It’s about time we told you. We came back.
A lot of famous things have been said about home: it’s “why I keep returning,” it’s “where I want to be,” it’s “always so exciting,” etc. All catchy ideas that I’ll admit to singing along with and perhaps even identifying with more than once over my suburban American commute from childhood to adulthood.
After a year of procrastination we have returned to this fascinating country where we can work eight hours a week and still live comfortable lives. Though we’re a little out of practice, we still thought it was suspicious when the workers rebuilding the cabinets and counter that had rotted out in our kitchen only wanted one hour for their lunch break. It’s an all around enlightening experience having the living room you just spent the weekend cleaning and claiming as your own turned into a carpenter’s shop. From our advantage point (trapped in the office) the buzz saw sounded so close, so real. There was a fluorescent orange air compressor that took two men to lift and a nail gun! Our carpenters were nice guys though only two of the four deemed our living room satisfactory for their naps. They waited until we were back in our office before lying down. We never would have known they were sleeping if we hadn’t needed a drink of water. So sneaky! Thank goodness we’re human or we may have missed it. We were sitting in our uncomfortable chairs trying to make the best use of our captivity, reading about the Boxer Rebellion and revamping our website under the impression that their work was going to be “very noisy” (as they’d warned us). The other two showed up an hour and a half later looking clean and refreshed without sawdust in their hair. By mid afternoon our stir-craziness got the better of us. We emerged again, peaking through the doorway like nervous children, to find the four of them crammed into our 3 square foot cooking space in a gluing and nailing frenzy of cabinet fitting and counter setting.
Originally the lead carpenter estimated it would take five or six days to complete the job but in the end it only took a day and two hours. We can speculate a hundred reasons for their prompt service: our curious foreigner eyes, lack of AC in the napping room, pressure from our boss who was paying them, but in reality it is one of those wonderful mysteries of life that happen so frequently to those who call China home.
We learned so much! What better welcome gift could a person ask for than a rotten kitchen and workmen sleeping in their living room? It all came back to us so quickly. “Home – such a funny feeling!” Trash piles, babies pooping in the supermarket, face masks, spitting, yelling, construction, chopsticks, oil, oil, oil!
“Home – will infect whatever you do!” The second morning they didn’t bring their air compressor or saw. There were only two of them so we left the door open and played some music for them They shut the door to the kitchen while they sped up their work. After about an hour and a half they peaked out nervously like children. The CD had finished and we were back in the office. They collected their belongings, quickly swept most of the sawdust from the floor into a trash bag, and left. It was so abrupt, three days early. We didn’t even get to say thank you. “We’re Home – comes to life from out the blue…”
So now’s our chance: Thank you workmen. Thank you David Byrne. Thank you China for welcoming us home so thoroughly.