Thursday, December 8, 2016

My #2s Should Be Someone's #1 Priority

Anyone who knows me personally knows that I pride myself on being a person of above average intelligence. In fact, I can often be downright arrogant about it and impatient with people who are deficient of the 50th percentile mark. Did you catch all those big words?

Now, I am not claiming to be a genius or anything, but there are some things that I can recognize about myself concerning intelligence.

  • I retain knowledge easily
  • I can learn by a variety of learning styles (watching, listening, reading, doing, etc.)
  • I hate Nickelback
  • I can explain the reasons behind my opinions (there are many) rather than just shout them louder
  • Stupid people make me want to cry/scream/punch/set fire to things, etc
  • My momma always told me I was too smart for my own good
So, while I have walked around for the last four decades with my head held high because of my superiority over all the troglodytes surrounding me, it all came crashing down the moment I left the country. I've been in China now for two months and have come to realize that there just might be a few things I don't know.

I have already written about my confusion over paying bills, getting to work, traveling, doing my job, the crazy traffic and understanding my role here. Things are slowly starting to fall into place and every day that Red and I figure out something new it feels like a huge victory. Especially when we figure out that we were doing something incorrectly and it's not just "the way China is".

We may live in the land of advanced computer technology, radically cheap communication services ($15/month for cable and internet combined and less than $2.50/month for a cell phone w/ a data package), bullet trains, cell coverage everywhere (including tunnels, 30 feet underground parking garages and remote mountain regions), apartment lighting that changes softness depending on the need, monthly power bills that cost less than a trip to Starbucks in the States, and Jackie Chan, but simple things like plumbing are still a problem.

Since coming to China we have had to have the toilet in our hotel and our apartment fixed because we broke them. As dumb Americans, we didn't know that most of the world's plumbing cannot handle the increased stress of flushing toilet paper. It's just too much. Don't do it.

That little bit of water makes
all the difference.
They also don't use a piece of plumbing that is very common in the States. It is the lowly S-pipe. The S-pipe is a very simple piece of hardware that serves a purpose that I have only recently learned and apparently always taken for granted. It keeps your house from smelling like three day old sun-dried fish.

I'm not a plumber, but this is my understanding. Having that S-shaped (or U-shaped depending on what was installed) curve in your pipes causes water to not drain completely through it. The simple force of gravity keeps some water in place at the bottom of the curve. That water provides the fantastic service of preventing the potential for poo gases from the sewer lines coming back up the pipe.

Now, this is a pretty low-tech solution, but it is very effective. However, it is not a common practice throughout the world. China being one of those places that does not do this evidenced by this photo of the space beneath our sink.

That open pipe leads to where all the
apartment building's fluids converge

This design is sufficient for its intended purpose which is to get used and contaminated fluids from the home.  I know this because I'm so smart. Unfortunately, I am also one of those stereotypical spoiled Americans who has a stereotypical spoiled American nose which has historically proven to be more easily offended than most of the noses throughout the rest of the world. Even the big Italian noses.

Because the Chinese don't regard the practice of pampering their olfactory orifices to be a priority, we have had to learn how to adjust. By adjust, I actually mean get used to it. It actually was just a slight smell and could easily be forgotten about. However, on some days, it was downright unbearable, but it took a little while to discover why.

Our entire apartment is heated by hot water-fueled radiators. The heat is actually controlled by the government and they decide when we do or do not need to be able to feel our toes. The only control we have is the ability to turn it off or on once they have started the heating. Although, I can't understand why anyone would ever turn it off since they only turn it on when Yetis start wandering out of the surrounding mountains and onto the city streets. So, we just keep them on all the time and go to bed every night praying that the Chinese Ministry of Hot Water will still be nice to us when we wake up.

The controls for the radiators are pretty simple. Each one has a shut-off valve on the top and the bottom to allow the flow of water through the unit. These valves are mostly inconspicuous, but we have found a use for one of them.

Bathroom radiator
shaped as a towel rack
This is the radiator in our bathroom. The bag hanging from the valve at the bottom of this photo contains our "haunted" toilet paper. As I mentioned at the beginning of this story, Chinese plumbing cannot handle the added stress of paper. This means we have to collect our precious bundles of tissue to be transported out of the apartment at a more convenient time when our pants are up.

This improvised bag hanging method worked well for the first six weeks we were in China. However, it eventually got cold enough for the government to finally turn on the heat and it was soon followed by a horrible stench that we could not escape from without leaving the apartment and risking the inevitable Yeti encounter.

It took about two weeks for my wife to discover that our malodorous dilemma was actually our fault and not due to Chinese plumbing practices. I quickly realized that I wasn't a smart as I thought I was when she pointed out that we had been cooking our poop by hanging our used toilet paper on hot radiator pipes. This is one ancient Chinese secret that should be included in a pamphlet given to all foreigners coming to live in this country.


STEP 1: Don't cook your crap


  1. The one thing I am learning by reading your blog is that I am grateful to be an American living in America! We are a spoiled and entitled bunch of people. For which I am thankful!

    1. It is amazing the things we take for granted. It has been a great adventure over here, but there is a lot we have to adjust to.

  2. Sometimes you don't have to leave the country to stink up your house. But cooking your poop is probably the quickest. lol

    What an adventure. I'm jealous.

    1. It is amazingly fast. Hot poop stinks very quickly. I always recommend keeping it cooled. Sealed in the refrigerator is best.

  3. I just discovered a heading within my blog that takes me right to your blog. Categorize me in the below 50% range on the intelligence chart. I am smart about some subjects but dumb about others. Smart or dumb, I am always rattle-brained. I catch myself being off-track but it's too late; other people caught it first. But I am the way God wired me and so I work with it the best I can. Opposite from you, I am a worrier. I am also logical and see the big picture. I came from a devil-may-care family and so I appointed myself as the voice of reason. The two youngest of the 7 siblings didn't require my services. The others were not interested. As adults, they are more interested. Not reasoning out situations and thinking of consequences can bring a mountain of troubles and a boatload of grief. But I love our differences too. Having a positive outlook is more rewarding than looking for possible failures. Being spontaneous is more fun than planning things out (sometimes). Again, God made us who we are with our differences and He had a reason for doing so. And His design makes sense to me.

    1. It really is a fundamental difference in how we are wired. You said that not thinking out consequences rings on trouble. I see it as quite the opposite, plus why worry about what might be.

      I can't help it. It's just the way I think. I have had things go badly sometimes, but so do people who plan out everything.

      As long as we all balance each other out.


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