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Daily Routine

he wakes up not long after 6am, no surprise hes been in the same routine for over six months now. hes wrapped in his quilt though he didn’t cover himself last night, he remembers waking to the thudding of heavy rain fall, someone must have laid his quilt over him while he slept, they can be thoughtful like that he thought to himself. as he glanced to his right at the forty odd men still asleep top and tail, nodding to the workers on shift as he pulled himself up, still there’s searing pain in his kneecaps. he stumbles to the toilet between two other workers, squats and relieves himself, then pours water from the bowl to flush as quietly as possible as not to wake anyone. he shuffles back to his spot, lies down on his make shift pillow of clothes and waits, trying to recall life on the outside. at 6:35am when that god awful clap, the same clap that’s been clapped hundreds of times without fail for the past six months will wake up forty something prisoners and start his typical daily routine.

Room 16, on e of the better rooms he reassures himself, at least in comparison to his three week stay in room 1 on arrival, where the rules ensured you remained perched on the upper deck all hours of the day, where if you were’t permitted to go “outside” to the adjacent room you could not. Room 1 where you where permitted to shower and brush your teeth just once daily, where you were not allowed to buy food, being kept on a strict diet of rice with a helping of rice, and what would be considered a small portion of vegetables at even a five star restaurant. although he does miss the presence of one of the older bosses, a man he recognizes from at least ten years prior. Remembered for his outrageous drug fulled parties, where mafia gathered for any occasion and the waitresses handed out black plates and straws for the flowing supply of free ketamine. the now older looking man was a year in on an eight to ten year stretch for trafficking eighteen kilos of a popular Thailand amphetamine “yabba”. His memory didnt serve him well, but he was still the pleasant and humorous man he had been before.

Back to the task at hand, the clock reads 26 Celsius, it’ll hit 31 not long before lunch he bets himself. He works the quilt to the exact length, width and depth, folding precisely to size, to fit neatly and tightly into storage hole nine of fifteen. Running in circles is allowed on the upper deck for the next fifteen minutes. While the majority of inmates choose to pace in circles below, yawning and taking turns to use the one toilet at floor level. How he wishes he could run, as much as the circles make him dizzy its his knees and the irregular pains that prevent him from joining them.

The prisoners are already grouped to odd and even on arrival, now 6:55am and odd numbers are called, he has but just a few minutes to brush his teeth and wash in freezing cold water before returning to the main room where he has an hour to waste before breakfast at ten past eight. On a good day he will play cards, read a book or perhaps some light exercise but he hasnt slept well last night. Having the same nightmare hes had for the past five months and counting. So he retreats to the corner of the upper deck, lowers his head between his knees and tries for another forty five minutes kip, unlikely though given the rowdiness of the waking prisoners around him. Being called for breakfast he drags himself up and wonders outside taking his pick of a single Chinese mantou (Chinese bread bun), provided to him for free by the prison system, theirs no spoiling in futian detention center, gone are the days of nanshan center were he would be given two pieces of bread. He is however one of the luckier ones having his wife send him money monthly ensures he can buy a small variety of goods for breakfast. Today though wont be any different, he takes place in the queue for two sachets of black sesame, two sachets of oatmeal mix and a small carton of milk. Once finished he gathers the bosses bowls and spoons and washes them in preparation for lunch.

After breakfast is a manic time, too much hustle and bustle to clean and get everything in place before the first sitting. 8:45am, the boss yells and every one jumps to the upper deck were they sit in rows of three, cross legged with hands behind their backs for forty five minutes, possibly longer if the guard on duty woke up on the wrong side of the bed that day. The reason for sitting cross legged its said is too lessen the chance of fighting among cell mates, several days he can endure, but come weeks and months and the pain makes it difficult to go about his routine let alone fight. During the forty five minutes the prison rules are recited, these are too be memorized within the first seven days, failure to do so will result in a two hour working penalty per night ensuring you dont sleep until they are remembered. On Mondays and Thursdays the room officer may check in supplying a few razors and nail clippers for those who want to clean them selves up. Being the only foreigner in the room hes taken on the task of teaching a few words of English daily, probably the highlight of his day, as its particularly amusing when teaching British slang and how the word fuck can be used to emphasize practically any phrase. Ten minutes pass, hes had enough and sits himself back down. Songs are sung in group or by individuals to pass the time, if not then its silence until the officer relieves them of sitting over the intercom.

Another hour with little to do, he decides to read his book, if he lets his mind wonder at this time of day he’ll be entertaining suicide before lunch, making his day seem to last forever while driving himself slowly insane with every passing minute until late evening when he will eventually tire himself out for several hours of rough but rehabilitating sleep. 10:30am and lunch is served, today is cabbage, every day is cabbage, a reasonable portion with rice, nothing more, nothing less. The prison system is far too cheap to provide any meat or proteins it seems. occasionally there may be the odd lump of flesh that still has animal fur spouting from the top layers of thick fat, he would give it to the cell mate that sits next to him, in any case today there is none. After being rushed to finish his meal, he once again collects the bosses dishes for washing later that afternoon, he wipes down the make shift table and gets a minute to wash himself down before moving back to the sleeping quarter for a short mandatory nap at around 11:00am. He wont rest today though, his mind is swimming again in thoughts of his wife and family.

He must of dozed off for a while that fucking clap startled him awake. Precisely 1:35pm, he once again folds and places his quilt in storage and heads out side once the door has been unlocked by the workers on the outside. The workers outside the cells are also prisoners but with a remaining sentence of less than three months and a good clean record while incarcerated, they enjoy being able to roam relatively free in the court yard and around the other cells in exchange for serving food to other prisoners and other small jobs the officers may ask them to handle. He wishes he could apply but hes still awaiting his sentence and a single foreign worker who isn’t fluent in Chinese is already down on his chances of acceptance. With the dishes washed and ready for dinner he’ll treat himself to an apple and orange if there’s time to spare before the second sitting at 2:30pm. In the forty five minutes that follow any knew member of the community will be asked to stand and introduce themselves followed by singing three songs of their choice. They bide there time but eventually give in an sing, every one gives in and sings, which at least lightens the mood in the room. He was lucky on his arrival he squeezed by with singing one song and that was by choice to create a reasonable first impression. 3:15pm another twenty minutes or so of running, today he attempts it but in 31 Celsius of heat and his aching knees he only manages a miserable five minutes. Then yet another hour to waste.

At 4:00pm the prisoners are called and given the chance to prepare any extra dish’s to go with there dinner. The typical dish would be noodles with processed sausage, spicy cucumber in soy sauce or his personal favorite, sliced raw onion in vinegar. Hes never been particularly good at preparing food so he calls upon two cell mates to help him daily in exchange for a small share of the finished dish. Dinner is called at 4:30pm, it will be one of several alternating dishes, rice with pumpkin, rice with carrot or turnip or rice with an odd Chinese vegetable. It very rarely varies beyond that and today not only is the helping of vegetable very small but so is the rice, he wont go hungry though as he had noodles already prepared for him. He always finishes before everyone else. Once the bosses put down their bowls he cleans the table and washes the dishes for the 3rd time that day. Being the dishwasher has its privileges, the main being able to shower and wash dirty clothes a good ten minutes before odd or even is called. Its not a pleasant time to be washing in cold water, cleaning dirty clothes by hand and trying to soap yourself while attempting to wash your hair with 20 other men all attempting the same task. Today hes lucky enough to finish the choir before the mayhem commences. Now with nothing to do until 7:00pm he tries to read his book but his mind wonders and he catches himself again gazing, trance like into nothingness.

As it turns 7:00pm yet another mandatory sitting, this time lasting only thirty minutes to watch the news quietly, and slightly more relaxed as cross legged isn’t necessary. At 7:30pm hes relieved from sitting and amuses himself playing cards until snack time at around 8:00pm. When he has fruit he will eat an apple or banana but today he will just enjoy a carton of sour milk, rationing is everything. Medicine follows shortly after, 60mg of Citalopram, four pills of sleepers (the usual is two but there not looking), two antibiotic capsules, two aspirin and two ibuprofen for his knees and rotting teeth. Evens are called for a quick rinse before bed, he waits patiently till last as the boss allows him to brush his teeth for a second time and wash with soap, among the few other privileged cell mates. Back in the sleeping quarter for 9:00pm and the final sitting of the day as he waits anxiously for the officer on shift to do his rounds and permit them to make their beds. The big hand strikes 9:30pm, hes uncomfortable stuffed int he far corner, lying side wards trying to avoid the inevitable face kicking from the sleeping spasms of the prisoner on his right. Not once today did the sun touch his skin, not once did he have a sensible conversation, nothing besides dick jokes and questions of how many woman hes slept with. His eyes glazed, he lies senseless his mind crumbling from the loud Chinese that surround him. Something like silence eventually arrives around midnight as his cell mates fall asleep. He drifts off to the whirring of the ceiling fan only to return to his nightmare from the night before!

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