Wednesday, August 29, 2007

This is Why I have a Driver

You know you are in trouble when you ask for directions to the airport expressway and the response is, "which airport?" On Tuesday, I went to an attache spouse lunch downtown. I drove in a car with two friends. My driver stayed back with my car because I needed our Ayi and him to pick Huck up from school.

We reached the lunch without incident, by following a map. However, when it was time to leave, we could only get on the road going in a different direction because of a median. So we got on and then saw the sign for the road we wanted but it pointed in two different directions.

We chose the wrong direction.

Then it happened again, and again. The problem with getting turned around in a foreign land is that you cannot read the signs to get yourself back on track. The problem with getting on the freeway in the wrong direction in China is that you cannot just get off at the next exit and then get back on in the opposite direction because it's not like in the US.

So, before we knew it, we were miles away from anywhere we'd ever been. Finally, we pulled over at a gas station. I was the only one in the car who could speak any Chinese, so I hopped out of the car with a giant map in hand. Back in the US, if a pregnant woman got out of a car with a map, everyone there would be eager to help. Not so in China. I walked up to several men who just stared at me. Finally I asked, "can you please help me?"... Blank stares.

So, I tried someone else who finally helped. I asked him to show us where we were and he pointed and then he pointed us in the direction of the airport expressway.

We got back on the freeway and came upon a toll booth where I asked which way we should go to get to the airport expressway (our way home) and recieved a reply of "which airport do you want?" Oops, we were quite a distance from home, but at least that got us going in the right direction. It took us 2 hours to go what normally would take 45 minutes.

Huck's first day of school...

Here is Huck on his first day of school, Tuesday. He has moved up to the kindergarten and is now in class with 3-6 year olds. So far, so good.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Notice the mosquito bites on poor Huck's face. They get in the house and feast. Everyone has several bites. It's good we got immunized for Japanese Encephalitis.

Speaking of which, a child in the boys' school has been diagnosed with MUMPS! There's something you don't hear of every day back home.


Sometimes living in China takes a lot out of you.
Here's how I found Huck when I went to check on the boys after lights out. Jack and Jed are wound up in preparation for the weekend, Huck must have passed out while playing.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Pearl Market

After our visit to the Temple of Heaven, we walked up the street to the Pearl Market where the group enjoyed making many purchases! Here you can see our pearl lady making a double strand bracelet for a member of our group. We always shop with the same woman. She will make whatever she is asked to make. She has sea pearls and fresh water pearls, Tahitian pearls, Tibetan turquoise, amber, whatever you want. It's a lot of fun to shop with her and we don't even have to bargain because we've established a "friendship". I didn't buy anything yesterday but certainly saw some options.

Temple of Heaven

Here is a picture of the temple as well as one of my group standing in what the Chinese believe is the "center of the universe". We had to wait a minute or two and basically push our way onto the raised circle of stone to get the picture. Usually there is a long line waiting to do this but there were traffic restrictions all weekend, to practice for the olympics, so crowds and traffic were limited. it was great!

more Temple of Heaven

This is another activity the locals participate in at area parks.

Temple of Heaven

On Sunday I went to The Temple of Heaven. It is a favorite place of Beijingers. They pay the entrance fee first thing in the morning and then spend the day at the park. They gather there and participate in all sorts of activities, including ballroom dancing, chess and all sorts of exercise and games. Here are some pictures. You can see how the women store their purses while they dance or do other activities...

Starbucks in China

I went to the Starbucks at China World Hotel with a friend because we had time to kill while waiting for someone. While there, we discovered it was the first Starbucks in China. We also have Starbucks out near where we live.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Jack... the 4th grader

Jack and Jed started school on Tuesday. Jack is now a fourth grader and Jed is now a first grader. Both boys have American teachers for their homerooms and both teachers are new to Beijing and seem very enthusiastic.

We spent the days leading up to the first day at the pool and the playgrounds so I feel we got the most out of the summer, both in America and in China. The boys are happy to be back into the swing of things, back with their friends. Of course, both boys are nervous about what the new year will bring. Jack starts swimming in PE tomorrow, so they really jump right in to things.

It's back to life as usual here. The expat community is busy talking about the string of bicycle thefts in our area as well as the coming practice traffic restrictions in preparation for next year's Olympics. This Friday-Monday (inclusive) driving will be restricted. Two of the days only even numbered license plates can drive, and the other two days only odd numbered plates can drive. Luckily, diplomatic plates are exempt, so we don't have to worry about it and maybe we'll get to enjoy some blue sky (reduced pollution) days as a side effect!

Jed... the 1st grader

First Day of School 2007

Thursday, August 09, 2007


Today we visited Merry Water World. It's an indoor water park about 30 minutes from our house. It was clean but very Chinese in style. You enter the building and they send boys to the right and girls to the left. You get a wristband with a code thing on it. It opens your locker and then it keeps track of any extras you purchase. Each ride on a boat or entry in to certain sections, cost 10 rmb or more. They insist that each person wear a bathing cap but we avoided them. You have to change your shoes into slip ons they provide, but when you leave them by the side of the pools, other people take them and then you have to search for others to put on b/c it is against the rules to walk around without them. They provide a towel slightly larger than a washcloth to each person over 1.2 meters tall. So, we got two towels for Jack, Jed, Huck and me.

You have to pay when you leave. They take your coded wristband and check the total. Then you walk over to another place to pay, then you take the wristband back to the exit, where they check that you paid and then you can leave.

Jack and Jed had a good time but Huck had a rough time due to a cut on the bottom of his foot from stepping on a toy this morning. So, we didn't stay too long. We went home, Huck stayed with the Ayi, and Jack, Jed and I went to the pool here in our compound where we had a great time catching up with friends.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

We're Back

We are back in Beijing. It was so great to have time in the Great country we call home. Living abroad reminds us that America is the best country in the world. Sure, we have our issues right now, but there can be no debate about the great traits of America.

Since everyone always asks, I will say that the trip back was LONG. We had an 8+ hour delay, so it was 28 hours from point a to point b. The boys were great, though, so I can hardly complain. Jet lag has been rough. The boys are passing out in the evening as you can see.

Today I had an "only in China" experience. I was in a car, driving on a busy road, stuck in a bit of traffic. I looked over to my left, off the road a bit, maybe 15 feet from the shoulder. In a clearing of trees was a makeshift barber shop. In a chair was a man, wearing a red cape, getting a shave and a haircut. It's 95 degrees and 99 percent humidity (no exaggeration).