Wednesday, April 30, 2008

All's well that ends well...

My Mom and Dad sent us a beautiful Challah tray for our anniversary. When it arrived, the glass on top was shattered.

I decided to find a way to get it replaced here. SO after visiting 2 different framing shops, I found one that said "no problem."

They asked if I wanted the glass to be sanded and rounded. Of course I said yes, I wanted it to be exactly like the piece that had broken. They said it would be extra for the work involved, so I asked how much. 50 rmb, about $7.35. The girls in the shop are very nice. They like to chat and I've been there several times, so they know our family a little bit.

A few days later, the girls from the shop called to say the glass had come in to the shop but it was scratched so they would need to make another one and it would be a few more days. I thanked them for letting me know and they said they'd call when it was ready. A few days later, they called to say it was ready, so I went to retrieve it.

When they showed me the tray, the glass looked great, but there was a piece of glass caught under the tray so they took the glass tray off of the wood to get the chip out and when they tried to put it back on, the screws wouldn't go in right. After about 15 minutes, I said I'd come back later. They said they would call me when it was ready and perhaps they could deliver it to me.

The next day, they called to say it was ready and they could bring it to my house in about 30 minutes. I was thrilled but when they arrived and I inspected the tray, the edge of the knife and the bottom were both damaged. It was clear that the tray had been dropped but when I asked them about it, as is typical here, they just looked at it and back at me, as if they couldn't see what I was talking about. Tom and I said again and again that we were very unhappy about it but they insisted it had been that way when I brought it in to the shop. We were both very upset and there was a lot of arguing back and forth (in Chinese). I disputed their assertions, all the while wondering what, if anything, would be done. It's not like in the US where you can insist that something like this be fixed, or replaced, at the expense of the shop. There is no accountability here.

The girls began to leave, without payment. Then I began to feel bad. They are nice girls and I didn't want them to get in trouble, so I chased after them and tried to give them the money. I explained to them, as I gave them the money, that all I had really wanted was for them to admit what had happened and say they were sorry. Suddenly, they changed their manner. They said the money is not important and that they talked to their boss who wanted me to come in to the shop so she could see for herself and try to make it right.

I really did not want to agree to this. I figured that nothing good would come of it and it's enough of a challenge just to communicate. I just wanted to call it a loss and move on, but they insisted, so we set up a time to meet and on Monday I took the tray in to meet with the boss. She looked at it and again insisted that it could not have happened at the shop but said that since I am a good customer, she wanted to try to fix it. I was worried that it would just be made worse, so I tried to refuse, but she said she would make it better, so I left it. A few days later, the shop assistant called to say it was ready and that they would bring it back to me. About 20 minutes later, a man I'd never seen before, who introduced himself as the shop owner's friend, brought the tray back to me.

As you can see from the pictures, it is better. You can still see there was damage, but it is definitely better. It was quite an ordeal, but now it's over and we can move on...

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Addition to previous posting...

I left my friend's house tonight, to walk home with Huck and Zeke. It was 70 degrees. Zeke was dressed in a velvet one piece outfit. My friend's ayi put two blankets over him and was shocked that I didn't have a hat for him. She went into my bag, pulled out the nursing shawl and put it around his head.

However, I am not so bad. Last month, when Zeke turned 3 months, our ayi said we should start giving him some food. I said, "no, not yet." She said, "just applesauce and bananas, is good." So I told her that in America, doctors advise us to wait until about 6 months because waiting reduces the risk of allergies and diabetes. She thought this over and then told me she started her son on food at 3 months and now he is allergic to eggs and peaches and that maybe if she'd waited, he wouldn't have the allergies.

So, maybe she doesn't think I'm a complete knucklehead of a mother...

Friday, April 18, 2008

We Have A Lot To Learn

We have a lot to learn from the Chinese, or so I am told by our ayi and driver.

I know that the ayi thinks that Huck gets sick because we don't dress him in warm enough clothes. She's said so when he's been sick in the past. This week, I started to move the boys' clothes around. I wanted the warm weather clothes to be in their drawers, so I started to pull the cold weather items out and put them in piles on the floor. She came into the room and said she'd planned to do the task later in the day, so I happily went about doing something else. (Yes, I love this life!)

Later, she told me she'd moved Jack and Jed's clothes and put away things that are too small for them. She said she wanted to wait a week or so to do Huck's clothes since he gets sick if he's too cold. I knew she'd have a reaction when he got home from school that day because I'd dressed him in long shorts and a short sleeved shirt. She didn't say anything but the next day, when he came down with a fever of nearly 104, she said it was because he was in short sleeves the day before! It was 80 degrees. Ah, I have a lot to learn.

On Thursday, I took Huck and Zeke to the doctor for check ups. Zeke hates to be in his carseat and he cries for much of the drive when we are in the car. I try to keep him calm but sometimes there's nothing to do to help. After about 20 minutes of crying on the way home, our driver turned to Tom and explained that Chinese people hold their babies in the car so they don't cry. Tom explained that in America you go to jail and have to pay money if the police catch you doing that. I interjected to make sure Tom told the driver that, more importantly, it's dangerous! They just hate to hear babies cry.

Finally, yesterday, Xing Ayi had Zeke laying on the bed and was running her hands from his chest to his toes. She went on to explain that when her son was a baby, her mother told her that she should do this to make him taller. Lo and behold, at 13, he is now taller than both his mom and dad! Hmmm.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Jed's assembly

Last week, 3 of the 6 first grade classes had an assembly. Here is Jed. Also, this is the elementary school song, which they sing at each assembly and the birthday song, which they sing to the birthday kids each month.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

And you won't believe this...

Look at the picture below.

On that day, Tom was listening to the radio and heard a report related to the upcoming Olympics and the pollution. The Chinese government stated that in the past year, they had 270+ blue sky days. There is no way that is true. They went on to say that that day was a blue sky day.

You be the judge. Does the sky look blue to you?

Monday, April 07, 2008

Not Unusual

Here is a picture I quickly snapped on my walk yesterday. I now try to remember to put my camera in my pocket whenever I go on my walks because I never know what I might see.

We see people doing moronic things like this every day. We've even seen people sitting on a pile of dirt or trash or some other load, high upon a truck bed, reading a book!

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

This was my day today...

Double takes are a regular occurance here. This morning was no different. I have written often about things that make me look twice and today was no exception.

At 9:45 this morning I headed out on walk with a friend. We headed out the gate of our compound and I wish I could say that what we saw stopped us in our tracks but it didn't... this is China, after all. What it did cause us to do is REALLY regret we didn't have our cameras with us.

We saw a man in a manhole. Only his head was sticking up from it. There were no orange cones, no safety ropes, no flag, not even another guy nearby to make sure 1) no one accidentally stepped into the hole, nor 2) a car didn't drive over it and knock the guy's head off!!!

As we walked on, we felt like a zoo attraction. Trucks were slowing down, workers leaning out of the windows to gape at the two waiguoren (foreigners) walking with no destination (a truly foreign concept here... why would you walk, only to turn around and go back for no reason?) This happens to us regularly but today it seemed like every car with blue license plates (foreigners have black plates) that passed slowed down. Even cyclists turned to look and one guy had square goggles on... and HE was staring at US!

The sky was blue today, giving the impression that there would be fresher air but it was so windy that after five minutes of walking outside, we were covered with a layer of dirt. YUCK.

I decided that since spring has arrived, I'd like to put some flowers outside our front door. I told our ayi that I wanted to go to a flower market and she said the better place was a stand near her house where the price is 1.50 rmb (about 21 cents) for a small flower plant. I said that would be great but then on our walk, I asked a street side vendor what her price is and it is 2 rmb, (about 28 cents). I knew I could bargain a little so I decided it was not worth it to drive in traffic for a 1/2 hour each way to save 7 cents per plant. It is a delicate situation, though. I can't just say it's no big deal to spend the extra money because to her, it's not so little. So I explained that what I'd save in the price, would be spent on the gas and I would bargain for a better price anyway. She agreed.

I drove to the vendor and bought 17 small plants and 1 planter (the white one in the picture) I already had the two wooden ones. Total price... 48 rmb (about $7). The top picture shows one of the vendor's carts riding by the perimeter of our compound. There is a bike at the front, not pictured. They will deliver your flowers at no extra charge if you don't have a car. This little girl spends her days with her mother, at a road side stand. I see them almost every day. You can see she is bundled in layers, that is very typical of how they dress their children in winter, she will be dressed like this until May 1, when winter ends for them (adults will wear long underwear until then as well) and she is wearing the traditional split pants, which make diapers unnecessary. They just squat wherever they are when nature calls and the pants open up... I'm not sure about the logic of wearing the heavy layers to keep the kids warm (a big worry of theirs) while keeping the most sensitive of body parts open to the elements!

The other part of this story is that when the driver came to get Huck this morning, I told him that when Huck came home, I wanted to go shopping for flowers. He answered me, using more than my limited vocabulary, but I know he said something about delivering Huck and coming home and I know for sure that I said "When Huck comes home, then I want to go buy flowers." but I confirmed what he had said was right and off he went to take Huck to school. I went about my morning business, checking email, calling Mom, etc., then I told Ayi that I was going for a walk. She said "did you tell my husband (driver) that you want to buy flowers?" I said "yes, after Huck comes home." Then I realized that we must have had miscommunication and I asked her if he was outside waiting. She said he was. I apologized and explained and told her what I'd said and that I must have misunderstood him.

I felt bad, because usually he just goes home to wait for the time to pick Huck up from school because his house is about 5 minutes from the school. He made the trip back to my house for nothing. Oh well.

Once again, what we had was a failure to communicate.

It's a common occurrence for me. I can speak and make myself understood most of the time, but the problem with that is that people then assume you know a lot more that you actually do and they come back at you speaking quickly and using words that are unfamiliar, leaving you to fake your way through it and sometimes, it doesn't work out...