Category Archives: People we can’t live without

Favorite people photos – 1st year


WOW!!! I started to go through my vast “collection” of photos and realized that condensing my favorites from our first year to just one post would require superhuman skills. There are so many that are too good not to post so I decided that I’ll milk this idea for a few posts. I decided to start with people. Everyone likes people don’t they? I’m sure that as I’m laying in bed tonight I’ll think about this and kick myself about the ones I missed. Oh well, I can always do another blog  and title it, “The Forgotten Ones”.


9PM – 82°

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I asked Ben to kiss me!


What did he do? He laughed! Quite hard actually. What did I do? I laughed. Quite hard as well but I also turned beet red.

As I’ve said before, Mandarin is a mine-field. One wrong tone and you end up asking your driver to kiss you instead of asking a question. The word that caused the trouble is wen. It has 7 different meanings but only 4 pronunciations. Yeah, sometimes you pronounce a word with the same tone and the only way to know the meaning is by context! I know there are some words like that in English but it’s a lot worse in Mandarin.

wěn=kiss. This tone is the third tone. Here’s how you say it. The ‘e’ is pronounced like the ‘e’ in her. The third tone starts low, then falls lower before rising again to a point slightly higher that the starting point; louder at the beginning and end than in the middle; slightly longer than the first tone. (This is the way the Berlitz dictionary describes how to pronounce the third tone. It’s easier than it seems but come on, who the heck can understand that!)

wèn=ask. This is the fourth tone. It starts high then drops sharply in pitch and volume; like saying ‘right’ when agreeing to an instruction. It’s an easy tone and I should not have failed.

In class I was learning in-depth shopping. Part of my homework was to ask Ben where he bought something. I chose to ask him where he bought his pants. I always prepare him when I’m going to speak an entire sentence in Chinese by saying, “OK, I’m going to try this whole thing in Chinese.” or “OK, are you ready?” And whenever I do he gets the funniest, most anticipatory grin on his face while simultaneously raising his eyebrow and leaning over to listen. It’s very endearing.

Me (in Mandarin): “I have homework.” And he smiled in anticipation.

Me (in Mandarin and what I meant to say): “I have to ask you where you bought something.” 

Me (in Mandarin and what I actually said): “I have to kiss you…”

Didn’t get any further than that because he started to laugh. I knew instantly why he was laughing. I’ve made the same mistake with E during my lesson so I practiced what I was going to say to Ben. Practiced and still managed to do exactly what I was trying to avoid. After we collected ourselves:

Ben: “This word is some trouble.” I hear that  from him frequently and not just about speaking Chinese.

Me: “I know. I practiced and still got it wrong.”

Ben: “It OK, it OK. Chinese people know it hard for waiguoren (foreigners) to speak Chinese. It OK.”

Me: “I am so glad I don’t look like a local because they know not to expect much.” 

He nodded a little too enthusiastically if you ask me. 😉 This led to a discussion about how sometimes it’s not so bad to stand out.

I told Anders about it this morning. He thought it was hilarious. So what did the cheeky monkey do? He got in the car this morning and asked Ben to kiss him! I had called him about 5 minutes after he left to remind him of something. When Anders answered he was laughing and I could hear Ben too! I asked him what was so funny and he told me that he asked Ben to kiss him and then they both started guffawing again. Guess he’s jealous. I’m just not sure if it’s Ben or me that he’s jealous of. 🙂

5:30PM – 64°

The Honeymoon is Over


Today’s post has a bitter tone to it. I’m not apologizing, I’m just saying.

Yesterday when I went to the wet market the fruit that I heard about was in season. Several people, including my Mandarin teacher, told me that they are to die for. They are like tiny clementines only a lot sweeter, if you can believe that! They are about 1 1/2 – 2 inches in diameter. I bought about 15 and there were only 5 left today.  Anders is away and I knew that they would be gone before he stepped foot in the apartment tomorrow. So today, the last stop I made was the wet market.

I bought them at a fruit stall that I frequent and it’s right where Ben usually parks. He got out with me because they were a better price than he gets and he wanted to buy some. He also showed me another fruit (longans) that he likes and had me try one. They were delicious, similar to lychee. So he chose some for me (am I not the luckiest person?) and as I paid for mine he was choosing his own. I put the bag on the scale, the woman pointed to 10 on the scale, and told me in Mandarin 10RMB. I paid it. No questions. Well, a little conversation started between her and Ben and I kind of figured out what was going on. The next thing I knew I was handed back 5RMB. When I got in the car I asked him what was said. He told me the sign said 10 longans for 5RMB. She blatantly ripped me off and he caught her. She claimed she was going to give me the change. Liar, liar, pants on fire. She definitely told me 10RMB, she even pointed to the scale when she said it. I have said before that I know I pay more because of who I am and I’ve decided that I’m OK with it. Today I guess it bothered me because she lied about it and I never would have known if Ben wasn’t along. Ignorance really is bliss! It was only 75¢ but sometimes it IS the principle.

After yesterday with the Christmas tree and today with the longans, I’m a little sad.

6PM – 65°

Where’s a driver when you need him?


I actually had to drive myself around Cincinnati today! GASP. I took Anders to work. We are in a hotel next to the office building but HE had to be driven. It may have been raining but I choose to believe he just likes being driven around. As he got out he told me in Mandarin what time to pick him up :-)It was a very odd feeling to be behind the wheel. I think the last time I remember that feeling was the first time I got in the car after getting my license, more than 35 years ago. I haven’t been in the driver’s seat since I drove myself to the airport on August 1. I remember my friend telling me that what took her by surprise when she drove for the first time was how fast she had to go. I know what she’s talking about. Driving on the freeway was a little disconcerting  but it’s like riding a bike. 

When we knew we were going to have a driver in China it was the one thing I didn’t think I was going to like. I thought I was going to feel trapped or like I lost my freedom. No more deciding at the last minute to go somewhere or changing my mind about going somewhere. Set aside that fact that Ben is a wonderful person and I can’t imagine what my experience in China would be without him, I just love having a driver. I love that the gas tank is always full, the car is clean inside and out, the maintenance is someone else’s problem, I don’t have to remember to pay the insurance  and renew the tag. I never give the vehicle a second thought.  I don’t have to Google map my destination and I certainly don’t worry about whether the signs are in Chinese or English or Pinyin. I just call Ben, he shows up, and off we go. If I have a few places to go and no time constraints, I tell Ben what I need to do and let him plan my itinerary. One day we crisscrossed town because I wasn’t able to find what I needed at the first 2 stores I went to. I would have been irritated with myself and probably would have bagged that night’s dinner but I didn’t have to. I apologized but Ben had no problem with it. He likes to drive, I don’t!

After re-reading this post, I may have been deflecting in the first paragraph. I’m the one that’s spoiled, not Anders!

No Affairs for Me, Darn


I met a fellow GZ blogger the other day for coffee. He stumbled upon my blog while looking for ex-pat things to do in GZ. He left a comment, I read his blog, and I thought we had a lot in common. He had made M&M cookies and posted a picture of them on his blog. Why would I not want to  meet this guy?  He moved here not too long after I did so I thought it would be nice to get together and compare notes. We met at a nice little  bakery. We talked for about 1 1/2 hours and  had a good time. Conversation flowed, there were no awkward lulls in the conversation. I could have talked longer, no surprise, but I had to get home for an 11:00 meeting. Alright, it was for my in-home massage but I do have to meet the masseuse at the door.

Fellow blogger walked out with me and Ben was waiting right in front with the motor running. Hmmm. I didn’t call him. He is able to get street-side parking in this part of town so I was actually going to WALK to where he was but there he was. I said my goodbyes, off went fellow blogger, and I got in the car. I was greeted with a face, not the usual grin. It was a “something isn’t right about this” face.  So…what to do, what to do? I felt like I needed to explain why I was meeting a man other than my husband. Did Ben think I was a cougar? Now that’s funny! I explained how I met fellow blogger. I also hatched a plot though to make sure that Ben knew that Anders was aware of my morning meeting.

I was meeting Anders at 6:00 at the office with a friend who was visiting from the States. (Hey L!) I sent him a text telling him that he had to ask me in the car how my morning coffee went with fellow blogger. I needed  to be sure that Ben knew all was right in the Leidal marriage.  I thought Anders would just say something like, “Hey Karen. How did your morning coffee with fellow blogger go?” Oh no. I should have known. He sat up front with Ben, leaned over, and said, “Hey Ben. About this guy that Karen met this morning, was he wearing one of these? (he pointed to his wedding band) I’m a little worried about who she’s meeting.” Ben very seriously replied that he couldn’t see. I groaned because I thought that the humor and teasing were not going to translate. Ben caught on quickly though and then the laughing started. Ben said that he thinks he’s seen this guy at one of the hotels, hahaha,  and he would go over there and do some checking, hahaha. Anders said I’m glad to know that you’re on my side, hahaha and you let me know what you find out, hahaha. Oh they were having a good time with it.

I learned a few things from this episode. I really like fellow blogger, we do have a lot in common even thought he’s young enough to be a much younger brother. Boomerang Bakery makes the best cappuccino in the world. Ben has Anders’ back. He is my protector – I already knew that but he just keeps solidifying it. If I want to do anything surreptitious, I better call a taxi 😉

1PM – 85°

Trip Advisor not necessary, we have D


As you know on Wednesday we are heading to the “north country.” Have I mentioned that it will be cold there? Ben and I were talking about it yesterday and again he told me it will be cold. My Mandarin teacher and I were also talking about it on Thursday because I’ll miss class and she too said, “It’s going to be very cold.” NOTED!

As it turns out I did not need to do any pre-work about places to visit and things to see and do. Anders and I are staying an extra day to enable us to do some exploring together. I wasn’t sure what we were going to do but knew I would come up with something. I should have known that with an admin like D, I wouldn’t even have to think.

She contacted an alum of the university where Anders will be working and asked her to act as our tour guide.  She will be spending Saturday with us showing us the university and sights around the city. I’m also hoping that it includes a lunch at a local restaurant. Seriously. I’m not kidding former neighbor 😉 We did not ask her to do this but being the thoughtful person that she is she took the initiative. I can’t tell you how nice it is to know that she wanted to make sure that we had a positive experience. Who needs Trip Advisor when we have D?  If only she could control the temperature 😉

5PM – 83°

Drivers are guardians too.


I just got home from the “Crap Market” or as it’s more commonly known, OneLink. I ended up going by myself because my fellow “crapper” couldn’t make it. I almost didn’t go but I thought it would be good for me to get out by myself. I even used some Mandarin at the stall where I bought 3 adorable purses for $14.  Actually that’s all I used and maybe a little gesturing. I also managed to walk into 2 dead-ends in the building. That’s not easy to do yet I managed it. I’m so directionally challenged when there is no tall beacon to guide me. That is the real reason I don’t like to go to OneLink by myself! I get lost.

The real point of this post is Ben. I hope you don’t mind yet another tale or two of how wonderful he is but this man is a treasure and we are INCREDIBLY lucky to have him.

He’s teaching me a useful Mandarin phrase everyday. This was precipitated  by him very gently, sweetly, delicately, and kindly telling me yesterday that when I call him I just need to tell him what time to pick me up. We can discuss plans when he can see my face. For anyone that speaks another language you know how difficult it is to talk on the phone! Point taken 😉  So that led to me asking him to teach me the phrases I need when I call him. I showed up in the car this morning with a notebook to write down what he tells me. Oh, he thought that was funny. Today’s lesson was “I’m ready.” He thought for 5 minutes about the best phrase to teach me as there are several. He told me that he doesn’t want to teach me anything too slangy but also doesn’t want me to speak high-Mandarin.  Thanks for keeping it real. I wrote what he told me, spelled incorrectly of course, and practiced it with him because there are 3 tones in this short little phrase!

He then put amazing amounts of pressure on me, unknowingly of course. He told me that he thinks in 6 months he won’t need his English when talking to me! YIKES! You can’t do that!  I won’t be able to do anything for the next 6 months except study, study, study to achieve that level of expectation. I told him that he was being kind but he said that he truly believes it. After I ODed on OneLink it was time for me to call him. I practiced it a few times in my head and I laid my zhunbei hao le (I’m ready) on him and I got an enthusiastic hao de (good) in return.

I had asked him to take me to an ATM before I hit the market. We got talking about my “lesson” and forgot until we pulled up to the front of the building. I asked him if there was one nearby and he pointed me around the corner. I admit my heart skipped a beat because I wondered  how I would ever find my way back to where he dropped me off.  As I’ve said before, where you’re dropped off is where you’re picked up and as I’m so directionally challenged I panicked a tad.  So, I noted that there was a Chinese Lottery kiosk at the corner and walked about 1 1/2 blocks to find the bank.  The ATMs were in a lobby but if you’re waiting you have to do it outside, that’s how close they are to the doorway. So, I was waiting and watching the guards have a very good laugh about something, and I heard behind me, “Karen, you ok?” It was Ben. He surprised me but after I thought about it I shouldn’t have been. He wanted to make sure I found the bank and that I was OK with the ATM. I told him earlier there is an ATM 1 block from our apartment but it doesn’t have English options. So he waited until it was my turn and when the English came up he stepped outside to wait for me. As we were walking back to OneLink he cautioned me to make sure I kept my wallet in my purse and to keep a tight hold on it, both inside and outside. It’s a crowded place and there are some nefarious looking people hanging about. He did not use the word nefarious, that’s me taking liberties. I looked up at him and realized that he was being the guardian that we had heard about from his previous family. I don’t even want to think about the day we leave China 😦