Tuesday, October 31, 2006

It's Tuesday, it's Market Day

"yawn"Wet market
Department store
My friend and neighbor, William, took these pictures during our latest excursion to the wet market and supermarket. At the top is a picture of a guy at the wet market. You can see in the second picture that each table has it's own operator who sells various fruits or vegetables. Just like a farmers' market in the US, you deal with each vendor individually. This man is a farmer who came to sell his goods. We almost always find the people to be warm and friendly. At one of the areas in the market, I was looking at some items and suddenly felt like someone was in my space. I turned around to find a woman with her baby (about 9 months old) standing so close to me I couldn't move from where I stood. She was pointing the child's face toward me, pointing to me. We are always the only non Chinese there. Today I saw a person with blonde hair and I took a second look to see what westerner was there. It was a Chinese with bleached hair. Her hair was blonde with blue highlights. Nice.
The bottom picture was taken in the store across the street from the wet market. It just opened and when we spotted it, one of the ayis who goes shopping with us said she wanted to go in to see it. It was great. It clearly was set up to look like a Western store. It was very clean and nice and I am sure we'll go back regularly.


Our compound celebrated Halloween on Saturday night. It was a big event with a haunted house for the little ones and older kids. I hear it was scary. There are 427 houses in the compound, so the potential for a large haul was there. Participating houses posted a picture of a ghost on their doors to show everyone it was ok to trick or treat at their homes. I'd say about 1/3 of the houses participated.

We invited our friends from another embassy since they live in the embassy and don't have the opportunity to trick or treat there. Their little boy had a great time with Jack and Jed. It was great. We set out and the kids ran from house to house trick or treating while Tom and our guest's dad answered the door again and again and again. People come from all over Beijing to trick or treat here. The boys gave up after about an hour and filled their buckets about halfway and were quite happy. I took pictures while Xing Ayi escorted Huck. Xing Ayi's son, who is eleven years old, came with us. Everyone had a great time. Some of the candy is questionable. We even got some that have pictures of shrimp on the wrapper. I doubt anyone will be brave enough to try it. We turned out the lights at about 8:00. It was exhausting but fun.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Tent

Here are pictures of the Bedouin tent dedication, as requested by Aunt Jan!

Today's Taxi Ride

Today was another one for the "only in China" memoirs.
As usual on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, today I saw Jack and Jed off in the bus and then walked with Huck to get a taxi. As luck would have it, Mr. Dong was the one I met at the clubhouse, so he knew where we were going. When we turned onto the first main street on the way to Huck's school, though, there was terrible traffic. He talked about it and I understood the traffic part, but he continued to mumble and I am not sure what he was saying. He decided to turn on to the dirt shoulder to avoid the traffic and turn onto the next street, but did so at the same moment a bike rider tried to cut in and they collided. Yes, the taxi I was in hit a bike rider, or maybe the bike rider hit the taxi I was in, I am not sure. Mr. Dong got out of the taxi and the two exchanged mildly heated words and we were soon on our way...

Once we turned onto the next road which leads to the school, I could see that traffice was bad on the way there and worse on the way back so I pointed to the short cut home and said "Ni keyi hui jia." Which means, "you can go home." He knew what I meant, cut across traffic and we went home. I later heard from my neighbor that he took his son to school near where Huck goes and it took him an hour and a half round trip. Normally it would take about 30 minutes. I am glad I decided to keep Huck home. Huck's teacher was not pleased when I called her to say he wouldn't be there, but it's the way it goes in China. I've just learned that next week, for 4 days at least, the freeway will be closed due to some kind of summit that is taking place downtown. This will not be pretty. I guess we'll stay in our little community.

Field Trip 2

Here are the kids making dumplings. The place was enormous. I don't think we saw the whole place and we saw enough room to hold at least 4 weddings plus still be open for business for regular customers. They had crocodiles and a small playground. You can also see the live see creatures which can be purchased for consumption.

Jack's Field Trip

Jack's class took a flield trip to a restaurant/ event hall. They learned to prepare the five flour foods: noodles, Chinese Pancake (bing), dumplings (jiaozi), another kind of dumpling and the dough itself. It was a lot of fun for the kids. At each station, a chef would prepare the item and teach the kids to do it. Here you can see Jack's attempt at noodles.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

If you have a weak stomach, do not read this post!!!

This morning I rode my bike over to the boys' school. It's about a 15-20 minute bike ride and it was 7:30 in the morning so I rode on streets occupied mostly with local workers walking to the various residential compounds. It was a constant chorus of throat clearing and spitting all the way there and all the way back. I didn't see anyone peeing by the side of the road, which is a frequent occurrence, but I'd had enough when I saw the milk delivery guy walk out of a grocery store and blow his nose on the ground. YUCK!

More International Day Photos


International Day

Jack and Jed's school celebrated International Day on Friday. The kindergarden had a parade and the upper elementary school got t-shirts. On the back, are pictures of all the flags of the countries represented at the school.

It was fun to see the kids dressed up in their national costumes. Jack's class watched the parade and then went back to their classroom. Jed's class played outside for a while and then went to the High School courtyard to see the ribbon cutting ceremony of the newly donated real Bedouin tent. The Saudi family who donated it also flew in a camel for the occassion. WOW.

You can see pictures of Jack in his t-shirt and Jed with his classmates and one with me as well.

Walmart Photos

Walmart Photos

Friday, October 20, 2006

A Trip to Walmart!

Well, after hearing about it for the past few years, I was finally able to make a trip to Walmart in China. It's quite a distance from our house but my neighbor, with whom I do food shopping on Tuesdays, had to go there to get a specific oil for his car, so off we went.

It was very interesting there. It definitely wasn't easy to find. It's a bit off the beaten path and even when you get close, it's down a bit of an alley and there's only a small sign pointing the way. Parking is underground and they told us we had to park on a specific level because William's car was too big, which it wasn't. It was quite a maze and not at all easy to find our way into the store.

Just like in the US, there's a greeter in the front of the store. He or she repeated "Good Morning," in English every time someone walked into the store. I thought this was nice and then I had to smile when we left the store at 12:45 and still heard the greeter saying, "Good Morning."

The store looks like Walmart in the US except with Chinese products. I was able to find a few things I needed, like small ice packs for the boys' lunch boxes and some cleaning products and also bought food products. I looked for longjohns for the boys, which I've been told are essential here because the weather in the winter is so severe, but they only had adult sizes.

I took many pictures to show what was similar and different in comparison to the US stores. Also pictured is Sam Walton's book and my cart. Prices were similar to US prices. Produce costs less clothing was comparable to US Walmarts.

Monday, October 16, 2006

2nd haircut

I now know that it's important to be VERY specific about what I want out from a hair cut while I live in China.

There is a salon in our clubhouse and it has a very good reputation. After asking around, I decided to give "Tom" a try. He asked me how much I wanted him to cut and I told him just a trim. The Marine Corps ball is coming up so I just wanted to clean it up a little. He showed me how much he planned to take off the front and the bangs were down between my eyes while wet. I approved. When he finished cutting, however, I had Chinese style bangs in the middle of my forehead. Oops. I am desperately hoping that after a few days I'll be able to figure out how to style it.
Lessons learned...

Friday, October 13, 2006

The Market

Here are two pictures from our most recent trip to the wet market.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Huck and his friend

Here is Huck with his friend, Gemma. She has 3 older brothers. Her family is Canadian and she was adopted from Taiwan. Huck and Xing Ayi met Gemma and her Ayi at the playground several weks ago and now they play together most days. Today she came to our house. When they went outside, Huck said he wanted to wear a jacket too and then he put his hood up like Gemma. She's three years old.
Xing Ayi always tells me what Huck does with other kids at the playground. It's great. She's like a proud mama. Today she told me that Huck participated in a playgroup singing session and was the only one who could do Head Shoulders Knees and Toes and the Itsy Bitsy Spider. She was so proud. It's great.

Wet Market

I was told recently that the markets I go to for fruit and vegetables are called wet markets. I am not sure this is true, but either way, I really enjoy it. The people are usually very nice and like to call out to us, "Hello!" They usually talk to the ayi we are with and when I say something in response to what they say, they laugh and smile and are happy to see a Westerner who tries to speak Chinese. I am proud to tell them I am from America when they ask.
Here is a picture I took on Tuesday at a wet market.

Friday, October 06, 2006

The normal stuff

Today I took Jack and Jed to the dentist. We go to the International SOS clinic. It's a medical clinic for foreign passport holders. Tourists and residents can use it and they take our insurance. Yesterday I had our Ayi call one of the taxi drivers I know to arrange transport to and from the clinic. This makes a huge difference in the ease of the experience. Mr. Dong picked us up at noon and took us to the clinic about 30 minutes away, with no traffic. He left the meter running and waited for us. He speaks a little English and is eager to learn more, so we often teach one another a bit of English and Chinese. He's very nice and smiley and is kind to the boys.

The dentist is a Persian woman from Australia. She was excellent with the boys. She did the exam and cleaning herself and talked to them the whole time. This is key since Jed is terrified of the dentist. Neither Jack nor Jed has a cavity. I asked her opinion of fluoride use since the water isn't treated with fluoride. She highly recommends using it but cautions to be careful to use the correct dose. Jack has some white spots on his teeth which she says are from too much fluoride. She says this is caused by children swallowing toothpaste as toddlers. We lived in Hawaii where the water wasn't treated. So, Jack was little enough to swallow the toothpaste and we were giving him supplements as well. I wish I'd known. These are the problems of moving around from place to place. I now know to use unfluridated toothpaste while we supplement Huck.

Mr. Dong was waiting for us when we came out of the clinic. He told me he'd taken a nap while he waited. The meter had only moved about $3. The total for the taxi ride, to and from the clinic, plus tolls, was $22.50. During the ride, I asked him if he'd drive Tom and me around tomorrow so we can run some errands. He said "Mei Wenti." No problem. He'll pick us up at 9:30.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

More of Chaoyang Park

You can see the boys thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

A Visit to a Local Park

Today we visited Chaoyang Park in downtown Beijing. They have lots of carnival type things for kids all year round and during this holiday week they also have a circus/ acrobat show. When we arrived, there was still 90 minutes until show time so we decided to just pay the entrance fee and not the ticket fee and walk around and let the kids play. Once inside, after paying the 63 cent entrance fee, we walked around a little and saw some bouncy castles so of course the kids (9 all together) all wanted to do that. So we paid the $2.50 entrance fee and let the kids bounce out their energy. Later, we walked over to the carnival rides where the kids rode a few of the non dangerous looking ones. Jed is still uneasy about separating from me here so since Huck was asleep in the stroller and I couldn't leave the stroller, Jed refused to ride anything. You can see him, above, trying to decide what to do at the car ride.
While we waited in line at a fire truck ride, a little girl, maybe 8 years old, pulled down her pants and peed right there on the ground... Definitely a TIC moment... This Is China. Also, as we walked along the pathways, most of the people stared at us. Some comment about the boys' hair and the fact that there are three of them. A few asked to take their picture with the boys. The most amusing moment was when a man carrying a boy in split pants, on his shoulders, tush hanging out, stood staring at us, boldly. I said that it's ironic when a man carrying a kid with his heiny hanging out is staring at us like WE are the spectacle.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The tailor Motel Kamzoil... I mean, The Tailor Xiao Shi

Today I paid a visit to the tailor to whom I was introduced by a dear friend. I may have written about this already, forgive me if some of this is repetitive.

On my first visit, I brought two pictures of two dresses and an idea of what I'd like a ball gown to look like. Xiao Shi said "Keyi" meaning "Can do". We went back and forth a little, she drew some sketches and took my measurements. I selected a fabric from the 4 or so she said would work. She asked if I wanted a lining and I said I did. She asked if I wanted a silk lining, to which my friend said "go ahead and get it, when will you ever have the opportunity to easily afford such a luxury?" So I said, "Wo yao." Meaning, "I want." I showed her a pair of pants I really like but that are too big and asked if she could make some just like them only smaller. She said "keyi" and we selected two fabrics and she said she'd also make my pair smaller. I spotted a very pretty pink textured fabric that I thought would make a great summer dress and asked if she had enough to make a dress. She said, "keyi" and we designed a dress together.

Xiao Shi phoned my friend and said our clothes were ready so we went there today at 4:00. My gown is still a work in progress. I tried it on and she took a tuck here and there and made chalk marks on it. She asked if we could wait 20 minutes while she took it in so she could see if it was right before making more changes. So we said, "keyi." She made more marks and we are to go back next week. I tried on my pink dress and the 3 pairs of trousers and all are great. At first, the pockets in the pants were too long and you could see them through the pants legs, so I asked if she could fix the problem. She said, "keyi," gave them to a seamstress and I had them back in less than 10 minutes. I like the slacks so much that I asked if she thought the style would work for dressier fabrics. She said, "keyi," and together we selected 3 more fabrics and decided to do away with pockets all together, front and back as they are to be dressier. I will be able to pick them up next Wednesday.

When it was time to settle the bill, which we'd discussed the previous visit as I selected each item. She totaled it all up and then said "wu bai san shi kuai qian." This is 530 rmb, which comes to about $66.25. The gown is 290 rmb, which is about $36.25. The same gown, would cost more than $290. It's made from Thai silk with a silk lining and is floor length. It's for the Marine Corps Birthday Ball. I'm told it's the event of the year. Next month is the beginning of ball season. I know of 3 that we will going to for certain and there are others that are possibilities.

I could definitely get used to this tailor perk. Now, if only I had a stylist to help me design/select clothes... Annie!!! Help!!!

Monday, October 02, 2006

Bagels in China

This bagel shop is not far from Jack and Jed's school, a few miles from our house. They have great, home made bagels and on Fridays they sell Challah, but you can only buy one because they don't have many and they want to be fair to anyone who might want one. They have a full menu just like a bagel shop in the US. It's owned by a really sweet Chinese man who, I think, is married to an American. They grow their own organic ingredients and even make their own ice cream. Oh, and of course, like everywhere else here, they deliver, free of charge.


As I walked into an open-air fruit and vegetable market last week, I heard a very loud chorus of crickets. I looked around and saw this display. The small round basket woven balls each contain a cricket. They were for sale as pets. I should have asked the price but I didn't. Sorry. I'm told that in the winter, some people keep these pet crickets in their breast pockets to keep them warm.