July 08, 2008


Not for a minute will I forget how lucky we are.

By poorer Chinese standards, we're phenomenally wealthy to be able to afford such a house. In the cities, workers are crammed in rooms with rows of bunks - sometimes rotated between day and night shift workers, the dormitories at universities are likewise lacking in private space, and the mosquitoes are ruthless. Some live in a room off from whatever little shop they run, with windowless walls papered over with movie posters and newspapers. The bathroom is a dank closet-sized room tiled in dusty pink or institutional white with a squat toilet which you straddle to bathe from a bucket that's set in the corner.

In contrast, we are living in paradise.

Here are the things I love about what's possible by living in China:

a gas stove - the standard, unless you still cook on a coal-burning stove (cylindrical, made of masonry or ceramic or something and into which a "round" of coal is inserted from the top and burned). Maybe I'll try for a picture of that sometime.

Kids who can reach the sink which is low enough for them to wash the dishes.

Our own washing machine - it doesn't require lugging the laundry outside anywhere, nor must I feed it a steady supply of quarters or make sure nothing is planned to take me away from the house so I can remove my laundry before somebody else comes to use the machine.

It doesn't bother me at all that all the settings are in Chinese. I can figure out the temperature and the spin speed (600 rpm max) and Dan showed me how to adjust the cycle length. The large button has the now-universal "Play/Pause" symbol

The girls have their own room, with a great bunk bed and lots of shelves for their things.

A nice bathroom with an at-the-source water heater for instant hot water - though in this heat a cool shower is to be preferred.

A balcony which spans the entire south face of the apartment - lending lots of light. Even though it's hotter on the south side than it would be on the east or north sides, I still like the sunlight better. There are screened windows that run the length of the balcony and they're usually open unless it's too hot and we've closed off the house from the balcony, or if it's raining too hard and the water is coming in. We've set up a "study" in the balcony so a lot of "schoolwork" and drawing gets done in here. What I forgot to take a picture of is one of the things I appreciate most about Chinese houses: the equivalent of a clothesline (it's actually a bar, much like a towel rack, up at the ceiling) so I can hang all that laundry that Merlin's been doing lately (she likes running the washing machine).

Other views of the apartment:

the living/dining room

the hallway - with all that sunlight shining in from the Devin and Merlin's window that looks out onto the balcony

oh, and I love the fact that the walls are not WHITE!

the master bedroom and main entrance to the balcony


Bluebell said...

Your place looks great! Such an open, airy, light feeling. I like the bathroom. They must have an IKEA there...or did you ship that gargantuan piece of furniture in the living room? So glad you guys made it over safely. =) You have a great sense of style.

Wendy said...

Hi there! I can't take any credit for the style - I inherited the house as is - some of the furniture lives here and some Dan bought - and yes, there's an IKEA somewhere in Beijing. We didn't ship anything.