Shanghai residents find life more convenient

By ZHOU WENTING in Shanghai | China Daily | Updated: 2020-08-06 08:39
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Artworks adorn an alleyway in downtown Shanghai. GAO ERQIANG/CHINA DAILY

Shared washroom

Xu Dingzhu, head of the Shuntian residential committee in Huangpu district, said the main aim of the renewal project is to provide each family with a toilet as soon as possible. When space does not permit this, the alternative is to make the best use of shared restrooms.

In the middle of last year, some 25 families were living in a three-story century-old house in a neighborhood Xu was responsible for. Only the family on the top floor had a restroom based on the original design of the house, and all the others needed to use shared bathrooms. There were two of these on the first floor and one on the second.

There was a shower and toilet in each shared bathroom, but when the shower was in use, the toilet could not be used by others.

Zhang Guofu, 73, who lives on the first floor, said: "It was getting harder to wait in line for a toilet to become available, as the residents, most of whom have lived here since the 1980s, were getting older. We very often had to wait for half an hour in the morning."

After several months of rebuilding work, the 19 families living on the first floor were provided with their own toilets in January.

Zhang, who worked for a State-owned film studio before retirement, said: "My wife often needed to go to the restroom during the night, but it was unsafe and inconvenient, especially when it rained and in the winter, when we had to put on heavy coats before leaving the room. This also disturbed the neighbors."

However, it was difficult to install toilets in the rooms of the five families living on the second floor, as the work involved repositioning sewage pipes.

After discussions with the families, the residential committee decided to renovate the shared washroom on the second floor, adding one toilet.

Doors were installed outside each toilet and the shower area, enabling both toilets to be used at the same time as the shower.

Song Ming, 75, who lives on the second floor with her husband, said: "We're very pleased with the solution-its almost the same as owning your own bathroom. We take turns to tidy the shared bathroom, and it's even cleaner than having your own, because everybody wants to do as well as their neighbors with the cleaning."

She said each family agreed to clean the bathroom for one week at a time. Over the years, the families have also followed their own timetable for using the shower area. Five shower heads are connected to different meters to avoid disagreements over the amount of water used.

Unlike Song, Wu Baomei, who lives in an old alleyway community in Hongkou district, still hopes to have her own bathroom and kitchen.

The communal bathroom and the kitchen she and her husband share with two families on the same floor were renovated earlier this year.

Wu, 72, a retired teacher at a primary school said: "People are becoming increasingly aware of the need to protect their privacy, but when several households use the same kitchen for cooking, it's hard to avoid gossip about some people being too frugal or extravagant with food."

Xu, from the Shuntian residential committee, said the renovation work also included the addition of stair railings, ramps for wheelchairs, and alarm buttons for senior residents.

With its newly painted walls, paved floors and a yard where residents plant different types of flowers, neighbors have described the house on Jiangyin Road where Zhang, the former film studio worker, lives as "the most beautiful courtyard".

"Most of us moved in after getting married and we've been here for each other for four decades. When our children moved out after growing up, we felt a stronger connection between ourselves and the house," Zhang said.

He added that all the residents get together during festivals to hold a party on the large rooftop terrace, where they hang strings of lights, tell stories from the past and plan their next trip together.

Song said that 15 years ago, her daughter moved from the house to an apartment near Shanghai's Middle Ring Road, 15 kilometers from the city center.

"There've been huge changes there, but each time I stay with her for a couple of days, I gain a stronger sense of belonging to my house, where we've become accustomed to life," she said.

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