Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Sick of Being Sick!

This has been one of the most difficult years for us with health and it is only the end of April. Our air quality has changed dramatically because of constant demolition and construction. The weather cannot decide which season is best. We have had all four seasons in the past month depending on the day. I heard someone say that when you work in a foreign country, its not if you get sick, but when. How we deal with it decides whether we are able to stay or not. I have been sick for almost two months and Frank off and on for about the same. Frank and I are fighting through it with the help of Chinese Traditional medicine and our shipment of Day and Nyquil. We figure, if we were home, it would just be some other problem we would be facing so "get over it!" (Thanks Chuck!) I have also started a diet of only fruits and vegetables and other raw foods in an attempt to clean out the toxins that have invaded my system. Very tasty! (not the toxins) My friends here are very encouraging. It helps to know that most of them are dealing with similar issues of health and discouragement this year. Depression has hit most of us as well, so we bolster each other with encouraging stories and get together when we can for some fun. Just knowing someone else is going through it with you makes it much easier to get over "it". Today, the sun decided to shine and it hasn't rained as of yet, so things are looking up! A friend is taking me this evening for a massage to see if that will help me get better faster. What could it hurt at $4.60?
Thanks again to my faithful commenters and followers. I love reading your comments and knowing that you are out there!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Dinner Invite!

We finally took our friend up on her invitation for dinner. First we had find the place. It was at the end of a little alley on a little backstreet full of little shops. The real China! We weren't sure which door was theirs and they weren't answering the phone so we asked a neighbor. No one seemed to recognize the name but they said because there are so many apartments, they don't know everyone. Then the elderly lady that we asked proceeded to bang on the window of the first floor apartment and ask them through the window if they knew our friend. Then they finally showed up, arms full from the market around the corner. We had to move our bikes to another complex so they would be safe and finally we started climbing the dimly lit narrow stairwell to their one room apartment where they have lived for over ten years. The bed and couch faced each other, with boxes and a cabinet . There is a little space in the back facing the squat toilet where her stove is. There is no sink, just a faucet about the squat hole. The mom washed the vegetables above the hole in a handmade straw colander. She washed them four times. I need to step it up! She is known as one of the best cooks in the area and she says its because she doesn't use a lot of seasonings, just lets the flavor of the fresh food stand on its own. Every dish she made was delicious and there were no stomach side effects. It was amazing that we sat for hours, conversing only in Chinese with no akward pauses. Two years ago, we would have sat across from them in silence, smiling. That's progress! After dinner, we walked back out into the Chinese ghetto, arm in arm with our friends like we belonged there. Amazing!

"Don't Worry"

 As soon as we came back from Thailand, we started reminding our boss that two months were left on our visa and paperwork needed to be started. We reminded them every week for two months. We were told repeatedly, “don’t worry, don’t worry”. Two weeks ago, they took our passports to start the process and found out that the school we work for doesn’t have their license for having foreign teachers. “Don’t worry, we will get it done”. Last week I was handed our passports. Were our visas done? No, they just didn’t want to hold them for so long. This past Tuesday evening, they called us suddenly and requested our passports. Mind you, Frank had worked that day and could have carried them with. Nope, had to make a night run to a local McDonald’s to drop them off. Did we get our visa? Nope,  the next day, Frank got the passports back with instructions to go get a physical the next day, causing me to miss a days wages. They said they had fixed it with the clinic to rush our paperwork because today, Thursday, our passports expire. Yesterday, we went to clinic, found out none of it was accurate and we did not have the proper paperwork. Frank rushed back home to get it and we went through the whole process of testing. Check our first year blogs for a detailed account of that experience, including the ECG with jumper cables. Yeah. We asked when we could get our new health certificate. “Come back Thursday afternoon". Just to make things plain, our visas expire Thursday. Frank will soon be on his way to pick up our paperwork to turn in to our work. They continue to say, “don’t worry about it, everything is ok.” Either it really is or tomorrow we get kicked out of the country with a stamp saying we stayed past the limit and we can’t come back in. Supposedly, they are arranging, through means and gifts I would rather not know about, to extend our present visas for ten days while the school finally gets their act together. Then we should get new work visas. There are so many rules about visas but if you have the right connections, (guanxi), which our boss's wife does, anything can be bent. Not done on time, just bent. We couldn’t leave the country now, even if we wanted to because they have our passports! Either way, we are stuck. We will keep you posted. Should know by tomorrow, maybe. Don’t worry!

The Grass is Warm, The Sun is Green!

 In a place know for its sunshine, the locals avoid it like the plague! Long sleeves, hats, umbrellas and sleeve covers are part of everyday attire, even in the summer. The sleeve covers are basically those tubes of material with elastic on both ends that Americans use to store grocery bags. They remind me of a card dealer in an old western. Maybe they came from the Chinamen who journeyed West in search of land and fortune. Men and women also don gloves to protect their hands from the glaring sun. Can't get a tan, even there. Tans are ugly! Most of them have skin only a little lighter than mine and many are darker! Go figure! Along with the bright, hot sun, we have blustery wind that can knock you off your bike. We wear masks and scarves and glasses but the dust gets in anyway. My sinuses are having a hard time of it lately. The dust comes in everywhere, through the concrete walls of our apartment, through closed windows, maybe it comes through the floor too, who knows, but it is everywhere! Its important to drink plenty of water (which I never do) and use sunscreen ( which I do sometimes). The wind dries out our skin more than the sun and just cutting veggies in the kitchen can make the skin break. Burt's Bee's (a gift from the states) is my best friend!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Every Day Life!

We have fallen back into the rhythm of everyday life here. Dodging traffic and spit, fighting our way through the lines at the grocery store without getting angry, and climbing seven flights of stairs every day with arms full. You know, mundane stuff. I was able to get my secondhand toaster oven repaired by a guy who sells soy milk from a little booth near my house. Who knew?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Frank's Dream Come True!

IMG_0676STARBUCKS Logo Mug Coffee Cup 11 oz
Can you imagine Frank's elation at the sight of this sign? Finally after almost three years without his precious Starbucks, it is coming to our city! He has scoured the city for other sites and there are at least two stores opening that we know of. I wouldn't be surprised to see him camping out at the door the night before grand opening in May. I personally find their coffee a bit bitter for my tastes but Frank is on cloud nine!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Fake Flea Market!

Kay and I did some exploring near the city center this past weekend. She hadn't been there yet so we wandered down the little streets. We walked through the pet market and petted some of the puppies in their boxes. One kissed me and the lady said I had to buy him because we had a connection. He was cute, but not that cute! Around the corner from them was what looked like a flea market. Hundreds, maybe thousands of porcelain, glass and metal knicknacks, tea pots and vases were set out on sheets on the ground. We thought how cool it would be to give some of the pieces as gifts since they were old, with lots of history and character. Kay found a patinaed copper tea pot and asked how much. 1000Y! What! We thought this was flea market! We practically fled the scene for fear of tipping something over. As we exited back out on the main street, a man sitting next to his outrageously expensive junk called out after us: Waiguoren! Tai gui le! Tai gui le! (Foriegner! Too expensive, too expensive!) Darn right! He was mocking us because that's what any Westerner would say to the hefty price tags they had placed on 50 cent goods.


IMG_0667 IMG_0663


A Day Off!

I was so looking forward to sleeping in today. School is out for Tomb Sweeping Day and we have the next two days off. We had to work on Saturday to make up for it but still. All I wanted was to sleep in. That dream was ripped from my pillow  by Ji Tang (chicken soup), the rooster next door (dubbed Ji Tang by me at 6:30 this morning when he opened his big mouth!). He crows every morning, but we hadn't heard him lately and assumed he had graced the dinner table with his presence. No, he is alive and well, and I am AWAKE! It wouldn't have mattered much if he hadn't crowed, because soon after, a very badly behaved child began screaming bloody murder in the courtyard below and hours later, with many adults around watching her, is still at it. Someone please spank that child! But, I have the day off! Time to do laundry, blog, study(maybe), crosstitch, and anything else I can get done before time for dinner. I'm cooking tonight. Low-country boil. Chinese style (meaning whatever ingredients I can get that resemble the real thing). The weather has finally warmed up! This is what its supposed to be! I went out yesterday in three layers, scarf and gloves and was down to my capris and sleeveless shirt by noon. Glorious! Now if I can just get some rest.  Maybe tomorrow Chicken Soup will sleep in and the brat will stay at home. I can wish can't I?