Chapter 57: Trivial Matters of Life
A white taxi rushed along the road with country music playing in it. When the window was rolled down, blazing wind blasted in, bringing along the warm temperature of February’s sunshine in the southern hemisphere.
Along the way, trees, low residential buildings, and roadside vegetation could be seen, showing the large tracts of rural and countryside scenery. Only some evidence of modernization could be observed closer to the center of the city. The streets were empty, people and cars were rarely seen.
Finally, a taxi stopped in front of a four to a five-story building. The driver received a fifty-dollar note from Chi Yan and groaned as he looked for the change. “Don’t use such a large denomination for taxis in the future, it’s hard to find change.”
Chi Yan got out of the car and stood in front of his future dormitory building with a backpack on his back, a piece of luggage on his side, and a handful of change in his hand. It was rare to even see fifty cents coins in his country and now he suddenly had so many of them that he couldn’t adapt and didn’t know where to put them.
As he kept the change, he looked at the dark red building in front of him. This building must have been here for quite a long time. It’s exterior looked old, which made the dark red paint look like dried blood.
He took a breath and dragged his luggage inside. The automatic glass door opened to both sides. The interior of the building looked newer than the outside. It was obviously renovated recently.
Chi Yan was pretty lucky. After he registered and obtained his room card, he met a Chinese boy in the elevator. That boy was called Jiang Tian. He came here because he was participating in a “22” overseas collaboration project partook by the second and third-year students for his school’s anniversary. He would be returning to his school in his final year in preparation for his graduation. Hence, although he was also a third-year student like Chi Yan, he had been here for a year and was familiar with all aspects.
Chi Yan’s room was on the fourth floor and Jiang Tian’s was on the third floor. However, he still took the initiative to help Chi Yan carry his luggage to his room and then proceeded to clean up his room with him.
“There is a common kitchen on each floor, you can cook by yourself. There is also a common bathroom, laundry room, etc. You can enter those rooms by swiping your room card. But frankly speaking, your room is not in a good position. The common room is just above your room and the fifth floor is a public space. Those foreign students like to have parties in the common room, and they do it almost every weekend. It’s very noisy and nothing can be done about it. Fortunately, those parties usually don’t exceed midnight. If you have any other issues, such as buying daily necessities, reporting to school, and applying for a bus card, you can come to me, I can bring you to those places. Anyway, the class will only officially start next week, I won’t have anything to do these days.”
“Okay, thank you very much.” Chi Yan impatiently voiced out one of the questions he was most concerned about, “How do we eat in general? Are we supposedly to… cook by ourselves?”
Jiang Tian nodded. “Yes, cook by yourself.”
He looked at Chi Yan’s expression. “Or you can go out to buy food, but the cheapest meal is about ten dollars. The taste isn’t very good and it won’t make you full, so it’s better to cook by yourself. There’s a small hamburger shop nearby, which sells hamburgers, pizza, and fish and chips. The hamburgers aren’t small, but it’s sold at seven dollars. Their pizza is also quite tasty. It’s like a pie with a barbecue, onion, and cheese on it. The smallest size is only sold for ten dollars and it’s enough to feed a person for the whole day. But those foods are too oily and contain too many calories. It’s not good to eat them every day, but it’s a good place to go for food at times if you don’t have time to cook. The school also has many places that sell food, but the taste and portion are average and not delicious. In fact, I think Subway is quite good in comparison.”
“I think I should still learn to cook by myself.” Chi Yan covered his head with some distress. He was too embarrassed to tell his newly acquainted friend that he didn’t even know how to start a fire. In fact, he hadn’t even cracked an egg at home before.
Although the school had issued him a decent amount of scholarship money and bore the cost of his airplane tickets, he had to spend more than 1000 dollars a month just for his accommodation— his one month’s accommodation here was more than his four years of accommodation in his home country. In addition, the food in his canteen in school were sold at affordable prices, which allowed students to enjoy a good meal for no more than 15 dollars, furthermore, even if the students got tired of eating at their canteen, there were all kinds of takeouts available… At this time, he finally realized the superiority of a socialist university. As he was still studying, he had no income, but he was also too embarrassed to ask his parents for more money, so there was no other choice for him but to learn to be mindful of his spendings. It seemed that it would be necessary for him to learn how to cook.
For convenience’ sake, he only brought his laptop and clothes at his arrival. As for items such as bedding, kitchenware, and all kinds of daily necessities, they would have to be purchased. He still had to go to school to apply for his student card, go to the bank to open an account, set up a local number, and apply for a subway card… There were all sorts of things waiting for him to be done.
Fortunately, Jiang Tian was around. Within an afternoon, he took Chi Yan to all those places and settled them according to their importance. He also took him to school and to the central business district so that he would be able to recognize the route. After shopping, Chi Yan invited him to have dinner in a Malaysian Restaurant located downtown to express his gratitude.
That place was recommended by Jiang Tian. Comparatively speaking, it was priced cheaper and served better quality food. A meal cost around 20 dollars, but the portion of vegetables and meat was definitely more. Chi Yan’s curry chicken and curry shrimp were also pretty delicious. They were cheaper than those Chinese restaurants where dishes were ordered individually.
Thanks to Jiang Tian’s guidance, Chi Yan was able to settle those important matters that had to be settled, leaving only □ □ unfinished and some miscellaneous items which he had yet to buy.
There were more people in the bank at the beginning of the school season, so the queueing time was long. On the second day, Chi Yan went back to the bank by himself to settle his stuff. On the way, he took his lunch and dinner at a Subway that was located in his school and a fried chicken shop respectively.
When he went back to his dormitory in the evening, he met his neighbors that were staying beside him.
He was staying in room 407. The occupant of room 406 was a black-haired boy named Alex. He was over 1.8 meters tall and had a very fair complexion, but when he smiled, it was very radiant. On his right was room 408. A girl named Emily with soft blonde hair was staying there. Based on their appearance, it was obvious that both of them were westerners.
The dormitories here went by an application system. Every school year or semester, many students would change dormitories or move out to rent their own houses. Emily had just moved in. After talking with them for a while, she went back to pack up. She even made an appointment with her friends for dinner.
“So you just arrived yesterday?” Alex looked at him as he said, “There are many interesting places in Sophus. I have a car, so I can take you around. Do you like parties? We also have a lot of interesting parties here.”
In any case, in real life, people who were enthusiastic and cheerful were more likely to invoke favorable opinions from others. It wasn’t necessarily a bad thing to have a friendly neighbor. Chi Yan expressed his thanks to him, chatted for a while more before he bid goodbye and returned to his room.
Unexpectedly, it was an overcast day on his third day here. A layer of clouds blocked the sun, causing the trees to look darker. This was a rare sight in February.
Two days of running around made Chi Yan somewhat exhausted. He only woke up at 10 am this morning. He took a taxi to the nearby supermarket, carefully chose and purchased some vegetables and meat that he might eat these days before carrying them to the kitchen.
In fact, he wasn’t sure what he kinds of food he knew how to cook, so he bought a box of eggs, a packaged beef, half a cabbage, and two tomatoes. At least these ingredients were common and shouldn’t be difficult to work with. On the first day of his arrival, Jiang Tian had brought him to a Chinese supermarket to buy seasonings, such as sugar, salt, soy sauce, and so on. Although he knew nothing and basically didn’t know how to use these chemicals-like items, at least he wasn’t missing any of them.
There were two kitchens with two large public refrigerators and a freezer on each floor. Everyone was given a space in the refrigerator and was allowed to lock it. Chi Yan’s refrigerator space was located on the left side of the kitchen, surrounded by cabinets and sinks, with two rows of six stoves in the middle.
Chi Yan took out his newly bought pot and put it on the stove. He carefully turned on the stove. He’d decided to start with the simplest dish, fried rice.
He steamed a bowl of rice in the microwave, sliced the cabbage into strips, cut the tomato into parts, cracked an egg, and threw the rest of the tomato, cabbage, and the beef which he didn’t know how to cook into the refrigerator— he thought that he might be able to make a tomato brisket when his cooking skills had improved.
Chi Yan went to the Internet and searched for a fried rice recipe. According to the mentioned steps, he had to pour the oil first, followed by steamed rice, and then put the cabbage strips, tomato, and egg in it.
The recipe mentioned about putting an egg and scallions, but he felt that he should add some vegetables. The newly steamed rice seemed a little wet too, but it shouldn’t be an issue. So far, everything was perfect. He just needed to stir fry it with a spatula and then add some salt.
Two minutes later, he was stunned to see both the tomato and cabbage discharging water. The pot was a total mess of red and white mush.
His face twitched as he took out his phone, he could only seek for Jiang Tian’s help under this helpless situation.
After a while, Jiang Tan came up from the third floor and stared at Chi Yan’s pot. “…What is this?”
Fortunately, he still knew that he had to turn off the fire first.
“Fried rice. There are tomatoes, cabbage, and an egg.” Heaven pitied him, he didn’t put any meat for his meal — but that was because he didn’t know what to cook with it.
“Your rice is too wet, and cabbage discharges water easily. If you want to stir fry it, it’ll be better to cook it at least once in advance.”
Looking at the pot, Jiang Tian felt reluctant. “Chi Yan… Do you want to eat this?”
“I don’t think I can eat it.” Chi Yan looked at the pot and felt a little distressed about his egg. The free-range eggs he bought were much more expensive than those factory-farmed eggs.
“It’s fine. I can try the hamburger from the hamburger shop you’ve mentioned,” He said to his friend with a bitter smile.
Jiang Tian nodded and described the location of the hamburger joint to him again. “I’ve already finished my meal, otherwise I can help you. Anyway, there is nothing wrong with this. Everyone has something they are not good in. Believe in yourself, your future wife will be very virtuous.”
Jiang Tian helped him to clean up the mess in the kitchen. Then they said goodbye, and Jiang Tian went back to the third floor. Chi Yan returned to his room, took his wallet and went straight to the hamburger joint mentioned by Jiang Tian.
Even if it was near, he still had to walk past a street to get to the shop, and there was no other place for food in the street where their dormitory was located at. He began to miss the restaurants and even the blue and yellow takeaway riders that could be seen everywhere in the capital. By contrast, this place was basically a modern capitalist countryside.
Jiang Tian mentioned that the hamburger joint was hidden in the back of a street. It had a very small door with only three to four counters. There was no place for the customers to rest. Hence, it didn’t offer eat-in service but only take away service. It looked a little shabby.
Some food that had been fried was placed on the counter, with a warmer above giving off golden light; square-shaped deep fryers were still operating at the back, which gave off an unusual sort of greasy and cozy feeling.
At this time, there was still a customer standing inside the narrow store.
The customer was a middle-aged man with grey hair. He wore a white shirt with black suit pants. What was striking was that he wore a grey plaid vest over the shirt— which was a bit strange to wear at this season.
A dark gold pocket watch even hung on his chest. The skin of his neck and side profile was very white, which was unlike the skin color of Westerners, instead, it was more of a morbid paleness. His shoes were clean and his standing posture was elegant, which reminded Chi Yan of traditional western gentlemen in movies.
He was so out of place with this hamburger shop that Chi Yan couldn’t help looking at him a few more times.
The man also noticed his gaze, so he turned his head and nodded at him with a polite smile on his face. After making the payment, he left with his own items. Chi Yan moved to the left to make way for him to go out.
There was a black car on the left side of the street.
The man hurried to the front of the car, he opened the back door, bent over and handed something inside, and then he went back to the front driver’s seat to open the door. His act of bowing made him look humble and respectful.
Chi Yan was curious, so he couldn’t help but stare all the time. He didn’t even realize whether his behavior was disrespectful.
As soon as the man opened the back seat door and passed something over, Chi Yan saw a figure of a man seated on the back seat. It should be a man, because although it was only for a moment, he saw a pale and slender hand stretching out from it— slender but broad and powerful, with distinct joints that gave a sense of strength.
It was unlikely to be a woman’s hand.
He seemed to be wearing something on his finger, and it dazzled his eyes for a moment.
Chi Yan blinked, and by the time he opened his eyes again, that black car had already disappeared from the corner of the street.