Our Tianjin Apartment

Some of you may be wondering…where do you live? What does your apartment
look like. Here you go. We live in an apartment building with nine floors. Our
unit is on the 8th floor. We are so blessed to have an elevator to take us up
the 8 flights of stairs. Most in our community live in 6-story apartments which
do not have elevators.

When you get off the elevator our door is just to the right. We have a metal
security door in front of our main entry door. There are multiple locks on each
one. During the day when I’m home I leave the metal door opened and lock the
main entry door.

As you walk in there’s a small entry area. This is where we take our shoes
off. [ We never removed our shoes like this in America, but it’s unbelievable
the kinds of waste you see on the sidewalks here, leaving your shoes quite
unsanitary.] As you walk to the right you enter the kitchen.

There’s a door going into the kitchen, that can remain closed if it’s too hot
or cold. We do not have an AC or heat vent in the kitchen. So far it’s been
fine, we open windows if it’s too hot, but I’m not sure what we’re in for this
winter…it might be very chilly and I might be doing a lot of baking. The
kitchen is a rectangular galley shape. On the right is a counter top with
kitchen sink, and a two-burner cooktop with cabinets above and below. In this
picture below you can see a silver mixing bowl on the left, that is sitting on
the cooktop. Behind where I’m standing is the kitchen sink (don’t be fooled by
the looks of lots of counter space, they use cabinet door fronts to hide pipes,
for example, just above the kitchen sink, those areas do not have storage space
in them, they’re just hiding the water pipes). Just behind Rachel is the
doorway to enter the kitchen. To the right is our refrigerator, which has three
doors; one for the freezer, on bottom, one in the middle, which opens up to two
produce drawers, and one door on top for other refrigerator items. The lady in
the picture is our Chinese helper, She has been a huge help to me with learning
how to shop, cook and manage a household here in China.

Here’s a view from the opposite direction, coming in through the kitchen
door. On the left hand side of the kitchen Sean put up a free-standing
counter-height table, with two shelves below. He also installed a shelving unit
above that matches. We purchased these from IKEA. These two items gave me a lot
of much needed additional counter space. You can see the coffee thermos on
the top shelf, and below that the microwave, and below that the stove. Most
Chinese do not have or use ovens, but thankfully, our agency provides one for
us. So as a bonus, we have a two burner cooktop on the right hand counter
(mentioned above), plus the four burners on the stovetop. I’m currently not
using the stove burners, there is a glass “lid” that covers them for more
counter top area, currently holding our coffee maker. I mainly cook on the
two-burner built-in cooktop.

Along the back wall of the kitchen there are windows. They begin about
chest-high and go up to the ceiling (I think we have 9 or 10 ft ceilings). Sean
installed a second IKEA counter/table there that seats two which is great for
morning coffee. (See Rachel and me sitting at the table). A small nook extends
to the right of the “coffee table” where we have our stackable washer and dryer
and some more cabinets (like a pantry). However, it’s pretty tight, you can’t
have the washer door open and walk by to the pantry.

As you walk in the front door and go left you would enter the main room. We
have a little sitting area where we put the small settee brought from home.
(pictured below)

Off of that main room on the left, there are three bedrooms. One for
Michael, one is a “hangout/tv” room, and one is our bedroom. To the back right
of the main room is the fourth bedroom, which is where all the girls sleep in
two sets of bunkbeds. Their room has a built-in desk along the far wall
(parallel to the back kitchen wall) that has windows all along. On the wall
between our bedroom and the girl’s room there is a small bathroom. Sean and I
also have a small bathroom in the our bedroom, which had a small portable
bathtub in it. But Sean decided to move the tub into the kid’s bathroom. It
was pretty interesting to see. Now the kid’s bathroom door doesn’t quite open
all the way, but that’s okay.

In the main room we have our kitchen table brought from home along with our
“tiffany” chandelier that came from our Old Dominion house (above the booth) and
on to Kansas and now to China. It definitely keeps memories of home fresh when
we sit together for meals.

There is a jut-out from the main room which is the “living room” area. We
purchased a sofa here in Tianjin and area rug for that space. We also decorated
that area with a few floor lamps and wall hangings from home, which gives a
familiar feel. At the end of that room is what the Chinese call a pin tai
(Chinese for porch). Most of our friends have doors that open up to these
porches, but ours does not. This is where we hang our clothes on drying rods,
mounted from the ceiling.

Sean carved a small storage area out of Michael’s bedroom by using wardrobes
as a partition or fake wall. This decreased Michael’s bedroom size by about a
third, but it really helped to have a place to put our suitcases, plastic bins,
and miscellaneous items. The standard Chinese bedroom does not have clothes
closets and there is no such thing as a self-storage facility in our area. (The
Chinese people do not buy so many things as Americans, thus no need to store it
away. We hope to follow their good example here!)

Hope this little blog and pictures give you a little idea of our living
quarters here.