Thursday, August 31, 2006

Before School

Here are the boys and me before school. Jack took one picture and Jed took and the other.


I got a haircut 2 days before we left Virginia. Fast forward 3 months and I was desperate for a haircut. Knowing that an appointment with the famed "Eric" from Paris downtown can take 3 hours, I decided I could not take the time and decided to give the little shop less than a mile away a try. It is called Flower River Garden, I think.
So, I hopped on my new bike and off I went. I walked in and asked for a haircut. They asked me if I also wanted a manicure, but I said no, just a haircut. They asked if I wanted a shampoo and I said yes.

I was led to a salon chair and sat down. A woman came over to me and draped two towels over me, one in front and the other in back. She then proceeded to wash my hair while I sat, upright, in the chair. She squirted a bit of water from a squeeze bottle, then added a bit of shampoo and rubbed it in to my hair. She continued to do this until my whole head of hair was lathered. Much to my surprise, not one drop of water spilled off of my head. She then led me over to the sink where I reclined and she rinsed my hair.

Next, she led me back to the chair where she told me my hair is dry and she could do a special treatment which is on sale. Normally it cost 600 RMB, ($75) but this day it was 360 RMB ($45). I declined. Next, the stylist came to my chair and confirmed that I wanted only a cut and that I wanted him to follow the way it was styled, just trim it. He said no problem. While he cut, which he did in an angled cutting technique I was not familiar with, another man came over and told me that since I was a new customer, today he would give me the haircut, shampoo and blow dry for free if I buy the special oil treatment. After a bit of confusion over what exactly he was saying, I declined for a second time. The stylist finished and then dried my hair. No styling products were used and the hair wash was only shampoo, no conditioner.

The end result is pretty good. It's not perfect, it's no Vanessa cut :-) Hi Vanessa! But I am happy enough with it. I'll post a picture soon, I promise. We have a customer card at this shop. We paid 2000 RMB which is all on the card, then they deduct each service from the total, giving a discount each time. Tom gets his hair cut there every two weeks for 24 RMB ($3). I have gotten a pedicure there for 40 RMB ($5) and my hair cut, wash and blow dry cost 48 RMB ($6).

When visitors come, we can have the manicurist come to our house to do mani pedis at home for us, if we want. Any takers???

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Huck's First Day of School

Here is Huck on his very first day of Preschool The top picture, view from the back, is him at his school orientation. His first day was rainy but the wet weather did not dampen his spirits a bit. He was so happy to go to school. He LOVES it. He never cried a bit and just plays and has already learned to clean up when he finishes an activity, after only two days. His school is in a brand new facility. It is a Montessori school. The cook twice a week in a kitchen built for little ones. It has low counters and sinks and hidden appliences and safe ovens. He has one Israeli teacher and two Chinese teachers. He will be spoken to in Chinese and Hebrew during school. He'll also have a bit of English.
I've been taking him to school in a taxi but it's so hard because the drivers don't know where to go and it's not dependable because I cannot always find one. On Monday, the driver of the first taxi that came to get me at the school did not want to go to where I live so he kicked Huck and me out of his taxi and told us to get in another that had pulled up behind us! So, tomorrow our Ayi's husband will drive him and Monday he will start taking their small bus to and from school until my car arrives. It was shipped June 11 and will probably be at least another 3 weeks.

A note about the backpack... The school had them made here. The nursery schoolers (18 months to 3 years) have yellow, the kidergardeners (ages 3-6) have green and the elementary schoolers (ages 7-12) have blue.

Jed's First Day of School

Jed started Kindergarden. Here he is on his first day. He was so eager to start school and then when he got on the bus, panic hit him like a ton of bricks. He was very fearful of the fact that this bus was taking him away from me and anything familiar, to go to his huge new school and was unsure of how and when he would get back to us. You can see the look on his face. It's getting better each day. He loves school. He likes to be able to see me when he is on the bus, until it pulls away and I make sure I am there when the bus gets back in the afternoon. The bus leaves at about 7:55 and they return around 3:55. The school has a six day block schedule. Jed has Chinese class every day, Jack has it 5 of the 6 days. They have art, music, P.E. and computers as special classes they attend twice during the 6 day schedule. Jack is planning to learn Wu Shu, a Chinese martial art. Monday is Labor Day back home, so Tom will have the day off, but the boys all have school. Weird...

Jack's First Day of School

Jack started 3rd grade. Here he is on his first day, ready to go. You can see the bus isn't exactly the same as we are used to back home.
The boys like to ride their bikes or scooters to the bus stop. Huck gets very angry that he can't ride the bus. He cries. Then when the bus leaves he says "where's Jed, where's Jack?" It's so cute. Jack is so grown up. He walks a little ahead of us and jumps on the bus to get a seat on his own. I always make sure to sneak in a kiss goodbye, though.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Only in China

Finally, on the way home from our outing, this truck was driving in front of us. As is typical, it is over loaded. The sleeping man, however, is not typical, even here...

This produce is what I purchased at the market. Including several handfuls of mushrooms, not pictured, the total cost of the produce was less than $4 U.S.

I also am posting this picture of milk so you can see a new way to purchase and store milk. Very interesting...

The Kids

One of my favorite parts of the market outings is interacting with the people. We are always the only Westerners at the markets and people are generally very friendly. Some call out "Hello" as it's the only English they know. Occasionally the children know a few more words.

Yesterday, the security police at the market descended upon us and forbade us from taking pictures. We established it was ok to photograph the kids, but not the produce "for commercial reasons". It's beyond my what the purpose of that is.

SO, here are the kids from yesterday...

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

To Market to Market...

Every Tuesday, starting last week, I go food shopping with my neighbor. He is retired and his wife works at the embassy. He rotates where he goes every week and takes two ayis with him, his and a friend's. They (we) go to a large fruit and vegetable market and also to a supermarket each week. These pictures are of the vegetable market and fruit market where we went this week. The bottom picture shows people off-loading heads of cabbage. They were meticulously stacked on the truck and the people were tossing them, 1 by 1, to be stacked on the ground for sale.

There are hundreds of vendors selling their produce at these markets. The quality varies, as does the price. I enjoy the time. I get to practice my Chinese while being comforted by the fact that one of the ayis speaks excellent English, so she is very helpful. She encourages me to use Chinese and says I speak well. I think she's just being nice but since her boss doesn't even try, I think she thinks it's nice that I do.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

The boys on bikes

Jack and Jed ride their bikes everywhere, just like everyone else in China. They have yet to learn to balance all their personal belongings and three family members while they ride, though. Maybe some day. :-)

More of the layout of the neighborhood

From middle picture, bottom picture, to top picture, this is how we go from the clubhouse to our house.

Pool pictures

The kids sometimes get icecream at the pool. I learned early on to let them get it soon after we get there, rather than at the end, that way they wash off in the pool and don't go home messy! It was sunny early in the day but by the time we went to the pool, it was cloudy and cooler. The boys were shivering so we didn't stay long.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

The Clubhouse

Inside the clubhouse is the customer service desk, the small grocery store (half the size of a 7-11), indoor pool, gym, playroom, restaraunt and more. To either side are playgrounds and behind to the right is the outdoor pool. To the left is where the bikes are parked for school. On the right are bikes of people inside the clubhouse. The entrance to River Garden Villas is to the left and the exit is to the right. From where I took the full view photo, I would turn around, walk next to a median about 75 yards, turn and walk a few blocks to our house.

More after school

After school

There are hundreds of children in our neighborhood. So, in the morning it's like a mass exodus of kids on foot, scooters and bikes. The buses wait outside the gate, so all the kids park their vehicles in a fenced area just inside the gates and then walk out to the buses. The guards shuffle the bikes to make it more organized but this sometimes leads to difficulty in locating one's bike after school. After school, the children all arrive en-mass and walk or ride home. We've joined the many families who make a stop at the little grocery store in our clubhouse on the way home. It's a nice way to make the transition from school to home. The kids get an ice cream or popsicle to enjoy before riding home.
Here are pictures of the arrival and the clubhouse.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Jack's first day of school and his class

Monday, August 14, 2006