A Retrospective of My Chinese Bathrooms

Remember my Yantai bathroom with no hot water? Remember my Beijing bathroom with the electrical outlet in the shower? Yeah, I haven’t exactly had the greatest luck with Chinese bathrooms.

Two nights ago, I had a little trouble sleeping and heard a small drip from the bathroom. In a city of fireworks and a hotel of carousing, a tiny drip wasn’t going to keep me awake, but I have some experience with Chinese plumbing, so I mentioned this little drip to my contact at my school and asked her to let the hotel know. She said had a lot of the other things to do but if I got her the number of the hotel, she would call. I felt sort of weird about this: I live in the housing provided by the school, and several other teachers and staff members live here too, so it seems really odd that the school has no way to contact them and no ability to look this number up…  I kind of get the feeling my problem wasn’t really a priority. But, whatever, I got the number, and  really hoped that my contact would call.

Last night, I heard the dripping again, but I rolled over and went back to sleep. Aaah sleep. I love you, sleep. This morning, though, I swung my feet out of bed, onto the carpet, and it squelched. My tiny leak had covered the bathroom floor, with an inch or two of water (the floor isn’t really flat in there), and some of it had even spilled out over the doorsill into my room, soaking the carpet. This is no time for politely using the correct channels and maybe getting help from my school, this is time for taking matters into my own (toneless-Mandarin) hands.

I went to the cleaning staff on my floor, and explained my problem in my broken Mandarin (Jin tian wo xing. Wo can shui. Da shui. Qing ni can shui! Today I wake. I see water. Big water. Please you look water.)  I usually like to practice a new conversation a bit and look up vocab words, but see previous re: flood. The housekeepers came in to look, I’m still unsure whether I actually communicated well or they just wanted to know what the foreign lady was so agitated about (By the way, in this story, I was wearing my yoga pants and yesterday’s t-shirt because I just woke up to a flood), and then they got the maintenance guy.

Of course, the maintenance staff doesn’t speak much Mandarin, they speak Yangzhou local dialect. This is quite different from Mandarin, and even when Yangzhouhua speakers switch to Mandarin, their vocab and their falling-rising tone sounds really different to me. Several hundred years ago, the Yangzhou locals consciously stopped speaking Mandarin and switched to speaking their own language when they felt they weren’t getting enough support from the central government, who’d been pretty quick to claim Yangzhou when it was a prosperous shipping port and pretty quick to drop Yangzhou when the economy shifted and it was less significant. Which is really fascinating, but not when I am trying to explain about a flood happening in my room.

So everyone came into my room to try to sort it out. and by the way, I have pictures of Harold all over my room, like I am 16 and he is a pop star, which is a totally mature and reasonable thing to do, and I am not at all embarrassed about it. I don’t have the Mandarin vocab to describe a plumbing issue, let alone Yangzhouhua, so I did a certain amount of pointing and je ge, and the maintenance guy had a look at where the water was coming from, and somehow figured it out, which I can only assume means he is the greatest plumber in all of China. He explained what he needed to do to fix it, not like I would have understood that in the Queen’s English, and ended with mei shi, no problem.

I wanted to tell him not to worry, my last Chinese plumbing adventure ended up in a coffeetable book, so I’m sure this will turn out OK too.

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