Boxes, Boxes Everywhere!

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[Post from March 27, 2011, published August 17, 2011.  I'm so bad about posting!]

Saturday morning the boxes started coming.  They loaded the elevator again and again, and plunked box after box after box onto the floor of our apartment, which seemed to be shrinking.  By 10am we could hardly walk through the apartment.  Every time they brought another box I thought surely it had to be the last.  Nope.  Finally, the boxes stopped coming and the workers asked where to start unpacking.  I was clueless.  After some hemming and hawing I decided to at least do the kitchen and bookcases.  There were shelves to put things.  So we set up 3 bookcases and the workers quickly filled them with our books.  Nevermind that the books were upside down and backwards on the shelves, completely unorganized and chaotic looking.  At least they were out of the boxes.  :)

More boxes!

At the same time the bookcases were being filled, I had Todd in the kitchen with another worker to unpack everything they could.  With 5 or 6 boxes to go, all the cupboards and shelves were full.  Uh oh.

I really don’t know how we had so much stuff, even after selling, giving, storing what seemed like 80% of our possessions b efore the move.  Well, no matter how it happened, it happened and I really couldn’t see how we were going to be able to live here!

 

- Jill

Ayi!

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What a great week!  Last week was our first week with our new “ayi.”  (“Ayi” is literally translated as “aunt,” but refers to just about any female hired help–nanny, maid, housekeeper, etc.)  We interviewed a few ayis last month, decided on one, but had to wait until her current finished before she could start.  Wang Ayi (Wang is her surname) is a full-time (semi-live-in) ayi who help with general housekeeping, cooking meals, and occasional childcare.  She’s here Monday morning through Saturday morning, goes home most nights, and stays the night on occasion.  She doesn’t speak English, and my Chinese is limited, so I had Todd give her some general instructions before he left for work that first day.  Basically, clean up after meals, hang the laundry to dry, sweep the floors daily (the dust in this apartment has me longing for New Mexico), and the last instruction–if you see something dirty, you can clean it. :)  The three of us–Wang Ayi, Todd, and I–all chuckled a bit at that last instruction.  For those who have lived with me (which is oddly more than a few), you know there is ALWAYS something to clean in my house. :)

So, last Tuesday we had been in our apartment for about 2 weeks.  We had mostly arranged the living areas, but were (are) still living out of boxes a bit, particularly in the bedrooms.  Wang Ayi asked about all the boxes, and wondered if we wanted to sell them.  We told her that she could do whatever she likes with them.  Her normally smiling face lit up a bit more when she knew she could have them.  (The excitement of trash and cardboard will require its own post.)

When I heard Wang Ayi in Michael’s room (which had so many boxes that you couldn’t walk around the bed) a little while later, I assumed she was emptying the boxes so she could take them.  Imagine my surprise an hour later when I walked by Michael’s room and found that she had unpacked and organized his entire room!  WOW!  I knew at that moment I could never let her leave! :)  And for Todd, the never-let-her-leave moment came when he realized at the end of the first week that he hadn’t seen laundry at the end of our bed in days.  He didn’t make the connection at first and thought I was responsible for getting ALL the laundry put away EVERY  day.  HA HA HA!   I had to ask, “When has that ever happened in the last 12 years?”  (Why is it that I can sort and wash the laundry, dry and fold the laundry…but can’t get it put away??  That last step has always eluded me.)

How did I ever live without an ayi?!  And the bigger question…do I ever want to live without one again? :)

 

- Jill

Cleaning House

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The boys pretty pink room. Complete with Teletubby curtains. Before we painted it, of course. :)

[Playing catch up on the blog.  From March 3, 2011]

After finding a new place to call home, the next step was to make it habitable!  Lots of elbow grease involved in that step.  For a few weeks we were trekking back and forth across the city as a family, from our temporary place to our less temporary place, in order to get it ready before our shipment arrived.  Lots of painting, scouring, cleaning, caulking, more scouring and cleaning, etc.

Look closely. Black caulk, a lot of it. Smells even worse than it looks.

Our poor children.  They helped by wiping down wall after wall.  And when they tired of wiping they watched the same cartoons over and over  in Chinese for a few more hours while Todd and I continued working.  Then a few hours past their bedtime we would drag them out into the cold night and start the 45 minute trip back to the Somerset.  So many times they fell asleep on the subway and we would have to wake them up to transfer to the next one, then wake them up one more time when we reached our station so we could walk the rest of the way home.  In the dark.  And the cold.

Back to the cleaning…Todd pulled up all 3 toilets and reseated them so we wouldn’t be bowled over by the stench from the bathrooms every time we entered our apartment.  (Yep.  It was that bad.)  We held our breath as we scraped the filthy blackened caulk from the bathrooms.  Then held our breath again as we recaulked with new, gleaming white, but probably toxic caulk.  (I don’t think there are agencies, like the FDA, in China to regulate the safety of certain things.  Which is why I assume the caulk fumes were toxic. :)  Or maybe there are, but they’re just not as concerned about these sorts of things??)

While Todd played with toilets I had fun in the kitchen with a butter knife.  The entire kitchen is tiled–walls and floors.  That means there’s a lot of grout.  I don’t like cleaning grout.  And I especially did not enjoy cleaning this kitchen’s grout.  I probably could have deep fried something with the amount of grease I scraped out of the tiles.  Especially right behind the stove.  Eeeewww!  And the caulk behind the stove is a lovely shade of marigold.  I told Todd I wanted to recaulk the counters around the stove and he asked why.

“Because the caulk is yellow.”

“That’s the color it’s supposed to be.”  Nope.  It was originally white.

I could go on for a week about the cleaning, but I won’t.  So, after a few weeks of cleaning, we heard from the moving company one Monday.  Our shipment would be here in 10-14 days.  Great news!  We had one full week, plus another weekend to get everything done.

Surprise!  3 days later Todd got a call at work.  “Your shipment has arrived!  We will deliver it tomorrow.”  Whoa!  Not ready!  We had them wait one extra day, until Saturday, February 19th, to deliver it.  We heard lots of nightmare stores about shipments being delayed, so we were very grateful and relieved that our shipment came so quickly.  But at the same time it grossed us out a little to move our stuff into an apartment that still had someone else’s dirt.  (Why is it that our dirt is never as gross as someone else’s…)

- Jill