House Hunters International

I spent the better part of the afternoon “House-Hunting” or more precisely, apartment hunting.  If I did not remember walking into different buildings on different streets, I would swear that I was entering the same apartment 8 times.  The window is on this side or it features two bathrooms, or the TV is a flat screen or the next time the giant fat TV’s of old.  Laminate hardwood is popular. Despite the different prices and floor plans, it felt a bit like Groundhog Day.

Qingdao apartments tend to follow the pattern of small kitchen on the back with a large window and typically a two burner gas top with no oven and the occasional microwave. The fridge is often in what looks to be a solarium or a room for plants and is just a tad larger than what we in college referred to as a ‘dorm fridge’, although the thought of buying food frequently and not storing too much has great appeal. Moving out of my house last month in Charleston revealed food that had been originally purchased during the George W. Bush (not Daddy Bush at least) Administration. I am not exactly a candidate for “Hoarders” but nonetheless a bit more thought could go into meal planning.

Off the living area you will consistently find a glass-enclosed porch with large sliding windows.  There is always a raisable laundry line for drying your clothes since homes rarely offer dryers. I favor the old style balconies that offer open air and views but I am obviously in the minority in 90% of the houses I see around town. Perhaps the enclosures offer more of a three seasons room once the temperatures begin to fall in October? The climate here has been compared to San Francisco-although now it is very humid for that comparison-to Washington, DC or Paris. A definite four seasons.

Until today, I had my new American friend Allan from Utah with me on two previous house-hunting trips in and around his complex just two blocks off the beach. His wife works at the school and all four of his kids attend the school. He has been invaluable in helping me ask questions to the Chinese realty agent, Gao.  Allan couldn’t make it today, so Gao I spent two hours together pantomiming, grunting, and drawing air pictures for each other.  After a while we were (I am speaking for Gao here) surprised to learn how much we managed to communicate despite my zero skills in Mandarin and his elementary mastery of English.  Gao, like many Chinese are a little shy about using their English skills in conversation, actually was more savvy than he first let on and managed to chatter quite a bit by the end.

When I admitted I felt pretty good about the last apartment Gao showed me, I knew he was warming up a bit by the fact that he bought me an unsolicited chocolate ice cream treat from the nearby store and later carried my chocolately wrapper and wooden stick around for me when I finished. I was thankful he did not, like many of his countryman unfortunately, toss it on the ground or the nearest bush.

By the end, he was asking me about America and the cost of iPhones, and telling me “You very funny man-you make many jokes”.  I told him he should travel to American one day and buy an iPhone.  He seemed to consider ponder it for a minute.  New and modern China offers endless possibilities for me and even for Gao.


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