The last three weeks have been full of our regular activities and some unexpected ones as well. In fact, sometimes the unexpected seems to outweigh the expected around here. Take last night for example, I woke up to the sound of pouring rain at about 4:30am. Pouring rain is not unusual in Banna, but what was unusual was the loud sound of scraping that I heard coming from somewhere above us. I was worried that something might be wrong, so I went looking through our apartment to see if I could find the source of the sound. As I got closer to the front door, both the scraping sound and the pouring rain sounded like it was concentrated in the hall. As I opened the door, I stepped into a flow of rushing water and gasped when I saw that our apartment stairwell had turned into a giant waterfall. At first, I thought the roof was caving in above, but I couldn’t help but race up the stairwell getting soaked along the way to find out what was happening. As I reached our upstairs neighbor’s apartment, I saw our neighbor using a long-handled dust pan to literally shovel water out of his apartment (thus the scraping sound). A pipe had burst in the second floor of his apartment covering his entire apartment in about 3 inches of water.
I ran back down to yell at Cameron to get out of bed, and we both raced back upstairs to help our neighbor direct the flow of water out of his apartment (and hopefully stop it from seeping down into ours). After the maintenance guy showed up 15 minutes later, he finally got the pipe to stop gushing water. Cameron and I felt so bad for our neighbor that we spent from 4:30am to 6:30am shoveling, scooping, sweeping, and then mopping the water out of the apartment. I was pretty worried about possible damage to our apartment, but luckily there was only some minor damage on our outdoor patio.
Some repairmen came yesterday to check out the damage to our patio. As I mentioned in my last blog, even though repairmen in China come to fix things, they often break other things and make a huge mess as well. This time they were thankfully just surveying the damage and not drilling any massive holes in the wall (yet). However, at some point during their visit a repairman ripped a piece of paper out of a spiral that was sitting on our counter to write down something. I was messing with Chloe at the time, so I didn’t see him do it, but as he walked past me out the door, I saw him walk by holding the month of June in his hand! In other words, he used my daily planner as a scratchpad! Anyone who knows me well knows that you DON’T MESS WITH THE PLANNER!!! I looked at Cameron with my mouth wide open, and he just started laughing. (Thanks, Cameron!) This is yet another reason why repairmen in China will continue to remain on my “extremely dislike” list.
In other news, it has been getting pretty hot here, hitting 100 during the day, so we decided to go swimming for the first time last weekend. When we lived in Tianjin, swimming was never an optional family activity because there were no pools with the exception of the lap pools at gyms (and at those pools the men are required to wear speedos, so that was a definite no-go for Cameron). Now that we are in Banna and people actually swim for fun here, we chose to go to the hotel pool down the street to swim since we heard it was not crowded with people (foreigners often avoid crowds because it usually results in lots of stares, pictures, questions and advice from strangers).
When we got there and finally got in the water, I was amazed at how much fun we were having and how I couldn’t remember having that feeling of “fun” since we first arrived in China. I couldn’t figure out why something as simple as swimming would lift my spirit so much. As I began to reflect, I realized that things I found “fun” when we first arrived are not the same things that I find “fun” now. When we first arrived, we loved things that were different from our life in America – riding a bike everywhere, speaking Chinese, witnessing Chinese celebrations – everything was new, exciting, and fun. However, it is the opposite now. The things I find “fun” are the things that are the most familiar to me. When we are the pool, I was able to relax and enjoy myself because things felt familiar, safe, and comfortable. No one else was at the pool, therefore we didn’t feel pressured to talk to strangers in Chinese. The pool and surrounding area was beautiful and well-maintained, so I didn’t have to worry about what my children were walking in or putting in their mouths. We were able to relax, play and laugh in a place that felt like my parent’s pool back in Texas. You are probably thinking why we would live in a place where we rarely have fun, but that is just how strongly we believe in what we are doing. Fortunately, the discovery of the swimming pool down the street will help us add a little more fun to our weekly routine!