I am now officially living in Chengdu.
Yes, technically we embarked upon our first tour with the State Department nine months ago, but after a bit of confusion and drama with the shipment of our personal goods, the move-in process has taken a little longer than we (or anyone!) expected. (The upside to that is that for all future tours, I will be the most satisfied GSO customer there is. When my HHE arrives after six months, I’ll be passing out homemade cookies and juice to all of folks in the General Services Office. When other officers/families are complaining about how long shipments take, I will be kicked back, just enjoying the consulate provided welcome kit.)
But, after the amount of time it takes to hatch a human baby, I am now officially a Chengdu resident.
This afternoon, one of our wonderful locally employed staff members came to my house and hung up my wall decorations.
I know, it sounds terrible that I didn’t do it myself, but really, it isn’t that I am just lazy. (Although having an ayi clean my house twice a week is making me lean in that direction.) With cement walls, there is no choice other than to have someone from the consulate come out with a giant drill, bucket of concrete screws and a small level, for quality control.
Now, here I sit, awkwardly typing on my computer, pretending to be swamped with work, while a lovely man drills holes into the walls of my abode, slowly turning my apartment into a home. The carpenter’s English skills rank just a tad above my Chinese skills, which has made for an interesting afternoon. Occasionally I will hear, “Ni hao,” and that is my cue to come running to answer any number of questions. The problem is, I am not sure if the question being asked and the one I am answering are the same. With hand gestures and pointing, it is pretty easy to clarify whether a photograph needs to be moved up a few inches or to the left just a tad, but it gets more complicated when the (assumed) topic of conversation is about why dozens of men are pulling apart a naga snake in our three-part mural from Cambodia. I’m pretty sure I just had a discussion with him about the barn wood that makes up a mirror we now have hanging in our living room, but I may be *way* off base on that one. Maybe he just asked if the piece was centered above the sofa.
In the best of circumstances, I am weirded out by workers and technicians being in my house. I used to hide in a hardwood-floored room when the carpet cleaners came, knowing they wouldn’t have to touch that part of the house. Or if a plumber had to make a house call to look at the shower that had been leaking into the baseboards for months without us knowing it, I’d find anywhere else to be but home. I don’t even answer the door when the McDonald’s delivery guy comes with our McFood. (That’s right, McDonald’s delivers in China. Not only is the food terrible for you, but now you don’t even have to put in the effort it takes to walk to your car to go through the drive-thru. All you have to do is open a new tab on your browser, order all the mashed potato hamburgers you can eat- it is a real option here- and within half an hour your doorbell will chirp and fast food is at your door.)
After two hours of adding photos, mirrors and a quilted wall-hanging to my white-washed cement walls, the consulate’s wonderful carpenter has just walked out my door with his amazing rolly-cart of tools and his ladder. I showered him with thank-yous in both English and Chinese and I’m guessing he is as happy to be done with our awkward afternoon of pantomimes as I am.
So, it’s official. Nine months (nearly to the day!) since we arrived in Chengdu, we are fully gestated and looking forward to the next year, when the whole moving process will begin again.