Rough Quarters

We arrived in Xi’an in August, 1981. The weather was overcast nearly every day for our first month there. Without a sunrise and sunset, it was difficult to get oriented; my sense of direction was messed up.

I hadn’t known what to expect, coming to Asia. I’d only been outside North America once, visiting Italy in March, 1981, to meet Gauss’s relatives there. I was fine with staying in no-frills European pensions with a bathroom down the hall, but was completely unprepared for China’s gray concrete architecture and haphazard wiring.

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Washing jeans on a washboard in our rough cement tub in our rough cement bathroom.

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Our kitchen was a plain cement box with a cement sink and cold running water. Washing in an enameled metal basin. The two giant red Thermoses contain boiled water for drinking.

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Gauss in our living room. Painted wood floors. Exposed pipes. BUT…we had radiators, which meant heat from November first until March first, a rare privilege reserved for the foreign teachers. Not visible: the spittoon that came standard with the apartment.

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