Beijing Bathroom Trauma: Part 1

My university classroom was a bit better than this.

My university classroom was a bit better than this.

Summer, 1984: Beijing, China

Part 1 of a two-part series.

Where do you start with stories about living in China when you’re 16? In the bathroom that’s where! I have two strong memories: one about the showers and one about the toilets.

I was studying Mandarin for the summer in Beijing at the Beijing Teacher’s College. I was part of a group of 10 Hawaii high school students selected to go. It was between my junior and senior year of high school and I had just been traveling around Asia the year before, so I felt fairly well prepared for the trip. 

Looks deadly to me.

Looks deadly to me.

We stayed in the dorms at the university, which weren’t exactly lush, but very nice by Chinese standards (this was in 1984). We had access to the showers every night after dinner from 7:00-8:00 pm. Shower time was one of the highlights of the day and a new concept for us Americans. (What d’ya mean I can’t just take a shower any ‘ole time?) So every night we marched off to the showers, the 7 girls in our group plus our teachers. This was also a new concept: that we would all shower together in one large room, and with our teachers no less, who were fully grown women that we’d have to face in class the next day. We all felt a little weird about the nakedness.

Each night we undressed in the locker room and filed in one by one to a large concrete shower stall with about 20 shower heads sticking out of the ceiling. I don’t know about you, but by this point I had seen my share of Holocaust movies and the shower scene never ended well for the bathers.  The entire time I was showering I kept looking up to see when the gas would start pouring out of the shower heads (which, of course, never happened). Still I remember being creeped out the whole time and rushing to wash and get back to the locker room.


Imagine...locusts nesting in your hair.

Imagine…locusts nesting in your hair.

We would then walk as a group back to the dorms to study for the night. On the walk back we were often attacked by swarms of locusts. Now, one locust is bearable. Hundreds of flying locust are not. The locusts would get wrapped up in our hair (which was down, drying after the shower). They would burrow in, wrapping deep into our roots. It was a fairly “hairy” (hahahahahaha) scene, which happened more often than not.

Seriously, you’ve all seen The Birds…but with locusts. Truly frightening.


This is part 1 of a two-part series.

continue and read Beijing Bathroom Trauma: Part 2

This entry was posted on Thursday, June 18th, 2009 and is filed under Asia Pacific.

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