No, it isn’t finished yet. The new house, I mean. We’re working on it, but these things take time. And knowing how renovations go in Canada, I’m certainly not setting a time limit for it to be finished here in China, land of the 4 hour work day.
So don’t get all excited and ask for pictures. I’ve just been thinking a lot lately, getting antsy, and noticing all the little things around here that I will be glad to be rid of once we finally move.
Like what, you ask?
Let’s start with the wallpaper. You’ve seen pictures before, but here it is again, just to refresh your memory.
In all it’s eye-searing glory…
That’s right. The yellow daisy print covers two walls in our current living room. I suppose it might not be so bad if it were hung properly (it’s not) or if it even covered the entirety of those two walls (it doesn’t – the previous renters who hung it didn’t bother to extend it behind where they had placed the TV table. Thank goodness our sectional sofa covers it.).
And the pink and grey flower print covers almost every surface in our bedroom. And I mean every surface…almost. It covers the walls, it covers the wooden box that encloses the radiator (most of it, at least), and it even covers the outlet and light switch covers. The one thing it doesn’t cover? The wall behind the wardrobe (it’s a good thing we didn’t want to rearrange our furniture). Oh, and my husband reports that when you come home drunk from a work dinner and lay on our bed, the flowers actually take on a 3D quality and bring about nausea, so that’s nice.
Or not. Sayanara, wallpaper.
I also won’t miss the garbage around this place. Seriously, China can be dirty sometimes, but our area of our residential zone takes it to a new level. I’ve never seen the amount of garbage laying around the new zone anytime I’ve been there to visit the house, nor is the stairwell clogged with people’s garbage. And I’ve certainly never seen this in the new stairwell.
That would be a dirty diaper in the window of my stairwell. Thanks, neighbours!
Not only is there garbage strewn about, but this is the view from my kitchen window of our current house.
Those piles of junk? They’re the neighbourhood “recyclers’” collections and they are there all the time. These elderly people peddle around the zone on their tricycles, going through all the garbage bins, emptying all the bags. They pick out cans and bottles and boxes and wood and old shoes and goodness-knows-what-else to recycle. Each person seems to pick out different things. When their cart is full, they bring it back here, outside their apartments (and mine) to sort and pile until the day they decide to take it all down to wherever the recycling place is. Now, recycling is not bad, but having to look out and see piles upon piles of it in what is essentially your backyard everyday? Not nice.
So long, excess rubbish.
Next on the list is a little something I’m calling “the random old man who stands outside bellering at people”. Now, to be fair, I’m betting that every residential zone has one of these people, but I’m also hoping that in the new zone, he doesn’t live in my building. Because he does now. And you might think I’m kidding or exaggerating with the name I gave him, but I’m not. At least three times a week, usually early in the morning, but sometimes in the afternoons as well, this man heads outside and stands around angrily shouting things at people. I don’t know what he’s going on about, I don’t know if anyone even understands him, and I certainly don’t know why no one even attempts to stop him. I just know I’ll be glad to not wake up to his voice anymore or have to try to tiptoe unnoticed into my building after work so as not to attract his attention.
In addition to this man, I will also be a little happy to get away from the people who live in our stairwell who appear to lock their elderly mother/grandmother in their house. It’s probably for her own safety to keep her from wandering off, but listening to her pounding on the inside of the door to be let out is just depressing.
Oh, and another lady I’ll be glad to be rid of is “the deaf woman whose dog barks non-stop every time she takes it out for a walk, which is twice a day”. I don’t know for a fact that she’s deaf, but I figure she must be, given the amount of constant yapping this dog does and that she doesn’t make any attempt to quiet it.
Adios, noisy neighbours (though yes, I’m certain that these will simply be replaced by new people).
Inside the house, there are a few things I’ll be happy to leave behind as well. Like the hot water heater that doesn’t work half the time. I’m really hoping I am going to be able to revamp my current shower routine, which goes like this: go to kitchen, turn on hot water heater, guesstimate temperature setting, go to bathroom, turn on water, listen to see if hot water heater sparks, turn water on and off repeatedly until the heater does spark, wait 2-3 minutes, test water temperature, walk to kitchen and make temperature adjustments, walk back to bathroom, wait 2 minutes and test water again, remove clothing, get into shower, cleanse self, turn water off when hit with cold water because the hot water heater disengaged because it has been running for too long, turn water on and off again hoping it will start, wrap self in towel and tiptoe awkwardly to kitchen while dripping wet and covered in soap to attempt to fix the problem when hot water heater doesn’t start again…and so on. You get the picture. And it’s even more fun when it’s the dead of winter, considering that my kitchen doesn’t have heat.
Ciao, hot water heater. I hope you die a slow and horrible death, not unlike the fax machine in “Office Space”.
*cue angry gangsta rap*
How about mould? Anyone here a fan of mould? Am I going to offend anyone by saying that I really won’t miss the thin layer of mould covering our kitchen ceiling and spare bedroom windowsill? Good. Because that’s only the visible stuff I know about. And yes, we have tried to clean it – that only takes away the stuff on the surface temporarily. It is still inside the plaster and after a bit of time, it grows out again.
The other, more fungus-like tenants of our current apartment. Oh, and the hot water heater and range hood vents through too-large holes in the windows which let cold air in during the winter and make my unheated kitchen even colder.
Goodbye, disease-causing mould. It’s not you, it’s me (well, no, actually it is you).
I bet you never even stop to appreciate how nice it is to have closets, right? Well, I do. Because I don’t have them. And I don’t have enough shelves or cupboards or places to put things away in this house either, which means that most of our things are left out on display for anyone who visits to see (as in “Hey, that’s a real nice-looking pile of medicine you guys have got there. It looks especially nice next to the two half-used rolls of tape and three baseball caps.”). We’ve already crammed all of the suitcases we own full and we keep, fill, and stack sturdy boxes as much as we can. But a large assortment of my husband’s shorts are still just stacked on his nightstand, because our wardrobe isn’t big enough for two people. So actually having the space to get some furniture with shelves and doors and to put things away is going to be a real treat.
Because this is what my spare bedroom looks like now. And yes, the cupboard is crammed full already.
Peace out, lack of storage.
The one place in China where I can get away from the constant smell of cigarettes should be my own house, right? Nope. Not because my husband smokes (he doesn’t, thank goodness). As a result of shoddy construction in the first place and the zone management having replaced the heating pipes a couple years ago without plugging the old holes, my neighbours’ smoke wafts into our bedroom. It produces a really lovely scent, especially if I’ve done laundry that day and have the door open to our sun room where we hang our clothes to dry so it can combine with that fresh laundry smell.
Cough, cough, au revoir, tobacco-scented everything.
I know that I am very lucky to work for a school that has always found a place for me to live and ensured that there were furnishings for me to use, so don’t think I’m ungrateful there. But it will be nice to have our own place and our own things, and not to have to host workers from the school’s office once a year while they do inventory on the items in the house (translation: check on the school-owned items to make sure I’m not trashing them, and poke around and see what kind of things I own myself so they can gossip about it all later). Especially when they report to me that there is a “white shelf” missing, but I have no idea what they are talking about because there has never ever been a white shelf in my house.
Farewell, nosy inventory-takers who want to count to ensure that there really are the provided 24 chopsticks.
If the rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain, where does the rain in China mainly fall? In my current residential zone, that’s where. China struggles to comprehend drainage at the best of times, but whoever designed our zone really dropped the ball. Even the Chinese people who live around here think it’s a bit much, as evidenced by the young boys who referred to the almost perpetual large puddle around the corner as ‘Lake Guang Sha’ (the name of our zone). Thanks to this, each time it rains more than a sprinkling, I get to slosh through about six inches of floodwater for the extent of my 5 minute walk to reach the gate and catch the van to school. I will admit that I got smart about this early last summer and bought some rubber boots, which I now faithfully wear when it rains, no matter how stupid I might look (at least when I arrive at school, my pants aren’t soaked to the hips anymore!).
My pants- and shoes-saving rubber boots! With bonus wallpaper-covered radiator cover in the background. See! I told you they covered it almost entirely.
Ta ta, floodwaters. Time to ruin someone else’s shoes now.
And finally, lest you think my time spent living here was all bad, there is one thing I have realized I will miss quite a bit.
You see, one of the older men in a nearby building keeps songbirds. He’s one of the guys you see peddling his tricycle with a couple of birds in cages on the back, taking them out for a stroll. They hang in his sun room, or just outside, or sometimes even in the trees outside the building, and the birds sing away, especially in the mornings. It almost sounds like nature. And I will miss that little bit of nature here in the middle of a Chinese city.
I kind of hope that one of my new neighbours has some.
(I also wrote a guest post a while ago where I listed a few things I liked about my neighbourhood, just as further proof that it hasn’t all been horrible. You can read that here.)