Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Discovery 100

My discovery for the day was that a 100 yuan bill can survive a washing machine wash. This is good to know since I'd already spent  100 yuan having it fixed by two repairmen. I called one; he came; I put money in my chest pocket in preparation for payment; he pulled the machine apart; said it needed a controlling unit replaced; said that would cost 370 yuan plus; I called my landlord; was told to get a second opinion; the second one come; he turned the knob and it immediately worked. I believe the first one's dismantling incidentally fixed whatever problem it had. I had to pay both a 50 yuan door-service fee, something the landlord thought was high. So after a huge delay I washed my clothes, impulsively throwing in the shirt off my back, and today, ironing, I found my 100 yuan wrinkled but intact. They have paper money here so I'll take it as miracle.
But more significant a discovery was that my stamina is up to classroom teaching again. I did have a good day at the school with three near perfectly executed lessons in a four hour period. I enjoyed two of them immensely: one was a complete creation of my own and it fell into place perfectly on "the opening night". (I'll perform the same lesson two more times later this week.) Taking a lesson for the first time is a little scary and I did all three lessons for the first time today. The rest of the week will be easier now that I have a feel for those three which make up 50% of the rest of my lessons for the week. Every week should follow this rough pattern: Intense preparation on Sunday and Monday before teaching the first lessons for the first time on Monday and then having time to breath throughout the week.
The shrill whistle of the human traffic conductors is my alarm clock in the morning. The traffic, as chaotic as it is, can organise itself more or less with the subtle direction of the traffic lights. Pedestrians at major intersections, however, cannot manage themselves. (And I say this without any hint of irony.) Hwwwwweeeeeeeeeer! the whistle sonically torpedoes wayward walkers should they drift across the road without the green man as they usually do. They generally halt their steps in the face of the uniformed challenge. Four sunglassed conductors are required to hold the people-mass from seeping across the road. Of course, soon as they signal the non-cars to proceed across, the cyclists are unleashed rocketing like missiles through the churning intermesh of flesh and feet, often carrying twenty full water cooler bottles on the back of their bikes. At some time the conductors retire, the river banks are breached and chaos floods the streets once more until the evening falls and the conductors return to shoulder the burden of Sisyphus again.
People mountain; people sea. The population here, of course, can only boggle the mind of a Kiwi. The population density is double that of the densest part of Auckland, except maintained over an urban area three times greater. In my eleventh story room there is a telling view. Though I have great views from two of my windows, from two other windows I can get a scale of this large apartment building where I live: it is mostly occupied, a huge number of rooms; and it looks over a mass of old crowded buildings, all packed to the literal rafters; and in the not-so-distant distance, there are more apartment buildings, most of them labyrinthine, floor upon jaded floor, of identical floor plans, and doorways leading to rooms of the same or thereabout dimensions, accommodating a family with two parents and one point one rather overgrown children, who are usually in their mid-twenties. On an early Sunday morning I woke up and headed to the markets. Within my walk of barely five hundred metres, I passed close to five hundred people, all going somewhere on this beautiful Sunday morning. There is nowhere I can go apart from my apart-ment that I can part from the hustle-bustle of the neverending fanfare of life here.

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