Saying Goodbye

I put off writing this blog for too long.  I’m not really sure why but I think it was because I didn’t really want to admit that it was time to say goodbye.  China has been our home away from home for the past two in a half years.  It’s always different, always strange, always foreign, but was home for us nonetheless.  DSC_0682

Sometimes it feels like it was all a dream.  I’m pretty sure there is no other place on this Earth quite like China.  The experiences we had together as a family are ones we will never forget and the people we met along our journey are ones we will always remember.  Our neighbors became a part of our family…

Lynn's family

Dagmar's page

Maria's page

Rachel's page

Lee PageCrowe page

The school wasn’t just a place the kids went to learn something but was a big part of our life outside of school.  I enjoyed teaching PE classes everyday and even found myself running the Parent Support Group because I wanted to give back to the school that has been so good to my family.

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As anxious as we are to drive again we will miss our driver Yuan who drove us everywhere we wanted to go for over 2 years.  He became a part of our family and we will miss him.

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I hope I learned everything I could from my Ayi (maid in China) because I doubt I will ever see her again and I know I will be cleaning my own house after I leave here.Portrait - AyiIMG_0109

There are so many other people I could write about, so many stories, and photos that did not make it here when they happened.  Everything happened so fast and now it’s time to start a new chapter in our life.  Spending the summer in America was refreshing but hard at the same time.  Though we were all excited to drink water out of the tap, eat our junk food again, and enjoy the beautiful skies…

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It’s also overwhelming to see the size of everyone’s homes and the giant cars everyone drives around with only one person in the car.  We are used to seeing sometimes four men on a single motorcycle commuting, or entire families riding in a pedicab.  Commuting on a pig might be unlikely but I wasn’t surprised to see it all the same.commuting on a pigpedicab

It was also nice to see the selections in the Grocery stores again and being able to find everything we’ve been missing but been able to live without either way in just one store.  I now I realize that even though I’ve been gone a long time nothing really has changed.  Nothing changed but me.


Getting a Down Jacket made by a Tailor

I love that you can get a custom made goose feather down jacket made by a tailor in Chengdu and it is actually cheaper than buying one on ladies street.

The first thing we did was make a trip to the fabric market to see the many colors available for a jacket.  I have to be honest this process is very overwelming because the market is just too big and cumbersome.

Once we found the right fabric we rode our bikes to the tailor with our fabric in hand.

Now I’m really glad I came with a friend that speaks Chinese because the tailor asked me a lot of questions like what style I preferred, if I wanted my jacket blinged out or not, length of coat, hood or collar, and then he took my measurements and drew it all out on this paper.

This is the box of feathers that the workers weigh each part of the jacket and then they use a yard stick to distribute the feathers evenly in the jacket.  It’s all very fascinating.

 

Just one week later I pick up 4 coats I had made for 1000rmb ($158) using my own fabric I got at the fabric market but if I did it again I would just use the tailor’s fabric and pay a little more because I thought he had a pretty good selection and some fabrics were the same anyhow.

The purple one is Mckaela’s, blue one is Olivia’s, and the leather down is all mine!  The 4th coat is hanging in the closet in the United States just waiting for me to return to wear it.  Something to look forward to anyway.

On that note; Greg was on a bike ride the other day when he saw what he thought looked like a human head floating in the river so he did a double take and saw that it was in deed a human head floating in the water with hair and he could tell it was caucasian so he got a little closer to investigate and that is when he saw it was a head alright but just a mannequin head.  Wheew that was a close one.  Now I can’t look at a mannequin anymore without being reminded of Greg’s bike ride.


Our First Chinese New Year

We have been lucky enough this year to celebrate bringing in the New Year in both our American traditional way and experience the Chinese way.

We had a great time visiting the family; eating a yummy steak dinner with Grandma’s famous rolls, and staying up late playing games with our cousins until midnight when we could go outside and see the fireworks show the city put on.  It’s just too bad I forgot my purse back in China because I didn’t have my camera, my wallet, or my drivers license the whole time I was in the States.  A picture would have been good to insert right here but the only picture I have from our trip home is us sitting on Santa’s lap.  ~Go figure.

    

It took us 30 hours to get back to China but it was worth it just to see the family for the Holidays.  Our luggage didn’t make it back with us but we found it on our doorstep the next day.  The kids go back to school for a week or so and then they are out again for a whole week for the Chinese New Year celebration.  We decided to celebrate New Years Eve in the heart of the city at the Shangri-la.  We had a great room and we ordered room service and watched fireworks all night long.

I’m so glad we did this because it turned out to be an experience I’m sure we will always remember.  The fireworks started somewhere around 7 pm and we finally went to bed around 2 am and they were still going.

Anyone can buy fireworks here on any street corner.  This is what the firework booths look like.  Check out the sizes.

 We bought a box and let them off in our own neighborhood.  All I can say is that they are LOUD and not one of my pictures of the fireworks turned out very good.

Happy Year of the Dragon 2012


How to do a Mall Scavenger Hunt in a foreign country

I never thought this day would come but it’s official my oldest child is now a teenager.  Happy Birthday Mckaela!  She wants to celebrate her birthday the same way all teenage girls do by shopping with her friends at the mall.  I told her she can invite as many girls as will fit in the car since transportation is a big deal in a big city like Chengdu.

Here they are standing in front of Mckaela’s favorite restaurant in the mall.

First stop is the nail salon…

Now their nails are done they are ready for the Scavenger Hunt.  I had fun coming up with things to hunt for in the mall.  I know teenagers like to take pictures so I knew I needed to give them the opportunity to take a bunch of pictures.  They had a list of things to search and find like a red shoe and a wedding dress…

 

They also had to look for a good looking boy to take a picture with…

He’s a little young don’t you think?

They also had to take some glamour shots.  Here’s the dresses the girls picked out…

 

(BTW Trish…Olivia really wants you to buy this dress for her.)

The girls had no problems finding everything on the list.  They even found something the same to try on.

I found in the end that doing a scavenger hunt in a foreign country is no different than doing one back home.

Mckaela’s restaurant even made a yummy chocolate cake and these fun girls all sang “Happy Birthday” to her in Chinese, Swedish, and English.

I think this is a birthday Mckaela will always remember.


The mouse that almost got away

WARNING: This post is rated PG-13 

Last night Olivia got out of bed to get a drink of water.  When she opened her bedroom door there was a mouse waiting in the hall.  She quickly shuts the door and screams. I run down the stairs to see what’s wrong.  Surprisingly, I’m not shocked to see a mouse.  I mean it’s not the first mouse I’ve seen and I’m sure it won’t be the last one either.

The barricade is set up and I’m standing my ground behind it while Greg is trying to usher the mouse out into the garage with a mop.  It’s almost free but takes a turn back to the girls bedroom door and steps in the glue trap instead.

 

This is where the PG-13 rating comes into play….with the kids watching daddy putting the trapped mouse into a garbage bag, the mouse squeals the worst squeal you can imagine unless your fortunate enough to hear Ethan’s interpretation of the squeal noise.  He’s rather good at imitating the mouse now that he’s been traumatized by the day’s events.

Now let’s back up a few hours before this incident.  We come home from a fun day hiking the Mini Great Wall near the ancient city of Laodai to a horrible smell in the house.  I’m just sure there is a dead rat in the house but not sure where to look for it.  The smell is coming from the kitchen but our friends are on their way over for dinner so I only have time to open some windows and light some candles.  Unable to stand the smell anymore Greg pulls out the fridge and I take off the floorboards under the cabinets and HELLO…dead mouse!

Everyone evacuates the house and lucky for me the Security Guards show up a few minutes later to remove the mouse.

Now if we back up to just a few weeks ago, I had to have the Gas Company install a new gas line into the house for the gas stove. All because a rat had chewed through the gas pipe into the house and I had a gas leak resulting from it.  Now with a new gas line and the pipes closed into the house, where are these creatures coming from?  I’m told the best thing to do is get a cat but I’m seriously willing to live with the occasional mouse than with a cat in the house.  What does that say about me?


A Chinese Opera

I’ve heard that everyone should see a chinese opera at least once in their life.  I’ve also been told it’s a unique experience and very different.  So here we are celebrating my birthday at the Sichuan Opera House in the Shufengyayun Operatic Circle of the Chengdu Culture Park.

We asked our driver if he has ever seen the Chinese Opera and he says “No I think it is pure torture to go and listen to the terrible noise.  Even if someone paid for me to go to the Opera, I still would not go.”  Then he tells us he will not be far away from the Opera House if we decide to leave early he could always save us from the Opera.  We laugh about it and walk into the Opera House.

Here’s the cool thing about the Opera House.  You can see the performers getting ready for the show.

I liked seeing all the cool costumes.  It gets you really excited to see the show.

 

They also provide you with tea and peanuts and someone will ask if you want a massage while you are waiting for the show to start.  I’ve also never before seen a teapot quite like the one the servers had.  The spout on that thing was a good 3 feet long so they could reach all the teapots from the isle.  It almost looked more like a fishing pole than a teapot.

I even thought it was a nice touch that they have these cool little robes you can borrow if you are cold.

Then the show started and we heard a lot of noise. Just as our driver predicted it was a terrible noise.  I wish I had on camera the look on Greg’s face because it was priceless but it was actually hard to take any pictures from this point on.  A little singing, drama opera in the local Sichuan Dialect, playing chinese music instruments, a nice silhouette show, and our favorite, the changing of the masks. They were so fast they could literally change their mask in one second.
Not sure I would want to see it all again but it  was a fun birthday memory!


Ordering McDonalds in China

Ordering at McDonalds in China

How hard can that be?

We stopped at McDonalds on our way home from swimming and soccer yesterday because the kids wanted a Happy Meal.  Greg said that ordering a meal at McDonald’s is the hardest thing he has done in China.  I tell him, “they have a menu with pictures on it. How hard can it be?”  He says, “I don’t know.  Just watch and you’ll see.” So I leave the kids in the car with McKaela and we take our driver into McDonald’s with us and I’m thinking with the three adults, one being a fluent Mandarin-sichuanese speaker, that we should be able to get three happy meals without any problems.

Here is the menu.  I point to the chicken nuggets and the Happy Meal box and use my fingers to show them I want three of them.  They bring me three hamburgers instead.  This takes some patience and time to figure out but we finally get the order right.

Now I’m curious how Greg is going to get his Big Mac he orders “plain”.  The word “Mei” pronounced “may” in Mandarin means “No” and the word “Meiyou” pronounced “mayo” means “do not have” so Greg says “meiyou” meaning he doesn’t want anything on the hamburger but instead gets nothing but mayo on his hamburger.

With the help of our driver and a lot more patience we finally make it out of McDonalds with our empty calories.  Lesson learned….we tell the kids our next Chinese lesson is to learn how to order chicken nuggets in Chinese.