Now, this is a statement I could not agree more with. I have yet to go somewhere in China where there wasn’t some kind of construction. Everything is being developed, and for this reason all my students joke about China being a developing country (I didn’t laugh either).
And in many respects I agree with my friend. China, and Hangzhou specifically, may well be wonderful when they complete it. I say may be, because I am open to the possibility that they fuck the whole thing up. Everything in China is fucked, because they need it built soon. And because they need it built soon, they half-ass it all. Everywhere you go there are signs of shoddy construction and half-assery.
When I lived in Greece I had an apartment where the bathroom clearance was only about 5’4. It was a bathroom that I could not stand up right in. And it wasn’t just me who was tall; I may have met only two or three adult Greeks who could stand upright in this bathroom. I learned to shower couching down, and I lived with the inconvenience. I am fine with being inconvenienced when I know its the exception, not the rule, and when I know that it is likely there for a reason (though I never found out the reason of the dwarfed Greek bathroom). It isn’t like that in China. When I first moved into my new flat I thought my flatmates incapable of drying themselves off after a shower. Every time I enter the bathroom I find water pooled by the shower door. Well, a few days into living there I went into brush my teeth, and between the fact that it was late at night and the fact that it was a weekend meant that I was the only one there. The floor was miraculously dry. I turned the faucet on, began to brush my teeth, and a few seconds into the process my sock became completly drenched. Turns out the the culprit of floor wetting was actually the sink. I went to investigate the phenomenon (after thoroughly mopping up the floor) and found something truly puzzling. Turns out that one pipe ends and another begins flush with the floor, but there is nothing there to contain the seem. So if you have a particularly strong jet of water, of if the water is swirling strongly down the drain, it will leak onto the floor. And while I established what the problem is rather quickly, one of my flatmates is a god damn mouth-breather, and apparently can’t brush his teeth unless he has the torrents of heaven coming out of the god damn faucet.
I’ll live with this.
Perhaps more annoying yet are the showers at the gym I go to. The gym itself is another story, but safe to say it has many faults. In the men’s shower room (closed for construction about 1/6 of the time as of this writing) you have to make a choice; you can either shower in stall that has no shower head, where a stream of water violently erupts from what is simply a faucet, or one with a great shower head but is not connected to the hot water line. Why can’t you have both? Because China, that’s why.
As well, shower stall sizes seem to be completly random and not at all uniform. They are all big enough to fit even the largest of men. The commonality between the shower stalls is that none of them have curtains that actually fit. A three inch gap is the best you will find, but that is right next to the door. I have found the most convenient thing to do is to get to the gym early, take the shower stalls off in the corner with a shower curtain the size of Conan’s own loin cloth, unscrew the shower head from one and attach it to the other before anyone is any the wiser.
There are also non-bathroom examples of this phenomenon. The kitchen has to gas burners, both of exactly the same size. I have been using gas burners all my life to cook food. SO while I am no master, I am certainly not a novice. But there is something about the burners here that just doesn’t seem to work. Maybe it’s that I just moved out of a place where I had to use an electric plate to cook food, and that I am out of practice, but I don’t believe so. With these two gas burners, the line between too hot, and thus burning your food, and not hot enough, thus never cooking your food is not only thin but impossibly thin. It’s like trying to establish the border on a Mandelbrot set. When cooking I spend hours with a hand on the dial adjusting the flame size. But something about the way it is sized, and the way the flames exit from the jets ensure that the plastic handle on all the pots and pans is always burning, and that I have to wear a pollution mask while cook to not die of poisoning. Unless of course you lower the heat, but then it is so cold as to be ineffectual.
But the incompetence does not end there, it somehow extends to food as well. I won’t talk about Chinese food, even though it is a nightmare onto itself. It’s their food, so I have no place accusing them of somehow getting it wrong (I have every intention of accusing them of many other things in a different post.) What I can talk about is how they fuck up other things. The Portuguese make these tiny deserts call egg tarts, or pastel de nata (or pastel de belem), and during their time here in the east they brought these things with them. These are deserts, they should be custardy. I was thrilled when I first saw them here, until I put one in my mouth.
They taste like fucking egg! Some of them are awful, to the extent that it is like eating a tiny, slightly sweet omelet in a pastry shell.
Ok, but these are minor points, you’re probably thinking. None of these are major problems. This is because, fortunately, I have not been around for the major problems. Yet. But they happen all the time. Hangzhou is undergoing massive construction projects in hopes of becoming a real city (by Chinese standards). This means metro lines, and lots of them. Currently there is only. And a half, but let’s not talk about that. They are hoping to build nine more. The only problem with this is that they suck at construction. Apparently, back in the days of the construction of the first metro line, there was a collapse of some kind on its inaugural trip.Well, just the other day one of the lines they are currently working on also collapsed. Right to the fucking road above. At a major intersection. A block away from my house.
China’s reputation for building things that break a couple of hours later should extend to their country as well.