I’ve been in China just about three weeks now, which is the same amount of time I was in Beijing in May. There’s no going back now: this is where I live.
Andy and I are slowly trying to settle in. Finding solutions to some of the aforementioned problems (nonfunctional internet, noisy neighbors) is proving challenging. So we aren’t willing to settle in too much, just in case we need to pull up stakes to find our oasis abroad… Sigh. I’ve been living out of a suitcase off and on since December of last year, what with trips abroad, eloping, and moving from apartment to apartment to in with my mother-in-law… so I unpacked my luggage because I couldn’t take the wrinkled mess of my clothes anymore. They’d been packed since June, after all…
Through it all, though, there have been some unsung heroes of our move and efforts to settle down in China. I’d like to pay homage to these over-performing underdogs now.
If I had the time and/or budget, I would make this blog into a short video showcasing these unsung heroes to the tune of some kind of national sports league tough guy sounding music that inspires The Big Play of The Big Game. But I don’t have the time or budget, so you’re getting this blog post instead.
- Giant Blue Tarp-like IKEA bags: We bought three of these bags on our first trip to IKEA Suzhou. We cursed ourselves on the second trip, though, having forgotten the bags and needing to buy two additional bags. These workhorses helped us bring home pillows, silverware, and soap dispensers AND move across the city from one apartment complex to another. One bag fits my collection of shoes. (Hey, I’m size 10 US/41 UK and they don’t really have that size for women here… and yeah I have three pairs of running shoes.) I hauled groceries back from Wal-Mart Suzhou twice in one day this past weekend. On my shoulders. In a bus. Across the city. I felt like a badass carrying everything I owned or everything I bought in just a few bags out in public. Yeah, these bags are the new normal in reusable bags for us. Cheers to you, Giant Blue Tarp-like IKEA bags.
- Mr. Muscle: Think of the Mr. Clean in the US and then make him Asian and slightly less muscular, with a shirt that doesn’t look like it’ll rip, complete with a pocket full of pens, and you have Mr. Muscle. Mr. Muscle makes multipurpose cleaner with which we cleaned our entire icky old apartment. He makes a floor cleaner that comes in a jug like laundry detergent that we used to wipe down every floor and wall in our new apartment. He makes drain cleaner. Dish soap. Bathroom spray. Mr. Muscle has it all, and we love him for it. Cleaning products you can trust in a foreign land you now call your home? Thanks, Mr. Muscle. I’d like to shake your hand.
- 64 yuan/10 dollar tool kit: Andy’s tools are all stored in Pennsylvania, so we had to get a few for us to work with here. One day we asked our landlord where we could find a tape measure and a screwdriver. He told us about Au Chan (Google it; I can’t) where you can buy anything. Here we found a store called Hola (the mall is French, the department store is Spanish… yes, we’re in China, speaking English), and Hola is where we said hello to our new best friend. This tool kit was inexpensive (yes, made in China), but has all the basics we need: a hammer, screwdriver with replaceable magnetic heads, tape measure, allen wrenches, scissors, and a box cutter. And that’s just the stuff we’ve used so far! Surely homeowners/renters everywhere require tools of some variety, but we didn’t know how much we needed this little kit until we got it. So handy! So inexpensive! So reliable.
- The Glass Case of Emotion: Anyone who has seen “Anchorman” knows this reference (again: Google it; I can’t! I’m in China with spotty internet!). Our new apartment has what our landlord called a tea room. But it has a projector screen in it. And half the walls are floor to ceiling glass (the other half are brick and external windows). I called it the “Glass Case of Emotion” when we were touring apartment options… mostly I did this because it was the last apartment we saw and I was exhausted and feeling punchy, but the name stuck. The Glass Case of Emotion is a catchall room we hadn’t planned on. Right now it’s full of empty suitcases and empty IKEA boxes. And that’s okay with us because they’re not in our essential living spaces. Soon (if the internet and noise problems are solved and we can finish settling in) the Glass Case of Emotion will become Andy’s office. It’s a beautiful little room and has been more helpful than we could’ve imagined while moving in such a strange way. Thanks for having our back, Glass Case of Emotion.
- Elbow grease: Gosh, if this stuff was measured in gallons, our apartment would’ve been flooded with it last week. Yes, last week we were cleaning like maniacs. Our landlords probably thought we were crazier and crazier each time they stopped by, seeing us move and remove furniture, scrubbing walls and surfaces most people don’t even look at let alone clean. I joked and said that we were putting in our best effort to show American work ethic. 🙂 In any case, Andy scrubbed every single floor on his hands and knees and I scrubbed every wall (and some ceilings) with Sam’s Club brand Magic Eraser and/or Mr. Muscle. We both had sore arms for nights on end. We were burning through elbow grease at rates not previously seen in this apartment. We’re glad we know the meaning of clean and the kind of hard work you have to do to get things clean. Elbow grease and perseverance go the distance here.
Let us now applaud these, the unsung heroes of the day, week, and almost month that we’ve lived abroad.