Yep—that’s whipped cream on that sushi. We splurged at the mall last night for Japanese-like food. L voted for Sichuan, but I was spiced out for the day and actually had a taste for something a bit non-Chinese. I was culture-shocked out for the day after struggling to be understood by the folks in our building.
It’s now Sunday morning and I am hoping the semi-sunny skies will open up today so that we can actually see our view of East Lake. Our SIM hosts have been wonderful: a welcome banquet Friday night with the dean and department chair, along with many of the same characters I met last October. Upon arrival, we walked down a long hallway of private dining rooms with a uniformed waitress outside each one who bowed and greeted us. It was a bit surreal—I felt like we were being led to see the emperor.
The SIM professors are obviously a tight-knit group and have a very close working relationship. L pointed out that one of them obviously speaks frankly and strongly with the dean—I guess we’d say that she keeps him honest. We were told that I will have four assistants: one for each class that I am teaching, and two for “day to day life.” My Ref & Research Services TA will be Lava—who helped me buy my phone last year and who I had already set a date with to buy housewares yesterday afternoon. More on that below.
Our biggest issue right now is dealing with our apartment. While it seemed nice at first glance, it didn’t take long to find some major flaws. Like: it’s filthy. Like it got replastered, repainted, then leaked, and the workers never cleaned up between those three events. Oh—they also hadn’t bothered to cover the furniture, so the tops of the two cabinets are covered in chunks of fallen plaster and several generations of grime. Don’t get me wrong—the room had been cleaned, but obviously no one ever stood on a chair and looked on top. Like many things in China: an effort was made, but something was flawed in the execution.
So Saturday morning we snuck out and bought a bucket and cleaning supplies:
Lydia spent the whole afternoon washing floors and sweeping the concrete out of the gap between the laminate flooring and the wall, while I went out and scored kitchen supplies. The effort paid off handsomely, as we now have a love-hate relationship with our apartment and our location and the building staff.
Love-hate how? Well: all the while yesterday we were also attempting to deal with having no hot water or cooking gas and a refrigerator that runs but does not get cold. We asked a number of questions upon arrival Friday (re: sheets, towels, hot water, drinking water, fridge, gas). Some were dealt with immediately, some were answered with ‘ask Monday.’ And that’s totally ok! We are coming off of a long holiday break and we arrived on Friday afternoon. Think about trying to get something done in the US on Thursday December 30—that’s about when we arrived here.
So here are our accomplishments:
- Several towels were delivered—the changing of we can discuss with our floor attendants on Monday
- This morning a worker came and removed our dead fridge and I taught the lady who accompanied him how to say “refrigerator” (the Chinese word for which I think has now been cemented into my brain: 冰箱). I was pleased to remember the word for ‘the day after tomorrow,’which is apparently when the new fridge will arrive if they can’t fix the old
- A hot-and-cold water dispenser (a bubbler to some of you) was delivered yesterday afternoon
- We anticipate delivery of cooking gas tomorrow.
- Hot water did come out of the tap after we ran it for a full hour, as the desk attendant insisted upon. Mysteriously and suspiciously, after 40 minutes the hot-water side of the tap completely shut off, it gurgled for ten minutes, and then warm water started to flow.
- Despite being warm, the shower is reminiscent of Murray Manor (only my immediate family and Kramer will catch the reference—sorry everyone).
- The clothes washer is a mysterious creature that is sitting ominously in the bathroom—we will eventually need to tame it.
- It seems inevitable that the kitchen tap is going to fall off. Previous tenants left us a note about it.
- There is a city of hairy beasts living behind the bathtub caulk
- I am a little disheartened that my wife had to spend her first day on her hands and knees scrubbing floors. I am happy to receive suggestions on how to make it up to her.
All that said, our place has tremendous potential and the view (which as of yet is theoretical due to pollution) is tremendous. We are getting plenty of light in the bedroom and office. The kitchen and living/dining room look out into the forest on the side of Luojia Hill. And it is twice as big, at least, as my apartment in Santa Barbara.
A Saturday outing.
As I mentioned, I did have a shopping date with Lava yesterday afternoon. The original plan was to meet up with one of the student Fulbrighters and head to a market street, but flexibility is our middle name. I hadn’t called him upon arrival, and Lava suggested we start at a supermarket instead of on the street. Better quality. She did, however, say at each junction which item might be cheaper at ‘plastic street’—which is what I’ve taken to calling the market she showed me last October. We’ll get there for our remaining items once we are more settled. It will most likely deserve a post of its own.
We met near the big gate (that’s simply what it’s called: 武大大门)and I immediately showed my colors by mistaking the quiet young man with her for her boyfriend. It turns out that he is one of my day-to-day life helpers. I am tempted to call him Sherpa, as he insisted on carrying most of the purchases himself. After sorting that out, we discussed my syllabus and all of the many mysterious logistics of the impending term. Lava is the head of her cohort and today is responsible for sending everyone their class schedules: school starts tomorrow and nobody knows what classes they are taking yet.
I was just happy that she had already been informed that she is my TA. It would be a little awkward to be the one to deliver the news. And I’m doubly happy that she is the one and my other TA is Jessica—who I also met last October. Two less mysteries. And a mental relief, as both of their English abilities are more than up to the task.
Sherpa, while silent to the point of muteness, obviously understands what is going on, as he is the only person to laugh at my jokes so far. After the supermarket, he is the person who suggested the small store where I bought my wok and knife (for about half the price of the chain store). We also poked our heads into the closest vegetable market to campus, and then sat down to lunch. Spicy carrot and beef Sichuan soup, eggplant, and baby boks.
So this afternoon we will continue to scratch our heads and make guesses at what is in store for us. Tomorrow, we expect some questions to be answered, some to remain unsolved, and many, many issues to remain inscrutably Chinese.