Archive for February, 2008

Apartment hunting questions

Here are a few questions that would have come in handy to ask before we moved into our apartment.

1. How many stairs will we have to walk up to reach our flat? (Answer: 96)

2. How many stairs will we have to walk down to reach the fuse box? (Answer: 96)

3. How many times a day will the fuse switch blow? (Answer: at least three times)

4. When was the last time the place had a thorough cleaning? (Answer: uncertain)

5. Why did you leave the big bottle of bug spray under the kitchen sink? (Answer: still uncertain)

6. How do you say ‘de-greaser’ in Chinese? (Still learning)

7. When you say the heater works a little, how little? (Answer: VERY little)

8. Why is it that cars ignore the big ‘No Honking’ sign at street level outside? (Answer: Who ever pays attention to signs, anyway?)

9. Do you really expect us to wait a week and a half for the new hot water heater? (Answer: Of course.)

Seriously, we are thrilled with finding this apartment, with all of its quirks. It’s by far the best for us out of the 5 we saw, and the landlord speaks English to boot! We’re looking forward to spending the rest of 2008 right here.

And at least we have hot water to look forward to- the students at the university have neither hot water nor heat. One student remarked that the cold showers keep him in tune with the seasons. Having 20 seconds of hot water doesn’t seem so bad to us after all.


Tales of an American Housewife in China

On Monday I spent 8 hours cleaning a kitchen the size of a small coat closet. Covered in sticky dirt that kept reappearing with each wipe of the rag, it was as if the fry-bin at McDonald’s had thrown up right after someone dumped a bin of fireplace ash into the place. I had to keep reminding myself that this was the cleanest apartment we’d seen for rent (minus perhaps, the apartment that came with ‘household help’). I had to go out during lunch for reinforcements: Bleach and the strongest de-greasing agent I could find. Tuesday I attacked the bathroom, with similar battles waged against soap scum and mold. All this scrubbing does keep one warm in quite a cold apartment. Cleaning does not seem to receive top priority in China; perhaps they’ve stopped trying to fight the pollution.

Is your refrigerator running?

On Sunday night, we were very concerned that our refrigerator, which we had plugged in that morning, wasn’t cold enough. We kept putting our hands inside and saying things like, “Nope, doesn’t really feel that cold.”and “Wait, try turning that knob all the way up.” We finally just decided to put the milk and OJ in the freezer, thinking it had to be cold enough there. On Monday morning, when we awoke to frozen milk and OJ, we realized that the unheated (and rather uninsulated) apartment, like most in Nanjing, was simply just as cold (if not a bit colder) as the inside of the refrigerator. In our chilly state, we just couldn’t tell the difference. Happily, though, there’s a space heater in our bedroom, so Leo is not being refrigerated! Also, we are happy to hear Spring in Nanjing is fast approaching!

The Mullers have a home!

Sunday was a GLORIOUS day, as it marked the day we moved into our apartment. After a week of hunting for the perfect place and feeling like Goldilocks (this one’s too big and we definitely don’t need a servant – this one’s too small and what do you mean there’s not a refrigerator?), we found the perfect place on Friday. Two blocks from campus, this one-bedroom apartment suits us well. We tried to hail a taxi or two on Sunday morning to haul our things over, but when the taxi driver saw all of our stuff and us, she began to spout rapid-fire Chinese and drove off without much warning. Thankfully, there was a small (but strong) man with a bike-trailer who loaded all of our belongings precariously high onto his trailer and biked them over to our place. Thankfully, he also helped us bring everything up 7 flights of stairs (did we mention it’s a walk up?). Our new landlords, Marshall and Joyce (their English names ☺), met us there and showed us around the new place. They pointed out that next weekend they’d be getting a new water heater for the bathroom, but for now there’d be cold water only (I write this post after taking the shortest and coldest shower of my life). I’m certain we’ll be able to tell you more about our landlords in future posts; we’ve really enjoyed our first few meetings with them!

Can we pass the wall?

We are using a proxy plugin to Firefox, which does indeed let us view our site directly! No more cached pages. The window is slowly opening. If this post makes it up, we will consider ourselves blogly functional! We can’t wait to post some pictures.

Outwitting the censors

As we mentioned before, China does not allow blog sites to function, making this blog somewhat of a feat to keep up.  We want everyone to know that your comments are still emailed to us, so we can read them even if we can’t access our own site.
There is a small loophole, however.  Google does keep our blog on file, and thanks to its ‘cache’ function we can see saved images of our webpages, even if we can’t interact with them. It’s like looking at our blog through a glass window, being just out of reach!  So we’ll still see your posts after they’ve been saved by Google, which is usually no longer than a day later. 

How high do fireworks fly?

[If you need info about measuring how high fireworks fly in the sky, follow the link to read an interesting article.]

We arrived in Nanjing just six days before Lantern Festival, another one of China’s national holidays.  The days leading up to it were filled with some tentative fireworks displays, probably practicing for the big day.  As we went to sleep the night before Lantern Festival, the frequency of the firecrackers being set off was on the rise.  Then, at midnight, a few loud cannon shots went off right outside our 16th-floor window!  All of us woke up to the sounds of fireworks going off all over the city!  Some were like machine gun fire, others loud shotgun blasts.  Off in the distance we could see the colored explosions rising over local rooftops.  Lantern Festival was here!

All morning the fireworks continued, until people had to go to work (it wasn’t a vacation holiday, alas).  Promptly at 6 o’clock in the evening the fireworks returned, this time blanketing the city with sounds of explosion.  You would swear you entered a war zone.

When we went to bed, again the cannon shots returned from outside our window- this time we were on the receiving end of the bright starbursts, which exploded just 15 feet away from our window!  Burning colored debris kept swishing across our windowsill until the supply down below ran out!  Keep your guard up on holiday in China, and keep your window closed- or else have a bucket of water handy.

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February 2008
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