Monday, October 29, 2012

The Opposite of Alone

I am that girl who wanted everyone and their mother with me during child birth. It didn't really turn out that way either time, nevertheless I remember thinking (while writhing in pain), 
"This should be a party!" 
You may think I am kidding, I am not.

It is no secret that, while living in Beijing, I have had more alone time than in my other life. Funny how that can happen in a city of 22 million people.  

I also have been pondering about what brings me true happiness. For many it is exotic locales, feeling recognition at work or enjoying recreational hobbies. While each of those are fun for me I've always wondered why they didn't make me giddy on the inside. 

It wasn't until I was validated by an NPR show that I listen to that I truly learned about what makes up my happiest moments. One of the talk show hosts was saying he really didn't care about going and seeing hundred year old cathedrals. When I have said things like that...usually about things like a very long wall...people scoff and scorn and I have felt shallow. The host, very confidently, stated that he would much prefer staying home with family and close friends.

Duh! It seems obvious that people enjoy being around family and friends. But for me, that is ALL that matters! I can't tell you how many times I've been to exciting places and just couldn't enjoy it because my favorite people were missing. I think that is why I blog and Facebook ALL THE TIME. It helps me feel like those that I miss are right there with me. 

But, until recently, it never really clicked. Looking back, yes, the memories I cherish the most did not require fancy clothes, airplane tickets, elaborate equipment, or even detailed planning. It just had fun people there. I am the type of person who enjoys meetings, as long as the right people are there. 

Below are just a few of my favorite memories...see if you can see any patterns.

Laying on my bed, in my teenage room, listening to music and talking about Duran Duran (among many other hotties) with my BFFs.

The many, many social gatherings my roommates and I hosted at our college apartments. 

Any, and every, phone conversation that I have had with my sisters.

My wedding reception

Camp Drake

When hubby surprised me and showed up at Disneyland unexpected.

Backyard meals, countless gin rummy games, cheering on the SF Giants and just a few Johnny's Donuts with my mom and dad.

I have been known to say that I am happiest when my home is filled to the rim with the people I love. Our going away party was one I will always cherish.

I could go on and on...but every single one of the memories that make my tummy tickle has special people, lots of talking and usually good food! Must be the Italian in me! 

I think this has a lot to do with why happiness has been a challenge for me while here in Beijing. I do not have as much opportunity to make these same types of memories. But when they do happen, with special people I've met here, they are that much greater! 

A perfect example...Giants win the 2012 World Series and I am all alone.
Kids at school, hubby (DODGER FAN) at work, internet barely working.
I felt so very far away from home and loved ones.
But I made the best of it and celebrated anyway.
The Chinese ayis cleaning my apartment thought I was nuts!

I look ahead to just seven and a half weeks (yea I am counting).
Sure we will be surrounded by palm trees, tropical breezes and virgin lava flows... but what I am most looking forward to is just being around some of my very favorite people and making more life-long memories with them!

This post is dedicated to each and every person I have ever had a heart to heart talk with, giggled with, or shared a meal with. 
It's you that makes me the happiest.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Friends In China ~ Episode 3 ~ LaDeana

LaDeana and her husband at the Forbidden City.
The "must do" Beijing photo spot.

I am proud to introduce you to a fantastic lady, LaDeana, who has made an impact on my life in a very short time. One of the things I love about our church is something called visiting teaching, where every woman has two other women who visit, care for, and provide service. It is an inspired companionship that results in friendships that may not have usually happened. LaDeana and I most likely would not have gotten as close  because of our different social circles. I am so grateful that we did, I have learned a lot from her.

 Her story is unique because she is leaving (sniff sniff) Beijing, after a short six month stint here. Those who are here for a short time exhibit enthusiasm and "carpe diem" because they know their time is limited.  I need that influence to keep me going.
Where did you move from? Liberty Township, Ohio (about 20 miles north of Cincinnati, Ohio)
How long have you lived in China? 4 ½ months

How long do you plan to stay in China? 1 ½ months. My husband is here working for Procter and Gamble on a temporary assignment of 6 months. We will be leaving October 31. We have been here since the end of April.
Have you lived in any other countries before? No
How did you make the decision to move here? My husband was given the opportunity to come to China to do some training. What he is doing here is not what he normally does for his position at Procter and Gamble. My husband is a Senior Scientist (Toxicologist). Here he is doing more management work. This has been a great opportunity for him to get out of his comfort zone and do things he would not be doing in Cincinnati.

What are the ages of your children? Nathan, 32; Camille, 29; Mark, 26; Valerie, 23 (Just got married on March 3 to Joel Baker). I also have two grandchildren: Benjamin , 3; Madelyn, 1 (children of my daughter Cami and her husband Rodney).
   What things about or in America do you miss most while you’ve been living in China?

My children and grandchildren
The freedom to get around without advance planning. We do not have the luxury of a driver and depend on taxis and the subway to get to our destinations. When I go home (to America), I jump in my car and just drive—oh the freedom.
Hearing people speak English.
Going to the grocery store and being able to read the label and what ingredients are in the food.
Buying chocolate chips (and other beloved American foods) without paying a fortune for them.
Being able to call my friends and not worry about whether I have enough minutes on my phone to talk to them.
Also I miss the great phone connections. It is frustrating having your call dropped several times while trying to talk to someone on your cell phone. Or you can’t connect at all.
My quiet neighborhood in a township with very few cars.
Greek yogurt.
A reliable internet without the need of a VPN to watch your favorite shows or to connect to Facebook.
What do you like most about living in China? The people. Even though I do not speak Chinese, I have learned to love the people. I love to watch them with their families—especially with young children. You can tell that the family unit is very important to them.
I also love the challenges that living here has given me. I have grown to be more patient (as I have been forced to wait for taxis, wait in line, wait in traffic, etc.). I am getting better at expecting the unexpected. Most the time, things do not go as planned and revisions need to be made, to make things work (if that makes any sense).
What are the biggest challenges of living in China? Initially it was learning to go somewhere alone. In America, I am a professional trainer and have traveled all over the U.S. and out of the U.S. alone. I have never felt uncomfortable going places alone, until I came here. It took me about a week before I felt brave enough to venture to the local grocery store by myself. This was because I was unfamiliar with their customs and did not understand their language. I have learned a few Chinese words since we came here and I have become very good at gesturing to get my point across. I can’t tell you how many times I have bought unnecessary food items at Lotus (a local Chinese grocery story) because one of the sales people in the store gave me their sales pitch in Chinese (not understanding a word) and I didn’t want to offend them. So I would just smile, nod, and take the item. Sometimes I didn’t even know what I was buying until I brought it home and had one of the staff at our apartment building tell me what it was.
Now that we have been here a while, I feel the biggest challenge for me is getting from point A to point B. I really dislike subway travel and hate hailing taxis. But if I want to get somewhere that is far away, I have to choose one of the two.
What is your most common mode of transportation? Walking, taxi, and subway.
Do you have an ayi (domestic helper)? No. I live in a serviced apartment and do not need an ayi.
Do you have a driver? I do not have a driver. However, my husband has hired a driver to take him to work in the morning. We live in the Gaobedian area and he works in the Shunyi area which is about an hour commute (one-way). Then he takes a taxi home at night.
Where do you grocery shop? What are some things you buy regularly that you didn't buy in the US? Three grocery stores that I shop at the most are: Jenny Lou’s (geared toward expats), City Shop (also geared toward expats), and Lotus. Recently, I discovered a wet market (a wet market is an enclosed “vegetable/fruit/meat” market which has several vendors under one roof) within walking distance of our apartment that is very clean and has many vegetable, fruit, and miscellaneous vendors. I wish I had discovered that market sooner.
I have noticed I use more soy sauce here than I ever used in the U.S. (probably because I have cooked more Chinese foods here than I did in the U.S.)  We also eat more vegetables and fruits. We are eating less meat because it is more expensive here. I’ve learned to love Chinese dumplings.

What types of restaurants do you eat at? How often do you eat out? My husband and I rarely eat out because there are not many restaurants close to us (except traditional Chinese restaurants). When we do eat out (which is about once a week) we will walk to the Joy City Mall (which is about a half-hour walk—again avoiding taxis and subways) and eat at one of the Chinese restaurants in there. Or we will go to the Sanlitun area and eat at one of the Western-style restaurants there.
What does your typical day look like? After waking up and sending my husband off to work, I exercise in the apartment building’s exercise room for about an hour. Depending upon the day, I will follow Julie (who lives in the same apartment building) around as she does some shopping (she likes to shop & has a driver that can take us almost anywhere). I have done more shopping in Beijing than I have in my whole life. Some days I will stay at the apartment and write on my blog, and do some of my crafts (like cross-stitching). On the weekends, my husband and I usually do some touring of Beijing. I have also been able to train at my husband’s work a few times.
Are there any new hobbies you've picked up in China?
Shopping with a friend. I rarely shop in the U.S. unless I need groceries.
Where is the most interesting place you've visited in China? In China, Guilin. I loved the mountains and the Longshi Rice Terraces. They were an awesome site. 

LaDeana with her husband in Guilin.
She was lucky enough (hint hint) to have her daughter come and visit them!

What is the weirdest thing you've witnessed in China? I had my wallet stolen from my backpack while I was on the subway. That was unusual and very disturbing. This is one reason I do not like to ride the subway.
If you could move to any other city in the world, which would it be? Not sure about that. I usually adapt to wherever we move, and love it. I wouldn’t want to live in the Middle East right now or any high-crime area.  

I've always wanted to take D to Dayton, Ohio due to his name. When we do, we are planning on meeting up with this great couple! Safe travels friend!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

This Week in Pictures

Two words for this week: Giants and backache!
Congrats to the National League Champs!
I spent most of the week flat on my back with a pinched nerve.

Representing here in Beijing!

Hubby got his driver's license a while back.
We rented a car for the weekend  ($50 USD) to give us some freedom.
Drove out to Dulwich School for a volleyball tournament and visited a friend in the hospital.

Clothes donations.
So many things we brought to wear, we don't, so we are donating them.
Less stuff to take back!

Hubby concentrating on driving.
It is much different that US driving.
10 and 2

Jupiter took a walk in the rain and needed a bath.

Do you see that big blue blob?
That is a flower arrangement! They are quite popular.

7 Chinese men and 1 security guard hung out in my apartment for two days while they repaired our bathroom wall.

While hanging out at ISB (International School of Beijing) for parent teacher conferences I was able to see the trophy case. Happy to report my daughter has contributed to this case in volleyball.

We had some wind, blue skies and some rain this week.
This is how our view looks today. Smog!

Biggest Giants fan in Beijing!
Watching the World Series over breakfast,
Go Giants!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

This Week in Pictures

Even though this pic was not technically taken this week,
we got our underwater DVD with pictures of the divers back this week.
See here for more Thailand pictures.

Our church has a semi-annual General Conference.
Here in China we view it a week later.
We spent all of Sunday watching inspired leaders counsel us
about what Heavenly Father wants us to hear.
Jupiter enjoyed the Tabernacle Choir.

The Sandalwood Museum, near a friend's house.
No blue sky on this day.
Gaobeidian Furniture Street shopping with Alice.

Antique hand carved doors and shutters.

Old railroad house. 

Pottery at a furniture store.

Assortment of Chinese decor accents.

Chinese bowls intended to be made into sinks.

A super expensive French inspired furniture store.

Quaint alley way.

Interesting green doors.

Jianguomen Wai. This rainbow lights up at night.
Hoping to get a picture of it as this is very close to our apartment.

Topiary on Jianguomen Wai.

Just outside our door, the ever popular Ya Bao Lu intersection.
This is our  "hood".

It is common to have non-running vans like this parked all over.
They serve as storage rooms for "ma and pa shops".
This one is for our corner fruit stand and convenience store.

Another "storage room".

Close to our front door you can find chickens and rabbits in cages on the street.
So far, I don't think they are for food.
One day when they disappear I will wonder.
Jupiter sniffs them daily.

Welcome autumn!
Had to put away all the summer clothes and unpack our "cool" clothes.

It is not uncommon to see Ferraris and other high priced cars in Beijing.
This one was parked at our apartment complex.

D enjoying a banana milkshake at Grandma's Kitchen,
of course while rooting the Giants to victory!
These milkshakes are something we will definitely miss when we go home.

E's favorite dinner: Naan bread, Butter Chicken and
Chicken Shahi Korma from Ganges Indian Restaurant.

Jupiter's best friend is this security guard.
These guys work twelve hour shifts and greet us all a lot.
Despite me asking over and over, he would not look at the camera....shy.
Once again, forgive me for my blurriness ..I am always so nervous I am going to get yelled at when I snap a picture,  so I do it quickly.
Thanks for viewing!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Quirkiness of our China Apartment

Believe it or not, with only eight months left here in Beijing, the thoughts about leaving all of it behind are beginning to creep into my mind. I wanted to document all the annoying quirky characteristics of our apartment so I can, one day, look back on them fondly. After all, these quirks help make our China experience what it is.

It looks lovely, now smell it.
First and foremost...the smell in our bathroom. It almost was a deal breaker when our one year lease came up. This disgusting smell wafts right into our bedroom. We have gone to great lengths to find the source and mask it. We started right away by bleaching the entire bathroom, thinking it was mold. Then we bought drain covers because we are sure it was coming up from the drains. The only full proof band-aid has been to keep the bathroom door closed at all times. I never, ever use the bath tub because I even smelled the odor emerging from the faucet once as I turned it on. I met our neighbor below us and she has the exact same problem.

I have attempted several times to organize this chaos.
A close second would be our lack of storage space everywhere, especially the kitchen. We have a gorgeous wall of "cabinetry" which is completely and utterly FAKE. I have broken so many prized possessions because things are nested, stacked and crammed into every inch of space we have. I guess that is what we get for moving into a hotel-like building. The management was very kind and bought me a ginormous Ikea closet. Unfortunately, they did not measure the height of it ahead of time and there is only one spot in our apartment the cabinet would fit due to ceiling height. They also did not buy any of the "guts" for the closet (rods, drawers, etc) which resulted in three trips to Ikea to find the right ones. They also bought us a food cabinet.

The hub of plugs.
Many times a day the quirk of not having any electrical outlets in our kitchen comes up. I never thought that I was taking for granted my electrical outlets all along my kitchen backsplash, but I guess I was. We have one outlet, with an outlet extender, that houses our water cooler and the toaster and the blender and the crock pot. We also do our ironing there. Outlets, overall, are few and far between in our apartment. I bought a lamp that I never have even used because there is no outlet near it

The wall of nothing.
I mentioned above the fake wall of cabinets in our kitchen. Well, those cabinets cannot open because of our luxurious bath tub... which I never use due to the smell...Have you ever walked through a shower to get to a bath tub? That is what you do in our master bath.

No counter space.
The counter space for everything.

 I have mentioned before that I only cook three times a week. This is somewhat due to the fact that eating out is extremely cheaper than cooking, but our kitchen set up is really why I hate to cook here. Besides not being able to find many of the ingredients (this week I used frozen peas instead of dried for split pea soup) the lack of countertop space makes it difficult. There have been times that I have been preparing dinner amongst piles of clean clothes, school papers and an open laptop (for the recipe). I know this sounds petty, but also the lighting is such that your head shadows whatever you are chopping or cooking. I constantly have to adjust my head to see what I am doing. 

Despite the fact that I have no dishwasher, or the fact that our washer/dryer combo takes six hours to do one damp load, or that our gas burners suddenly go out when I think something is simmering away...this is our China home for two years. We have six lovely women come to clean for us daily (for the record, I do my own dishes and laundry). The staff greets us warmly many times a day. Our dog, Jupiter, is loved by everyone. When faced with the decision to move to a more "expat complex" we decided against it. No matter what quirkiness it has, this is still home...kinda.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

This Week in Pictures

I love wrapping gifts but in China it is a boxes. This is a Crystal Light container wrapped in paper. Great for little gifts, especially candy or cookies.

Chinese take-out night.

Lily and our Cantonese feast!

Dog Park with 2nd Ring Rd traffic.

Dog friends.

Someone is becoming blond(er)...with Russian dye! Scary!

ISB school busses

Breast Cancer Awareness: all the moms were
presented pink roses by the volleyball players.

Cross Country Course- is this even China?
Perfect day for running!

Elementary Cross Country Runners for International School Academic Competition.
D's buddy came in third!

Better late than never!
The boys birthday party. He doesn't like cake or frosting
so we did brownie cupcakes.

The birthday boy and his laser tag friends!