Monthly Archives: September 2011

Drivers are teachers too.

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Sorry that no blog was posted yesterday. I had a BAD case of “I ate something that didn’t like me!” I felt so awful that the banging that they’re doing in the upstairs apartment to tear up the concrete floor didn’t faze me. Today it most definitely is.

This will also be the last post for 10 days because tomorrow Anders and I are off to Bali to celebrate our 25th anniversary. Our anniversary was in May but someone was in GZ on the actual day so someone needed to plan something special and someone did! 9 days and 8 nights at a resort on the very southern tip of the island and we’ll be staying in the honeymoon villa! Yeah, someone did it right.  I’ll be taking lots of photos and I’m sure I’ll have plenty to write about when I return. My passport arrived right on schedule yesterday so I’m now legal for 1 year AND able to leave the country!

I actually managed to have 2 Mandarin lessons this week. It was a close call this morning as I didn’t think I was going to make it but after Anders fixed me tea and toast I felt much better. My teacher has learned that I’m interested in Chinese characters and while she can’t teach them as part of this class she does throw in one or two per lesson. I will definitely be  taking a class in the next year or so. They are fascinating and so meaningful. She also taught me a curse word. I said darn at one point and her eyes lit up and she asked me if I wanted to learn one in Mandarin. Again, I’m fairly certain that it’s not part of the Berlitz curriculum. She was cute about it and got her point across without being crude.

 This then led to a very interesting conversation with Ben. Now he gave me a lesson in cursing.  All the way home. I started by showing him what E had taught me and he kind of laughed because as it turns out what I learned from E was not so bad. He told me he couldn’t imagine me having a need to say it so he taught me a few things I could use. It was hilarious. I do not have a foul mouth, I occasionally curse but it’s mild stuff for the most part. But we were both dropping the f word like it was part of our normal daily language. I have never heard him say anything, even when people do really stupid things while he’s driving he never even beeps his horn! But I learned a few words today that I can’t repeat. Not that I’m demure or anything but I just can’t remember what he taught me. 😉  I do remember one because  he had me write it down. He said it’s not that bad and I wouldn’t shock anyone if it came out of my mouth.  I told him that I couldn’t believe that we were talking about this.  It was a very surreal conversation and we were both laughing the whole time.

Drivers, they aren’t just for driving!

5PM – 79° (remnants of Typhoon Nesat)

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Random thoughts, again.

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I arrived in GZ one short week ago and in that amount of time I have accomplished (all while jet-lagged): temporary resident permit, photos yet again for permanent permit, applied for permanent resident permit, supervised clearing out of 80% of the apartment, supervised unloading of sea container – yeah, unpacked boxes from sea container, successfully set up 90% of the apartment, made homemade pizza, fried my brand-new-just-out-of-the-box coffee maker, took J out for dinner to celebrate his birthday so he didn’t have to be alone, and just arrived home from my Mandarin lesson. I believe it’s the last item that pushed me over the edge today. No one strong coherent thought today so…

RT #1 – Anders and I were in a small grocery store this weekend and a little girl was walking around with her father. She pointed to something on the shelf and asked in Mandarin what it was. Anders and I looked at each other with glee  because WE UNDERSTOOD. It was one of the first things we learned. Hearing it from a 3-year old made it easy but it’s a start.

RT #2 – I vacuumed our living room rug before it was packed, I swear. But walking on it today I felt something a little sharp under my foot (I’m a good Chinese person and remove my shoes at the door). When I picked it up it was the remnants of a dog biscuit. I love Tessa but she did not understand the concept of eating the crumbs from her biscuits. I miss her but she’s in a great home and the people who adopted her also got another greyhound a few weeks after her so she would have a buddy.

RT #3 – I really should have bought binoculars. Ben told me that the spectacular hotel across from us is a VIP hotel and particularly used my military personnel. Well, there must be a battalion of them staying there because every morning and every evening I see them out running. They look like hunky army guys from here and I need to verify if this is true.

RT #4 – When one applies for a resident permit in China you must go to an approved store for you photo. You must also have an official document stating where you had the photo taken and it must be dated. It has to have been done in the past 30 days. When I arrived on Aug. 1 I had mine done. As we all know by now I did not get my application done as expected so my photo was out-dated. I then went back when I arrived last Tuesday. As I was going through my portfolio of  photos I’ve had taken in the last 2 months I was comparing them. The difference from the Aug. 1 pic to the Sept. 20 one is quite telling. I was certainly exhausted for both but the wrinkles in the later one are greatly diminished. It’s fantastic and I attribute it to the water-laden air. I also think the change in diet has contributed. I don’t think I’ll ever want to leave here.

RT #5 – It’s a thrill to open my closet and have choice of clothing. I wore the same few clothes for 3 months!!!   I have dropped 2 sizes so most of the clothes I showed up with in my suitcase 2 months ago have been given away. Those that remain have been forced into hibernation and will not be worn until next March when it’s time to get out the summer clothes. Who the heck will wear them in China is beyond me. I guess someone will work their magic on them to make them fit.

RT #6 – I finally slept through the night for the first time in two weeks. I should be feeling more alert than I am shouldn’t I?

RT #7 – The first floor of our building houses 2 nursery school classes. The 3-year old class is directly below us; The Puppies Class. It is so much fun to watch the kids get dropped off in the morning, see them on the playground when I go out, and get picked up in the afternoon. They are a diverse group and everyone is so cute.

RT #8 – Ben will be taking care of Lily while we’re gone next week. What a relief. That means I will not worry at all. He’s happy to do it, will get paid when normally he would just be off and let’s face it, he’s a great guy and would probably do anything we asked. To be clear, we would do anything for him as well.

RT #9 – I hope the renovation of the apartment above us is not going to take too long. I keep waiting for my ceiling to cave in and they only started yesterday.

RT #10 – Why does my Mandarin lesson do me in? It’s only 1 1/2 hour long.  Today I learned about money. I already knew quite a bit but I had to add and speak Mandarin! That’s just too much for me.

3PM – 100°

Just another reason to love him.

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As I wrote the other day, I was very excited to come across the puffy heart that Andrew gave me. It was in my car basket that contained things like a tire pressue gauge (I never used it), hand sanitizer, lotion, and CD cases. When I gave the basket to Ben to put in the van I pulled it out and told him the sentimental story behind it. He understood.

Last night I finally emerged from the boxes, paper, plastic storage bins, and general disarray to meet friends for dinner. When I got in the van, there was my heart both literally and figuratively! Ben hung it up for me. I always had it hanging somewhere on the radio controls or air vent but I never told him that. I just told him I kept it in the car. He even hung it on  the side of the van where I sit when I’m in the middle.

As if we needed another reason to love Ben.

I accept the gauntlet, Pub Bros!

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Here's to our Pub Brothers. Sante!

I apologize up front for today’s post but when Pub Brothers  throw down a gauntlet I cannot let it go unchallenged!

For anybody that has gotten past the first sentence and is going to continue reading this I feel I must give some background information. Five years ago, a year before we left Geneva, things were very up in the air. All we knew for sure was that we would be kicked back to the home country before the year was up. Anders didn’t know where he’d be working, in what capacity, what division, and we didn’t know where Andrew would be going to university. Things were a little too undecided for my planner husband. I thought that a good way to get him to open up about his feelings was to ply him with alcohol. So every Saturday or Sunday we would go to a pub in Geneva. It took us a while to find one that we liked but in the end found one that was a hole-in-the-wall authentic Irish pub. It seated about 18 people and they did not have food, just salty snacks. Sometimes I had an agenda especially as it got closer to moving and we knew what was happening and other times it was just to talk and listen. We did this just about every single weekend. It worked. Anders loved it and Pub Day was born.

Flash forward to Cincinnati and we continued it. At first there were things to discuss about our new lives, new job, and adjusting to life as empty-nesters. After a while it just became the thing to do on a weekend, every weekend. Sometimes we would invite friends and those were usually the longest Pub Days. We actually had one last 7 hours, thanks to C&D. We never really hit on one pub that duplicated the one in Geneva and mostly because they ALL had TVs. If a bar has a TV in it it’s a sports bar not a pub. But we found a few that we liked.

A very good friend of ours, FFF (fine Finnish friend) moved from Geneva to Cincinnati. His fiancée/now wife was living and working in Washington, DC and the closest he could get to her in the States was Cincinnati. It was our gain. I had spoken to FFF a few times in Geneva and thought he was an interesting guy. We were very happy to have him come to Cinci. He gave us a taste of Europe and we became very good friends. Anders and I would have him come for dinner a couple of times a month so he could have a home-cooked meal, although he’s a fine cook himself.

Glenfiddich 12 year, not the greatest but it's all we got!

Then W², one of our dearest friends from our Albany, GA days (20 years ago) moved to Cincinnati as well. He too was  by himself for about 8 months. His family stayed behind to allow his youngest to graduate from HS. Soon we were having him come for dinner often. The four of us got along just fine and if I didn’t cook dinner we went out to eat. That’s how the whole Pub Brother thing got started. Anders and I were having Pub Day on the weekend and Pub Brothers during the week with W²and FFF. It then evolved into drinking and appreciating Scotch. I think I speak for all four of us when I say that some of our best Pub Brother memories were sitting on the front porch in Cincinnati, sipping Scotch out of bee glasses, and solving the world’s problems. When FFF snagged an amazing apartment we had very pleasant evenings doing the same in his garden. Now I’m getting choked up just thinking about all the great times we had and I know that was not what you both intended!

So the whole reason for this blog is that the 2 remaining US-based Pub Bros were having a Scotch tasting in Cinci and wondering why my blog didn’t mention them and how I missed them so much that I had to find a pseudo replacement for them. Well…I am here to tell you that I did. Ha! I found another orphan just like you two. J is in GZ on a split family until this summer. We have taken him under our wings and been to a few of the local haunts. We started at Wunderbar, the Hofbrau Haus in GZ. Don’t be jealous. There is no biergarten. We try to get together with J once during the week and once on the weekend. He’s not even a P&Ger! Now that I have my household goods I can start cooking for him too. Just like I did for both of you.  He is a great guy and you will have a chance to meet him when you come. You’ll see for yourselves that under different circumstances you would accept him as a fellow Pubber. The different circumstances being that he didn’t live in GZ and neither did we for that matter. You’re right, he’ll never replace the original Pub Bros!  We don’t even refer to ourselves as that but we do like J a lot.

I accepted your gauntlet, was there any doubt? You both know how much I love you and miss you more than I can say. Now I’m getting choked up again.

PS – Felicitations to FFF and M.

Moving day, not days

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That is a Chinese truck for sure!

Let me begin by saying that I am awed. Awed by how hard-working our 8 movers were. They arrived at our house at 10AM and were done by 3:30. They took a lunch break. No multiple morning and afternoon breaks, one lunch break.  They unloaded 1 1/2 containers of household goods and brought it up on the elevator. I was so glad they were able to use it.  They unpacked all of the boxes with the exception of the office (I don’t even want to think about that). All of our furniture was assembled including the 5 cubicle things we bought from Target before we left, our new bed, guest beds, and leather sofa. Two of them set up the living room with no input from me and it looked great. They were scheduled to be here for 2 days and I believe that this crew single-handedly raised the company’s success rate. I can honestly say that it was the  smoothest move and I look forward to working with them again. Well, not really because it means we’ll be leaving but you get my drift.

Anders was told to make sure that he took the day off  because there would be 15 men here and chaos would reign.  He did a great job and it was the first time he had ever been here either for moving in or out, but it was not necessary. I never once felt over-whelmed, never thought “Make the madness stop” or please just go away. The crew chief spoke English, and most of them understood what we were saying. When I proudly proclaimed the first box was empty they laughed. I, meaning D, did not make up signs as the apartment just ain’t that big and it would have been a waste of paper and time.

Hmmm...does anyone see Anders?

Around 2:00 the trucks were unloaded and everyone was busy unpacking. I asked Anders to start putting our cubicles together. We needed the horizontal surface area to put items as they were unpacked. He put one together and soon enough 5 of the movers were helping him with the rest. They were not obligated to do that as they arrived new and unassembled but without anyone asking them they just dug in. They were put together in no time.

The reunion was a beautiful thing. It has been three months since we last saw our household goods. Like Anders said, “It’s Big Boy Christmas!” He couldn’t have been happier. I got very excited when I found my cookbooks and peanut M&M mug.  The best thing though was finding the little red heart puff  that says I Love You. Andrew won it for me at a bazaar when he was about 5. It has hung in every car since he gave it to me and it’s my cross on the rearview mirror if  you will. I’ve missed it. I gave it to Ben to put in the car and told him how I got it. He did the “awww” thing, it translates easily from Mandarin 😉 I’m not sure where he put it as I have not been out of the house today but it will have place of pride.  I was also thrilled to see my framed photos. I only brought one with me 2 months ago and that was the family photo from Kiersten’s wedding, quite an honor to be the only one chosen dear daughter. Being so far away, the photos take on a new importance.

Lily survived the day by hiding in the cabinet under the sink in our bathroom. She had everything she needed and it was the quietest place in the house. Somehow she managed to hide her face  in between the shampoo and travel medicine bag.  She’s bit like a toddler in that she believes that if she can’t see us, we can’t see her. She emerged after the movers left and was sniffing up a storm, you would have thought she was a bloodhound. When I explained that the worst was over and they would not be returning today as planned I swear she sighed. Like us, she’ll be happier having the things that look and smell familiar. Well things smelling familiar won’t make any difference to Anders or me. 

Even Ben helped out yesterday. Not only did he bring us lunch and dinner, I know we’re totally spoiled, he also made a run to the hardware store and got bolts for our  new bed so it could be assembled. The day before when he was helping me bring up groceries, I know I’m totally spoiled, he asked if everything was going to fit. When he brought us dinner he was impressed that it did. I guess he thinks  Americans practice consumerism as a religion or something, I have no idea why he would think that! I will be honest, as much as I donated before we left Cincinnati (it was a boatload), I was embarrassed several times yesterday. The Chinese work for so little and struggle to provide and we come  with all of our “stuff” in tow and I chastised myself. They certainly never made me feel guilty, it was self-imposed and deservedly so.

We tipped. I know that my fine Finnish friend is cringing but we had to. They worked so hard, so fast, and so efficiently that we would not have been able to sleep if we hadn’t. To us it wasn’t much but it probably doubled their day’s pay and meant a lot to them. After was said our goodbyes and closed the front door I stood there for a moment with my mouth hanging open. I still can’t believe what they accomplished in 4 1/2 hours. I was speechless and that doesn’t happen often enough for my family.

The disaster room.

My kitchen is completely unpacked and organized, foyer is inviting, the living room is set up, looks great and takes advantage of the views, the dining room is just about done, the master bedroom is OK, and our bathroom is functional. I need Anders to move some things when he gets home or it would be done by now. The guest room doesn’t need much work other than putting the bedding on, you visitors don’t get much in that room. The guest bath is the holding area for quite a few things, our clothes are never going to fit, and my office is a complete disaster. I know that I better return to the States with every photo scrapbooked or Anders will never let me buy another scrapping item again!

We leave for vacation next Friday. The apartment will be done because I refuse to come home to unpacked boxes and a disorganized apartment. Besides, I don’t know who is coming to take care of Lily while we’re gone but I certainly don’t want them to think I’m a slacker. 

 4PM – 86°

EEADPSGP (part 2)

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Entry and Exit Administrative Department of Public Security of Guangdong Province (in case you forgot from Tuesday or if you did not read Tuesday’s post)

To be honest yesterday at the EEADPSGP was a bit of a disappointment in the sense that I didn’t really get any good material for my post today. Nothing exciting happened. Nervous K wasn’t nervous, I didn’t sit on a plastic children’s stool, and no one was cooking lunch. For the first time since arriving I didn’t stick out like a sore thumb as this is the place where foreigner’s register. I think there were about 8 floors of offices. It was very professional and is run by the police.  

I was in and out in 15 minutes and I’m still not sure why I had to go. I did not sign my name, I was not asked any questions, and I didn’t pose for any pictures. I guess it was to get a visual that I was indeed who I was claiming to be. The policewoman opened the medical report in front of me!  I bet they do it on purpose and they probably have a hidden camera to judge people’s reactions to seeing it opened. They are very clear in their instructions that the medical report MUST REMAIN SEALED. I was the picture of calm on the outside but inside I was screaming to just let me have a peek. Although now that I think about it I must have had good results because they let me apply for residency.

Not-nervous-today K told me that I should have my passport back by next Wednesday. That gives us a whole day of leeway before I need it for vacation on Friday. I’m not very worried, the Chinese are both efficient and proficient.

So I met a woman I know that was there with her husband. I was sitting and chatting with Ken in the waiting area along with one other person. They were leaving so I stood up to talk to them. As we were talking a policeman came over and motioned for us to sit down. J and I just looked at each other, shrugged, and did as he said. But really, why? Why did we have to sit down when we were 3 people among 5 in a huge waiting area?  I hardly think we were disturbing anyone. I guess he was just keeping the good citizens of Guangdong Province secure in public!

Ben made me laugh so hard but I couldn’t let him see! As we were nearing the bureau he asked me if I had met K. I told him yes. He then asked if I would know him if I saw him. I said that it had been about 5 months since I had seem him and I didn’t think so. I was actually thinking that there was no way I was going to be able to pick K out of the crowd. He then went on to say  that sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between Chinese and he thought it would be best if he called K and find out where he was standing so that he could point him out to me!  I’m sorry, I do not mean to offend any of my Asian friends, but it  just struck me as funny that Ben recognizes that it’s not easy to differentiate people’s faces here. Very un-PC of  me I know. The irony is that K  commented on my short hair cut. Yes, he actually remembered that my hair was longer back in April. I felt very sheepish after I just had my little  giggle about not being able to recognize him.

No time and temp as I’m in the middle of supervising about 15 movers and had this scheduled to publish. But I will tell you that we slept with our windows open to a glorious breeze, very unlike the oven door breezes that we’ve had, and it was  72° at 6AM.

Random thoughts

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Sorry, today’s blog will just be a bunch of random thoughts. My sea shipment arrives tomorrow and Friday which means that today the apartment staff will be clearing out the furniture. Should be a bit chaotic because there are some things we’ll be keeping.  This comes on the heels of spending the morning with Nervous K. So I thought that since my brain is fried (I’ve been awake since 3:15 AM) and have no chance of a nap it would be best if I didn’t have to think for too long on any one subject.

RT #1 – Today the temperature was 77° at 6:30 AM. That is the first time since moving here that I have seen a reading below 80!  The high yesterday was 89° and it felt heavenly! How quickly one’s perspective changes. Let’s just hope that this is the beginning of the “cool” season.

RT #2 – I have to have D make signs for me so that tomorrow when the men are unloading my things I can communicate with them where to put things. I will literally be using sign language.  Andrew – that’s the proper use of literally isn’t it?! Hopefully by the end of Friday I will know the Mandarin words for the rooms of a house. Perhaps that’s what Ben and I should talk about in the car this morning.

RT #3 – I already feel settled here and I don’t even have our apartment filled with the things that make it feel like home. That is a testament to how friendly people are in China.

RT #4 – I bought Ben Desitin for his daughter. I finally got him to  tell  me something that I could pick up for him in NYC and I knew that if I asked specifically if there was anything for his daughter he would cave. Now the random thought is that as soon as I opened the jar in the drugstore I was taken back more than 40 years. I remember using that on my youngest brother. I then jumped forward about another 20+ years to when I was using it on Kiersten and Andrew. Smell supposedly is the most powerful of the 5 senses in recalling memories.  I believe it.  If you used Desitin for your kids, go to the nearest CVS, Wal-Mart, Target, Duane Reade, or Walgreen and pop open the jar. Yes it comes in 1 pound jars now and take a whiff. It’s not as pleasant a scent as a freshly bathed baby but it’ll take you back.

RT #5 – I should probably not have had the 4th cup of coffee when I will be meeting up with Nervous K in 2 hours. I fear I may compound his nervousness or I’ll have heart palpitations, pass out and they’ll revoke my application based on poor health.

RT #6 – So this morning I take the final step in getting my residence permit and have the staff removing furniture. Not stressful but busy.  Anders said on his way out this morning, “If you need anything call D.” Before he had his work wife, he would have said to call him. To his credit though he recognizes that wives are the ones that really know what’s going on, work or home.  

RT #7 – After they clear out the apartment the only items that will be left  besides our clothes and kitty stuff  will be a bed, TV, coffee pot, and coffee mugs. They are not listed in order of importance!

RT #8 – Anders will be here tomorrow for the initial stage of unpacking. This is a first. I told him he didn’t need to as I’ve always managed (even when I had to speak French) but he said that it has been described as chaotic. There are usually about 15 movers! Now that may actually cause a bit of stress for me. I sure hope I get a good night’s sleep.

RT #9 – Lily’s gonna freak!

2PM – 95°