Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Real life in China

Today we shopped one of the major markets here. We bought everything from watches to belts to luggage. All "name" brand.

All at once we saw a woman shout out and then a guard walk briskly through. They were announcing the arrival of the police. The vendors quickly closed up cases, put away trays and hid all the name brand merchandise. Shoppers continued to shop and mind their own business and a few minutes after the police passed, business resumed. It was a strange thing to see and it was the first time I'd seen it. The vendors said it happens about once or twice a week.

There's just no way for the government to police pirated merchandise. It's too wide spread. The one thing they do really prosecute is items with the logo of the 2008 olympics.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Our First Visitors

Tom's parents arrived yesterday. We are very happy to have them here. Today we started slowly. In the morning we walked the boys to the bus and Tom's parents were surprised to see the hundreds of kids and their bikes flocking to the gates of our compound. We went to a bakery to order a spongebob cake for Jed's birthday party but left quickly when we were told the small cake cost 450 kuai. ($56.50)

Next, we went to Jack and Jed's school to watch Jack in his skit about soil which he performed for Jed's class.

After lunch we visited the tailor. Tom's parents really enjoyed seeing how it works. After seeing a great pair of jeans I had made, Mom decided she must have a pair as well! We can go back in two days to get them.

It was a great first day.

Monday, November 20, 2006

The air here

The pollution was so thick today, you could see the layers of filth in the air. At the end of a day like this, you have to wash the grime off of your face and cough it out of your lungs. We have air filters in the bedrooms and now in the family room.
This is one of the downsides to living here.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Squatty Potties (Don't worry, no pictures with this post!)

Are you aware of the difference in bathroom habits between China and America?
Here they have toilets (if you are lucky) in the ground or floor. Many Western children call thse "squatty potties".

Most public restrooms are exactly that, public. An open room with several oval shaped "toilets" set in the floor. This aspect makes outings with children somewhat complicated. With boys, at least it's easy most of the time. It can be difficult if the "mood" hits, though.

Today we visited our ayi's house for the first time. While we were there, Huck said "I have to go potty." So, she took him to go (not in her house as they have public bathrooms in the villages). Later I asked Huck where he went potty at Ayi's house. He replied, "in the floor."

The past few days

Here are some examples of things I saw on the streets of our district of Beijing in the past week:
2 Monks,
at least 10 donkeys pulling carts,
3 herds of sheep,
4 taxi drivers pulled off to the side of the road, peeing, within 50 yards of one another,
a man riding a bicycle pulling a full sized sofa on a small trailor.

Huck at school

Here's Huck at school on Friday morning. He's playing with his friend, Yehudah. Huck is the only American in his class, maybe the whole school, I am not sure. Most of the kids are from Israel, Russia, and Azerbaijan. They make Challah every Friday and bake at least one other time per week. He loves the school and I continue to be amazed by the depth of the Jewish community here. There are about 1000 Jews in Beijing.

Here's Huck in his new Chinese pants. They are quilted. The Chinese think that children can never be bundled enough. The children here walk around so layered they can hardly move!

Also, here's Jed peaking around the corner from the stairs.

Here's Jack at the Cub Scout Space Derby. The white shuttle is his creation. He won his race and you can see how pleased he was.

It's great having the cub scouts here. It's cool because it's an American organization it's here in China and only a third of Jack's den is American! There are boys from Hong Kong, Malaysia/Germany, Indonesia, Australia and China.

Jed's day

Here's Jed before soccer at the playground (they call it the Outdoor Learning Environment OLE) at his school before his soccer academy yesterday and then afterwards at home. He sat down on the chair, proclaimed he was tired and going to sleep... and then did!

Monks in the boonies

Yesterday, while we were driving in our district, my friend and I saw these two Monks walking around.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Tablecloth Factory and more...

My friends and I went to a tablecloth factory a while back. At the factory you can look at books of the fabrics, tell them what size you want, what border you want and they'll make you a tablecloth, table runner, napkins, whatever. They'll even do it while you wait. (We did not.) You can even get chair covers made.

We do frequent entertaining as part of the job, so getting nice looking tablecloths that wash well is a necessity. I now have some I am happy with.

It seems like shopping is a major part of life here for expats and diplomats. I guess part of the reason is that you can't just run to Target and pick up everything you need in one trip. Everything is at a different location. Each place is nowhere near the other and you can never be sure you'll find what you need because things come and go. I went to Ikea this week, looking for a wok. They did not have a big enough one so I passed. BUT, I did find something I've been in search of since we arrived 4 1/2 months ago... a full size kitchen trashcan. Everything is made in China but most of it is exported so some simple things are very hard to come by. I've been to Ikea before and they did not have full size trashcans. This little triumph is a big deal. Another big deal is that our local grocery store has started carrying Lunchables! For those of you without young children, Lunchables are premade lunches for kids. Jack loves them, so they'll make a good occassional treat for him in his lunch box. They are pricey here, $6. The grocery store has also started to carry Oscar Meyer lunch meats which will definitely help with school lunches. The school lunch menu leaves much to be desired for picky elementary aged children. I will try to post it.

Monday, November 06, 2006

The Marine Corps Birthday Ball

The Marine Corps Birthday Ball was Saturday night. We had a wonderful time. We sat with Attaches from Japan, South Africa and Bangladesh and all our friends from the embassy were there. It was fun to see people we usually see at the bus stop in the morning. Everyone cleaned up very nicely.

You can see the table setting, a few of my fellow attache wives and finally the oldest and youngest Marines in attendance. The oldest was born in 1926 and served in World War II. The youngest was born in 1986 and this is her first posting abroad. All the Marines from the Marine Security force were there. It was great. The Ambassador attended as well.

There were about 470 people there.

Friday, November 03, 2006


After living in Beijing for 4+ months, knowing the car has been here for two months, we finally have the car in our driveway. I got a call this morning saying that the car would probably be released at 3 pm today. At 2:30 I got the call saying it was released.

I decided the best way, for me, to get the car would be to take our driver with me. I had absolutely no desire to drive the car home from the city. I really didn't want to do it today because there's an Asia/Africa summit going on and they have closed he expressway. So, Xiao Shang and I got in the taxi and headed downtown. An hour and a half later, all back roads, we arrived at the embassy. Ten minutes later, I was in possession of the car. I can't remember ever being so happy to see an inanimate object.

The best part was seeing Xiao Shang's reaction to the Odyssey. I didn't know, but in his ten years as a driver (no he not 26 years old) he had never driven an automatic transmission car. So, first I had to show him how to shift into drive. I had to show him how to move his seat up. He giggled. When I opened the automatic door, he giggled. When I showed him how to adjust the rear view mirrors with the button, he giggled. When he rolled down the wrong window to pay the toll, he... yes, you guessed it, giggled. It was pretty cute. I can't wait until he sees the dvd player!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Uh Oh

We hired a driver for the months of November and December. We did this for a few reasons. First of all, we have guests coming in both months so we would have hired a driver for a few days each month to take us various places. Each day would cost 800 RMB. Hiring a driver for a month will cost 2000 RMB so that is less than 3 days. Xing Ayi's husband wants to be a driver so we hired him. It helps us and helps them.

Today was the first day he worked for us and I could really get used to this. He was waiting for Huck and me when the bus left for Jack and Jed's school. No more waiting for a taxi and giving directions. He had a smile on his face and Huck was very happy. He happily waited for me while I took Huck into school, took me home and was waiting to take me back to get Huck when it was time. For now, he is driving his own car but I heard tonight that we might get our car on Friday and then he'll drive our car.

Uh oh, this will be hard to give up after 2 months.