Wednesday, February 24, 2010

I'm so wet

For those of you who have never lived in China, I want to say something about showers. In America, when we take showers, we do so in something that we call “a shower.” We also have showers in China, and actually the shower in my apartment is significantly bigger than the shower I had back in America.

Chinese shower

You will note that there seems to be a toilet in my shower. And it’s true. There’s a toilet in my shower. Because my shower is the entire bathroom. There is no distinction between shower and non-shower space. My bathroom happens to have a showerhead in it and happens to have a drain in the floor. Or, equivalently, my shower happens to have a bathroom in it. In fact, were in not for the very very small lip on the bathroom door, you could make a plausible case for my shower containing my entire apartment.

[I should tell you, I lied. That’s not a picture of the shower in my apartment, but it basically looks just like that. I am so lazy and the internet is so convenient that it was easier to do a google search for Chinese Shower than walk 20 feet to take a picture of my own bathroom.

Incidentally, I wouldn’t do a google image search for “Chinese Shower” if I were you, unless you want your third search result to be a naked picture of a Vietnamese/Chinese prostitute in Massachusetts. Her website says she “aims to please.” Given that she puts naked pictures of herself on the internet and posts her rates for housecalls, I’m inclined to take her at her word.]

When you take a shower, usually all the surfaces of the shower get wet, and the same is true for me, except, again, my shower contains a sink, a counter, a mirror, and a toilet. Also, my towel. Since my shower is my bathroom, I have no choice but for my towel also to be inside my shower. Normally this is not too much of a problem. But it is currently incredibly humid in Guangzhou. Combined with the not-too-warm temperatures, this means that nothing ever dries. My shower (bathroom) has become a swamp.

Those of you who live in reasonable climes probably can’t understand what it’s like for a room in your house to be wet 24 hours a day. I have to put on protective footwear to enter my bathroom. It’s like a gross 70° sauna attached to our guest room. On the subject of sauna traditions, I quote Wikipedia:

Saunatonttu, literally translated the sauna elf, is a little gnome that was believed to live in the sauna. He was always treated with respect, otherwise he might cause much trouble for people. It was customary to warm up the sauna just for the gnome every now and then, or to leave some food outside for him. It is said that he warned the people if a fire was threatening the sauna, or punished people who behaved improperly in it – for example slept, or played games, argued, were generally noisy or behaved otherwise “immorally” there.

Well sorry, Saunatottu, I don’t know what’s normally considered immoral behavior, but I go there to poop.

This problem does not just apply to our bathroom, by the way. All of the floors in our apartment complex and in our classroom building are covered in slick stone tiles, and every morning the maids wipe these surfaces down with mops. These also never ever dry. So walking to class requires sliding carefully over wet stone in shoes that don’t even have arch support, much less the ability to grip smooth lubricated surfaces. I have almost slipped numerous times. Gus fell down the stairs. Even leaving the house is treacherous.

By the way, do you remember when I told you about the huge daily flood outside the gates of our school? Still happening. Sidewalk also never dries. Some enterprising citizen put out large bricks like stones across a river so that you can walk down the sidewalk without getting your feet wet.

And tonight Gus opened a box of chocolates in our living room and they were covered in condensation. We sacrificed them to Saunatonttu just to be safe.