Today is Monday, April 29th. The first day of the May Day holiday here in China. Call me ignorant, but I didn’t realize that this is a global phenomenon and one that began in the good ol’ U.S. of A. The holiday — also called International Workers’ Day and officially celebrated on May 1st — commemorates the 1886 Haymarket Affair in Chicago. In China, most places shut down for three days, which sounds great in theory, except for the fact that workers like Iggy must make up their holidays by working weekends.
So this weekend kind of sucked for me. But, hey, here it is Monday and Iggy is off and the sun is out and the temperature is pushing mid-60’s and it’s not even 10:00am. We can’t wait to get outside! Maybe we’ll take a bike ride to the beach in Feng Cheng or around the villages near us. We are dying to get outside! But we can’t. We have more important things to do. Like freak out over the mold that is creeping up our walls and hanging from our bedroom ceiling. So much for enjoying this holiday.
Mold. It’s an issue taken seriously in the U.S. In China, mold isn’t too big a deal. Just like dozens of dead pigs clogging up the waterways of Shanghai isn’t. When we first moved to the expat village we were given a first floor apartment. We were so tired due to the time change, the long flight to get here, and all the to-dos of moving from Pittsburgh to China, that it took us a few days to realize that our new home was riddled with mold. Our first clue was the black gunk on our bathroom door trim, followed by it falling to the ground when we only slightly touched it. This revealed mold that ran up the entire length of the trim and the concrete beneath it. Disgusting. Our property management liaison (a company that “helps” us expats communicate with the expat village owners’ staff) informed us that the only solution was to glue the trim back on. There was nothing that could be done about the mold. We found this to be unacceptable, obviously. Four years of living in a mold-infested apartment? No thank you. We’d prefer to leave Haiyang without asthma or some other breathing issue. If we wanted that, we would’ve moved to Beijing. With the help of a new friend and our property management liaison, we nipped the problem in the bud and moved to a different apartment. Crisis averted…so we thought.
For the past few months, we’ve been happy in our new place. We’re on the third floor. We have a decent view. With the exception of a constantly leaky sink (which we were told was normal for all the apartments, yet was eventually fixed when Iggy bought a new faucet and installed it himself), a little flaking plaster here and there, and some paint discoloration near our bedroom window, life has been good. For the most part, we have managed our expectations about our living accommodations based on what our neighbors have told us. Many of them had little patches of mold in their places. Some sprayed these with bleach. Others had the property management workers scrape the mold and repaint. In some cases, this was done repeatedly until some folks just told the workers to forget about repainting the areas. Why give the mold food to feed on?
But things changed over the past several weeks for us. We got an upstairs neighbor and began to notice damp areas in our ceiling and walls. Was there a leak above us? Or, was there a leak from our wall heating units, which we began to use at night once the village’s floor heating was turned off for the year? We weren’t sure, but once we saw the slightest hint of mold growing on the areas, we decided we needed to call our property management liaison. Before we did that, we awoke to dripping water and falling plaster in the middle of the night last week. Shit.
The next morning, property management workers responded to our call and came over to check out the situation. They came back again in the afternoon with a rep from the heating unit company. Turns out, our upstairs neighbor’s heating unit was the culprit. No problem, they told us. They made some “repairs” and shut off the unit. The following day we received another visit from a different worker who suggested that the problem was also being caused by our unit. The solution? Just wait to see if the leak starts happening again. If it does, then they’ll come back and really fix the problem…after they figure out who is responsible for doing so. Is it the company that installed the heating units? No is what they told property management. Is it the owner of the expat village who commissioned our apartments in the first place? Unsure is what our property management liaison has told us.
It’s hard to know what to do in such an ambiguous situation, but that hasn’t stopped us from taking action. Iggy’s favorite pastime happens to be home repair and remodeling. He’s a real DIY type of guy. So, while he was working this weekend, I scavenged Haiyang’s flea market for the list of items he needed to work: scrapers to get the mold off, liners to tape up around the leak and mold-infested areas to try to prevent the nasty stuff from spreading throughout our apartment, and bleach and a spray bottle for use on the concrete once the moldy plaster was scrapped off. Iggy procured a hammer and mask from work.
Before he could even get started on his work during the holiday, the leaking started again last nite. When I got up at 6:00am this morning, I checked out the damage. More plaster on the floor in our bedroom. As soon as Iggy saw it, he sprung into frenzied action and operation mold scrape began after we sent another email to our property management liaison. The response was that the property management workers had to call their supervisors to find out what to do, if anything. And so we waited for a real solution to our leaky ceiling and wet walls, though not patiently and not idly.
By the time Iggy finished scraping and right before I was about to publish this post, we got a knock on our door from three guys from property management. After what sounded like a lot of arguing in Chinese, we were told that the leak is happening because of faulty pipe work in our neighbor’s apartment. Supposedly, this will be fixed later this week, after the May Day holiday. Cross your fingers for us.