepy and there was nothing else to do, so I went back to sleep. I awoke when the power came back on at 6:30 am, then returned to sleep - until the housekeeper knocked on my door at 9 am.
It was a terrible week! The last week of my summer vacation went perfectly, however, and all my students passed. I caught my flight home with less trouble than the previous year.
And here endeth my tale of woe; and I alone am returned to thee, to tell it.
*I call it EPIC FANTASY *WITH DRAGONS . . . because that's what it is!
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