Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today is Thanksgiving but in China it's just another Thursday. School, work, all of that. And it's also really hot so it certainly doesn't FEEL like Thanksgiving! We are going to celebrate with our very dear Hong Kong friends and our neighbors from the U.S. on Saturday. I think it will be our Hong Kong friends' first Thanksgiving - and in a way it carries on the tradition nicely - I don't know how we would have survived this move across the ocean to the New Old World without them!

We have a turkey on order, and we're going to have cranberries, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, pumpkin cheesecake, pecan pie, right down to the little sweet pickles and olives my Grandma used to serve on big feast days (well, not the SAME pickles and ones)! I am really looking forward to this!

I've been test messaging "Happy Thanksgiving!" all my friends here from the U.S. and it's been such a treat to see a U.S. person and be able to say "Happy Thanksgiving!" to someone it means something to. The things we learn to be thankful for...someone who can identify with our culture is a treat here!

I know that I am certainly thankful for things I never thought much about, and I remain thankful for some things I could not do without - the love and support of my family and my friends, near and far. Thank YOU for your love, support and encouragement. I hope you enjoy your turkey with your loved ones today.

"O God, when I have food,
help me to remember the hungry;
When I have work,
help me to remember the jobless;
When I have a home,
help me to remember those who have no home at all;
When I am without pain,
help me to remember those who suffer,
And remembering,
help me to destroy my complacency;
bestir my compassion,
and be concerned enough to help;
By word and deed,
those who cry out for what we take for granted.
(Samuel F. Pugh)

Monday, November 19, 2007


OK, Beth, I am going to respond to this tag. I've never been tagged by anyone else before and last time I dropped the ball. HERE, at the request of Beth's fantastic website(s) is my meme (Me! Me! Me! Me!)

8 Things I am Passionate About
My family (duh)
My faith
Education and growth of mind and personality
Reading - mainly Jane Austen, JK Rowling, Janet Evanovich and Stuff that Makes me Think
MUSIC - boy, that one makes me happy! Especially if it's got a good beat and is easy to dance to...and makes me think.
Baking and cooking - because I love EATING
Decorating cakes - I am the Cake Lady of China
Open-mindedness - Way important for learning about other cultures and getting one's ego out of the way.

8 Things I Want to Do Before I Die
See my kids grow up into happy, successful, resourceful adults
See France, Italy, Greece, Australia, New Zealand, Alaska, and the rest of the U.S. Maybe part of Canada, too.
Open a cake shop in China : )
Make a scrapbook for each of our trips (starting with China)
Really, truly make a difference in somebody's life - ambiguous, I know...and I don't mean my own family, I guess I mean the Greater Good
Be a better person
Write a book or two
Learn to be a really great cook

8 Things I Say Often
Oh, my goodness!
Alexander! (or any other one of my kids' names)
Are we late again? How did it get to be so late?
I'm hungry!
Let's go to Hong Kong this weekend!
I love you more! (to my kids)
Ni hue shuo ying wen ma? (Do you speak English?)

8 Books I've Read Lately
Pride & Prejudice (3rd time)
The final Harry Potter (WOW)
Sense & Sensibility
The Glass Castle (current)
The Bible (well, not the whole thing...)
New Concept Mandarin's Chinese Survival Manual
Riding the Iron Rooster

8 Songs I Could Listen to Over and Over
Way difficult to narrow this down!!!
The duet sung by two Italian women, written by Mozart, in Shawshank Redemption (And I don't even know what it is!!!! Somebody Help Me!
Here I am to Worship
This is the Radio Clash
Man! I Feel Like a Woman
Smooth (Rob Thomas & Santana)
Spirit of the Radio (Rush)
The Harlem Boys' Choir singing O Holy Night
Mack the Knife sung by Ella Fitzgerald

8 Things That Attract Me To My Best Friend (Tim)
He can fix anything
He is funny and keeps me laughing
He's handsome!
He loves our kids as much as I do
He is a hard worker and driven to do well for everybody, not just himself
He is an excellent mediator/negotiator/diplomat/
He makes a point to really get to know people at every level of any organization, not just the guys on top or the decision-makers
He is a great teacher, even though he's not officially a teacher
He likes to dance even though he's a white guy

8 Things I've Learned This Year
How to say "please don't touch my children" in Mandarin
That there are excellent people everywhere
That you need to make friends quickly and love them bravely in an expat neighborhood, because we all really need each other but we're all only here for a little while
That my true friends remain as such no matter where we all live
That I really do need to pray every day
That I maybe don't need nearly as much STUFF as I used to think I might
How really, really lucky I am to have been born where I was, when I was and who I was
That the U.S. has incredible health care and nothing should be taken for granted

8 people to tag
...uh, the only other bloggers I know are Michelle and Beth, and you've both been tagged! But anybody who wants to post their answers in a comment, way cool!
Barb, Heidy, Angie (still there?), Jane F., Cheryl...anybody else there?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Happy Birthday, Baby!

My little girl turned 3 years old yesterday. She's gone from this:

To this:

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Beijing Photos

Can you find Tim in this picture??

At the Great Wall of China!


We just flew back from Beijing tonight, and boy are my arms tired...actually, my legs hurt because the Great Wall of China is really big! We climbed and climbed and climbed - they made the stairs very steep because the Mongols were so much taller than the Chinese. It was so awesome and humbling to stand up there on that structure that was started some 700 years B.C. Truly a wonderful experience, and beautiful to see it snake across the landscape of China like a dragon.

Beijing is a great city and we had a fabulous time. Before the Great Wall, we visited the Ming Tomb from the Ming Dynasty, built a mere 600 years ago. The Chinese are leaving those tombs alone and guarding them for future generations since they are so young compared to other Chinese historical artifacts. Very cool. After we saw the tomb, we headed to a jade market where we learned a lot about how jade develops (over millions of years), is processed (carved with diamonds) and how to tell if it's genuine. It was all very interesting, and the market we went to is not open to tour buses, so it was very quiet and calm compared to many other markets in China. After that we headed to the Great Wall and then a Chinese lunch, which was delicious. More shopping at the Friendship Store, where all sorts of Chinese arts and crafts are sold. We watched the labor- and time-intensive process of creating cloisonne art - it is painted and fired about 7 times then glazed a bunch more. It was interesting - the kids loved watching people curl the metal around the pottery to create the designs.

The following day we walked to Tianammen Square, which again was humbling but for a different reason, and to the Forbidden City. That place is huge! And very beautiful, but unfortunately is currently under major renovations due to the upcoming 08 Olympics. Tianammen Square is a big concrete square filled with hawkers, tourists, people staring at us and snapping our picture, and many, many police officers and vehicles. It has a big statue in the middle that I'm sure has some great significance, though I couldn't read it in Chinese. There are also some beautiful statues at the rear, comprising many different Chinese people working together and rising to a great nation. They are very well-done and inspiring.

Across from Tianammen Square is the Forbidden City, built by the 3rd emperor of the Ming Dynasty. Again, it's "only" 600 years old. The grounds are beautiful and well-preserved, and we used the gps-sensitive taped guides to tell us what was what and what it was for. That was quite interesting because no matter where we were, we were hearing an appropriate explation and description. The boys thought that was all pretty cool.

The following day we went to Beijing's famous pearl market which is quite similar to Lowhu on the lower floors (only even more aggressive - ick!) and has a big pearl market on the upper floors. I tried on a winter jacket on the first floor that had a 1200 rmb asking price to start. I bargained her down to 700 rmb, then decided I wanted to look around more before buying it. By the time we left that shop, they were offering the jacket for 300 rmb (about US$40!) and begging us to buy it! Crazy...I didn't buy it but what a deal! We had fun on the pearl floor - there were some beautiful necklaces and other jewelry up there!

Adjacent to the pearl market is the Beijing Toy Market. The kids had fun there! We walked around the whole thing with people yelling at us to buy their stuff, then the kids each picked out a toy. Tim did some sweet bargaining there, and I picked up some cool "learn Chinese" posters for the kids' rooms. They had fun there, and we then took a cab to the Hard Rock Cafe. We all do love the Hard Rock Cafe, because no matter where we go, it's got great food, awesome music and a little down-home comfort for us. During the cab ride - during all our cab rides, actually - I was able to converse with the driver in Mandarin. Yippee!!

That night we went to an acrobat show, where most of the performers were kids or very young adults. It was amazing! And the kids really loved it - especially when the bike-riding girls put about 15 people onto one bike! One boy, about 12, rode a unicycle upside-down on a tightrope, which amazed us all.

Yesterday evening we went to a world-famous Peking Duck (or as it's now called, Beijing Duck) restaurant. It's 5 stories of one restaurant and they recommend drinking blueberry juice with the duck to complement it. It was really good!! They bring out the whole duck (and I do mean the WHOLE duck) cooked and crispy. They slice it up and serve it with little pancakes (sort of like tender tortillas), plum sauce, and green onions. You roll it all up together and eat it like a little burrito. It is really good! Especially with the blueberry juice. We had a great meal there, then had some gelato at a nearby mall.

The weather was fairly cold and today it was drizzly. No snow yet but we plan to return next year for our "snow fix." On the flight home we had terrible food, cranky flight attendants and a slightly clumsy pilot (on takeoff and landing) so we were really glad to get home and chow down on the pizza Tim ordered on the way home!

It's really nice to be home but I also look forward to our next visit to China's capital in the North!

Monday, November 05, 2007

Shout-outs, snot-outs and outings

Heidy, MichelleW and Beth, thank you for always commenting on my blogs and all your encouragement and inspiration. You will never know how much it always means to me (well, you probably do, Beth) to hear from you and receive acknowledgement that you haven't forgotten me! Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Today was my last day of 3 modules (almost 8 months) of Chinese class. I've met some wonderful people and learned some helpful language skills. I've also been going nuts trying to keep up with everything, plus two mornings a week of classes. I'm glad it's over. My Chinese friend Luo is going to speak to me only in Mandarin from now on, she said, and that will be my new lessons! Yikes...

My daughter has a bad, snotty cold. My oldest son and I are trying to fight it. I get Kosmo Fighter juice every day I can get there a Kosmo near you? It's a U.S. chain that sells awesome juices, teas and sammiches (yippeeee!! really tough to find a gooooood sammich in China.) She is supposed to be sleeping right now but is singing "Where is Thumbkin" to herself. The other night she sang "Happy Birthday" about a million times to everyone in the family while she was going to sleep!

We are going to Beijing this Saturday for five days; it's very cold there so we will be taking warm clothes! I am really looking forward to seeing the Great Wall and the Forbidden City. And today I learned how to say "Please don't touch my children" in Mandarin...people have told us we won't be able to get anywhere because of people crowding us and touching their hair and skin...not too many foreigners in Northern China!

My oldest son received a Bible from our church last week. Tonight he started reading it. We had a big laugh over how long people lived way back in the day...he thought it was pretty crazy. We had a nice, cozy time reading it and my other son had me reading stories from his Toddler's Bible. It was a really great reading time tonight!

Friday, November 02, 2007

The Big Ordeal

I have been a little intimidated to try and mail anything from China, and I've successfully avoided the whole time we've lived here. So far. I know where the post office is, but I didn't know how much money it would cost or what kinds of hassles they would put me through, or whether anything I mailed would get to the U.S. on time for the intended occasion. So, I've sent e-cards and ordered stuff online to send for peoples' birthdays. I even had my mom send a sympathy card to some dear friends who suffered a really bad tragedy.

Ella's baptism sponsor, one of her godmothers, will be confirmed next week. This is a big deal in the Lutheran church, and a very big deal for this very, very special girl. I knew I had to brave the China Post Office for Katie.

I put it off for a while (had a snack, surfed the 'net...) and finally walked to the post office, card in hand. I walked up to the counter and handed it to the woman working. She said "Mei Gua," which means "America" and then she said "6 yuan." OK, if you are unfamiliar with exchange rates, that's less than a U.S. dollar. I said "SIX YUAN?" "Yes." I handed her my six yuan and left. No problem. No hassle. No language barrier. Yippee! Thanks, China Post!