My one year anniversary, fond rememberances of Beijing, praise to Ceiling Cat (“fleas be upon Him.”), a sneak preview of my new home and April is the saddest month (for me).
So here I am; Xi’an. I left Beijing on Monday, April 4. I was almost stranded at PEK when I attempted to check in, only to be informed that my Passport number didn’t match the number China Eastern Airlines had in their computer. Evidently, when I booked the flight I omitted a digit. Ergo, no go. The lady agent was utterly dismissive of my entreaty that my Passport should supersede online info, but this is China. I went to another agent who said that same thing but he did get his supervisor who was kind enough to make a call to someone, somewhere and resolve the issue. I sprinted to the gate as time was running out.
It’s only an hour and a half from Beijing so it’s like flying from LA to SF. I was met at the airport by my new manager who I had met when I visited here over the Spring Festival in January. He took me to a hotel near the office which is located in a shopping mall that is the biggest in Xi’an. My old office in Wudaokou is also in a mall, but that mall, U- Center, could fit into a corner of this mall and go entirely unnoticed. As I’ve said before, when the Chinese go big, they go big! Xi’an is a “second tier” city and apparently there are huge differences that I am only vaguely aware of. But it’s clear there far fewer westerners walking around and that means, unlike in Beijing, I am getting more curious looks from the locals.
I went out on my second day to find a new home with the help of Cherry, a local who is part of the support staff here. We went to an area that would have homes that would meet my needs and met a local real estate agent as it’s common practice to work with an agent, as apartments are usually obtained though them. We hit pay dirt right out of the chute! The first apartment we looked at was stunning, with a kitchen you could only dream about in Beijing. It was a three bedroom, two bath arrangment and the property itself was drop-dead gorgeous. I was expecting the price to about 8000 RMB. I was floored when I was told it was 5000 RMB ($725). Still, I wanted to see one more apartment, just for comparison. Outside of SF and NYC, who takes the first place you see?
We went across the road to another complex of apartment buildings. I was enticed, as all of the buildings had shops/restaurants occupying the ground floors. The grounds weren’t nearly as nice, so I began to tell myself that it’s going to be the other apartment.
Oddly, this apartment was on the top floor of a 33 story building and was cheaper. That told me it must not be nearly as desirable. It makes no sense that an apartment that is larger with the same number of bedrooms/bathrooms and on the highest floor should be cheaper. That’s not how it works in America, anyway. Surely, it must be a dump! I was quite wrong. I was amazed at this apartment. For starters, because of how high up it is, no buildings are blocking the light and with lots of windows on both sides, it’s remarkably bright. It’s about 1700 sq ft, 3 bedrooms (four, in a pinch), two bathrooms. Many nice touches such as hardwood floors in the bedrooms, recessed lighting and mood lighting, coffered ceilings, etc. The hugh master bedroom has a small bedroom sized walk-in closet. One of the bedrooms is furnished as an office. An air-bed will make it into an extra bedroom. There’s a dining room with built-in wine storage off the kitchen (a walk-in kitchen!) containing that rarest of Chinese beasts: the elusive, in-kitchen refridgerator! Next to that is an additional room that would make a great den and then, a large living room. The guest room has an enclosed balcony. It’s already decorated with lots of tasteful art, too! The layout makes it feel very spacious and it’s great for entertaining! I can only imagine how cool the views will be at night.
It’s part of a large complex of other apartments and there’s a supermarket and movie theater a block away. Across the road there is a “pop-up market” of booths that appears every morning and evening, selling all manner of foods and consumer goods. Apparently, it’s in one of the nicest areas of the city and it does look very upscale. The price for all of this? Exactly one-third of what I was paying in Beijing.
So, that was on Wednesday and yesterday, Friday, I met with the landlord and signed the year lease. He’s a nice guy who speaks some English. He is leaving all of the apartment accessories including the computer in the office. I even have a clothes steaming machine. As you’ll see from the photo below, the TV is missing from the wall. He agreed to replace it with a 60′” tv and I would pay for the upgrade. The kitchen has lots of pots/pans and dishes and there’s even bedding. Tonight, Saturday, I move in.
Today is also April 8. I arrived in China on April 8 of last year. I left America on April 7 when this posting will appear. It’s been a remarkable year filled with new adventures and a tremendous amount of change. I am looking forward to my second year here, with great excitement! Having said this, I note with great personal sadness that April will always be remembered by me as the month when my world (and those of many others) was turned upside down with the death of my partner, Ellen, two years ago this month. I still think of her daily and tears are never far away especially when I write about her. Forgive any upcoming morose postings but I can’t let her go unremembered. I miss her, everyday!