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)

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°

EEADPSGP

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Things are off to a good start – China let me back in. I’m still not entirely legal and I’m not allowed to leave the country until I have my permanent residence permit, and by permanent I mean I have to renew it in a year. That process started this morning  when I had to apply for my temporary residence permit, even though the one I currently have is valid until 9/27.  I should have my permanent one in the next week before the temp. expires but I guess they have to employ the population somehow. That had to be filed within 24 hours upon arrival back in the country. Don’t they know I’m like a baby who has its days and nights mixed up?

I just got back home from having my photo taken AGAIN. I have to have a receipt from the photo shop saying that the photo meets the requirements of the Entry & Exit Administration Department of Public Security of Guangdong Province. This will be my 3rd visit to Fotomax in 7 weeks and by  now I should be greeted with, “Ni hao Mrs. Leidal.” The Chinese government just can’t seem to get enough of:

1.  your photo

2. your passport

Tomorrow I will arrive at the office of the (see full name above because I’m not typing that thing out again) with Nervous K in tow.  You may remember him as he’s the man who steered us through the medical exams. I am preparing myself mentally for the frantic process, frantic only because K will make it that way. I’m not sure that being jet-lagged for this portion of the legalization process is a good idea. I may not move fast enough for K and that may compound his nervousness.  I’ll be tired when I’m done, even if all I do is sit on a plastic children’s stool (fingers crossed) because watching K dart about is exhausting.

The medical exam will be coming full circle tomorrow as I have to hand over the results. They are in a sealed envelope and must stay that way. The envelope  magically appeared along with a list from D of what I need to bring tomorrow. I have no idea who has had this since May, could be Ernst and Young, the official accountants for the Oscars for all I know. Now that I think about it, I’m very curious. Just who all has seen my medical report before it was sealed? Probably the same people who have seen my photo and my passport and that number could be in the hundreds at this point. One of the reasons that we’re hurrying to get this whole thing taken care of is that the medical exam results are about to expire and I would have to repeat the exam, as entertaining as it was I don’t think I want to go through that again.

As of tomorrow I will again be without my passport. They will keep it for the duration of the process, which should take about a week. I have to have it back so that I can leave for our vacation next Friday. It’s cutting it close! I’m fairly certain that in the 6 weeks that I’ve been here and the 1 week that I was in NYC, my passport has been “out” more than it’s been “in.” I gave it up 2 hours after I arrived in NY for 3 days. I don’t have it now. I had to relinquish it this morning so the apartment complex could have the police station issue my new and improved temporary residence permit and now it’s off to D so she can…you guessed it…photo copy it for tomorrow. The bureau is going to have the real deal in their hands yet they need a copy of it !?!? 

ID theft must not be a problem in China!

1PM – 88°

I don’t have clothes for this.

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I’m off to NYC this evening to get my Chinese visa/permit/immigration issues resolved. Let’s just say that the rules have changed and 6 weeks after making the 24 hour trip to GZ, I must now repeat the journey and return to my home country to get my permit. Oh well, at least I’ll get to spend some time with Andrew. Sorry you can’t make it Kiersten and Steven but I understand. You’re adults now with a home, pets, and careers! As the Rugrats would say you have “sponsitilities”.

While I’m looking forward to seeing Andrew and shopping for things I didn’t know I’d need until after I arrived in GZ, I’m not looking forward to the next 24 hours. I thought I’d have 4 months before I had to repeat it. D had a very difficult time making hotel reservations as well. I couldn’t figure out how NYC could be so crowded. Now I know. It’s fashion week. Whoop-dee-doo! UGH is more like it.

I just checked the weather report for the next few days in NYC and it’s supposed to be in the 60’s and 70’s. I’ll freeze! I don’t have clothes for this. The small wardrobe that I have is for temps in the 90’s and 100’s. I didn’t think I’d be needing anything so warm until December when I return for a visit. Little did I know that I’d be turning around and coming back to the States and that it would be unseasonably cool. Ah, but the upside is that I’ll get a small taste of autumn, my favorite season. Guess I’ll bring my running gear and run outside. Nothing like a cool, crisp morning with blue sky (I think I’ll get a glimpse amongst the skyscrapers) to motivate me to go outside and exercise. I keep waiting for it to cool off here before I step foot outside the gym for a run.

After recovering from the trip and jet-lag I will be hitting the stores. I’m not normally a gung-ho clothes shopper but since I’ve been here I’ve lost 11 pounds. While that is great it means that the few articles of clothing that I have don’t fit me anymore. I bought 3 pairs of cargo pants about 1 month before I left the US and they were a tad tight when I arrived. Now I can put them on without unbuttoning or unzipping them. Everything hangs on me and doesn’t look in the least bit attractive. More than likely I will not be receiving my sea shipment until the middle of October, that will make 3 1/2 months that I have not seen most of my household goods. I have plenty of clothes on their way that will fit. I have jeans, pants, skirts, and shirts that were bought when I was either thinner or knew that I just had to lose 3-4 pounds for them to fit. You snicker but we’ve all done it.

I’m still not sure if I’m going to take my laptop with me.  If you don’t hear from me, please come back when I come back on Sept. 20th. I’m only going on another forced trip.

2PM – 102°

Mid-Autumn Festival

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View from our living room window.

One night shy of the full moon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today, September 12, is the celebration of the Mid-Autumn Festival in China. It is the 15th day of the 8th lunar month of the Chinese calendar. It is also called the Mooncake Festival, Lantern Festival, or Moon Festival. This festival is all about  happiness and reuniting with friends and family. When the family gets together they light lanterns, make food offerings to Chang’e the moon goddess,  and sit outside to eat the evening meal and enjoy the full moon.

To me there are many similarities to Thanksgiving. It’s a very busy travel holiday. Many Chinese use the opportunity to return to hometowns to visit family.  We have noticed a big increase in the amount of traffic. On Saturday it took Ben about 15 minutes to travel 1/2 mile. Like in the US everyone was busy gathering  what they need to celebrate.

Don't be fooled, they're not very good.

The grocery store displays reflect the traditional foods as well. If you just landed in China I think you would know a holiday was coming up if you walked into a grocery store. There are mooncake displays at every turn. They are the most traditional food for the festival. They have many variations depending on the area in which they are made. Most have lotus seed paste fillings and a flaky crust. The crust is usually stamped with the Chinese character for longevity or harmony. They are typically sweet but there are savory versions too. They are jam-packed with calories and fat grams. They aren’t very big, maybe 2 inches high and about 4 or 5 inches in diameter. They are cut into pieces  equal to the number of people in the family. To me this is where it’s good to be part of a big family (not likely here though). That means you only have to choke down a small bite. In hearing people describe them they’re a bit like fruitcake. You take them to everyone, everyone politely opens them and has a bite, and that’s it. Maybe I’m talking to the wrong people but that was my impression. I’ll be honest, I don’t like them. Anders received about 15 when he was away a few weeks ago. I tried one bite and was done. We gave them to Ben who was not really surprised that I didn’t like them and was happy to take them off our hands.

The very dry inside of the pomelo.

The pomelo is another traditional food. It’s a giant citrus that looks like a big old lemon and tastes like a sweet grapefruit. I bought one. I had no idea how to choose the right one. Should it feel heavy for its size, should it be yellow or green, should it give a little when squeezed, or should it smell ripe? I picked one and I think I did not choose correctly. Unlike other citrus there was not a drop of juice coming out when I cut into it and it had a dry texture. The flavor was nice but we couldn’t eat much of it because of the dryness. Oh well, there is always next year.

Chang'e, the moon goddess.

For me the best part is the lanterns. I bought 3 and am quite pleased with myself. I love them and will always have them hanging  in my house for the festival, even when we’re living in who knows where. Not surprisingly most feature Chang’e and the full moon. The apartment complex put them up all over this week and their’s are lit. They look pretty during the day and even prettier at night. We have seen them all over GZ and I can’t wait to go down by the river tonight after it gets dark to see if there is anything special. This is my first major holiday in China and in a country where traditions abound, it’s fun to learn.  

Happy Mid-Autumn Festival!