If you’ve ever wondered what a Beijing apartment looks like, this is your chance. Overall, our apartment’s been treating us pretty well, though once you live in a place for a little while, you start to notice its quirks. Some were obvious right away, like the dingy walls. We thought about repainting them, but didn’t want to get too close to any leaded paint (instead, we’ve been hanging up maps and antiqued hand drawing reproductions of Beijing temples/sites). We’re still figuring out how to mask the light to moderate sewer smell (perhaps I fool myself by equating the scent to rotten vegetables) emitting from our bathroom. And the dust and pollution that seeps its way in on a daily basis has us sweeping and mopping every day.
The furnished part of the apartment is gradually falling apart. We’ve already had to toss out a coffee table and a window screen. The kids comment when they get the “lucky” kitchen chair without even one screw missing. We’ve noticed several more of the blue bathroom tiles have fallen off in addition to the loss of a handle from one of the built-in cabinets in the kids’ room. Think IKEA furniture that’s about ten years old and well-used and you’ll get a sense of the quality I’m talking about.
On the positive side, we love our view, especially when the pollution lets up, and the light here on the 18th floor is great. The space is also big enough for the five of us to feel comfortable (it’s larger than what I envisioned before we came). Even though the kitchen space isn’t very big, it’s not a bad set-up and I like the separate alcove with the two gas burners that can be closed off with a sliding, glass-paneled door. Isabel finally has a pack-n-play, so even though she starts off sleeping in her stroller in our closet (see photo – some friends here were appalled at us!), we transfer her to the living room, which allows Manu and me to be able to roll over in bed without waking her up (speaking of bedrooms, at the beginning we thought it was really cool that there was a tatami set-up in the kids’ room, but now it sometimes looks to us like they’re basically sleeping on the floor…).
We also love our lively neighborhood, which has really awakened now that the Spring Festival has passed. And we just discovered the other day that we’re only a five-minute walk from the north gate of the sizable Purple Bamboo Park (in the summer you can take a boat from the park’s lake, down a canal, and to the Summer Palace!). This has been a fantastic find (I’ll post soon about all the activities that occur in the park, especially for retired people) and I plan to go there a lot, especially as the weather improves and the days get longer.
The best part about our living evolution here, though, is that yesterday we finally had wireless installed. We still haven’t figured out how to circumvent China’s firewalls on our tablets (no Facebook, WordPress, or NY Times!), but at least we’ve got the VPN’s working on the laptops. The fact that we can both be on-line at the same time now and don’t have to worry about using up the GB on our China Mobile internet stick feels like a big step towards normalcy and contentment.