Reflections on a Wandering Life.....

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Sitting here at John's Cafe sipping a banana yoghurt smoothie. I have been staying in the dormitory at the Seman Binguan, which, along with John's Cafe, is located on the grounds of the old Russian consulate. It's hard to explain just what the dormitory style accommodation is like. I guess it's kinda like a cross between the sleeper car on the train, and a homeless shelter. The primary draw of a dormitory accommodation is the cost. I don't want to make hotels sound expensive--if you're coming from America, perhaps the rates would not seem high. But if you are living in China on a Chinese income, and trying to do China "on the cheap," the dormitory is definitely the best option. I have been paying 25 RMB (about three dollars) a night. For the amount of money I have spent, I could have gotten a very nice room over at the Barony. And stayed one night. By choosing the dormitory option, I have been able to spend the last two weeks in this pretty little desert oasis doing, well, pretty much nothing.

Actually, I do have my books with me, so I have been able to get quite a bit of reading done. I also have my dictionary and grammar book, so I have been studying Chinese (a little). In addition to this, I have been going through a series of lectures on the Book of Ephesians by Dr. Ferrell Griswold. Before I left Beijing, I downloaded enough lectures to last a couple weeks. The late Dr. Griswold was from Alabama, and he never said anything in a hurry, so his lectures generally run pretty close to an hour. My little mp3 player is only 128MB, but that is more than enough for a dozen or so one-hour lectures. If I had no music tracks, I could probably hold close to 20.

Getting back to the dormitory, I would say that in terms of cleanliness, I would generally rate dormitories pretty high. Most of the ones I have stayed at are kept pretty clean. But there is precious little privacy. For 25 kuai, I get a clean bed and a hot shower, but that's pretty much it. I guess you get what you pay for. People come and go quite a bit, but they are friendly and outgoing for the most part. The Korean kids who were here when I came; the slight little lady from Japan with the mammoth gargantuan backpack, who is traveling around the world, and dreams of someday starting a low cost retirement home somewhere in the world for Japanese people who cannot afford to retire in Japan (because there are too many old people, and not enough young people); the guy from LA who mused about becoming dehydrated in Kunming ("I wonder if it was all the alcohol?"); the young lady from Nottingham in England, who is doing her "Uni" in Beijing because of the low tuition cost; the young man and young lady, also from England, who ate something that made them sick (she, especially was laid low for a couple days--I gave her some expired antibiotics I had with me); The Swiss carpenter who had to move out of his brother's house when his brother got married; the young lady from Israel who just completed her compulsory military service, and is traveling around China with her two cousins (she also got hit with some sort of stomach ailment, but fought it off bravely); The gentleman from the West of Spain who is working with refugees in Africa; the Buddhist monk from Korea on his/her (not sure) way to Tibet; the American English teacher who rode a 125cc dirt bike across China, and is resting up for the return trip. They come from all over the world, moving through Central Asia to, well, all over the world.

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