Some photos from a recent afternoon with the neighbours. Their son owns a baking supply shop, so they asked us over to bake some things and have dinner together. We made and ate dumplings, pizza, and tiramisu.
These dumplings had partially-unshelled shrimp (good for calcium, they told us) and pumpkin filling:
About Chinese apartments
One of the things that’s easy to get used to and forget how different it is from North America is the way apartments here ‘work.’ In many of the Chinese apartments we’ve been in, the bedrooms double as the living/sitting/dining room (newer apartments aren’t all built the same way, though many of them are.)
When we visit our neighbours we have dinner in their bedroom, which is also their living room and TV room, with the edge of their bed doing duty as a dining room chair. The table gets folded away after dinner. We’d be doing the same thing in our apartment, except that we’re North Americans and so we don’t want guests in our bedroom, on our bed. We have two bedrooms and one is used only as a living room.
We live like North Americans in a Chinese apartment, and in certain ways our lifestyle doesn’t fit the usage anticipated by the apartment design (or lack thereof). The kitchen and bathroom could each easily illustrate this, and so could the need to wear slippers indoors (as seen in the above photos). When comparing apartment style differences between Tianjin and North America, you can see an obvious connection between types of food, bathing and potty methods, and room design. I also suspect the differences in the economic systems that produced our living spaces (worshiping customers vs. indifference/annoyance with customers) deserve some blame as well. Some things just don’t “make sense” to us and create extra, unnecessary hassle.
For North Americans, there’s a certain amount of frustration that can come from living in a Chinese apartment. Some of that comes from the small size and seemingly inefficient, not-very-thoughtful, inconvenient design (these weren’t designed for a strong consumer-driven market, which would mean trying to attract residents with a pleasing, thoughtful, comfortable and convenient design). But another large part of it comes from that fact that the apartment design and layout anticipates a certain general lifestyle and way of doing things, and as North Americans we didn’t doing things that way. That means we try to live a certain way in a place designed for a different way of living. And that means more hassle and inconvenience for us inside our home. Even in Taipei, where our school stuck us in a large, luxury apartment, some things were awkward and inconvenient just because they were designed for a different living style.
Before we leave we’ll have an apartment post and give you guys a tour, so you can see what we’re talking about (Jessica’s been talking about writing that for over a YEAR, but you know how she is about posting… ;) ).