After traveling through Beijing and finding your way to Hua Qing Jia Yuan, it’s time to enter our apartment building. As I mentioned before, it’s not that tough. The front door, while it does exist, is always wide open so anyone can walk in.
Immediately after entering, you come upon the mailboxes. This is the beginning of what Tian and I like to call “The Lobby.” Really it is just an extension of the street indoors, and the dirt proves it.
Walk past the mailboxes to the next hallway and take a right. You will find yourself in the elevator lobby. There are three elevators, but they are hardly ever all working at the same time. To the left is the stairway to use in case of emergencies.
As you wait for the elevator, you may consider getting a foot massage. That’s right, a foot massage. It seems entirely random to me, and I think the last thing I would want to do is touch the feet of a stranger just off the street, but I guess that’s a service offered here. Do you know what your feet look like after walking around in sandals outside? Anyway, I do plan to take advantage of it before long just to see what it’s like.
The elevators have their high and low points. First the highs: There are elevators! That is not always a given in China. It’s not unheard of for buildings with seven stories (maybe even more) not to have elevators. I also like the fact that as you wait, no matter what the floor, there is a digital sign that shows you which floor the elevator is currently on. Simple pleasures.
The low points of the elevator all revolve around the fact that people really treat it as an extension of the street, rather than an extension of their apartment. So it is filthy. Tian and I even saw a toddler pee on the packed elevator floor. While at first I tried pushing the buttons with my key rather than my finger, I eventually saw the futility and the social awkwardness in it. So now I just do as the locals do and use my finger. Then I go wash my hands immediately after getting home (harder to do if you’re leaving the building though).
After going up eleven stories, the elevator doors open and let you out onto our floor’s elevator lobby. This is a dimly lit corridor, where lights go on when you stomp or clap and go off 15 seconds later. It is a popular place to store bicycles, which we might do too if we get one. No locks, just the honors system. It doesn’t hurt that the bikes themselves are all pretty old and beat up. I have yet to see a nice new bike on the streets of Beijing, and it makes sense why I wouldn’t.