Sunday, June 21, 2009

Taking a break from Facebooking...

I'm back in the United States for our annual summer trip. It's really nice to be home for a while and be with my mom and Wayne and go to our favorite restaurants and shops.

If you're wondering why I never blog anymore, it's because of Facebook. Blame Facebook. It's just so easy to fill in quick little blurb about what's going on rather than trying to be clever and informative all at once. Yep, I'm getting lazy.

Kroger. Target. Sam's Club. In China, when you get your food, you're either at a wet market, a small grocery market (small.) or at Walmart, which is nothing like the American Walmart. It's a challenge to find the things I normally bought before moving to China. It's a hassle to track it down, the store may well be out of it even if they carried it a few days ago, and you generally have to settle for something SIMILAR but maybe not exactly what you're looking for. You learn to let go and make do with what you can find, and chances are pretty good you paid way too much for it. That's eating like an expat in China. Part of life. Here, in Kroger, or Target, or Sam's, it's overwhelming to look around and see all the things that are impossible or difficult to find for me in China, with many different choices of brands, sizes, and features. All stacked up, endlessly, shelf after shelf in a bright and shiny mega-store. It's truly overwhelming. All the things I want to box up and send to China for when I need them. Right there, for the taking (well, buying). I tear up, sometimes I get knots in my stomach walking through the aisles.

Faith Lutheran Church. It's seriously like a cool drink of Gatorade after running a few miles through a desert. The singing, the humor, the laid-back-ed-ness, the people. I had so many nice smiles and hugs this morning - Pastor Matt stopped in the middle of another announcement when he saw us to welcome us home. It was really like coming home. Food for the soul, for the heart.

We stopped by the boys' (and mine!) old tae kwon do school to visit. Master Eun asked us to come to class while we're here. So all 3 of my kids are "AI!"ing and punching and kicking twice a week. I'm jealous - I used to LOVE taking tae kwon do. I would take the adult class but it's Monday and Wednesday evenings - family time - not the best time to be gone. Ah, well, when we get back to the States for good I'm going to earn that black belt!

I miss my dogs - I'm very worried about them. It's so hot in Shenzhen right now. I know they're being taken care of but I do miss them so much. Lovable little guys - they're so sweet and so happy.

This week my boys will be at day camp - I'm looking forward to hearing about their fun days. Then we go to Wisconsin for a week. One more week of camp, then a half week later we'll be back to China. It's really whipping by quickly.

It's nice to be home.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Pets of all sorts...

Please welcome the newest members of the Behling Family, Ronnie and Reggie. A friend of mine got Ronnie and Reggie from a breeder here in China last May when they were just 10 weeks old. They quickly became part of my friend's family. Sadly, over the Christmas holiday, said friend's father passed away and my friend stayed in England to help his mom recover and move on. His mom was in pretty bad shape so my friend was not able to return to China. He had asked his gardener to feed and water the dogs twice a day, which the gardener did, but it turned into a really long time for them to be gone. Eventually he asked me to check on the dogs and I saw that they were pretty skinny, scared and freaked out in general. So, after much negotiating with the landlord (you can't just give away tenants' property), we finally got our dogs two weeks ago. And we absolutely love these boys. They're getting healthier and fatter and more relaxed. They're great around the kids and they are so loving. I am really, really happy with our two new guys!

Remember the restaurant next to the dog-leg restaurant? Well, my friend Sharon and I were eating lunch there yesterday when I noticed something fall from the ceiling into a nearby pot. A little later I noticed something fall from the countertop under said pot to the floor. At this point I had to stop pretending I didn't know what it was and start looking on the floor to make sure there were no bionic roaches trying to eat my shoes. Yep, right near Sharon's Big ol' cockraoch. OK, I live in China in a city of 12 million people. It's dirty and crowded and full of food and trash and everything all piled up. I KNOW there are pretty much cockroaches everywhere. It's just so different to actually see one and be forced to acknowledge its presence in the kitchen where my food was prepared by a 15 year old chef. Still a bit queasy about eating there again, though I'm pretty positive every single restaurant in China is teeming with roaches.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


I just got home from hiking the mountain. I was worried about going because the air has been so dirty lately (you really can't imagine just now nasty unless you've spent time here in the World's Factory) that people have been having a difficult time getting up the mountain, people have been having asthma problems who don't normally have them - it's really been bad. Last time I went - Tuesday - I couldn't see very far from the top at all, just this brown haze. Today, though, it was nice and windy and must have blown away some of the crap because I could actually see Hong Kong across the water and I only had to stop for my breath once. It was a great little trip.

We were in Singapore and Bintan, Indonesia for Chinese New Year 2 weeks ago. One thing we really noticed was how you can see stars at night. They were so beautiful. You forget just how awesome they are when you can't see them for the brown, smoggy air...

Our vacation was lovely. Singapore is a very clean city-state - we refer to it as "Asia Lite" because it's still very Asian, food-wise and fashion-wise and many, many people speak Mandarin there. But it's also clean, there is toilet paper and soap in the bathrooms. It's nice to go there. Then we took a very choppy ferry ride to Bintan, which is part of Indonesia. 4 of the 5 kids we had with us were throwing up by the time it was all over - so were many other people on the boat. It was a rough ride. We then found out that the hotel we stayed at gives you tummy medicine for the return trip - smart! If we ever do that again remind me to bring my Dramamine! We had a nice, beachy vacation and the Club Med (which is older and run-down but functional) had a kids' club that included a Circus School. Both my boys walked the tightrope and flew through the air with the greatest of ease on a trapeze. It was pretty cool. Tim and I were beach bums. Not too shabby!

The other night Ella woke up miserable and crying and crying. About an hour later (still crying and writhing about) she spiked a 105F fever. It was pretty scary. The thing about a situation like that here is that you can't just hop into your car in the middle of the night and drive to the nearest emergency room or children's hospital. First of all, no car. Second of all, what are you going to tell the people at the hospital if you don't speak Chinese? It's a bit of a scary situation. I've actually heard that if you do have an emergency and need to get to the hospital ASAP you should call a cab because ambulances are notoriously slow. Yikes. Luckily, in this case, my neighbor had come over to borrow some kids' Motrin a few days earlier and I knew there was this high fever thing going around. Otherwise I would have been freaking out. And did I mention that Tim's in the States this week? yeah...

I've been spending time with my friend's 2 German Shepherds lately while he is out of the country. He has somebody feeding them and cleaning up after them but they need some love and scratches so I've been making friends with them. Some of you have known me long enough to remember Moses my rottweiler. I loved that dog! Well, 3 kids later I have doggy fever again! I'lll keep you posted on that...

Sorry I haven't blogged in so long. I've become addicted to Facebook and it seems so much easier to write a little one-line blurb about what's going on then a whole paragraph. But I need to keep doing this so you know about the brown air, the lack of stars in China, the wierd little health-care situations you worry about living abroad, and the fact that I WANT A DOG. Thanks for checking in - I'll keep this up. I'm learning guitar so maybe I'll start writing songs and put them here for you to critique. Just kidding - I know I won't do that! Thanks for checking in on us!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Thoughts on Buying Food

Today I took a field trip with Andrew's 1st grade class to the local market, the Park N' Shop. It's a Hong Kong chain of grocery shops (nothing at all like the huge supermarkets in the U.S.). We looked at lighting, packaging, smells, appearance, ease of movement, and location. Tomorrow will be a trip to the wet market for comparison - which is how most Chinese do their food shopping. You may remember the wet market from a previous post - if not, please check it out for a memory jog.

It's funny how I now view the Park N' Shop as the place I would definetly rather shop, and find it pleasant to shop there and pick up what I need (I also frequent the next-door import shop for my $10 Cheerios and the butcher shop for my imported meats). In China, most of the shelves are stocked with foods I wouldn't necessarily consider food (like packaged preserved chicken's feet) (Barbeque flavor) and seaweed and other dried strange things. Dried duck tongue (spicy or regular) is also very common. But I can find produce, dairy, and grains there. Especially in our local Park N' Shop, which has been wise enough to cater to the many foreigners living here and stocking items we purchase at the import stores, like cereals (Cheerios are still $10), granola bars, and ice cream.

What's funny is how I saw the Park N'Shop when we first moved here. I hated the way it smelled, how small it was, how little I could recognize. When we took our first trip to China to look for houses and schools, the grocery store (a different Park N' Shop) was where I completely lost it, broke down and said "Tim, I can't do this!". I didn't recognize anything, I couldn't read any labels (still can't), I didn't know how I was going to feed my family! It scared the hell out of me. I was afraid of the meat, the dairy (was it refrigerated the whole time?), the eggs, which are generally kept on the shelf in most of China. My Park N' Shop knows better, and that people will BUY the eggs if they're cold. My view of this little shop has evolved to preference and enjoyment. I find Target Supercenter to be too big and difficult to maneuver. I buy what I need each day and use it that night or within a week. It's a completely different way to shop.

The field trip proved though-provoking for me and the kids! My, how things have changed...

BONUS BLOG SECTION: Some Chinglish for you...on a wetnap I picked up at my favorite Chinese restaurant (the one next to the dog leg restaurant) it says "Please use sex to disinfect the wet tissue." In a grocery store nearby (not mine) there is a list of different meats and one of the items says "Please F&*C the food.
Another recently spotted sign has a stick figure of a person standing on a toilet while squatting over it with a big circle and slash mark over it...FINALLY they make it clear - DON'T STAND ON THE TOILET WHEN YOU PEE. That's how most Chinese use a western toilet 'coz that's how they're used to peeing - squatting! And so it's not uncommon to see muddy footprints where you want to put your bottom - I do miss American (and especially Japanese - the heated seat, built-in sprayer and built-in pleasant scents) toilets!