Fifth Floor Challenges

I like living on the fifth floor of my apartment in Binhai, even if it means trudging up and down the stairs multiple times per day.

What I don’t like are the seemingly endless quirks that living on the top floor of my building seems to bring to me. Maybe the Feng Shui of the complex can’t adapt to my Western aura. I’m not certain, but since I moved in ten days ago, the following things have happened to make me wonder about life on the top floor of building 8.

My first night, with the temperature plummeting to -8 Celsius, my heater opted not to turn on. It turns out it was just a pair of old batteries, but in the dark in a new town that was an auspicious debut to say the least.
Shivering through the night I managed to survive by wearing all the layers I could create and burrowing under as many blankets as I could rummage up.

One day, for over 24 hours no water flowed from any taps, I feared my pipes might be frozen. Given how anti-insulation and heating this part of China happens to be, it wouldn’t have shocked me. Other times during my time here the water only offered up hot water, although it never rose above ice cold. The cold water must have actually been ice.
Showers are not refreshing (or taken) when it’s this cold with no hot water.

Pink slip! Telling me in Chinese... "no electricity for you!"

Pink slip! Telling me in Chinese… “no electricity for you!”

However, the trump card of frustration remains a week ago when I returned home at noon and realized my apartment didn’t have electricity. It was completely black. Or would have been if not for cloudy grey skies. When I returned to Binhai Middle School I informed my teaching liaison. She informed me that shortly after 5 someone would accompany me and it would all be taken care of quickly.

The proper authorities has been informed. No problem.

Shortly after 5, I hear from Mr. Han (quite the character) to get my stuff as the worker is at my apartment. He kindly drives me over and who I suspect might be the building 8 supervisor or perhaps they have more than one building, is there and we quickly confirm. Yup. Power still out and. Nope. He’s got no clue how to fix it.

For the next 90 minutes he yells into his phone with the Jiangsu dialect of Mandarin to demand the power company come and fix it. When they finally arrive, there are four of them, they spend upwards of 30 seconds looking at my power box asking for my flashlight to inspect it. (Real professional guys). Then decide they can’t fix it and all trundle off out of the cold.

Does China have an electrician’s union? If so, these four remain rock-solid layabouts in the worst traditions of unions the world over.

Things get truly entertaining when some new guy shows up, whom the building manager has been yelling for since the start of this whole debacle. I think, this one is the head of the whole complex. There are 22 buildings in Shin Fu Shar Tru, I memorized the words so I can catch taxis when I want a cheap ride back from ‘downtown’ Binhai.

Electrical argument on the  first floor landing!

Electrical argument on the first floor landing!

The overseer, the building manager and Mr. Han argue in staccato syllables and I realize the only part of me remotely warm after nearly 2 hours in the chill dark are my ears. I do enjoy listening to an argument, even if I don’t understand the words.

Turns out the overseer accuses the school of not paying for electricity so he decided today to cut it off. I’d been in the place for 5 days by this point so I really do not understand why he opted to make this his battle du jour. After more heated back n’ forths, he concludes he turned off the electricity without actually, you know, making sure the bills hadn’t been paid. Soon enough he borrows my flashlight to open up the panel and reconnect the wire he disconnected to deprive me of light and heat.

Mercifully ending the extended outdoor icebox adventure of me vs. my electricity.

Xièxiè buddy, xièxiè.


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