Sunday, October 20, 2013

How Do You Say Drip-Drip-Drip in Chinese?

Today was another adventure where I could have used a few more language skills.

We needed to have our heating-cooling system switched over from AC to heat. Now mind you, this does not mean we actually get heat now, even though the temperatures have dropped into the 40s many days. Apartments in China don't get the official heat turned on until November 15, which is almost a month from now. We do have a nice space heater or two, but we're also solving the last days of that problem by heading off to sunny Thailand for a week.

Anyway, the fellow came to switch over our system this morning. While I was FaceTime chatting with Joanna, he was trying to get my attention. He pointed to two places where water was dripping, one from the system that sits in a cage outside our laundry room, and one underneath the pipes in our bathroom. Then he handed me a piece of paper that had English on one side and Chinese on the other. It said:

"Kind reminder
Dear tenants, Seasons Park was built has reached 10 years, the original warranty had expired. As a result most of its interior decorations and facilities have slowly started to deteriorate. Among it, the air conditioning equipment (including hosts, fan coils, valves, and expansion tanks) are particularly vulnerable to failure and leakage incidents which may cause a lot of inconveniences and damage to you and your family."

The letter went on to suggest we buy insurance so that this kind of damage to our family was covered. I mean, why should we expect anything in China to work after ten years? That's a lifetime to most other places.

So I called the 24-hour hotline that the paper helpfully provided.
"Do you speak English?" I asked the guy who answered the phone.
"No," he said with an embarrassed chuckle.
I proceeded to explain that our "shui" was dripping. I don't know the Chinese word for drip, and I couldn't make a dripping gesture on the phone, so I just said:
"Drip, drip, drip."
Then, in Chinese, I told him our apartment building and number, and he asked me something else, the gist of which I heard to be "xianzai" -- now?
"Dui, xianzai," I agreed.

I emailed Bob. "Okay," I wrote. "I may or may not have asked for someone to come. But maybe I just ordered a pizza. Who knows."

"Impressive if you did it by phone," he answered.
Within minutes, another fellow showed up at our door. You might be able to criticize China for many things, but the rapid response of workmen to fix a problem is impressive. In the U.S. I'd be arranging for someone to come a month from Sunday.

I showed the guy the problem, but when I opened the door to the outside cage, the dripping had stopped. Of course.
"Mei you wenti," he announced to me. No problem.
I showed him the other leak. Again, no more dripping.
Then he said to me in Chinese that when you switch over the AC, there's always water. At least that's what I think he said. He may have been wondering what time the pizza would get here.

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