Monday, November 17, 2008

How Much Do You Really Need?

One of my favorite words in the Chinese language is dongxi (pronounced dong-she) which can be roughly translated into English as “stuff/junk/things.” The great thing about dongxi is that it can mean literally tons of different types of objects. If you go to the local chaoshi (supermarket) you can get all kinds of dongxi, from toothpaste to DVD players. If you’re carrying a full backpack you can accurately say, “I have way too much dongxi in this bag.” No further explanation is needed. It might not be the same dongxi as you would find in your kitchen or bathroom, but it is dongxi nonetheless!

Dongxi is an easy word to remember and fun to say. If it’s “stuff” just say dongxi and you’re good to go. I asked my friend if I could say that I have a lot of dongxi to do today, and she said, “Definitely not.” Too bad! I was hoping for an easy connection between objects and activities. This leads me to the real reason I’m writing about dongxi. I last week I moved to another apartment and boy, did I have a lot of dongxi to move!

OK, I know I only came here 3 months ago and I shouldn’t have this much dongxi already, but setting up an apartment requires you to accumulate certain necessities. There’s kitchen dongxi, bathroom dongxi, cleaning dongxi, school/office dongxi, etc… but packing and moving all your dongxi is another matter althogether. In the States I had a car and I could always borrow a friend’s truck or van. Banana boxes were easy to come by if you camped out at the Meijer produce section on shipping day, but I found a whole new way of moving here.

First of all, boxes are not that easy to come by. Instead, most people stuff their dongxi into giant rice bags with zippers. It’s the Chinese equivalent of a suitcase. OK, so they smell like mold inside and they can only be used once before they break. I can live with that though because these bags only cost sixty cents each and the smell eventually fades with time and a good airing out…and you’d be amazed at how much dongxi you can fit into one of those bags!

A second “must-have” when moving is a ball of pink plastic twine. This is necessary for wrapping together boxed dongxi. If you’re Dutch like me you never throw out anything that could be potentially useful at some later date. That being the case, you will naturally have saved the original boxes your dongxi came in when you purchased it and you will have carefully repacked it in the original boxes. The essential pink plastic twine will hold several boxes together for easy transport. It never breaks and it’s also very cheap. Why bother with buying or packing cumbersome large boxes when you have pink twine?

The moving process is…Wow! I’ve never seen anything like it. Since I didn’t have another means of transporting my dongxi except to tie it all onto my bike and haul it down the road (which I’ve actually seen done) I hired a local moving company. They came and hauled all my dongxi from my second floor apartment into their truck, brought it to my new apartment, and carried everything up to the 5th floor…including a washing machine! I couldn’t believe the amount of dongxi they could strap on their backs and carry at one time. I mean seriously! Who carries a washing machine on their back up to the fifth floor without giving themselves a heart attack?

The best part was the price! (Again, it's the Dutchman in me is coming out…sorry!) I actually felt a little bad watching them do what I have always done for myself and paying them so little, ($30) but they insisted that I stop trying to “help” them. I was getting in their way and messing up their system, so I had to stand back. Sometimes I forget that I’m not in the States anymore.

Now that all my dongxi is in my new apartment and I’m just about finished putting everything where I want it, I feel a lot more settled. It’s funny how familiar dongxi can make you feel at home even in new surroundings. Yes, I probably have way less than the average American in this 500 sq. ft. apartment, but I still have way more dongxi than I really need. I’m so very thankful for all the ways I have been provided for. The experience of moving in China is definitely something to remember every time I look around and think that maybe I’d like a little something new. Uhhhh…!



Anonymous said...

If i were to count the number of dongxis
you would have a lot of dongxis! there had to be like 50!

good luck sorting all that dung out. =)

love ya!