Well we have keys to our new apartment; Our apartment is largely empty.
Friday Night we visited SanLiTun, this is where the foreign embassies were relocated in 1949 when the new government wanted them out of the inner imperial city. Since that time there are many western bars, shops and restaurants. The Village there has an Apple Store, Puma, Nike, Benneton etc etc. We went to search for a swimming suit for Sofi; Winter time is not the time to buy a suit at such stores. For dinner we went to a Tapas restaurant and I’ll be gosh darned if the food wasn’t delicious. It was comforting to eat real olives, goat cheese on toast and risotto.
Saturday we met another of friend of Teresa’s : Jeanete and her 15 year old daughter Nicole. They accompanied us on a visit to Ikea to do some recon shopping for furniture. Ikea is huge, which is a weak description for most everything in Beijing, but it just ends up being true. When your trying to service 25 million people you make things bigger. The Ikea is massive in its floor plan with a basement for parking and 3 stories. We first headed for the cafeteria which was packed! There were two lines with at least 75 people in each one. You could get Swedish Meatballs and mashed potatoes or Kung Pao Chicken and rice. We went for the meatballs; Miles got a whole plate of them and pounded them all. That is the most food he’s eaten in a while. After food we wandered through the tables, bookshelves and couches, making notes and taking pictures. After wards we dropped of Stac and Miles at the hotel and Jeanete, Nicole, Sofi and I kept up the hunt for a swimming suit. They took us to a local shopping mall where we found one that carried a wide variety of swimming suits. We picked out one and a swimming cap for 137 RMB. On the way home Sofi saw one of her favorite street foods she likes to buy for a treat : hot roasted sweet potatoes. They roast them over coals and sell them piping hot. They are around $1 a piece and are sweet and delicious.
Blue Skies and Running
The recent days have had some amazing blue skies. In the winter they get some fierce winds that blow through the city. This makes things bitterly cold, but it clears out the air and makes for some pretty days. I’ve been running several times on the treadmill in the hotel, but I feel like a rodent and can’t ever seem to run further than a couple of miles before I get bored, even with the TV on. Saturday I woke up early and dressed to do battle with the cold for an urban Dawn Patrol. On the bottom I put on tights and fleece pants; on the top I put on a two thin layers and a fleece. I wore a pair of gloves and a buff that I pulled over my ears and mouth. Breathing through the buff saved my mouth and lungs from the cold air. Running Beijing is interesting to say the least. You don’t see anyone else running (I didn’t on this morning) and when you do they all wave and say hi; you have an instant common bond with anyone willing to pound the streets in Beijing. You get lots of stares as you run by, there are always things to keep you on your toes : dog poop on the sidewalks; uneven road and paths; crossing a busy street with traffic; running along a narrow road with no sidewalks and cars, bikes and scooters zooming by. I ran from our hotel up to the location of our new apartments and tried to enter Chao Yang Park. Unfortunately you need money to enter and I’d brought none. I returned home, tired but invigorated from the run.
Monday I started back to work and I have to say that one frustrating thing is that its freaking hot in the office. Most of Beijing runs by central heat that turns on Nov 15th and off on March 15th. The buildings have the heat cranked and it just stays constantly hot. I wear short sleeves at work and often am sweating towards the end of the day when things really heat up. People along the windows have the best seats as they can crack the window to get some relief from the cold outside air. Since we’ve been living in our temporary hotel we haven’t hardly turned the heat on at all. All the ambient heat from other apartments and floors below us keeps the place plenty warm.
5 kinds of water
We got an update on the work and residency permit process from the immigration lawyers. My work permit application has been successfully filed and will be issued on the 17th. Then we start the residency permit process, this will require us to be interviewed by Public Security Bureau which deals with immigration. Not really sure what this entails but we’ll be sure to update on what its like how it goes. The kicker is that until the residency permit is issued (5-10 days) they suggest that we don’t move. This is because when we arrived in Beijing we received a temporary residency permit at our temporary hotel apartment; moving could invalidate the residency application process. So we won’t officially “move” until then, but we might move some stuff into our new place sooner, but that all depends on how soon we can out fit it.
As noted we now officially have the keys to our new apartment, but as stated at the beginning it’s mostly empty. The only things in it really are 3 beds, some drapes, a refrigerator, microwave, dishwasher, oven, stove and TV. Otherwise its empty. While we were able to bring a few things with us from the States in our air shipments, this won’t even come close to getting the place live-able, though the many pictures we brought will make a huge difference to the bare walls. And we can’t even get the air shipments until the first couple of weeks in March after the residency permits are finalized and more paper work is processed at customs. I am going to keep track in a different blog of everything we end up buying to give you an idea about how much stuff we have to get.
When we met at Park Avenue with the Asian Tigers relocation specialist, the real estate agent and the property management staff we went over the utilities. Wow things are different and a little hard to follow, but here goes my best attempt to detail what we were told :
Telephone Bill :
This includes your internet connection and doesn’t really come as a bill at all. You just have to remember to pay it monthly. You go to the bank and give them your phone number and they tell you how much you owe. If you forget to pay after two month’s they will cut it off and you have to re-initiate a new line. They are setting up internet tomorrow but since we won’t be there the property management staff will met the tech and let him in the apartment to set it up.
When you move in they give you a blue gas card. This gas is only for the cooking in the kitchen. The heat comes from central heat and is billed separately, more on that later. The blue card is inserted into the gas meter (behind a small door in the kitchen) and you are told how much “gas” is left. When its low (I guess you check regularly) you can go down to the management office and put the card into a gas machine and recharge the card with your ATM card. You then take the gas card back up to the meter and insert and it recharges the amount of gas you have.
This is were things get complicated. You get a red card which is for water. There are three basic kinds of water : water for the toilet (one meter), cold water (for the kitchen) and then hot water (three meters for this, one in each bathroom at either end of the apartment and one for the hotwater in the kitchen). So 3 kinds of water with 5 meters. Each one of these meters has its own separate water amount and has to be refilled individually. Apparently when the water reaches a negative number it isn’t shut off but when you buy more it’s just deducted. To refill the water card you have to go into the management office and pay in person (cash or ATM card) and they must refill it for you. And you have to specify which water meter. After filling up the charge for that meter you then put the card in that meter to recharge.
For this there is no card, just a electricity meter that is in the entry hallway on our floor. The meter shows how much RMB in electricity you have remaining. You have to watch the meter and when its low you can buy more electricity at the management office at the electricity machine. You don’ t need a card but you do have to remember your electricity number, ours is 020300010832, just in case you want to top me off next time your in Beijing.
Heat and Air Conditioning
These come as bill once a quarter to your mailbox and you pay the management office. No idea how much or what to expect but I guess we’ll find out in three months.
So that is 5 different utility bills with 4 different kinds of ways to pay and 9 different places to put it. Hopefully we can keep everything on and humming.