“Remember to take up space!”

“Yea, Adriene! (my YouTube yoga teacher) Let’s take up space!” Halfway through the practice, I was in the zone. I raised my arms up to the sky and …


There went my hand, right into our home’s slanted ceiling.

Shaking it off, we flowed through to the floor stretches.

“Arms out for our supine twist!” Or rather, “Arms crooked out at an angle to the side,” thanks to stacks of old books and a space heater.

You know, I think at-home yoga practice may require more space …

Or perhaps thicker walls, so I could find calm and quiet, rather than my neighbor marathon-belching his way through breakfast.

You know well, dear reader, the more colorful adventures this house has given us. Together, we’ve explored the worlds of shit-filled floods and mouse hunts, all in this corner of Beijing’s hutongs.

But still, there’s something to be said for the first home you share with your partner.

When we found this place, Manfriend wasn’t sold on it. Just the day before, we’d missed out on a great apartment — one that met damn near all our needs.

When we saw the place we have now, Manfriend couldn’t see what I did. Not at first. “It’s way too small,” he insisted. And he had a point — 35 square meters (377 square feet) isn’t much. But as we moved in our last boxes, the thrill of our big relationship step wiped away any lingering doubt.

Finally, our own place.

A year and a half later, I still feel that. We’ve grown immeasurably in this house and took on its unique challenges together. Some were small, like translating the washing machine’s knobs and buttons, or simply organizing our things in a home so tiny. For our second Ramadan together, we had to learn to cook all over again, with precisely one foot of counter space, on a very temperamental hot plate.

Some challenges were much bigger. The lack of wall insulation alone led to an almighty struggle to keep me warm all winter without bankrupting us. (Hint: I was rarely wearing just one layer.) Creepy crawly bugs would pop out of nowhere, and Manfriend would haul them out each time.

As every couple does, Manfriend and I had a lot to learn about what it took to live with a significant other. In our case, there was the added intensity of doing so in another language. Our wee home carried a lot of distinctly Chinese characteristics.

But this home’s done its part, holding dear all our memories under the same roof alley cats danced across.

So, sure, I can’t literally stretch it out in such tight quarters. But we sure have grown a lot in these creaking old walls.

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