Reasons why I love China… my ‘ayi’

There are many things I really love about China. One of those things is…

how my laundry looks like this.

Ironing in China

And I’m not the one who did it.

It’s amazing!

I go out to lunch with friends and when I get back, my laundry looks like that. And the floors are clean and mopped. And the kitchen is sparkly. And so are the bathrooms.

And did I mention… I didn’t do it. Continue reading


How to take a hot bath in China

1. Find the largest pot you have. If you have 2 or 3 large pots it works even better.
2. Fill the pots with water and place them on the stove.
3. Turn the burner on high.
4. Heat the water until you start to see bubbles.
5. Using potholders (or folded up dishrags if like me you still don’t have potholders), carry the pots of water one by one into the bathroom.
6. Dump the hot water into the tub.
7. Repeat steps 1-6 until you have enough water in the tub to bathe with. Turn on the faucet to add cool water if the water is too hot.


Send an email to the realtor to get it fixed: (see below)

Hi. Just wanted to let you know we are having a problem with the hot water in the showers. Neither get hotter than luke warm. Definitely not hot enough to take a comfortable shower. The water in the kitchen sink gets quite hot, just not the bathrooms. Can we get this fixed soon?

Thank you.

The Response:

I just contacted with the management company and the staff told me the problem has existed about year.
After the management company transformed the pipe system in Wulihe Plaza.
And the problem extensively exist in the Wulihe Plaza.

Before the management company transform the pipe system again the problem can’t be solved completely.
But there is a temporary solution is before you do the shower please call the management company 2388****, they will send a worker to make the water warmer.

Hope that will help you.

Smack forehead with palm.

Really? You just want me to call you before I want to take a shower? Every day?

And wait? This is the solution for the WHOLE building? 24 floors of apartments.
Is there a guy whose sole job is to come heat up the water every time anyone wants to take a hot shower? There has to be. And how does he do it?

(LB is convinced that they send someone up with a blowtorch to heat up the pipes. I think we’re going to call them up, just to see how they do it. )

And when that doesn’t work: Refer to steps 1-7 above.

If you want to take a hot shower…

well, tough luck.


Life in China: Don’t push the big red button

So… I’ve been trying to get out of posting this little story. I mean, you don’t really care to know EVERYTHING that happens to us on this little adventure, do you? Actually, I’m not really sure you care to know any of it, but I’m writing it down just the same. I was going to skim over this tidbit, but I realized… I just need to keep it real. Most of you already know what a dingbat I am anyway, and it’s probably unlikely you’ll even be surprised I’d do something like this.

Besides, LeftBrain is making me. He has literally asked me at least twice a day since it happened… “Have you posted it yet?” And so, begrudgingly, here is the story of the big red button…

Security in Shenyang
On Thursday morning, we met the realtor, Echo, at the apartment. She is Chinese, but speaks English ok and was appointed to answer questions and translate for us. When we arrived, a friend of the landlord was also there getting things ready, setting up the phone and internet, etc.

I went to the kitchen first to check out the appliances and make sure everything was in working order. I was pleasantly surprised to see that this apartment, like the first, had a little TV in the kitchen. Both times, the realtor seemed really excited to show us this. To be honest, the first time I was unimpressed. Who has time to watch TV in the middle of cooking anyway? Besides that, most of the channels are in Chinese and the screen is only 6 inches across. Tiny.

However, I knew from the first apartment that the TV wasn’t just a TV. It was also a security camera! So cool! I know it may not be that exciting to you. But I was impressed.

When I asked Echo about it, she mentioned that this one also had that capability, but she wasn’t quite sure how to work it. She pushed a few buttons and we never could quite figure it out. I got bored for the moment and moved on. When I got back out to the living/ dining area, I noticed another screen mounted on the wall next to the door. I was sure this was a camera too. And I was determined to figure out how to use this thing. Not that I ever think we’ll need it. I don’t. But still, I must know how it works. It’s just the way I am. No gadget can be left untouched.

Our China Apartment: Front DoorThere are 6 buttons on the panel. One of them has to work the camera, right? They are all labeled with Chinese characters, which I can’t read of course, so without rhyme or reason I just decided to push them all until the camera came on. Easy enough.

The very first button on the right has red writing, looks the most to me like it would be a power or “On” button. Wrong! As soon as I pushed it, it starts blinking red and a deafening alarm starts going off. I’m in total “Oh Crap” mode and start going down the line pushing every button on there to try and get it to stop. Well, Echo walks up beside me at that point and as I’m going back down the line of buttons, frantically trying to find a combination that would shut the thing up. I start to push the same red button again, and Echo stops me.

“Don’t push that one. It calls the police.”

Ummm, WHAT?!? Did you say police??

So, I really didn’t know much about China before we moved here (still don’t, as a matter of fact), but the one thing I do know, is you want to steer clear of the police. (That really goes in just about every country, I think.) And I’m pretty sure, you definitely don’t want to call them to you, with a flashing red light and a blaring siren loud enough to wake the dead, for NO REASON! At this point, I’m pretty much mortified. All the while trying to play it off like the siren just started going off by itself or the guy messing with the wiring set it off, and I was just “helping” by pushing buttons to try and shut it off.

About this time, I decide it’s high time to head outta there. My plan at this point is to slink into one of the bedrooms and get my pointer finger ready. I’m also racking my brain trying to piece together enough of the Mandarin I’ve learned to say “He did it!”

As it turns out, I had very little to worry about. The alarm continued to go off for over an hour with no sign of the police. The landlord’s friend did manage to reduce it to an intermittent blaring somehow. But it would only stay quiet for about 2 minutes before it would start again. I have to admit, about 45 minutes in, I’m over the panic and getting a little annoyed. What if there really was an emergency? What good is that stupid little thing, except to trick button-happy foreigners into bursting their ear drums?

Well, someone did eventually come and turn off the alarm. I was conveniently in another room at the time so I didn’t get to see them fix it. I’m not sure exactly how Echo explained the situation but it probably went something like: “That crazy white woman in there got all geeked out over the security camera. Apparently they don’t have those in Iva.” Yeah well, maybe not. But we have tractors. And cows. Where are your cows?

On the up side, I learned a couple of new Chinese characters that I’m not likely to ever forget. For your reference, when you come to China, don’t push buttons marked

(unless, of course, you mean to call the police.)

On a side note, none of the buttons actually turned on the security camera. We found out later, it comes on automatically when someone pushes the doorbell.

So how do you translate… ummm, oops?


Our New China Apartment

Main gate of Riverside Garden. Shenyang, China

We had a meeting set up for Thursday with our realty agency who has been working out all the details in getting our apartment for us. They set up the lease, negotiate the rate and any other little details. In China, everything is negotiable, including rent prices, and typically you need to know someone who knows someone to get a deal, or even to get in at all. We actually got turned down by the owner of the first apartment we picked out. Pretty much because he didn’t want to rent to us for whatever reason. This was after the price was negotiated and the deal was pretty much done. It’s all about who ya know ’round here.

Lucky for us, “the company” hires an agency to work out all the details. I couldn’t imagine having to figure that out on our own. If you are moving to China and your company isn’t taking care of housing, I would definitely look up one of the real estate agencies who deal with expats. Kelt Realty is the company who took care of our housing and we had a great experience with them.

I was a little nervous to check out the apartment. Ok, a LOT nervous. Like I mentioned, the first apartment we picked out fell through, so we ended up having to sign a lease on this second apartment sight unseen. This is our home for the next two years, and I will be spending a LOT of time there. To me, this was one of the biggest decisions we had to make. It really could go a long way to make or break this experience. Making this decision without even visiting the place took quite a leap of faith for me.

Living Room in our Shenyang Apartment

It wasn’t a completely blind choice though. This apartment is in the same building as the first one and the location in the city is one of the main things we liked about it. Riverside Garden is a gated community where a lot of expats live. It has a nice park, a market, and English speaking staff. We did get to see photos of the inside via email also. From the pictures, it could have been the same apartment except in mirror image. However, there was one glaring problem I noticed right away. These hideous light fixtures. They were unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Really awful. It worried me that the owner actually chose these and proceeded to hang them up. I’m even a little scared to show them to you. Did you notice the plural? Yep, they are in EVERY room too!

Chinese Light FixtureLight Fixture in our China Apartment

But all in all light fixtures aren’t that big of a deal and I figure I can decorate around them. World’s Greatest Ignorer, remember? I was just really hoping there wasn’t some other scary thing hiding in a closet that the photographs failed to show off. To be honest, I guess I didn’t really have that much to be worried about.

As it turns out, the apartment should have been more scared of ME, than me of it.

Check back later for the REST of the story. Here’s a hint…
it has something to do with this little contraption.
Security in Shenyang