My most challenging experience in China this summer came even before we finished in-country orientation. On our last night at the hotel during orientation, Natalie and I awoke to a loud rustling of the window shades. We sat up in our beds and I looked over at our 10th floor window to see the distinct shadow of a rat crawling vertically down the wall into our room. I quickly flicked on the light, but the rat wasn’t to be seen. For the next hour or so, Natalie and I were stuck in a tense standoff with the rat – we on our beds and the rat somewhere on the windowsill behind all of our bags and food. We unsuccessfully fired our pillows at the bags and food to try to scare the rat out. Finally, ceding our night of sleep and our entire hotel room to the rat, we moved out into the elevator lobby. If this guy is hanging out on the 10th floor, he clearly owns the building, and there are probably plenty more of them. I didn’t even want to think about what the rat had helped itself to when we were out and about during the week – food that we left out and later ate, our clothes, our beds… Bag by bag, I checked for the rat and, once cleared, moved them into the lobby with Natalie. There we sat at 2:30am in the 10th floor elevator lobby with all of our things piled around us, tired and disturbed.
Not half an hour later, I looked to my left at the lobby doorway, only to find the rat standing there looking right back up at me! As if our entire hotel room was not enough, this rat felt the need to push us off his floor entirely! I shot up to my feet – “Are you f***ing kidding me, man?!” I yelled to the rat, Satan, and God. The rat booked it in the opposite direction, slipping into one of his holes in the floor of the hallway. Natalie and I promptly boarded the elevator down to the main lobby to check out. A combination of the language barrier and the hotel’s apathy towards its guests kept us from mentioning the incident. We smiled, paid, and left as soon as our students awoke from their ignorant slumber.