Well, our first summer here has come and just about gone. We’ve had some of those dry, cooler, sunny, blue-sky days that almost could convince us that this is early fall in New England. It’s a wonderful break from the heat and humidity of the past few weeks.
So how did we spend our summer? If you’re wondering, read on!
First of all, it was hard to know when to officially declare the start of summer. Since we hadn’t really started homeschooling with any sort of consistency until January, we couldn’t stop too early. So the kids were bummed to be still studying a week or two longer than their friends, then, to add insult to injury, several of their friends left to spend the summer in the States. We still hadn’t made any definite travel plans or arranged any special outings around here. Plus we were feeling the loss of the familiar rhythm of our American summers. So the summer stretched before us like a long road with no landmarks.
The girls with some friends who would be gone all summer
While we had to say goodbye to several friends leaving for the summer, we got to welcome some friends, the H family, who moved here in June. We’ve known them from our Tulsa days, so it’s especially good to have them here. Their kids and our younger two are becoming fast friends.
Nathan and Hannah continued to go to Chinese school on and off through the summer. There were several special events including a “fashion show” for all the 5 year-old classes.
Nathan at a school fashion show (he's at the far left)
We wanted to take a trip to a beach. We worked on making plans to go to a nice seaside city a few hours south of here. I worked and worked trying to figure out the details of travel, hotel, etc. We also tried to arrange going with some friends. We had never tried to plan a vacation on our own in China and it was harder then we realized, especially finding suitable accommodations for a family of six. It took the joy out of the anticipation and made us tired!
So, we used the early-July days David had asked off for a “stay-cation” instead.
David’s bike had recently gotten stolen, and we had never fully outfitted our whole family with bikes, so a Chinese friend took us bike shopping at a “used” bike market. It was actually a back alley with random people approaching us with bikes they’d sell us…hmmm. Well, that’s another story.
some kids playing near where we bought bikes
On David’s days off, we enjoyed family bike rides, a day trip to an aquarium, and an Independence Day picnic with some friends. It was a nice little break.
At the aquarium
The girls by a tank of piranhas with glowing eyes!
on a bike ride
July Fourth picnic
Baked beans and potato salad - along with hamburgers and hot dogs - what a treat in China!
Soon after that, we enjoyed a visit from Dr. A, a friend, teacher, and gifted counselor from Tulsa. We were able to share our hearts and lives with him over three days and it was a great time of encouragement and strengthening for us.
Right on the heels of Dr. A’s visit, we were invited to go to a beach for a few days with some friends who’ve been in China for a few years. David couldn’t take any more time off, but since the other family was making all the train and hotel arrangements and we’d be together with them, I decided to go ahead and make the trip with the kids.
On the train to the beach
The town we went to was about a two-hour express train ride away. It was swarming with Russian sun-seekers. We enjoyed the water and the sand and got a kick out of Chinese taxi drivers speaking Russian to us.
Trying to hire a driver to take us to the hotel
digging for treasures at low tide
We had a wonderful time, except at the very end. We came home one day earlier than our friends, so I had to make my way to the train station and onto the train by myself with the four kids and luggage. I underestimated how challenging it would be to do this for the first time without the help of any other adults!
We made it to the station on time, found the waiting room which was a hot, packed, mass of humanity, and thought we were home free. My fatal mistake was being too polite. I thought I was waiting in a line to be let out to the platform area. I found out the hard way that one does not wait in line, or make any assumptions about what is or isn’t a line. One must be alert, somewhat aggressive and not preoccupied with hot, hungry, tired, fussy kids in order to not miss the train.
We missed the train.
To make a long story short, we did finally get home late that night after an extended stay at that train station. The kids handled it all so well – they all kicked into their most mature modes during the ordeal. And I learned a lot about how things work here, albeit the hard way.
After recovering from all that excitement, I spent a week apartment hunting for an American family that was preparing to move here. With the help of a rental agent and a Chinese friend, I read ads, viewed several apartments, corresponded with the family in the US, and secured one for them. It was another great cultural experience and provided lots of language practice.
Hannah with her dance teacher on the last day of school (which is in July for Chinese kids!)
Nathan, the monkey!
Then I got busy making all the final plans for our trip to Guangzhou, July 31 to Aug. 10th. That’s a separate blog.
After returning from that trip, all the kids’ friends were back so they are happy as clams. David jumped back into his work and I jumped into planning and preparing for our school year. We started school on the 17th. So far it’s going well.
Last Saturday, the 22nd, we celebrated Nathan’s 6th birthday. He had some friends over for his Star Wars party, complete with homemade TIE fighter pinata and a light saber cake. He was one happy little boy!!
making the TIE fighter pinata
blowing out six candles on the light saber cake
Tomorrow is our 9-month mark since coming to China. Unbelievable!