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.
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…
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
My latest update from Greg….
“Hi Guys – still missing you all. I had an interesting day yesterday. On the way home from work, the driver Yuan was telling me all about Chinese acupuncture. The toll booth is always a crap shoot, but as we were waiting behind another van, a dump truck in front of that van decided he wanted to get out of the line. He started to back up. As he’s smashing the van in front of us, Yuan is going into detail about acupuncture while I’m yelling at him to back up. He was able to get out of the way in time, but if I hadn’t been paying attention we’d have had a bit of a scrape.
I stopped at the restaurant in Huayang for some dinner. Even though we called it in, we still waited almost 30min. I guess they didn’t trust us to make the food in advance. Yuan says sometimes competitors do that as a joke so until they get to know you better they won’t prepare ahead? This was the third and last time eating there. I thought the food was terrible and ended up throwing it away. I ate an apple and some bread with Nutella.
It wasn’t as hot as it had been so I decided to go for a ride. I was exploring some new areas on the new bike and having a good ride until I had another flat. I had an extra tube, pump etc. but the piece of crap pump wouldn’t put pressure in the tire. I was about 10 miles from home out in the country. I decided to call Yuan for a ride. He didn’t answer. I called his other phone, and didn’t think he was going to answer again, but he picked up. He was a bit stressed I could tell. I told him I needed some help, and he proceeded to tell me about his trouble. He is so obsessed with that new bridge that he decided to drive over it after dropping me off. It was blocked and they were paving it but he went for it anyway. Turns out he got tar and asphalt caked all over the wheels. He was at the shop getting it scrapped off with a screw driver so he couldn’t give me a ride. I started to walk home. After about 1KM I saw some
kids along the road. I used my Chinese to explain my problem and asked about a ride. They couldn’t help so I kept walking.
About 5min later one of those little pedicab tricycles stopped at my side with the four kids inside chattering about something I couldn’t understand. I hung the bike on the back and went for my first ride in the pedicab. I couldn’t understand what they were telling me, but I went along with it. We drove to a village and stopped at a scooter store. We hit three stores and
none could help with my tire. I ended up asking the guy if he could just drive me home. It was too far, but I was able to use enough Chinese to explain I’d pay him when we got to the house and I was able to give him directions. It took about 30min, but we rolled into LuxeHills after dark and I gave the guy 50RMB for the ride. He was thrilled. I celebrated with a Dr Pepper, tried you guys
on Skype, and went to bed.
At work now – another day in China.
Love you guys!”
In case you are as curious as I was the history behind these pedicabs are as interesting as the photo. This style of pedicab or more commonly known as a “hen-pecked cab” can still be found in our new hometown of Chengdu in the Sichuan Province. The bicycle is one of the most common forms of transportation in this rapidly developing nation of 1 billion plus inhabitants.
The story goes like this. There was a man who needed to drive his family around. He built a tricycle with a small fold-down seat in the back. When he drove his wife and children around, his wife would always be telling him where to turn and where to go. Thus he was “hen-pecked” and the vehicle got its name. Some say they are illegal cabs because they aren’t registered but nobody seems to care and I for one am glad it got my hubby home safe and sound.
Think about the things you need in your life to make your life easier or just things you couldn’t live without and then try living without them in a foreign country. Think about the things you need to make your life complete or what exactly is it that brings you happiness? I know I can live a happy life anywhere in the world as long as I have my family with me. I’ve seen some of the most unfortunate people with not much but a roof over their heads and one thing I notice is they are still happy. The kids are laughing when they are playing on nothing but concrete and the women’s faces light up when they talk about their own families and they think we are the most fortunate people in the world because we can have more than one child and we come from America. So why is it so hard to give up the material things in life we accumulate? I know now from experience that you don’t need very much to survive but it’s REALLY nice to have some things with you to help make your life easier. I made the mistake of thinking that I would be able to find anything I needed once I got to China but I learned quickly to make do or go without. Now I have a list of over 50 items I want to pick up while I’m in the states for summer break and a 50 lb. limit on the suitcases.
China is one of the fastest growing countries in the world and what you couldn’t find 10 years ago you may be able to find today and what you can’t find today you may be able to find tomorrow. I’ve had this shopping list on my fridge for the past 4 months and it only took us 2 trips to a store in the states to get the items on the list that I think I need to make my life easier. First I’ll give you my personal survival guide for China and then I’ll show you my shopping list. Then I’ll look back over the list and wish I could be more like the simple minded women in China that don’t know about all this stuff…
A laptop computer with a VPN service. A Skype account is a great way to stay in touch with friends and family back home.
Netbooks are great for the kids to do their homework and email their teachers assignments too.
Unlocked cellphones. Phone plans are cheaper in China but a good phone is more expensive. We picked up an iphone and an android phone in the states but waited to get the kids a cheaper phone in China in case they lost it and we haven’t regretted that decision.
A Nook or a Kindle is really nice to have in China. We like the Nook because we can download books from the public library for free and the Kindle doesn’t allow you to do that yet.
Nintendo DS game system is more expensive to purchase in China but the games are quite cheap. Our kids like to have these for long car rides and down time.
Portable audio players like ipod, Zune, or Sony. We have all three and they are really nice to have when you want to listen to “American” music, audiobooks, or even podcasts. We use our portable speakers here to.
Food has been the hardest adjustment for us since moving to China.
Take a good look. This is the import isle at my local market. The pasta sauce is on the same row as the bag of chocolate chips and a small bag of chocolate chips costs 45 rmb. That’s $7 U.S. I find the dairy products are the hardest to come by. The eggs and milk are NOT refrigerated. Milk comes in a box and it’s not pasteurized but sterilized with a process called UHT (ultra-high-temperature processing).
Another difference that I see is pre-packaged foods are not something the Chinese are accustomed to. That is a good thing. I now cook more from scratch instead of a box and I know it’s more healthy for my family too. I like that I can get fresh cut noodles and the produce we get is quite fresh too. I’ve had some fruit I’ve never had before in my life and it’s yummy.
Until you can find some fabric you like and a tailer you can communicate with to make your clothes it’s just best to bring your clothes with you to China. I’ve had a hard time finding clothes I like let alone something that fits so I plan to go clothes shopping when I’m in the states. I’ve seen some shoes I would buy but nothing that fits. Anything over a size 7 seems hard to find.
I’m glad the sign is there or I would have missed the isle even if it says “cosmethes” instead of “cosmetics”. Not sure why exactly but if you are female or have teenage daughters you will want to B.Y.O.T (bring your own tampons) because if you don’t you’ll be wearing these…
We are lucky enough to have a western doctor in Chengdu who has a pharmacy on site but I’m still glad I brought all the medicine I thought our family would use over the next two years and I was glad I had it when our whole family got sick after first arriving to Chengdu. We quickly ran out of cough drops and cold medicine and tried some local stuff but we still prefer what we are used to. Not sure if this is a good place to mention bug repellent but the mesquitos in China love me and I couldn’t find any repellent with deet in it so I got desperate and tried other tricks like vanilla and even listerine in a spray bottle. One of my expat friends felt sorry for me after counting over 30 bites on one leg and picked me up a can of repellent in Thailand. Isn’t it great to have friends?
This is my awesome mixer I found at the kitchen wholesale market for only 800 rmb ($124). I even had enough yuan to get a blender too for $20 more. I looked everywhere for a good toaster though and even took an interpreter with me to the store who couldn’t figure out what I needed so she got out her cellphone and typed in “toaster” into her nifty app. and said “Oh, can’t you just use your oven?” Well, needless to say I did find a toaster one day but it’s a worthless piece of crap that I want to throw out my window every time I use it. I’m on my third iron too but who’s counting?
We all have our own hobbies and we are all glad we brought them with us. Greg and Mckaela both play the guitar, I like to make jewelry and vinyl stickers while Olivia has taken to needle work, and we brought 1/2 Ethan’s toys with us and he plays with all of them. Some of these hobbies you can find in China but only bits and pieces so it’s just better to bring with you what you like.
The more Chinese you know the better off you are. We have both Rosetta Stone and Fluenz software programs to help us learn the language. The kids have learned a little at school but the truth is it takes time and a lot of practice. Books, flashcards, cellphone applications, Chinese/English dictionary. Anything that will help you learn the language better but nothing helps you learn it more than being around those who speak the language fluently. Surround yourself with positive people who love living in China.
My shopping List
Microwave popper (we like popcorn)
Ranch dressing & mix
Hair products (hairspray, mouse, gel)
Collapsable Lunch boxes
Backpacks for school
vitamin water mixes
Canned roast beef
School clothes for the kids
Flux for soldering
Glide floss picks
Biz card scanner
Aerosol air spray for cleaning computer
Gifts for employees
(3) baby gifts
Pectin for making jam
Transformer toy (promised to Ethan since trip to dentist)