During my years of teaching along the Yangtze, I always prepared for such happenings after being absent from my school’s tiny apartment at Luzhou Vocational and Technical College. Whether a few days for a weekend in Chengdu, a week for certain national holidays or a month visit to the States during Chinese New Year, some tiny amiss would often be discovered once I stepped in the door.
But after being gone for a year from Luzhou, with short landings here and there during that time to check out my 3-room home, I found a lot of unwanted surprises can happen.
Interested in the stories? Read on!
Dealing with the Yangtze River Critters
Yes, being back along the Yangtze, with that infamous, nostalgic river view from my balcony, was a welcoming sight but not so for the many critters that holed up in my home during the summer.
As soon as I opened the door to my apartment, I knew I was in trouble.
During the summer holidays, I had been contacted by the school’s foreign affairs director concerning putting in new gas lines. She had asked permission for the school and city workers to do this while I was gone.
Naturally, I said yes. I certainly didn’t want my gas lines blowing up on me when, that first night back, I turned on my water heater for a shower or clicked on my gas range burners to cook dinner.
There was only a slight twinge of concern having strange guys tromp through my place while I wasn’t around. Not because anyone would steal anything but because a majority of male workers in China (and even in other countries) leave a huge mess behind them once they’ve done their thing. I was expecting a gigantic clean-up once I walked through that door.
Little did I know it was their carelessness that would cause me woes rather than their messiness.
Along with the expected dirty shoe prints to and from the outer room came the unexpected invitation to the outside world: the door leading to the balcony was wide open along with my sliding glass windows that enclosed it.
Within the hour, I found out just how much damage an open balcony door and windows can do in a few months.
There was a pile of spilt flour on the floor with dainty claw marks in it, dog food pellets (I keep pet food around for strays) spread throughout the sitting room, and which I later found hidden away behind furniture and in drawers, wasps whizzing in and out of a fully developed nest ingeniously secreted away inside my hollow metal window frames and, last but not least, a lovely pile of rodent excrements and hair sheddings nestled in the center of my bed sheets. (Surprise!)
After the 4-hour clean-up, it was time for a well-deserved sleep.
With soiled sheets still soaking in bleach, I sank with satisfaction into crisp, clean ones on my bed. I flipped on my air-conditioner, turned out the lights and fell into homecoming dreamland. . . until the rustlings started.
I quickly learned my 4-legged squatters weren’t about to leave just because I’d returned. The scurrying, hairy critters kept me up all night until I managed to cordon off one in the sitting room and the other in the bedroom. For 2 days, I kept both rooms closed off while I went searching for a means to get rid of them. Mouse traps proved ineffective. Poison pellets were not to their liking. I finally turned to sticky pads that most Chinese use to capture mice and rats. These are glue sheets stuck to 2 thin wooden boards. You open up the boards, place them on the floor near some food and wait. Once the animals get on them, they stick fast.
After that, it’s up to you to deal with the pathetic things struggling to get loose.
I once asked my friend how she manages these sticky pads and if she can actually kill what’s adhered to them.
She adamantly shook her head.
“Oh, no! I can never do that. My husband’s job. He folds the boards together and steps on them. No more rat.”
I considered myself much like my Chinese friend, not at all capable of personally carrying out such violent actions against one of God’s creatures.
But after 2 sleepless nights, not to mention cleaning up each morning after very active midnight rodent ramblings, once those little guys hit that sticky pad, I had no qualms letting the husband in me take over.
I’ve slept just fine ever since.
Website Silences Explained
Probably the most discouraging, however, has been starting up my blog.
It’s taken my Internet connection and hook-up a month to completely settle. I use the city’s services, not the school’s, because these are faster but they do take longer to deal with.
An appointment has to be made with the Telecom service staff in town to come to your home. Telephone folk arrive to check the lines. Internet connectors later appear to make sure you can access the Net. Payments are made, receipts received, passwords given – Once it’s all done, customers are ready for business.
I’ve been working on that since August 27 with my final connections finished last week.
Of course, website updates were first on my “must do” list.
But there in itself also lay a problem. My 2 old computers, both XP, which I’ve used for the past 15 years, no longer allowed me access to full emailing and blog features I once could easily access. “Not to worry!” I smugly told myself as I unpacked my new Budget Buy Windows Hewlett Packard laptop I had purchased in the States.
“This will be a breeze to set up. Up and running in no time!”
10 days later, I was still working on Skype, downloading Microsoft Word software, contacting support staff from my paid-for VPN (that re-routes my connection through other networks so I can unblock sites in China not visible to most) and figuring out all the nuances of using a touch screen.
Such a joy to have a new computer! But a small headache as well, which I’m sure many of you can attest to.
Back in Business
Finally, I’m back to updating everyone with news from China. A 1-week holiday is nearly upon us after only 3 weeks of starting up the school year. October 1st National Holidays will be from Oct. 1-7, which will have me once again in Chengdu to visit with friends and former students. If you don’t hear from me during that time, I’ll be able to update you all upon my return.
Thanks for your faithful following! Until next time, here’s wishing you Ping An (Peace) for your day.