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January 08, 2006

paint

Paint is like drinking water in China - that is, something you can't take for granted.

I learned last year that all (or at least most) apartments are painted inside with oil-based paint. It takes six months for the walls to air out to the point that the apartment is livable. A dishonest landlord tricked one colleague into making a deposit on renting an apartment that wasn't ready for tenants yet. The weather was nice the day she showed the apartment, so the landlord opened the windows. Then, when my colleague Ding Binbin tried to move in, she discovered that there was a terrible smell from the paint that wouldn't go away for 4-5 months. She ended up negotiating a settlement that left the landlord with some of her deposit. This week, Ding Binbin ran up against the same problem in a different form. Our company has moved into a new factory and office complex. We bought several new desks for office workers. But I learned today that, because the paint on the new desks hasn't fully cured, we can't have very much heat in the offices where these desks are located.

I suppose the reason for all this is that oil-based paint is cheaper than water-based paint, but I'm not certain.

- Norty

Posted by now at 03:00 PM

More weddings!

In December, we attended my Nanjing colleague Tao Ling's wedding. The most noteworthy part of the wedding to us was her husband carrying her around the hall - two times! Then, on New Year's Day, we attended Nantong colleague Qian Ting's wedding. This was our first wedding in a home and our first visit to a rural home.

We drove about 40 minutes out of Nantong, turning onto a dirt road for the last 100 meters or so. (I should say we "rode" - with another Chinese colleague. We don't drive in China, except me on a bicycle.) The homes in the countryside are often freestanding, whereas only the wealthiest of Chinese city dwellers can afford a freestanding house. These homes almost always house an extended family of in-laws, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. In this case, we had a chance to see a couple of older buildings that are now used only for storage, but where in one of which a cousin of the groom grew up. The experience was reminiscent of visiting the rustic building in rural Arkansas where Terry's dad grew up. Another noteworthy thing about rural homes in this part of the country is that none of them have a "kongtiao," the motel-like device that generates cool air in the summer and warm air in the winter. So, even more so than city dwellers, the rural folks here survive winter by the principle I learned early one (and recorded in an early entry, for those who have been following), "duo chuan yifu" ("put on more clothes"). Though it appeared sparse from the outside, this home had the latest technology in thin tv and a nice computer in the bride and groom's upstairs bedroom. Yet another unique feature of this particular wedding was that the next week Qian Ting insistently returned to me the traditional "hong bao" (red envelope), in which I had delivered our monetary wedding gift. He said that Terry and I were "guibin keren" (honoured guests). I fought for a while, but ended up with the envelope, which my other colleagues at work said was ok.

- Norty

Posted by now at 02:36 PM