2004.03.06 Urumqi, China

Returned to Urumqi the day before yesterday. I've been busy since then moving in, enrolling at Xinjiang University, registering for courses, and adjusting my status. I've also been cleaning up the dorm and purchasing things I know I'll use over a longer stay: ironing board, silverware, dishes, et cetera. Shopping around has led to good opportunities to practice language. I'm sure I'll soon tire of the same "How long have you been in China?" sort of conversations, but it feels nice now to have occasions to let the langauge start sinking in.

The dorms at XU are a lot nicer than the ones I saw in Kashgar. While the cost is higher than I'd pay for an apartment off-campus, it's half of what student-housing in Kashgar charged. Rent is 25 RMB per day, about US $3.I don't have to share with anybody else. I have my own kitchen, and a bathroom with hot water. There's also a television and telephone, conveniences I hadn't expected. I think I have one of the better locations in the building as well. It's a third-floor corner unit, with south-facing windows and a balcony. After adjusting to student status I could move out, but haven't yet decided.

I've already submitted my enrollment application and registered for classes. I have a schedule split between Uighur and Chinese language, alternating between four and six hours of courses each day. The registration process was an experience. The woman helping me select courses spoke absolutely no English, and the list to choose from was in Chinese. I have much more sympathy for foreign students in the US now. Being unable to fully express yourself or understand the majority of what you read, especially when decisions made will have such an impact on future life, is uncomfortable.

At the end of the registration process one of the faculty who was nearby asked if I'd be willing to teach. I'm sure it was based on nothing other than being a foreigner. I declined as politely as I could. That's not what I'm here for, and would distract from my studies. I've heard that the going rate around town is 100 RMB per hour, which is excellent money for China. I suppose if I get hard up for cash I could do it somewhere between terms.

There's yet a lot of paperwork to be done. I still haven't paid tuition. I'll need to change money at the Bank of China to have enough for that: the ATM's in Xinjiang aren't connected to international networks. To change money, I'll need to get my passport back from the Public Security Bureau, where my tourist visa is receiving a second extension. There's also some extortionate medical exam I have to take before I can adjust to student status. Then it'll be back to the PSB to change to a student visa.

I'll need to find calligraphy tutors as well. Though I tried to articulate that desire during the registration process I don't believe my schedule actually includes any such course. I'm considering offering an exchange. Perhaps an artistic student who wants to practice English could give me regular instruction, if they'd see that as a fair trade. I am somewhat wary, as it seems that everybody in this country wants to learn English, and I do want to study under somebody with skill.