Thursday, July 31, 2008

Leavin' on a jet plane...

We leave for China on Monday. It's funny, at the beginning of summer 6 weeks seemed like a long time. Now it seems to have flown by!

I thought I'd answer some of the Living in China FAQ's I've gotten this summer:

Q: Are you going to the Olympics?
A: Well, no, because Beijing is a 3-hour plane ride and hotel prices have been jacked up 500%. Equestrian events will be held in Hong Kong, and the boating events in Shanghai. But we're still not going.

Q: Is it true there is a "Chinese Firewall" that blocks websites?
A: Yes. I can't get into Wikipedia or to anything having to do with the Bill of Rights. Oftentimes e-mails sent to me from the U.S. will be blocked for no apparent reason.

Q: How do you like living in China? What's it like?
A: It's different and I like it. I love the community we are in, especially - my kids are exposed to Chinese culture plus many other cultures they would otherwise not really know much about. They are becoming little World Citizens, which is awesome. But I miss the convenience of the U.S.

Q: Are the kids excited to go back?
A: I don't think so. This summer has consisted of visits with grandparents, playdates, fun camp stuff and new toys to play with. It's not "REAL LIFE" which they don't realize. If we actually lived here life would pretty much be the same - friends, lessons, and school. Bedtimes and morning know, REAL STUFF.

Q: How is the shopping?
A: It can be great - factory stores for Ann Taylor and J. Crew with western clothes (that FIT) for cheap-o! But it can be a hassle - the markets with people grabbing at you and yelling and bargaining for clothes that probably won't fit because I'm just not shaped like an Asian. Shoes that look great but are poor-quality and won't fit right. I've done a lot of shopping here to find clothes and shoes for all of us that I know will fit.
Shopping can also be frustrating if you're a westerner used to a western diet. We were in Sam's Club yesterday and I was nearly moved to tears by the huge number of stuff available in huge sizes. Like parmesan cheese and dishwasher detergent. Both of these things can be hunted down in China but it takes a lot of searching and when you find them, you can buy a teeny little jar (or bottle or can) for a way-jacked-up price. And all sorts of OTC medications that you can't even find in China - although if you need some ground-up deer horn or a snakeskin for your medicinal soup you can find them on every Chinese corner!

Q: Is it really that polluted in China?
A: Yes.

Q: Are the Chinese people nice?

Q: Are you going to vote?
A: Yes, by proxy, but our votes won't count unless there is a tie situation, from what I've been told. I am thrilled, however, to be missing all the ridiculous mud-slinging!! Yikes, people - a little dignity and integrity would be nice...

Q: Aren't you a little afriad to live in China?
A: Ummmmmmmmm, read the U.S. news lately?

Q: Are you excited to go back?
A: I'm completely torn. I will so much miss my mom and her husband and their very comfortable house we stay in. And her appliances. And Sam's Club, Kroger, Target, Steak N Shake, Bonefish and our dear friends (YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE) and my church. BUT, I am looking forward to returning to REAL LIFE, my routine, my book club, my awesome friends, my STUFF and my bed. And my housekeeper - I'm not going to pretend I don't miss her!! And tropical winters. And our kids' awesome school and their teachers and staff members. It's all about people, really, isn't it? Aren't we blessed, my friends? Love and peace to you.

Sunday, July 27, 2008


We returned home to Knoxville today to find out there has been a shooting in a local church. Some guy who "hates Christians" chose to open fire in a non-Christian (UU) church during a children's production of "Annie." Two people have died so far and 5 more were injured. The people who were shot were only a few feet away from the children who were putting on the play.

Please keep the victims, their families, and the people who had to witness this horrific crime in your thoughts and prayers.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Rural Life

Today Tim and I had a little date at the local internet cafe. My dad and his wife's house isn't wired for any decent, efficient internet connection - they live too far out in the boondocks for that kind of technology. So, we had a very relaxing morning sipping coffee and getting all our internet stuff taken care of. While we were there, Grandma Jo took the kids raspberry picking and out for a nice lunch.
This afternoon, Grandpa Bob, Tim and I took the kids out fishing for trout at a local fish farm. They caught 4 big fish for supper tonight.

So, for supper we had fish we caught ourselves, vegetables grown in Grandma and Grandpa's back yard, and fresh raspberry pie, picked by the kids and Grandma. Grandpa Bob claimed to have picked the noodles in the noodle patch but I don't think the kids believed him. It was very cool, however, that the bulk of our meal (including yummy dessert) was obtained using our own hands and the local bounty of the land.

It's also been very quiet and relaxing, not being tied to the internet or to my mobile mobile phone service for me unless I stand in one particular spot on the back deck and don't move at all. I've been cut off several times even using that special position. While it's a bit stressful to not be connected, it's also quite relaxing to not be connected!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Dells

First off, my camera battery is dead so there are no lovely photos to accompany this blog. SORRY. Today we drove to Wisconsin Dells, which is a big tourist area. We are staying overnight with Tim's mom at an awesome, new indoor water park resort. There are three different water parks indoors, and two huge ones outside. There are rides and fun things for kids of all ages - lazy rivers for Grandma B. and cute little shallow-water play areas for Ella. And really fun giant slides and wave pools.

We had a blast today! The boys went on slide after slide after slide, and hit the wave pool as many times as they could.

We went to the indoor parks because it was a little chilly at first, then we sort of got comfortable and stayed there. We had planned on hitting the giant outdoor park after dinner tonight but the kids (and maybe the adults) are just beat! Ella just passed out on the couch - poor baby.

We'll have a quiet evening in our beautiful condo and then hit the outdoor park tomorrow. I hope it's warmer tomorrow! I think I've gotten spoiled living in tropical southern China! Because what seems to be perfectly acceptable outdoor swimming weather for the Wisconsinites that still live here (I'm always a 'Sconnie at heart!) leaves me blue and shivering.

Tomorrow we'll head to visit my dad and his wife for a few days and then farther up north to visit my brother and his family for a few days. We're hitting a good chunk of Wisconsin this trip and I am having a blast. I'm also looking forward to some chill time next week before heading back home to China!

Sunday, July 20, 2008


We are in Madison, Wisconsin to visit Tim's mom. I came here for the first time in 1987 to visit some friends and fell completely in love with the city. People say New York City has a special energy about it - and I agree - but Madison has this incredible, laid-back, unassuming feel to it that just felt like paradise the first time I came here. State Street has changed a lot - it's a pedestrian street filled with funky shops and restaurants and bars that leads from the Univeristy of Wisconsin (my alma mater) to the beautiful State Capitol. The shops have changed - some are still the same - but the feel is still there. Freedom of expression is valued and so is pursuit of knowledge and life experience. Many outdoorsey-naturey-adventureous types milling about in comfortable shoes, tye-dyes and dreadlocks. It's not uncommon to see tattoos, piercings and politically-charged stickers and t-shirts all over the place. I remember when I was just out of college, it wasn't a question of WHETHER to get a tattoo so much as WHAT to get for a tattoo. Madison is unlike any other place I've ever lived. I lived here for as long as I could out of college, until Tim got a job when he graduated and we had to move. It's good to be home.

Next we'll be heading to the Wisconsin Dells for a retreat at an indoor water park, then up to northern Wisconsin to visit my dad for a few days.

Friday, July 11, 2008


We're halfway through our summer holiday in the USA. We've been seeing some great friends and having a really nice time. So glad to be here.

Tonight I went to a cooking class at Williams-Sonoma. It was a Summer Salads course and we had some excellent salads - the chef prepares them and shows you how to make them, then we EAT them. We had lobster-raspberry-corn-snap pea salad; chicken-cashew-citrus-cilantro salad; fresh tuna salad (not from a can!); and candied pecan-chicken tender-mesclun salad. And excellent lemon cake. It was awesome but by the time I was finished I thought my stomach was going to explode! I have GOT to stop eating so much! Do I have to say the word? Yes, PUFFERFISH! AAAAAACK! I have been walking brisky every morning so at least I'm getting some exercise.

Tomorrow we're having a party for Alex's birthday - he will be 9 on Thursday so we're having a big shindig at one of those jumping places. We also invited some of Andrew's little friends. How cool is this: my son has agreed that no, he does not need any more STUFF so it would be great if everybody coming to the party donates to their favorite charity instead of bringing a gift. He originally wanted people to give to the Sichuan Earthquake victims but we couldn't find an easy way to do that. It's a pay-it-forward birthday - the kids get a fun time and goodie bags and lunch, then they pay it forward. Love it! Love that kid!
My stepdad is in the hospital as of this evening with pneumonia - he'll be in there for a few days. Please keep our dear Wayne in your prayers for healing and speedy recovery. Thanks!