Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Life and Lies in China

Now for some updates on my apartment.

At the beginning, our apartments were dirty but livable. Size-wise, our apartments are actually pretty big. I have a refrigerator, a bed, a place for my clothes, and a bathroom. It works.

We also had a semi-gate in front of our apartment. It wasn't locked, but it actually served the purpose of keeping people away from our building and whatever dirt you could call our "front yard". Right before school got out for Spring Festival, however, the government started doing demolition and rebuilding. It was supposed to be a beautification project, but it's actually a really ugly brick wall that runs down the length of our street. Instead of a gate in front of our apartment, we just have a big, wide gap. Anyone can walk up to and around our apartment building. And, trust me, they do.

Now, you're probably asking yourself, "But the gate wasn't locked, so how much difference does it really make that the government removed the broken gate?"

Well, I'll tell you. Our front yard is now used as a toilet, and our building and front door for a drum. Let me elaborate.

1. The front yard as a toilet. Now, I've talked before about the squatter toilets and the babies with no diapers. Those things, while pretty disgusting to look at, are still understandable. I've even seen some young (okay, up to like 8 years old) children peeing against trees on the street. Again, they're a little old, but okay. I can deal with it.

What I can't deal with, however, is seeing grown people using our front yard as a toilet. The first time we saw this was a few weeks ago, when Lauren and I were walking back from class. We saw that three of the Thai students were standing on the sidewalk, laughing at something by the door of our building. As we approached, we saw what it was. It was a boy, probably between 8-10 years old, holding a roll of toilet paper, and pooping in our front yard. Now, this wasn't a homeless boy. This wasn't a baby who didn't know any better. This was a fifth or sixth grader who had been given a roll of toilet paper by his parents and sent to our yard to use the restroom, in lieu of an actual toilet. He proceeded to poop in not one, but THREE different places in our yard. (No, we didn't watch this. We saw the evidence later.)

The next run-in I didn't see in person. Lauren, poor soul, did. As she walked out of our building, there was a grown, adult man squatting and pooping against the wall of our apartment building.

2. The building as a drum. This is actually quite terrifying. At least 2 times a week, between 11:30-11:45pm, a group of very loud, very obnoxious men try to force our front door open. They pound on it and shout. Then, they move around to the side of the building, continuing to shout. Sometimes they pound on the walls. Sometimes they take metal pipes and run them along the wall. Sometimes they throw things at the wall. We don't know their purpose; we just know it's terrifying to listen to.

The last update about my apartment is probably the most disheartening. I posted a few weeks ago about issues with the fire extinguishers in our apartment. We've been asking for new ones since December, and had two incidents that could have turned into fires in February. We asked Mr. Dong for them repeatedly, and emailed Kirk about getting new fire extinguishers. A few days after talking with Kirk, we noticed that there were extinguishers in the holders on each floor. We were happy. I even thanked Mr. Dong.

Then, today happened. We came back from the train station and realized that there were no more fire extinguishers. We asked the building manager about them, only to be informed that we had actually never had new fire extinguishers. They had simply taken the old, expired ones and put them back into the holders to try to fool us and stop us from telling Kirk that the problem hadn't been solved.

Quite frankly, I find this enraging. I find it beyond the grasp of decent human behavior that we would be denied fire extinguishers for three months in the first place. The fact that they lied to us about it makes it even worse. The fact that they believe they can get away with such a thing is simply disgusting.

I think about what I believe is a logical response to this situation. Say this is an exchange between two different schools in America. One school refuses to provide fire extinguishers to a building of teachers who have already experienced a fire. Then, the school openly supplies fake extinguishers to the teachers. What would the response be? I don't think it would be out of bounds for the school to call the other and tell them that if there are no fire extinguishers by the end of the week, the school will be expected to either find a new place for the teachers to live or pay their airfare home immediately; and that under no circumstances will there be any more teachers sent there. This isn't a question of someone whining about not having a comfortable apartment, or no internet, or any other array of small issues. This is about personal safety and a risk to their lives.

But it's China.

End rant.

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