Saturday, July 30, 2011

Welcome to our Beijing Apartment

Having hubby and son go out ten days in advance has mostly had advantages. The only disadvantage I could think of is that I had to wrap up my beloved California home all by myself. It was very difficult for me to say goodbye to all of my belongings and the home I love for an undecided amount of time.

But everything works out! I know it was divine that hubby signed the lease for our apartment the day before our belongings were shipped off to storage. It helped me to look forward rather than dwell on what's left behind.

The first few days proved to be frustrating for the boys. Inventory for three bedroom apartments was low, prices had skyrocketed, and those we loved did not have any play space for D and his ripstik. This place was taken off the list (sniff, sniff) due to concrete everywhere and no kids to be seen. But soon our real estate agent took the boys to a completely different place and it became our new home!

Welcome to our very chic and modern eleventh floor, three bedroom apartment in the Chaoyang district of Beijing! It is a full service apartment which includes many of the amenities of a hotel, while allowing us to still make it our home long term. That means I can call the desk for any maintenance needs, cab requests, help for anything. This is a huge blessing to me since much of my anxiety was about how to deal with "stuff".

For those of you who know me, you may be shocked that this is quite an extreme from my "shabby chic" style. Well...I don't think anything that would accomodate my vintage chintz is anywhere in the city limits so we decided to go with somewhere that was completely different and sort of a blank slate. I can't wait to get a really cool bowl for fruit in the center of that island!

The kitchen has a built in refrigerator and freezer on the right. The washing machine is in the island and there is no dishwasher. I figure since the housekeeper comes twice a week the kids can keep up their responsibilities by washing dishes:)

Moving from a 3,400 square foot home with lots of living space to this being our only living space will present some challenges I am sure. Although, we are looking forward to family interaction that we never had before. We look forward to Jupiter sitting and looking out those windows.

Dayton settled in before the management even left the apartment. They were quite taken back that he went into his room and began unpacking and setting up all on his own. They told hubby that Chinese children would never do that, their parents do mostly everything for them.

I imagine those flower throw pillows are already stored in the closet.

Here is our love nest, the master bedroom.

The master bedroom includes a shower and soaking tub.

There is also another bathroom that the kids will share and another bedroom for E.

There you have it. You have now seen as much of our new apartment as I have. I look forward to getting there ( in just four days) and putting my "touch" on it. Good job to hubby for picking a cool place, in a cool area! It is near markets, restaurants, the subway, his work and the kids school bus stop.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Taking Our Dog to Beijing,China

This is not intended to be a "how to"~ just our experience of getting our dog to live with us in Beijing, China.

The entire international relocation process is cumbersome and tiresome, but having a dog is by far the hardest part of it. So much to the fact of me wanting to leave our beloved Jupiter behind with family for the "at least two years" we will be away. Hubby, however, would not even think of it. So the preparations (and worry) began.

  • First, we contacted China to begin the legal paperwork. He had to be weighed, measured and photographed and we sent those off. Did you know that where you live in the city depends on how big your dog can be? We are lucky he is small since we will be living in the heart of the city.

  • Next came the research of how to get him there. Most airlines do not accept "snub nose" dogs at all. This is due to their respiratory system having complications during flight. Worry #1. It turns out Continental Airlines has an award winning animal transportation division. However, since United bought them they have not adopted that division over yet. The only way to get him in the award winning transport was to pay $700 and fly from SFO to New Jersey and then onto Beijing. Nope. We finally found that Air China would transport him for a portion of that price and he would fly direct from SFO to Beijing. He would ride in the cargo since animals are not allowed on international flights in the cabin. Hubby and son sacrificed American Airlines to fly with Jupiter (E and I were coming later). We were reassured the cargo is pressurized and the temperature is the same as the cabin. Sedation is not allowed.

  • Next we had to get a specific kennel. The dimensions had to be exact and air holes even in the back. With him being alone in cargo he needed to have water and food accessible. We taught him that his crate was a good place to be but he would not drink out of the sipper water thing we got. Worry #2

  • Next it was time to make arrangements for his 30 day quarantine. Major Worry #3! Up until recently the quarantine was "in home" so there was not much information on the new process. We had heard snippets of "it is too hot in the summer", "they treat the animals bad", "he won't come back acting the same", etc. We researched ways to try to get it switched to an in home quarantine...eye drops from the vet that would be too annoying to give to him, an extra wad of cash (we are not above bribing for the sake of our dog, don't judge- love makes you do weird things!).

  • Time to go to the vet. China gave us all the requirements that he needed and the appointment was quite routine. Except for the US health certificate needed to be filled out within two weeks of departure, we think. Us, the vet, and the USDA could not clearly decipher if that was the case but we waited until within two weeks just to be safe.

  • PDF packet came from China about all the dog requirements in Beijing after he gets out of quarantine. It was long and hard to understand except for the part that said, "if any animal gets rabbies with 5 km ALL animals in that radius must be DESTROYED". Worry #4!

  • Ten days before his departure he had his final appointment with the vet for his health certificate. We had to physically drive it to the USDA in Sacramento to get an official stamp (cerifying that our vet is really a vet). After that he was all good to go!

The anxiety about transporting Jupiter was very difficult. We were all worried about his emotional well-being (AND WE ARE NOT EVEN "DOG PEOPLE") and him thinking that he was deserted. We put our pillow cases into his bed inside his crate so he could have our smell. I don't know if it helped Jupiter but it helped us to think it helped.

When we got to the airport he thought he was Top Dog! He was so excited walking around with his tail in the air and taking on this new place. It took a good 40 minutes at the Air China counter to get all the paperwork filled out. Then it was time to say goodbye at the oversized baggage counter. I stepped away, but when I looked back I saw that he did not want to go in the crate and was being gently shoved into it. I lost it and did not see him again.

We prayed and prayed for the safety of "our boys". After thirteen hours, at 3:45 am, I got a phone call saying that Jupiter was fine. They picked him up at oversized baggage and he was perfectly fine. Hubby and D took him to the quarantine location at the aiport. Photographs were taken of Jupiter and hubby (for identification purposes) and they assured him that he would be in a nice sized space with good ventilation and well taken care of. Hearing my
9 year old son reassure me in the middle of the night was all I needed.

We get him back on August 23rd and I will update how it went.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


There are a group of people, from the history of my church, that we have heard stories about for a long time. These faithful people we refer to as pioneers. Men, women, and children believed in a God and believed there was a place to worship Him away from persecution and hatred. These valiant souls were sometimes tortured, and time after time, driven from their homes without any notice. Finally, they were asked to sacrifice everything and walk across the plains and mountains to a place only faith could lead them to.

We hear stories about sacrifice of items, loved ones and much death. We revere and respect these individuals, without even knowing them. For each sacrifice was not made in vain because we are able to worship today because of them.

Often we speculate how we would've reacted when asked to leave almost everything we have after building it back up, yet again. We say that we would've unwaveringly believed and packed up in the night, with just our most prized possessions in hand.

It dawned on me recently that I, in a small way, can relate more closely to these valiant Saints. I am, in no way, comparing my modern day trials to their sacrifice. However, this move to Beijing has been hard on me. I am being asked (I mostly feel it is told) to move away from my beloved family and home, to a place that I have no desire to visit (let alone live), for a time that will most likely be longer than two years. Sure, I didn't have a fiery mob beating down my door in the night but I was told it would benefit my husband's job and my children's education and "". Yeah, I know!

It made me realize that maybe, just maybe, not all the Saints were dancing when their orders came. Maybe there was a woman who cried herself to sleep, or paced nightly due to the fear of the unknown. Maybe there was a woman that felt sick every time she packed away something that would not accompany her on the journey. Maybe there was a woman who felt she could not breathe for fear of losing the wonderful memories and laughter built within the walls of her home.

Suddenly I knew that these pioneers probably did feel all of those things. It was hard for them. Being faithful does not take away the sting of the sacrifice, for if it did our Savior's biggest sacrifice for us all would've been easy. It wasn't even easy for Him. It was not easy for the pioneers. It is not easy for me.

That is why, on a recent call to a colleague in Shanghai, my husband heard our family referred to as pioneers. The four of us will be the first family sent to live in Beijing from his company. We will "work out the kinks". It sounds to me like a lot more faith will be required. I will continue to think about those early pioneers and feel privileged to be called the same title as them.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Differences of Freedom

MANY of you have asked what life will be like for us living in The People's Republic of China. I have spent the last few months scouring all information I can about it. I feel the only way to deal with this is to prepare...and have faith.

I have been emailing many American women who live in Beijing. I, also, have found a number of blogs (not too sure how they get around the government but I will be sure to find out!). The information from these sources have been invaluable. I hope that I will be able to help some other "freaking out expat" down the road.

PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE read this post!

She and her husband (who works for the embassy) will be in the branch of our church. I have yet to meet her, but am thrilled to thank her in person.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The first of many, many goodbyes

Time is moving quickly now. It seems that daily we are tying up loose ends and saying the beginning of many "see you soons". And it is not just people we are saying goodbye too...This weekend we sold one car and we already got rid of our home phone. Does anyone else out there get sentimental about stupid things like a phone number??

However, in these times of bittersweet...there are magical moments too! My friend asked us to stop by the other night. She had a gift for us...It was a snapfish digital book where she had solicited photos and letters from many of our family and friends. Facebook even froze her account for spamming!

I was so overwhelmed with emotion! First of all, that someone would go to all of that effort and time for us! Second, because of all the wonderful sentiments that our friends sent in.
The book is filled with pages and pages of memories and kind thoughts about our family. I was so taken back of how my children have influenced so many people. It really choked me up. It was a bit like being at your own funeral...hearing what people really think about you.
This weekend we will be having our going away open house. We may have 5 people or 105 people. Nevertheless, this book has empty pages at the end so that our friends can write in it for us.

I am so grateful for this book, and for the friend who made it for me.

I know it will help my family and I be buoyed up when we are homesick.