Our apartment is owned by the Hangzhou Foreign Languages School. It’s small, about 750 to 800 square feet. It’s in one building of several in the apartment complex. Judging by the responses to Char’s introductory slide show in class, in which she shows pictures of our house, we are guessing that most Chinese live in an apartment much like this. Of course, this one does not get updated and remodeled, but it is likely of a typical size.
Real estate values have risen dramatically over the past few years, and our liaison tells us that the apartment’s market value has climbed to about 2 million yuan, about $318,000. Keep that in mind as you view the photos.
You will notice as you look through the photos that there is a master bedroom and one smaller bedroom. The Chinese have lived for years with a social policy that allows couples to have only one child, so the apartment layout makes sense.
Heating and cooling is accomplished by dual heating and air conditioning units mounted on the walls. We have one in the living room and one in the master bedroom. They seem to be a source of dust, probably from poor filtration (I’m not sure when the filters were changed last), or from the insulation system, such as it is. I have been told that buildings in this latitude and below are not insulated. Unlike Americans, the Chinese are quite accustomed to a daily lifestyle of cool temperatures inside their homes and places of business.
In the photo of our miniscule bathroom, notice at the bottom right a small blue waste basket just peeking from behind the door. This is a common fixture in Chinese bathrooms, private and public. Citizens are asked not to flush paper needlessly in order to lighten the load on the sewer system, and this is a common means of disposal for unsoiled tissue.
Kitchen. Just five feet wide and 11 feet long, this miniscule kitchen requires a lifestyle readjustment. A two-burner, Panasonic gas stove sits at one end. It is like a large camp stove—about 30 inches wide. We find lots of food stuffs left behind by former HFLS teachers. Eventually, we throw it all out. The apartment has not been used for six months. It was said to have been cleaned prior to our arrival. My wife disagreed.
Bathroom. Tiny, tiny, tiny. Literally, I cannot stand between the shower stall and the sink. For that matter, neither can Char. The room is quite used and in need of updating and freshening. The shower doors only close all the way with a certain amount of coaxing. Caulking lies on the floor. Water leaks onto the floor and backs up a bit into the floor drain. The shower head, which is at the end of a hose, is missing a bracket, and thus, cannot hang on the wall. We begin our stay by holding the shower head with one hand and washing with the other. While it may be less than desirable, it is not that difficult to manage. Besides, it’s a dinner story in the making.
Living Room. We do not as yet spend a lot of time in the living room, except to hang clothes to dry. It is rather spacious, albeit sparsely appointed. A wooden sofa with meager cushions provides somewhat uncomfortable seating, but nothing to which we cannot get accustomed.. We also have a television, which we do not watch because we do not understand Chinese. There is an English channel somewhere, but we have never really been that interested in TV, so we don’t watch it.
Living Room 2. Here is a view of the living room from the other end. Since this picture was taken, we have moved a desk from the bedroom into the living room to serve as a sort of computer work station. I work from it and we have placed our wireless router on it.
Dining room. This is where we eat. The room contains the water cooler, a microwave, and a toaster oven. It is also the room into which we enter the apartment.
Laundry. As is typical of efficiency apartments, the washer and dryer are compact units mounted one on top of the other. Initially, everything worked fine, but the dryer has stopped drying, and we will have to try to get that fixed. However, it’s not the end of the world as we know it. We can still hang our clothes out to dry, which is what most Chinese seem to do.
Master bedroom. This is a decent-sized room. the beds in China seem to be low. This one is low and firm, and also relatively uncomfortable. After a few days here, I commented to Char that I was sore and achy all over, and she said the same thing. We attributed that to the bed.
Second bedroom. The apartment contains a small, second bedroom (which is waiting for the arrival of special guests!). The bed is a single, which will accommodate one person easily, and perhaps a couple who enjoy being particularly close. Hmmmm.