Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Plumbers and electricians

Following my previous post about discussions with students about "qualified" electricians and plumbers I tried to search on the internet to source more information. I had to laugh - nearly all the Google entries came up with something like "Help! Does anyone know a plumber in Shanghai?"

My rather meagre investigation suggests there are such people in Shanghai, and maybe Beijing. I suspect that some of or all of the large construction companies have someone who is familiar with plumbing or electrical work, though I'm yet to determine if there is any formal training here.

A couple of us have had discussions and we are not sure. The language is a huge issue. For example there probably is no Chinese word for "plumber" that is defined as we know it. It could be a "Pipe mechanic" for example, although I'd guess it is not that simple. So when I ask a student about "plumbing" even the boys don't know what it is about.

I'm really curious now. We have all experienced the great drama of getting to a toilet, especially a "western" toilet and finding out "it is broken". Often there is a sign on the door - in Chinese ofcourse warning us that "it is broken" but we can only guess it's meaning.

What if there is no formal plumbing training and all these wonderful high rise buildings that we see on television have some sort of plumbing defect because there is really no plumber with the expertise?

The mind boggles. Another one of China's mysteries.

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