China journal: Housekeeping notes

Fudan U. Guest House, ShanghaiBlog entry and photos by Mike Foley

[NOTE: In this previously published blog entry, I describe part of my 2006 trip to Shanghai and Beijing as part of a BYU-Hawaii Study Abroad trip. In Shanghai our group of 11 students, accompanied by Drs. Chad Compton, David and Yi-Fen Beus and members of their families,  stayed at the six-story Fudan University Guesthouse [picturted at right], which is located next door to the international student language center.

The guest house is essentially an old hotel (sorta’ like the former Laie Inn). I thought you might be interested in a few details about our lifestyle there:

There were usually two of us in a room, with twin beds. The beds had a single, rather hard mattress set on some kind of a hard platform (are you seeing the pattern here?), and are made with a bottom sheet and a comforter. We needed the comforter because our room was blessedly air conditioned, while outside, Shanghai was hot and humid this time of year, except when it was raining, then it was hot and more humid.

Our daily maid service included one-each fresh bright-orange-colored towel and hand towel (both big enough if somewhat thin) but no wash cloths. My roommate, Yan Hunter (a Tahitian from New Caledonia), and I both made our own beds, so I’m not sure if the maids did that, although I suspected they did because every fourth day they changed our bed linen.

They also brought us a daily thermos of hot water, which most guests presumably use for tea, but Dr. Compton suggested we use in place of buying bottled water for brushing our teeth: It’s generally acknowledged that the water coming out of the tap was not safe to drink, although this didn’t’t seem to apply to our showers. Actually, we did both — buy bottled water and used the boiled water in the thermos after it cooled off overnight. I guess you could say we just took our chances with the shower water.

There were no laundry facilities for the guests, and the nearby laundromat didn’t offer dryer service, so we hand-laundered our clothes in the bathroom sink every day. Sister Beus suggested an easier way she used to do this was to put the clothes in the tub with soapy water and then walk up and down on them. That method seemed better than the one the Relief Society sisters back in Samoa used during my missionary days — beating the clothes with a stick — but I resigned myself to using the sink.

After my first day of hand-laundering, I soon discovered it took up to three days for some items to dry when they were hung either in the closet or on the shower rod in the bathroom…so I bought a fan for the equivalent of $6, with which we could then dry our clothes in one day. First, however, we also had to buy a long extension cord after we got the fan back to the guesthouse, when we found that the outlets in the bathroom didn’t work.

Almost every room had a TV, with about 30 stations (although I later found out some rooms have more stations) — all in Mandarin, but occasionally a program included English sub-titles.

Fudan Guest House restaurantThe food in the guesthouse restaurant was very good [the waitress on the right, in the picture on the right was one of our favorites: In addition to speaking a little English, she had a very pleasant personality]. In an earlier blog entry I mentioned their breakfast buffet, which was the same every day, only cost 10RMB (about $1.25), and for $3-4 one can buy an excellent fresh-cooked lunch or dinner.

So there were definitely some nice aspects to our hotel. But don’t let the nice façade confound you: To get the inside scoops, think of Laie Inn, but about 20 or more years older with no major renovations… then add in the housekeepers:

The housekeepers at our hotel were very different from ones you might be familiar with. For example, on Saturdays when some people wanted to sleep in, they kept knocking on the door until you opened up. They’d come in and change the towels, perhaps wipe off the bathroom counter — but not the mirror. Every fourth day they would change the bed linen; and while I saw vacuum cleaners in the hallways, I never never actually saw the housekeepers using them, or could detect that the floor has been vacuumed.

Two members of our group got to the point when they were trying to sleep-in that they just got up undressed, let the housekeeping ladies in and then got back into bed. One said that one day the housekeeper sort of tucked her in before she left. That’s housekeeping service you don’t usually get elsewhere.

Thinking ahead at that point, I said to Dr. Chad Compton one morning that I hoped our hotel in Beijing would be nicer. He said he wasn’t sure of that, but the one we were then in was a lot nicer than the one they stayed at two years before when the BYUH China Study Abroad group spent their language training period in Xi’an.

Otherwise, the Fudan Guesthouse was a convenient place to stay very close to where we were studying. The people in the surrounding community always seemed friendly [for example, in the picture below, staff at a nearby bakery take a lunch break, right on the street].


I also mentioned in an earlier entry that the guesthouse is located on a shady, tree-lined one-way street that is relatively quiet…but we don’t have to go very far before we’re into the world of “normal” Shanghai traffic. Now, that’s really an interesting experience… for another time.

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