A day in the life (2017)

Today is Saturday, 20 May 2017.

I am an Edinburgh-Zhejiang lecturer at the University of Edinburgh (UK). This weekend, I’m in London visiting my boyfriend. I have brought along my niece, who at the moment is living with me in Edinburgh for a high school semester abroad.

This is a day in my life.

6:15 am – The alarm clock goes off. It’s for my boyfriend, who is off to swim training. The perks of being an aspiring triathlete, I guess. Fortunately, I can sleep for a bit longer.

6:30 am – Well. I could sleep for a bit longer. Instead, I start obsessing about pencils. I need a 2B pencil for later today. Do I have a 2B pencil? What pencils do I have? What is the difference between different types of pencils anyway? Better read up on it on the internet.

Oh look, there is a Wikipedia section on notable pencil users. Better read it. Am I losing my mind?


7:00 am – Of course not. I’m just nervous. The thing is, I have an exam today. That’s why I need a pencil. And that’s why I find it hard to go back to sleep. The exam I am taking is called the HSK. It’s similar to the TOEFL test, but for Chinese. There are six different levels, for different levels of proficiency (or lack thereof). Today, I am taking level 2, so just above absolute beginners’ level. It’s not a big deal, and I don’t need it for anything but my personal amusement. But I want to do well, and I feel like I haven’t prepared as much as I could have. Reading is OK I think (living in Japan for half a year has made me more familiar with the characters than other learners at my level would be). But listening comprehension is something I find difficult. And I definitely haven’t practiced that enough. Should I do some last-minute studying? The very thing I tell my students is useless and unnecessary? No, better get some more rest. I try to sleep again. I check my twitter. It will be fine, I’m sure.

8:00 am – I finally get up and have a shower.

8:30 am – Breakfast with my niece. It’s going to be a great day!

9:00 am – And we’re off, taking the tube to Euston Square. IMG_1353.JPG

9:30 am – I stop at a stationary shop and buy 4 (four!) 2B pencils. Maybe I am losing my mind after all. Anyway, I make it to SOAS in time for the exam. My niece and I agree on a meeting point and part ways.


9:45 am – Two other exam takers have forgotten to bring a pencil. I distribute mine. Good thing I brought four!

10:00 am – And we have started the exam. Definitely not my best exam ever. But ok hopefully. We’ll see. Anyway, as I said, it doesn’t actually matter. Not really.

11:00 am – Done! Phew! Now to find my niece.

… And she rings me telling me she’s lost. OK. We quickly talk through where she is and where she can get from there and determine a new meeting point.

11:30 am – Reunited with my niece, and also with my boyfriend who is back from his swim, we have coffee and cake at the Wellcome Collection.

12:00 pm – It is of course no accident that we are at the Wellcome Collection – it’s one of my favourite museums in London. This time, we go to their Electricity exhibition. Electricity is not a thing I understand very well, and I cannot say the exhibition does much to change this. But it is beautiful.

2:00 pm – We have a quick lunch in town. After that, my boyfriend heads off to watch the football, while my niece and I go to the National Gallery.


3:00 pm – What we are here for is the exhibition on Michelangelo and Sebastiano – a fascinating insight into processes of work, collaboration and competition in Renaissance art.

Sebastiano del Piombo 009.jpg
Michelangelo. By Sebastiano del Piombohttp://www.artnet.de/artwork/425954804/115011/sebastiano-del-piombo-portrait-des-michelangelo–portrait-of-michelangelo.html, Public Domain, Link

6:00 pm – We head back home, and I have a quick phone call with my sister to catch up. (Though she is on her way to the cinema, so it has to be short this time).

6:30 pm – I sit on the sofa and read for a bit. I might or might not have fallen asleep.

7:30 pm – We have Asian take-out for dinner, in order to celebrate my having taken the exam (though whether or not I have passed, I won’t know for another month. Anyway, better to celebrate now, just in case! Also, any excuse to have Asian take-out works for me!)

8:00 pm – Since my niece has been living with me, we have embarked on a programme of mutual cultural education. For instance, I have introduced her to Jane Eyre, while she has introduced me to Epic Rap Battles of History. Here’s my favourite:

Today, it is once more my turn to contribute to her general education, and it is with great pleasure that I take on this heavy responsibility.

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