I didn’t even leave my house today and I still inhabit the twilight zone. As always the joys of Chinese construction add excitement. Our kitchen sink, the one with the explosive water valve, has been leaking again for a few days and every day some one else comes to fix it and every day it still leaks. Today it leaked and the bathrooms flooded. The appropriate calls were made but nothing happened so we went about our business as usual.
We’ve started a new plan in the compound where the seven foreign kids have a specific house to go to each morning and that house will contain one adult. Call me bourgeois, but I’m not completely comfortable with the lord of the flies scenario of seven kids aged 4-10 hanging out unsupervised in houses where the electricity sparks every few minutes and valves burst about once a week. Manuel organized this as a way to prevent me from going completely and totally crazy since mostly they all come to me and with me everywhere I go. Today they went away, which left me alone to do something that actually had to get done today—it didn’t.
We’ve figured out that if we keep the a.c. off as much as possible during the day it and the rest of power might stay on from about 7 pm on—which is when the killer bugs come out so the windows and doors need to be closed. So I set myself up in shorts and a tank top with every single door wide open in the house drinking coffee and working away at a little application. I had the great idea to stream in WFUV in the evening for some funky music. At some point I looked outside and saw four police officers and four garden workers hanging out on the porch in chairs and squatting listening to the tunes too. This seemed like not my understanding of personal space but... They hung out for a while and then went away and came back with their own music. So we had a kind of ipod battle of the bands. I took the whole thing as just another weird China moment. Manuel didn’t quite feel that way when I called him.
The kids eventually toodled home for lunch and some time in the lab. The hotel in the garden made the mistake of storing a lot of hotel things in our garage—little toothpastes, combs, shower caps, blue slippers etc… So these kids who live in a giant lab now spend much of the day walking around in shower caps and blue booties doing experiments. While the six young Dr. Frankenstiens worked in the lab I went to lie down for twenty minutes and made them promise not to blow anything up. Because it’s a commune and we don’t do personal space I woke up to find a Chinese guy with his shirt pulled up halter style and the obligatory water bottle of hooch standing over my bed saying “Hi, water kitchen” in Chinese to me. He did his thing, gave me the thumbs up, and then left. An hour later after we had made rolls in the shapes of turtles, skeletons, and baseballs the sink started leaking again. At that point I lay down on the couch with a novel on my ipad and pretended I was somewhere else until a policeman came to deliver a few ten gallon jugs of water.
While preparing a stir fry of mystery greens and mystery spices the leak seemed to get bigger and bigger, so more calls were made. Manuel (who is not a plumber but has caused floods in his own lab) noticed that the drain hose did not in fact attach to anything so the sink water simply came up out of the ground. And then the water-bearing policeman came back. He too performed experiments on the sink, which prompted him for some reason to turn the water on and keep it running thus flooding much of the kitchen. Manuel kept turning it off and saying in English “this makes no sense” while the policeman-waterdeliveryman-plumbeman turned it back on and said in Chinese “let me do my job, you idiot.” Finally, his wife, wearing a dress almost identical to the one I performed in on 1 July, arrived on a Vespa. She turned the water on while her husband squatted underneath the house and smiled. The two of them smiled, mopped, and told us “OK”, with the obligatory thumbs-up. And like Angels of Mercy departing toward their next act of kindness, they were gone. Eli is now playing plumber which involves saying “I am plumbing the house first I have to flood it.” Then he goes outside speeds up to the house on his little bike and whips out his cell phone into which he screams the same ten words of Chinese over and over.