Almost a week ago, I moved myself and all my stuff into my new home. I did it in one day, with the help of some amazing friends. I am now living in the old courtyard house in Heyang 鹤阳. It’s strange to think that I found it only three months ago.
I came down with the most spectacular stomach bug since cycling through Tajikistan. Over the last week, I lost a few kilos. The first couple of days after I moved in, the contractors were still working. I was trying to hide in the one room that was habitable. My upstairs bedroom made me feel safe and comfortable while I was so utterly miserable. They would bang on my door if they had questions, standing around and smoking. One example: Is it ok to hang the electrical bathroom heater right under the showerhead?
Then, my meds kicked in and the contractors packed their tools. Finally, I was left to stalk my new house. I started to feel my way around in the same way Ding Ding has been stalking the one bedroom he has been confined to. I walk around carefully, curiously, tentative, simultaneously nervous and excited. Yang Shifu has done a wonderful job, finishing within time and (almost) within budget. As I will start using the house I will find out just how good the work of his crew has been. They moved the bathroom heater to a different spot, at a safe distance from the shower.
With pricked ears and eyes
All day long, and especially at night, I listen to all the new sounds. Village life is going on around me. A rooster crows, fireworks are being set off at random hours, people are talking, an electric tricycle loaded with farmers produce putters by. My bed is right next to the window that has been cut into the one-metre thick wall. I really enjoy listening to the little traffic that comes through the alleyway. No cars, it’s too narrow. I sleep like a baby. In the morning I wake up to see the sunrise outside my bedroom window (because I don’t have curtains yet). At night, I can walk around the house without having to turn on the lights because the full moon is so bright. At night it is oh so quiet.
Out of the box
I’ve been unpacking my boxes one by one, hoping I would find my plates because I started cooking as soon as I could. Once I was well enough to head to the market I made a pumpkin soup from scratch.
While the bone broth was bubbling away I was unpacking, so I could add herbs to the soup as they emerged from one of the boxes. I slowly filled up the kitchen – and the rest of the house – with the things I unpacked around my big pan of soup. By the time I had the third plate of soup – and had unpacked most of the boxes – the kitchen felt like home.
Finding new rhythms and routines will take a while. However, I loved spending the last few days of 2020 pottering around the home. Creating some order in the chaos and making it my own feels really good.
Happy new home, happy new year
Christmas and the western new year don’t feature heavily in Chinese society. That is, apart from retailers seizing any opportunity to encourage spending. Chinese youngsters give each. other apples for Christmas, a symbol of good health, but generally have only a vague incling of the meaning of Christmas in the west. New years eve also passes without bang, as the real Chinese new year will happen in February.
My Christmas passed in a blur of DIY and moving house. I did join a Christmas dinner, at the Linden Centre, with several friends. It was lovely, but it was after a day of oiling the wooden ceilings in my courtyard so I was happy to roll into bed quite early in the evening.
On new year’s eve there was a party in Old Town with a friend DJ’ing. But, as I was still recovering from the super bug and still a bit bewildered by the whole new house thing, I decided to have an early night, and wake up in the new year in my new home. It’s been a very, well, interesting year, and in a way I already said goodbye to it during the winter solstice. Today, then, is just a working day for me. I’m looking forward to many happy and productive days in my new home.