So here is the answer to What in the heck are they doing now? (Okay, it hasn’t really taken me this long to figure it out.) Can you tell?
Still haven’t gotten it? Here’s the view from further back. They appeared one day and we had a pretty good idea.
Sewer pipe replacement. (New words added to the Chinese vocabulary.)
The jackhammering went on for days and was followed by picks and shovels as the guys got deeper, eventually over their heads. We made our way along a narrow path, rubbing shoulders with the workers pushing out heavy carts of rubble.
Early on, I made a call I never would have thought I’d have to make to my husband, who had been away for two days. I had to warn him that when he came home late at night in the dark, he wouldn’t be able to get in through our main entrance, through the garden. Here’s the view, on such a day:
Instead, his best bet was to try the kitchen door, but he should be careful not to step to the right of the stoop, or set his bags there
because under that flimsy piece of bamboo fencing was a 6-foot hole ending in the open sewer. I know; I made the mistake of lifting it. Phew!
Every day, I took to posting signs to advise friends which door was their best option. (I also advised them to approach wearing combat boots.)
One friend called and said that after wandering in the lane, she was afraid she wouldn’t be able to get across our moat.
In the middle of all this, the painters finally returned to the garden to finish the trim.
If you looked at that photo and wondered whether they guys were going to come into the house to paint the outside of the door, the answer is yes. If you also wondered why nobody covered the floor or my perilously close sofa, well, I wondered that, too.
And one day, when I had concluded that the front gate was impassable and had decided to carry a lot of heavy bags out the kitchen door instead, I opened the door and almost got green paint swiped across my face! No photo of that, but here’s the painter, taken from inside the kitchen.
I’ve had more than a few questions along the way.
For example, wouldn’t it have made sense to do the messy sewer replacement before the painting and primping?
And what is this woman doing? I swear, I think sometimes people passing through or hanging around just pick up a tool and have a go at it.
And will this replacement of exterior sewers improve the interior plumbing for some of our lanes’ residents? I hope so, but fear not.
And a more personal, urgent question when I saw blocks of rubble going up for the zillionth time in front of the garden gate on Thanksgiving morning: would my guests be able to gain entry to eat turkey? The answer, happily, was yes. Wang ayi, our housekeeper, went outside and explained the situation. Soon one of the workers had carted the rubble to the side and laid out a red carpet, so to speak — and promptly parked his bicycle on it.
It’s still going on. Seven days a week, we wake up around 6:30 to the sounds of slamming, hammering, or pounding. But there is progress. After completely digging up the area outside the kitchen again last week
drains were installed
and it’s passable again. I have high hopes for the new year!
And my relations with the workers are now harmonious. After edgily demanding to know why I took so many photos of them at first (answer: because I find it remarkable and strange that you can enter private property at will and I am going to photograph it!), they now smile and sometimes pose.
Last week, when I had a lot to carry out, one fellow loaded it into his empty cart and wheeled it out to the car on the street for me. (Sorry, no photos of that — I was too startled and delighted.)
Today I am going to get some of these photos printed and give them to the workers. If I have time, I will make them some Christmas cookies.