Back in 2014 I was living in Beijing, or as I like to call it ‘The Big Smoke’ on account of one day in that pollution was the same as smoking a pack a day. I had spent the better half of 2013 and 2014 in Minzu University studying and it was coming to an end. My dorm was pretty bare and to be perfectly honest, not worth the money I was paying. But, I grew to like my small room with my two American roommates who made the last few months in China a lot more fun. It was late May and it was time to leave for either home or another college. I opted for the latter and went to study for the Summer in Renmin University. I won a scholarship when I was taking part in a Chinese language competition. I had the language, but that was only worth 50% of the marks, my talent, which was worth the other 50%, was simply crap. I got 3rd place and a scholarship for the summer to study in Renmin University.
I went to the University to register and had to bring with me a ridiculous amounts of paperwork. They were almost asking me for my birth certificate at one stage, but luckily I was able to deflect this demand by explaining how troublesome it was in Mandarin. The people registering us were not by any means staff or civil servants, instead they were students who were doing their lecturers a favour and they also got to practice their English. I got through my registration and waited around to find out if I could change one of my electives. I was a bit sick of studying Mandarin and was confident enough I wouldn’t need to go near a text book for another 3 months. I took up a journalism course and anthropology. Whilst there I met a few Dutch and British lads, most notably, Ruben, who we will get back to later. Did I mention the campuses’ crest looks like three people humping each other?
I get to my accommodation and I quickly find out the reception ladies don’t speak a word of English. This made no sense because the building was for international students, most of whom share one thing in common, English. I spent the next 2 hours helping the receptionist by translating and by the end of it they promised to get me back. I got to my room on the 11th floor and it was clearly the cheapest accommodation possible. I understand that a lot of scholarships get handed out, but students from other universities that also got scholarships were given top of the range dorms while I was staying in something resembling a David Lynch wet dream. Worst of all, I was sharing this single room with someone else. If I was under 18, I could share a dorm room, or hell if it was for a few days why not, but I need my space if I am staying anywhere longer than a month. That might make me sound like a diva but I don’t think having your own bedroom and space is asking for a lot.
I dumped my belongings on the bed and went outside to buy 40 bottles of water. The reason for this was because there was no running tap water in the dorms and it was a good idea to have bottles of water in the room in case it is the middle of night and I need to drink some water, especially in the Beijing Summer. By the time I got back I met my roommate, a Puerto Rican who had flown through Chicago airport on his way here, I knew because he had a Chicago newspaper. He was a big big guy, and I don’t want to be body-shaming or anything but he was big. We spoke for 10 minutes then we went our separate ways. I met up with the Dutch and British guys and we hung out, drank and had dinner. By the time the evening came I was shattered. It was a long day of moving apartments, registering, translating and drinking. All I wanted to do was hit the hay and forget where I was for a while. But that wasn’t going to happen.
The Puerto Rican was the loudest snorer I had ever heard. I mean megaphone loud. I’m pretty sure everyone else on our floor was complaining about it because you could easily punch through the walls that separated each dorm. Hell, you could hear people having sex at night even though our dorms weren’t co-ed. That is another thing, if you want to live with your girlfriend on campus, you need to provide a marriage certificate. I understand why though, they could let couples live together and somewhere down the line they split up and a double room is left vacant, I’ve seen it before. But still, I think co-ed is better. His snoring was so bad, it was starting to shake my bed. His bed was making rickety rackety noises all night because of his snoring.
I tried my best to get some sleep, but it was useless. Usually I like to leave a fan on in my room to help me sleep because the noise is constant and helps me fall asleep. This snoring wasn’t a fan, it was a fucking hurricane right next to me. I really cannot explain to you how loud it was, I am not trying to exaggerate my claim or write it to sound dramatic, it was really goddamn loud. During the intervals of his snoring and breathing, I tried to sleep, but every time I felt I was drifting off, I was brought back with the sound of nasal and jugular thunder. I gave up and decided to watch a movie and went through what I had. I found ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ and decided it was as good a time as any to watch it. I wanted to leave the film for when I returned home, but my situation was dire and I needed to something to watch.
I popped outside to go to the shops to buy some vodka and orange juice. If I wasn’t sleeping, I thought I may as well just get drunk, I’ve been to class hungover/drunk with no sleep before and I wasn’t concerned with what people would think of me. I quickly found at 2 in the morning, most shops were closed, but I knew somewhere had to be open. In my flip flops, homemade denim shorts and Dead Kennedys t-shirt, I made my way outside the college to find anywhere that was selling drink. I walked for half an hour before I found a 7/Eleven and I bought myself a Cornetto, a liter bottle of Baijiu(Basically Chinese vodka) and a liter of probably fake orange juice. It was extremely sticky outside because the humidity was off the charts. I drank half the orange juice and substituted it with half the drink. By the time I reached my dorm, I was already pretty drunk and I still had another half liter to get through.
I whipped on ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ and I felt like I was dreaming, not because it was magical, but because it had taken me away from where I was. It is probably one of the most visually stunning films I have ever seen, on par with ‘The City of Lost Children’. I got through the rest of the drink without noticing it and by the time the movie had ended, the light was starting to creep into the room and my roommate finally awoke. It was weird, all the banging on the walls and my tripping up drunk around the room wouldn’t wake him up, but the instant a ray of light hits the room he is up like that.
I went to class feeling somewhere between drunk and hungover. By the time the lectures had ended for the day I just wanted to sleep, and I did, for 3 hours. My roommate returned and it began again. I watched ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ again that night without the alcohol. It was the only thing keeping me sane throughout this transition and I knew I couldn’t handle it for 2 months. Thankfully, the Dutch guy I met, Ruben, and I managed to sort something out with the receptionist downstairs and we got a shared-room together after 2 weeks. I think I slept enough to function in those two weeks, but I was reading to fly home. Spending the day translating for the ladies had paid off and they didn’t forget me. Ruben was a great roommate and with him and the rest of the gang, the summer in Beijing was a lot of fun.
To this day, ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ is a film that makes me swell up with emotion, not like crying or feeling depressed, but a feeling of escapism. I have watched the film countless times, and each time, it feels the same as it did the first time I watched it. Hell, most of Wes Anderson’s films stay somewhat immortal to me. There is always something new to catch your eye and there is usually a Bill Murray Cameo in every film. Who doesn’t like Billy Murray besides Chevy Chase?
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