The phone was ringing as I unlocked the front door and stepped inside. It was ‘Aunty Wang,’ and she wasn’t in the mood to make baby-talk with the not-so-cute foreigner. Jessica had answered the phone, and Auntie Wang tried to discuss the rent hike with her, but Jessica again made her ‘talk’ to me.
‘Aunty Wang’: “We still want you to pay 1200.”
That is totally not fair. Plus, she’s talking really fast, and I hadn’t had time to prepare. I’m scrambling.
Me: “Last time you said 1100.”
A.W.: “Oh, well-“[long string of fast Chinese that I can’t catch involving babies and other people who love paying 1200, but the general gist of it all, after I remind her again that they’d already come down to 1100, was that they’ll settle for 1100].
Me: “We discussed it while we were waiting for you to phone us, and we feel we can pay 1050.”
That is true. Prices are going up, and we feel 1050 was OK, with strings attached…
A.W.: [Something long and fast about forget 1050 and remember the babies that like to pay 1200 and perhaps might be ready to move in so we’re talking about 1100.]
I tell her to hold on a second, and I quickly discuss the next move in English with Jessica.
Me: “OK. We have a list. Some problems. We can pay 1100 after those all get fixed.”
Aunty Wang doesn’t sound impressed.
A.W.: “What are the problems?”
(This is the part where we try to make them pay for raising our rent.)
Me: “The first problem, a stinky smell often comes up from the drain in the bathroom. When we have guests it’s really embarrassing. I tried to fix it my own way, but my way was no use.”
Me: “The kitchen yángtái (阳台 – North American apartments don’t really have these) windows are ok, but the other windows all leak air. They leak cold wind in the winter and hot wind in the summer…”
She laughs when I say “hot wind” – maybe “hot wind” (热风) means something I don’t know about.
“… and of course you already know the roof leaks. The kitchen has no hot water. The water pressure usually isn’t enough for the gas water heater. And we’re scared of it. And the water dispenser leaks.”
I forget to mention the broken mosquito nets. There’s other stuff I could mentioned, but we’re aiming to get a couple big ones fixed and just need the little ones as bargaining pieces to give up.
A.W.: [She rattles off a whole bunch of fast Chinese which I can’t catch. But I’m pretty sure it involves us having the money ready when they come over with the contract this Saturday, and her saying they’ll take a look at fix things.]
Me: “After everything is fixed, then we’re able to pay.”
A.W.: “Sure, we’ll fix everything and then you pay us.”
I’m pretty sure she actually said this – though it kind of surprises me. Maybe I’m hearing wrong. We’re only hoping to get one or two of the more important things fixed. I double check, and it sounds like she confirmed it, but I’m definitely not certain.
We arrange a time for them to come over. She says bye but as she’s hanging up I hear her start complaining to her husband, “Aì yà…!” (哎呀; [exclamation!]).
So they’ve forced us to our Plan B. This coming Saturday night will be Round 3, when they come over with the new contract. If I spoke really good Chinese instead of Chinglish, I would have tried to make it all nicer and smoother and leave the option open for them to not raise the rent and not fix stuff. But I speak Chinglish, and that’s just how it is.