I’ve just returned from a gorgeous stroll around Zhong Tian Hua Yuan. My heart rate is still elevated, and my cheeks are still a little flush, and I feel like a million bucks! Over the past month, Dave and I have been upping the ante in maintaining a healthier lifestyle. This has, of course, been partially in anticipation for the inevitable bathing suits that we will wear in Thailand, but it’s also more than that. For the past 3 years of my life, I’ve been terribly unhealthy. I’ve picked up some nasty habits (both nutritionally and physically) that have resulted in gained weight, a weakened immune system and overall sentiments of discontent. My health fell low in my list of priorities while I juggled my university degree, a demanding job, home renovations and a variety of other factors. It was unfortunate, certainly, but as any university student can tell you…some times all you have time to eat (or can afford to eat!) is a burger!
But since I finished my exams in April, I’ve bumped health back up to the top of my priority list, and I couldn’t be happier about that decision. In the last 8 months, I’ve lost 30 pounds and I’ve lost 4 inches around both my chest and my hips. But more than that, I have more confidence than I’ve had in ages. Not only because I’m looking better, but also because 30 pounds is a HUGE accomplishment. I feel like I can do anything!! It’s such a great feeling!
And in addition to all the fantastic endorphins my body releases while I take these long walks, I’m seeing more of Zhong Tian, and Guiyang is feeling more like home, as I explore the gardens here and begin recognizing the owners of the shops I pass by each night.
If you’d like to see more of Zhong Tian Hua Yuan, please check out the video we made this week! We gave a mini tour of our garden and a bit of the community park. We’ll be posting many more like it and I’ll be sure to update you as I blog!
But living in Zhong Tian isn’t always a walk in the park. As I mentioned in my last post, our apartment does leave some things to be desired. The cockroaches and grease drenched walls definitely made me want to cry, but still…there are more things that have made me laugh (and shake my head) in Zhong Tian than have reduced me to tears.
Take, for example, our walls when we first move in. For us, it was a no-brainer to paint them, but clearly the apartment’s previous tenants hadn’t thought that way. Instead of patching holes in the walls, they stuffed Kleenex into the holes and then covered them in tape (that they covered with white out so that the colour sort of matched the rest of the wall). Another popular technique to hide stains and holes in the walls at our apartment was to cover them up with posters and calendars. We had several big bulky calendars in our living room (some of them for the wrong year) and many old, faded posters. When we took them down, it was easy to see why they’d been placed there, but we still didn’t want to put the smelly paper back onto the walls (the previous owners smoked so everything smelled). The worst thing about this form of ‘covering up’ issues though, wasn’t the posters themselves. It’s that all of these ‘quick fixes’ had been stuck onto the walls with scotch tape, which couldn’t actually be removed from the walls.
We discovered soon that a wide variety of things here are remedied with tape (and I’m not talking about duct tape…it’s usually packing tape, scotch tape or two sided tape…). For example…we had water coming into our kitchen from an upstairs neighbor. The repair guy showed up to fix it, and decided that cutting a hole in our ceiling was the best way to figure out what was going on.
Unfortunately, not everything in our apartment is so easily fixed….before we moved in, the school had our fridge and our toilet replaced because they were in such bad shape. Those were two major things for Huang to replace for us, so we’ve let other things go unrepaired because there’s no point in trying to fix everything when we’re only living here for a year. Some examples…
My favorite ‘unfixable’ problem in our apartment though, is in the kitchen. We only discovered this particular issue after living in the apartment for 2 months. It took us so long to discover the problem because that particular light socket is an odd shape and it took ages to find a light bulb that would fit it. Even when we did find this odd light bulb (Naveed informed us that they are actually quite popular in England…), we could only find one that was far too long for the light fixture, so we had to leave it off.
The easiest way for me to explain what’s wrong with the lights in our kitchen is to show you, so we’ve made another video 🙂 I’m going to learn how to embed videos right into my blog soon, but as some of you know from my FB page, this week has been a little frustrating for me as I learn how to set up my blog in a more visually appealing way. So for now, just follow this link to see the silly way our lights act in the kitchen:
But it the entertainment (and headaches) our apartment provides for us doesn’t end with quick fixes and the unfixable. China hasn’t yet implemented much in the way of ‘safety standards’, and as a result, we have a phone line that runs through our shower, electrical sockets hanging out of the walls and flooring that has absolutely no texture, so if you are wearing socks, or are coming out of the shower, the likelihood of slipping is astronomical. Slippers or shoes are nearly always worn indoors.
We have definitely refrained from complaining about all these small things to the school, because we know that this is just what life is like in China. Landlords don’t HAVE to fix things…your lights don’t ALL have to work…leaky ceilings are only a big deal if they’re causing damage in your apartment…things are just a little different here. But in spite of our attempts to complain as little as possible, the school’s accountant grew very tired of us in the weeks after we moved into the new place (she is in charge of fixing problems in the teachers’ apartments). The final straw was when I told her the washing machine didn’t work. Now, in all fairness, that’s sort of a big one…..without a washing machine, I can’t come to work in clean clothes. I’ve yet to see a laundrymat in Guiyang so it wasn’t something we could just live without. But, as it turns out, our washing machine wasn’t actually broken; we simply had no idea how it worked.
We soon discovered that it would have been better if our washing machine actually WAS broken, because now that it works, we have to take the following 14 steps to doing our laundry every week. For your enjoyment, we photo-documented the process 🙂
So that’s what it’s like living in a Chinese apartment. As I mentioned in my last post, we live in the poorest province in China, so it’s definitely different elsewhere in the country. The laundry was a pain at first, but once you get into a routine, it gets much easier. The worst is when Dave throws the clothes in the wash, because he hardly ever checks to make sure I have a pair of pants to wear while the clean ones dry. I came to China with 5 pairs but I now only have 2 that properly fit me (and they’re already pretty loose), so that’s always a bit of a struggle. He’s pretty happy though, because I’ve forbidden him to do this part of the laundry routine again….you’ve lucked out this time, Reimer…
We are only 20 days away from Thailand now, and we’re both getting VERY excited about the trip! Between now and then I hope to be writing some posts regarding what it’s like to be a teacher here. It’s the end of the semester, so as I do my progress reports and correct tests, I’m beaming with pride as I see how much my students have learned in the last 5 months. I think it’s a good time to write about the wonderful experience teaching can be!
Stay tuned and be sure to check back soon!