Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Off to school this morning

Jack and Jed both chose to wear their new soccer/football clothes to school this morning.

Just a day in our lives

Zeke up to his antics this morning.

Huck in his Chinese mode of sitting outside, waiting for Daddy.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Bday party

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Grade 2 show and pollution

Today was Jed's performance at the grade 2 assembly. It was fun to see. Sorry about the technical difficulties at the end of the video. Taking a 1 year old to these things can be a challenge. Notice the boy hiding behind Jed.

I will not miss the environment here. When I opened the curtains in Zeke's room this morning, the first thing I noticed and said out loud was, "wow, it's yellow out there today." Sure enough, on the weather forcast icon on my computer, next to the temperature (57) I just noticed the word "DUST." So, it is not my imagination. I would have thought that the rain for the past two days would have washed the dust out of the air, but I guess I was wrong.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Flower and planter shopping

Typical scene at a local flower market

The roses here are about $2 per plant.

The tall rose plants are about $10 or $11

A typical outdoor "pot" shop. Notice all the trash in the background. The place was very stinky. There's a very smelly body of water behind the trash pile.

The two planters in the foreground cost a total of about $18.

At the flower market, the vendors will plant your pots for you, no extra charge! This is definitely something I will miss.

Jed in print

Jed is in an ad for the school where he attends. The ad is running in various publications, including Beijing Kids. He is also on the website:

This photo was taken of him and his friend when they were in kindergarten.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

camping and more squatty potties


At the campsite, there was an outhouse. Now, I've seen some pretty basic outhouses in my days but this one was basic with Chinese characteristics.

You can see it is situated nearly against a stone wall and they have dug a quite shallow hole and placed planks over it for people to use it as a squatty potty. The most interesting part is that there are 4 planks, so two people could use it at the same time, in quite close quarters.

Don't think too long about the logistics of that operation...

Cub Scout Day Camp


Friday, April 17, 2009

Huck did not want to be left out.

Not to be left out, Huck wanted a video of himself, too. He said, "I want to make a random video." So, here is his version of random. He's running around saying random things...

Jack's CASTA Performance

Grade 5 is working on a production of the Chinese Opera, The Monkey King. They did a scene of night fights for us. It is supposed to be a sword fight in pitch darkness, the enemies cannot see one another.

Jed's CASTA Performance

Today was CASTA at ISB. Celebrating And Sharing The Arts. Jed's class did a song and dance.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Pollution today and glasses

Today I snapped a photo while I was in the car on the way downtown to pick up some new pairs of glasses. The pollution was so bad, the buildings not far from the expressway were obscured by the awful air. If you look closely, you can see the buildings in the near distance. Luckily, the children had inside recess at school.

Leaving the pollution would be one of the good things about leaving here in June. Paying US prices for glasses would be one of the down sides. We are stocking up, though. Jack now has 6 pairs plus 1 pair of sunglasses (our friend, who has a glasses business, gave Jack a pair last week, so I had lenses put in them for about $26.50).

When I took the frames in on Friday, I also bought 2 more pairs for myself. The total came to 1000 rmb (about $150). I only had 735 rmb in my wallet, so I told them that was all I could pay. They said I could use a credit card, but we don't do that here, plus I was using that as my bargaining tool. Next, they told me I could ask my friend for money. I said she didn't have any either (also the truth), so they said I could use her credit card. I explained that I had 735 rmb and that was all I could spend. So, after a great deal of back and forth conversation between the vendors, they said ok. So, I got 1 pair of plastic frames with lenses and 1 pair of wire frames with lenses and lenses in Jack's glasses, all for about $108. The best quality lenses cost 180 rmb (about $26.50) and the middle quality lenses cost about $18. I opted for the best quality. I figured I'd splurge. I now have 10 pairs.

Monday, April 06, 2009

and the not so good parts

The water is getting lower and lower in the floor

paint is crumbling off the wall

The baseboard is pulling away from the wall.

The floor outside the boys' room. The metal piece that marks the door frame is standing up against the door frame, the flooring is dried up and loose.

I will get the boys' (and maybe our) lead levels checked when we leave here.

As our date of departure from China approaches, I am reminding myself of the downsides to living here. I've blocked them out for the better part of the past 2 years 9 months, but it is time to remember them, or, rather, pay attention to them, again.

Not long after we first moved into our house here, we noticed a bulging in the floor outside the boys' bedroom. The workers came to investigate and told us there was a pipe with a problem. They "fixed" it and the floor and said more work would have to be done at some point.

Everything was fine until about November of last year when we noticed the floor was uneven again and then we noticed water coming from the door frame after we showered in the master bathroom.

We called the workers again. The "boss" came to investigate and told us it would be best if we did not use the shower in our bathroom. They said they would fix it but it would take 4 weeks and we'd have to cover everything because of the dust. Two major issues with this came to mind. One, 4 weeks really means twice that, probably. Two, dust? In China? This could be filled with lead or worse.

So, we told them to wait until we leave. We had Jack and Jed start showering downstairs in the guest bathroom. Huck and Zeke bathe in the 2nd upstairs bathroom. We continued to use the shower in our bathroom until last week when I noticed the problem was getting much worse and began to fear that the floor would cave in and we'd have to move out of the house. So, now Tom and I also shower downstairs. It's a big pain in the neck but not as big as having to move out of the house earlier than necessary.

This inconvenience and building toxin fest in our house is a big help in preparing me for our move. I am much less sad about leaving than I once was. Yes, I will miss my great friends, the neighborhood, the schools and, of course, the help, but I will not miss the pending disaster we call home, or several other things I will write about some other time.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

One of the best little things

One of the best little things about living here and having help is always having fresh, cut-up vegetables. Of course, in America, we can buy baby carrots and don't need to peel and cut carrots, and the same goes for other veggies, but here, we cannot. Jack likes carrots, Jed likes peppers, and Huck likes cucumbers, so we always have them around the house. On weekend days, I leave the veggies out for the family to snack on all day. I know it is really not that big of a deal, and I will do it when we move back home this summer, but for now, it is a nice luxury. I enjoy the little things...