Monday, July 9, 2012


If there was one quote that could sum up getting settled in our apartment, it would be:

"Understand that the tragedies of your life one day have the potential to become comic stories the next." ~ Nora Ephron

Mind you, Chris and I aren’t facing any catastrophes; just minor irritations that when combined could bring a culture shocked chick to tears. 

For those of you who were wondering which apartment we selected, we selected apartment three!  If you would like to see our apartment pre move in, visit the Chris Goes House Hunting post to get the grand tour.

For me the apartment was love at first sight.  We just needed a few things to happen before we moved in:
1)   We needed internet.  (They call it DSL over here.)
2)   We needed a washer, drier and dishwasher.
3)   We needed cable (Satellite TV).
4)   We needed the place to be cleaned before we moved in. 

When we arrived at the apartment after our lengthy flight, our relocation agent, Ring, was at our new building waiting for us.  Unfortunately, the key and the landlord were not.  According to Ring, the landlord was thirty minutes out.  In the meantime, we decided to move our six suitcases, carry-ons, and other garb to the 20th floor (via elevator) so we could get settled as soon as the key arrived. 

15 minutes later, our landlord’s brother in law/ property manager, Mr. Ma, arrived with one key.  I was so excited to finally see our cool, clean Shanghainese paradise in person.  As I opened the door, there was a hot, dusty, cruel surprise!  The apartment looked the same as it did on the video, however no one had turned on the air conditioning, cleaned the place, or set up the internet and cable.  There was no washer, dishwasher or dryer to be found.  I immediately knew It was going to be a long week.

This is Mr. Ma the property manager.  He is a pretty cool cat!

Ring immediately sprung into action by calling vendors and yelling at them in Chinese.  15 minutes later an Ayi showed up and started to wipe down the place.  (For those of you who don’t know Ayi, Chinese for Auntie, is someone who is like a Chinese mom.  Ayis clean, cook, shop, and pretty much anything else a mom would do.)  She came in with some dish detergent and gave the place a quick wipe down, so I would feel comfortable taking a shower.

Ring also called the service man to see what was up with the air conditioner, seeing we could not turn on the unit because we did not understand how to hit the right combination for cool.  Did I also mention the temperatures are in Centigrade?  Lesson 18: Before you travel to China, make sure you have a rough idea of how to convert temperatures between Fahrenheit and Celsius.  That way you don’t have to ask,
“Is 23° C warm or cold?” 

Teacher friends, feel free to use this picture for your word problems.

I felt like a complete idiot because I could not figure this AC to save my life!  At least the controls are in English...unlike many other appliances.

Sensing I was about to lose my mind, Mr. Ma (who speaks NO English) decided to brighten my spirits.  He handed me the remote control, and showed me how to adjust my new limousine style chandelier.  While this was a nice gesture, I did not care that the light fixture came with a remote control that had four different light settings.  I WANTED A COOL, CLEAN PLACE TO SLEEP! 

Yes folks, this beauty comes with it's own remote control!  

Mr. Ma then walked me outside to show off the wonderful air-drying rack that he had installed.  I certainly hoped he did not consider this to be the dryer.  I was then notified that an electric dryer would be coming on Saturday. 

I am glad this is not my only dryer!

Fortunately, the apartment service man arrived 5 minutes after Ring called, and the place started to cool off.  However, I quickly realized that we were not going to be fully settled for a while.  We needed a plan…stat. 

The washer and drier were not going to be delivered until Saturday, so rather than having to wait at home for multiple days, Ring scheduled all of the service folks to come on Saturday morning.  In the meantime I would entertain myself by exploring the area. 

Saturday’s arrival felt like Christmas Morning!  I was FINALLY going to be able to do some laundry, catch up with my cable, surf the web and be lazy.  I was looking forward to being settled. 

Sandy (another relocation agent/ guardian angel) and Mr. Ma came over and helped Chris and I supervise the workers’ coming and goings. However, she was only able to stay with us until 10:30.  After that, Chris and I would have to be on our own with Mr. Ma and the workers.  Everything would fall into place.

This is Sandy one week after we moved in.  She and Leia became fast friends!  I don't know what Chris and I would do without she and Ring.

The phone company arrived first and installed our phones.  While we did not request landlines, it is nice to have the option to call someone if our cell phones die.   The only problem is our new landline phone number used to be a fax number.  So, instead of having a pleasant conversation each time the phone rings, we hear,
“Ni hao, we are going to send you a fax now” and the screeching music of a fax being transmitted. We are still looking into how we can get this fixed.

This is our Chinese landline phone.  I think it is telling me I have 23 missed faxes.

After we got our phone, we finally got Sattelite TV!  Sandy (relocation specialist) warned us that the satellite may not be activated until 3 or 4 in the afternoon.  I could be patient, what would a few more hours be?  At 3:30, I sat down to turn on the TV and take in some international satellite package action.  Instead, I got 2 TV channels; the first being the Chinese Cathlolic Channel and the other being the Asian Cultural Channel.  All of the other stations flashed the following message. 

At least the error message is in English.  It took us 4 days to get the cable functioning. 

I really wanted to throw the remote at the TV.  I emailed Sandy and Ring to see if they could come up with a solution.

The washer and dryer then arrived!  I was so excited to finally have the option of doing laundry.  Mr. Ma and some other workers installed the machine.  When he barked in Chinese at me and pointed at the new machine, I inferred the machine was ready to be used.  I looked at the knobs to figure out how to start a load only to realize that the writing on the machine is in Chinese.  I did not want to turn our laundry into Barbie clothes, so I Googled the make and model of our washer and dryer to see if I could download an English instruction manual.  No such luck.  Sandy had left, so there was not way anyone could interpret the instructions so Mr. Ma tried to teach me how to use the washer.  The dialogue went a little like this.

Mr. Ma: “什么不尝试你的品牌新的洗衣机呢?我注意到你有很多衣服,你的卧室地板上。

Me:  I am sorry I don’t speak Chinese.

Mr. Ma (in a louder voice, because he thinks I can’t hear him): 什么不尝试你的品牌新的洗衣机呢?我注意到你有很多衣服,你的卧室地板上.

Me:  Me wenti.  Wo shi meguoren.  Bu hui shuo Yongwen.  (That means I am sorry, I am American.  I do not speak Chinese.)   I was really trying here.

Mr. Ma marches me to the bedroom, points at the mountain of dirty clothes, then marches me back to the laundry room and points washer.

Mr. Ma:  什么不尝试你的品牌新的洗衣机呢? 我注意到你有很多衣服,你的卧室地板上。

(I finally get the picture.)

Me: I am sorry.  I am not going to do my laundry yet.  I don’t have any detergent, and my dryer is not hooked up. 

Mr. Ma looks at me like I was the laziest woman in the universe because I was not using the washer 3 minutes after it had been installed.  He then proceeds to start yelling in Chinese for a good 10 minutes, then skulks off for a cigarette.  I choke back tears, grab a glass of water and wait for the chaos to be over.

After the tantrum, the Internet man was ready to install our broadband. This was going to be the highlight of my day.  Finally I was going to be able to reconnect with the world in the comfort of my own home without having to worry about data overages on my phone. Wire was laid, plugs were plugged in, and the Internet man plugged the cat 5 cable directly into Chris's laptop.  Google suddenly popped up on the screen!  Then he plugged the cable into my laptop.  I finally had Internet!!  However, all work was not done.  We needed to get the wireless up and running.  Chris had the foresight to carry his router not he plane, so we could get us up and running.  I asked the broadband man,
            “Can I plug this wire into the router so we can get our wireless working?”
The worker shakes his head violently no, and starts rambling in Chinese.  He assumes he is finished with the installation, so he and Mr. Ma take off. 

            Tears finally spilled down my cheeks.  I was so tired of being yelled at in a language I don’t know, and all I wanted was to get some contact with the Western world.  I had enough; it was time for me to take control of my situation.  I took the cat 5 cable, plugged it into the router and plugged the router in to the power strip.  Strange Brew, our wireless network pops up on my screen.  Victory!!!!

At the end of Saturday night, the washer and dryer were not usable; I had access to two very amusing TV channels, and the wireless Internet was rocking!  One out of three tasks accomplished is not so bad.