I continue to constantly ask myself, "What is my purpose here and now?" It is mostly because there are so many things that I used to do, in my everyday life, that I don't do anymore. I used to feel fulfilled by stocking up on food storage (i.e. filling my minivan with Costco items), taking my kids to their enrichment activities, volunteer in their classes, clean my house, and substitute teach when the day was right. I don't do any of these things here so I have to redefine what I do to feel productive and to feel that I am contributing. It is a continuous process, often times pushing away guilt and the nagging thought of, "am I needed?" As part of this process I decided to jot down what I did today, a pretty normal routine day. This is for you to see what my "new" life in Beijing is like and for me to visually see how it is I spend my time.
6:20- Wake up, throw on exercise clothes, brush teeth, take Jupiter downstairs to go potty, fill water bottles, make snacks, toast bagels.
6:57- "The Ducks Quack" on my iphone to alert us all that we have three minutes to get out the door. Family prayer.
7:00- All four of us ride the elevator down and walk the block to the bus stop. A huge blessing of living here is Dad says goodbye to the kids each morning as they head off to school.
7:08- Wave goodbye to the kids and walk with hubby to the corner. Kiss goodbye and head to RiTan Park for my morning run (or walk since I've had a chest cold). Every other day I go to our building gym to exercise. On the way home from the park I switch from music to a podcast, usually spiritual, right now this (couldn't live without the itunes store!)
8:20- Return to apartment and resist going online to chat with friends in US. Turn on Anderson Cooper 360 (I've become VERY interested in American news since I don't live there anymore, it helps me feel connected). I put away dried dishes from the night before. Fold clothes and put in a new load of laundry. Do breakfast dishes BY HAND.
9:00- On Mondays I often call my parents or skype with friends, but today while Piers Morgan was on (can you tell we only get CNN?) I showered (I try to shower before going on the internet, otherwise I may not shower at all), checked my email, roamed around on FB and thought it was really interesting that Kris Jenner had no idea Kim Kardashian's marriage was over on Piers...we watch it a day behind you.
10:00- Say "Ni Hao" to the housekeeping staff that came to clean the apartment. Then, head out for my "outing for the day". Today I went to the Chinese grocery store and bought stuff for dinner tonight, along with bread and more snacks for the kids. Some days I meet hubby for lunch (my favorite outing), meet friends, go to markets, take Jupiter to vet, etc. It takes a lot of motivation to head out when you don't have to because it is so difficult to get anywhere AND the air quality has been horrid!
12:00- Return home, put away groceries, eat lunch (leftovers from hubby and my lunch date yesterday), read scriptures. I have started to read scriptures at lunchtime. I am awake and more in tune with the Spirit.
12:30- Study Mandarin. I usually squeeze this in right before my lesson...total procrastinator. Once I start I enjoy it, but I dread it beforehand.
1:10- Take Jupiter to the dog park on the corner of our street. It is more like he takes me. There is something about this place that makes him p00p every time we go, no matter what time of day or night. We consider this a complete blessing because he does not have accidents in the apartment. When out, I spend a lot of my time second guessing what I am doing and what the locals think about what I am doing (probably because foreigners get stared at a lot!). Even at the dog park I wonder if I am practicing the right etiquette, but today I threw that right out the window when a MAN went pee on a tree right in front of me without even trying to conceal himself. I am not going to worry about my dog peeing in the right spot anymore.
1:30- Lily, my mandarin teacher, arrives. Today I learn valuable sentences like. "Please say again = Qing zai shuo yi bian" and "I hear you but I don't understand = Wo ting bu dong". We laugh a lot and while it is fun to learn, I almost never speak to anyone and I equally cannot understand what others are saying. I consider my learning mandarin a hobby:)
3:45- Say "zai jian" to Lily and go on the computer to write in my journal. Shhhh, don't tell anyone but I pretend that I am writing the next best seller. Also, don't tell hubby but some days this is my nap time, not today though. I figure if all the Chinese men can nap in their cars on the side of the road, I can catch a few z's in the comfort of my own home. Today both kids have loooooong days at school so I have extra time to myself.
4:30- Go on the apple tv and download your last night's NBC Nightly News (I told you I was obsessed with the news). LOVE our apple tv here, so grateful for Steve Jobs! Do mandarin homework.
5:30- I begin to prepare dinner. Tonight I made a "made-up" recipe that is basically a Mexican lasagna with tortillas. I have set my standards pretty low for cooking. When we first moved here it really overwhelmed me because finding ingredients is a struggle, we didn't have our kitchen tools, etc. So I set out to cook only Tue, Thur and Sun nights. That way I am successful and I don't feel guilty on the nights I don't cook. Time after time, it is proven that eating out here is just so much more cost effective than cooking. While I cook dinner I wait for D to come home and anticipate hearing about his field trip that he went on today (Olympic park to study the systems) and to hear about his after school session of "Great Wall Runners".
5:40- D comes home. We talk about his day, look over his homework that he did on the hour+ long bus ride and he decides to watch some t.v. while I finish dinner. I make the salad.
6:15- D and I eat together, we enjoy our time alone together on Tue and Thur nights because E is at volleyball still and hubby has his mandarin lesson on these nights. We decide to play dominoes, that is our new nighttime activity.
7:15- E comes home. I listen to her tell me about her day. She is excited as she gets to go to TianJin for a volleyball tournament next month. She eats, plays a round of dominoes with us, then goes straight to homework. Tuesday and Thursday nights are so busy for her, but she chooses to continue playing sports and sacrifices free time. Hubby comes home and eats dinner. We all look at D's field trip pictures on the t.v.
7:45- I wash the dinner dishes, fold clothes and make sure nobody has any PE clothes that need to be done by tomorrow.
8:30- Family Scriptures and prayer.
8:50- Say goodnight to D, he falls into bed very tired. Jupiter joins him on his bed. E goes into her room and continues homework. Hubby and I settle in and watch NBC Nightly News.
Tomorrow will be very similar, but I will go to Ikea to finally finish off the guts of a closet (hopefully) and we will go out to dinner since it will be Friday.
When you are feeling like you don't do much, I urge you to write down everything you do in your day. I realized that, despite having free time on my hands, I do a lot for my family and myself. Maybe this foreign feeling is balance. Who knows?