Boom! My 15 minutes of fame are over. Demoted from the hallowed "Featured Blog" spot, I will now linger in Community Blogs and be forgotten…or not!? To those who are still logging in for alien bits and bobs, I extend a big extraterrestrial hug.
A special extraterrestrial hug goes out to my mother who was quick to point out that I misspelt acclimatisation twice in my last blog (and got it right once). This is an unacceptable drop in writing standards for which I apologise.
In this entry, I will be looking at the potential pitfalls of setting up your own exploration base, a.k.a Home. There is the option (for those who have funding from The Company) to spend your entire stay in those specially adapted alien pods, referred to as serviced apartments. For the V.I.P E.T there may even be some swanky specially adapted villa at your disposal.
However, after 6 weeks in a serviced apartment, we felt we were ready to strike out. The all inclusive buffet breakfast had become a painful daily decision making process; TOH especially was struggling with having to force his face into a grimace 6 times on his way there to every friendly Alien Relationship Manager who wished him a good day.
My first pod hunt consisted of looking at a total of 34 flats before I finally settled on the first one. This might appear to some of you to have been a pointless exercise but it has given me an invaluable overview of the Guangzhou rental market.
As a useful guide, the following criteria now make up my "Alien Pod Checklist".
OK, as a newly landed alien in a city the size of your entire planet where frankly you have no idea where you are most of the time, this is perhaps less relevant than it would appear.
Nevertheless, there are certain things you can look for. Parks nearby, tick. Shops nearby, tick. An alien drinking hole within stumbling distance is also a bonus, especially in the early days when taking a taxi after a few beverages is not an option (explained in later entry on transport).
You may wonder why, despite the size of the city and the number of towers stuffed with flats, your friendly agent always gently guides you towards the same residential compounds. This quite simply is down to the fact that they feel you would be safer living in an Alien Ghetto.
When it comes to this criteria, I would encourage all aliens to use their oversized heads to keep an open mind. There are a plethora of available apartments out there but all with their own unique style. I have categorised a few of them as follows:
The Minimalist. This flat is a blank canvas. So blank indeed that it appears that the builders have just popped out for a cup of hot water and left behind a half finished shell. This is the alien pod with much potential but requires much effort (stress) and vision, perhaps more than you have at your disposal.
The Dynasty. Think Liberace goes for tea in Versailles. Watch out for low slung chandeliers, faded velvet curtains and scuffs on the gold leaf furniture. This may seem like a fun, novelty option for a newly arrived alien but take a moment to reflect…
The Feng Shui. Are you confused by the fibreglass rock pool installed in the corner of the living room, or the wall mounted empty fish tank in the hall? You are in a paradise of perfectly aligned energy flows. Of course, the waterfall in the kitchen may no longer be functioning, but you can't deny this flat has a certain feel to it.
Once you have settled on your property, you can add those little touches that make it feel more like home. Ikea, in particular, is a familiar alien friendly shopping mecca stuffed with colourful every day items. Judging by the people sleeping on the beds, and picnicking in the model rooms, it might just be easier to consider moving in here.
If you are a fan of the alien ritual of a weekly Sunday Roast, you may be disappointed to find that your new kitchen does not have an oven. Solutions are to zap a baby chicken in the microwave or invest in a table top oven where you might just manage to squeeze in a medium sized chook (once you've disposed of head and feet). Also, whilst you are not provided with a kettle or toaster, you do get a bonus rice cooker which wouldn't look out of place in a space shuttle.
In addition, what appears to be a rather snazzy two level dishwasher is in fact something we have never heard of before. The technical name for this gadget is an "Enclave" which apparently cleans dishes through the power of thought (and some hot air). You may never manage to figure out how it works. I would suggest that in a kitchen which probably has no drawers, it doubles up nicely as a location for your cutlery tray (available in IKEA).
Each of these multiplex residential towers comes with its own range of facilities - swimming pool, gym, blah blah. But ask yourself does your future home have a tea house, mahjong room or late night Karaoke facilities?
Also easily overlooked when visiting your potential new home is to check just how many sun loungers surround your future pool. In Guangzhou, this can be anywhere between 1-5 which can make for some competitive lounger scrounging. The management of my current home has done away with sun beds entirely and replaced them with small pink toddler chairs similar to the ones found at pavement eateries (see previous entry). This is obviously a cunning ploy to dissuade aliens from wasting their time lounging by the pool.
Lifts used to be a novelty in my life, but on this planet they are an integral part of daily existence. They come in all shapes and sizes; my favourites have a helpful floor mat which tells you what day of the week it is.
Based on an average of using the lift to/from my pod 4 times a day, an average waiting time of 5 minutes and a 1.5 minute journey up/down to the the 23rd floor - I have worked out that over the next two years, I will be spending approximately 18,980 minutes in a lift, which divided by 1440 (minutes in a day), is roughly equal to 13 days of my life. That can't possibly be right? right?!?!
Luckily, I don't have to do this to a soundtrack because when considering this frankly unreal statistic, the sinister nature of "Elevator Music" becomes clear. Imagine the potential brain damage of listening to a synthesised Fur Elise or Beethoven's 9th Symphony for close on 2 weeks of your alien existence.
What's in a name you might ask? But when you have the opportunity to live in Poly Champagne, Babylon Gardens, Emperors Mansion, Starry Winking, to name but a few, it deserves serious consideration. It took me quite some time to dissuade TOH from moving into the Hello Kitty themed flat in Starry Winking purely for the fact that he would get to do his morning work out at "The Winking Ring"…
So for all the new arrivals out there, I wish you luck in your hunt and for all those that are already settled in, "Live Long and Prosper"!
Tags:Lifestyle Expat Tales Expat Rants & Advice General
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