Everything’s going wrong! I’ve broken something else that’s been provided for me so kindly! Today, I blocked the toilet – and I’ve already broken the washing machine! How can I be such a disaster?!
On the surface, it looks much the same, but the housing here is quite different. With so many people living in such a compressed area, buildings don’t have the space for the large pipes that are standard in my country. Tissues should never be flushed down a loo – so the bin next to any toilet is not a pleasant place! Then of course for most loos in China you have to squat, so that foul tissue container is right by your nose! And they often don’t have tissues. You quickly learn to always carry stock! I tried to discover the nice toilets to use when I am out. McDonalds is a good bet – and they usually have sit-down toilets. If only I’d know about this website I maybe would not have had so many bad experiences! Often public loos are just a trough through several cubicles, so things don’t flush away until the auto-flush switches on! (Assuming it’s working…) If you’re lucky enough to be there when the flush switches on, you get a pretty sight! Stations have the worst toilets. The first one I went to in a station was like the loos in Trainspotting, only when it’s a trough you can’t even hope for that magical underwater world! The second loos were cleaner, but the cubicle walls were so low that even a neighbouring squatter could see all! There was also no main door preventing direct line of sight with the outside world! – Thank God that cubicle door locked!
There are other things about housing that’s different. There came a time when the apartment got suddenly cold. I turned the heating up max, always kept the windows shut and drew the curtains, but sometimes I still had to wear all my clothes to keep warm. For some reason the radiators weren’t working… Apparently, Shanghai doesn’t even have central heating. There’s not enough power to serve the huge number of people in this country! Consequently, Beijing heating only works for the winter months, so if you get any cold days in spring, you just have to suffer!
You can’t drink the tap water here, so I have a routine of boiling a full kettle of water each evening, to cool over night ready for next day. This isn’t such a problem for Chinese as they drink their water hot. It’s so funny that this is strange idea to Brits – it probably was for me too at first, but it makes perfect sense! Part of the reason we drink tea and coffee is because they are hot – so if you simply don’t want the flavouring, what is wrong with hot water?? Heat warms you, and soothes you, and hot water is quick and simple. Another obvious idea: cups with lids! Why doesn’t everyone do that?? You’ll always find half full cups of tea all over my house – because it got cold before I finished it! Thermos flasks are a big thing here – often they have tea in them but not necessarily. People who can’t afford thermos flasks walk around with hot drinks in jam jars!
Now onto the electrics – every time I touch the DVD player, TV, or stand, I get an electric shock! I sometimes walked out of the house with hair standing on end! The actual electrical appliances are all quite high-tech. Our building has lights that come on with a stamp or clap. Even poor Chinese tend to have TVs now, and DVDs are everywhere. However I never saw a microwave – the Chinese don’t cheat with their cooking!
As I can’t read or speak Chinese, I struggle to buy anything that I can’t easily identify – this includes chemicals for unblocking loos! I was thoroughly embarrassed to have to call my friend to inform her of my foul accident and ask her to buy some bleach. That evening, her parents knocked on the door. I don’t think I need emphasise the foul stench that wafted from the bathroom whenever you open the door! Oh no, they’ve only come to help me – but no one else should witness the gut-wrenching mess I’ve made! – maybe they’re just looking at the washing machine – but that’s in the same room you can’t go in there! – and they don’t understand anything I’m saying, so they’re gonna just go straight in there because it’s right next to them by the front door please don’t!! As I was madly waving my arms around and stuttering refusals in pale-faced shock, they paused in wonder for a moment, then her father marched into another room and her mother handed me a box of hot dinner. Those crazy English. 😉