Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Acquiring Normalcy

One of the major things I've learned in about 2 years in Asia so far is that "Normal" is elastic. In America, "Normal" for me is burgers and spaghetti, not rice noodles and kung pao chicken. It's driving around in my 2000 Saturn SL (RIP) on highways and lined roads, not zipping around on a moped, praying I don't get hit by an overloaded dump truck (don't worry, it hasn't happened yet, and I've gotta be one of the top moped drivers in all of China...so no worries there). "Normal" is watching football on Saturdays at noon, not midnight. "Normal" in America is living in the suburbs with my mom around to help give me old furniture they don't have room for anymore, not coming into a shell of an apartment and having to furnish it myself, with my severe lack of interior design skills (I had to ask someone for the term of arranging furniture and knowing what matches and what doesn't).

Since being back this time, some normalcies I had in America have vanished, some have been adapted and contextualized, and some I have dragged over in an overweight carry-on bag on the plane. However, one of those things that was impossible to adapt (see the previous post about the pretty pretty princess light fixtures...) or maintained was how our apartment here feels and my lack of having to do things like pick out fabrics for a couch or how to arrange furniture in an aesthetically pleasing way which is welcoming to visitors.

When I was here my first year, I had a bad experience. And when I say a bad experience, I mean like one rivaling the time I got judo-chopped by an Amazon of a 10 year old girl during a school project, which caused a neck spasm that left me with my head leaning to one side the rest of the day.

Yes, I'm talking about my first time in IKEA here in China
. That time, I was going in out of curiosity (mainly from Fight Club where Brad Pitt calls Edward Norton "IKEA-boy"), not to buy anything. And it felt like Dante's description of the 3rd of hell. Yuppies were everywhere. The place is built like the Labyrinth (1st every David Bowie reference in a blog!). And the hotdogs they sold made me sick to my stomach while I was waiting for the girls to saunter through admiring every thing. I'm pretty sure we were only there for 2 hours, but it felt like 2 weeks. I had lost my mind and had pretty much become ferrel, ready to do whatever it took to survive in that island of trendiness.

This time, it wasn't IKEA, but it was an IKEA knockoff. As in, they stole the floor plan, furniture setup, uniforms, colors, and snack restaurant from IKEA. If it was in America, where intellectual property laws actually exist, it would've been burned to the ground by repo men and the owners of Furniture 11 (at least they changed the name significantly) would be locked in jail next to Bernie Madoff and become the Carlos Mencia of yuppie furniture retailers. But this is China, and knockoffs are everywhere.

When I went, Jarred and Shelley played the role of my mom (though I really tried hard to make them think I knew what I was talking about) and helped Adam and I pick out some really good stuff. A man-sized couch I can completely stretch out on (unlike beds here, unless you count when you sleep diagonally on the mattress), a two seater, an alpha-dog single seater and an accompanying ottoman longer than any I've ever seen. I paid for it and then waited over a week for it to be delivered to our place out in the sticks. Below is how it arrived upon delivery...in course rice bags that that were kinda dirty and impossible to open with human strength.

Then, much to my chagrin, I realized there was no fabric on them...which made me think, as often happens, the delivery men forgot something or were misinformed by 12 layers of middlemen who were supposed to deliver the simple message. Thankfully another commonality of communism factored in. The fabric covers arrived 20 minutes later by separate delivery men in a trashbag. Disaster averted. Though my roommate Harrison probably wouldn't have noticed, we would've been stuck trying to convince ourselves that this is how all furniture in China is set up (though surprisingly, without the standard plastic wrap left on it for years).Then the gentlemen assembled the furniture, after I asked them not to smoke their cheap cigarettes in my house. This caused lots of whispering in their local dialect which most Mandarin speakers cant understand either. I'm pretty sure
they resented me for not letting me smoke on the job.
I tried to make conversation and offer them some drinks, but I REALLY wasn't able to buy them off for being their human nicotine patch. They grew more shady by the minute, especially when they went into separate rooms to assemble stuff. So far I have yet to notice anything broken or missing or any cigarette burns on the walls thankfully.
Finally, this is what it looks like set up. I know this ha
s been a bit of a Martha Stewart journey and many of you have given up on this blog because of this not-so-manly, domestic entry. But I promise the next one will be about arm wrestling or eating spicy stuff or Oklahoma State football coach, Mike Gundy (I'M A MAN! I'M 40!).


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