Tuesday, September 27, 2011

As an American, I value my privacy

This morning was one of those mornings where, if someone showed up at my door and offered me a plane ticket home, I'm not so sure I would turn them down. Of course, since it's China, that person probably wouldn't just be at  my door, they would have found some way to just let themselves in.

Story time.

This morning, I was woken up at 7:50 AM by knocking at my door. I knew it was probably Mr. Dong, because no one else would knock on my door that early. I was still in bed, so I got up and figured I should probably put a bra on since I had a visitor. I didn't have time for that, because apparently he didn't think I was getting to the door quickly enough and just opened it and let himself in. God knows what would have happened if I had been in the shower. (Note: since I live alone, I pretty much never shut doors.)

Not only was Mr. Dong barging into my apartment at this ungodly hour, but he had three strange repairmen in tow. Apparently, my shower leaked into the auntie's "room" last night, so he was coming to fix the leak. Nevermind that I've been asking him since Thursday for clean drinking water. This leak had to be fixed immediately.

Well, I had class at 8:45, so I had to get ready. I let them in and went into the bathroom to put lotion on my face and brush my teeth. After that, I could have been out of there and gotten ready in my bedroom. I guess I wasn't going quickly enough for them, because Mr. Dong came into my bathroom and started moving the towels from the base of my shower. That was fine with me. If they were going to come to my apartment unannounced, they could move things out of the way. It's still my apartment, and I still need to get ready. My kitchen/porch area that I'm supposed to dry my clothes in is disgusting and dirty, because I'm pretty sure the windows aren't sealed properly, so all the outside smells and dust can get in. Because of that, I dry all my clothes in the bathroom, usually hanging from the shower. As I was brushing my teeth, Mr. Dong tells me that I need to move those things. I nod, because I can't exactly talk while I'm brushing my teeth. Apparently, I wasn't brushing fast enough for him, because he started to touch my clothes like he was going to move them himself. One problem: IT WAS ALL BRAS AND UNDERWEAR.

This was the last straw for me. As everyone who has met me knows, I can pull out a pretty mean voice if I have to. I just took the brush out of my mouth, looked at him and said, "No. Absolutely not. You will not touch those. You will wait until I am done brushing my teeth, and then I will move those items myself. This is my apartment, and I still need to get ready for the classes I need to teach at your school." At that point, I didn't care that he was my foreign connection at my school. That was out of line. Yes, this is a different culture, which accounts for the breaking and entering of my apartment. I'm still struggling to deal with it, but whatever. I can live with it. Touching my personal items? Not okay, not ever.

He got the hint, and sent the repairmen upstairs to work on another apartment, presumably letting them into one of the foreign students apartments while they were at school. They came back later with the auntie as I was leaving for class. I was putting things in my purse to head out, when she pointed at a ten yuan note I had sitting on my shoe rack, that I leave there in case I want to run out to the food cart to get lunch or something. For those who don't know, 10 yuan is roughly $1.50. Since auntie doesn't speak English and I don't speak Chinese, she pointed at the money, mimed putting it in my purse, and then pointed back at the repairmen. I took this to mean that I better make sure I had all my money in my purse, because they might try to steal it.

This threw me into a frenzy, because if this group of men would steal less than $2 from me while I was gone, what the hell were they going to do with all the other stuff in my apartment?! I swept through to my bedroom and collected everything that was small enough to take with me - iPad, iPod, and camera. Rude? Yes, probably. I didn't care. I left the apartment in a storm of tears, imagining coming back to a ransacked apartment and a stolen laptop. Yes, sometimes I let my imagination get the best of me. Then, I walked outside and saw a pug with a broken leg. I didn't even have food to give it.

It's okay, though, because as soon as I walked into my classroom, one of the girls told me I was very beautiful, and they were very well behaved. Even though the zombie/gun note came from one of my Wednesday classes, as a whole, they're my two smartest groups of kids.

Oh, and no one stole my laptop. Clearly. But, I can't use my shower for 24 hours.


  1. Meredith, I loved your post. My boyfriend and I just moved back from Beijing in July after living there for six months and we had similar landlord problems. I will be following your blog from now on. It reminded me of the all the things I love and hated about being there. Keep it up!

  2. Thanks! It's kind of nice to hear that we're not the only people having boundary problems, haha. Since it's our director at the school, I wasn't sure if that made it so they felt like they had more of a right to barge on it. I'm loving it here so far, though! I read a few of your blog posts from while you were in China when I was making my decision to come. I can't believe I've already been here for a month and a half!

  3. I absolutely could relate to this post. I am person who gives high regards for my privacy and to have someone do that to me would be serious crime against my privacy. Manners and etiquette should be taught at schools as there are a lot of people who need them.