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  1. When I lived in Beijing, the walls of my apartment were so thin that I could hear my neighbors’ slightest shuffle or muffled cough.

    Every morning, at exactly 6:45 the older gentleman who lived next door would put on a grand display of coughing and spluttering up a great big gob of mucus. The sound would start somewhere deep in his lungs as a gravelly wet cough and he’d slowly suck it up his throat with a retching gargling sound. The grand finale came as he’d spit whatever deep and terrible sludge he’d dredged up into the toilet bowl with such force and obvious satisfaction that he’d make the kind of grunt you hear when a tennis player takes a particularly hard shot.

    “Hunnnhhh! …splish”

    And then the roaring flush of the toilet.

    For the longest time this little ritual would utterly disgust me and I’d wake up gagging to the sound on the weekend. Over time, I guess you can really get used to anything as eventually it became my alarm call to leave the house and catch the bus for work. Still, fantastically gross.

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