Posted by: Heather | November 30, 2009

One year!

One year has passed since we arrived in China.  So hard to believe!  Last year, after a Thanksgiving meal with my family, and Thanksgiving dessert with David’s family, we headed off to the JFK airport in New York (which was almost totally deserted, I must add) for a post-midnight flight to Seoul then on to China.

What an amazing year it has been.  Our lives have so totally changed, yet many things are the same – especially the love we share as a family and the enduring faithfulness of our God.

I have not been writing much, partly because I often just don’t know how to put it all down on “paper” and partly because I have to have time and the right mood to deal with the technology!   Also this fall has been especially busy with language study added to our regular duties of work and home -schooling and family and home.   I’m realizing that six or eight months ago we were still struggling so much with just learning to live life here that going to school would have been impossible – but we have come so far.

We miss our American home, our friends and family and daily think of those we’ve left behind.  But this is now home in many ways and we are so thankful for the new life God has enabled us to build here where He’s called us to be for this time.

A huge THANK YOU to all those friends and family who are behind us, supporting us and lifting us up in many ways!

PS. I’m never really sure if anyone actually reads our blog?!  If you do, I’d love to hear from you!  I need some encouragement to keep writing … and to write more often! : -)

Posted by: David | November 13, 2009

The Far Side

Foreigners in our city are few and far between.  Most people are surprised to see one, and often want to try out the English they learned in school. The other day Heather and I were going to language class together on our electric motorbike and stopped at a corner.  Some guys waiting next to us said “Hel-lo!”  We smiled and said “hello” back, and the conversation ended.  This happens all the time, often with “hello” called out just after we pass a total stranger…

It reminds us of the uncontrollable urge we all feel to say “Moo!” at cows in a field, or as the surreal Far Side cartoon had it reversed, the urge for cows to say “Yakity-yak-yak” at people standing in a field…

[a link to this Far Side cartoon is here – Gary Larson wants his copyright respected by not republishing his comics in blogs]

Posted by: David | October 1, 2009

Hiking around Guangzhou

We took a hike to get out of the city – wading up a stream until we found a beautiful waterfall that we could swim near!

Posted by: David | October 1, 2009

Guangzhou Food

The food in Guangzhou was wonderful – dim sum is available on the street for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  We also enjoyed eating tiny snails for the first time!

Posted by: David | October 1, 2009

Guangzhou Science Museum

Posted by: David | October 1, 2009

Around Guangzhou

Posted by: David | September 15, 2009

Train to Guangzhou

Here are a few photos of our overnight (28-hour) train trip to Guangzhou to visit some friends in August – the journey was an adventure in itself!

Posted by: Heather | August 29, 2009

Summer

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.

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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

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.

bike shopping

bike shopping

some kids playing near where we bought bikes

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.

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At the aquarium

The girls by a tank of pirhanas with glowing eyes!

The girls by a tank of piranhas with glowing eyes!

on a bike ride

on a bike ride

July Fourth picnic

July Fourth picnic

Baked beans and potato salad - along with hamburgers and hot dogs - what a treat in China!

Baked beans and potato salad - along with hamburgers and hot dogs - what a treat in China!

Yum!!

Yum!!

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.

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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

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

Trying to hire a driver to take us to the hotel

digging for treasures at low tide

digging for treasures at low tide

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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

Hannah with her dance teacher on the last day of school (which is in July for Chinese kids!)

Nathan, the monkey!

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

making the TIE fighter pinata

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blowing out six candles on the light saber cake

blowing out six candles on the light saber cake

Tomorrow is our 9-month mark since coming to China.  Unbelievable!

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Posted by: David | July 25, 2009

Tuesday Night Fever

If you go to a Chinese hospital these days, do not, repeat, do not admit to having a fever.

There have been 1668 confirmed cases of H1N1 influenza at last count, despite great efforts to keep the virus out of the country, so I can’t blame public health officials for their efforts, but my experience with one patient seemed rather extreme.

I got a call in the middle of the night by a patient who told me he had a fever, vomiting, and dizziness.  I figured that he would need some IV fluids to get rehydrated, and that the fastest way to do this would be at a hospital near him rather than across town at my hospital.

I met him at the hospital and started to register him at the ER, but when I said that he had a fever, we were directed to a different desk in the waiting room.  They woke up a lady who was sleeping on the floor behind the desk, who had us fill out a form (by now my Chinese nurse had arrived who was helping translate and read the form).  They had us put on gloves and facemasks, and then told us that we had to go see the Fever Doctor.

We walked out of the ER, down past several concrete trucks and active construction going on at 2am, down a dark alley, and into another entrance, with our patient bravely pushing on but feeling a bit faint.  We followed the signs that said “Fever patients this way” in big characters, up the stairs, and into the Fever Exam Room.  They woke up the fever doctor, who asked about symptoms, did an exam, determined that our patient did not have H1N1, and sent us back to the ER (through construction, etc.) carrying an officially-stamped paper saying we did not need quarantine for flu.

Back in the ER, they said we had to go see another doctor before seeing the ER doctor for treatment, and at this point we left, got in a taxi and went to my hospital.  We did not have to get anyone’s permission to do anything, and we started an IV, did some lab tests, and the patient felt better.

So do your best not to get sick when you come here – or if you do, choose an illness that doesn’t raise your body temperature!

Posted by: Heather | July 18, 2009

Nathan

Nathan is our fun-loving little boy.  We can’t believe he’ll be six next month!

Nathan with one of his many LEGO creations

Nathan with one of his many LEGO creations

Nathan brings lots of joy to us with his funny antics, his joke-telling and creative play.  He’s the youngest sibling, but his smarts serve him well as he strives to keep up with the big kids.  We’re always amazed at how quickly he catches on to the older kids’ games and activities – and he often figures out solutions to problems that are stumping even us big people, especially when it involves something technical or understanding how something works.  Of course, often his understanding is very much at a 5 year old level – like the day he looked at one of the ubiquitous green netting-draped construction sites around us: 100_2270

I asked Nathan, “What do you think that green stuff is for?”

He said, “It’s so you can’t see what they’re doing. ”  Then in a low voice he continued, “But I know what they’re making.”

I leaned in close.  “What?”

“A building!”  Nathan replied in an exuberant whisper.

His emerging engineering abilities are put to work daily on his LEGO creations.  It’s Nathan’s single most favorite pastime, especially if he is playing with his Dad, sister or a friend.  Yes, he is probably the only true extrovert of the six of us, and his love of people makes it easy for him to make friends.

Nathan with his best buddy at school

Nathan with his best buddy at school (yes, the friend has makeup on...for a school "fashion show"!)

Nathan has boundless energy and an appetite to match!  He has become an expert monkey bar swinger, which has taken a toll on his little hands this summer.  He is all boy, our “warrior-child”.  He loves Star Wars and Clone Wars – his lightsaber is never far from his side!

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Nathan goes to a Chinese kindergarten every morning.  He has made great progress in understanding the Chinese around him, and his teachers report that he speaks to them in Chinese too (though we rarely hear it!)  He’s made friends and seems to be very popular with his classmates.  Though he’s actually going into first grade, and we will continue to work on math and reading at home, he will go to the Chinese school for one more year, as the Chinese kids generally move up to the elementary school at age 7.  We can’t wait to see how his understanding of Chinese language grows over this next year!

Nathan (in the brown shirt) with his class

Nathan (in the brown shirt) with his class

What a fabulous little boy Nathan is!  We are blessed.

Building sand castles on the beach

Building sand castles on the beach

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