I grew up in the ’70s watching TV shows like Lost In Space, The Brady Bunch, Little House on the Prairie and The Waltons. All shows I could relate to and at times felt like I was living the real life version. Well, with the exception of Lost in Space. That was just unreal “sci-fi” and was only a fantasy of my mine to own a robot that I could tell what to do.
The one show, where I aspired to be most like the character was The Mary Tyler Moore Show. I loved Mary. I loved her job, her friends and her sense of style. I really loved her belted sweaters she wore with a scarf and who didn’t want to wear bell-bottomed pants? But what I loved most, was her apartment. A studio apartment with a sunk-in living room. A small kitchen with a ceramic pumpkin cookie jar. I know what you’re thinking, “who remembers details like that?” I do. I loved that apartment. And the best part was, the apartment was in the big city of Minneapolis. Growing up in Beaverton, Oregon the big city life of Minneapolis seemed worlds away and very appealing.
When we knew we were moving to Shanghai, and were told we were going over on a house hunting trip, we talked through the different options of living. You are sent a check-list to complete by the property search agency prior to your arrival so they can pull available properties together to show you. The questionaaire ask things like family profile – single, couple without children, couple with children. What type of housing – Apartment, Villa, Serviced. Serviced, we found out, is much like a hotel, housekeeping services, concierge, and 24-hr front desk and securtiy. You are asked if you would like to live in the Pudong (new) or Puxi (old) providences of Shanghai or other (downtown). What maximum commute time is acceptable to and from the office? A list of amenities like outdoor space, balcony, Ayi Room (maid’s quarters and we’ll come back to this later), tennis courts, swimming pool. Do you want an on-site gym and how about satellite TV?
Moving to a big city like Shanghai, I knew this was my chance to live out my MTM fantasy and with Greg’s supporting comment of “let’s live in a high-rise, in the city. A place like nothing where we’ve ever lived before” I checked the boxes for Couple, no children, no pets, serviced apartment, other (city), balcony, gym, swimming pool and satellite TV.
We spent three days in a van, with Jessie and her associate George looking at serviced apartments in downtown Shanghai, the Pudong (new) and Puxi (old). We looked at older buildings and brand new. Let me explain what older means in Shanghai. You have to know that the city of Shanghai has really been built in just the last 10 years. It’s exploded in both growth of people and the economy. When we went to look at apartments, Jessie would tell us this is an older building. I was thinking older like SE Portland old with character only to find out old is 6 to 7 years old. The finishes are not made to last. It seems to be a very disposable type of housing. Not the buildings, but the insides. After 5 years or so, they just gut the insides and do a complete remodel.
Most apartments we saw had been remodeled within the last couple of years. They were all completely furnished including dishes, coffee maker and rice cooker. I had to ask what the rice cooker was sitting on top of the counter as the rice cooker I have was a wedding present and looks nothing like the new current version. Both Jessie and George laughed at my question.
In the back of most kitchens is a small room with a bath attached. It has a separate entrance to the apartment. This is the Ayi or maid’s quarters. I kept saying we won’t need an Ayi and Jessie kept telling us it’s included in your allowance. I asked her why would we need one in a serviced apartment? She asked us who would do your laundry and ironing? The service that comes with the apartment is only for housecleaning and linen changing and they only come twice a week. I’m thinking, this is so much like home.
Most Ayis live with you. That’s what the back room is for. This is where Greg weighed in with a strong opinion. We do not need an Ayi. I do not want someone living in the back room of the apartment while I’m home all day. We can do our own laundry.
So we went with a serviced apartment on the 20th floor in the heart of the city. A two bedroom, two bath, newly renovated apartment. We’ll be the first to move in after the remodel. It has a state of the art gym, community outdoor space, tennis courts, indoor swimming pool and satellite TV. By the way, Greg has the entire TV thing worked out so he won’t miss a single Duck game. He’s purchased Slingbox. A device attached to a dedicated TV here in our house in Portland, that allows you to watch any show live or recorded on your DVR through your laptop attached to your TV anywhere in the world – including China. Trust me, it works. He tested it on the layover in Tokyo and was the first thing he did when we checked into our hotel in Shanghai.
So in four days time we opened a bank account, went through a government mandated physical, looked at 16 potential properties, had some great food and went to a buddhist temple.
We’re home now. I’ll be heading back the first week of September and Greg will follow the first of October. Look for blogs to start up again after the move and for sure a picture of me reenacting the scene of Mary Tyler Moore, standing in an intersection, throwing my hat up in the air while twirling around as some lady looks at me like I’m some sort of foreigner.