Cleanliness is next to godliness
I wish I had taken any pictures of that apartment. I know I thought about it several times, but when the time came down to it at the very end, I’m sure I was just like, Fuck this place, and left.
I did, however, get a picture of a guy peeing outside of the Shandong province museum.
This picture is spoiling the 3 days of blue sky we got. I have some beautiful pictures from that for later.
Back to the apartment.
I just searched Jane’s social network profile to see if she had any photos of the apartment, because I’m here for you, dear reader. Alas, she did not. I did find a picture I look great in though. I’d share it but reverse-image searching ensures they’ll find this post in the future, if I do that.
… Oh whatever, I’m going to be sharing pictures anyway, at some point.
There. Now you can be like, “Jaimie looks halfway decent; I can sympathize with her horrible experience even if she acts horrible sometimes.”
So, the apartment was a mess.
I wrote that judgmental title, but I don’t agree with it. I don’t think cleanliness is a value. I don’t think a clean house means a more organized mind. I think people just live in the environment they’re comfortable in. Some of us, unfortunately, are comfortable in environments that take a lot more maintenance. And, whenever Jane would apologize about the messy apartment, this is the sort of thing I would tell her.
… And then I would proceed to straighten it up a little.
I remember one day I thought, FUCK IT, I’M STARVED, I WILL CLEAN THIS KITCHEN AND COOK EGGS IN IT, and I scrubbed that place down. I ignored the floors, concentrating my efforts on the vast grease stains on the counter and stovetop. Even the stove vent had grease stains. And dust, dust, dust! Things were lying around everywhere… pots and pans, 5–6 pot holders, plastic containers of various sizes and shapes, a half-loaf of bread, butter, silverware, coffee grinds, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.
I made that kitchen my bitch. I told Jesse next time he emptied the trash to throw away all the wine boxes and bottles sitting around the trash can too. I scrubbed the sinks. I washed the drying racks. I wiped the windowsills. Anything I wasn’t sure what to do with, I just pushed into the corners. There were a whole lot of sticky spice containers that got tucked away into drawers.
I don’t think it was Jesse and Jane’s fault, entirely. Those grease stains had been there a while, and they didn’t even cook.
After that, we had this wonderful clear space with which to operate, and I did the dishes as often as I could. I’m really good at doing the dishes and I have the arrogance to think I’m better at it than they are, so I developed the plan of doing the dishes all the time, instead of any one of us waiting around for the other to do them.
The next day Jesse told me that Jane felt bad that I had done all of that, that she felt bad whenever I cleaned anything. (For instance, the kitchen table got really cluttered and dusty occasionally.) Jesse explained to me that because Jane’s mom always gave her guilt about being a clean person, I was just bringing those emotions to the surface.
I responded: “Okay… So I’m supposed to stop cleaning?”
And he said, “No, no…”
So I kept doing it.
One of the reasons I maintained the belief that I was better at doing the dishes than they were is because I would make it a point to wash them with hot water.
The hot water situation
Weird thing about the apartment: the water heater was faulty. The first night I arrived there, I took a cold shower because it would have taken 2 hours for the water to heat and I had already started the shower and just wanted to SLEEP and they hadn’t thought to make sure it would be hot for me. The next day, I asked Jane to tell me how to make sure the hot water was ready to go, and she said “you just go up to the machine and jam the button a few times, and it beeps, and then the water will start to heat.”
To this day I’m not sure why there wasn’t a setting on the water heater to like, keep the water hot, but maybe I’m a stupid fat American and this is wasteful of electricity and the government forbids the manufacturing of such items.
So: the reliable jamming button technique. There was a readout (in celsius) of the temperature of the water, so you could come back 5 minutes later and if the temperature hadn’t moved, you could jam everything again and the second time usually did the trick.
Before I did the dishes, I made sure to jam the buttons on the water heater and wait half an hour or so.
Other broken things
The clothes dryer. The washer worked fine, but we had to hang our clothes to dry. This became problematic during the winter, when I arrived, because the clothes would dry stiff as cardboard. A cardboard towel… perfect.
Using my newfound Chinese logic, I thought, “Let me see if I can jam a few buttons here…” and fixed the clothes dryer within 1 minute. Incredibly enough, it just needed to be turned on.
Jane said, “Oh, they told me it was broken…”
What she did not do was weep for all the lost months she had spent hang-drying clothes. That always confused me.
At this point I became concerned that the dryer might like, explode. I didn’t know the nature of its brokenness. I voiced this concern to Jane and MIRACLE OF MIRACLES she procured a document that the missionaries had left her. It explained everything. How to maintain the washer and dryer, how to use certain kitchen appliances, how to reorder drinking water (I was usually the first to become concerned it was running low), even how to operate the water heater without jamming the buttons randomly! I loved that thing. I got out their bread maker and made some bread the next day.
Jane and Jesse did not touch the bread. It was a, “Look, I can be helpful while languishing in your apartment, eat my food,” gesture, but they didn’t take to it. So I just ate it all.
(Maybe Jane resented that I was cooking too? It makes about as much sense as resenting that I was cleaning. Also Jesse should not have told me she said that.)
Here was the big disagreement
It was, how I saw it, the last thing I needed to fix in order to feel comfortable in the apartment. All three of us used the tiny bathroom off of the main entrance. And the shower drain was clogged. Jesse would pull hair out of the drain (I commend him for that, gross) but it would still clog.
The bathroom looked slightly like this, without any glass walls.
Everything was whiter and grimier. There was a shower curtain to hide the shower area, but that divider for the water retention… that’s the main thing I’m showing you with this picture. The problem was: when the shower drain clogged, the whole bathroom floor would flood.
There was 1 rug in the bathroom (which I washed because it was gross), tiny enough that I prioritized it for the sink. I laid down a towel for the toilet mat. I had to do this because (1) the floor was almost always some degree of wet and (2) the dirt on people’s feet/shoes would stick to the floor and make the whole thing gross. Also there was hair everywhere. They would sweep it up, but it was still there. I’m not complaining about that… I’m just saying, that’s what mats are for. So that you can pretend that all of the hair falls onto the tile and none of it falls onto the mat.
Or at least, if it falls onto the mat, it’s not automatically sticking to your feet.
I washed all of the towels in the bathroom in the same burst of cleaning frenzy that had taken care of the kitchen. I was pleased with the for-sure clean hand towels. Now about that drain…
None of them were feeling urgent about this. It was like they tried the hair drain fix, shrugged and decided it was not worth any more thought. You know, like how the clothes dryer was broken so don’t even try to turn it on.
I asked about Drano. Could they pick some up? They said, “We’ve never seen that here.” Okay, but could they look? One of them went to school right next to a Chinese Walmart. They checked and couldn’t find it. Okay, but could they ask their Chinese friends what the Chinese do when the drains get clogged? None of them had heard of Drano. Okay, but what do they do when the drains get clogged? No one knew.
This went on for 2–3 days.
Let me introduce you to my favorite store. The Parc 66 website describes it thus…
Ole had food, wine, makeup, pantry items, household items, teapots. It was a tiny international Target. With an extensive teapot section. People did not stare at you there, because who else was this store meant for? There was so much cool stuff to browse; it felt like an exotic Whole Foods.
Screw the Chinese people and their inexplicably unclogged drains. I decided we needed to check Ole. This was before I figured out how to get around Jinan by myself, so I had to wait for Jane to go with me.
AND I FOUND IT. I found some Drano-like thing. I think it was Korean; it wasn’t English; but the graphics on the back made it obvious what the product was. And I found paper towels. A kitchen is not a kitchen without paper towels. (When Emily was dabbing up the dog piss I believe she resorted to toilet paper or tissues.) I also found cool ranch Doritos, Milano cookies, judgment-free M&Ms, sheet masks, etc. It was nice, because I found some things I doubt I could have found easily in the states. Like chocolate from a variety of countries.
None of it was inexpensive.
But after that, the drain was fixed. I could use the restroom without the rug being sopping wet beneath my feet.
It was so hard, fixing that, but someone had to push through all the incredible difficulties and I guess it had to be me.