Precarious arrangement

Updated: 2013-05-13 15:26

By Raymond Zhou (China Daily)

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But the perceived haphazard nature of the instigation coupled with Sun's assumed family connections put her squarely in the court of public opinion. Waves of outcry demand a new, more thorough probe amid calls to have Sun, who now resides in the US, repatriated to China.

What may have started as dorm room hostility, or so many believe, has now snowballed into a litmus test of social justice.

Dormitories in Chinese colleges and universities tend to be more crowded than similar accommodations in a Western country. While in North America, for example, each may have his or her own tiny bedroom, sharing the living room and kitchen facilities, roommates in China literally share one room.

When I went to college in 1978, I was put up in a room of four bunk beds. There were seven of us, leaving only one bed for storage. It was a miracle that we were more or less amicable and nothing too bad happened during four years of cohabitation.

I visited a college dorm in recent years, and I was amazed at the uptick in living standard. A similar, or slightly larger room now houses only four, with the upper deck used as a bed and the lower one as a desk plus storage. Each room comes with its own toilet so they don't need to rush down the hallway to answer nature's call.

There is an exaggerated scene in the new hit movie So Young depicting such a walk through the thick of youthful pandemonium. The same movie also presents both a male dorm room, with its utter lack of hygiene, and a female dorm room, with its own tableaux and quirks. One girl steadfastly warns anyone who comes near her bed not to sit on it lest it turns dirty that way.

In my day, you would choose the upper deck if you want your bed relatively inaccessible by others. But an occupant of a lower bed was basically providing a public bench - at least when you're not sleeping in it.

You cannot be too fastidious when you can hear each other's sleep talk and snore.

The loss of privacy is the price you pay for lowering the rent. However, in my experience, privacy is actually not the biggest concern for most Chinese students. I remember one of my roomies would bring his girlfriend, who would stay in his bed for hours - shielded from the rest of us by an opaque mosquito net. We all went about our things, seemingly oblivious to what might or might not be happening inside the net.

About the only real necessity for obtaining one's own space, as I have observed, is dating. Other than that, a dormitory is more a place of fun than one of fight. Living with several people of varying personalities and behavioral patterns is a learning experience that prepares you for your entrance into the society at large. It is an exercise in dealing with the real world.

Clashes arise mainly out of personalities and habits. Some are not considerate while others are over-sensitive.

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