Tuesday, February 27, 2007

A vacation from the resort

Since Monday we've been enjoying a mini-holiday to Hong Kong with our friends. They live in Hong Kong, and are able to travel over the border using the same vehicle (a rare fortune). We stayed Monday night at the Gold Coast Hotel, which overlooks the ocean. It was a beautiful hotel with a lovely restaurant that we ate at several times. Excellent Chinese and Western foods were available. We spent the day at Ocean Park, which is sort of like Sea World, sort of Six Flags. There is a dolphin show and aquariums with jellyfish (very, very cool!), sharks and a reef. There are also many rides, including a roller coaster that makes you feel like you're about to drop into the sea and one of the rides that takes you way up high and drops you down bit by bit. I skipped both of these! Alex was very frustrated because he was too short for many of the rides he wanted to go on. We later found some kid-friendly rides and a playground, so everyone had a great time right up until closing once we found that part of the park.

This is an interesting park in that it's in several sections of a mountain, and the only way to get from one section to another is via cable car. You get taken way up, over the mountain and there is a spectacular view of the ocean and the cliffs below you. It's gorgeous.

Hong Kong is such a beautiful and successful city partly because it's based on a harbor that is so deep the ships can come right into it. There are miles of containers around the harbor, waiting to either get into the country or out onto the ocean. It's also very mountainous - the most fascinating place I've ever been to is Victoria Peak - a peak that allows a view of the city and harbor, as well as mountainous terrain. The city is 7 million people crammed onto a couple smallish islands. I think 7 miles of land. So the buildings just rise up into the sky, it seems, and at night, lit up, with the boats and the ocean and the buildings, it's just beautiful. I love Hong Kong!

Tuesday we went to Disneyland Hong Kong, and stayed at a resort here. It's similar to the Magic Kingdom in Orlando, only much smaller. It was also not very crowded because Chinese New Year just ended. Alex got to go on Space Mountain six times, and we hit the Buzz Lightyear ride many times, too. Disney is always a fantastic time for us, and this time didn't disappoint. The Chinese restaurant at the park (the fancy one) is some of the best Chinese food I've had. We all had a very tiring but magical day.

Some of you have been asking for pictures. I'm sorry to say that the charger for Tim's camera is somewhere on the ocean, making its slow journey here. I'm hoping to pick up another camera today in Hong Kong so we can start showing you what I'm trying to describe.

Some of you have also been asking what we're eating and what I'm cooking! So far we've eaten out a lot, on a constant quest for authentic Western restaurants so my kids will eat. We eat breakfast at home every day, and many pb sandwiches at home, too. I've only cooked supper at home twice - we made steak and potatoes and cheesecake Sunday night, and we made a ham once night. Many familiar foods are available, including frozen chicken breasts and there is a meat market that imports its beef and pork and lamb. So far I think we'll be okay in that we have such picky kids and I don't really know how to cook Chinese.

The Mandarin is starting to come, though I can't read it at all. We're slowly learning how to speak small things, here and there. Hopefully it will start coming quicker as the kids learn it in school and as we enjoy more adventures here in China.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Resort Life

Well, here we are in the People's Republic of China. We are getting settled in our new house; our dear friends picked us up at the Hong Kong Airport, took us through the borders and delivered us to our doorstep. You have to go through a secure border coming out of Hong Kong, and also another one coming into China. We arrived on the first day of Chinese New Year, so the roads were fairly quiet and the border lines were minimal. There have been fireworks every night, all night since we arrived. Many shops are closed for the week because everyone travels, often back to their hometown, for Chinese New Year. It's a really big deal. Public schools are out for a month and a half, and businesses close at least for the week. There are many decorations and flowers everywhere, and downtown Shenzhen had big red balloons lining the streets.

Our house is getting to feel more like home. We've been to Wal-mart and Sam's Club and everywhere we go we make quite a spectacle. Yesterday at Wal-mart people were taking my kids' pictures and pointing at us and staring. Then, of course, Tim's credit card didn't get accepted because he didn't have his passport with him so we had even more of a circus around us, with our four shopping carts full of stuff and our three redhead and blonde kids. We also saw the alligator in the meat section. Big alligator tail, just hanging out there waiting for people to take their chunk of alligator, put it in a baggie and set it in their cart. All kinds of food I had no idea what it was. I tried to find some cleaning products and had to go by the colors on the bottles, hoping it's the stuff I was looking for. You can't buy dishwasher detergent except at the import store because nobody has a dishwasher here - kitchens are very small in most homes.

Our neighborhood is an expat neighborhood, settled around an International School. There's a big playground and all the homes are gated (so is the neighborhood) with stone walls and lots of flowers, trees, shrubs and banana trees. There is a golf cart that takes you anywhere in the neighborhood - you just have to call for it. The weather has been very nice - we've all been comfortable in jeans and t-shirts. There is a little shopping center across the (very busy) street that has lots of restaurants and some import shops. At night it's all lit up with people all over the place just hanging out. I met a woman from Peru the other day who said it's like living in a resort, which I agree with! She's been very helpful to us with information and tips on how to get everyone over jet lag. The jet lag was fun - after a big flight - and the kids did amazingly well. They were so good and slept very well, which was good for the flight but not so good when we arrived at 8 p.m. China time. We were all up most of the night, and I tried to make everyone stay awake all day Monday. Monday night we all slept a bunch, though Ella wanted to play for a while around midnight. We're getting normalized, I think. She's napping right now. At my friend Paty's suggestion (from Peru) I'm thinking of putting her into a Chinese preschool nearby. That way she will get the language as she's developing her English as well. She loved her preschool in Knoxville and I'm starting to think that might be the ticket. Paty says that while Mandarin is taught at the International School, it focuses more on culture and not so much on language. Our next-door neighbor from Kansas also sends his children to Chinese school until first grade. After Chinese New Year I'm going to check that out.

We're going to go to a park nearby this afternoon. Yesterday driving by it, we saw hundreds of kites flying over the park. It was so pretty. I'm hoping there will be more today. Peace out. : )

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Today was the kids' last day of school. It was so sad to say goodbye to my fellow mom-friends and the preschool teachers. I think everyone had a tough time saying goodbye to my babies, too. Ella was crying a bunch.

Alex's last day was sad but sweet, too. His teacher had everyone make him a card with their address and phone # on it, and how much they'd miss him. She also wrote him a nice note telling him he would be missed and good luck and all. It was a completely different sendoff than I expected from her and I have to admit I didn't give her enough credit. I apologize, Ms. Teacher.

Then Alex had his last day of tae kwon do. I was able to thank the wonderful Master for his extraodrinary instruction. And then I got completely choked up as we left.

Tomorrow will be our last day in Knoxville for a long time.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


I had my last tae kwon do class today; it was pretty sad but I wasn't as upset as I thought I'd be. I just decided to try my very hardest during class and get the most out of it. It was fun, but I still am really bad at sparring. At least this time I didn't get kicked in the butt (literally) like last time. That was actually pretty funny but I have a big bruise on my tookus now. Anywho, I do think I'm more ready to leave than I thought. I was okay with tonight being my last night. Ask me again next Monday evening and I might be a little sad, but for now it's okay. I hope I can find an English-speaking class nearby in our new house.

Today was Tim's last day at work, too. It was pretty sad for him to leave tonight, and I think we're both freaking out a little more now that we're leaving Saturday.

Everything familiar to all of us will be beyond our reach for a while - except, of course, for each other. Feel free to keep us in your prayers!

Tomorrow is the kids' last day of school - preschool for the little ones. That's going to be very sad for all of them, and for most of their teachers. We've been blessed with our preschool teachers and director the past few years. I am so very much going to miss that place. I am not, however, going to miss the Alex's teacher. I think if we weren't moving I'd be trying to get him out of that hostile environment he's currently in. I never though a primary school teacher would be so icky.

It's been cold here today - I am definitely looking forward to tropical southern China. I'm not sure how to spell "zai jian" but it means "goodbye" in mandarin.

Thursday, February 08, 2007


Well, here we are only 9 days from liftoff. The movers have come and gone - our stuff is all either in storage, on its way to China via ocean, in China thanks to air freight, or just plain ol' gone. Now we just tie up all our loose ends, say our final goodbyes to our dear friends and family, and pack up our immediate-stuff-needs. The 06 taxes are done, the online class is done. At night I just sit and try to think of something exciting or funny to put on my blog. Sorry - still new at this.

Has anyone noticed all the excellent 80's bands are now doing ads? The Violent Femmes are doing Wendy's, the Clash is doing, what, Cadillac, I think? Oh - and Hendrix is doing a Verizon ad (I know he's not 80's, but still...)Yikes. Kids, we're officially old.

OK, back to the China thing. I'm not looking forward to a 16-hour flight with the kids. It's not going to be easy on them, and I feel bad for them. I'm wondering if we should bring along a tub of ear plugs for anybody near us.

I think I'm going to be crying the whole time after saying goodbye to my mommy and Wayne. I'm used to seeing them every couple days. Sixteen hours of straight tears - I'm going to be a lovely sight when we land in Hong Kong. But how very exciting! It will be Chinese New Year when we get there and we have wonderful friends who will meet us and show us around, show us the ropes and how to get food and everything. Our adventure is right around the bend.

Next time I post we'll either be there, in China, living there or else I'll still be freaking out in TN. What'll it be? Can you handle the suspense??