>I was walking with a girl on the backstreet. We passed a tall building and standing near it a man yelled something at us. When we passed, I asked what he said.
“20 yuan for a room.”
That’s pretty cheap.
She blushed a little. What?
“It is for the couples.”
It took a minute or so to click. For the couples. It’s a love hotel. Or sex hotel, it’s the same thing, a place where a couple can rent a room and have sex. In America, that’d be pretty much any hotel. The main lobby also works well between the hours of 1 and 2 am. Or so I’ve heard.
But in America it’s not the practical necessity it is here. Let’s look at the picture. Students who live in dormitories have three or more roommates. And some students live with their family and possibly extended family. The guy who lives below me has a girlfriend. He also lives with his parents and three year old sister.
These hotels are very useful for student couples who wish to express their love. Just look at the setup. Undergraduate students are required to live in dormitories that have an 11 o’clock curfew. At 11:30, they cut the electricity. And they regularly have three to four roommates. What does this mean? Picking up someone and bringing them back to your dorm is out of the question. Go to the hotel. It’s only 20 yuan. Total privacy. Plus, you get free electric. I don’t know about HBO.
Is the above rule widely enforced? I don’t know. I know that some local students live at home, but ‘officially’, as in ‘housing payment’, they live ‘on campus’. Graduate students have the option of living off campus, and if you have been to these dormitories, you may understand why they’d choose it.
No air conditioning. No heat. The lack of AC might not pose much problem if you have an adequate number of fans going. The lack of heat is hard to cure by simply buying a heater, as according to students I’ve spoken with, a heater will short out the electricity.
Some people I’ve told this to are horrified. How do I feel? I could never do it, but the students seem to bear it pretty well. I’ve never heard them openly complaining about it. How do they bear it? They wear heavy clothes and wrap themselves in blankets.
It’s kind of useful to wear the same clothes inside and outside. Being the pampered Westerner, I get two devices that function as air conditioners and heaters. I am used to having a defense against the weather.
And a defense against mosquitos too.
Back in September, a student invited me to her apartment to have dinner. No heat. Just weak fans and while she cooked, there were plenty of mosquitos to keep me company. And conversely, for Spring Festival, I returned to someone’s hometown to find their home lacking heat and lacking insulation in a bitter winter, an air so cold that birds drop dead from hypothermia.
I wrapped myself in blankets and tried to tough it out.
I lasted two days. I ended up returning to her home for Spring Festival, but I could not bear it for too long. She could. So could other Chinese, who are used to these conditions. I just could not do it.
It is quite easy to take for granted many of the comforts we have in the West. Air conditioning, heat, insulation, clothes on our back, roofs over our heads, money in our pockets, these are things we come to expect. Anyone in college has these. Many in America do not.
Many more around the world don’t either. My perspective has changed. Last week, a friend and I went to her cousin’s apartment. We went down an alley and on the way there we saw a single room. A frail woman sleeping on a hammock, garbage piled up on the wall, clothes hanging from a loose wire. Concrete walls. No insulation.
Nothing but the bare essentials, if that. She earns money from collecting recyclables. I see people pawing through garbage all the time, the only way they can earn a living, and when I remember all the times I saw someone flaunt their $1000 cell phone or some other overpriced gizmo, I feel disgusted.
Sure, they might trade places with you, but you would never dare trade places with them. Nor would you trade places with a Chinese student. They don’t expect to get an ‘A’ by virtue of showing up and breathing.
They come to college, study, and bear what they cannot change. I admire their diligence.