Saturday, February 28, 2009

My Kids

Today was my fifth day of teaching my kids. I finally remembered to bring my camera and use it at the same time so you can see them. My little three year old Steven was missing. This is very sad because he and his sister Sandra(center) have moved and will not be returning. I already miss them. I never knew I would enjoy it so much. They are really a good bunch of kids and we have fun. Today we sang and danced the whole class. I taught them "The wheels on the bus", "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes" and "Old Macdonald Had a Farm". We played basketball with the wastebasket and follow the leader. Everybody earned a Winnie the Pooh sticker today. I really missed little Steven though, the class just wasn't the same. I wonder if I will ever see their beautiful faces again and hate that I was unable to get a picture of him. Teaching children is good exercise as well. You should see me jumping around and dancing! (and singing) Last week we raced to learn run, hop, skip, turn around, etc. We went outside in the street. It was great! It also teaches me patience because they are on a basic level and need help understanding commands. But they try really hard and are making progress. You can see their brains working to figure out what I've asked them. It is so cute. Today was the best day so far, they remembered so much and I was very proud! From left to right there are: Sophia, Frank, Sandra, Stewart, and Justin. I wanted you to meet them.
mandy
"so lovely children my sweety"-Notebook Quotes

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Musicality

The Chinese are a very musical people. I often observe people singing as they walk down the street or while they are working. Peddlers beat out a rhythm with a hammer and metal bar to announce their wares. Older ones wake early and flock to the parks to sing and dance as their morning routine. Each minority has their own traditional instrument and dance. Frank fits in as he sings anytime the mood hits him. No matter what their status in life, there is a song in their heart and we have the privilege of hearing those songs every day.
I also enjoy their creative writing style, especially when it is in "English". Most notebooks, ruled diaries, writing exercise books, etc., have little quotes on the outside of them with pretty pictures. I have penned these "notebook quotes". From time to time I will share them with you. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.
mandy
"happykeyboard accompany happylifetoyou everyday"
-Notebook quotes
video

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Picture Gallery








































































































































































































































































































































改变 Gaibian (Changes)

I have recently been going through many changes. We have discovered that February is not the best month to be in China, as most people get sick from the weather changes. It was frigid one day and the next day we were wearing short sleeves. The air changed too, from wet to dry, that drastically. Our apartment, which has been suffering from a severe mold problem, lending to our illness, has now become arid and dusty. That is good for the mold problem but bad for the skin, so our intake of water and fruits and vegetables has increased. Adjusting to a new country requires many changes, some I have not managed to make yet. Along with my physical ailments which are all but gone now, a strong, sometimes overwhelming homesickness hits me at irregular intervals. It hits most people and is just part of the experience, but I wish I was already accustomed to it. I haven't figured out how to anticipate it yet, so it is fresh and new every time. We are happy here but there are struggles。It helps to know that this is normal (I'm normal?Who knew?) and I have friends to sympathize with. And I know that all of our friends and family are supportive of us. That helps so much。
Anyway, amidst these changes, we have also changed our apartment around. The wardrobe we had was so full of mold, it just had to go. Frank sold it to some delivery guy he found on the street and we cleaned the mold off the walls and floor just in time for our landlord to deliver a spare bed. She called this morning to ask if we wanted it and could she come over. I said yes and 2 minutes later she knocked on the door! She must have been outside the building already. We got a spare bed with a headboard and two nightstands. We bought cheap, breathable "closets" to put our clothes in and put them in our room. Things are a little tighter now, but no mold! Our breathing is better and we have room for guests! (Hint, HINT)
Change is good, especially if it is progressive. I am learning that, whatever the change is that needs to be made, I can be made equal to the task with the right help and guidance.
mandy
















































Monday, February 23, 2009

Similarities


Sometimes I am so surprised by the similarities between where we live now and where we came from. The climate, plant life, fruits and vegetables are much the same. Except that right now, at the end of February, I am already in short sleeves and capris! The tulip trees and camelias are in full bloom and the azaleas are promising. There are daffodils and tulips, lilies and hydrangeas here. I had all those things in my yard at home. There are even pine trees here!
It is a little comforting to have these things around me. It makes me feel that though I am worlds away from home, a bit of it is still here with me, to soothe those aches that come for those I left behind.
mandy












Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The End of ChunJie 春节!



I was wrong the other day about the end of 春节2009 (the year of the bull). Within hours, the bangs and pops began again. They have continued all week. I have noticed other strange activities as well. This week in the city center there were perhaps 100 people surrounding the huge goldfish ponds which are usually busy with people feeding them. This time, though, everyone had a tiny fishing pole and were catching them! Each person had a bucket next to them and many were full of fish! What is the meaning of this? Will they eat them or do they become pets? I will have to ask my teacher. Last night the fireworks reached another peak as the last day of the festival, known as The Lantern Festival was brought to a close. It sounded like all the fireworks left over were fired at once! I still don't know how I got to sleep but I did. It is after 9pm here and they are still firing them off though. Does it continue until no fireworks are left in China? Make it Stop!
During the Lantern Festival, the first night to see a full moon, children go at night to temples with paper lanterns and solve the riddles on the lanterns. The riddles hold messages of good luck, prosperity, family happiness, abundant harvest and love. The festival has several legends attached to it associated with different gods. One holds that the God of Heaven controlled the destiny of the humans. He had 16 dragons at his disposal and could decide when to have rain, drought, storms, and other disasters. Splendid ceremonies were ordered to appease this god so he would favor the people. This was especially important during the Han Dynasty. Now the festival does not hold so great an importance but is a time for familes to be together. Rice balls called yuanxiao are eaten and there are lantern parades. We did not see anything but the fireworks here though. It will be nice to have peace and quiet when it finally arrives. But our first experience with the Chinese New Year has been very memorable.
mandy

Packing Savvy

Moving abroad can be both exciting and terrifying. Without preparation, you may find yourself wishing you had brought this or that or done this or that differently. We have learned many things from our move and thought those who are planning to move abroad or even to visit, may benefit from our errors. Here is a list of some things that should be on your packing list.
Sturdy shoes-waterproof hiking boots and/or good tennis shoes. Frank bought Rockport XCS and I purchased Vasque. Both are waterproof, have good support and do not hurt our feet after walking all day in them. My tennis shoes are New Balance CW413.
Wicking Socks- Thick socks that keep your feet dry. We bought ours at Kohls. Bring a good supply. They are sturdy but difficult to find here.
Comfortable and Sturdy Backpack-Many will spend a great deal of money on this item but we found ours relatively cheap. I bought both from ROSS for about $20-$30. Both are High Sierra. Mine has a padded back and straps with space for a laptop and a zippered compartment on the bottom. It has a mesh water bottle pocket and slots to hold an IPOD and cord. Frank's is about half the size of mine but still has room for a laptop, water bottle and IPOD. We use them almost every day and have had no problems with either one.
Clothes-Unless you are the size of a typical Chinese person (ie.,tiny), bring all the clothes you will need. You can have clothes made here but I haven't seen anyplace that makes jeans, your staple item. We had to have a lot of things shipped to us because we left them behind. We would have saved money by paying the overweight luggage fee. Bring a good coat or two. Check the average temperatures for the region you are going to and plan for it to be just a little worse than that. Layering helped me stay warm this winter, since I did not bring a warm enough coat. Scarves and hats are plentiful but if you have a favorite, bring it.
Electronic Devices- Computers are expensive here, bring your own and all the toys and gadgets you want. A webcam is a must have. You can find them here but they may be cheaper on E-bay. Replacement cords are inexpensive, mine cost me less than $100 RMB (less than $13US). Plug adaptors are cheap and abundant. Buy them here. Rechargeable batteries are a good investment. Buy a few sets so you will always have a backup set for your camera. If you are a shutter bug like me, choose a camera that fits your needs. The Kodak EasyShare series record video as well and is travel friendly. I have a Canon EOS Model Rebel XSI. I bought spare batteries on E-bay for less than half the retail price and a zoom lens as well. It is not travel friendly though. Figure out what works for you and what you are willing to carry around all day. Many online sites discuss the pros and cons of different cameras. Do your research.
Comfort Items- Bring things that will make you feel at home. This will be different for everyone. We each brought a fluffy towel. Most of the rest had to be shipped to us. Your favorite book, scented bath stuff or lotions, absorbent kitchen towels(the ones here do not dry dishes and leave lint), your favorite small kitchen items, paring knife, pampered chef spatula( I left mine) dish brush. If you are a serious cook and plan to stay for awhile, your favorite pot, pan, dish, whatever you use all the time and can make room for. Pots and pans are available here, the better quality ones are expensive but many people have "yard sales" when they leave and you can buy second hand goods. A few bags of your favorite coffee or treat are must haves for those homesick days. If you are into makeup, bring it. Name brand stuff is outrageous. A dear friend who spent some time here told me, when you come in from a long day surrounded by foreign and sometimes unclean surroundings, you want to feel at home, comforted. Anything that helps you feel that way should be considered.
Medical Supplies- Bring any prescriptions, enough to last your stay. If you wear contacts, make sure you have enough to last. They are available here but not sure if they are the same standard. Get your prescription from your doctor and buy them online. You have the right to your prescription, demand it. Western medicine is available but it is not what you are used to. Some meds here are not even allowed in the US. Bottles of Tylenol, cold remedies and a large supply of pepto-bismol tablets (Wal-mart has a generic brand for all these), as well as a good first-aid kit should be packed. I took the ones from our house which were in hard cases, packed them in gallon Ziploc bags and brought them along. The water here has little mineral value so bringing a multi-vitamin can offset any potential deficiencies. Getting sick in a foreign land is expected, your body is adjusting to new everything. Expecting and planning for it makes it so much easier to handle.
The Little Things- One website I researched before coming, told me to bring a six months supply of things like toothpaste, contact solution, shampoo, hair gel, etc. I bought them, then when we went way past the weight limit, had to leave it all behind. What a waste of funds, especially when I found all those things readily available here. My family benefited from it though, as a six month supply was split amongst them. Razors, shaving cream, feminine products(different brands though, bring your own if you are partial), toothbrushes, body wash, are all available and for about the same price as the states. You may consider bringing one of each thing though, just to have until you get your bearings on where to purchase them. If you have a hobby like knitting, drawing, reading, etc, bring it. Yarn is plentiful, but the hooks and knitting needles are wooden and catch or snag easily. Any books you plan to read or study regularly should be packed. Bring a small sewing kit for buttons or rips. You can have things mended but sometimes it is much simpler to do it yourself.
ETC...- I am sure I have left things out so, if you have questions or suggestions, just leave a comment. I hope this helps any who are expanding their horizons in another part of the world. Happy Packing!
mandy
"My Mother can pack everything and the kitchen sink, my Father makes it all fit in one suitcase."-Mandy

A Time To Speak

I have been using my language skills more often now, engaging people in conversation and replying to questions that I now suddenly understand. This has helped me to realize how much I still have to learn. Sometimes, I surprise myself by understanding and being understood. Other times, it is not so much a surprise as a lesson learned. For instance, the other night, an older gentleman encouraged me to take a vacant seat on the bus. "That's ok", I told him, confident in my imagined ability. "At the next station we will end class, thanks." What I meant to say was we will get off at the next stop. 下车(xia4che1-"shah chuh") means to get off the bus. 下课(xia4ke4-"shah kuh") means end class. At least I did not call him something awful. I know that the more I speak, the more errors I will make. This has been one excuse for letting Frank be the one to speak first. However, the result has been a drop in progress while Frank has now become the teacher's pet and corrects me. Hold the phone, this will not do at all! Missing several classes because of illness has also hindered me so I have a lot of catching up to do. I do enjoy seeing Frank praised in class though. His confidence is building and he is not so frustrated as before. But, I am beginning to feel better now and have returned to the classroom. Watch out Baby!
mandy
Public speaking is very easy.
Dan Quayle

Friday, February 6, 2009

The Same, But Different

You have probably already read about the park we visited this week from Frank's blog. We had some visitors for the week so we took a trip to a minorities village. It is set up a bit like a theme park but you do get the sense of their lives and history. I am also amazed that so many of the villages looked like pioneer settlements from the 1700's. Many make their homes in log cabins with fire pits in them. Clothes hang from pegs on the wall. Racks hang from the rafters to store pots and bowls and other utensils. Even their costumes have a Native American look. We watched one brave (no pun intended) lad climb a ladder of knives over 50 feet high with no damage to his feet. It was interesting to learn what different people believe and practice. I saw an old lady with her face tatooed. She hid from cameras but showed me where to find the plaque that explains why she had the tattoo. All girls of 13 in her tribe are made to sit and endure having a blue butterfly tattooed onto their face. It is a symbol of luck and beauty. Interesting. Others sacrifice bulls by stabbing them to death as the matadors did as a gift to the Heavenly God.
Others worship nature and have a deep respect for the dog. One section was set up like Dali, a place you visited with us in another blog. It was so authentic, we thought we had returned. It was an enjoyable day for all of us and very educational. Some may say that all Chinese are alike but this excursion reminded us how different we all are and how much there is to learn about the country we now reside in. Variety is the spice of life and China is spicier than we thought.
mandy