Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Apartment

So, after I said hello to my parents this morning when I called to let them know we had arrived, the very first thing they asked was – how is the apartment? The honest answer is – worse than our apartment in Hong Kong. Now, you might think that we’re disappointed, but really – we’re not. We spent a week in Xiamen, listening to stories from my fellow Fulbrighters. And those stories were not good. Some folks had leftover food in their “cleaned” apartment (Chinese standards of cleanliness are apparently much different than ours). Others have a bathroom where the entire room gets wet (including the toilet) when you shower. Pretty much everyone came to a totally empty apartment – no sheets, no pillows, no kitchen ware - nothing. When we arrived in Shanghai then, we were expecting very little. From that perspective (and from the perspective of most Chinese), what we have is great. However, if you were looking at our apartment from U.S. standards, you’d probably be horrified.

When you enter the apartment, you walk into a room; there’s a kitchen along one wall. It’s about the same size as our kitchen in Hong Kong (which means really small), but there are two good features to it: 1) it’s open to the dining area which means the person cooking or cleaning isn’t isolated from everyone else, and 2) it has a new fridge and microwave. There’s a kitchen table along with room for four chairs and some space to move around. Off of that room are two bedrooms. Quin and Berkely’s bedroom has two beds (noteworthy because I was first asked if the boys needed their own beds – uh, yeah!) along with some floor space for them to play on and (to their great joy) a new TV. 
Our bedroom is a bit smaller, but it has a good sized bed and a TV as well. Both bedrooms have a desk and new heaters too, which is nice as those are the only heaters in the apartment (yes – it’s as cold here as it sounds!). There are actually two bathrooms (not sure how we managed to score that again) along with a little room outside one of them with closets and a washing machine. We also have a small outside area that can be accessed from our bedroom. It’s too cold now to use it, but I imagine as the weather gets nicer, we’ll spend some time sitting out there as the area around here is really pleasant. And, that’s it – the sum of our new home.

Astute readers might note that I did not mention two things: a couch of any sort and a dryer. That’s right – we have neither. Thus, the boys’ bedroom (which has two office type chairs) will have to serve as our catch-all: bedroom, living room, and play room. The dryer is probably not that big of a deal as there are two poles running along the ceiling that serve as drying racks. They’ve been put to good use already as the last time we were able to do laundry was our next-to-last day in Japan. But still, it’s a bit of a PITA.

If we were living in the U.S. or if this were a more permanent situation, I’m not sure this would really be workable for us. But for five months, it’s fine. One of the things we really want the boys to get out of this is for them to understand that how we live in the U.S. is not the norm in the rest of the world. This place will help them understand that, although to be sure, we’re probably living better than most people in China are. So, all in all, we’re fairly happy with our situation. We’re working to make it more our own – we’re planning on getting some more cheap shelves and some decorative items. Luckily, our apartment was fairly well furnished, so we didn’t have to rush out to get sheets or even pots and pans; even still, we’re working on a triage system to get the rest of what we need. If you think it’s hard to get settled in to a new place, imagine trying to do that when you don’t have a car, so you can only get what you can carry on each trip. As a result, furnishing is happening fairly slowly. But hopefully, at some point in time, it will get as close to done as possible, and we’ll feel as good about our apartment as Ben Kweller does about his (although I could do without the “darkness outside”).

1 comment:

  1. You are amazing. You are like willow tree branches - you bend in the wind. Sometimes it is difficult to make a situation better but you are the living example of "When life gives you lemons - make lemondade". But what tales you will have to tell besides what you are telling now. Our love to all - Mom and Dad