Thursday, April 30, 2009

One Last Thing

So in my last minute shopping extravaganza yesterday, I was walking down a street I have never walked before. All of the sudden, a Dunkin Donuts appeared! I had heard that they had opened a few stores here in town during the last few months, but I had not seen one yet. Anyway, I had to stop. Donuts in China are less than good, and if you are really lucky you will find a surprise hotdog inside a sugar coated donut. This happened to Scott last week. Hilarious. They also have donuts that look like they are topped with cinnamon or something, but then you bite it and its covered in pork flakes. They have a thing about meat flavoring here that I just don't understand.

Timmy's never had a good donut before this morning. He was pretty excited about it, I let him pick which one he wanted from the box. He picked a chocolate one, but then in the following minutes pulled the rest out and licked them. Don't tell Scott, he was still sleeping when this happened, and the ones that were licked were his! :) See you all soon!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Heading Home

Today is Tuesday and we found out this morning that we are headed back to the USA this Friday! We'll be in town for about 4 weeks. I'm trying not to think too much about a 14 hour plane ride with a toddler who doesn't stop moving. He's definately a different kid than the last time we were on that long flight with him. Does anyone know if Play-Doh counts as a liquid/gel as far as airport security is concerned? Play-Doh is one of Timmy's favorite things to play with and I figure it will keep him busy on the plane for a while. Pray for us, the flight leaves Friday afternoon China time.

This picture is from the other day when Tim decided that he needed to wear one of my rain boots around the house. It was pretty funny. Oh yeah, and he got another bad Chinese hair cut last week. I took Mrs. Zhang with me to tell them not to cut it too short. Somehow when I typed and translated to her what I wanted her to tell the barber, it was lost in translation. Oh well, at least he is a boy and it grows fast!
See you American friends this weekend :) !

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Day Tripping

We spent today in Hangzhou, China today with Scott's co-worker, CF and his wife Sara. Her name is not actually Sara, and she doesn't answer to Sara, so we are not sure why CF introduced her as Sara. We probably can't pronounce her Chinese name. Anyway, it was the most beautiful day outside and the city itself was absolutely beautiful. The day started out a bit iffy though.

About 30 minutes into our 2.5 hour drive from Shanghai to Hangzhou, Timmy puked. This has never happened before. This was not like a baby spitting up, this was a fountain of milk, stomach acid, and a few pieces of banana. It just kept coming. We were in CF's car, and thank goodness for the weird fact that every car in China has removable seat covers with Snoopy on them, otherwise his Kia would permanently smell like vomit. Also, thank goodness I brought an extra shirt for myself, or I would have been either smelly or topless all day! Don't worry, Timmy's fine, we think it was a bad banana. Ten minutes after the incident, he was hungry and smiling.

First, we took a boat to the middle of West Lake, which is the big attraction of Hangzhou. Timmy spent the whole ride saying "boat, boat, boat." It was his first time on a boat and he just learned how to say "boat" a couple weeks ago. He ran all over the island and loved stopping to look at the water.

After lunch we hiked around the Lingyin Temple area. It was so beautiful. What a difference from Shanghai. The flowers and greenery went on and on and there were hills with gorgeous buildings tucked between them everywhere. Azaleas were in bloom everywhere. Despite the fact that the whole area was created to honor Buddha, it was amazing. It was almost too bad that there were Buddhist icons and alters everywhere, they took away from the natural beauty.

We took a lot of pictures, too many to post here, so check them out at this link: (you DO NOT have to have a facebook account to view them)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

English As My Second Language

So being in China is forcing me to re-learn English...well at least certain words. I have been finding that through the activities that Timmy and I participate in, we have quite a diverse and international group of friends and acquaintances. Most of these friends are non-American, but all speak English. It truly is amazing how you can be in a conversation with someone who is speaking the same language, but between their accent and different vocabulary, barely understand a word they are saying. Here is a vocabulary list.

crisp = potato chip
biscuit = cookie
fag = cigarette
pram = baby stroller
cot = baby crib
lue = bathroom
lift = elevator
jelly = gelatin dessert like jello
jam = jam or jelly
bangers & mash = sausage and mashed potatoes

The words are not new words, they just don't mean what I thought they meant. So picture me having a conversation with another mom about toddler sleeping habits. She keeps saying that her son still sleeps in "a cot." In my mind cots are used in the military or camping, so I am thinking that her kid sleeps on a military cot.
In another conversation about what to eat for breakfast, I said that Scott likes jelly on his toast. The looks I got from people were of utter confusion which makes sense if you thought I just said Scott likes Jello on his toast. Yep, that would be weird.
And finally I was speaking to a dad at a playgroup and he was telling a story and kept using the word "fag," like, "and the guard had a radio in one hand and a fag hanging out of his mouth..." I was a little taken aback by this, but eventually realized that is not a nasty word in some parts of the world.

I guess being in China is making me appreciate being an American. In some ways we seem to be set apart, for better or for worse. I have had more than one person ask me what people do in the US with the economy so bad. I had to explain that some people really do lose their jobs and end up on the street. It was like that was an impossibility in people's minds, as if that can't happen in America, the land of opportunity. We are really thankful to be here in Shanghai, and thankful that Scott still has a job.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Shanghai Botanic Gardens

Scott, Timmy & I spent Saturday morning at the Shanghai Botanic Gardens. It was a perfect day outside, although you wouldn't know it by looking at the amount of clothing the locals were wearing. I swear, most of them were dressed for 40 degree Fahrenheit weather when it was in the mid 70's and sunny! The poor kids, their parents make them wear multiple pairs of pants and countless shirts and sweaters, even when its nice out. I just don't get it. AND the grandma's on the playground always comment (in Chinese so I don't know exactly what they are saying...) that Timmy is only wearing a pair of jeans. They are appalled that he doesn't have ten more layers on.

Anyway, back to the gardens. So the weather was perfect. The gardens were huge, I have a blister on my feet from walking so much. There was a bamboo garden, some cool Japanese maple trees, and endless annual flowers. The azaleas were in full bloom, but we missed the tulip displays by two weeks. Bummer, because I had heard they were awesome.

The best part of the day for me was this little boy who, when he saw me, Scott, and Timmy started jumping up and down, screaming and pointing at us. He was so excited to see foreigners, it was like we were famous or something. So I decided to jump up and down and point and smile back at him. It was hilarious, it only made him scream louder. Fantastic.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Fun

Easter is not widely celebrated in China, but we had a great day. Timmy played with his new "doh, doh, doh, doh" (play-doh, he loves the stuff), we all ate a lot of chocolate, took a walk to McDonalds for lunch, dyed some eggs and had a feast with friends for dinner.

Timmy seemed to have fun dying eggs, but did not have patience for waiting for them to turn colors. When adding the color pellets to the water, Tim decided that the green cup needed a red pellet too, so we had some sweet brownish, redish, greenish eggs. Actually all our eggs had some brown undertones - I couldn't find white eggs to use.

We ordered a smoked ham from Bubba's, Scott's favorite restaurant in Shanghai. My friend Jessica, her husband Xie Feng and their son Shaun, as well as Scott's coworker Yun Lou joined us for dinner.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Adoption Update & Heart To Heart Shanghai

So as many of you know, Scott and I came to China with the hope of adopting a Chinese baby at some point during our time here. In conjunction with that hope, I was looking forward to getting involved with volunteering at an orphanage to better understand the system and where the babies come from. After more in depth research, all doors have been shut (for now) on the idea of us adopting a baby from here during the next 2-3 years. China has pretty strict rules that both parents be 30 years old before they can adopt a child, so that rules us out until 2011. I also did some brief research on orphanages in Shanghai and volunteering at them is not a casual thing. There seem to be some serious requirements and commitments of time involved in such an endeavor. So, seeing that I have most of my time committed to Timmy, that door has been shut as well. Maybe we will revisit all of this sometime in the future.

Instead of volunteering at an orphanage, I decided to try something different. Through a mom's group called IMSG (International Mother's Support Group), I learned of an organization called Heart To Heart Shanghai. This organization helps raise funds to pay for kids that are born with congenital heart defects to have heart surgery. The kids that it sponsors would otherwise not have the opportunity to receive the care they need because their families cannot afford it. One surgery costs 25,000RMB (only 3650USD!) at the Shanghai Children's Thoracic Hospital.

Today I started volunteering at the hospital. Its incredible to see how different a children's ward at a Chinese hospital is like compared to the USA. All the monitors that the little babies were hooked up to were just propped up on chairs next to their beds. Also, there was virtually no security to get into the hospital or the children's floor. I was told by my orientation guide that there was no artwork of any kind on the walls until Heart To Heart donated it, and all the furniture and toys for the playroom. Unfortunately, the kids only get to play with the toys from 2-3:30 each day when the volunteers are there. Without supervision, all the toys would just disappear because of the lack of security. The place was clean, and had decent equipment, but not all the amenities (like carts for the equipment, furniture, artwork, phones) that we would expect to see in the US. I briefly met the chief surgeon, she seems to really love her work and the kids. She even speaks English and came in to say hello to me and the other new volunteer. Anyway, if you are interested in reading more about Heart To Heart, check out their website .

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Gubei Carrefour

Carrefour is a French based retailer of groceries and such. They are the grocer of choice for foreigners in China. There are two such grocery stores near our apartment, but the one in the area called Gubei is supposed to be the best and have the best selection of imported goods. The problem is, its not easy to get to from where we live.

Today I ventured there to see what all the hype was about. Basically its just like the one near our home, but much bigger. AND all the signs are in English as well as Chinese. They must know that they have a huge foreign customer base. Its incredible to see such a huge store, 5 floors. The first floor is entirely a food court. The second and third are groceries and household goods (think Super Target or Walmart). The fourth and firth floors are part parking garage and part micelleneous businesses like Gymboree.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Qing Ming Festival

This weekend was another Chinese holiday called Qing Ming Festival. Here is an explanation of what it means. For us it means a day off of work for Scott and that's about it.

Taken from a random email I got:

"Qing Ming Festival is directly translated as Clear and Bright Festival. It is one of the important traditional Festivals in China; it is a statutory public holiday in Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan which falls on April 4th. As April 4th is Saturday this year, companies will take off the previous Friday or following Monday to make a 3-day weekend. Sometimes also called Tomb Sweeping Festival in English as it is for tending to the graves of departed ancestors. Family members will take food, tea, wine, paper accessories, fake money, and chopsticks to tombs as offerings to the souls of their ancestors. They will sweep the tomb, and pray. Some people also carry willow branches with them to help ward off the evil ghosts wandering around.Qingming Festival is also to mark the 1st day of the 5th solar term, and therefore a time to get out of the house and enjoy the new beginning of spring."

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Lameness Update...

So if you didn't read my post called "really?" then this post is not going to make sense. Scott and I took the metro out to dinner tonight (yea for date night :) and what did I see on the train? A girl with a bun keychain!!! She was playing with it so much that she broke the dang thing. And the verdict is: not a real bun, definately squishy plastic. Lame.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Eels, Mops & Basketball

So yesterday I am sitting on the Metro (train) on my way home and three adults and a baby squish their way into the 2 seats open next to me. With them they have 2 suitcases and multiple other containers of stuff. I can only assume they are on their way somewhere for this weekend's Qing Ming holiday (pronounced something like "ching ming" and it means Tomb Sweeping Day). Other than being crammed up next to them I didn't think too much of it until I looked more closely at one of the plastic bags they had perched on top of their suitcase. It was moving. Not just moving, but slithering. Yuck. Inside were eels and they were alive! Eels on the train, what next. Oh China.

Earlier that day I was standing on a corner where I was to meet someone for lunch and I noticed a janitor-like person mopping. The funny thing is, he was mopping the sidewalk. Oh China.

And lastly, Timmy has a new obsession with basketball. He will sit in the window of our bedroom and watch the kids play forever. If he's lucky we will take him outside to watch and he stands by the fence and squeals at the guys playing. They all think its funny. He's trying really hard to say the word basketball, but it comes out as, "Ba Ball."