Friday, March 19, 2010


When we moved into our first apartment in China, we lived on the 20th floor of a 22 story building. Our apartment was an empy shell when we rented it, and in agreement for lower rent, we had flooring and some cupboards installed, and the walls painted. At first it was nice to live there because few people lived on the top floors, but over time people moved into THOSE empty shells, and the renovating became a constant neighbor. One apartment was so bad that I went and asked them how much longer they were going to be. They gave me the old "ban tian" which means, "half a day" but in actuality means, "It's anybody's guess lady. Could be weeks, could be months."

I thought we'd left our renovating days behind, but the apartment above us has been slated for a complete renovation. Every day (except weekends) they begin work around 8 am and continue til 5. I'm thankful for the days which don't require drilling. Today is unfortunately not one of those days. Finding a room in our house where we don't hear the drilling is a challenge. Usually Megan's room provides the best retreat, so we can continue to do some schooling (at least that which doesn't require us to speak to one another).

To add to the experience, last night we had some of the management company workers come to our house. There seems to be some water leaking into their basement dormitories. No surprise, given that the walls and flooring outside our two bathrooms, as well as the wall of Megan' room which lines the bathroom are all disintegrating from water damage. We've been lazy in inviting them to come. Maybe we thought it would magically go away on its own. I guess we thought it was done leaking, and we just needed to fix the damage. Not so, not so.

I don't want to disparage the quality of workers here, but it's not uncommon for them to wander through the house like they're hoping the answer to your problems will suddenly jump out at them. It reminds me a little of that scene in Toy Story, "I don't believe that man has EVER been to medical school!" My faith in their fixing abilities is shaky. But what's most disconcerting about these times is the possibility that at any moment, they will come ask me for something. Over the years, I've learned a lot of new vocabulary, as I've been asked for things like rags, ladders, pails, flashlights, hammers, and caulk. I've also learned the most important word you can learn about your house: leak. I know how to talk about leaks.

Beyond these random inquiries, there is also the final analysis, which could also be called, "The most trying language moment of the month" or "10 minutes of frustration that will suck the life out of you." This is when the workers come and tell me what they've found, and what they plan to do about it. This involves them pointing at things and jabbering quickly (usually with a southern accent), while I nod and grunt, and hope for words I understand (usually just "leak" and "water"). Then they ask me for something, and I have to admit, "I don't know what you mean." Then begins the game of me saying, "You mean this?" No. "You mean this?" Yes, but blah blah blah something else I don't understand. By the end, we usually come to a fair understanding of what has and what will transpire.

Today, the end result is that they need to talk to the workers who installed a new pipe in our bathroom. This may or may not be the source, they don't know. They're coming back this afternoon. Before they left, I asked one of them to look at our back door which hasn't been shutting properly. He fixed that, and then determined that my kitchen faucet wasn't working (I didn't know that!). I'm not sure if that puts me ahead or behind.

Now that they've left, I have an unsettled feeling. I'd better rest up though because I'll have round 2 in a few hours!

1 comment:

Robyn said...

So sorry, Gina! Hope they can fix the water problems. You are doing great if you understand even part of what those workers are saying! :)