Thursday, January 27, 2011

On Our Way!


We do not believe in jinxes and it has been said that coincidences are usually well planned. That being said, for the second time, Frank had an accident soon after I told him to be careful and not get hit! The first time, we were riding together and as soon as I said be careful, he ran into the railing, tore his pants wide open, cut a gash in his leg and left me with bruises. Last night, I specifically told him that I did not want anything to keep us from leaving this morning, so be careful. Around midnight, he called me. “You remember what you told me about being careful?” That’s a bad way to start a conversation. A guy had run into the back of his back, whipping it around and throwing Frank to the ground. His bike was broken, he had road rash, and of course, the culprit was nowhere in sight! Frank was pushing the busted bike down the highway, miles from home. If it had been me, I would have begged him to come pull me home, but he never asked. As of last weekend, I now have a scooter I am not ashamed to ride, so I went to pull him back home. We were in bed around 2am and up again at 5:00 walking down the same highway, flagging down a taxi. (yawn!) At least he isn’t hurt worse!

I haven’t been as excited about going on this trip as I thought I would be. I think its partly because I wasn’t sure it would really happen. We had visa issues, bike accidents, a hike in ticket prices and when we went through immigration in our city to board the plane, they told us our passports had a problem. They put Frank in a holding room and told me that my passport which doesn’t expire till 2016, was too old. Apparently, the shadow of the American eagle that overlays our picture was the first they had seen and then I had added pages which completely threw them! In a matter of minutes, it was all sorted out but perhaps you can see my hesitation to hold my breath about arriving. The bus we were supposed to take was canceled too and we had to change buses several times before arriving at the Southern Bus Terminal. We were pleasantly surprised at how helpful the locals are and willing to help. It is totally different from the last time we were here, when no one wanted to help and some were actually very mean. The political tension then was very high with riots and barricades in the streets so perhaps it just fed through to us. At any rate, we have smiling faces here in the Land of Smiles! And, ahhhhhh! Warm Weather! It should be 12-20 hours bus ride before we reach our friends in Krabi. We will catch up with you there!!



“Getting there is half the fun!”


Friday, January 21, 2011

Massage, Dinner...and Fire!


We had the coolest experience tonight. There is a massage place right near our place. I have already been there three times. But this time, with Ralph and Kay, was different. We were the only ones in there. They plied us for English language lessons. We soaked our feet and taught them words to Michael Jackson songs. When we came in, there was a guy with his knee on fire. Before we were finished, Ralph and I both were on fire. It's a treatment for arthritis and joint pain. They gave us the treatment for free and after my guy started, I understood why. They were in training. My towel caught on fire up to my jeans. I patted it out and he started again. They dampen the towel with water, put it on you knee, then sprinkle "fire alcohol" on it and light it up! Then they stretch the towel taut against your knee until you cry "Uncle!", pat the fire down, massaging your knee at the same time. I was surprised how long I went before it hurt. That's why the towel caught on fire. It actually felt good.

While we were paying, the one girl in the bunch came over and asked us if we would like to stay for dinner. She was cooking in the back. I tried to talk our way out of it because we didn't want to eat up all their food. They work so hard! But she insisted, and we acquiesced. It was one of the best meals we have had in a while! We all sat in the massage chairs, ate and watched Chinese television. Xiao Li, the girl, said she would teach me how to cook it all and if we came every day between four and five, we could eat with them. All of that and we only paid 15Y, about 2 bucks. R and K are still converting money in their head and its contagious. I usually think only in RMB. We had a wonderful time and I now have access to a cooking class!




Our work visa expires Feb. 3rd. Three months ago, we started reminding our bosses that the paperwork needed to be started so that we would have our passports before the 27th of January, the day we leave for Thailand. Otherwise, we would not be able to come back into China. Don't get me wrong, being forced to stay on an island wouldn't be the worse thing that could happen. Every time we reminded our boss, he reminded the school who reminded the next person in line and so on. But nothing was being done. Finally, last week they started the ball rolling after repeatedly telling us there would be no problem, it could be done in a matter of days. Suddenly, we find out that our school does not have the paperwork required to issue work visas, the visa office will be closed for the next week for remodeling and we will have to get a tourist visa while we are in Bangkok! WHAT!? Our boss is great. He offered to put us up in a hotel in Bangkok, pay for the tourist visa, get us back here, then pay for the trip we would need to take to Hong Kong to get the work visa once the school got their act together.

Last night, Frank got a phone call. "I need your passports." He raced them down to the education office. Then hours later, another call, "do you have the registration papers from your last address? Umm, no. We don't live there anymore, why would we have that? Oh, ok, well bring us the ones you have now." So, out Frank went again, around 10:30 to hand off the rest of our papers. Someone must have bought someone a large bottle of Johnny Walker Black because today at 4:00, our passports were ready! Someone was on our side! I think the last time it was an expensive bottle of perfume. So runs the system!


School's Out!

Today is the first day of school vacation. One whole month! The Chinese New Year starts soon and so does our trip to Thailand. Three of our students will take the IELTS (International English Testing System) test tomorrow so they are incredibly nervous. They have so much pressure to perform well. Frank and I told them pass or fail, if they did their very best, we would be proud of them. You could see them visibly relax. Stress will only make them freeze up. I was tempted to tell them if they were nervous, imagine the teacher in his underwear, but I didn't. I told them to picture us in the back of the room cheering them on. That's a better picture I guess. Catherine, Joe, and Len, we wish you the best!!



They Are Here!

Our friends have arrived and are starting to settle in. We even had the privilege of hearing a little ukelele music from them the other night! I am reminded again of our first year here. They have to get used to the taste of "china" in everything, learn the bus routes and where the grocery stores are, etc. Because we have only been on this side of the city ourselves but a few months, there is a lot they will have to learn on their own. But maps and GPS in hand they are ready for the challenge. We have decided to live together and share expenses. That helps us out a lot and is great for them too since we have most of the big things already. And because they don't have bikes or scooters, I have been getting lots of exercise taking them places. Bonus! They are even getting used to (slowly) the lack of hot water or elevator. Taking pot baths is not so bad once you get used to it. At least the water is as hot as you want it to be. They will a month to themselves after next week. Sink or Swim!






I have had many supportive comments on my weight loss plan. I would like to announce that I have lost 6lbs!!! I loved seeing that scale move! My sisters are starting plans of their own now and we are all going to lose together- isn't that right girls???! Thanks again for the support.

Monday, January 10, 2011

A Gift From The Heart

Saturday, a dear local friend of mine gave me a gift. A sweater. Actually, three sweaters. When I asked her why she thought of doing that for me, she said it was because I often have to wear 6 or 7 layers in order to get warm. Now, compared to us poor foreigners, the locals are much worse off financially. But my friend had gone through her own closet, pulled out the largest sweaters she could find and brought them to me to try on. I am twice her size, so you can imagine what I looked like with her clothes on, but she seemed determined to see for herself that they were too small, despite my confidence in the matter. So I obliged her in the privacy of another room. I still ended up with one of them. A button down cardigan. She said if I just wear it unbuttoned and under another layer, it would at least be warm. What could I say? I took the sweater. And I plan to wear it!


"Give what you have to somebody, it may be better than you think."-Longfellow

Sunday, January 9, 2011


We have been cooped up in this city for most of the year without even a trip to the local parks or the hot springs for relaxation. And if we don't get out soon, Frank and I both with explode! So, we are planning a trip in a few weeks to.....THAILAND! We are headed for the island of Krabi. We have friends who live there so rooming is taken care of. We will miss all of the fireworks and mad rush at the stores during ChunJie (Chinese Spring Festival) though. What a pity! I think I have enough fireworks photos to last several years. I think this new year I will focus on beach scenes and maybe an elephant or two. We do have an issue though. Our work visa expires February 3rd so our boss is trying to get our new one done before we leave. I love to hear, "don't worry, there is plenty of time". I had to almost beg to get a reasonable schedule of events to allay my fears about having our passports in time. Americans don't have to have a visa to get into Thailand. That saves a step. So, our secretary will buy the tickets to Bangkok for us tomorrow and from there we will take a bus from there to the island. Hopefully we leave on the 24th.

Tea Time

Did you know that green tea has no calories? Guess what I'm drinking right now. I have managed to stay below my allotted calorie intake the past two days. Friday, I had a party at my house and I went over a little bit, not too much, considering it was my first day on this new plan. Someone made this amazing salad with red cabbage, shredded carrots,glass noodles, ginger and garlic slices and a mixture of soy sauce, Chinese vinegar, and a dash of sugar. Served cold with everything raw but the noodles. It was delicious! I tried a variation of it today with just chopped broccoli, diced garlic and the sauce. I will be making this more often, with lots more veggies. Bet it would be good with cold shrimp or chicken mixed in too. Thanks for the tip about eggplant, Courtney! I hated eggplant before I came here and now I can't get enough of it. Frank gets tired of me ordering it, but since he is still not really into veggies, there is more for me! I get it stir fried with garlic. Simple, but there is nothing like it back home! I have yet to bring some home and cook it myself, however. I will try it.


Saturday, January 8, 2011

Picture Gallery


I Have A Dream!


I didn't plan on using this blog for any personal benefit besides venting and the pure pleasure of writing and taking pictures. However, I need your help. Sheri's story has hit me like a ton of bricks and I suddenly feel motivated to act. That, and a friend videotaped us dancing last night, then showed it to me. I was so embarrased! I have failed to lose weight here, despite the fact that most around me have. When I am with Frank, I am reminded of the nursery rhyme Jack Sprat. In fact, I have only PUT ON weight! I am probably the largest I have ever been and enough is enough. Ha! As I write this, I am already doubting myself and my ability to succeed. I lack self-motivation. Looking at my bean pole husband doesn't move me to anything except lower self-esteem and envy. Not good motivators. So, if there is anyone else out there who would like lose weight with me, I could use your support! My plan of attack is a low-calorie diet, 1200/day. I did research today on calorie counts. Its funny to see that most foods on the lists are not available here and vegetables are listed as canned or frozen. Weight Watchers is too expensive for me and there are no classes here. I am asking only for your moral support and of course, any great ideas for healthy foods that don't include canned, frozen, or prepackaged goods. Everything here is in the raw. Can I do it? We will see. So long all my fattening, unhealthy, delicious homemade goodies! Hello new, healthy, delicious dishes! HELP!!!


Wednesday, January 5, 2011


I just have to give a shout out to my sister Sheri Cameron. She was just featured in People magazine for losing over 200lbs! I am so proud of you girl! I couldn't help crying when I watched the video. You have always been beautiful to us, you know that. But now, you are healthy and more importantly happy! Kudos to you!!!!
If you want to check out her story, go to :

Saturday, January 1, 2011

That's a Load of Lard!

I found a bakery store recently. (Imagine my delight!) They sell butter by the kg. and vanilla flavoring and all kinds of fun stuff! It is all Chinese, mind you, so its not the rich stuff made from real milk and real vanilla beans but hey, its cheap! It was worth it to try the butter. They sell by the box, 15kg for less than $20. Imagine, over 30lbs of butter for less than $20!!! How could I not try it?

What will I do with it all? I made an apple pie with a crispy light crust and a golden loaf of banana bread as soon as I got home. I like it!


YUM!!! That load of lard is worth it!