Sunday, March 30, 2008

I never would have imagined...

Ah the Life

I posted a bit ago about Jack's class taking a field trip to a pharmacy and health center where he and his class mates received foot massages...
Well, over spring break, last week, when I asked him what he wanted to do, he said he wanted to go get a foot massage! It's less easy, now, to go places since we have the baby. While chatting with friends, they mentioned that there's no need to go out for massages and beauty treatments because the places will come to your home!
So, on Saturday, we called the salon we frequent and asked them to send over some girls to do foot massages. At 11:00, two girls arrived and we set up the living room. Everyone, except Zeke, who looked on, received a 1/2 hour foot massage (a first for everyone except for Jack) and I also got a pedicure, right in our living room-- no extra charge! The whole deal cost about 200 rmb, which, with the weakening dollar, now is about $28.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Baseball article

This article explains a lot. It is written by a guy in our little community.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Major League Baseball in China

Yesterday Tom, Jack, Jed and some of our attache friends went to a baseball game at one of the olympic venues. The Dodgers played the Padres. They had a great time. I didn't go because Huck wasn't feeling well, so Tom took our driver in using my ticket. You can see him here, playing with the boys.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

McDonalds in our neighborhood

We now have a McDonald's Restaurant about a mile from our house. It was so crowded the first few weekends it was open that the wait was over an hour. Despite requests from the boys, we waited to try it. Also, the parking lot only has about 15 spots, which means that it's a treachorous adventure. You have to dodge cars, backing in and out of random pockets of space. The street outside the place is jammed with cars at busy times.

Yesterday evening, I asked the boys if they'd like to have McDonald's for dinner. Of course, they said yes. So, I left them at home with the Ayi and drove to the small parking lot and found a spot since it was not even 5:00 yet. The first thing I noticed was a group of 8 teen-aged Western boys sitting at counter, eating and "hanging out." Everyone else in the place was Chinese. Right outside the door was a black sedan, waiting for the boys, driver asleep behind the wheel. Not something you'd see in the burbs back home too often.

I began to place our order, using Chinese, but quickly realized that I must have missed the McDonald's menu lesson in my Chinese class. So, the cashier pulled out the "stupid westerner menu with pictures". I pointed and said how many of each thing. I would have been ok had Huck not asked for ice cream. I pointed to the item that looked like ice cream. It was white and in a cup and looked like a scoop of soft ice cream. I said I wanted one and she asked me something I could not understand, at all. So, I pointed again and tried to say I wanted it in a cup, not a cone, so she asked me something again and her sidekick said something to her and they decided they had their answer. I felt satisfied until the began to set the order in front of me and it turned out what I'd ordered was an iced coffee drink of some sort, with whipped cream on top. Scary thing is that it was modified in some way since they knew I didn't want something that usually came with it.

Oh well. It turns out there is a back side to the menu and on it is a lovely picture of an ice cream cone. SO I placed another order for the ice cream, which Huck later took one bite of and said it was too cold!

While I waited for the whole order to be put together, I observed my surroundings and saw 3 workers at the chicken nugget station having a conversation and looking closely at a particular nugget. After about a minute, the group dispersed and the last remaining man popped the offending nugget in his mouth and went back to work.

Growing up abroad

This morning Huck was looking at a book we've had since Jack was a baby. It is a board book that has places to put pennies and count them and at the end is a plastic bank for storing the pennies. It never really worked out that way because the pennies we originally put in there got stuck. We eventually removed all but one, which remains today.

So, Huck was looking at the book this morning, got to the end and said "Look Mommy, there's a kuai!" (Chinese money) He can count money, but not American money, only Chinese, I guess I'd better work on that.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

We're Living the Expat Life

I posted last week about Jack getting a foot massage, which is, obviously, something he would not have experienced if we were living back home in the US. Something happened on Friday night that made me really laugh and marvel at this life we currently lead.

Jed went to a friend's house to play on Saturday. They live in the city, so Eden's Mom picked Jed and Eden up from a birthday party and took them back to their house. They played for a while and then the family and Jed went to dinner at a restaurant where they had an acrobat show. Jed was amazed by the fact that they served a whole fish, eyes and all, at the table and even tried some, so he says. He LOVED the show and was very excited to tell us all about it when he came home. I sent him with a camera so he could take pictures of his adventure.

Since the family lives in the city and we live out in the burbs, Eden's Mom asked if it would be ok for her to send Jed home with the driver. After making sure Jed was comfortable with the set-up, I said it would be fine. She called at 8:13 to tell me that Jed was on his way home. At 9:00 I went outside to bring our car into the garage and saw a black sedan turning onto our street. It pulled up to our house and stopped. I watched for Jed to hop out but stared in awe as the DRIVER hopped out, walked around to the other side of the car and opened the door for Jed, who then hopped out, saying, "Hi Mom, I'm home." Hilarious...

I had a brief conversation with the driver, in Chinese, thanking him. He said Jed is his new friend, which Jed later confirmed, on his own, when I asked him how the ride home was. I asked if the driver spoke English. He said, "not much, and I only speak a little Chinese, but we became friends, and also I took a little nap."

When living an expat life, you may as well live like an expat, so in my quest to find a solution to Zeke's screaming in the car to and from our trip to take Huck to school in the morning, and in the process, getting overtired and overstimulated, it occurred to me that I could send Huck to school with the driver.

I knew this would be a challenge at first, since Huck is a bit of a Mama's boy, but with a bit of bribery... I mean positive reinforcement... I convinced Huck that it would be great. So, now, in the mornings, at 7:40, the driver shows up at the house. I pass him the key to the car and open the garage door. He pulls Jack and Jed's bikes out of the garage for them and they head to the bus. Using his mobile phone, Jack calls when he and Jed are seated and buckled in on the bus.

I get Huck's backpack ready, his coat on and walk with him to the entry way where I, or sometimes the driver, help him get his shoes on and then he's out the door, with a kiss, of course. The driver "Xu Xu" (pronounced Shoe Shoe and meaning Uncle) buckles him in and I watch as they pull away and drive 5 miles to school. I am upstairs, in the rocking chair, settling Zeke for his morning nap by 8:15. I am still new at this and my expat friends chide me for my reluctance at sending Huck off like that, but it's the best solution because it gets Huck to school and lets me put Zeke down for his morning nap when he's ready and not when it's convenient.

I still watch out the window for the driver to return so I know Huck has safely arrived at school. On the first day of this routine, the driver came inside and told me that the teacher was not in the classroom when he and Huck arrived at school, so he stayed with Huck, following him around the small kindergarten area, until the teacher arrived from the staff meeting!

If we lived anywhere else, of course, I'd be schlepping all over to the schools and back and Zeke would have to just deal with it, but we are living in China and I may as well be glad to have the help we have and make the most of it while it lasts!

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Nice to Meet You Mr. President

Yesterday, Former President and Mrs. Bush visited our embassy and graciously had a meet and greet for any employees or family who wanted to attend. I took Jack, Jed and Huck out of school for the occasion. The President spoke to the group and directed nice words to the children and the he and Mrs. Bush posed for a group picture with all the kids and made their way around the group to shake hands.

He then posed for a few individual photos. When a small child wanted a picture, President Bush expressed regret that he couldn't pick the child up, but he'd recently had back surgery. He then sat on the edge of the small stage to pose with the child. I seized the opportunity and nudged our boys forward for a picture. He put his arms around them and spoke to them as they posed. Then he stood back up and bade farewell. It was great. These are the photos I took with my camera, later we will get the official one that was taken from the front.

The man in the last photo is our ambassador.

Before the visit, in front of the US Embassy.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Only in China

Last week Jack's class took a field trip to a local pharmacy where they make medications. They also visited a wellness center where the entire class got to have foot massages! Both of these sites are located within walking distance of our house! Sorry these pictures aren't good quality. I took pictures of the pictures Jack's teacher put in his parent-child journal that comes home each weekend.


This week, the PTA at Jack and Jed's International School of Beijing sponsored a visit from children's book author and illustrator, David Shannon. He spent 3 full days with the children. He did reading workshops and writing workshops and book signings with each class. He gave a parent presentation and had lunch with a small group of students who studied his work in an after school activity. Jack was one of those lucky kids. All the kids did reading and projects in preparation for the visit. The halls are full of creative artwork and writings by the kids. Here is one of Jed's projects, it is displayed outside his classroom.