So I moved here years ago. It was hot. My first dorm room, I remember, had a fan like the one in Apocalypse Now. I sweat through my bamboo mat bed. The horror…the horror… My first real apartment was cool, despite the water heater breaking. In the winter, I had to heat the water on the stove to wash myself. It was cool. Then I got one of the first apartments in town outside of the area designated for foreigners. Yes, back then, foreigners could only stay in certain hotels or apartments, and I was one of the first to get a place after that rule changed. The guy ripped me off. It was very sparsely furnished. My roommate and I found another place, a steal at 1,100RMB/month. It was perfect, except for the wood sofa. As landlords became more and more willing to rent to foreigners, I eventually found a place with a padded couch. I got a better job, decided to move up in the world, and rented my first and last villa. Outside that villa there was a sidewalk made of those old grey bricks we used to see lying around on the sides of the roads. Every now and then I go back there to see how my Japanese Maple is doing. I spent a couple months on a friend’s living room floor before finding the best apartment I’ve ever had. It was the top floor of a two story apartment the owner had made into two separate places. I had it renovated to my exact needs. And after all of the work making that joint my own, the owner decided she wanted to move back in. It broke my heart. So when I got another “maopei” place, I refused to do more than the most basic renovations. I didn’t even have a shower in the bathroom, so I had to go to the gym every day, which I didn’t do, so I smelled a lot. I also hated taking taxis to work, so I found a place just across the street from my office. It was basically a cave, cheap but dark, so when my daughter came along it was time for another place.
I could stand living in a cave, but I couldn’t subject my daughter to Neanderthal life. Then that landlord’s own daughter got married and kicked us out so that she could move back in, and we hit the road once more. This time, I went through one of those real estate places that are everywhere now, and we brokered a neat place just above Starbucks. Alright, that sounds cheesy, but it did come in handy. She raised the rent, so we moved again just into the building next door because we were getting used to the neighborhood, until recently when we had to move closer to our daughter’s kindergarten. This’ll be my thirteenth place, and I’m thinking of disabling the shower. That way, I might get into shape again.
By Tim Hoerle