You Never Know Where Life Will Take You

Welcome! This is a blog about a girl, who got a job, and moved halfway across the world to teach English. Read and enjoy!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Story of "The Great Mattress Debacle!" or "Cleanliness Rant"


[Oct. 21-Oct.28, 2011] When I arrived at my apartment and walked into my room all I saw was on this slab of a twin bed. There was no mattress, just what looked like a solid bed frame. It's like if a camping cot and a sheet of plastic had a baby. Maggie said something along the lines of 'very sorry, we get new mattress.' I thought, okay, I can live with this for a few days. Then I took in my surroundings and inhaled. The curtains were stained, the walls scuffed and splattered with dead mosquito guts, and there was this permeating odor of bad BBQ/beef jerky - it was horribly unpleasant. I almost started crying right there in the room, in front of my bosses. They whipped out some new (thankfully), cheap sheets and a thin cotton pad of sorts. 
 
And only a thin blanket like mattress to go on top.
A better view.

It was just so much to take in...in addition to the culture shock and thinking 'this is my life for the next year?!' I feel like I sound selfish and horrible, but the lack of small comforts kind of got to me...also, I wasn't warned before hand about needing to buy a mattress. Surprise! Extra expenses!

Thankfully, they let me take a shower and I cried to myself in that horribly disgusting bathroom. There was mold where the sink met the wall, the drain smelled and was almost clogged with muck and hair, the shower had a moldy residue all over the shower walls, mildew and gunk lurked along the shower's floor edge, little glass bits from where the shower door was completely broken off (we didn't have a shower door, just a gaping opening) were scattered here and there. 


It festers right under the surface of the caulking...

Evil things live in my drain.

And since I'm already on a roll, I give you the kitchen. The people that lived there a mere day before had better thank hell and highwater that I wasn't there while they were or they would have gotten such a dressing down - they would have wished for deafness. I swear that space hadn't been cleaned for the entirety of their residence in the apartment. The fridge had molding food in it and indistinguishable splatters...more mold too. The counters were sticky with residue. The entire wall behind the stove was slick with oil splatters, the rest of the walls were not exempt from a nice dusting of oil and grime, even the bottom of the wall-cabinets had a thin film of oil under them - they glistened in such a disgusting way when the light hit them right. The floor looked like someone wanted to plant a garden - there was so much dirt and mud built up around the base of the fridge and in the rooms corners. They also had the gall to take all of our pots and pans and leave their dirty, empty, disgusting food containers for us to clean up.
 
This was after we removed the smelly food packages.
The walls were shellacked with oil spatter.
I'm pretty sure something died in there and it did not go quietly.


I've been told that the different standards of cleanliness is just a cultural difference. At first, I kept thinking, 'well cleanliness isn't about culture, it's about a choice - a choice to clean!' To a certain extent that is true, but what I've come to realize, seeing life go on around me here day to day, is that the decision that is socially okay here in China is to choose to NOT clean. I may look at a piece of trash or dust bunny and think 'I need to pick that up' or 'I need to sweep that up'. The Chinese just think 'it could be worse, I don't care about that piece of trash' and thus they won't do anything. Also, especially with outside garbage and the state of some shops that would have the have the Health Inspectors shutting them down 7 ways to Friday in the states....I feel like I can sum it up in one useful Chinese excuse: 'Méi bànfǎ, rén tàiduō' or 'There's nothing you can do, too many people.' China might literally have too many people to clean up after. I'm still not okay with the cleanliness situation, but I've come to understand why it is the way it is better.
 
The corners....where no broom or mop has gone before!
When I opened the doors, a small army of spiders jumped out at me.

Anyway, I wish I were over exaggerating, but I'm not. Victoria and I gave the whole place a scrub-down the next Saturday morning and now it is much more livable. I spent half my pocket money on cleaning supplies that I don't think I'm going to get reimbursed for, because it's not in my contract goddammit. Now, I digress, back to the mattress....so later on they reported that a new mattress would be delivered on Sunday. I waited with baited breath! A good, comfortable night's sleep, not some chiropractic nightmare!  So, after work on Sunday I prance home and walk into my room to see....nothing has changed. 'Hmm, okay,' I thought, 'must have gotten the rooms mixed up...' So I walk into my roommates much nicer and larger bedroom and see a new large wooden bed frame (a double or queen sized one), but no mattress. 


A view from above.
I'm going to bet that this bed was not purchased new....origin: ignorance is bliss.

I go over to look at it...the middle was made of this odd interlaced, almost fibrous material and was trampoline-y in nature. But still no mattress. And then I wondered if, what it, mattress is just one of those things that is lost in translation. What if this is just the way common folk here in China are expected to sleep. In Japan they sleep on cotton mats on the floor sometimes. Oh joy. I laid down on it and wasn't too displeased. It was better than that plastic, unforgiving nightmare I had been tossing and turning on. When Victoria came back she was confused as I was about the 'new mattress' / 'better bed' we were supposed to get. Since the new mattress freaked her out (she kept saying, "We don't even live like this in Ghana!") we ended up switching rooms because she didn't want to sleep on the new bed and opted to keep her own little stone table. 


I must say, the bigger room was much nicer and I felt a lot better in there. Actually, after spending a night in my old room Victoria came to me and asked, 'how the hell did I live in there?' [insert hysterical laughter] HAHAHAHA...kinda wanted to cry again. She only stayed for a few more days before returning to Ghana to complete some visa paperwork. I really doubt she's coming back...


...and speaking of backs. Thank god I have a chiropractor in my family. I'm starting to have a lot of pain in my shoulders, despite my awesome family sending a few foam mattress pads my way. They are like little heavenly clouds that I sleep on each night - in comparison to NOT having them. I really didn't realize how integral a decent bed was for being able to stand where and how I live. A normal, western bed: probably one of the things I miss the most - call me spoiled, but it's true. 
 
Or maybe I will choose option B? Merry Christmas to me?

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