Ah, yes, it’s all coming back now. The way things are done here– it is to laugh, as my mother might have said. For a year we’ve watched the third phase of our apartment complex go up. It’s a block away and a solid square block of construction. One huge tower, one smaller one, and an assortment of 4 storey townhouses built in bands of 4 have gone up behind ponderous brick walls, which are built, then stuccoed, then papered in advertisements for the units, which bear little resemblance to the actual structures but feature the highly desirable waterways, flowing grasses and overall visions of pastoral splendour. As the units near completion, holes are punched into the brick walls to allow trucks to collect the builders’ waste before the the finishing and landscaping begins. Note that they take away “some” of the builders’ leftover materials, but the amount of stuff that is simply turned under the soil is astounding. I pity the poor guy who tries to plant the trees that will be arriving soon. Good luck finding a deep enough, clear enough spot.
Because of the new holes punched into the outer walls, we can see a massive hole that has been dug just inside the fence. When I say massive, I mean massive. I’m guessing that it is the sewer connection for the entire site. Interesting that this wouldn’t have been done as part of the initial site preparation, but what the hey, they are working on it now. One undersized back-hoe and another 4 or 5 guys shoveling–they should be done within the week. I am quite looking forward to it because I so want our sidewalks back!
The thing I am most curious about is where the construction crew is sleeping. Their “dorms” were taken down several weeks ago so they are either in another camp or squatting in the new apartment shells. This latter practice is really typical. Most of the new big towers have retail space on the first floor but until the building is finished, the construction guys throw up a false wall about 4 feet from the external windows and set up house in the private space behind. It can’t be much fun living on cement floors without facilities but they seem to make do.
And of course we are always astounded at the actual building/maintenance practices. They still do a lot of mixing by hand, even when building huge towers; the ingredients for mortar seem to be clay, water and a very fine sawdust, at least for the decorative parts. Perhaps there is a little cement in there somewhere but it certainly explains why buildings don’t last very long and why parts fall off and general shabbiness ensues. I had a moment in the classroom today when I was looking at a meticulously drawn poster for science, showing an immaculate chemical closet, with the message to “always keep tidy, always clean up,” posted right above a small cover for various outlets, festooned with long-dried blobs and drips of paint that someone had neglected to keep tidy and clean up. Cleanliness is definitely not next to godliness in China.
On the other hand, the Chinese are resourceful. Today, a man came to install a land-line for me to have a phone that I can use without having to hang out of the window. He studied the wall to determine where he might punch a hole to run the wire. He noticed a paper cup tucked into a hole previously used to vent the A/C unit. However, what he didn’t know was that the cup only went cup-deep, so to speak, and the other half had been cemented in last year to combat a mouse problem. Not to be deterred, he used his screw driver to punch out the plug, fed the wire through, then used the same screw driver to pound in the little plastic things that hold the wire in place along the wall. Just a beautiful job, I’m sure you can imagine. Next, he struggled with my printer/scanner/fax machine–how to plug this in? He was stymied for quite awhile, all the time with me thinking, “Am I supposed to use the fax machine as my phone?” Good grief. Eventually, he figured out how to plug it but not how it might work as a phone, and asked, “Okay?” Yes, well, I suppose you have done your job, technically, but does it work? Not his department. Sigh. TIC.
I feel like I’ve been exposed as a bit of a liar because I told our new teachers that last year, it rarely if ever rained from September to January. This year, we’ve already had quite a bit in the form of huge storms which blow and pound rain for most of the night. The good news is that they break the humidity and lower the temperature to a much more tolerable level but still, it’s not like last year. There were a few other things, too, that haven’t come to pass but I can’t remember now. Just as well.
We finally met Andy and Cheryl, our new ex-pat friends from Australia. Having read our blogs, they came to our house bearing gifts–a box of moon cakes! You’ll remember that last year, we were given two boxes (of 8-10 each) and ended up gifting them to the Mah Jong players and then begged not to be given two of everything. Love that sense of humour! Unfortunately, I took the gift of a bottle of The Great Wall wine as meant to be in the same vein and ended up being rude. Sorry, Andy and Cheryl!
Just a few days away now from our Tibet trip. Fingers are crossed hoping the train trip is smooth, the bathrooms are tolerable, and our private cabin remains that way. Oh yes, and the weather is clear enough to see.
(Ed. note: Some more photos related to Working in China)
I am sitting in my office yesterday and one of the motorized three-wheeled carts pulls up with six of these concrete blocks on it. He throws down a bamboo pad of about 2 feet by 3 feet and 3 inches thick, puts a rope around one and proceeds to pull it off the card, letting it fall on the pad – a distance of about 40 inches. Now these suckers are heavy. Once he has them all off, the “guards” roll them into position across the walkway/driveway/mall entrance and then use a rope to get them upright. Now, this is where the Walmart buses used to drive as they left each hour. I can only surmise these were installed to stop the buses (for what reason I have no idea), since they left enough space between the last one and Starbucks for cars to continue to drive through. (Ed note: Update: Just after I wrote this (the day after they were put in place) the guard came over and moved two of them so no cars can get in. This will be interesting since a couple of cars went through just before he moved them.) This story just gets better and better. The van in the photo shows up, I guess to deliver something. One guy gets out and almost gives himself a hernia straining to move one of the blocks. The driver gets out and helps him get it over on to its side and they roll it out of the way so that they can drive through. Then the guard comes over and says something to them and off they go. When they come out it takes three of them to get it upright and before they can walk away, the guard tells them that it is not in the right place and so they have to manhandle it out two feet while it is on its base. Beautiful.
In the meantime he has been in to Starbucks looking for the driver of a parked BMW (she’s not in here). When she shows up, he is yelling at her through her open window as she ignores him while driving away. Ahhh China.
Okay this next one isn’t strictly “working” but how could I leave it out.
This Week’s Shoes
- Come on – pink shoes with a red dress – what are you thinking!
- Next time buy shoes that actually fit. As Terry pointed out, these were likely 2 sizes too big, with her foot coming out with every step.
- As a result of the size issue and the height issue, she was in a great deal of pain and every step was a trial. It took her forever to get anywhere. I didn’t dare get a photo of her grimacing face!