Home Sweet (and Sour) Home

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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.

Pam

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10 responses »

  1. Thought of you guys today when I caught part of an NPR show about how bad pollution is in Beijing! And let me ask Frank about the sewer smell: I remember having that in a motel room and he did something to make it go away. More soon! xo

    • Hey Susan, Can you let me know the show and date of the program? (I’m writing a post on pollution here). Also, I’d love to hear about an antidote to the sewer problem!!!! Thank-you!

  2. “Also known as the floor”….I nearly spit my coffee on that one! Glad to see you’re keeping your sense of humor intact. Also dying to know about lava babies. Thinking of you guys and missing you!

    • Yes, there’s plenty of reasons every day to keep our senses of humor around here! Lava Baby is your typical run from one-poor/plagued-child game. Sophia and Dylan came up with it when they were into lava/volcanos a couple of months ago and Isabel became the “lava baby,” who they needed to run away with and try to block at every turn. Isabel likes the attention, but we’ve recently been telling them that it’s really not nice that she gets attention by being in this role all the time, so they’ve been playing it a little less (though we still hear shrieks of “lava baby!” coming from their room occasionally).

  3. Lava Babies? Should I even ask? Your place looks pretty good! I’ve never been to Asia, but it looks really nice compared to some of the places I’ve stayed in Europe. What a great experience this is for the kids. I hope you two survive! Keep walking past your house, and it’s still there ;-).

    • Thanks for checking it out, Kerry! It really is a decent place, nothing compared to the way some people live here in fabulous buildings, but it’s definitely a lot more spacious and livable than some other apartments we saw/visited.
      Lava Baby is your typical run from one-poor/plagued-child game. Sophia and Dylan came up with it when they were into lava/volcanos a couple of months ago and Isabel became the “lava baby,” who they needed to run away with and try to block at every turn. Isabel likes the attention, but we’ve recently been telling them that it’s really not nice that she gets attention by being in this role all the time, so they’ve been playing it a little less (though we still hear shrieks of “lava baby!” coming from their room occasionally).

    • Thanks for checking it out, Kerry! It really is a decent place, nothing compared to the way some people live here in fabulous buildings, but it’s definitely a lot more spacious and livable than some other apartments we saw/visited.
      Lava Baby is your typical run from one-poor/plagued-child game. Sophia and Dylan came up with it when they were into lava/volcanos a couple of months ago and Isabel became the “lava baby,” who they needed to run away with and try to block at every turn. Isabel likes the attention, but we’ve recently been telling them that it’s really not nice that she gets attention by being in this role all the time, so they’ve been playing it a little less (though we still hear shrieks of “lava baby!” coming from their room occasionally).

  4. Pingback: Parks in China: Breathing Life Into Sprawling Cities and What Makes Them Uniquely Chinese | Beijing Days

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