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Strange Flatmates Part 2

adb2014 Sep 22.2014 13:01 Comments (5) + Add your comment
Tags: Expat Tales Category:My Blogs
blog|2903|287190

So, where was I? Oh yes, I had already told you about the midnight runner, a guy who stayed for about a week and now, a weird skull collector.

 

As well as being very strange and messy, Evan had very little money and no guarantee of a job when he arrived. At a time when he really should have been working his backside off to plan lessons and make a good impression on his prospective employer, he instead sat around watching movies and eating junk food while his materials lay in the corner untouched. When we went downstairs to the van in the morning, he took a stack of books with him because he had no idea which level he was going to teach, never mind which lesson.

 

That irritated me because he used to teach on Tuesday mornings, while I was on call. He then (for whatever reasons) had those classes taken off him and given to me, so I had less free time during the week. The stress at home was now affecting my working life. Other teachers and their TAs started making fun of him and that reflected badly on me just because I was his flatmate. One of us had to go and I reluctantly decided it had to be me.  

 

I then moved in with an Englishman right across the hall that I’ll call Stan. I moved my stuff in the following weekend and I took everything I bought earlier – cookware, fans, toaster, DVD player, the lot. Because almost everything in the apartment was mine, I left Evan with virtually nothing, leaving him to buy his own stuff rather than use mine all the time.

 

Things didn’t go all that smoothly at first. My room was cold, small and dark with a piece of cardboard filling in the missing corner of the bedroom window. It wasn’t that awful during summer but it made the room feel like a freezer during winter and my girlfriend/wife caught bronchitis after sleeping there during the colder months. Besides that, things were ok there for a little while. We were good drinking buddies, Stan and I, so it made the transition easier. He did smoke at the time (he quit soon after) and his drinking habits were such that we were clearing out about 10 bottles of Harbin each morning.

 

My wife and I had only been dating a short time and when you’re sharing a flat and have a girlfriend, it’s hard to arrange quality alone time. She came over on Friday afternoons and would stay for about 24 hours or so. Stan was usually out on Friday nights, which did allow us to enjoy some alone time together. However, staring at a table full of discarded cigarette butts didn’t do much to enhance the mood and the smell of love in the air was almost overpowered by the distinct whiff of alcohol. Some Fridays he decided to have a lazy night in with the woman he was dating at the time, which then turned into a slightly awkward double-date.

 

Things went a bit downhill after about four months. When it was just the two of us he was chatty and full of energy but when she was there, his personality started to change. He mostly hunched in front of his computer without saying a word and even a simple greeting from him seemed to take a lot of effort. He’d been making some comments suggesting that she was over way too much and she might as well live there and it got to the stage where I’d had enough. Over time he became ruder to her and I tried my best not to leave the two of them together because I knew how uncomfortable she felt with him.

 

The final straw came one night when I was lying in bed in agony with a painful wisdom tooth. I had finally drifted off to sleep when he came home, turned on his computer and made some Skype calls to some women he had met online. His computer was about 2 feet from my door, so I could hear every word they were saying. After about an hour, I went out and asked him to stop because I really needed to rest. His response? “I don’t really give a f**k, mate!” That’s when I knew it was time to move on.

 

He was to be my last ever flatmate. Not long after that, I applied to live in one of the two apartments that I could have to myself. They gave me the key to go inspect it and to say I was horrified would be an understatement. It was completely filthy throughout. The toilet didn’t work, there was no hot water cylinder for the shower, no fridge and the walls had been painted a horrible combination of red, yellow and blue which made the place seem dark and depressing. It was completely uninhabitable - so bad that I asked the manager who arranged it all if I could stay where I was but she said no, it was already a done deal. She did, however, take the long list of concerns I had about the place and promised to get it all fixed up by the time I came back from holiday.

 

I was relieved when I inspected it the second time after the holiday and found that the walls had been repainted white, the toilet and shower was working properly and there was a brand new fridge there. It still didn’t look like a mansion and needed scrubbing from top to bottom but it definitely seemed much more livable than before.

 

For that place I had to pay ¥1000 in rent per month but the peace of mind it bought was priceless. I’ve lived in three apartments since then but each time, I only lived with my wife and later, my sons and her mother so she could help look after them.

 

Living with those eccentric characters was an interesting and at times, a frustrating experience. But at a time when I had such little money I once had to borrow change from my girlfriend/wife for a bus ride home, the arrangement was ideal for me at the time and helped me stay on my feet while adjusting to life in a strange culture. I’m glad I went through the experience, but I don’t think I’d ever want to do that again.     

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5 Comments ( Add your comment )

1
comment|51092|228539
LesterF

Awesome blog post... makes me realize I made the right decision to shell out some extra cash to get my own place when I arrived in China ;)

Sep 22, 2014 19:05
2
comment|51139|103576
Nessquick

yep, same here. I have also decided not to share the home with anybody. My wife many times try to convince me into flat sharing with her brother and his wife, or with some friends, just to share the cost. ( hey, I could not pay 1500rmb by myself ? where in EU you get decent flat for 200 euros? ) I always refused on the base of privacy. you know, you get a beer and sit in free shorts with balls out and watch football. or simply need an urgently dump but there is someone else cleaning throat ... :D Even her mother is not allowed to stay for longer than 2 weeks. I am not anti-social, but home is home, it is private place for your family.

Sep 24, 2014 09:15
3
comment|51122|78691
SwedKiwi1

Interesting blog post :) Makes me think that most people sharing flats are socially awkward and/or young people with little life experience to mention. Having said that I have had some decent flat mates at times myself although it takes careful selection.

Sep 23, 2014 10:14
4
comment|51312|304839
shenzhendan

I once had a flatmate who was always broke and late on paying rent and bills, but was always out late at night, probably spending all his money. One time he tried to lower his rent by cleaning the bathroom. I learned my lesson and now I live alone, or will ask for some deposit from my next flatmate.

Sep 29, 2014 17:17
5
comment|51641|296251
Guest2666262

I couldn't help but guess; you said you worked in Guangzhou for a training school, you had shared apartments (for the first time teachers? and returning teachers get their own apt?), and you had to get a van in the morning to the schools..... hmmmm you wouldn't of happened to taught in a school around the wuyangcun area by chance? ;)

Oct 11, 2014 12:14

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