The dark green leaves of the ivy contrast pleasantly with the bright green walls of the laundromat. I sit in the colorful chairs and write whimsical things.

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The man with the headphones calls out to me. I remove my earplugs. “You should move your laundry to the dryer. Sometimes, people take your laundry.”

“Why would they do that!?”

“I mean, they come back the next morning to bring it back. They don’t even realize it’s not theirs.”

“Oh,” I say.

“Just lookin’ out, you know?”

“Yeah. Thanks,” I say.

Laundry in dryer, and my roommate texts me. “Din ready.”

I ask the man with the headphones what time he closes. A long conversation ensues.

It turns out, he doesn’t let people out of the laundromat after eight. Who wants to be held hostage in a laundromat, colorful though it may be?

In the end, I write down my phone number on his notebook, and he promises to call me before he leaves. I tell him I need those sheets I have in the dryer to sleep on tonight.

Delicious stir fry. Game of thrones on the TV. I leave the house when someone on the screen iss having a stick stabbed into his foot.

The laundromat doors are locked, but he lets me in when I knock on the window. I collect my things and ask his name.

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“Ronaldo”, he says, making the “a” sound flat.

“I’m Sarah. Nice to meet you.”

“You must be new to the neighborhood.”

“Yep. I just moved right there across the street.”

“Well, I’ll be seeing you around then.”

“For sure. You have a good night, Ronaldo.”

“Bye now.”

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I need to do laundry.

German roommate’s laundry is in the machine, done. British roommate’s laundry has been hanging all over the balcony for days, and she’s napping in her room.

I revel in the balcony sunshine, fold it all into a pile. Remove German laundry, hang it to dry where British roommate’s once was. Put my laundry into the machine.

German girl is done with Skype date with Arizonan. “Hope you don’t mind I hung your laundry,” I call to her, “I needed the machine.” She is lovely, smiling, happy as always.

And then she sees the lint.

All her clothes are covered in lint. Um, duh. Things don’t necessarily work the same way here in China as they do back home. Including washing machines. Exhibit A: My lint-covered body.

Her voice rises. It’s nearing a high pitch. Exhibit B: Her black, white-lint-covered underwear. Underwear.

“HOW CAN I WEAR THIS!?” “It’s underwear,” I reply, “just buy a new pair for that special occasion.” (Note: foreign women in Beijing don’t often enjoy special occasions.) She brings out her lint remover.

“DO YOU KNOW HOW LONG THIS IS GOING TO TAKE ME TO REMOVE?!” She’s observing her purple and black striped socks. Really? As in, she is hoping someone sees purple and black striped socks in pristine lint-lacking condition? Really??

“They’re socks,” I say. “You’ll be fine. Look at this red shirt. You can’t even see the lint on it.”

“THIS IS WHAT I HATE ABOUT CHINA…” Et cetera.

I am no longer allowed to wash the piles of laundry that have been sitting on my bedroom floor for two weeks waiting to be washed. My sheets have had some three friends sleep in them, and that extra set of pajamas was worn by two guests without a wash (don’t tell anyone). But no matter: her laundry needs a second wash first.

The ayis we’ve hired to scrub our bathroom have removed the washing machine hose and can’t figure out how to re-attach it. My just-finished laundry has refilled with sitting water. I must run it again, and it takes nearly an hour to run every time. And I have to leave very soon to teach English and then to have a farewell dinner. (The first expat friend I will have outstayed in China! This is only the beginning….)

German roommate hits the fan. Opens the machine, closes the machine, opens the machine, closes the machine. My forlorn sopping-wet clothes. “Please,” I beg, “you’re freaking me out. Please just leave the machine alone.”

“It doesn’t make any difference if it’s open or closed,” she says, her hand twitching up and down, the lid opening and closing incessantly.

I text the British roommate: “Culture shock attack. Don’t come out of your room.”

“We all have our days,” she texts back. “I’m hiding from the ayis, but I’ll need to pee soon.”