I live in relative luxury here in my foreign student “apartotel” accommodation. The building is structured like a hotel, and my room is also like a hotel room – a twin hotel room. Yes, one thing I had been dreading for a long time was the prospect of having to share a room. The first dorm that I was put in was the oldest, dirtiest, dingiest block imaginable, with one ancient bathroom shared by the entire corridor. My roommate was a chatty Serbian girl, who was fun, but we both changed dorms at the first opportunity.
Now we have moved to a newly-renovated block on the other side of campus, where we still share rooms but we have our own bathroom at least, and everything is shiny and new – we even have a flatscreen TV! My new roommate is an older Thai lady, and I am so glad for it. The worst scenario, as a friend of mine put it, would have been “some loud, obnoxious 18-year-old”. My quiet, mature roommate and I rub along just fine, and it is actually kind of nice in some ways to know there is always someone there.
Despite the shared room situation, it’s the Savoy compared to Chinese students’ digs. They have about four people to a room, going up to eight sometimes, and those rooms aren’t big. If they are lucky their bathroom will be in the same building as their bedrooms. Otherwise, it’s a few minutes’ walk to a public bathroom in another building. That’s why I’m always seeing students walking across campus in their pyjamas and flip-flops, with plastic baskets containing their toiletries, and wet hair. So I am grateful for my opulent living quarters, for our easy-to-access bathroom, and even for the cleaning lady who comes in every morning to “clean”. This basically involves changing the bins and swiping a broom then a mop over the floor in the most cursory fashion; but I’m still grateful, and say “谢谢” every time.
Plus my block is right next to the canteens, which is a big plus. Especially as people seem to eat surprisingly early here – dinner starts being served from about 4.30pm, and the other evening while we were eating at 7pm in the deserted canteen, they turned the lights out over our heads, plunging us into darkness. I must also remember not to visit the nearby student supermarket at about 8pm, as that is apparently when all the students do some post-shower shopping and the place is rammed with students in their jim jams, stuffing groceries into their shower baskets.
Above all I’m just grateful that, unlike last summer, I don’t have a curfew.