Why I’m Glad I Don’t Have a Dryer

I just realized today that I’ve never told you  about our laundry situation in all the various countries we’ve lived in. Have you ever been missing out!

For the past three years, we haven’t had a dryer. And for the most part it’s been ok. It was a little hard in London when we only had a teeny tiny flat and it took clothes two days to dry because cold and damp weather is not the greatest for laundry drying (and also a significant reason we didn’t cloth diaper exclusively!), but really, in a family this size, it’s pretty easy to go without a dryer. Of course, when I was growing up we hung laundry on the line and I felt like it took all day. Probably because with 12 people in a house, there’s always more laundry to hang. But here, I actually kind of like it. Here’s why.

    1. I’m lazy and if I had a dryer clothes would sit in it for days and then they’re all wrinkly and gross. So much better to just get it over with all at once.
    2. It eliminates the step of putting your clothes in the dryer, taking them out, and then folding them. I do exactly none of those steps.
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Don’t your towels have feet?
  • When you hang up your clothes as soon as the washing machine is done, all you have to do when they’re actually dry is move the hangers to your closet. That’s it. No extra hanging, no folding, no wrinkly messes that sit in the dryer for a week.DSC_0474
    • Even matching socks is easier. Of course, that could be because only one person in this house currently wears socks. The rest of us (me, and by extension JQ) can’t stand having sweaty feet on top of (underneath?) sweaty everything else and so we either go barefoot or put on sandals when the looks of disapproval and the questions become too much. But still–no dryer to eat your socks? It’s a win.
    • If you can dry your clothes outside, they will smell like you’ve dried them outside, which, in my opinion, is a nice smell for clothes to have. I’ve never been able to stand the reek of fabric softener and fake smells. If, on the other hand, you live in a small flat in London and only have a bathroom to dry them in….well, they will probably smell like mildew and you’ll go around wondering who’s bringing that weird smell with them. Don’t worry–it’s just you.

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    • It keeps you on top of your laundry. There’s nothing quick about hanging your clothes to dry, so if you know you’re almost out of clean towels or shirts or socks, you have to do laundry that very minute so it can be dry in 24 hours when you actually need it. I start getting complacent when I have a dryer around, because it only takes 4 hours or so for the clothes to be ready to wear again. But it’s really a lot better for my sanity (and Jared’s) to get the clothes washed a day or two in advance of when I REALLY need them so that we actually have clean laundry.
    • On the other hand, it’s kind of annoying, when you only have one blanket for your bed, to have to wash it first thing in the morning so it can be MOSTLY dry by the evening. I suppose I could overcome my cheapskate tendencies and, you know, actually buy another blanket, but SPENDING MONEY ON NONESSENTIAL ITEMS (i.e. not food)!

    And that’s why, in spite of having lived without a dryer for the better part of the last three years, I’m actually kind of happy that I have. Sure, a dryer is awfully convenient, but it’s better for me as a person to actually plan and act on things I know I have to do. Sometimes convenience can be sneaky and look like a friend, but often it’s actually the enemy.

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Seven Quick Takes

  1. We finally got wifi this month, after a month of frustrating bureaucracy, and it’s been really nice to feel somewhat connected again and be able to work. I’ve got to admit it’s also nice to be able to watch a movie without finding it in advance and downloading it too (I know, spoiled millennial here!). Netflix here has most cartoons dubbed in Chinese too so occasionally we let JQ watch one for 5-10 minutes in the hopes that he’ll pick up on some Chinese. Easy bilingualism, right? wouldn’t necessarily learn Chinese in five minutes three times a week, but kids’ brains are supposed to be porous so I’m sure he’ll get it in no time.

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    He thinks so too, and is wearing Chinese
  2. Of course, it should help that JQ has started getting babysat for three hours a day, five days a week, while I teach. We’ve asked his babysitter to speak Chinese around him so he’ll pick up on it–but it’s still a little early to tell whether it’s working yet as his go-to word is still “Maamaa” in various forms. He seems to be enjoying it (as in, not screaming the entire time), though he has been a little more clingy when he’s at home. Hopefully it won’t take him too long to adjust.
  3. It’s been interesting living in a basically bilingual country. Kids on the playground switch between English and Chinese without thinking; they study both in school and probably hear both at home. It does lead to some rather thick accents (it’s really hard to figure out what people are saying!), and their English is definitely colored by Chinese-isms (like using “lah” at the end of every sentence). It also makes for some humorous moments, like when the Singaporean man at Bible study gravely started explaining the spirit of peas (he meant peace) and how it could only be explained by the love of the cross.
  4. I haven’t taken any pictures recently because we haven’t really gone anywhere in the last few weeks, but I still have some neat pictures of downtown Singapore that I haven’t shared here.
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    This is the piano that Lang Lang played on….maybe on a visit to Singapore? I’m a bit fuzzy on the details, but it got its own exhibit. Shiny, huh?
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  5. I’m finally figuring out grocery shopping/cooking here and remembering how to cook without an oven. We got spoiled by having an oven in England! Now it’s back to stovetop and toaster oven cooking, although the previous residents of our flat left us their rice cooker, so I’ve been experimenting with one-pot meals to the tune of–chopping up ginger, garlic, and yellow ginger (turmeric), throwing in rice cooker with rice and water and any other vegetables I feel like, putting a fish on top, and cooking away. Jared loves it and it’s awfully easy, though rather uninspired. It also stains my fingers and cutting board a bright yellow so I look somewhat jaundiced on my left hand.
  6. We got our boxes yesterday! So nice to unpack all the things we packed up in England–just like sending a present to ourselves to open in six months. Untitled Now we have a couple pictures to put on our walls and more stuff to clutter up the house with, like books..and…well…more books. UntitledAnd we still have most of our books packed in boxes in the U.S. When we finally move back, I’m not sure I’ll even know how to deal with multiple (as in, ten or so) shelves full of books any more–I’m already envying my future self.
  7. Around where we live, there’s very few white people, so JQ’s hair and skin draw lots of looks and admiring comments. They’ve also prompted several old men to start conversations: “Where you from? You American?”

“Yes, we’re American,” I reply.

“What you think ’bout Trump?  How could so many Americans vote for him?”

“Well, it was a hard election,” I say, evading the question. “Neither candidate was exactly great.”

“Well, I think Bill Clinton’s wife should have won. She’s much more experienced!”

And delivering this zinger, he walked away. Many Singaporeans feel compelled to state their opinions on American politics, and they all think I should have something to do with changing them. Sorry, but democracy doesn’t actually work that way.

Linking up with This Ain’t the Lyceum!

Only in China

So I know you all are dying to hear more of what China is really like. Well, I’m here with the scoop.

China is a great place to live. Not only are there five gazillion people everywhere all the time, but there are some things about China that you just won’t find anywhere else.

1. Trees in the middle of the road.

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It doesn’t even align with the other trees. It’s just….there! (note the garbage bicycles in the background).
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Same tree. Definitely in the road.

I don’t know what this country’s obsession is with trees, but they have them everywhere. In parking lots, sidewalks, the middle of the road. . .

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Wouldn’t it make more sense to have the parking space?

They’re all like, “Ooh, wonderful tree! Who cares if I nearly cream my car just getting into the parking lot?!” (And don’t ask about getting out–let’s just say I’m thankful I don’t have a car here.)

Trees in parking lot.
A little close for comfort, in my opinion. 

2. Funny little garbage bicycles.

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They’re not very practical when it’s windy, either.

These trike thingies with a bed on the back still look funny to me every time I see them. Surely it must be more efficient to get rid of garbage in huge trucks than on teeny bicycles? But no–bicycles are the way to go. Plus, you can stack them like crazy to fit even more stuff on!DSC_0172

3. Parking on the sidewalks

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These people are using both options–sidewalk and middle of the road. In the right of the picture is the edge of a truck–also parked in the middle of the road.

When your parking lots are full of trees, where else are you supposed to park? Well, the sidewalk is a good place to start.

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Yes, that is a sidewalk too.

If you can’t find an empty space in the parking lot, just find your closest sidewalk. If that’s been taken, well, the middle of the road is probably your next best option. Just let the pedestrians and bikers figure out how to get around you. It’s their problem, not yours.

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This person couldn’t decide whether the sidewalk or the middle of the road was best, so they settled on a compromise.

4. Random junky areas.

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Right in front of our building.

Cats are celebrities here. There’s one who is always sitting outside when we go by on our way to the swimming pool. He usually has a few Chinese girls petting him and leaving offerings. He’s almost like the mascot cat.

This junky-ness also happens to be a cat shelter maintained by one of the neighbors. In the summer, the cats bask on top of it in the warmth of the sun. In winter, they disappear. I assume they’re slumbering within the depths (what, you say I shouldn’t use pretentious words when I tell my students not to? Hooey.) or waiting for their next meal to be brought to them by their lady-in-waiting. I think there may be around twenty cats that use this shelter regularly.

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I think it’s all just trash, piled up to make a house. 

I hope you enjoyed my little tour through three blocks of China. That’s right–all these pictures were taken within three blocks of each other, on a university campus, no less. It’s even scarier out in the real world!

Until next time!

Confessions of a Failed Minimalist

Well, I suppose you could say I haven’t really failed. My wardrobe really is the “capsule wardrobe” type, since that’s all that would fit in two suitcases. The kitchen stuff I currently own—3 pans, 3 knives, 4 bowls, 8 plates, and some silverware—really isn’t that much. And that’s about it, besides stacks of papers to grade (but I get to give those back!). I don’t even have books. Everything else was packed away when we moved to China. The problem is, I want more.

Curtains, for instance. Curtains so dark they don’t have to have scarves hung over them to keep out the light. The scarves work fine, so I don’t need to complain, but it would be nice to simply pull the curtains shut at night and not have to worry about blocking out every last bit of light.

Or pictures and decorating stuff for the walls. If I were a true minimalist, I’m sure I’d sleep in a cabin on someone else’s property (I’m looking at you, Henry David Thoreau!) and have nothing but the clothes on my back and maybe a fire to cook a fish on. But me being me, I want where I live to look nice. Nice does not include completely bare white walls. It doesn’t have to be fancy—but some sort of color would help!

But at the same time I’m thinking how nice it would be to have more stuff, it also seems ridiculous to spend large amounts of money on things I’ll only be using for less than a year. Apparently there’s more than a touch of Great-Grandpa Manthei in me. And when things are priced in yuan, those numbers are just so huge. I can’t bring myself to spend 200 Y on something unnecessary, even though it’s really only around $33.

I’m thankful for what I do have, like our pretty plants that decorate and purify the air (they were cheap too). But it’s easy to get caught up in wanting, even coveting, other good things to have. I’ve been spending too much time lately wanting what other people have: things like a place to stay for more than a year and money that doesn’t have to go to fill the pockets of university staff (seriously, why do degrees and everything cost so much?). Complaining comes easily: thankfulness does not. And I’ve been given so much—there’s no reason for me to not be grateful.

I don’t want complaining to become my default option—discontentment can so easily turn to bitterness and bargaining with God. I don’t want stuff to define me, either by what I have or what I lack.

Life isn’t made up of stuff, but sometimes it’s awfully nice to have. And we’ve been spoiled by having so much within easy reach. I may feel like a discontented failure some of the time—but when I think about it, there’s really nobody I’d trade places with.