Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Running Can Be Dangerous to Your Health!

Yesterday, against the advise of another woman who has lived in China almost 4 years, I went on my first run. I have really been itching for exercise and I thought it can't be that bad. I left the hotel and headed down Ren Min Nan Lu (People's Road South) for a mile. As I came to a red light I jogged in a small circle on the sidewalk and as I ran in my circle I managed to get hit by a woman on a moped. I wasn't even on the road, I was on the sidewalk! She seemed to be horrified that she hit me, but I just looked at her and burst out laughing. I couldn't believe it! I actually go hit by a moped, in China! I am alright and I don't even think I have a bruise. I am probably going to refrain from running outside for now.

Things have been really busy around here. My friend Tanya's aye (domestic helper) asked me if I needed an aye because she had a friend, Xiao Yang, who was looking for work. I interviewed her and hired on the spot. My interview consisted of Tanya's driver translating questions like, do you cook? what hours can you work? do you know how to change diapers? She came the very same afternoon and stayed with the kids in the hotel room while I went to a meeting at Gemma's school. I am on the Fall Festival committee in charge of food. Imagine me signing up for something. The kids seem to enjoy their new babysitter and although I wasn't entirely comfortable leaving the kids with someone new and non-English speaking, but I knew I had to suck it up and get used to it. The great thing about Xiao Yang is that she is flexible and she absolutely loves children. When we move into our house she has agreed to work for us 6 days a week for 8 hours a day, which is pretty common hours. It will be nice to have help with the kids and the house.

I also made it to girls night out for the Chengdu International Women's Club (CIWC). There were about 13 woman, 9 from the US, 1 Canadian, 1 Kiwi, 1 from Slovenia, and 1 from Estonia. We met at a pretty fancy place that had great wine and fabulous desserts. (I didn't even think I could get wine in China, but I have been pleasantly surprised so far!) I am really enjoying this group of women. They are all very interesting and have moved to China for several different reasons. Most of the woman really love it here, so it gives me hope that I will grow to love it here too.

Today I made it to the 1st Starbuck's in Chengdu. I had an iced % latte and an "American Brownie". I ended up taking the kids back for lunch because they had a ton of food that I thought the kids might like and of course Gemma had to have a vanilla steamer. Now only if they had a pumpkin spice latte or frappuccinno...

I also made it to Carrefour for my first real grocery shopping experience. I needed to but groceries because we moved to a hotel room with a kitchen because we were so sick of eating out. I have to say this place a cook's dream. Everything is so cheap and the fresh fruit, vegetables, and herbs are plentiful. I think I spent around $11 dollars and made it out of the stores with six bags of groceries. We only have a stove with two burners, but I was able to make fried egg sandwiches, homemade apple sauce and homemade potato soup. It was very yummy!

We are getting closer to finding a home. We looked at another place tonight and it was close to what we are looking for. We are going to look at something similar tomorrow and hopefully it will be the one. Keep your fingers crossed!

Tomorrow I am having my first authentic Chinese lunch with the wives of men from Jonny's company. Most of them have lived in Asia or China for the past 4 years, so I should get lots of survival tips.

My Chengdu of the day is do get a gym membership while living in China.

My Chengdon't of the day is don't run outside even on the side walk.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

A Little Bit Homesick

I don't know what is was about today that made me homesick. Maybe it was because my social life has slowed down considerably. Maybe it is because my 3rd niece (see Baby Abby) was born and I haven't had a chance to meet her or my other two new nephews. It might be that there is a totally different smell in the air here (I have a very sensitive sniffer.). Maybe it is because I am have been living in a hotel for the past 2 weeks and can't find a place to call our own. All that I know is when I was having lunch this afternoon I had huge pangs of homesickness.

I miss talking on the phone to my dad every chance I get. I have been lucky enough to talk to him a handful of times since we arrived, but I can't wait until we find a house and I can get myself a Vonage account!

I am really missing my friends. I am desperate to meet new friends here! I miss my book club. I miss my knitting group. I miss my MOMS Club.

I am really missing the dogs. I keep seeing people with their dogs here and think about how great it would be if we had our dogs with us. I know it is for the best right now since we don't have a house and they would be sitting in quarantine until who know when. Hopefully when we come home this summer we will be able to bring one of them back with us.

O.K., I have whined enough. Feel sorry for me? I have positive thoughts for this week. I plan on finding a house and also I am planning on going into the grocery store and try to sort out what everything is since it is all written in Chinese.

Tomorrow I am going to the grand opening of Starbuck's in Chengdu. There are actually two opening this week. This should help my homesickness a little.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

The Marine Bar

Last night we were invited to happy hour at the home of 5 U.S. Marines stationed in Chengdu working for the U.S. consulate. We happily accepted because you know me, Miss Social Butterfly. We took the kids and also went with the other Intel family we know. The Marines live in a huge house in one of the expat compounds and have put a bar in their house equipped with foozeball, darts and a pool table. We were happy to walk in and found quite a few Americans. Most everyone either worked for Gemma's school, the U.S. consulate, or Jonny's company. The other awesome thing was that they had a big screen TV and put in Monsters Inc. for the kids. I talked to the lone female Marine and she said that this was the biggest turnout that they have had. We had a great time and plan on making this a weekly family outing.

Yesterday I found out my computer would take another 2,600 RMB ($325) to fix. If they don't fix it, then I don't have to pay for it, but I am really in desperate need of my own PC. I should get it back next week. The hard thing about the whole situation is that I have been relying on people to translate to the computer guy, who doesn't speak a lick of English. It is kind of like the telephone game, you tell your translator on thing and you have to just wonder if they are really relaying the entire message to him. We will see as of next Friday.

On the home front, we have not found a home. We looked at two more today and still no cigar. We are really getting frustrated with the real estate agents here as the business seems to be very cut throat. Rent prices are also all over the yard here. There is no consistency at all. We hope that we will go out again on Monday, but we can't even get anyone to call us back. Very frustrating!

My Chengdu is do visit the Marine Bar.

My Chengdon't is don't expect the Chinese to deal in real estate like they do in the U.S.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

My First Day of Errands

I decided today that my vacation in China is over. I needed to get some things done that I have put off since we arrived. We just got our new van on Tuesday night, so I thought I would get used to being driven around Chengdu with our driver Joseph. So Angus and I picked Gemma up from school and set out on our errands. We headed to Peter's for dinner. Believe it or not it is a pretty good Tex-Mex restaurant. I had the taco salad, which was quite tasty and fresh, Gemma had the PB & J and Angus the macaroni and cheese.

After lunch we stopped by Sabrina's Country Store, which is a little shop that has Western snack/foods for outrageous prices. I was trying to find some snacks for the kids that I actually could read the label. Much to my dismay I ended up buying a small jar of applesauce, which had high fructose syrup, Cheese-its with hydrogenated oil, and Sun-Mail raisins. I would not normally buy these things, but when you are thousands of miles away from home and don't speak, nevermind read Chinese, you do what you have to do.

We headed to Carrefour, which is the major supermarket that has about everything, to buy a cell phone. Cell phones are a little different here. You don't get to head to T-Mobile and get your free phone with a one year contract. You actually have to buy the phone and then go and buy your SIM card. I was trying to buy a cheap phone, but ended up spending a $150 on a fairly basic phone, but happily paid a total of $3.75 for my SIM card and a deposit of $8.75 for roughly about 2,333 minutes.

On the computer front, I tried to call the guy who has my computer twice. Both times he said "I am not interested in speaking English." I thought he thought I was a telemarketer trying sell English classes, so I asked Joseph to call him. I found out that they are still working on the computer and there may be other problems, but should have it finished tomorrow. So much for the $12.50 to get it fixed.

On the home front, we may have secured a place to hang our hats. It is a massive 5 bedroom with maid quarters, a garage, and a nice roof patio. I am thrilled with the room especially since I won't be the one cleaning it, but mostly because there is plenty of room for guest. Brian, Pam, Jeanette, Sid, Caroline, John, Inez, Quincy, Dad, Mom, etc. get ready to book your tickets!

My Chengdu of the day is smile at the people who stare at you while because you are a Westerner.

My Chengdon't of the day is don't flip them off when they stare at you because it means something totally different here.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Medicine, Chinese-Style!

Today we had a very interesting morning. Jonny and I had to have an immigration physical to get our work permits. Note: If you are coming for a visit, you DO NOT have to have this physical. I had heard horror stories about these physical, but unfortunately they were all true. We went into the building with the woman from Jonny's company who was to obtain our work permits. The building was filled with Chinese people preparing themselves to immigrate to other parts of the world.

We went up to the 2nd floor to a room where a doctor took our blood pressure, height, weight and did an EKG. The blood pressure machine and EKG were ancient. They were something we may have used in the US back in the 1920's. I have to say I have never had an EKG, but I imagine that the things they stick to your body are disposable. Not here, they were old pieces of rubber suction cups that made me cringe with the thought of them touching my body. After that experience I was desperate for a shower.

Next we were onto a room where Jonny and I both had ultrasounds. I am happy to say that I am not with child again, but Jonny is pregnant with twins! Jonny was joking with the doctor, who knew very little English, but had a great sense of humor. She told him he was having twins! Whoopee!!!

Then we were off for our blood. It was a very interesting way to give blood. You stick your arm through a hole in the glass and they stick you with a really fat needle. It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, but I felt like I was at the bank giving blood and I don't meet the blood bank.

We headed back down stairs where we had a vision test and they doctor look up our noses, in our mouth and ears. You know how we have nice wooden tongue depressors? Well they tried to stick a metal one in my mouth and I freaked out on them. I asked them if it was clean and he said yes and said something like, "You don't think Chinese medicine is clean!” They were very offended, but I didn't care. I was just imagining all of the mouths those instruments were in, ISH!

Lastly was the chest x-ray, which luckily I didn't have to do because they noticed I had a baby with me and asked me if I was still nursing! Yes I still am and proud of it! This is another great reason to nurse your baby as long as possible. You don't have to take your shirt off in front of 20+ strange Chinese men.

Well, we survived through the exam. Hopefully we pass otherwise they will ship us back home. Tell me, do you think you could have made it through this exam? I think we have it pretty good in the US.

My Chengdu of the day is do take a shower after your immigration physical.

My Chendon't of the day is don't forget your own wooden tongue depressors.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Request for pictures!

I have been getting quite a few requests for photos. Unfortunately right before we left for China my laptop decided to poop out on me, so all of my photo software, etc. Is on it. I have been relying on Jonny's work laptop and the computer at the hotel to email and post on my blog. Today I took a major step into remedying the problem. I had one of the girls at the school find a person to fix our computer. The guy came to the hotel and picked up my computer and said he would have it done in 3 days and it would cost me between $12.50 - $25. Now how is that for cheap! The only issue with this is that he didn't speak any English and I had to call the girl at the school to translate to him for me. We will see how the computer turns out! So hopefully I have pictures to share some time soon.

Not much news today. I went out with our driver today, but it looks like Jonny will be firing him very soon. He grew up in Chengdu and it seems that we no more about getting around the city than he does. We also tried a new restaurant for dinner called Peter's. It is a Tex-Mex place and I have to say it wasn't bad. I had fajitas, which were tasty. They even had sour cream, which totally surprised me. I do have to say the tortillas were a bit on the flourery side, but eatable.

My Chengdu for the day is BYOT, bring your own tortillas!

My Chengdon't for the day is don't get to emotionally attached to your driver.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Chinese Baby Clothes

The last few days that we have been walking around Chengdu I have seen quite a few babies and toddlers. Imagine that in a country of over 1 billion people. I noticed that all of these children were wearing pants that were completely open in the crotch and bum and they weren't wearing a diaper, note even cloth. I asked our relo consultant why they didn't wear diapers and he simply said they just squat when they have to go, wherever they are. I also asked one of the teachers at Gemma's school, who is married to a Chinese man and she told me her sister-in-law paper trained all of her children. Yep, you heard me right paper trained just like a puppy. I have also been told that you need to watch the trolleys/carts at the supermarkets and the play equipment at the parks because most likely a child has relieved themselves in or on them. Unfortunately, I did not bring any Purell and I haven't found any yet. I am going to be requesting a shipment from my Mother-in-law and Mom as soon as I speak to them next. On the positive side of this, with the worlds most populated country at least they aren't using disposable diapers and polluting up the world even more.

As for today, we found a scrummy Indian restaurant just down the street from the hotel. Tomorrow we have our immigration physical, which we have heard is very strange.

My Chengdu for the day is wash your hands after touching almost anything here.

My Chengdon't for the day is don't for get your Purell before you come for a visit.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Stickshifts and Safety Belts

Today we had our first experience with our driver, Joseph. Jonny had him pick us up at the hotel and drive us over to David, Tanya, Natalie and Tea's house. David is another expat that works with and Tanya is his wife. Natalie and Tea go to school with Gemma. I asked Tanya if she would mind if I brought my laundry over and she invited Gemma over for a playdate with the girls while she showed me a Costco like shopping center. While I did the laundry and the girls played Jonny and David went to find a cell phone with the driver. It seems that Joseph has very little experience driving a stickshift and he kept grinding the gears and stalling the car. He was however able to get us from point A to point B. Luckily we can request a new driver if we aren't happy with him. We are going to give him another try and see how it works out. He has yet to drive Jonny to work, so we will see how that goes on Monday.

After the cell phone shopping and laundry we all headed to Joyce's BBQ Grill, a new western restaurant in Chengdu. We walked into the place and we ran into about 3 people that Jonny and David work with. Small world amongst 10 million people! We had a nice lunch where Gemma was able to have homemade Mac and Cheese, which I was very impressed with, Jonny had a Philly Cheesesteak and I had a hamburger and french fries. I felt very much at home, except for 4 adult meals + 3 kids meals set us back only $20!

Tanya took me to the Costco like shopping center called Metro. It had clothes, toys, appliances, food, etc. I bought a few snacks for the kids and a couple of bottles of wine for snacks for us! It was also very reasonable! I am really looking forward to getting our own place because I will be cooking up a storm! They have such great produce! They have fresh herbs at a miniscule price! They have a small western food section which included things like Campbell's soup, Miracle Whip, dry cereals and cake mixes.

I asked Jonny to come up with the Chengdu and don't for today...

The Chengdu of the day is eat at Joyce's BBQ.

The Chengdon't of the day is don't forget you passport when you are trying to buy a cell phone.

Friday, September 16, 2005

On our own

Today Jonny went in to work and we were on our own. Angus and I walked Gemma to school and met Tanya, the mother of one of Gemma's classmates whose husband works with Jonny. Tanya invited Angus and I over to see her place. I was so excited to see that there was hope for us in finding a place of our own. Their place was awesome! It was very spacious with a garden out the back of the house, a great kitchen and western-style furniture (and I don't mean cowboy furniture!). We may take it upon ourselves to find a house since the real estate agent doesn't seem to get what we are looking for. We have heard from other expats that the real estate agents get huge commissions from certain landlord, so they will only show us properties of the landlords that they know.

Today was very relaxing to me for the most part. While the kids napped I was able to actually read, not skim the paper and I worked on my clapotis that I am knitting.

I almost forgot to mention, I went to my first book club meeting last night. It was great meeting the other members of the Chengdu International Women's Club. Most everyone was their either as Intel employees/wives, consulate employees/wives or teachers at Gemma's school. It was a great group, but quite a bit tamer then my old group. We are reading My Sister's Keeper for the October meeting, which looks really good. I have also agreed to teach the group how to knit!

My Chengdu of the day is get excited when you see something you don't expect to see. For example, I let out a yell in the car when we drove by a yarn shop in Chengdu!. Whoopeee!!!

My Chengdon't of the day is don't drink too much wine upon arriving in a new city and then attempt to walk home by yourself.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

House Hunting

This morning we were all still very upside down time wise and woke at 3:30 a.m. We decided to send Gemma to school right away to make sure she would make friends quickly. We all walked to Gemma's new school and she was totally fine being left for the morning. I was a little sad that she was so eager, but if she was ok, then I could be ok.

We were looking forward to our day today, because today was the day we were going to find a new place to call home. Unfortunately my hopes were a little too high. We had put a place called China Garden high on our list of prospective new homes. We looked at 5 different house within this compound and there was only one that I liked, but it was so kid unfriendly. There were 3 flights of stairs to get to the place and then 2 flights inside of it. There were also two balconies, which make me very nervous. The place was spacious enough and had very nice furniture. It also had a patio with a koi pond on the roof, which was really cool. On the brightside of house hunting, after we pick a place to lease, I will be able to go shopping with the landlord and pick out furniture and appliances. Whoopeee!!!

We returned back to the hotel for lunch and decided that we would take our time getting into a place instead of jumping in and regretting our decision. Jonny went to pick Gemma up from school and I put Angus down for his afternoon nap. Gemma had a great day at school! She met lots of new kids, her class is the largest with 12 kids. The director of the school and her teacher said she had no problems at all. She is already looking forward to school again tomorrow!

Jonny headed out with our relo guy, Patric again this afternoon. I decided that if he sees anything worthwhile, I would go and look at it tomorrow while he is at work.

In exciting social news, I am going to attend my first Chengdu International Women's Club meeting tonight. They are having book club and I am very excited to attend as I am going to miss my book club at home so much!!! I hope they are great fun like the girls back home!

My Chengdu of the day is eat Chinese Dim Sum food for breakfast. Mmmmmm....pan-fried dumplings!!!!

My Chendon't of the day is don't have too high of expectations of any situations. You will be disappointed if you do! It is always better to be pleasantly surprised.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Travelin' Pants

We have arrived safe and sound in Chengdu. After a gruelling 24 + hours of flying and layovers we made it to our new home city. We were a little concerned about making the right decision about moving when they tried to put Gemma in a seat by herself on the flight from LA to Beijing, but we were able to finally, after much negotiation, able to get them to let us sit together for the whole flight. When we arrived in Beijing I was also a little concerned by the gloominess of the airport and the outside air. I had tears in my eyes and flashbacks of all of my friends back in AZ! I definitely thought I would be leaving Jonny in China and high tailing it back to the US. But I was pleasantly surprised when we were greeted warmly at the Chengdu airport by our relocation guide, Patric. He spoke great English and was very friendly. Even better was the trip from the airport to the hotel took all of 10 minutes and the hotel is absolutely incredible! We are staying at the Kempinski, a German owned hotel, which I highly recommend.

We have been up since 3 a.m., which is noon AZ time, but I am determined to stay up today. This morning we went out with Patric and visited the Global Doctors, which was pretty incredible. We met a couple of the doctors, one who is from South America and seems extremely personable and knowledgeable. We also went to visit Gemma's new school, QSI. We were so impressed by the school we were ready to leave Gemma there and then. I am going back tonight to a back to school assembly and will be able to meet the other parents. I was pleasantly surprised to meet a couple of the mother's from Gemma's class. Tanya, who just moved from Oregon, has a 3 year old, Tea who hopefully will become Gemma new playmate! After the school we were able to check out a supermarket. It was pretty good and very cheap! We picked up some noodles, sodas, beer, and a bottle of Australian wine for the room and got out of there under $20.

My Cheng"do" for the day is stay at the Kempinski if you are ever in Chengdu.

My Cheng"don't" is don't drive a bicycle, moped, or car in China.

Monday, September 05, 2005

One week to go!

In one week from today Jonny, Gemma, Angus and I will embark on our new adventure in China. We will fly from Phoenix to LA, LA to Beijing, and Beijing to Chengdu for a grand total of 15 + hours in the air. I have mixed emotions, I am excited to live somewhere other than the US, but also apprehensive about living somewhere so different. I really don't think it has hit me yet, but I am REALLY, REALLY going to miss all of my friends in Arizona. I can't imagine not being able to get together with my girlfriends, got to book club, attend a Stitch 'n Bitch meeting and see familiar faces.

I hope everyone will enjoy my new blog. Please comment often! I hope it will make the distance between us not seem so far away.