Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Hotter than a Pepper Sprout

It's really, really hot in southern China in May. The heat index has consistently been averaging 104 fahrenheit. I'm still not thinking metric or celsius, thank you very much...or in yuan as opposed to dollars. I'm sure I'll get to the point when I don't have to really think about how much something REALLY costs when given the price. For instance, when a friend invited me to a benefit event, she mentioned that the cost of the ticket was 350. I was of course thinking "WHAT?? $350???" when actually it was going to cost me U.S.$45 for dinner and a show. I need to work on that...

So, anyway, about the heat. When I walk down the stairs to pick up Andrew, holding Ella, I get to school completely covered in sweat. Today I was pretty sure I was sweating on the inside as well, and I understood how the wicked witch felt when she was melting. I have found it helps to use an umbrella to block the sun - you see more umbrellas on sunny days than on rainy days here. Here's the strange part about the summer heat - the air is actually much cleaner here in summer than in winter. I guess the winds blow in from the ocean in summer, forcing all the icky air and smog and stuff further inland so the skies are clear here. I suppose that since we're on the other side of the world, a few things are bound to be a bit different, eh?

The kids are doing well. Ella is going through a silly stage - she makes faces back and forth with me until we both crack up. She also tries to fart with her armpit because that's what her brothers do. She's a riot. She refuses to wear dresses, of course, and is now also refusing to wear any clothes I pick out. She has to pick them out. Yesterday she was wearing red penguin pajama bottoms with a white and pink sleeveless peasant top. Very nice.

Andrew is very active and is having many playdates with his friends. He's usually covered with dirt and sweat and is out of breath from running around, playing soccer or being silly. Lots of baths here...

Alex is loving school and making some great friends. Summer is going to be lonely here once school gets out - all his friends will be leaving for the summer. We'll have to make it fun.

I went to Hong Kong the other day to shop with my friend Marcie. We went to Toys R Us, which was really a treat. You can't really buy nice toys in China, and Wal-Mart has a tiny toy selection of really cheap toys or else a few really expensive imported toys (WAAY overpriced barbies, for example). Hong Kong, however, has Toys R Us. I had a ball there and picked up a toy for each kid. I also hit the ESPRIT outlet store which has clothes for everybody, not just teeny-boppers like in the U.S. There are all sorts of outlet stores hidden around Hong Kong where you can get great bargains. I took Marcie to the Hard Rock Cafe where she had FOUR refills of her root beer...guess what else you can't get in China!! She also kept me entertained with stories about growing up Mormon in Texas. She loved the food - had their awesome bbq pork sandwich, and some baked beans we were both fighting over. I had a big, greasy bacon cheeseburger with fries and a load of ketchup. It was a beautiful little slice of normal for us.

Riding the subway was a challenge with big shopping bags, a stroller, and an obstinate 2-year-old who didn't WANT to ride in the stroller. Another challenge was when it poured and we got completely soaked with our babies...not fun. I bought a big, giant Hard Rock Cafe umbrella, only to find I couldn't fit walking down the street with all the other people - the umbrella took up too much space! So, we got really, really wet. All in all we had a nice, normal day. You don't have any idea how precious normal is until you live in China or someplace else where nothing is really normal.

It's the rainy season here so we can expect torrential downpours many days. It's nice, though - it cools things off!

Monday, May 21, 2007

A Clearer, More Sparkly Hong Kong

OK, here are some much better pictures of Hong Kong, thanks to my mom's trip here last fall. They capture what I always talk about - the view from the Peak is first - you're looking down on huge skyscrapers. Next is a typical boat you see in the harbor. And last is the view of Hong Kong from the harbor, which is just so cool. Yay! Thanks, Mom!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

We had a really rainy weekend in Hong Kong yesterday and today. But I thought I'd show you a bit of it. The first picture is of Ella because she's so darn cute - no, my house isn't usually that messy!! The next few pictures are inside a Disneyland subway car - it's a special line of the MTR that's exclusive to Hong Kong Disneyalnd. it's so cool!The last picture is a bit gray but you can just make out the buildings jutting up from Hong Kong Island beyond all the boats; it's a pretty typical picture of what we see from the ferry. It's breathtaking when it's clear and sunny I'll take pictures next time I remember my camera and it's sunny (probably won't be for a while...)

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

I finished my first "Survivial Mandarin" class today. It was a fun class. The teacher was fresh and always very prepared, and she had many interesting and varied activities for us to learn with. Today she looked so proud and was taking pictures - I asked if we were her first class, and it turns out that we were!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

And a one, and a two...

Well, Tim came home on Mother's Day, which was a really great Mother's Day present for everybody. He's recuperating well and getting his bandage cleaned and changed daily by the doctor at the SOS clinic. It turns out it was a staph infection, so I'm really glad we caught it when we did, and that the antibiotics worked their magic.

Did you know Mother's Day is celebrate all over the world? It is sometimes on a different day, depending on the country, but I do know that China, Hong Kong and Peru all celebrate it the same day we do in the United States! My friend Patty had a big international potluck on Mother's Day - somehow the moms all did the cooking, however. But we all had a really nice time, and the highlight for me was definetly when Tim got dropped off at Patty's door when our dear friend Daniel brought him home from Hong Kong. We had a great time.

Speaking of Mothers, I am so sorry to inform you all that my mom and her husband won't be coming next week, as we've been eagerly anticipating. Wayne is holed up in a hospital with a nasty case of pneumonia and it looks like he'll have a long recovery before any sane doctor lets him visit China. Very, very sad - I've been having a hard time with this one. I've been very worried about his health, and I've also had to realize that their visit was making every adjustment easier. It was like I just wasn't having that tough a transition, really, because I knew my mom was coming in May. Now that she's not coming, it all is hitting me like a ton of bricks, the loneliness, the homesickness, and the missing my friends so very much. Builds character, I am sure. I'm just going to have to start dancing, I suppose.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Keep on Dancing

I was talking with my friend Paty today. Paty was the first person we met here, on our first walk around the neighborhood. She has given me many words of wisdom and she has made me laugh very hard many times, as well. I respect, admire and really like her.

Today we were talking about challenges in life and she told me a very cool story. Someone once said that depression and troubles are like standing in a hole, digging. If you stay there and keep digging, you're going to get deeper and deeper and soil is going to start falling in on you. But if you start dancing on that soil, you're eventually going to have something solid to stand on again, and eventually you'll end up back on top. Since you're dancing on that soil it's going to be even more solid that where you started.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

My Left Foot

Well, Tim's left foot, actually...

I'm sitting in a hospital in Hong Kong waiting for Tim to get out of surgery. This past weekend he developed an infection in the top of his foot. His foot was double the size it usually is (if you know Tim, you know that's really, really big) and red and purple. It looked awful. So, Monday morning he went down to the International SOS Clinic, which is in our neighborhood. The clinic is staffed by English-speaking doctors and nurses and is managed by an American. They are kind, prompt, and so far have been very helpful to us.

The doctor took one look at his foot and sent him to Hong Kong, to Matilda Hospital. Matilda Hospital is located on the Peak of Hong Kong and overlooks the harbor. The private room Tim is staying in has a balcony with lounge chairs and excellent room service. It's really, really nice. The staff are knowledgeable, helpful, and conservative considering we live in China. Rather than sending him away with an oral antibiotic, they admitted him for intraveneous antibiotics to make sure the infection gets kicked out. Lucky for us they did that, because the first antibiotic stopped working on Tuesday night. His foot got worse after getting better. The wise doctor changed the antibiotic, and as of last evening his foot seems to be on the mend. Right now they are draining the infection surgically, and they had to put him under for that.

I came here to visit him on Tuesday for a few hours, too. In order to get to Hong Kong, which we can see from our kitchen window, it takes about 1 1/2 hours and a bit of hassle. We usually take a ferry from Shenzhen - the ferry station is within walking distance from our house. We have to go through China customs on our way out, before we can get on the boat. The trip across the water takes about an hour, and on the way you see many, many boats and cargo ships and ferries. It's very exciting - everywhere you look are small and huge boats loaded up with containers. Hong Kong is the second largest port in the world, and with China being a manufacturing giant, there are unimaginable quanitites of stuff going to and from each day. Once in a while we'll see one of the mega-huge container ships that seem to stretch out a mile long. The ferry usually does a bit of rocking afer going past one of those! Many cranes to load and unload, and smaller ships that have just 15 or so containers on them are all around on the water, too.

Once in Hong Kong, you go through Hong Kong customs and down the ferry station escalators to the taxi stand. If your taxi driver doesn't speak English, as mine didn't today, you need to call someone who can tell them where you're going in Cantonese. I had to call Tim, who had to call a nurse, to talk to the taxi driver today.

This evening when I return to China, I'll go through customs in Hong Kong again, and again when I reach China.

While Shenzhen and Hong Kong are really very close to each other, they certainly seem to be a world apart. When Tim and I were talking this afternoon, he said that just an hour away seems like a whole lot more considering the differences and the process to get there. And the fact that your love is on the other side of that hour and half. The kids and I can't wait for him to come home.

Hopefully he'll be coming back to the room soon and I'll get a good report. Keep him in your prayers!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Tip to Toes

Due to a major language barrier and dim lighting, last week my hair got bleached blonde and stripped of any nice color or resemblance of health. I am very upset by this, and have been told by a professional there is nothing - at all - I can do. I feel like Courtney Love. Enough said. Next time, if I ever get hair again, I'm going to Hong Kong, where it's expensive but they understand the word "RED" does not mean "BLONDE." Yikes.

On a more positive note, I had my first Chinese foot massage today and I don't think I'll ever be the same. In China, a foot massage is so much more. You start with your feet soaking (up to your knees) in hot water that has milk and rose petals in it (or seaweed, or menthol, and I think there are other choices). While you soak you get a major back, neck, shoulder, arm and hand massage - they hit pressure points that release all sorts of pain and tension, they stretch you and pound on you until you feel like you could never be stressed again, even if your hair looks like it's been deep-fried at Dollywood and served on a stick.

Then, you sit back in a comfy chair and they work on your feet. They really, really work on your feet - pressure points to release any tension you may have held in your body since childhood. Every tiny bit of your feet is pulled, pushed and roughed up until it surrenders. It's amazing, truly. They work up your calves to your knees, kneading and smacking the tar out of any sore spots. It's the most relaxing thing because all that pounding makes the stress, tension and soreness just melt away. I truly recommend anyone who gets anywhere near China, come to Shenzhen for a foot massage!

Here are the kids on Easter Sunday.

Here are a few pictures of the kids and our neighborhood. The park below is sort of typical of China in that you'll notice there is a slide but no's been like that since we moved in. Sort of makes no sense, eh? Below it is a photo of the Park N Shop, where we walk to get most of our groceries.