First week in Hangzhou

My hotel… situated right where the paved road ended


The facade of my hotel

Well, I’ve been meaning to get back to the story of my arrival and settling in China.
I left Shanghai on the 22nd of October (I think), on what was the first really polluted day I encountered in China. And back then I had no idea even how I knew it was polluted. It mostly looked foggy and disgusting. But I think all the stories of China’s pollution took over in my head, letting my reason and hypochondria reach the conclusion that this ended was pollution.
I awoke, had a last terrible breakfast at my Shanghai hotel, backed my belongings, and got ready to  leave for Hangzhou. The hotel clerks were unsurpringly unhelpful when I asked for help getting a taxi. One kicked around and pretended to be busy be shuffling papers around. I exited the hotel and engaged a taxi driver in a conversation where I mispronounced everything. A middle aged American woman who spoke excellent Mandarin was then kind enough to assist me.

The canal near me hotel. In the background one can see the
shopping center where I now work.

The trip to the train station was fine, albeit long. The cab driver was nice enough. And even chatted at me till we got there. Things were also fine at the train station and on the train (despite the hype, Chinese trains are fairly mediocre, but having done most of my train riding in Italy and the US, they seemed magnificent to me). It was only when I arrived in Hangzhou that things suddenly took a turn for the awful. Just as I was arriving I received a message informing me that the person meant to pick me up at the train station was going to be late. I had two bags with me that weighed a ton each, and I had to drag them from the platform down some stairs to where this person was meant to meet me.
When she arrived (15 min late) it turns out that on a bad day she might weight half of what one of my bags might. And now we had to walk back, past the arrivals, to the taxi stand. She gets into the taxi with me and hands the driver her phone instead of saying the address.

I am fairly fucking sure I could have handled that on my own. And just to pour more salt into that wound, she then tells me I would need to pay for the taxi, as she didnt have the money.
Hotel foyer
Sigh. Just what the hell was she here for, anyway?
Well, that taxi ride seemed to last forever, likely because (I would later learn) the driver fleeced us by taking the long way around the city. The city at that time seemed dull, grey, and rather ugly, though I should say I have since changed my mind on this point. We drove, and then we drove, and then we drove some more. At some point I saw a road that struck me as leading to the middle of nowhere. And of course, we took this rode. The paranoid in me delighted in theorizing that I was being driven to my own slaughter, but the rationale part of me pointed out that no would be kidnapper would make me pay for my own death.

Well, after what seemed like ages, and at least two wrong turns from the cabby, we arrived at my hotel. It was situated where the paved road ends. I heard crickets chirp, and was terrified. I hadn’t signed up for this shit. It all reminded me of where my grandmother lived in Friuli, a place I cannot stand. The thought that ran through my head was, oddly enough “Holy fuck! I’ve been Shanghaied!”

Horse lamp in the hotel foyer.
Horse Lamp? Yea, horselamp
The dirt… it penetrated my shoes…
Just one of many assassinated mosquitoes

Cough, cough.
Checking in to the hotel, I came to find I had to pay for that too. Well, a deposit at least. I was starting to get angry. I paid, then hauled my heavy ass bags to my room (alone, I may add). Walking down the hotel corridor, I noticed the pavement was uneven. Lovely. I dropped my bags off and then took a walk with the girl who came to pick me up. We went to the shopping center where I would be condemned teaching for the next year or so.  She showed me where the school was in the mall, took me down for a cheap and disgusting lunch, then before we parted I asked where I could buy a bottle of water.
“You can’t buy water here.”
The fuck does that even mean? I don’t know, but she insisted on this point.
I went back to the hotel, unpacked, checked the internet for apartments, killed some time, then went downstairs to the lobby to ask about where I could dine.
I got a smile from reception, but no answer. Instead, they picked up the phone and made a call. A few words later and they handed me the phone. It was the same girl who picked me up at the station. Low and behold, outside of the disgusting shit at the mall, there was nowhere to eat around here.
You’ve got to be fucking kidding me. I went to the mall, got some equally disgusting KFC, and went back to my hotel, furious.
The next day I woke up and hated the decision to move to China. At lunch I met with my boss, who reassured me a little bit.  Only thing I really remember about the meeting was him was the dual piece of advice; buy a bike and stop worrying about things. Then I was off to meet a realtor who was going to show me a few apartments. I had been in contact with this person for a few days, and I had already told him a little bit about what I wanted; a modern place close to the center of the city, certainly not in the wasteland where I would be teaching. He meets me at the hotel, and tries to show me places near there. I put my foot down, and for forty five minutes we stand at an intersection waiting for him to find something to show me. We get into a taxi, drive closer to the center, and he shows me a place not fit to be home to roaches. If memory serves, the place didn’t have windows. It cost 2600 RMB a month. Whomever had last used the toilet had not flushed.
“This is a really good deal, you should take it right now” he had told me, not even able to put proper energy into cheating me into a shitty apartment he would not be able to sell to anyone else.
I told him no, not under any circumstances would I live there, and that he would have to do a better job. He told me this is what everything was like (protip: fucker was lying).
He said he would find things for me tomorrow.
I went home and considered if crying myself to sleep was still an option. Turns out it was. But before I fell asleep I found a website with classifieds online, and managed to find a place that seemed nice in theory.

The door to my hotel… I’m not sure either

The next day the realtor called and cancelled, so all I ended up seeing was the flat I found myself online. Chatting with the current tenant, I told her that I just moved to Hangzhou, and didn’t know my head from my ass. She offered to meet me at the shopping center and take me to her flat. So I walked over to, and that is when I met O**** (name hidden to protect the extremely guilty).
Oh, O***. The adventures we would have. I got to the mall and met an overweight Polish girl woman (christ. She was older than me, and I am in my 30s. I need to get my language right) who had been living here in Hangzhou for well over seven years. She was miserable, and she had decided to make as many other people miserable as possible. But she was determined to leave Hangzhou soon and was thus giving up her flat. We took two buses to get there, and it seemed far off, but slightly less in the middle of nowhere then the places the realtor showed me. I didn’t like it immediately, it was not love at first sight, but it was surely the first place in China I saw that made me think “This will do.” Then O*** took me out for the first decent meal I had had in Hangzhou, and made me feel less terrified of the whole prospect of being in this country.

Some very nice houses near my hotel

O*** was nice enough to give me a few days to think about it. But at this point I had about five more days to get a place and move in before I had to start work (and my job stopped paying for the hotel). While I thought about it I was ignored by the realtor once more, then showed some terrible places at too high a price. I was about ready to tell the guy to take a walk when he showed me a place that may have been acceptable. The only problem was a pretty bad colony of mold growing in the kitchen. I pointed it out to him and explained that I used to work in a home improvement store, knew the signs of mold, knew that this was a particularly toxic form of mold, and knew that it needed to killed. He said the walls could be repainted, and I explained to him how that would do absolutely nothing to solve the problem, and the mold would just go through it in a few weeks. I also told him exactly how to go about killing the mold. He asked if it was important and I told him it was a deal breaker. The next day I got a message from him saying the landlord had agreed to repaint the walls. I was done with these idiots. I messaged O*** and asked her if I could take her place. She said yes.

Adding more road to the place where the road ends.

So a day or two later I met up with O*** in the morning to get her lease in my name. We needed to do this for my sake, not hers, and she was taking the whole day off to help me do it. I met her at her apartment and we went to her landlord, who refused to see her. In fact, the staff at the building where the landlord worked were of no help, and before I could figure out what was going on, O*** was screaming in Mandarin and almost fighting someone. The staff had apparently referred to her in a less than polite way.
By 11 we were told the landlord would see us at 2, so we went for an early lunch to kill some time. Later we returned to the landlord’s place and were told he would not see us.

The tiny hotel room.

Ola did not take this lightly, and we went to the police to settle this. In China the first function of the police is to settle disputes. A bus ride later and we were at the police station. A threatening phone call later and we had another appointment, this time for 10pm. So me and O*** went to a bar not too far from the apartment, got shitfaced and got to know each other.

The other side of the tiny hotel room

O*** was a hateful, hateful person. She really hated the Chinese. I mean, it was starting to show in all the day’s drama, but with a few drinks she really let her hair down and her opinions out. I won’t go into too many details here, but safe to say it was for the best that she was leaving. She had loads of problems as well, an I think getting out of China would be a good move for her.
I ignored her racism (I really wanted this flat at this point) and many beers later 10 pm rolled around. The shithead landlord let us in as if it were absolutely normal for him to be seeing customers at this hour. Things were signed, and I got the keys to my new place. I moved in the day before I had to start work, and after all the bags were unpacked I spend the money I would have had to pay the shithead realtor on a bicycle and biking gear.


What you in any hotel room; two kinds of
condoms and a razor.

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