Day 10

1:23 P.M.

The day is crawling by slowly. I've been awake since 8 A.M. and have been doing the usual routine, with small variations. Yesterday I faced the embarrassing situation of being short on money after eating my meal at the usual restaurant. I was short 2 yuan (.26 USD) but still, it is embarrassing nonetheless. I managed to stutter out that I was short 2 yuan.

The waitress looked upon me with pity, either because of my poor Mandarin or because I did not have .26 cents on my person. She asked, and I understood, "Don't you have anymore money elsewhere?" I replied "In my dormit-" when I realized that I had paid my rent earlier and had no money there. Then I contemplated going to an ATM when I realized the ATMs were exhausted and tired of me. So I said "I have no money" and meant it. As I contemplated how many hours I'd have to wash dishes and what kind of chit chat a foreigner might make with a native dish washer, the manager arrived.

Great, I thought. Now I'll have to tell the manager that this idiot here (me) doesn't have .26 here, there, or anywhere he can get his hands on it.

Now that I glance past my Bible and Bhagavad-Gita with their telltale coats of dust, I realize that I did indeed have .26 cents, but I doubt he'd have taken .26 cents in American change anyways.

As he looked at the bill, the waitress, and the confused, embarrassed foreigner stuttering -something- out, he smiled. Smiled. Normally, and I know from experience, when you're selling edible goods and someone that's not an attractive member of the opposite sex eats, and doesn't have enough to pay the bill, you don't smile, unless you own a restaurant and anticipate the hours of labor you are going to put this person through.

Oddly enough, he told me the Mandarin equivalent of "Don't worry about it" and bid me good night as the waitress smiled at me. Far from relieving me entirely, although part of me was relieved and still embarrassed, I remained a bit confused and thought "This is not how you do business." My common sense ruled the moment, said my thanks, and hastened out the door, resolute in repaying my debt to the man. I think eating there everyday twice a day for a week has cemented my position as a money mine, and he has no intention of scaring me away. Or perhaps he was just being kind.

I returned today, and after I ordered my usual large breakfast, I attempted to explain to the waitress that I wanted to repay my debt from yesterday. Since my vocabulary is lacking, I simply tried to emphasize that the bill was really 22 yuan and not 20. She smiled, too my 100 yuan bill, and returned 80. I think that they don't simply understand my way of thinking. "You got away with 2 yuan, stranger! Keep them!" while my thoughts were "I owe you! Don't you want my money?"

Maybe I've lost my head.

Before all of this, though, I went and tested the machines after their brief vacation from my week long pestering. I did not want to put them through their paces, but I did want a sizable amount so that I could pay the 1440 I owed as soon as I could, not to mention to obtain money so I can eat and function. Discovering that both machines were recovered and not resentful at all, I withdrew the necessary funds, and I hastened toward the eatery.

Along the way, I met this nice lady who approached me with what appeared to be her daughter or niece in tow. I was starved at this point, having awoken at 8 and it now being 10. However, to be genuinely rude isn't my style, so I stopped and made conversation with the lady. Her English was unexpectedly good, and she is well educated and traveled; she currently teaches in Athens and has seen a good amount of American cities. She was curious about me, so she started to question me.

Asking what textbook I used, and grimacing upon seeing which one, she explained she was a teacher and she liked to see what different students used. She also hastily explained that the one in my employ was probably the worst one she'd ever used. She recommended a book that I currently cannot get, so I wrote it the name down out of courtesy and partially because it might come in handy later.

Then she started to introduce me to her niece, who is about to begin college. She seemed to be a nice sort of girl, rather bashful, and I realized a bit late that perhaps the woman was looking for a friend for her niece. I didn't say anything on the matter, I said hello and it was a pleasure to meet her. She mumbled something and began looking through her bag. I hoped it was food.

At this point, I was starving, and my friends and family tell me I wear my heart on my sleeve, much to my detriment. The lady exclaimed "Do you like Beijing? You look bored or tired." I explained that I rather liked the city thus far (true), it was just that I was hungry. She then apologized about bothering me and hastened off after I pointed in the direction of the eatery. I realize now that it was rather stupid of me to not ask for her calling card or for her niece's email, since she was a teacher and could probably help me, or her niece could practice her English and I my Mandarin. However, at the time, I was feeling rather single-minded and made a straight line between me and my restaurant.

Otherwise, not much has happened today. The weather has changed again. The orange haze has returned, although not in force. It's almost white, and can be confused for fog, except fog doesn't overstay its welcome so long into the day at this time of year. It has varied all week, really, with it being entirely gone somedays, while at other times it is visible at a 30 degree angle when looking at the sky, with the original shows of power in turning the sky a brownish color.

The other thing that has occurred is that the internet connection I use is either down, or it resents my abuse, downloading video software in an effort to find something that will play my beloved TV show. I did find something, much to my glee, but only after two hours of searching. New episodes have been released, much to my pleasure, but I can't get them, and I think the size of the file would cause the connection to reject me entirely could I connect in the first place.

It is also interesting to note that this internet connection is not entirely free. While it is free if there is a large crowd to hide me from the waitresses, when it is empty in the mornings (when my family prefers contact me) I am claimed by one of two local cafes. They rush out, menus in hand, and leave the menu on the table. The unspoken message is "If you are going to use our (unreliable) internet, drink some of our coffee. Or get lost." All with a smile, of course. Unable to refuse them (really, I don't know how, either language-wise or in a culturally accepted manner), I pay for the coffee, which I don't like and don't normally drink in the first place. It turns out to be 3 times as expensive as the computer place I started to frequent, with its advantages and disadvantages.

The advantage is that I get to use my Mac, which makes the affair pleasant and allows for video communication with my home. The disadvantage is the irregular connection and the ever present mosquitos. The mosquitos have given me faster reflexes, though, and taught me a new way to kill them; you first swap them towards the table first without crushing them, stunning them in the process. You then grab a napkin, and crush them. Or, you could sit still, take a large breath out. One of them takes the bait, and settles on your arm and plunges. As soon as they start to do that, you crush them. The poor fools are stuck, and they die easily. The drawback to this is that you get a small welt, but are free from that particular torment for the rest of the evening.

I am now off to study, surely, and to see if the internet is up. If not, I'll have to plunder it from the restaurants I discovered earlier in the small building with a hidden second story, although something tells me I won't get away without paying for a small, token meal.

Small update: They lowered the effective radius of the wireless internet. I'm close enough for them to spot me now, I just just paid them 8 yuan for a glass of milk. I bought a carton for 9 recently. God damn. : /