Sunday, December 31, 2006

Our Visit to the Great Wall

On December 26th, we visited the Great Wall for the first time. We went to a place that is less than an hour from our house. There is a cable car to get up to the Wall and you can walk 2 to 3 km and take a tabogen down! Jack and Jed had a great time and were troopers through the walk and loved the ride down. Jack rode with Aunt Annie and Jed rode with Daddy.

After the hike, we went to a western restaurant in an old school house. It was very nice.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

On Saturday we visited Temple of Heaven. It is known in China as the center of the Universe. It is beautiful and it was fun to be there with my Mom, Dad, Annie, Colin and the boys (minus Huck.)

These men are playing Chinese chess.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Expatriate Wives' Prayer

Another Attache spouse sent this to me and I thought I'd post it. I am sure it won't have the same meaning but maybe it will give you a bit of a glimpse into the craziness that is our lives...

The Expat Wives Prayer
Heavenly Father,
look down on us,
your blessed and humble expat wives,
traveling this earth to lands unknown.
We beseech You, Oh Lord,to see that our plane is not hijacked,
our luggage is not lost or pillagedand our overweight baggage goes unnoticed.
Give us Divine Guidance in our selection of houses, cooks, maids, drivers and gardeners.
We pray that the telephone works, the roof doesn't leak,the power cuts are few,
and the rats and cockroaches fewer.

Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from weevils.
Save us this day and our daily dread - of traffic jams.
Lord, please lead us to good, inexpensive restaurants where wine is included in the meal
- not dysentery.
Have mercy on us, Lord, if it be the latter.
Make us fleet on foot to make it on time,
and strong in the knee in case we have to squat.
Give us wisdom to tip in currencies not yet understood,
and help the natives love us Lord, for what we are,
and not for what we appear to be worth.
Grant us the strength to smile at our maids over shrunken laundry and broken treasures remembering our own mistakes in menial matters.

Give us Divine patience when we again explain OUR way of doing things.
Almighty Father, keep our husbands from comparing us to the foreign women,
save them from making fools of themselves in night clubs,
and please, Lord,do not forgive them their trespasses,
for they know exactly what they do.
Forgive our expensive treats at Duty Free,
for our flesh is weak.
Dear God, protect us from bargains we do not need or cannot afford.

And lastly, Lord,when our expat years are over, grant us the favor of finding friends who will look at our photographs and listen to our stories so that our lives as Expat Wives will not have been in vain.

Tis the Season

Jed and Huck both had shows to celebrate the season. Here are the boys in their costumes. Jed and his class made their own bells. Huck's teachers made his classmates' costumes. Each 1.5 to 3 year old wore an adult size polo shirt. Huck's was "Burberry", of course. There were many designers represented, all purchased locally.

My Mom and sister arrived this week and we all, minus Huck, went to a Hanukah candle lighting at the Israeli Embassy on Tuesday night. It was an Attache event, so Mom and Annie got to experience our dipolmatic lifestyle. They enjoyed meeting our friends from Israel, India, Czech Republic, Canada, Australia, Chile, Greece and more. Even the Ambassador from Israel was there! Annie wanted to break out in song with "We are the World", instead, we sang Hava Nagila. It was wonderful!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Outback in China

For Jed's birthday, we went to Outback Steakhouse. Unlike most things here, it was quite pricy. We paid about $80 for a lunch for three! Here are pictures.

Christmas in China

Here is Huck, sitting on Santa's lap at the party at our compound's clubhouse. Very interesting!

Squatty Potty revisited.

You asked for it, you got it. Because many of you requested a photo of a squatty potty, here is one. This is a very clean one. I won't go into detail but suffice to say that most of them are not nearly so clean. When I took Jack into one once, I carefully took off his pants so they wouldn't have a chance to touch the floor.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Pictures from Tom's Mom and Dad

Here are some pictures that Tom's Dad took while he was here. Two were taken at the wholesale farmers' market. They show good examples of the people we encounter at the markets. Most are smiling and happy to see us. It's nice. One picture is of a gardener in our compound and one is of Mom and Dad with the tailor, Xiao Shi, after they had a pair of jeans made for Mom and 3 pairs of corduroys made for Dad.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

A massive market

Yesterday, my neighbor took me to a market where I experienced complete sense overload. It was so overstimulating, at first I couldn't focus enough to see things and decide to make a purchase. In the end, though, I managed.

Christmas is making its way into China. The market was FULL of holiday deorations. I bought LED blue and white lights for 4.50 per 20 meter strand. I bought gift bags, non holiday themed. The small ones were 24 cents per bag, whle the larger ones were 36 cents each, I think. I bought candles that say Happy Birthday, some in English and some in Chinese. I bought a cell phone holder that fits on a belt, for Tom. It cost 8 kuai. I also got packing tape, as there was a business supply floor.

One weird phenomenon in a market such as this one is that it's filled with vendors selling similar or same items and each might have different prices. So, for instance, I bought a set of candles for 10 kuai and then moved down the way and decided I needed more and they were 8 kuai. It may not seem like a big difference, only 24 cents, but to a local, it's a lot and we only saw one other westerner in the several hours we were there.

The place was JAMMED with people. Each floor, of the 5 or 6 floors had different types of items. The basement had lights, the first floor had decorations of all sorts, one floor was leather goods, one was underwear and socks. Incredible. Thousands of socks under one roof. My neighbor was looking for a specific undershirt for his wife but it's a summer item so they don't stock it now. They eventually told him that if he wanted 10 million, they'd get them for him. They were totally serious. The Chinese are big on layering clothing. They wear thick long underwear under their clothes in the winter, so this was a big item in the underwear floor. I must say, the long underwear makes a BIG difference. Tuesday I wore some on our market expedition and I wasn't cold at all in 20 degree weather. It was great, and that was with my 25 year old pink cotton ones. So, yesterday I bought some good Chinese ones and Friday I will go where my ayi told me to go to get them for the boys.

We also had lunch at the market. They have a food court on the upper level. It's full of small restaraunts, like in a US food court but it's all Chinse food, of course. You select from the dishes displayed and pay a price like: 2 meat dishes and 1 vegetable dish plus rice or 3 and 2 or whatever. The container is about 6 inches by 4 inches by 2 inches, and they just pile each dish on top of the other as you select it and they give you the same size container full of rice and the cost for 3 dishes was 5 kuai, about 63 cents. That's how we know it's truly a local place.

Of course they also had the squatty potties and I did take a picture, due to popular demand. I will post it tomorrow.

Finally, a word abuot parking. We parked on the street about half a mile from the market and a parking attendent came to the car and asked how long we would be. We told him about 2 hours, so we were charged 4 kuai. It turned out to be quite a bit longer and we speculated what would happend when we returned to the car. When we opened the doors, the man quickly returned and while laughing and smiling talked about the fact that it was much longer than we'd said and we owed another 4 kuai. No worries, though, we paid and off we went. I guess it's a better method that the meter b/c they get their money and we don't get towed!

Monday, December 04, 2006

Have you ever wondered what a water chestnut looks like?

Today at the market, we found fresh water chestnuts.

More birthday party pictures

Jed's birthday party

We had Jed's birthday party on the 26th so that Grandma and Grandpa could be at the festivities. Jed had a great time. He invited his whole class and all but one child came, and he also invited a few extras so we had 16 kindergartners and 2 siblings. Each child had a parent or ayi with him or her.

I hired a store called "Happyland" to come to our compound clubhouse function room. They brought the art activities including two pottery wheels, pottery to paint, beads, gel paint window clings, and more, plus the bouncy castle. I ordered pizza from Dominoes and made a cake. The Spongebob items and party bags full of practical jokes like the snake in a can of peanuts were from an online order I placed months in advance. I took the mylar balloons to a local shop and they filled them with helium for me. I went to a new bakery that makes beautiful cakes and inquired about a Spongebob cake. The make a great looking one that is a little larger than a 9x13 pan. The cost: 450 rmb, which is nearly $60! I just couldn't do it, so I made the cake myself. It was from a box and decorated with spongebob sugar decorations purchased at the bakery for $8 for a 8 little candies! I got a lot of compliments on the cake, no one asked if it was from a box. :-) Don't ask, don't tell.

Everyone had a great time. Poor Huck and Tom had to miss it because Huck was sick. We missed them.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Meat Market

This market is downtown in the basement of one of the busy markets where we shop for everything from toys to purses. The meat appears to be fish and much of the fish and sea life is actually so fresh it's still swimming or flopping around. It's very crowded and smelly, though. I'd be hard pressed to actually make a purchase there. It's a must see on our list of tourist sights, though.

At the top, in case it isn't clear, those are turtles and crabs, for sale as food. I think the middle and bottom are self explanatory, unfortunately.

The Market

Trucks arrive at the markets packed very afficiently. The man pictured with the cabbage told us that if they stacked the cabbage any way but this particular direction, they'd all fall out.

It has gotten very cold here so people are starting to cover their vegetables with blankets. I've been told that once the real cold hits the merchants keep their fruits and vegetables covered with just one sample showing so customers know what is being sold.

My friend bought 40 pounds of carrots for 2 dollars.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Beijing Ferrari

Every time we go to the tailor, there is a particular car parked across from the door. I don't think it's hers but it could be, after all, she's a very good tailor and it's possible her business would help her afford a Ferrari like this one!

The rehydration was temporary and Huck ended up back in the ER on Friday morning and was admitted to Beijing United Family Hospital. It's an international, western-run hospital. The doctors are all western trained. The care was excellent. Huck had a private room. He was hooked up to an IV and was given fluids rapidly at first and then more slowly. The nurses are Chinese but all speak English. Every single person in the hospital thought Huck was a girl. Huck lost between 2 and 3 kilograms. Of course everything is done in the metric system, so sometimes I was a bit lost. At the beginning of his stay, when they'd take his temperature, I had to ask for a conversion. When we first got there, his temperature was nearly 40 degrees (103.5). He's all better now.

Sick Huck

Huck has been sick for the past week. One thing that is different about living here is that you can't just run to the corner Walgreens to pick up Pedialyte. In fact, you can't just run ANYWHERE to get Pedialyte. They don't have it. I took Huck to the doctor on Monday and they gave me a powdered solution that I could mix with water and get him to drink. He wouldn't drink it, though. He got dehydrated and I took him to the ER on Wednesday night. Thank goodness we have a driver right now. Xiao Shang took Huck and me to the hosptital and waited 4 hours for us to be finished. All with a smile on his face. Huck got 750 ml of fluids and looked better when we left.