Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The latest

Today we took Jack and Jed to one of the markets we frequent. Tom wanted to introduce the boys to some of the vendors whom we shop from on a regular basis because the women always ask to meet them. It was fun to see the boys interact, in Chinese. The women were delighted to hear Jack introduce himself and tell a little about himself. Our "pearl lady" was especially delighted and she gave the boys little gifts of magnetic bracelets/necklaces that they love to play with at home.
Next, we took them to the toy market. They'd never seen it and they had a lot of fun. We let them choose a toy and we took a train home to Huck.
After shopping, we took them to McDonalds. They've eaten McDonalds 3 times since we moved last June.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Today I paid $11 for a double pack of Thomas' English Muffins

Enough said...

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

another sign

Tom in Nanjing

Tom took a 2 day business trip to Nanjing, the former southern capital. He took a long cab drive to take care of some business and asked the driver to wait for him since there were no taxis to be found. He tended to his business and returned 45 minutes later to find the trunk open and the driver's shoes resting on the ledge. The driver was nowhere to be found.

Tom looked around and could find no sign of the driver, except for the shoes, so he called the cell phone number the driver had given Tom upon his departure from the taxi. Suddenly, there was a stirring from inside the taxi. The driver was asleep in the back seat. He quickly jumped up and hustled to the back of the car, changed from his slippers into his shoes, and got into the front seat to take Tom back to the hotel. (Yes, I did say he changed from his slippers... I guess he didn't want his shoes to soil the white cover on the seats. I don't know why his socks wouldn't suffice.)

Uh Oh

Well, my orchid isn't fairing to well. I have now moved it to the window where humidity will gather, if there is any. I will water it more often as well.

Funny Beijing signs

Monday, March 12, 2007

I did it

Yesterday I made my first return at a store in China. Last week I bought three batteries to replace some button batteries from Jack's math toy. I knew the battery number and saw the same number on some just-arrived batteries at the store (after having looked and looked for them at that store and others), so I bought them. When I got home, I found that while the numbers were the same, the size was not. So, I had a dilemma. To return or not to return. I knew that returning would involve a number of unpleasant steps. I'd have to get to the store, speak entirely in Chinese, and persuade the worker or manager to give me my money back. But, it was the principle of the matter, so decided to muster the courage and do it.

I approached the cashier and showed her the batteries, both old and new. In basic Chinese, I explained that I bought the new ones to replace the other ones but they are not the same. Since this is China, two workers took the batteries over to the display to check to see if they could find a match. Of course they could not. After a brief discussion amongst themselves they decided it would be ok to give me my money back... VICTORY!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

The boys

Here are Jed, Huck and Jack on a lazy Sunday morning...

Australian Ball

Last night we attended the Australian Ball. We were invited on Friday by our Australian friends, who's colleague informed them of some extra tickets, and the ball was Saturday! Tom borrowed a tux from a friend of ours because it was black tie but no uniforms. The theme was the Great Barrier Reef. It was a lot of fun. The Aussies really know how to party. The band was fabulous. They started with jazz, went on to some standards, and then to rock and roll. We left before midnight but the party was far from over, they even had breakfast on the schedule. These pictures are of my girl friends from China, Australia, England and the US (from left to right), The Navy band, the sorbet course and the bread plate.

Australian Ball, Great Barrier Reef Theme

These pictures, from top to botom are: us with the mermaids who greeted everyone as we arrived, us at the entrance, and the Ambassador from Australia.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007


I'm not sure if I've posted about this before, but trash is a big problem here. The main issue is that people do not properly dispose of trash. People will toss trash just outside the door of their house and it piles up and never gets cleaned. It's so strange. There are trash cans, but they often go unused. I took a picture of the cute trash cans in Pingyao, you can see it at snapfish. The trashcans were nice and plentiful, but there was still trash on the ground.

While we waited for our bus to pull away at one stop, we saw one of the group organizers take the box of trash that had been collected on the bus from the bus, to the parking lot behind the bus. She just left it there. This is a beautiful country but because of the trash and the pollution, no one ever notices the beauty. We have mountains not far from here. On a clear day, we an actually see them but that only happens once or twice a month. Yesterday was one of the clearest days we've had and a friend of mine, who has been here for three years, said she'd never seen the mountains like she saw them yesterday. She had no idea they are as big as they are. If the air was clean, this would be a wonderful place to live (if it weren't so far from all of you) and a great tourist destination. (If the air AND the ground, I should say.)

Beijing Military Attache Corps Spouse (BMACS) Trip

March 2-5, I took part in the People's Liberation Army (PLA), Ministry of National Defense, Foreign Affairs Office (MNDFAO) sponsored trip for the BMACS group. There were 70 of us on the trip. In addition to the 8 Americans, there were women from Belgium, Singapore, Italy, Tanzania, Bangladesh, Zambia, Algeria, Zimbabwe, Mali, Kenya, Burundi, Finland, Ukraine, Japan, Turkey, Netherlands, Switzerland, Vietnam, Indonesia, Russia, Belarus, South Korea, North Korea, Australia, Germany, Austria, Greece, India, Slovak Republic, UK, Poland, Chile, Brazil, Spain, Uruguay, Mexico, Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador. There were also 17 PLA officers and some spouses. The trip occurs every year, to coincide with International Women's Day. March 8.

We took an overnight train to Taiyuan. The station was very crowded. Getting in was a major chore. Chinese do not like to line up. It is not in their culture to do so. There was just a huge crowd shoving in to the building. Getting from the entrance down to the train was also a challenge. There are no elevators. The only way down was two flights of cement stairs. One had a narrow ramp to the side so one could pull a wheeled bag down the stairs but the other had no such thing. At the train, there were people in their pajamas getting on, pushing their way... The train left at 9:45 pm on Friday and we arrived in Taiyuan at 7 in the morning. We travelled in what they call a soft sleeper, 4 people per compartment. I was in a compartment with 3 women from our embassy. It was a lot of fun. There were two toilets for every two cars. One was a western style toilet and the other a squatty potty. The western one, though, had a cloth cover so it was pretty gross. As the evening wore on, people started to get prepared for sleep and if one ventured out of her compartment at an inopportune time, you might see a Chinese man in his underwear!!! You can see pictures of many of these things at the link in the other post.

The PLA kept us busy. They put together a very nice trip. We stayed in a lovely hotel and the meals were very nice Chinese feasts. We travelled by 3 buses, in a motorcade with several black cars and flashing lights. The PLA being the PLA, they could not resist treating the American women to their typical antics. In Chinese, the word for the number 4 is "si" as is the word for death, they two words are just said with different tones. The number 4 is therefore thought to be bad luck.(people don't want phone numbers or house numbers with 4 and you can even pay extra to get a mobile phone number without a 4) The color white is the color of mourning. So, it goes without saying that our bus would be number 4 and be white. This might seem like I am really being negative and searching for problems, but I must tell you that there were only THREE buses (makes a bit more sense to call them 1, 2, and 3 rather than3, 4 and 5) and the other two buses were green. Hmmm. I understand that our governments cannot always agree on certain matters but we wives have very little to do with that, so it would be nice to be left alone. We enjoyed the time on the bus, though, it was fun to be with all the women. We deduced that our tour guide must be a struggling singer/actress. She took several opportunities to sing for us during drives.

After breakfast at our hotel, we went to visit Taiyuan Social and Children's Welfare Center, an orphanage. I was prepared for depression at this point, but I must say the children appear to be well cared for. I noticed a little girl with nail polish that was coming off a bit, indicating that it was they were not just painted for our visit. The children were all smiling, as were their caregivers. The center has 300 children in its care but most have been placed with foster families or adopted. Most have some special needs but the physical problems are treated with therapy and the defects are corrected with surgery. I took American Flag pins and lollipops to give to the kids and as a group, we presented them with new toys and clothing.

Our visit to the orphanage was covered by press, as you can see in the pictures and we were on the cover of the city paper as well as the province paper. We were in Shanxi province.

We had lunch a traditional Chinese restaurant. It was enormous and had live fish and reptiles one could choose for a meal. Several of the Americans decided to sit together at a table in the corner. A PLA officer informed us that the table we'd chosen was a tenth table but we were only allowed to have nine. We pointed out that our table was full while others had some empty seats. We went back and forth and he became somewhat irate, imploring us to cooperate. Finally, we conceded and moved. After we'd all found seats throughout the room, we looked and saw the PLA officers had seated THEMSELVES at our table. I'd say this was UNBELIEVABLE, but I can't say any of us were truly surprised.

We also visited a temple and a vinegar making facility and cultural museum and in the evening, we were hosted at a reception given by the Commander of the Shanxi Provincial military region. The dinner was very nice. We were notified ahead of time that we were expected to provide entertainment for the evening. The spouse group sang the song, "Ode to Joy" in English, Russian, German, Spanish and Chinese. We also sang another song in English, French and Chinese. Then, several national groups sang songs from their own countries. The American women repeated last year's lip sync of the Supreme's song, "Stop in the Name of Love." I joined them, against my better judgement, after being strongly coerced.

On Sunday, we visited the ancient town of Pingyao. It is one of the four ancient cities preserved here. It is a beautiful, preserved or rebuilt, town. The city is walled and has 6 gates. From a bird's eye view, the city is shaped like a turtle, which is a symbol for longevity. Each gate is a part of the turtle: 4 legs, a head and a tail. It would have been a lovely day had it not been for the terrible weather. All weekend, we had rain, snow, high winds and brutal cold. So, sightseeing was not the most fun. It made for some nice pictures, though. We had lunch in a hotel in Pingyao. As we were leaving, we noticed the staff had carried two wash bins to the tables and were washing the dishes at the table! We tried to get pictures, but every time we tried, the women would run from the tables! Finally, we visited the Qiao Family Mansion, which was featured in the movie, "Raise the Red Lantern."

We passed many taxis and our guide pointed out there are different colored lights on the taxis. She explained that the red light cabs are very good, blue lights are good and yellow are normal. If you lose something in a red cab, the driver will get it back to you!

We flew back to Beijing on a flight that was delayed by weather. We departed at about 11:30 pm. It was the worst take off and landing I've ever experienced. I don't know if the pilot had been drinking or what was going on, but for the first time ever, on an airplane, I thought we might die. I was VERY glad to be back in Beijing... Who'd have thought that would happen???

Beijing Military Attache Corps Spouses' Trip

Here is a link to the photos from my Taiyan trip.

You can sign in to Snapfish to view them, it's easy to create an accountt. It's free and easy, sorry to do it this way but there are too many photos to post on the blog.

Summer Palace and Aunt Diane

Last week, my Aunt Diane came to Beijing. She was visiting for a business trip but I got to see her for most of the day on Thursay. It was a lot of fun to have her here, all the way from Arizona. We went to see the Summer Palace, the summer "home" to the Emporer and the Empress. It was need to see but we had more fun shopping at the silk market where she got to see Tom in action as the great bargainer he is!
Red hair is very rarely seen here, in China. Diane said that she came through a doorway and a little girl looked at her, gasped and pointed at her.