Thursday, September 29, 2011

It's coming...

It's time to check the internet for the weather report...

because the signs are here.....

that winter is coming.

The footie pajamas are out.  Are footie pj's close to the cutest kid clothes ever?

The gourds are...gourding.  Quite a few of the elderly people in our complex plant gardens.

This one was huge!

The leaves are turning.

The winter bedding and jackets are being aired out and washed.

Look at the lining on that coat!  Yes, it's really necessary. 
October is in a few days.  Our mattress heaters are on the beds, the flannel night gown is ready and the hunting socks have been found.  Winter, bring it on!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Among the things we never thought we do in China,

included watching ice hockey.
Our friend Mike flew up from Shanghai to play in an ice hockey tournament.  He is a super nice young guy and it was fun to have him for dinner and then to go to one of the games on Saturday.  We also have a friend who plays on the Shenyang team, so we went to the Shanghai/Shenyang championship game.  Here are a few pictures.

The rink.  I don't know how to say "Zamboni" in Chinese.

The game begins.  Shenyang loses 5 to 3 with one Shanghai goal made by the Shenyang goalie.  Whoops.

I think this is our friend but I am not entirely sure.  The next morning he showed up with a purple eye, courtesy of a team that drank on the bus on the way to the tournanment.

Paul went down to the rink to hang out with the Shenyang team and get a better view.

It was cold but not too bad,

The Mongolian team...these guys were huge but Mike said they were really nice.

Outside the stadium, the first fake snow of the season.  It was warm enough for shorts, though.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Renewing our visas and the nice people along the way.

Like foreigners in any country, we have to renew our visa's regularly.  For us, it's once a year.  We come under Paul's visa as he works part time at a university...except that this year only he was in China when visa renewal time came.  Plus,   Elisabeth turns 18 and can no longer come under his visa. She needs her own since she is now an adult (cough, cough).
So the two of us got tourist visas just to get back in the country. While we were at the San Francisco Consulate, the nice woman said that if she could see our marriage license, she could just give me the dependent visa right there.  We had no idea about this and of course our marriage license was in China. So a tourist visa it was.
Elisbath needs an official student visa now and that is a fairly heavy paperwork laden process.  I needed to get my dependent visa so last week was visa time!  Our visa's expire October 7 and we need them updated to travel during the October 1 holiday week.
On Wednesday afternoon, Paul and I headed up to the PSB (Police Security Bereau).  When we got there, they went through our paperwork and told us they needed to see our police registration form.  All people in China register with the police when they move or re-enter the country.  We had neglected to do that upon our return and now we were regretting it.  So back on the bus to our home about 1/2 an hour away.
So Friday, we took Elisabeth out of school to get some of her visa stuff done.  First we went to the local police to register.  They very nicely ignored the fact that we were late and didn't fine us. Once that was done, we taxied back to the PSB to get my visa done.  Once there, they told us that since I had come in under a tourist visa, that I needed to have my physical done again.  The woman was super nice and did every thing she could to make it easy for us.  She told us not to wait in line when we come back next week and that she would get things done quickly.
By this time it was 12:00 and we were starving.  So we went to get lunch even though you are supposed to go to the exam with an empty stomach.  Paul went off to teach and Elisabeth and I went to the hospital to get the exam done.  We did this the first time two years ago so I knew what to do.  Basically, you get in line and give the people your passport and a form.  Then you discover that you have forgotten to bring a picture of yourself and go upstairs to get a picture and and make copies of whatever you have forgotten to make copies of.  Then back downstairs to start the circuit.
First you take off everything on the top and have an x-ray taken to be sure you don't have TB.  Then you go upstairs and have blood taken.  It was at this point that Elisabeth turned ghost white and had to lie down.  The very nice people gave her some candy and warm water.  She didn't faint. 
Then you have to give a urine sample.  Let me just say that if you have to go to the squatty potty and pee into a small cup, pull up your pants and zip before you try to pour it into the tube that they give you.  Also, notice that there is a shelf to put the cup on before you zip or pour.  Also bring soap.  Lots of it.
After the bodily fluids, you go to get weight, height and blood pressure.  Mine was a little high. I think the near fainting and yucky urine episode might have stressed me out a little bit.
Then you get your eyes checked.  Elisabeth shamed me by saying the numbers  we had to read in Chinese. It wasn't that I couldn't have read them in just didn't occur to me.
Then we had an ultra-sound.  I had my gall bladder out many years ago.  Gall bladder surgery is rare in China so the woman couldn't quite figure out what was going on.  I don't know how to say "gall bladder" in Chinese but she kept saying the same thing over and over again so I said "Mei you"   which means "none." Another worker said to me "Gall bladder- cut?" and I said yes.  The woman said I had no scar so I lifted up my shirt again to show her my laparscopic scar. She said that she had seen my gall bladder two years ago and I told her she couldn't have.  Since my friend went there two years ago and they didn't notice she was five months pregnant on the ultra-sound, I'd say the ultra-sound results are a little sketchy.  But the people again were very kind and very admiring of my small scar and American medical care.
Next we had this done.

Electrodes were attached to our bodies and we were asked many questions.  No, not really.  I'm not really even sure what this was.  I think she said ECG but it might have been EKG or who knows.  Anyway, that was our last station.  We took our stuff downstairs, were told to come back next Tuesday and that was that.
We got in  a taxi with the most dangerous taxi driver ever.  Lots of squealing brakes and yelling at people he almost hit.   However, I did see this peaceful scene.

These old men are sitting in an alley. One is fixing a bike tire, the rest are talking and playing games.  I love scenes like this.

Days like today remind me of why I love China.  What could have been an unpleasant day was made really bearable by the unfailing kindness of the people involved.  We've had our fair share of negative encounters, too.  But today was a good day....and we'll be back next week to finish!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Cha Bu Duo Race.

Last Saturday was the Second Annual Cha Bu Duo Fun Run/Race.  Cha Bu Duo is a Chinese word that means "about" or "around."  People gathered to run about 5 or 10 kilometers and get a medal at the end.  Participants pay a small entrance fee that all goes to orphan foster care. 
The woman about is Katherine - fabulous pediatrician and adovcate for orphans.  She started this race last year and organized it again.  Sadly she is moving to another country to continue her work with trafficked women and their related health issues.  But we hope she is back next year.

This year, the French ran with us.  Katherine made a friend whose husband works for Michelin.  Several of the Michelin people came out to run.  Hearing French spoken in China was wonderful.  Hearing Chinese spoken with a French accent was really fun.

Of course, any large crowd of foreigners draws a crowd of staring people.

Paul and friends were the race starters and time keepers.  Yes, he is holding a chicken in his hand.  That was the starter.

First one in for the 5K- a single foster mom!

Some of us just got to hang out with our little sweeties.

Katherine and Eva-two doctors who are heroes to me.  They literally saved our little guys life.  Eva is one of the doctors who found him and got him into foster care. Katherine did his initial care and didn't know if he was going into foster care or hospice. The two of them have done countless house calls, phone calls, e-mails, formula to cereal ratio calculations and more for us. Plus, they are super fun. We love them.

The mom contingent.  These three women have been or currently are foster parents.

The cute teacher couple- also involved with foster care. That is a foster dad and a foster family in the background.

The male doctor contingent.

All of this to help support foster care for little guys like ours.  The money goes to support Chinese family who want to foster, not foreign families who have other resources.   It was a totally fun and worthwhile way to spend a Saturday morning.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Look who had a good day.

Does he look a  little like "Help me, mom."

 He had a little physical therapy from a visiting physical therapist.  She had tons of good suggestions.

Look who fed himself!  We are so proud of him!  Now he can do bread, cheerios and cut up grapes. It's totally awesome and he is so proud of himself.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Love and Mooncakes

I took this picture this morning of our helper and our little guy.  They are sitting on our sofa as she is reading him a little book in Chinese.  There are so many things I could say about this picture.  Reading books to children is not a big part of Chinese parenting culture but our helper has embraced it big time.  Our little guy loves books and he loves being read to.  Our helper sees no limitation in our little guy.  The fact that he has Down Syndrome doesn't bother her.  She sees his potential and constantly says how intelligent he is.  That is how cultures change.  Person by person by person.  She has loved our little low status special needs guy with her whole heart.  Now her whole family does.  That is how you change a cultural viewpoint on special needs.  Person by person, with love.

Yesterday was the Autumn Moon Festival and that means Mooncakes.  Mooncakes are kind of China's equivalent to a fruit cake. You either love them or hate them.  This year, the Chinese teacher's at the international school decided to teach the kids how to make moon cakes.  It was during my prep time so I ran down to check it out.

Elisabeth was there so I got some good pictures of her.

This is the moon cake mold.

More moon cakes- some not yet cooked.

Close up of the uncooked and some cooked.

Pretty patterns on top.  The grapes and pears are traditional fruit for the holiday.

The oven that they were cooked in.  Yes, that is a standard sized oven in  China.  I have one in my kitchen, too.  They are small but pretty efficient.  It just takes a while to get everything cooked.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

From the forest to the mountains.

I've been away since Wednesday, aside from a brief stop at home on Friday night.  Tuesday morning, our little guy got picked up by his ayi and went to her apartment where he will be loved and adored by her, her husband, her daughter, her in-laws, her mother and her sister.  It might be quite a disappointment to come back to us!  We sent him there because I needed to be gone for five days and in between that and Paul's work schedule, he needed consistent and loving care. So off he went.
On Wednesday I left with the middle school portion of the International School where I teach.  Every year, they go on a fall retreat to build unity.  It really was so much fun.  I don't get to see most of the students since I only really see some of the ESL students.  These kids were just super fun to be with and we all had a great time.  We played games, did team building exercises, hiked a mountain during the day and went out on a night hike.  The place was only about an hour out of our city and it was just really lovely.  I achieved one of my language goals as I brought some knitting along and talked to some of the hostel women about knitting in China compared to knitting in the US- different needles and style of knitting.  I also got to know the foreign and China staff a little better. I spent most of my time with one of the Chinese office staff that came.  She is just a dear sister and I loved getting to know her.
The kids were good sports even though they worked hard.  One of the games is called Mission Impossible.  It is done in the dark.  Basically the teachers go and hide in the dark.  The kids gather at one place and they are all given a chopstick.  Their goal is to get it to a bucket. If they get a certain amount of chopsticks in the bucket, they win.  However, there is no way to win. The teacher's are too many, too fast and too well hidden.  As the kids creep towards the goal, the teacher creep out of the darkness and hunt them down.  The thing is, the kids love the game even though there is no way to win.  The hostel was great for this game-they turned off all of their lights and it was pitch black except for the moon.  Fabulous fun.
Below are some of the pictures of the place.

School security policies prohibit posting pictures of the kids anywhere on the internet.  However, I can post pictures of these people who were at a wedding reception at the hostel...they paused to stare at the incredible collection of multinational teachers and students.  They truly seemed to enjoy watching the kids play games and enjoy themselves.

I can also post these pictures of these very cute little Chinese school kids who were in the area picking apples!  They all waved and smiled and said "Hallo!"

The food was to die for and yes, that is a fish head in the middle.

More of the fish head.  

This was a kind of Korean style hostel and we slept on Korean style beds...well, let's be honest-they are mats.  I shared a  room with an American teacher and a Chinese teacher and we all asked for an extra mat.  No, we didn't tell the kids.

Beautiful views when we climbed the mountain.

Apple picking.

Zoo is  relative term.  Combat readiness is really war games- not a military thing.  Do not fear!

The lovely outside of the inn.  The lanterns were beautiful at night.

One funny story about the retreat- there were dogs there - small dogs.  They were really friendly.  One morning around 7AM, I was outside with a large group of boys.  The dogs gave these city slickers quite the "farm education."  There was hooting and hollering and a quick whipping out of digital cameras to take pictures...that we had them delete.  It really was very funny.

So after a fun few day, I came home on Friday night, slept in my own bed and got up early to go to Qi Pan Shan for the international women's retreat.  A church and organization in the US puts on this retreat every year and underwrites it.  It's a blessing just to be able to go away.  I shared a room my my good friend and that was good.  The speakers were a little mixed but one or two of the speakers really resonated with me.  We also had time to walk around the lake and just relax.  It was a good two days.

View of the lake from our hotel room.


Buddhist temple off in the distance. There were several shrines in the area.

More from our hotel window.

More fishermen.

Fortunately tomorrow is a holiday in  China and I can stay home and relax a little.  I am tired but happy tonight.