Sunday, May 18, 2014

I’m really excited to have started the renovation of Ma Lei’s apartment. It came on us rather suddenly, with a phone call from Ma Lei’s father yesterday afternoon. His friend and sometimes co-worker, whom we’d wanted to hire for the work, is unexpectedly available to start RIGHT NOW. So today, rather than spending the afternoon doing the grading I should have been doing, I jumped in the car with Ma Lei and drove out to the apartment.

It looks as though the bulk of the remodeling will be done before the end of May. Today we got rid of all the furniture except the bed, tore up the cheap flooring that was in there, and also talked to the workman about what Ma Lei wants done. I took a few pictures while we were out there. 

(The bed stays for now, because the worker will be staying in the apartment for the week and a half he'll be working on the project.)

The apartment is shaped roughly like a squat mushroom, with a long great room like a shotgun shack, and a stubby little kitchen sticking off the side like the base of the mushroom.

Here’s the kitchen and the front door, photographed from the long living room.

That awful cabinet will be replaced, and there will be new cabinets installed over the sink. 

There’s going to be a drop-down table on the right, next to the door. The table will fold up when not in use, but can be used for food prep and eating.

I missed a lot of what Ma Lei was telling the workman, but I was fascinated by some of her conversation. She extolled American kitchens for the clever and creative ways we make cabinets. I heard her explain the concept of a lazy Susan, which seems to have impressed her quite a bit on her trip to the States last year. (She might have been telling him to install one, but I think she was just describing the concept in theoretical terms rather than making a request.) 

She also tried to tell him about garbage disposals, but I don't think he ever quite understood that one.

This is taken from the same spot. I’ve just twisted to the right. That bed will be replaced with a built-in bed that has storage underneath. There will be a wall blocking this area off as a proper bedroom. Note the really cheap flooring. We’ll be replacing that with some nice hardwood flooring. 

It wasn’t too hard to convince Ma Lei to splurge on the flooring, since there’s so little of it. (The apartment is only 54 square meters, made even smaller because we obviously won’t be flooring under the built-in bed and cabinetry.)

Another picture of the bedroom, this time with the Boss.

Turning around to see the other end of the apartment, which will also be walled off as an office/guest bedroom. We'll probably eventually install one of those loft units with a bed on top and desk space below. The ceilings are pretty high in this apartment, so someone sleeping in the overhead bed would not feel as though his nose was being squished into the ceiling.

Mimi making friends with the workman. She's such a blonde!

Here’s the view out our one little window. Way off in the distance, just in front of that low range of hills, you can barely see a little sliver of the ocean from our window. I don't think you can quite see it in this picture, but in LA the "ocean view" would add $200,000 to the price of our condo.

It seems a bit unfair for me to hog the window for my office, but I do really enjoy having a window in my workspace. The door to the office will be frosted glass, so at least the natural light can get through to the living room.

 Looking back from the window at the rest of the apartment. Those sliding-glass doors leaning against the wall used to be there to close off the kitchen, but they will become my office doors after the renovation.

The bathroom is through that door, off the kitchen.

I took out most of the money to pay for the renovation this evening after we got back from the Development Zone. This is 15,000 yuan, which is about $2300. All told, the renovation job is supposed to cost about $3200. The labor, 10 days of full-time work, will come to about $320. What would that be, about one day for an American workman?

Ma Lei, who does not understand my obsession for having all my money lined up and facing in the same direction, teased me for having all those Ma Ze Dengs kai hui (hold a meeting). She asked what all those Maos were discussing in their meeting, and I speculated that perhaps they're planning to make it legal to smack your wife if she teases you too much.

Hopefully very soon the pictures of our apartment will look a lot better. Ma Lei will be going out there every day to keep an eye on the work in progress, so I’m quite confident that the job will be well-done. I've seen her in action: she doesn't miss many details, and she doesn't mind telling someone what-for when she thinks he's done a substandard job. 

The amazing thing, which I know I've mentioned here before, is that she manages to cuss people out with such good humor that they're laughing right along with her, even as she's cussing them out. She really should be running her own company!

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