My Room

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I shared a room at the foreign students‘ dormitory with Takabatake-san, a Japanese student who was a couple of years older than I and didn’t speak any Chinese or English at first. It took months until we could communicate on more than a basic level in Chinese. He had brought his guitar from Japan and let me play until I bought a Chinese guitar for myself. I made a sketch of our room in my diary, later:

Note that we had heating in our room! An absolute luxury, as Shanghai is South of the Changjiang (Yangzi) river, and therefore „Southern China“, and traditionally there was NO HEATING South of the river.

The tiny round thingy is my thermos can. Hot water, or kaishui, is available everywhere in China, all the time. There was a large boiler on each floor where we could fill up the two liter thermos provided to each student, to make tea.

There were common showers and bathrooms on every floor. Chinese porcelain hole-in-the-ground sitting toilets that often got clogged. A pity it never occurred to me to take a picture! There was a laundry lady on the ground floor of the dorm where you could get your clothes washed and dried for a few cents a piece. But the laundry and drying process was definitely not optimized for „delicate textiles“, and so most of us decided to hand-wash our clothes ourselves lest they would be ruined in a short time.

An Anecdote

Many years later, in 2002, I backpack-traveled with my husband in China for four weeks. As we traveled „the rough way“, with only one backpack each I decreed: „Let’s only pack underwear for a couple of days, and buy inexpensive underwear when we arrive. We can give it up when we leave.“ And so we did. At a Beijing street market each of us bought about ten pairs of hand-sewn cotton briefs in comfortable sizes but truly strange colors for next to no money. But, quite unexpectedly, these beasts lasted forever! We actually kept and used them for several years, caught between embarrassment about their color and qualms of binning perfectly fine underwear, before we finally decided to retire them in a clothes recycling container.

So, this is what our room looked like:

Note the mosquito net over the bed. Basically, during summer you had the choice between suffocation under the mosquito net or being eaten alive by mosquitos. You can also see my red thermos and the water filter on the shelf. The tap water had a hideous smell and tasted terrible.

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