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.


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


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.


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.