In keeping with the sort of mundane but not so mundane things that happen around here…
A couple of weeks ago we heard running water in the bathroom as we were going to bed. Baths were done, tubs were empty, teeth were brushed. We thought surely it must be someone upstairs taking a shower. Nothing was noticeably leaking in our bathroom so we went to bed. When we woke up, we thought that either someone was taking the longest shower known to man or we (or the people upstairs) have a water issue. But still, no visible water anywhere.
Later that morning…
Jiang arrives and I motion for her to follow me in the bathroom. I point to where you can hear the running water and put my hand to my ear. She listens and makes a face that makes me wonder if this is a more serious issue than I was making it out to be. (Now that I know her a little better however, I know this is her, “Jiang understands this is a problem and will get it fixed” face. She is good.) I dial the maintenance number she jabbers something into the phone for 30 seconds, hangs up and gives me a nod. I will give it to the Chinese, they work to resolve issues quickly. I remember a time we had gushing water in our kitchen in India and it was hours before anyone cared to take a look. God love China.
A half hour later one of the maintenance workers at the Mansion comes in. They all wear a typical maintenance uniform, a beige-ish jump suit with navy blue name patch. He goes into the bathroom listens, looks around, yells something to Jiang and leaves. She gives me a nod. God love China.
Ten minutes later the bell rings. It’s a guy in jeans, a plaid button down shirt and blazer. He gives me a warm smile and a “Ni Hao” and yells something to Jiang from the doorway. He goes into the bathroom, lays on the floor under the sink and starts pulling off a grate. He and Jiang yell back and forth some more, Hunter tries to crawl around with the guy, Nolan tries to leap out of my arms to follow Hunter and the guy just laughs. I take the kids into the other room. The guy fiddles around a little more, chatting with Jiang the whole time and then emerges, still looking rather dapper. He and Jiang chat like old pals and I can actually make out one word: Fangdong. Landlord. I look at Jiang and motion like I am talking on the phone and say, “Fangdong?” She nods. I dial up Sunny the Landlord and give the phone to Jiang. Someone answers they seem to exchange pleasantries and then there is some confusion. The person on the other end hangs up abruptly. Jiang stares at the phone and we try again. This time the phone is on speaker and the guy in the blazer starts talking too. Again, it is a short conversation. Jiang looks at me, “Fangdong. Lunch.” She nods.
So between blazer guy, Jiang and I, I figure out that whatever is wrong is not a big problem and will be 400 RMB to fix. I say, “ok. Fix.” Blazer plumber guy says ok and leaves. Did I say fix or disappear? Jiang looks at me and says, “Fangdong” and nods again. I begin to wonder if the nod means something different in China.
About an hour later, we reach Sunny the Fangdong and with her steadfast nod, Jiang assures me again that…well, I’m not exactly sure. I’m not really assured of anything at this point. I think I am paying the 400 RMB to get a leak fixed. But is Sunny going to paying me back? Or maybe Sunny will be paying? Is Sunny even really back from lunch? Is the guy in the blazer a plumber? Am I getting scammed by my trusty Ayi and one of her buddies posing as a plumber? What happened to the first maintenance guy that came up? Do I even have a leak?
SPOILER ALERT: Very few of these questions will ever be answered.
About a half hour later, blazer plumber guy comes back with a small toolbox and what appears to be a small hose that might connect some pipes. He smiles and lets himself in, says “hello babies,” and goes to work in the bathroom. Hunter follows talking the entire time about how we need our leak fixed and how he can help. Jiang also follows and is presumably telling the “plumber” about her conversation with Fangdong. She comes out a short time later and motions that it’s time for me to pay up. I hand over the 400 RMB. She delivers it to the bathroom. She comes back out with a very worn, nasty looking hose, and shows me the origin of our leak. She puts the icky hose away in a cabinet under the kitchen sink, hands me back 200 RMB and says, “you” and motions for me to put it back in my wallet. What the what?
Ten minutes later the world’s best dressed plumber and his trusty two year old sidekick are back in the living room. Hunter proclaims, “all fixed.” I give the plumber a hesitant thumbs up. He leads me into the bathroom, where it looks like a bomb exploded, turns the faucet on and off and indeed, Hunter is right. All fixed. The floor is covered with what looks like tiny pieces of caulk and dust and breadcrumbs yet somehow, the navy blue blazer and jeans still look pressed and clean.
I gather that “tomorrow” or “Monday” Fangdong is going to be coming with 200 RMB to pay me back. I think.
Sure enough, the next day, Jiang’s phone rings, she points downstairs, disappears for five minutes with the icky hose, then returns proudly handing me 200 RMB with a nod, “Fangdong.” She still has the old hose.
Isn’t China great?