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flying back into my cage
singapore sunset
I hate the free hotel my work gave me. I mean, it's nice that there is a shower cubicle and that they provide you with separate hand soap and shampoo and body wash. It's nice there is hot water. But the staff are hopeless. They refuse to understand my spoken Chinese, even when i ask very simple questions like what day i'm supposed to check out. It's like they are either deliberately trying not to understand so they don't have to help me, or their own grasp of Putonghua (Mandarin) is so bad they can't deal with a foreign accent. If i was in Hong Kong i would suspect a combination of both of those things, but this is fucking mainland where people are generally nice. And it's not just any part of the mainland, it's Shenzhen - China's capital of migrant workers who all use poorly-accented Putonghua as their lingua franca.

The longer i spend in Luohu - especially after months in Nanshan - i am starting to wonder if some of the asshole-ish behavior i previously associated with Hongkongers might in fact be culturally Cantonese. Or maybe it's just a trait of 本地人 (běn dì rén).

An aside on 本地人. It can be used to refer to indigenous or native people, but it can also just mean the locals. In Cantonese 本地 is pronounced "Punti", which you might have heard of when people talk about the Punti vs Hakka wars that raged here in the Pearl River Delta 150 years ago. "Hakka" is the Cantonese pronunciation of 客家 (kè jiā), which means guest family. The Hakka are a Han sub-ethnicity that have their own language and customs and built unique walled villages all over Southern China. Over a million people died when these "guest families" clashed with the Guangdong "locals".

Anywho, i wonder if Hong Kong/Shenzhen area locals are just assholes, regardless of whether they are historically Hakka or Punti. (Both are considered "local people" here nowadays.)

Or perhaps i am making assumptions based on the fact that i know there are more locals in Luohu than in other districts. Maybe the people who work here are just tired of putting up with douchebags coming over from Hong Kong to "go wild" and find hookers or meth or something. No doubt Hongkongers feel exactly the same way about the mainland Chinese flooding over there to buy powdered milk and tacky accessories. This might be a downside of living in a border town.

Getting further away seems like a good plan. My new apartment is right on the north end of Luohu District, just before the hills where it turns into Longgang District. It's only 4-5km away from the checkpoint and "cosmopolitan" (not really) downtown Luohu, but it's like a Tier-3 city out there. There are no white people. I spent ages trying to find a coffee press and non-instant coffee. Nobody i asked even knew what it was. In the end i found a tea press right at the back of a shelf in Walmart, and eventually ventured into a Starbucks to buy the beans because dude, what's the point of having your own apartment if you can't make your own coffee?

Although i spent most of today trying to find fucking coffee, i also did one thing that made me feel like i am finally really living in China. I hauled over my laundry bag and did a load in my new place then hung it up in the cage. Yeah, my apartment is oldskool China - the wet rooms (bathroom, kitchen) are on the outside, and beyond that is the cage, where clothes hang like curtains and drip water onto the streets below. It does have windows that close, though, so that's a plus. Anywho. I think every country has a rite of passage for me. In Germany it was figuring out how to open a beer bottle without a bottle opener. In China it's hanging my laundry out the window in a cage.

Tomorrow i move in for real. I am really done with this hotel and its asshole staff and its windows that don't open and its sad breakfast buffet that has meat in everything. If i wake up early enough - and if the family hasn't closed up for Spring Festival - i will go sit on a plastic stool and eat 肠粉 at the place on the corner. I have to admit, i've really developed a taste for it living in Cantonese central the past few weeks. I think it's now my favorite Cantonese dish that isn't a pork bun. Ask for no meat and no egg and it still tastes great with the shiitake gravy and some fresh chilis on top. After breakfast i will shoulder my pack and take my last migratory hike.

I've been on the road for 10 months, living in cheap hotels, ferries and a freakin' container ship. I know i've been settled in the same city for over 6 months now and i even started full-time work again 3 weeks ago, but tomorrow is the day it will all definitely be over. Today i bought some homewares that will not fit in my backpack. Monday morning i will wake up in my own bed. I'm trying not to panic.

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I'm not 'getting' this outside wet room thing and that cage looks like an invitation to drop wet clothes on the street. I need to do some research. Thanks for making my world bigger than it would be otherwise!

Edited at 2018-02-10 07:37 pm (UTC)

Sorry, I think I explained it poorly.

If you imagine a studio apartment that just has one room plus a kitchen/bathroom, then the setup would be like this.

You walk in the front door to a regular room that looks like any in the West - bed, couch, TV, etc. One point to note is that there is probably no window in this room. To get into the second room you have to go through what looks like an exterior door. In every apartment I visited this was a glass sliding door, like what would go out to a patio. Through that door everything is concrete or tiled - the walls, the floor, everything. There are exposed pipes and drains in the floor. This is where the sink, toilet etc is, and it's designed like a commercial kitchen - you can just hose the whole place down. Most have windows (like a sun room) but in the very old/poor buildings this space is exposed to the elements. Then, at regular window height, there is also a cage hanging off the edge of the building where people can hang clothes or set up pot plants and so on.

From the outside of the building it looks very weird - all haphazard pipes and cages. Of course the newer buildings are built more in the Western style with interior plumbing and regular balconies or floor-to-ceiling windows, but this particular style seems to be a quirk of the 70s or 80s in Southern China (lots of buildings in Taiwan are the same).

I will try upload another picture in a sec to reply to sweetmeow (below).

About that cage.... I'm trying to imagine walking out there on those metal "floor planks" (is that actually what you do, or am I mistaken??) and hanging clothes without losing one's balance. They seem so far apart with a long way down. If you had any propensity to vertigo, that would be the place to get it! And - how do you secure the clothes so they don't drop to the ground? Clothes pins of some kind? Sorry if I haven't understood!

I'd be very interested to see what these wet rooms are like - your kitchen / bath area! It's been difficult to picture in my head.

The view out of the cage is quite a nice cityscape. I'd enjoy that! :)

Great questions! First, here is a wider angle view that I think will help you to understand better. You can even see a bit of my neighbor's cage too.


See my reply to Susan (above) for a better description of the overall layout.

As for how to avoid clothes dropping, well, you got me! I came back into my apartment this morning and exactly that had just happened. One of my shirts dropped off the hanger, through the cage and is now on the ledge above my downstairs neighbor's cage! Looking around it seems I am not the only one who has lost clothes. I guess it's part of the risk. I now have an extensible pole with a grabby hand on the end of it for my Walmart list!

ahhhh gotcha and yeah, when you are at Walmart, see if you can find some netting to cover the bottom of your cage :)

But, now, between the second picture and your description, I got it. Interesting set up and one that actually makes sense.

That netting was a great idea, by the way, but i was't able to find any at Walmart. The Walmarts here are a little bit different from the ones in America in that they appear to be more focused around the grocery store and fresh food section. They still have an "everything else" section with clothes, toys, homewares and so on, but the hardware selection is very limited. Unfortunately all the actual hardware stores in my neighborhood were closed for Spring Festival, so i hope to find something now they are reopened!

Ah -- now I get it. Your first photo made it seem as if the cage was a lot taller than it actually is, and that you had walk out into it in order to hang clothes. I see it's really window height and you just reach out there. Makes sense now - and it's really an inspired idea for drying clothes in fresh hair when you're in an apartment.

Susan's idea of getting some mesh for the bottom of the cage is a good one!!

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