Into Everyone’s Life Must Come Some Drudgery

Whether we like it or not, eventually we have to do it–the laundry.

As it turns out, here in China, most expats as we are known, have what is called an Ayi (pronounce I – ee), a word that means auntie. This is a woman that either comes to your house part-time or full time and does everything from cleaning to laundry to shopping to cooking to child care to paying the bills.  Yes, paying the bills. Here in China, bills like the electric bill or phone bill are paid in cash at a bank or convenience store, so the Ayi do that for you. (Which reminds me–we haven’t gotten a bill from the cell phone company yet…hmm…)

We don’t have an ayi for 2 reasons.  Our apartment comes with twice weekly maid service so an ayi would be slightly redundant.  But, I chose this apartment because it would make an ayi redundant and so make the option a moot point (although it’s true, I could still get a part-time ayi). It’s kind of expected that we would have an ayi, but frankly, I just don’t want someone hanging around all the time, and cooking and shopping here was one of the things I was looking forward to. Meredith no longer needs a babysitter, so that just leaves the laundry and we hardly need someone for 3 or 4 loads a week!

Anyway we don’t need an ayi–we need an IT person. We could probably employ someone full time just to handle our computer needs.  I think we have a computer/internet/printer/vpn/you name it crisis at least once a day!

So, we live on the 24th floor and we have a tiny little washer and dryer.  You may be thinking, hmm…I wonder how they vent all those dryers in a big high rise like that?

Well, it’s not like most of the places that we looked–they put the washers and dryers in a porch outside-yes outside! If you’re lucky it’s an enclosed porch, if not there’s only a roof and you get to do your laundry out in the cold or rain. (or I should say, the ayi does)

Now, we really shouldn’t be complaining at all because we at least have dryers.  In general, people around here don’t use dryers which is why you see scenes like this everywhere:

Those clothes are really far off the ground!An alley

Sometimes you just have to wash your undies.

These were some very clever bamboo poles and lines that were all connected together to catch the breeze. One pole can be unanchored to bring the line down low enough to hang clothes and then propped back up again.

This is my energy guzzling way to dry clothes. It takes 2 to 2 1/2 hours to dry a load (!). Instead of venting to the outside there is a condenser at the bottom of the dryer and the long plastic container I have pulled out at the top collects the water. I have to empty that before I start every load. It will have maybe 2 cups of water in it.

I have a love/hate relationship with my dryer. I’m glad I have it but it’s in a closet in the kitchen by the living room which means we have to have the door open while it’s running for 2 and a half hours and it’s LOUD.  It also does this annoying thing of tumbling and stopping, tumbling and stopping, tumbling and stopping…and then when it’s finally finished, it just stops. No buzzer, no warning. (The washer has a buzzer!) By then I’ve gotten so inured to all that tumbling and stopping that I’m just oblivious to the possibility that oh wait, the dryer might really mean it this time! and I’ve stopped paying attention and the clothes have been sitting there for 10 minutes and they’re all wrinkly.

So, I turn it back on for another 15 minutes of tumble and stop…

Remember I said I wanted to do the cooking and shopping?Last night I experimented with mystery greens from the grocery store:

The top one was supposed to substitute for kale and the bottom one for spinach

I’m not really recognizing any of the greens at the stores except lettuce, so I had no idea whether these were supposed to be eaten raw or cooked. I was hoping they both could be cooked.

I ended up only cooking the top one with some onions, raisins and curry powder

It turned out I had enough with just the one green.  I threw in one leaf of the other one about half way through to see how it would cook and it was taking way more time than spinach would and the leaves of the first stalky-like green would have been mush, so I quit while I was ahead!

This was dinner: asian glazed chicken, papaya and avocado salad, and the greens and raisins

We declared it good!


About DECRYPTKNIT: knitter on the loose in Shanghai

Hi, I'm Marisa Newhouse, a former pharmacist (for a brief time during the Reagan administration) who's real calling was probably anything that has to do with cooking, plants, literature and especially knitting; hence my last and favorite job, working at Woolyminded, a wonderful yarn store. But now, I have moved half a world away to Shanghai where my husband will be working. Lots of people are interested in what we will be doing here and I have always kept journals of our travels, so I thought I'd do it the modern way and keep a blog.
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