09 October 2008

family update: far east edition

by Cecily
Some of my parents (the ones who aren't in Africa) are in China. They report that

we have spent an incredibly TRYING week looking for an apartment. The plan was: wait until Monday because the office manager would help us, but she seems to have very nebulous hours and didn't come on Monday, so Tuesday we went with an agent who could speak English, looked at six apartments that were really more basic living than we could quite stomach at our ages. ( Pipe issues, wildlife under the sink, no water in the toilets,etc. One that was good otherwise had, literally, kitchen counters that hit Jim at the knee).

Yesterday we went with the program manager, a delightful young woman who just moved back here after eight years in New York, and we saw: two amazingly swanky apartments in "hotel style living" places that cost the same or less than the sketchy ones, but one of the most posh ones had the toilet in a glass enclosure in the living room, in full view of everyone!

Then we went to see one that we actually love, and I think will try to bargain on today- highly overpriced (for foreigners) and when we got back to the office, the office manager was very disapproving of that part of town: "Too many Koreans; too many black people." But it's a great part of town, lots of foreign students and interesting cafes, right near the subway, which is very efficient and clean. Today we are going at noon to see three more that are in Jennifer's building complex, and I think they may also work. The office manager (whose name I can't spell) seems to want us to live there, so...

We are SO tired of living in the hotel, although it is beautiful place, it is really existence on a strange tourist level that is pretty artificial. Prices for everything are completely arbitrary- a box of granola bars might cost six dollars, and a meal of four courses with beer ten dollars apiece. Lunch costs less than a package of gum. The food is wonderful, and people are so kind to us about not knowing anything. Our internet access will continue to be limited until we get into an apartment- I am just planning to come here to the office from time to time, because they have wireless here and I can use that until we get settled. Every time before this morning that I have been ready to write this email someone would be ready to go look at places, so it has been slow. Each apartment involves meeting the agent, finding/waiting for the landlord, looking at the place, long incomprehensible discussions about something, not including us, but probably about us, and then transportation back to the hotel or office at rush hour, which is a time consumer in itself.

Matt asked yesterday if the traffic was really all that it is cracked up to be, and it is. The rules are followed vaguely when followed and crossing streets is an adventure every time. The program manager said they will again be limiting traffic starting Monday as thay did during the Olympics - people will have one day a week that they can bring a car into the city, except for cabs. I will try to take some pictures before that. I think that the first week was artificially low in traffic because of the national holiday. As soon as we figure out the apartment I will send photos of that and the neighborhood.

Hope everyone is well and happy and I miss everyone an enormous bunch!

So that's what they're doing. I will mention here for the purposes of Very Fond Mockery that the last email I had from my mama before they left Montana had no subject line and just said "I'm having trouble dragging things (like to the trash). What am I doing/not doing?" and then a few hours later she followed up with a text message complaining that she just couldn't drag things "like you would with a mouse." People who are familiar with my mother's highly variable attitude towards rodents will understand that it took me a moment to decipher these messages.

Hey Mom! Did you get your computer fixed ever? I love you!

I'm not doing much, or at least not much that's worthy of your time and attention. However, starting tomorrow I will be, because tomorrow I am going camping for the weekend on an island with ponies and an Oyster Fest. There will be costumes and bourbon and smores (in addition to the oysters) and hijinks. I'll tell you all about it as soon as I recover; see you next week.

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