Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Dental Work, Dumplings And American Cable

This morning I went back to the dentist. "Be brave," I told myself. The German dentist went with me. Once we got there, we waited for her Chinese interpreter friend. I also had Pungy come to watch Chase. Quite a large group for what would otherwise be a standard dentist appointment.

After reviewing the x-ray, the German and the Chinese dentists had a little chat and decided to carve out and fill a small cavity on my tooth, rather than do a full blow root canal. I have to admit I cried like a baby when she gave me the Novocain shot in the roof of my mouth. The German dentist held my hand through the whole thing. I wish all my dentists did that.

From there, I went to the grocery store. Pungy is such a help in so many ways. She is so clever and knows so much more English than she lets on. At one point, I was muttering to myself, "hmmm, I wonder where this cheese is from...." And then Pungy said "New Zealand." At another point we were in the bakery and she pointed to a hot dog wrapped in pastry and said, "hot dog."

When we got back to the apartment, she showed me how to properly cook a dumpling, which goes something like this: (1) Boil water, (2) Add dumplings, (3)When the water comes back to a full boil, add a half cup of room temp water (which cools the water enough so it isn't boiling). When it boils again, you add another half cup of room temp water. You do this three times and then they are ready to eat. I'm going to have to ask Pungy to teach me more ... the food here is awesome and it would be great to learn how to make real Chinese food.

Pungy left early today, because I had plans to go to the Communications Office, to register for American cable. Apparently, the channels and programs are kept under wraps and locals are not allowed to know about or view them. When I asked my residence office manager if she could tell me what channels were available, she said she couldn't because the Communications Office doesn't disclose that information.

Excited by the idea that we might just have American cable, I went to see the resident office manager, who was going to go with me. She said, "do you have all the documents?" I told her I had our passports, like she had requested. "Oh no, you need a working certificate and living certificate, too." Turns out we need a letter from Hub's company indicating he works there - no problem, and we need a letter from our local police station indicating we have registered - turns out this is a big problem.

Turns out we need our landlord (who lives in Canada) to be present, because he owes some back taxes. Oh, great.

So no cable tonight or the foreseeable future.... not that it really matters, Chase has been going to bed anywhere from 9.30 - 11 pm (not sure why) and by then we’re too knackered to even watch TV.

(Note: I am very jealous of my friends who have kids who go to bed at 6 pm. How do you get your kids to do that?)

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Dalian, China: Out and About

I've been getting requests for photos of Dalian. Unfortunately, it is too cold to walk around, so here are some quick pics from our cab rides this weekend.

Hubs and I also stumbled across a great indoor market (in the old convention center). It is filled with dried teas, fruit, baked goods, raw goods, clothes, etc. I've heard it even has some Chinese furniture - although we didn't see any when we were there. It was a little crazy, so I only took a couple pictures.

Dalian, China: Russian Street

This weekend, we decided to venture out (in the freezing cold) to check out the Russian Street of Dalian.

The street is supposed to epitomize 19th century Russia. It was created to add an exotic touch to Dalian. The 430-meter-long street was pretty much empty, with the exception of a few brave, shivering street vendors.

I had heard there were a number of duty-free shops, supermarkets, antique stores and painting shops - but thanks to the time of year (I'm guessing) it was pretty quiet. The street is also supposedly packed with Russian, American, Italian, French and Portuguese restaurants and street performers - I didn't see any.

It is probably worth a trip back in the Summer. Maybe Chase will be awake to enjoy it; this time around she was fast asleep, tucked under my coat (lucky because it was so cold).

Friday, January 26, 2007

Let's Get Down To Business

Avaya: Dalian Grand Opening


Chase and "da-da":

The ceremony:

Dragon dance in the courtyard (LOVE IT):

You Pung and Chase:

Chase in charge (she took over da-da's office when he wasn't looking):

Brian's print is the blue one in the upper left:

The office looked great. It was a fabulous event!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Taxi Drivers

It must be great to be a taxi driver in Dalian; they have the freedom to come up with creative driving solutions to problems like traffic, pedestrians, bikers and those pesky red lights.

I believe one can summarize their philosophy in three words, "Outta My Way."

One of my favorite taxi stories thus far: A friend was in a taxi on the highway. The taxi driver's phone rang. The driver came to a complete stop - ON THE HIGHWAY - to take the call. The driver did not even pull onto the shoulder. He stopped in his lane and did not hit his hazzard lights.

Now if only they had those bumper car bumpers on the car - then we'd be in for some real fun.

The Dalian Expat Community

I have met several expats at this point; they all seem to know each other. I knew this expat community would be small, but I didn't realize it was "that" small.

At this point, I have lucked into a good group of German ladies. One has the little boy who is 14 months - Nicholas - who is super cute and will make a good playmate for Chase in the coming months. I really like Nicholas' mother as well.

I've decided that meeting new mums (and potential friends) is like dating. It's like you try to figure each other out as quickly as possible. Because what is the point of wasting time if it just isn't going to work. (It's not you it's me) It is all about the fit. Not only on a friend level, but there needs to be a good fit in parenting style.

I'm not sure what any of these ladies did before they had children. I'm not sure what they do during the day. All I know is that they are also trying to make sense of their lives here, which I find extremely reassuring.

As Martha once said, "it's a good thing."

El Canal Del Rooto

Scheduled for Tuesday. Just thinking about it makes my tooth hurt. Of course it didn't hurt all day. And now it hurts. Time to stop thinking about it. The only way out is through.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Our Little Dalian Pearl

Month 10

Hard to believe we are 2 months away from Chase's first birthday. Time has absolutely flown by, but I guess that's what all the parents say.

There is something so utterly magical about watching a baby grow in the first year. I count my blessings that I have been able to be with Chase the entire time.

At this point she is babbling non-stop. Ma-ma, Da-da, Nei-Nei, Pa-Pa. She is scooting around everywhere. She loves pulling up and walking along besides furniture. She is adventurous and like to head off exploring on her own. I pretend not to notice and then follow her on my hands and knees, at which point she "floors it" and speeds off into either our bedroom or her own, giggling the entire way. Encouraging me to chase her. How appropriate her name is.

She is eating almost everything now (except the obvious like strawberries, honey, egg white, chocolate). She loves fruit. Kiwi, mango, papaya and bananas are staples.

She loves her musical instruments. She loves her little soccer and basketball. She loves pulling things off of shelves; making chaos out of order. How interesting that I love the exact opposite.

She continues to be a people-person. She loves to engage people. Make them smile and laugh. She will go after the person in the room who is the coldest and work them until she gets a smile. Being the center of attention (all the time, and not just at home) has ensured that she is strong, independent and self-confident.

She is good with other kids, too. Although she still tends to scare them because she is so outgoing. (I guess it runs in the family - today I made a little kid cry in Gymboree music class - because I'm white. Yep, I left feeling terrible. Chase, on the otherhand, continues to be totally oblivious to the fact that there is any difference between her and the other children).

She is such a blessing. Such a joy. Such a wonder.

Chase, darling, we love you so much and we are so fortunate to have you in our lives.

You've GOT To Be Kidding Me

So I've had the littlest (okay, not so little) pain in my front tooth for the past two days. I have been in complete denial, as it is, after all, my FRONT tooth and I am living in CHINA. Well, I finally found a dentist today (THANK GOODNESS she speaks English). She informed me that YES, I need a ROOT CANAL on my FRONT TOOTH.

I had a number of translators weigh in to ensure she really meant root canal. This then, would be my second since I had Chase. Apparently some women who get pregnant suffer greatly in the dental department both during and after pregnancy because the baby takes what would otherwise go toward keeping teeth strong and healthy. Some women actually lose teeth (note to self for next time 'round).

Anyway, I went to this dentist lady, who was very nice and very reassuring that everything would be okay. Meanwhile I am close to hysterics. What? Another root canal? Are you sure?

Luckily, my contact at Gymboree (LOVE HER) knew a German woman who used to be a dentist, who actually lives in my complex/compound. I visited her this afternoon. She confirmed the diagnosis. But she also told me she visited the dentist already and was quite happy to see all of the equipment they are using is top-of-the-line. I told her about how they took x-rays (three people standing in the same room - me with the vest, them with nothing). She said it was okay, because the technology is so good. You actually get exposed to more x-rays when you fly (sorry Chase! I think you're going by train from here on out) and that is why all those flight attendants are having infertility problems (I didn't know it was a problem).

Anyway, she went on to tell me that if I wait, my front tooth may turn black, whereas if I do it now, before it really starts to hurt, I can keep my front tooth white. Hmmm. Much to think about. Because it really doesn't hurt "that bad" or "that often." But a black front tooth is not exactly something to look forward to, ya know?

So the German lady said she would come with me (THANK YOU!) and oversee it (hold my hand). Of course this all corresponds exactly with Brian's Grand Opening, so he needs to be elsewhere. Strangely enough, the tooth that needs the work is the same tooth that is giving Chase a real problem. Her left front tooth has yet to emerge, yet her right is growing up a storm.

On to other things…

You Pung, my helper ran to the grocery for me today while I was at Gymboree (I had asked her to buy Tofu and Spinach). When she came back, she told my Gymboree contact that I should NOT eat them together. I asked my language teacher about it and she said that the Chinese believe that when certain foods are eaten together, they create a poison – tofu and spinach being one of these combinations. Hmmm, good to know. Another one is crab and persimmon (rather an unlikely combination if you ask me).

Funny that. Jamie Oliver never mentioned this in his cook books!

Monday, January 22, 2007

2008 Election

Inside sources report that Chase may announce her entry into the 2008 presidential race and give Hil a run for her money. She is working on her platform between naps.

Mandarin Lessons

Today I learned the Mandarin words for various fruits and vegetables. I also learned some interesting things about how the Chinese prepare food.

I have been on a rampage looking for ideas of how best to clean the food we eat and the water we drink. In the US, I hardly ever thought about it. I didn't think about it in London - although I did keep tabs on what they found in the tap water (unusually high levels of estrogen, lead and prozac). In China, however, I've found myself obsessed with eliminating toxins.

So I asked my Mandarin teacher, a really attractive 20-something Chinese gal (I can't pronounce her name, but it means sunrise - because that's the time of day she was born), how the Chinese wash their vegetables. She told me her mother soaks them for 2-3 hours in rice water (water that has been used in the 2nd and 3rd time to rinse rice). The rice water is supposed to bring out the chemicals and toxins. Can this be scientifically proven or is it just an old wives tale? I guess I could buy that the starch from the rice pulls out the toxins. Would love to see if someone knows more on this subject?

I have also heard the Parcell's method, which includes adding a small amount of clorox bleach to a large amount of water, is supposed to clean food and remove toxins - although I must say I am hesitant to try it.

Anyway, she went on to tell me that the Chinese believe this rice water to be very nourishing (which is interesting because in America, white rice is bad, brown rice is good). The Chinese ladies actually use it in their hair as conditioner, and some make-up companies include it in their formulas.

My teacher provided me with a recipe and I taught her the word chili pepper, let her sniff one of Chase's maple biscuits (they don't have maple here) and tried to explain how a dill pickle tastes, which I must admit, is actually pretty hard to describe.

Oh, and as an aside, I also learned that when the Chinese pose for a picture, they say a word that sounds like "cheese," but really it means eggplant.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Weekend Activities

We started out this weekend with a Chinese language class. There are many things I find interesting about Mandarin. First, there are four tones - which are actually more like music notes. Second, there are only three tenses (past, present and future). In romance languages, one must conjugate the verb to indicate tense, but in Chinese, one only adds the word today, tomorrow or yesterday. The verb remains the same. When asking a question, one simply adds the word "ma" to the end to indicate it is, in fact, a question. I'm also learning how to write Mandarin, because no matter where you are in China, you can communicate using the characters (while local accents, meanwhile, vary so significantly that people living in different cities can't understand each other). It is hard, but I love it.

Chase loves her instructor too. This week, she started forming the word "ne ne ne," which I'm convinced is the start of "ne hao" (hello) in Mandarin.

After class, we went looking for a frame store to get our artwork framed. But there were no black frames. Anywhere. Turns out the Chinese don't like black frames. They like big, shiny gold and silver frames. Unfortunately this just won't work for our artwork. Maybe we should just have everything laminated and thumb tack it to the wall - HA.

Today, we bought an oven because they don't come standard with apartments (it is actually just a little bigger then a toaster oven, but it has a rotisserie function). Oooooh Ahhhhh. And, like everything we've purchased here, it lacks set-up instructions.

Still working on baby proofing the apartment. I don't think it's possible, especially as the Chinese don't seem as concerned about the whole thing. For example, I have yet to see a baby gate.

More to come when I can access blogger again ...

Friday, January 19, 2007

Another Week

Another week has flown by. Internet connectivity is horrible, due to a cable that was damaged thanks to the earthquake in Taiwan in late December. They say it should be fixed by the end of the month, but reports indicate the damage is extensive and there are too few people available to work on it. So until it is fixed, I can't download photos, and I find myself often reading gmail in html - good times.

I must say quickly that we have absolutely loved receiving Christmas cards from friends. Thank you!

So what's new? Not much. I adore my helper, You Pung. I don't know how I ever got along without her. The house is always sparkling clean. You could eat off the floors, which is good as Chase is crawling around all over the place.

Mostly spent this past week unpacking, getting our stuff sorted. Trying to find those missing pieces (like Brian's knee braces). Chase is really talking up a storm, saying both Mama and Dada. It's awesome.

I started language lessons (6 hours per week), and Chase has her own instructor(3 hours per week). We are also learning baby sign. This week the words are turtle, bird, dog, cat, and fish. She is also quite the eater. She loves mango, kiwi, and papaya. I have also been feeding her grains from Switzerland, and the local pediatrician recommended some Vit A & D drops. Plus, I'm still slipping her fish oil occasionally, along with brewers yeast and wheat germ. She's looking really good.

Brian's office is having a grand opening soon, so he has been staying at work until quite late. I'll be glad to have him back to myself after the opening.

I promise to take more pictures and post them when I can.

Little Darling

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Chase's Room

A quick pic of Chase's room; it is still a work in progress.


I am realizing now how silly it is to have "stuff." I was chatting to hubs last night about it.

We have repeatedly had to pare down our belongings - bringing with us only what we could fit in 4-5 duffle bags (used to be 2-3 before we had baby). And we have lived off it for weeks and weeks. Sure, my jeans now have a hole in the crotch and my whitish khakis are no longer whitish, but at the end of the day, a person can live with only four pairs of pants. Basically, one finds out what one really needs.

I am realizing this is very different from the way most people live. If we were not so nomadic, I'm sure we'd have a house full of stuff. Lots of stuff. People are just programmed to buy and store stuff. Take Pottery Barn for example, they have a whole catalog of stuff, just waiting to be put on shelves, in drawers, or on display.

And then our stuff arrives. And I find that I have missed our stuff. It makes our new home feel more like home - but in a weird way. It doesn't change the appearance of our home, it just means we can eat off our own plates.

Hmmm, speaking of which, I am still trying to locate our silverware.

Don't tell hubs, but he may have to eat his cereal or French toast with chopsticks tomorrow if I can't locate proper utensils...

Just Another Day...

Today started off with a grocery run with my new helper (fabulous!). I like to think of her as my Chinese body guard. She really watches out for us. She made sure we had the best fruits and veggies in our basket. The cab gave us a discounted rate.

Plus, she watches Chase and makes sure that (1) there is no skin showing ever - the Chinese love to overdress their infants - and (2) she always has a tissue at the ready to catch a baby boog. Her name is You Pung. At least that is how you pronounce it.

Anyhoo, this afternoon I had a doctor appointment for Chase. Just a check-up with a local pediatrician from another hospital. You Pung and I made our way to the hospital. When we got there, we realized we were in the wrong hospital. Apparently the No.2 affiliated hospital is not the same as the Second affiliated hospital - go figure. The doctor said he would come to my apartment to see Chase, as he didn't want her to be exposed to germs. Cool.

So back the apartment we went. A half hour later, there was a knock on the door. The doctor, it turns out, has actually retired, but he works sometimes. He proceeded to tell me that he would have liked to walk; it would have only taken a half hour. He was a really nice man. Very friendly, although we had a couple miscommunications (nothing serious). He brought with him a stethoscope - and that was it. He asked me questions about Chase's development. Apparently she is the size of an average 1-year-old. When he went to look at her throat, he asked me for chopsticks (yes, chopsticks) to compress her tongue.

I asked him if he could check her ears. He said no, that was the job of the ear doctor, not the child's doctor. Okie dokie, artichokie. And then he left. He didn't charge us for the visit. Nice man.

And then I received a call that the movers were going to deliver our belongings (oh, yah, we do have more stuff). So I spent the rest of the afternoon unpacking. There are still boxes everywhere.

You Pung is going to shed a silent tear when she walks in tomorrow morning. The place is a mess and I am knackered.

Must go to sleep ...

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Getting Dressed

Slowly, Slowly

This slow internet thing is driving me crazy. I suspect the only reason why I can access blogger today is because it is still quite early on Sunday morning.

So what to report? Well, I spent most of last week just getting life in order (although you'd never be able to tell by look of our apartment). I have lined up quite a few activities for Chase, including baby sign classes (in English and Chinese), baby music and a baby play group. In addition, I have found a Mandarin instructor to "teach" Chase mandarin 3x week using books, songs, etc.

We have also found a "helper" for me to help keep things clean around the house and go grocery shopping with me. Do I really need help grocery shopping? YES: the grocery carts here don't have the baby seat in them, so I have to hold Chase in one arm, while pushing a grocery cart that doesn't turn left or right. Meanwhile, I also have to fend off every other person who wants to see and touch Chase. And then to make matters more difficult, I can only buy what I can carry in one hand, because after check out I have to get it outside to a taxi. I really dislike grocery shopping here and poor Brian had to put up with a week of - well - the worst cooking ever.

As for other activities ... yesterday, we went "ice skating" with Brian's colleagues - or at least Brian thought it was going to be ice skating. When we arrived, after a drive 1 hour from Dalian, we realized it was not ice skating, it was skiing! There is a small run (a run so small it takes about 2 mins to get down), with man made snow, just one hour outside the city. The important thing is that they had rental equipment large enough for Brian.

I stayed in the "lodge" with Chase. I was lucky enough to find a place that was a little out of the way, but it was the same place where a conference was being held, so at break we were absolutely mobbed. "Can I hold your baby?" "Can I have my picture taken with your baby?" "She is so lovely." People just have to touch her. And of course, her waving, smiling and clapping doesn't exactly send them a "stay away from me" signal.

She is China's littlest celebrity - and she loves it.

This coming week, we have an appointment with another pediatrician (I'm just checking out the hospitals at this point). The VIP thing at the Children's Hospital will work, but I hear this other hospital is a bit newer (cleaner) - but ultimately, the real test will be how well the pediatrician speaks English.

Chase is up! Gotta run!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Chase's Busy Day

Today we woke up at 5 a.m. (still trying to get over jet lag). We watched the sun rise (if you look closely at the bottom right corner you will see a group of men who sing (well, okay, yell) while running.

Around 7:00 Chase fell asleep, but was back up in time to have a couple Cheerios with her Daddio before he went to work. A quick note about Trix cereal in China - it is packed into 5 separate sachets within the box. The manufacturers have also been kind enough to write "not fried" on the box of Trix, just in case there was any confusion.

Just after Daddio left for work, we jumped into a cab and headed to the Shangri-La hotel to meet a woman kind enough to answer "new city" questions I had (like where do they buy meat, produce, etc). She also invited us to sit in on a cooking class they offer to people who choose to live at the Shangri-La. She was also kind enough to arrange a call for me with the head chef, to discuss food/cooking questions in more detail. She is also working to find a retired kindergarden teacher to spend time with Chase during the week. This woman rocks my world.

From there, we headed to the Children's Hospital. I didn't take any pictures. The good news tho - they have a VIP membership, which basically enables you to get immediate treatment from a doctor who speaks English and makes house calls. (Rockin')

We then returned home and headed to the management office to discuss things like telephone bills, internet speed (it takes 5 mins to load a page), utilities, etc. All must be paid, like everything else, in cash.

Now Daddio is at home and I've gotta run!

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Room With A View

View from our living room ... I can not tell you how incredibly cold it is here.

Frequent Flyer

Home Sweet Home

We've just returned to Dalian after spending two weeks in Oregon. It was extremely hard to leave Portland. Everything was so easy, so comfortable. Family and friends everywhere.

Now we're back in China, surrounded by people who are happy, nice and helpful, but who do not speak a word of English. I continue to be impressed by the kindness of the Chinese people here in Dalian (with the exception of a few taxi drivers).

While in the US, I found it hard to explain our new home and lifestyle to people. It is harder still to try to convey how challenging the past 6 months have been. Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't change it for the world, but it has certainly left my head spinning.

Even if I don't know the word in Chinese, it sure is nice to have a place to call home.