One Morning

6:25 AM – alarm goes off. I hit snooze three times.

6:54 AM – determine I can no longer responsibly hit snooze, that I have in fact already irresponsibly hit snooze.

7:00 AM – after checking the weather, don an appropriate amount of clothing while listening to KQED on my phone.

7:15 AM – leave my apartment, walk down 8 stories, unlock the gate with a satisfying UNN beeping sound. Step over the dirty puddle from the hole inside which the complex will eventually install an elevator.

7:17 AM – walk through the metal detector without taking my bag off to go through the scanning machine like a total badass. Just kidding, it doesn’t make me any cooler. The security at the Lujiang Station is all familiar with me by now and let me by. This makes me feel like a #local. I usually nod in recognition to the guard who lets me do this.

7:18 AM – swipe my dongle (is that really the word we’ve all agreed to use?) to get through the metro queue, promptly hairpin turn and head down an escalator to the platform. If I’m lucky, people will have lined up on the right side allowing me to actually walk down. If I’m unlucky, I will stand helpless behind a mass of six people while I watch the train doors close.

7:20 AM – board the metro at the second to last car. Between my stop and the next, Kecun, the train is quite packed. Fortunately, most people are transferring at Kecun so I grab a seat as everyone is leaving. I then pull up USA Today and CNN to get a start on the news of the day. I never thought USA Today would be a top-visited website for me but hey, when you’ve got the Great Firewall of China, you learn to not be so picky.

7:32 AM – arrive at my destination, Pazhou. The walls of each station on line 8 are a different color and Pazhou’s are black tile with yellow writing. I think this looks very cool. I swipe my dongle again to pass through the barrier and head to the coffee shop at which I am a regular. I greet whoever’s working (and hope it is this nice girl Wallace who makes a great latte) and get an Americano with bread for $2 or a latte with bread for $3. The coffee shop is a hole in the wall and only has one incredibly uncomfortable seat. They are always playing amateur acoustic covers of American Top 40 songs.

7:35 AM – leave the metro station and walk east towards school. Often the sun is peeking through the clouds at this time in beautiful pinks and yellows. I frequently photograph the sky here and send it to my boyfriend.

7:38 AM – pass through the gate to the housing development my school is a part of. At the gate is a small convenience shop run by a woman named Jo. I get two buns here for breakfast every morning for $0.26. She usually has them ready for me when I arrive. They come in a small plastic bag I feel a bit guilty for using. I put my finger through the handle, twirl the plastic bag around a few times and clench the twisted section against my coffee cup to keep the buns as warm as possible. Usually, Jo will tell me if the buns aren’t quite ready but I’ve many times had the misfortune of the buns getting cold during the few minute walk to school.

7:40 AM – arrive in the usually-empty or sparsely-populated office. I sit at my desk and eat my breakfast. I use the small plastic bag as a garbage bag for the day and hang it from a hook on my cubicle. If something ridiculous has happened in America, I will take this opportunity to vent to my coworkers about it.

8:05 AM – first “bell” rings for reading period to begin. By bell, I mean song, but more about that later. The kids all file into school between 8:05 and 8:25, and for whatever reason, foreign teachers are not involved with them at this time. This is a signal to me that I need to have my materials ready for class if I am teaching First Period.

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