While I was staying at the university’s dormitory, I ate mostly packaged chips or LEM. I think I went to LEM about four times. The second time I went there I thought I’d take a risk and order something other than the Student Meal, so I ordered a hamburger meal (big mac clone), with a student meal as a backup. The beef in the hamburger was hideous, but I ate it anyway because I was so hungry, and I knew I had the delicious taste of old deep-fried chicken to chase it down. The one thing that LEM does better than KFC and McDonald’s is drinks – KFC and McDonald’s use the standard soft drink syrup, which is mixed with soda in their big drink machines. The mixing of these drinks is almost never done correctly, resulting in drinks that are either far too sweet, or far too bitter. Also, I’ve found that the drinks from these places, in addition to the standard mixing flaws, have a slight taste of dirt. I think this is due to the Chinese water supply being … less than pure. LEM circumnavigates this problem by pouring store-bought bottled soft drinks into their machines, ensuring consistency and flavour.
On Sunday of the second week, Yvonne had organised that her friends, her and myself would have lunch together, wander about, then play badminton. We went to a Japanese restaurant for lunch. The food was so-so, I’m not a big fan of raw meat/fish, and I wasn’t that hungry to begin with. One of the “highlights” of the meal was (raw?) octopi marinated in some red stuff. Another was raw horse meat. I ate both which, as you’ll find out later, turned out to be quite a bad idea.
After lunch we wandered about for some time. We walked through various malls, which I don’t remember. Malls do not deserve my attention, unless they sell electronics. After the malls we went to play badminton. The gym in which we played was on the fourth floor of a nondescript building somewhere in Shanghai. We had to wait for about half an hour for other people to be told to get off the courts before we could start. One of Yvonne’s friends and myself were the best, when it was he and I vs. whoever else, victory (for us) was swift. After a short time it was decided that we weren’t allowed to play on the same side, because it was unfair. We had a lot of fun, and played for about two hours.
Some interesting notes about the gym: it was on the fourth floor – all gyms are on the ground floor in New Zealand. People smoked inside the gym! They’d play their game, then retire to the sidelines and light up.
We then returned to our respective homes.
Monday’s class was OK, afterward I returned to my room and played Battle for Wesnoth. It snowed quite heavily, and at about 9 PM I went for a short walk to take some photos. About an hour after I returned I began to feel very sick. My stomach felt like it was filled with acid (funny because it actually is filled with acid, permanently… can’t think of a better way to describe it though), and I felt like vomiting. I tried to fix myself with oranges, but they only made me more uncomfortable. Shortly after the oranges, I threw up. I was sick for about three days. I didn’t go to class on Tuesday, but I forced myself to go to all the others.
During my Thursday class, my irritation with my electronic dictionary reached critical mass. I decided it was time to find one that was actually helpful, instead of what I had at the time, which was a dictionary designed for Chinese people learning English. I thought it would be good, forcing me to learn more Chinese, but actually (some would say dur dur dur here) it was less than helpful. Those weren’t the main reasons, however. When reading Chinese I often come across words I have not seen before, or words whose meanings escape me. In these cases I do not know the PÄ«nyÄ«n, and therefore can’t look up the words in my dictionary, which is limited to pÄ«nyÄ«n only look-ups. This is frustrating, and meant that I would just skip over the offending word, instead of learning its meaning and pronunciation. I was feeling a little better (or so I thought), so after class I texted Yvonne to ask if she’d like to go for lunch then accompany me to Tech-Heaven so we could find a dictionary that allowed one to input the character directly (via a touch-screen interface). Some organisation later, we met at the subway, then went for lunch with one of her friends. I was given the honor of choosing what to eat, due to my uncomfortable stomach and slippery bowels. I chose pizza, because the thought of eating anything “soupy” made me think of toilets and waterfalls (brown waterfalls). So, we ate at “Papa John’s” pizzaria, which was so-so. Domino’s NZ is better, and about the same price if you’re a student.
After lunch we said goodbye to Yvonne’s friend, and headed towards Tech-Heaven. We stopped at the first store in from the entrance, and asked them about dictionaries into which one could write Chinese. They showed us some examples, and demonstrated the functionality. I was impressed, but wanted to look around, to make sure I knew what was on offer. I was hoping I’d be able to find a dictionary with some sort of scheduling functionality built-in, as this is all I really use my PDA for, and I’d rather carry around two devices (cellphone, PDA or cellphone, dictionary) than three. As we were turning to leave the stall I spied exactly what I wanted, the Besta TV-3000 aka The Dictionary of the Gods. It allows Chinese handwriting input (among many other input options), has some scheduling functionality – limited to class schedule, but that is all I really need, and various other bells and whistles. It was quite expensive (not telling), but worth it. Now, when I come across new words, I actually want to look them up, and remembering them is easier, as in order to look them up I have to write them at least once. Oh, it also has an option to test one’s pronunciation, and will show (and allow opportunity to practice) the stroke order of any character. It also shoots lightning bolts, and cures cancer.
I couldn’t find a photo of the dictionary – it was released only a few days before I bought it, and only one device was produced. I doubt the news of its production will hit the internet until I am old and grey, which I won’t ever be, because the dictionary contains within it the secret to eternal life, and a cure for AIDS.
I also wanted to have a look for a cheap cellphone (was going to get a nice one, but the dictionary dramatically reduced the available budget), but my stomach alerted me to the fact that unless a toilet was reached soon, I’d be wishing I’d brought a spare pair of pants.
We rushed to the nearest toilet, and Yvonne stood around while I popped in and out. When I thought it was safe, I announced that we should take the subway back to my room. Half-way to the subway station, my stomach gave me another warning. I paid heed, and returned to the toilet. After I came out, we decided to buy some “stopped” pills, because without them I didn’t think I’d be able to last the entire subway trip. I had taken some previously, to get through class, and to give my body enough time to absorb the liquids I had been drinking, but I had decided earlier in the day that I’d try to stay off them, as I don’t think it is healthy to keep taking things like that. This was a dire situation though, so we bought more. I took the pills and we waited for about half an hour to be sure no more explosions would occur. The subway home was blessedly uneventful.