Nĭ Hăo, Xi’an…

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!

My going away party.

We rented two boats and these are my collegues in the other boat.

My fellow teachers put together an album with some photos. The Taylor Swift photo is a reference to my obsession with her last album, “1989” and I always said “good tip, good tip,” in sing-song manner when someone made a suggestion or had a good idea. Winnie seemed to find that amusing.

My fellow teachers signed farewell notes just like in high school. Hey Beth, no good-bye note? What am I, chopped liver? “Doesn’t anyone say ‘good-bye’, anymore?”

The top photo was my second, infamous, “too much to drink last night,” episode. How was I to know that copious amounts of wine, sake and beer would leave me asking, the next morning, “What happened last night?” The other time was our “overnight teambuilding” with the entire office and that was the first week of my arrival. I made quite a splash.

This is the front cover of the book Minnie made for me. I was so touched by what she did!

The “I’m so tiny” remark by Minnie is a reference to, when my daughter, Sophie was visiting in October and she constantly remarked, “She’s so tiny” about Minnie. For the record, Sophie is barely five feet tall.


I am in the Lantern Festival photo, somewhere.

In early February our branch participated in the annual EF party which included over 20 Beijing branches. This, of course, is our branch, group photo.

The party included a talent show and our branch did a faux flash mob on a subway car, dance to a hip-hop song. Yes, I am a tub in this picture but then slimmed down ahead of moving to Xi’an

“She’s so tiny!”

The back cover of the book. “Fang Ding Mao,” not surprisingly is “Ceiling Cat” in Mandarin. It’s also my WeChat messaging name and for the grand finale of Ceiling Cat, may I present…

…Ceiling cat “in the flesh!” The crew at the other EF center in Xi’an honored me with putting a cat in their ceiling thus creating a true-life “Ceiling Cat” (“fleas be upon Him.”)

The front of the mall which reads “Saga” but the pronunciation isn’t even close.

There is a gym in the building across the street. It’s much closer to the office than the one in Beijing. We’re excited! (Not that I actually enjoy exercising, mind you.)

Looking across the street from our building.


A waterfall in a mall. Well, why not?

The floor as you walk past the waterfall. Fish, under foot. Again, why not?

Yes, this is inside the mall. Anyone supervising the six year olds as they climb up a wall?

I have to wonder if parents sign a ten page “hold harmless” agreement similar to one they’d sign in America, if such a place could even exist there.

Can you imagine such a place in any mall in the “Sue me States of America”?

I had dinner in one of the many, countless restaurants in the mall. I saw cages on tables, not knowing what they were about so I had my colleague, Cherry, order one for us. A dead, sliced up (but intact) chicken arrived, head and all. Basically, a dead chicken in a cage. Now who can turn that down?

My new home. The view upon entry looking towards the bedrooms.

A walk-in kitchen although there isn’t too much room. Still, a walk-in kitchen! Notice the microwave oven. 

A sound system. Just add TV.

A brand new fridge, but wait, unlike most homes in China, this one’s in the kitchen. What a novel concept!

The laundry room. I plan to put in an outdoor grill so I can have another cooking option.

The dining room

This is the room next to the dining room. I plan to have lots of seating around a large table for serious entertaining. Note the clothing steamer and what appears to be a Roomba. Now I have to get a cat!

Looking toward the dining room, front door and kitchen.

The couch, opposite the TV wall.

I will be getting a new TV to hang here, courtesy of the landlord.

The guest bedroom. The landlord will be putting in a new bed.

My new office, complete with a computer. I will also get an airbed so that I can accomodate more than one guest at a time.

The guest bathroom.

This is the walk-in closet across the hallway from the master bedroom.

The master bedroom. It’s very large.

The master bathroom. Oh boy, another tub for me not to use, like the last one.




1 thought on “Nĭ Hăo, Xi’an…

  1. Well!!! Seems like I missed a lot back in Beijing.

    And there’s one more thing I have to say : The walk-in kitchen is a Tiffany color one! So I prefer the walk-in closet now.

    Anyway, enjoy your stay in Xi’an!

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