Wo shi Beijinger!
The movers arrived right on time Saturday morning, swiftly moving 33 assorted size boxes into the new apartment. It was a pleasant surprise when they also unpacked the boxes for me and removed all the empty boxes with the voluminous packing material from the apartment. The entire process took about 90 minutes.
Some friends dropped in to say hello and make sure there was no Chinese communication emergency. All was fine – the supervisor spoke excellent English. Each box was numbered, so the crew practiced English while I practiced Chinese and we marked boxes off the packing list as they were brought into the apartment.
I learned that the ‘coffee table’ we purchased from our landlord in Shanghai is actually a table to eat on. At first, I thought maybe we were failing to communicate properly – the table is on aobut 12 inches high but fairly wide (2 1/2 feet square). Apparently, though, in Northeast China they would put the table on the bed for meals and all sit around and eat. According to David the supervisor, ‘They have big beds in Northeast China.’ When I explained to Linda she noted that at antique shops in Shanghai she had seen similar tables ‘under the beds’ but had assumed it was more like a stool or step bench. Apparently, the custom would be to keep the table under the bed when not in use.
The movers-in loved the drum as much as the movers-out and, surprise, each gave it a wack. I did not observe the unpacking of the Playboy magazines so can not comment on the reaction.
My friends also marveled at how much stuff we had. They have lived here 3 years and have far fewer ‘things’ than we do. I blamed it on Linda though must admit my clothes and shoes take up a fair amount of space (I am bigger than your average Chinese). Everything else though…
I spent most of the rest of the day reorganizing the apartment – sorting clothes into his / hers and winter / summer, doing laundry, making the bed, and organizing both the kitchen and the den. At the end of the day, I walked next door to an English pub for a couple of pints of cold Foster’s. Very refreshing.
The Coffee Maker Quest
One of our most regrettable mistakes when we moved to Shanghai in 2004 was our acquisition of a coffee maker. Linda and I need coffee every morning. The foreign brand coffee makers cost the equivalent of US$60 to $70 in China for what in the US would be a $40 appliance. They are probably all made in China.
To save $30, we purchased a ‘Chinese’ coffee maker (caffei ji). It looked fine but in reality it was a hunk-a junk-a. There was no corresponding relationship between the size of the carafe and the size of the water reservoir. To prevent overflows, a hole was drilled near the top of the reservoir so water would just pour out when capacity was reached. Preventing spills as you filled the reservoir was impossible – the lid was specifically designed to impede access. The container for the coffee beans required absolute precision in placement in order to prevent a massive overflow of scalding water and ground coffee from exploding onto the counter, down the front of the kitchen cabinets and onto the floor. Even when aligned precisely, water flowed into the coffee bean container at a rate faster than water could make its way from the coffee beans into the carafe so there was always a collection of ground coffee at the bottom.
The coffee maker stayed in Shanghai.
I took a wad of money to the Carrefour (French version of Wal-Mart with a large presence in China) in search of a Braun, Phillips, or Mr. Coffee. Price was no object. Alas, there were no large automatic coffee makers (da caffei ji) – only the tiny models that say four cups but really mean two. This was completely unacceptable.
My friends took me to lunch as a ‘welcome to Beijing.’ We then went to a large department store. On the 4th floor we found appliances and after 7 seconds I selected a Braun 12 cup coffee maker for about US$60 (on sale – saved $10). The Braun is a model of elegant and simple design – quick brewing, no spills, and easy to clean. Sunday’s coffee was the most satisfying home brew I have had in 14 months. Linda will resupply the coffee beans when she visits in October.