Tuesday, September 20, 2011

I'm Lovin' It

Feeling awake and energetic, I walk in. I see the familiar row of treadmills alongside the nearest wall, half of which are broken. Behind the treadmills is a row of elliptical bikes. Situated far from the wall, the bikes are not plugged in, rendering all but the ones with mechanical resistance unsuitable for use. In the back, there is a rack with some free weights, some are in kilograms, others are in pounds. I see an older man doing push-ups on a lift machine that was certainly not created for such a purpose. I turn my head and see a young woman running on a treadmill. Her outfit of choice is a t-shirt and jean shorts. Outdated metal lights protrude out from the ceiling, reminding me of my elementary school cafeteria. Next to them are white, motionless three-winged fans, that everyday get browner and browner from rust. Several red banners hang from the moldy ceiling. On them are big white letters that say “Grand Opening”.  In the States, such signs would have been taken down long ago, but I can only figure that the manager wants his facility to prominently display English so as to create a Western feel. That, or he doesn’t know what grand opening means.

Such is the gym on our campus. It is by no means the nicest place in town but, being a one-minute walk from my dorm, it is terribly convenient. I’ve learned to look past the sweaty benches and machines (the gym is void of any sanitation wipes or towels), the countless broken cardio machines, the poor ventilation, the small selection of free weights, and the questionably dressed gym goers. In fact, I enjoy the scene. I love the random 60-year-old man in corduroys doing pull-up after pull-up, putting any young kid to shame. And the dude who takes off his sandals so that he can run on the treadmill in socks. And the athletically built grad student who squirms so much during each squat that I consider going to grab him some toilet paper.  The place has personality. And for the small price of 300 kuai (about $47.50) for a four-month membership, I can’t really find a reason to complain. And besides, it’s nice to know that if I ever want to try working out in a polo, I have a place to go. 

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In China, when someone sneezes, you don’t have to say, “bless you” or wish that person good health or anything. I like that.

We’re leaving for a field study trip this weekend. Along with Hong Kong and Guangzhou, one of our stops is Macau, which is considered the Vegas of China. The other day, I wrote, “What happens in Macau stays in Macau” on a piece of paper and handed it to Jiang. He couldn’t come up with a good translation. I suppose the Chinese don’t approach life with the same reckless abandon.

Dog with shoes.

In New York, I get annoyed when people on the street shove flyers and promotions in my face. In Shanghai, I embrace these people. Their advertisements serve as prime study materials.

This afternoon, I rode the train to work with my friends Ari and Kehoe (we all work at the same company but in different departments). The train wasn't too crowded, so we found seats and began working on our Chinese homework due the next day. Soon enough, other passengers noticed what we were doing and started eagerly looking over our shoulders. It wasn't long before the three of us each had our own personal tutor guiding us through our worksheets. When we arrived at our stop, we exited the train with big smiles, all of our homework nearly complete.

Sign above glass case says "Letting them turtle"
"Eating the world wide delicious food"

I noticed that my roommate Jiang is pretty good at pronouncing short English words but seems to be less comfortable with longer ones. Accordingly, I figured out a method to help him. Hearing him struggle with a word like appreciate, I’ll quickly write down on a piece of paper “she ate”. He’ll try again. This time: perfect.

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