China, October 11, 1999
Chinese housing isn't so bad, if you've lived in Russia
Today I spent the afternoon getting domestic. Yes, I have a fixed address again, but unfortunately, I can't pronounce it to save my life! I only know how to get here from the University I've been hanging around (thanks Tom!) while I've been looking for a place to stay.
Oddly enough, after I'd heard so many horror stories about Chinese apartments, moving in was quite uneventful. They are just like Russian apartments, small, basic, and dusty. My new apartment has two and a half living rooms; my bedroom (12ftx12ft), my flatmate's room (8ftx12ft), and a wide hallway (don't ask) that functions as the living room. I lucked out with a nice enclosed porch that I'm already utilizing as my working/relaxing space.
The shower is the most interesting aspect, if you ask me. Like a Finnish shower, there is no defined shower space, just a drain in the middle of the floor next to the toilet. Unlike the Finnish ones, which are huge and luxurious, this one is small and efficient to leave enough space for the other 200+million inhabitants of Beijing.
Now the legality of my accommodation intrigues me. Officially, westerners are only allowed to live in PSB (Public Security Bureau) approved housing, which usually means outrageously overpriced crap. Unofficially, if your landlord has clout (mine has a brother in the PSB), you can do whatever you damn well please.
I have been told that there will be times when the PSB has to look like they're doing something, and we'll have to hide out at the University for a day so as not to become 'examples.' I can deal with that though, because thankfully, 'unofficial' housing prices are reasonable here. Our apartment is only $250 per month.
With this settlement in my travels, I'll be getting back to what ya'll like the best, my weekly journals and random experiences with all the colors I can capture with my scanner, so sit back and enjoy!
I've moved again! Now I am living in approved housing, an apartment in a hotel compound. It is nicer than it sounds, but still I feel segregated from China. Hmm.. I think that's the intent.
Anyway, today, at 8C, was the first day I would call 'winter' in China. It was this cold yesterday, but since I was too sick to go outside until today, it didn't count.
Today at work, I realized the difference between Russian and Chinese housing. My new apartment is Soviet, designed and built in the 1950's, its so warm I have one of the small window panes (1/4 of the window) open in the kitchen to keep my apartment at the right temp. If I shut the window, the hot water radiators will bake me, not to mention the smell of my downstairs neighbors cooking choking me.
It's a different story at work. We have heaters there too, two in fact. One hot water radiator like home and one forced-air conditioner/heater mounted on the wall. With them both cranking, my office is toasty, that is until someone opens the door. Then my officemate and I get an arctic blast from the hallway.
See, oddly enough, they don't shut the windows in the hallway or bathrooms, so there is no warmth outside all of our closed-door offices! These freaks wonder why everyone bitches about Chinese housing. Its not cuz the houses are poor, they are similar to toasty-warm Russian apartments, its that the occupants are too stupid to shut the windows in the winter time!
I've taken to screaming 'zatcrete devair!' every time someone enters our office. That's 'shut the door' in my heavily accented Russian. No, they don't understand what I'm saying, but they do know what I mean. I only have to yell once or twice before that person learns. Too bad, a few dozen wander in my office every day.