I’m sure you’ve heard of the infamous factory towns in China and, to some extent, that’s the type of place we’re living in. Luckily, there is no factory here and no pesky journalists trying to go undercover to see how the workers really live and are treated. Maybe that happens at neighboring villages, but this is the expert village, not the peasant village. I’m not joking — the village is actually called the expert village, though we refer to it as the expat village.
The guys and gals who live here are primarily engineers who are working on building and getting a nuclear power plant up and running a few years down the line. The plant is about a twenty-minute drive from the village and most people take a short bus (snicker snicker) there and back five days a week, while their lovely spouses and/or kids stay busy in the village or in Haiyang.
The company that built the expert village and all the apartment buildings within it also happens to be the company employing the workers living here. The company has obviously attempted to meet many of the needs of its workers. A prime example of this is the cafeteria. It exists to feed the Chinese workers two times a day and their meals are subsidized. We expats have our own cafeteria, which is located on a floor above the Chinese cafeteria. It is a humble, small room with a couple of tables and chairs, that offers several Chinese and Western style dishes to choose from each day. The food for the expats is not subsidized, which isn’t a bad thing because most of us prefer to cook in our apartments. Perhaps the Chinese who live in the village welcome and are used to this type of lifestyle, but if I wanted subsidized food and no say over what I ate on a daily basis, I would have never left my childhood home. A sentiment most likely shared by my fellow, privileged American readers.
The cafeteria is only one of the amenities provided. There is a small grocery store where you can find not everything you need, but some things that run the gamut from nail clippers to extra virgin olive oil. There are two ATMs, not to mention, a post office on site (though as far as I know, it’s not up and running yet). We have guards that lend a sense of security in this relatively safe area of China (think weapon-free rent-a-cops). Should something medically bad happen to us, there is an on-call doctor on the premises. I’m not sure if the Chinese workers living here use this doctor because they are able to go to a clinic if they are ill or get injured. The clinic is located next to the grocery store and it too is subsidized for the Chinese.
Clearly, the company who built this place was concerned about the physical well-being of its workers. There is a huge gym on site. It has several floors that house badminton courts (rough guesstimate: 8-12 total); a workout room complete with some treadmills, weights, bikes, and ellipticals; a room for yoga classes, which I plan on going to once our air shipment arrives with my yoga mat; a room full of ping-pong and pool tables; and finally a library (aka a bookshelf) that houses fairly recent magazines, including the only English language option, Yoga Journal. Basketball and tennis courts are behind the gym and next to those is a track that encircles a soccer field with concrete stadium seating. Perhaps there are Chinese vs. Western soccer games in the summer.
One of the best exercise options provided is the pool. It’s a heated salt water lap pool that’s connected to the hotel. For only 15MB ($2.50ish), you can go swimming for 1.5 hours between 6-9:00pm. There’s even a sauna, but sadly for us, it’s only available for VIPs, though we haven’t been told who qualifies as one of those. Like most of what exists here in the village, it’s pretty nice as long as you don’t look with critical eyes. I prefer to keep my head down and eyes focused on the water right in front of me. Not because I’m a die-hard swimmer, but because I don’t want to be grossed out by the extensive mildew covering the walls. It seems odd that there is so much of it considering the pool hasn’t even been open for a year. Ah, Chinese construction at its finest…a topic that deserves its own post entirely.