Monday, July 4, 2011

The Waiting Game

The last of my University obligations was dispensed of this past Thursday when I assisted in judging the English competition. My grades have been turned in weeks ago and the students are leaving the campus as they complete their various finals. English Corner and Teacher seminars have been suspended till the fall. The joy of discovery (and telling you about) Chengdu has long been savored and relegated to memory and print.

Internet connection is tenuous nowadays. I don’t know if it is because of the Great Firewall of China or because the school is dialing back its bandwidth needs for the summer months, but sometimes even getting my email and writing back is an exercise in patience and frustration. Chatting on Skype is impossible; Skype won’t connect anymore. Reading the news online is now a thing of the past; however I do have that brand new TV with (oh, the irony!) internet connection so that I can watch CCTV-News, the English news channel. That is, I can watch TV or even try my patience with the Internet if the power has not dropped out, as it has 4 times in the last 2 days.

The truth is, I am ready to jet out of here. Not out of China necessarily, but out of Wuhan and out of this apartment where housekeeping and combating mold is a full time job. Away from this campus where it takes nearly an hour to get to anywhere significant, and then having to battle crowds of people for a few moments of awe and wonder. And there is not much awe and wonder left in Wuhan for me, having already discovered most of the sights and sounds. It feels like everything is revisited. But then, I could just be whining again. Surely there are still things to see and do around here.

The irony is that I cannot leave Wuhan. I can’t even buy my plane ticket to the States. The regional government is still processing my paperwork for my next year’s stay and there is no estimated time of return for my documents. I am in limbo. I have no passport and no officially accepted identification in my possession. Both are currently in some bureaucrat’s hands. I can’t even go vagabonding around China without a passport.

I’m stuck like Chuck.

I have days upon days yawning ahead of me to contemplate some sort of activity and then ultimately rejecting that proposal because of all the aggravation involved with performing any activity outside of campus. Each morning I wake up wondering what the day will bring, only to realize that this day is bringing me what yesterday brought: nothing new. Nothing to pursue. Nothing to do. Makes you wonder why I even bother getting out of bed, right?

Makes me wonder too, but not for long. I refuse to slip down that slope I went down during winter break, and I let myself get so far down in the dumps that I could not bring myself to shower or eat. Every day I get out of bed and read the news and my treasured emails if I can access them. Every day I eat my modest breakfast in front of the television and then exercise. I want to stay in shape. Beyond that…

Retail therapy is out of the question. Money has once again become a concern because, by the time I am able to buy my plane ticket it will be peak traveling season and plane tickets will cost much more than during off-season. Although I will be reimbursed for my plane tickets, and I get an allowance for my summer travel from the University, that won’t happen till the back end of summer – I think. Sam was rather vague in explaining how that all works, but my contract outlines both of those factors. In the meantime, I feel like I should be prepared to disburse all necessary funds. Besides, there is nothing I need to buy right now anyway. No, I need to save my money for my traveling adventures. So, shopping is out. That’s OK, I’ve never been much of a shopper anyway.

What do I do with myself every day, you wonder?

Well, I’ve painted my toenails and fingernails. I could never grow strong, beautiful fingernails while in the States but somehow that is not a problem here. So, I watch movies and do my nails. For once, my hands and feet are pretty.

When the power drops out I take my trusty laptop and head out to the coffeehouse. More than ever I am compelled to write. Although what to write about is sometimes still a mystery, especially when it comes to this blog, being as I’m not doing anything remarkable these days. Still, I have things I want to tell you about. So I go and write. That is a very good thing. I also take a book with me. In case the words stop flowing from my painted fingertips, I can input more words into my head by reading. That is also a good thing.

I plan scrumptious meals for myself. And then I cook them and eat them. With my little grill it is a snap. I’ve stumbled on a way to grill chicken that involves olive oil and spices; add a nice salad and maybe a baked potato, and then find a good movie… and voila! My evening is taken care of.

One upside to being stuck here is that I do not need to wonder what to do about my food supply. I had planned to stay here until July 10 anyway, when, according to the calendar the school year ends. I went to Metro and bought accordingly. When Sam told me my teaching obligations would end mid-June I scrambled and fretted about what to do with all the food in my freezer. I had to think of recipients for it because the power would be turned off to the dorm building while no one is living in it. Now that is not a worry. I should have just enough food to last me until time to go.

I play video games. Strangely enough, while email and news websites are sluggish, playing video games online presents no problem whatsoever. There is not frozen screen, no blocked access and no pop up message telling me the server can’t be found. Big Fish Games has become my new diversion; I can play hundreds of games for free. And I do. When I can’t access the internet for whatever reason, I get out the Scrabble board and challenge myself to a game of Scrabble. I always win.

Somehow I keep busy all day but I live for the anticipation of that phone call from Sam that tells me my paperwork is ready. I’ve cleaned the mold growing on and in my luggage, and mentally reviewed what and how I’m going to pack and I’ve laid out my itinerary. I just can’t execute it, but I’m not focusing on that frustration.

Nor am I focusing on the frustration of knowing that, although Victor is staying in Wuhan through July his travel paperwork was completed and returned to him nearly a month ago. Why wasn’t mine done at the same time?

Nope, not going to think about that.

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