Day 3

Seal School: Day 3

Thursday 3 November 2011

7:00 AM – I have breakfast in the dining hall. Breakfast is served from 7:00 to 8:30 every morning but, since the first class begins at 8:30, everyone arrives as early as possible and there is usually a long lline at the food counter.

8:30 AM – In class I continue to practice seal carving as I did the day before by transferring a photocopy onto a stone and then cutting it out. I end up with several finished seals by the end of class.

12:30 PM – I have lunch in the dining hall. Lunch is served from 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM so most days I leave class, go drop things off in my room, and come directly to the basement dining hall.

After lunch I go to the office to get a student ID card and a cafeteria card which I can put money on like a credit card. I also pay $7.13 for wifi access in my dorm room but, when the office staff follows me back to my room to install it, we find that they only have ethernet cable access. Since the iPad my friend in Portland had loaned me to access email and my iPhone are both wireless I won’t be able to connect to the internet from my room after all, so I’ll have to find somewhere else to get a wifi connection. The office staff seem annoyed that they now have to refund me the money. They recommend I go to the main bank office to make the large withdrawal necessary to pay for my tuition and dorm, and give me the address. Downstairs, directly inside the front door, is a window where someone sits with the purpose of taking money for the prepaid food cards. I never do figure out the hours for the window but today am able to put $15.84 on the card.

12:58 PM – I take a taxi to the Bank of China ($2.85 for 2.7 km). They tell me they are unable to handle the transaction, that I can no longer use my visa card, and that I will have to call my bank at home. Now I’m stuck with what money I have in my pocket and no way to get more.

1:30 PM – I take a taxi back to campus ($2.06 for 3.7 km). At the college office I explain my problem and, now in a panic, ask if I can borrow a computer to email my family back home. Sitting at someone’s desk, and with their help understanding the software, I send an email to my daughter, since she’s the most likely to see it, asking her to have my wife call the bank and get back to me as soon as possible. The college may be patient for a while, but obviously want to be paid. I decide to go back to the nearby bank branch where I’ve had good luck with the ATM and am able to withdraw as much as I am normally allowed from my credit card ($395.95). At least now I know I won’t have to beg on the streets of Hangzhou.

Soon after I got to China I received a text message on my phone letting me know the name of the local carrier, and that it would cost a small fortune per minute. I walk to China Mobile (as I was advised to) and they say it’s too expensive to get a sim card for my iPhone just for one month. I have a few other options I’m still looking at for local calls but this seems to be the case with most things here—you get a different story from everyone you ask and they send you to someone else who says they can’t do it but …

The Art Market
In the afternoon I use my maps and walk about a mile to the art market. I wandered around a bit since from the outside it’s hard to tell what’s inside the huge warehouse-like building. The front door is a wide open bay with scooters parked on the sidewalk. Walking in the front door all you see in the dim, bare lobby are stairs on each end that go upstairs. But, on the second floor, small shops line each side of several long hallways running through the building. Most are art supply shops with some that obviously specialize in brushes, others in paper, and so on. While exploring the shops I buy a seal cutting knife ($4.75), a ceramic seal ink container ($3.96), and two calligraphy brushes ($13.47). Randomly interspersed among the art shops are a few stationary stores and one or two sporting goods stores so I buy two dumbbells and a jump rope with the intention of working out each day in my room ($3.96). I walk up and down the hallways trying to look in each shop, making mental notes of those I want to return to later.

Dinner is served in the dining hall from 4:30 to 6:30 PM every week day (though I don’t always eat supper). Tonight I decide instead to try out the nearby Muslim restaurant that had been recommended to me. It’s only a few blocks north from campus on Nanshan Road. The menu above the counter in the small restaurant is all in Chinese so I ask the woman behind the counter what’s their best dish. She seems confused and I try to tell her I will take anything when someone sitting at a table behind me asks if I speak English. With his help I order a noodle dish ($2.37) and sit across the aisle from him at a small table and we chat a bit. The food is good, if a bit spicy for my tastes,  but when I get back to my room I have a mild bout of diarrhea—the only time I have any problem with food during my stay in China.

4:45 PM – I’ve had time to explore the college campus a bit and find the Lavazza Coffe shop (that’s the way they spell it). Since it says on the sign out front that they have wifi I go in to check my email on the iPad which a friend had loaned my for the trip and, because I’m sure they won’t like me coming in and not buying anything, I order some Longjing tea and a croissant ($5.54). Longjing, or Dragon Well, tea is supposed to be a specialty of the area around Hangzhou.

7:30 PM – I walk balk to the Carrefour department store to buy more essential supplies: napkins, paper towels, two cloth hand towels, kleenex (“handkerchief tissue”), a toothbrush, and a resealable plastic dish ($11.21).

In the evening I sit at my dorm room desk and write several pages in the journal I plan to keep but I quickly realize I don’t have enough hours in the day to write everything down longhand. I’m going to have to keep brief notes instead and hope I can fill in the details later.

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