Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Time Warp, the Metric System and UPS

Before moving to China, I had no inkling of just how different things would be here. What would seem a simple request from a realtor has turned into Mission: Impossible. The e-mail stated that all I had to do to close on our house was print out an attachment on legal-sized paper, sign it and have it notarized, and UPS it back to Knoxville within 3 days. In order to do this, of course, I had to UPS it back by Tuesday...except that it was already Tuesday when I got the e-mail because we are 12 hours ahead.

There is no legal-sized paper in China; it is an American size. There is A4 paper, which is a bit larger than our letter size paper, A3 is twice the size, and A5 is half as large, from what I can understand. Because we don't use the metric system, we are pretty much the only ones in the world who use letter-size 8 1/2 x 11 paper. It definetly had to be legal-size paper, and I was definetly not going to be able to locate any. That was my first obstacle. My second obstacle was getting to a notary: either to Guanzhou, which is 1 1/2 - 3 hours away, depending on traffic, or to the Hong Kong U.S. Consulate, which requires an appointment booking. Either way, it is an all-day trip. Either way, it was not going to happen on Tuesday!

To UPS something to the US and expect it to arrive in a few days is, at best, naive. Nobody can guarantee overnight service to or from here; 3-day service is a gamble, as well.

Needless to say, the closing was postponed for a week; the documents were hand-delivered to Tim, who happened to be in Knoxville this week, and we will be making an appointment to get them notarized in Hong Kong. The return to the US will be taken care of by Tim's office here in China, by someone who understands how to communicate that time is of the essence.

A simple request certainly isn't so simple when it's made from someone in the U.S. to someone living in China!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Home is where the heart is

We accepted an offer on our house back in the U.S. this past week. So, I guess that means we REALLY have moved to China. I'm a bit sad to not be a part of that neighborhood anymore, especially with such great neighbors as Heidy and family and the Lins! But, this will save us a lot of hassle with trying to maintain a home and yard from the other side of the world. Perhaps we'll get back into that neighborhood when we return from the Orient, whenever that may be.

My mom and her husband Wayne are visiting us for the past few weeks. We are having such a great time!! They lived about 15 minutes away back home so it's been a big adjustment not to have them close anymore. But having them here is like another little piece of "home" for us.

We went to Macau this past weekend and stayed at a really, really, really nice hotel, which was such a relief after the sub-par Asian hotels we've thus far experienced (except Japan, of course!) We did a nice historical tour and some fun shopping there, and ate some great food. We also went with our dear friends from Hong Kong, who have become family to us here.

On Tuesday we plan to take a tour of Shenzhen with a native - there aren't many native Shenzheners, as 20 years ago it was just a little fishing village. The government made it a Special Economic Zone, and opened it up to foreign businesses. Most people who live here moved in after that happened. It is now a booming city of 12 million people, and very modern. We will be visiting some outlying villages that remain more traditional Chinese and far less modern. I am looking forward to getting a more in-depth look at the history and culture that surrounds me here.

It's been a while since I've made it to church and today I missed it again. It takes a lot of effort to get there. We have to get to the ferry station at least 30 minutes before the ferry leaves to purchase tickets, get through customs, and get everyone onto the ferry. Then the ferry ride is one hour and costs about $50 to get everybody there. Once we get to Hong Kong, we go through customs once again, sometimes with LONG lines, and then we walk to the church. Church is about a 15-20 minute walk, depending on dawdling toddlers and traffic. It's a big process to get there, about 2.5 hours total, and once there we really enjoy it. Hopefully we'll make it next weekend because even with my mom here I am missing church fiercely when we don't go. I miss my home church very much, though I've now found out a dear friend (a whole family of dear friends!) from my home church has moved out of state. Knoxville will sorely miss the Sextons!

This is rambling a bunch - so much has happened since my last post and it all seems a bit muddy in my head. I'm starting to re-adjust to living here and accept the things that have been driving me nuts. I don't hate it here anymore, and my longing to move to Hong Kong is starting to subside as I realize I'm going to have adjustments and issues and culture shock no matter where we go, even in the southern U.S.! I am missing my friends but as Christmas approaches I know I'll see them in just a few months. Well, the ones in Knoxville, at least! Don't know when I'll see my dear Wisconsin friends, and some of you I've never even met in person! Regardless, I am doing better as I get used to things a bit more here, and I'm learning more Chinese so I can communicate a bit better. A very little bit, but more than I could before. I am certainly appreciating what we have here and how blessed I am with my kids and my dear husband. How lucky I am, no matter where I go, to have them all by my side.

Monday, September 03, 2007


I haven't written much lately because I've been a tad negative about my current living situation and the country I am in. I'm homesick and I'm lonely and I'm missing what our lives used to be, even if I was at times frustrated then. At least I understood the culture, to an extent (considering it was the south and I grew up in the north - trust me, there are some cultural differences). and was able to speak the same language (again, north vs. south - there are differences). I could rely on stores to stand behind their products or at least accept returns. I could rely on my own abilitly to navigate through life without having to rely on someone else to drive me around or speak for me.

On the other hand, Tim is certainly home more often, and with domestic help, when he does travel, things are MUCH easier. Which makes me lazier, too...good or bad? We're meeting people from all over the world, whom we would never have met back home. I don't have to watch the whole political circus and the spin doctors' version of the truth as the '08 election "draws near". But I do know the news I get may not contain much truth here, either.

While I am not proud of some major historical events which made my country what it is, I am horrifed as I learn more about this country's history and the things that happened here not too long ago. Horrified.

While I wish the boys still had their old friends from home, I'm watching them learn to navigate socially in a whole new way. And I'm appreciating that we're getting closer as a family.

While I wish I could easily get to a church that is spiritually renewing and open to anyone, I am certainly learning to appreciate the glorious freedom we have back home.