Friday, February 24, 2012

Six Months in China

Sorry to everyone who has been actually reading my blog - I know I haven't posted in a long time. Something happened where my blog got hacked or something and all of the controls were in I couldn't really do anything because I didn't know which link actually said "new post".

Anyhow, here we are, into the second semester of teaching. I've officially been in China for six months. Sometimes it feels as though that time has flown by; other times, it feels like I've already been here for two years.

My blog is also no longer letting me upload pictures for reasons I don't understand. Probably how slow the internet is. I am very, very, very slowly uploading all of my pictures to Shutterfly and when I post about Russell being here, Harbin, and my trip with my parents, I'll include those links.

But right now, I have some other things to talk about. Mainly, how terrifying my building is to live in. Probably not what anyone wants to read about, but I need some sort of outlet to complain. Here we go.

First, we had a fire in December. Russell and I were on the train coming back from Beijing when it happened, so we got there after they put it out. During this time, they were doing a lot of demo on our street, to build what is quite possibly the ugliest wall ever. To do this, they took a bulldozer and rammed it into things until they fell down. This included structures that were attached to the apartment. Ram them until they break off. Instead of immediately removing the rubble surrounding our building, they just piled it up and left it. As this is China, people immediately saw the opportunity to use these piles of old bricks as dumpsters. They left all sorts of things in these piles - trash, old clothes, old appliances, big sheets of plastic. You name it, it was probably there. The men on our street also don't stomp out their cigarettes when they flick them on the ground. They just leave them there to smolder. What we think happened is that there was someone rummaging around in these piles, either to leave trash or to see if he could salvage something out of it, and he flicked his lit cigarette onto the pile. It ignited something, probably the clothes and towels, and it started a fire against our building. Emily, luckily, saw that there were flames against her window and got outside. They quickly found out that, though the school had supplied three fire extinguishers to our building, only one of them worked. The other two were expired. The Thai students (who are about 16 years old) had to stomp out the fire with blankets and their feet while the building monitors stood by and watched. (Note: the laziest person in the world award goes to these women. More on that later.)

During all of this, Mr. Dong had been informed. At no point during this fire did he or any of the THREE building monitors decide that it was a good idea to call the fire department. Afterward, when Lauren told him that we needed new fire extinguishers, he told her, "It was just an incident. It is over now."

Fast forward to now, February. The state of our building is this: still no fire extinguishers. Also, the "auntie" who monitors our building deadbolts us in at night.

This Sunday night, we had all of the electricity go out in our building around 11pm. Naturally, we were terrified, because it was ONLY our building. All the other buildings on the street still had electricity. When we found the building monitor who speaks English and told her she needed to do something about the situation, she informed us that the school had forgotten to pay the electricity bill and it wouldn't be fixed until the next morning. Oh, and did I mention that the breaker box was sending out sparks during this whole conversation? She apparently thought this was completely normal and went back to bed.

We called Mr. Dong and told him what happened, but he said it wouldn't be fixed until the next morning. We told him that we would not be teaching the next morning, as we didn't feel comfortable going to sleep in a building with a breaker box that was shooting out sparks when we didn't have any fire extinguishers. After no response from him, we figured that he was okay with us missing our morning classes.

We were wrong, of course. We got to our meeting on Monday only to be mocked for being concerned about a potential fire and told that we would be counted as absent for our classes - even though he had told our teachers that he was counting it as a sick day for us. What that means is that, if he chooses, he can dock us pay for that class.

He then told us that there was "nothing unusual" about the situation and we shouldn't have been worried.

Right. Absolutely nothing unusual about the school forgetting to pay the electricity bill and a breaker box shooting out sparks. Completely safe.

Then, Thursday, there was some sort of festival. That, of course, meant that people were shooting off fireworks from roughly 7am all through the night, until about 1am. That wouldn't be a problem, except around 11pm, the fireworks were close enough that they started hitting our building. I heard things hitting my bedroom window and wall. I looked out the window to see fiery debris hitting my bedroom window. Add to this that there are tons of frayed electrical wires wrapped around the bars on my window.

We went up to get the auntie and the other building monitors to tell them that they should go outside and tell the men to stop shooting off fireworks so close to our building. They didn't. So we told them that we needed to get new fire extinguishers because it was terribly unsafe.

Their response?

I quote, "No, the school said we do not need fire extinguishers. It is okay. There are policemen around."

Yes. The police and firemen that you DO NOT CALL, EVEN WHEN THERE IS A FIRE.

I have spent pretty much every night this week staying up and watching movies until I'm so exhausted that I can't help but fall asleep. I'm to terrified to go to sleep any other way.

At least the real reason why the school hasn't given us new fire extinguishers over the past two months was finally revealed.

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