Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Tissue Fun

Chinese Play Date

Have I mentioned how much I wish I was fluent in Chinese?

Chase and I were invited to a neighbor's flat this afternoon. They only spoke Chinese. I brought You Pung. I have no idea what they talked about for an hour.

Both parents were home. The dad took out his camera. They brought out all the toys (most were mechanized; quite different from Chase's silent toys).

The little boy was wearing pants that looked like jodhpurs, sans diapers. I thought to myself it was a little funny that here was this little boy who was having a little girl over and his little wee was hanging out. I suppose some day he will be quite the ladies man.

I asked You Pung about the no diaper concept - and she said it is quite common. They only wear diapers when they leave the house. I wonder at what age they potty train here?

It's funny to me to see what other parents deem appropriate for small children (especially in other countries). They had this really strange flower that sang "Row, row, row your boat," in English. Lots of jeeps, motorcycles, things with toy guns (the boy is only 11-months-old). They had this one fold out number chart - most of the things that went along with the numbers were basic (balloons, hats, etc), but for number 2, there were 2 guns. Yes, that's right. Guns. And for number 7, there were 7 razor blades (like the kind you would use to do traditional Chinese paper cutting art). Still a little strange in my book.

Hmmm, I wonder what other parents think of Chase's toys when they come over?

Growing Girl

Our growing girl has decided she isn't so keen about her morning nap, and is only sometimes "in the mood" for a rest in the afternoon. It used to be sure thing. Now the only sure thing is that I don't know what to expect.

On the subject of growing=change, it is becoming increasingly clear to me that we need to try to wean her off bottles. The books tell you to do it around 10-12 months, but because there has been so little constant in her life, I decided somewhere along the way, to wean her around 12 months - and suddenly it is right around the corner.

So I put her formula in her sippy cup this morning and she looked at me like I was crazy. To my little gourmand, it simply didn't taste the same. She didn't drink it until I poured it back into her bottle 45 minutes later. So I've decided to buy new sippy cups that don't look like the old ones (the ones she uses for water).

We'll see how that goes....would love advice if anyone is dishing it out...

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Car

I am so happy. Chase got to ride in a car seat, for the first time in months, today.

When I put her into the car seat, she squirmed around and looked at me as if to say, "why am I not sitting in your lap, mama?" I could just see her thinking, "I'm not sure I like being strapped in like this!"

And, while I don't condone TV for kids, I think I'm going to like the fact there is a screen built into the driver's headrest, so Chase can watch Chinese Soap Operas when she gets squirmy.

Our driver, Qing, is really nice. He drives very slowly when we are in the car, but I can tell that deep down inside he wants to be a race car driver.

Oh The Insanity

Today's Gymboree music class was madness. But I couldn't stop laughing.

There were about 3x as many kids (maybe because it is getting warmer?), so the classroom was hot, hot, hot. The usual instructor (a Mary Poppins from the Philippines - I love her!) was away, so were led through the various activities by another woman, who I can only say probably once had (or perhaps still has) ambitions of being in the Chinese opera. Her voice had that sort of "out of body" quality, and while it was lovely, it just seemed a little much for a room full of squirmy, hot, kids.

Which brings me to the madness. So while the Chinese opera singer is singing "three little kittens have lost their mittens," the room was getting warmer and warmer. The kids were all over the place. Some were happy, while a couple were crying. By the end of the class, Chase's cheeks were bright pink and her hair was wet and starting to stick to her head (poor dear).

Long Long (all Chinese babies have double names), my favorite little Chinese boy, who looks like a drunken sailor when we walks, kept me laughing. He's not afraid of the big white woman, like some of the little kids. He is always dressed in designer labels (as is his mum).

Chase also met Vincent today. His mother is Chinese and his father is European. He's a cutie and his mom already told me that Chase is not allowed to have any boyfriends except Vincent. Totally cute.

And then, at the end of the class, I was invited to a neighbors flat for a play date this afternoon. Whoa! The Chinese women stick together, so I was surprised and delighted. Only problem is, she doesn't speak ANY English. (This will be interesting! I have to say, I don't know her name or her son's name - he was dressed in pink and yes, I thought he was a girl - my bad again!)

And finally, to make everything just slightly more comical, I have no pants that fit. My pants are all too big so I am constantly trying to pull them up when I sit down, so as not to expose anything to those looking on from behind. Naturally, when I stand up, they get all bunched up, so I have to pull them down. It's ridiculous. Meanwhile, most of the other moms are in Gucci.

I think it's time for a makeover!

Monday, February 26, 2007


As I start thinking about Chase's birthday, I can't help but think of the birthdays that my parents so lovingly pulled together for me.

I remember that one of my birthdays, long ago, was held on a farm. I don't remember much about it, except there were all sorts of games and a scavenger hunt for socks. I think the ones I found were florescent green (gotta love the 80's).

I also remember my father going to great lengths to throw "surprise parties" for me. And, while I sure appreciated it (thanks, Dad!), I never really liked having surprise parties.

There's just something about being an insecure little girl and having your e-n-t-i-r-e class attend a function hosted by your parents that is "like, sooooo embarrassing." This embarrassment, is of course heightened when boys you have crushes on are invited, attend, and you show up to your own party, in just-going-to-the-grocery-store clothes.

Now, as a parent, I can certainly understand the concept of a surprise party. I can see how fun it would be to plan. I can just imagine the look of surprise (aka shock and embarrassment) on my own little girl's face years from now. And of course, this would mean that I did a good job, because she never saw it coming.

And so, as I contemplate what kind of birthday party throwing parent I'm going to be - and what to do for Chase's first birthday - I realize that whether she likes it or not, her first birthday will, in fact, be a surprise party.

The funny thing is, I can tell her a thousand times, buy the presents and decorations in front of her, and she will still be surprised on the day. How fun is that? Maybe this will be the only surprise party I throw. Hmmm, maybe not - it's just too much fun.

Sorry little darling! Surprises are in your future. But don't worry, I'll be sure to drop hints, like "Sweetheart, why don't you wear that sparkly pink party dress to the grocery store."

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Chase's First Birthday

Chase's first birthday is in a few weeks (March 18). Let the party planning begin!

Thank You, Jack!

We just bought Jack Johnson's Sing-A-Longs and Lullabies for the film, Curious George (which we have yet to see). I can't say enough good things about this album.

It's about time that someone, in today's barbie-emulating, shaved-Britney-head, celebrity world, has taken the time to write positive songs for children. The album talks about such modern concepts as sharing, recycling and taking responsibility for one's actions. Imagine that!

Don't believe me? Here are a couple good ones ...

"With My Own Two Hands"

I can change the world
With my own two hands
Make it a better place
With my own two hands
Make it a kinder place
With my own two hands
With my own
With my own two hands
I can make peace on earth
With my own two hands
I can clean up the earth
With my own two hands
I can reach out to you
With my own two hands
With my own
With my own two hands
I'm going to make it a brighter place
With my own two hands
I'm going to make it a safer place
With my own two hands
I'm going to help the human race
With my own two hands
With my own
With my own two hands
I can hold you
With my own two hands
I can comfort you
With my own two hands
But you've got to use
Use your own two hands
Use your own
Use your own two hands
With our own
With our own two hands
With my own
With my own two hands

and ...

"The Sharing Song"

It's always more fun
To share with everyone
It's always more fun
To share with everyone
If you have two
Give one to your friend
If you have three
Give one to your friend and me
It's always more fun
To share with everyone
It's always more fun
To share with everyone
If you've got one
Here is something you can learn
You can still share
Just by taking turns
If you've got a ball
Bounce it to the gang
If there is a new kid
Invite him out to hang
If you've got one sandwich
Cut that thing in half
If you know a secret joke
Tell it and share a laugh
If you've got two drumsticks
Give one to your friend
Make one beautiful rhythm
Share a beat that never ends
And if you're feeling lonely
Share time with your mom
Share some milk and cookies
And sing the sharing song
It's always more fun
To share with everyone
It's always more fun
To share with everyone

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Pool: Take 2

Chase, unfortunately, was in no mood to swim today. I learned this only after we got into the water. She clung to me like a little, wet, koala bear. Refusing to let go, refusing to splash, refusing to smile. Looking into her eyes, I could see her begging to leave.

Oh well, we'll try again in a couple days.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Making Friends

Hubs and I went for a walk today. On the way back, we passed a (white!) guy (who lives in our complex!). He was roughly our age - and was kicking a ball with his small child.

As usual, Hubs and I debated for a couple minutes as to whether or not to introduce ourselves (I believe there is a fine line between wanting to make new friends and looking like stalkers – or worse, appearing too "needy").

Well, we decided he was worth a small detour. After exchanging names, I asked, “so, does your daughter attend the Maple Leaf school (local private school for foreign kids –and strangely, no Chinese kids are allowed to attend) or a local kindergarten?” To which he coolly replied, “my son attends a local kindergarten.”

And that was that. No new friends for us today.

But seriously, his little boy looked like a little girl.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Swimming In February

After a lazy week at home (mostly spent inside because everything is closed due to Chinese New Year celebrations), we decided to check out the pool.

Admittedly, it has taken us far longer than originally expected to get our tails to the pool (even though it is less than a 5 min walk from our front door), as we had to (1) buy Chase a new bathing suit, (2) buy Hubs a new bathing suit, and of course (3) get motivated to get into the bathing suits - it is February, after all.

While Hubs swam laps, Chase and I checked out the warm water pools (the water is piped in from the hot springs near our complex) and a kiddy pool next to the big pool. The fun part about the kiddy pool is that it has buttons that one can push to make water cascade down and bubble up from various places. Plus it is deep enough for Chase to swim, but shallow enough so she can stand (with her head above the water). Good fun!

And, while I didn't get a chance to swim laps, I got my work out trying to wriggle out of a wet bathing suit while holding a squirmy, wet baby, with a huge, wet diaper; trying not to let her touch the floor. Finally, I threw down a towel and let her stand on it, while I quickly pulled dry clothes on. Now that's a workout.

Chase slept so well last night. It was great.

I see much more pool time in our future.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Visit China

Thinking about visiting us in China? Need a little motivation?
Take a look at


Yesterday, we bought Chase a comb and brush of her very own.
As a result, we're facing a difficult parental decision.
Our choice will probably impact the rest of Chase's life ... (oh, the pressure!)

Should we comb it forward? (I think not)

Comb it to the right?

Or ... comb it to the left?

Sunday, February 18, 2007

11 Months

Where has the time gone? I can't believe that in one short month, Chase will be a year old.

She is still in the 90th percentile for height; her head circ. is still in the 75th percentile (exactly where it was when we measured her months ago). I'm not sure how much she weighs (we need a scale), but she is slimming down as a result of being in constant motion.

I have never been so conflicted. So happy to see her getting older and more independent - but at the same time - so sad to say goodbye to that little, helpless, dependent bundle. She has always been a little, independent being, with her own feelings and desires - the difference is that now she can express them in a way that we can understand (most of the time).

She will be walking and talking soon (it is clear there is already so much she wants to say). Potty training is also right around the corner, as she now tells me when she goes to the bathroom. Next thing I know, I'm going to be saying to her "you want to wear what to prom?"

I can just hear Hubs talking to her prom date now, "so tell me, what - exactly - are your intentions with my daughter?"

Chinese New Year: The Aftermath

AP reports:
  • At least 125 people were injured setting off faulty Chinese New Year fireworks Sunday in Beijing; three of the injuries were serious.
  • One person had to have his eyes removed.
  • There were 114 accidental fireworks-caused fires in Beijing.
  • Nationwide: Accidental fires from fireworks killed 63 people in China over the holiday last year.
  • Fireworks sales (by government-approved vendors) hit 380,000 boxes this year ( compare to the 240,000 sold last year).
  • About 560 million illegal firecrackers were seized (more than four times the amount confiscated last year).

Chinese Food

I’m what some might call a jag eater. That is to say, when I get a craving for something I have to eat it until the craving is gone. Not in a bulimic, eat all the cookies in a package until I’m sick kind of way, but in a eat a couple cookies every day kind of way. Eventually, I lose the craving and move on to something else. It doesn’t happen all the time, every day, but when it does happen, I just have to eat whatever it is until I get it out of my system.

For example: When I was pregnant with Chase, I needed to have the same sandwich every day. It wasn’t a pregnant lady craving thing, this is just the way I am. It didn’t matter if it was for breakfast or lunch. It was egg white, with a slice of cheese on whole wheat bread with spinach or greens on top. I think I ate it every day for a month. (Hmmm, it’s starting to sound good again)

At any rate, when I arrived in Asia, I started craving dumplings and won tons. Now, two months later, I have eaten so many dumplings that I’m finding it hard to think about eating another – ever – in my life.

Over our dumpling lunch (must be dumplings, it is New Year’s Day, after all), hubs and I started discussing Chinese food. While the food here is better than I could have possibly imagined, it is actually getting hard to think about eating Chinese food every day. (I think it is going to take us a long time before we order Chinese food after we move back to the US.)

So why not mix it up? Why not cook some Indian food, or some Italian food?

Well, one of the hardest things, I’m finding, is that it is near impossible for me to find Western ingredients here. There are some shops that sell some odds and ends, but for the most part, when I look through my cookbooks, I can not find all the ingredients needed. Also difficult, I’ve found, is that packaging is different (and in Chinese) – so I never really know what I’m getting.

Then there’s Pungy (the lifesaver), who I often send to the grocery store so I can avoid the crowds, but she often comes back with something totally different than what I asked for. Generally speaking, however, she is excellent at picking out produce, etc.

Anyway, I sent her to Walmart on Friday, with a list of about 14 items. Granted, it was right before the Chinese New Year, so it’s bound to be crazy, but the trip took her an hour and a half and when she got back, she had only found half of the items on the list. And for some things, she did a little improvising. For example, I asked her to buy cream (I was having a friend over for tea and really wanted to make scones), but then she came back with cream cheese. Hmmm, right.

So now I find myself in a hard spot, because while Chinese food is good, inexpensive and plentiful, I am craving thai curry, indian food, French, Italian ... Anything but Chinese ...

Chinese New Year

Last night was Chinese New Year's Eve. The house was sparkling clean (for good luck), the knives and scissors were put away (to keep from cutting the good luck), there were three unopened lilies amid a bouquet of many more (one bloomed today signifying we are bound to have a prosperous year – hurray!), I had frozen dumplings ready to go for New Years day (good luck), and a bowl of oranges (for good luck and wealth).

The fireworks started around 6 p.m. There were massive explosions everywhere. The fireworks lit up the sky, leaving ash and paper on the streets, and the smell of gunpowder lingering in the air. The celebrations continued all night long; the largest display took place at midnight.

I’m finding it difficult to describe what it’s like to have massive fireworks going on outside your window for 6 hours. After about the first hour, it all turned into white noise. But it’s not over, yet.

I believe there will be more fireworks tonight and the “big” fireworks display, which will take place quite close to our apartment, is scheduled for Monday night.

Given the sheer quantity of huge fireworks (being set off in the streets and parking lots nearby), I’m pretty sure that the average Joe can purchase the same fireworks that are used in most professional displays in the US.

And so today was pretty mellow. Most shops and restaurants were closed. There were very few taxis out and about. We spent the day on the couch. Trying to figure out what we are going to do for the rest of the week.

Traditionally, the Chinese spend the entire week with their families. This means that very few places are open. And so, while we have this whole week to ourselves, we are coming up short on what we should do with this time. We were thinking about going to Beijing, but we’re not sure what is open. We were thinking of traveling outside of China, but getting the plane tickets is proving difficult.

Stay tuned...

Thursday, February 15, 2007

A Note Of Thanks

To all those parents out there who teach their kids to interact with other children. To parents who teach their children to S-H-A-R-E. I could note why I am thanking parents I don't even know, but in doing so, I would reveal more than I should do. As my mom used to say, if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Things I just don't "get" about China: Chinese Holidays

The government dictates that the Chinese may have the week following the Chinese New Year off, but they are required to work the Saturday before and the Sunday after. In other words, you exchange two days, that you would have otherwise had off, for five days off in a row. Interesting.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Happy Valentines Day

Happy Valentines Day to all! Love is in the air, couples are everywhere. I'm happy to report that Chase had her act together enough to send out a couple valentines (via Grandma Aiya). I, on the other hand, did not get my act together to make today extra-special for the man I love.

I seriously need a time machine.

Sadly, I can't help thinking about my deceased gran, Mary the Great, who would be celebrating her 99th birthday today, if she was still alive. I miss her. And so, in memory of her on this day, I will tell my favorite granny birthday story (do I remember this properly, mom?).

My mom took my grandmother out to a nice restaurant to celebrate her 98th birthday. My mom made sure to inform the wait staff that it was her birthday, so that they would pay special attention to her. One of the waiters, who had only the best intentions, made a huge deal about her birthday, which, of course, my demure grandmother hated. The wait staff sang happy birthday and then, when everyone in the restaurant was focused on her, the waiter asked her, "so what's your secret to long life?"

My gran coolly replied (with slightly pursed, perfectly painted lips) "minding my own business."

I love you and miss you, Mary the Great!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Chase Update

So what's new with our littlest? Well, for starters, she's not so little anymore.

She's incredibly easy going. She is happy about 99.99999% of the time, laughing and clapping all day long. She loves adventure. Leaving the apartment makes her so happy, it's like she can't wait to see where we're going this time. She has a basic understanding of the word, "no," although she often chooses to forget what it means.

She loves to hide on the right side of our couch. Well, okay, not really hide. She lies on a cushion I set beside the couch, and is totally quiet, until I "find" her, at which point she giggles uncontrollably. It's the cutest thing in the world.

Her favorite toys are still musical instruments. She loves electrical devices. She pounds on laptops (if given the chance), sucks on mobile phones and bangs the remote controls on the table. She doesn't think much about stuffed animals and spends very little time with them. She is an absolute book worm. I have set up little "stations" around the house - and she'll just crawl over to the books, pull them down from where they sit, and page through them. I've caught her thumbing through my Chinese dictionary more than once. To my delight, she does not try to rip out pages anymore.

She also has a little cooking set with stainless steel pots and pans. When I'm cooking in the kitchen, she bangs the pots and pans together. I look forward to being able to cook with her when she gets older.

She is now wearing larger clothes (12-28 mo. depending on brand); her feet are almost 5" long. I can't believe she can fit into PJs that are size 2T. Seriously, she's going to be super tall. Shocker!

Her mandarin is coming along nicely. She loves her tutor. And speaking of languages, I heard about a French school that's located nearby, so I'm going to look into a French tutor for her. How great it would be for her to grow up with three languages - right from the start. It would open so many doors.

She still loves banana, papaya, mango and kiwi. She also likes pasta, grains, pumpkin and spinach. She enjoys yogurt, mixed with Tahini, brewers yeast, wheat germ and grains. She also likes toast with melted cheese (who doesn't?). Pretty soon she'll get to try strawberries, honey and peanut butter (not together, of course). Yummy!

It's pretty amazing watching her grow up. We are so blessed.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Little Lolly

I noticed the other day that I need to start posting more pictures of Chase "Lolly" Allbritton.
Here she is!

Traffic Lady

I love the traffic ladies. They are super slim, leggy and dressed head to toe in leather (think cat woman). I have never seen them actually direct traffic. We have tried several times to get a good picture, but it's difficult when the cab is swerving to avoid oncoming traffic. This is the best picture we've got so far...

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Chinese New Year: Gung Hay Fat Choy!

Chinese New Year is Sunday, February 18th.
For those who don’t know, we are about to enter the year of the Pig. I am so excited to see the firework celebrations planned (just across the river from where we live). The trees in the square are decorated. Red envelopes and pigs (stuffed animals) are everywhere.

The Chinese New Year is a huge deal. The Chinese take off a full week to visit their families – it is bad luck if you don’t! As expected, traveling during this time is extremely expensive and reservations must be made well in advance.

To ensure we are celebrating the New Year appropriately, I did some research – only to find that I need to get my tail in gear this coming week to ensure we have a prosperous New Year. The following information has been pulled directly from

The Chinese believe that New Year activities set precedent. All debts should be paid by this time. Nothing should be lent on this day, as anyone who does so will be lending all the year. Everyone should refrain from using foul language and bad or unlucky words. Negative terms and the word "four" (Ssu), which sounds like the word for death, should not be uttered. Death and dying are never mentioned and ghost stories are totally taboo. References to the past year are also avoided as everything should be turned toward the New Year and a new beginning.

If you cry on New Year's day, you will cry all through the year. Therefore, children are tolerated and are not spanked, even though they are mischievous.

So where do I start?

House cleaning:

The entire house should be cleaned before New Year's Day. On New Year's Eve, all brooms, brushes, dusters, dust pans and other cleaning equipment are put away. Sweeping or dusting should not be done on New Year's Day for fear that good fortune will be swept away.

After New Year's Day, the floors may be swept. Beginning at the door, the dust and rubbish are swept to the middle of the parlor, then placed in the corners and not taken or thrown out until the fifth day. At no time should the rubbish in the corners be trampled upon. In sweeping, there is a superstition that if you sweep the dirt out over the threshold, you will sweep one of the family away.

Also, to sweep the dust and dirt out of your house by the front entrance is to sweep away the good fortune of the family; it must always be swept inwards and then carried out, then no harm will follow. All dirt and rubbish must be taken out the back door. (Hmmm, we don’t have a back door)


Prior to New Year's Day, Chinese families decorate their living rooms with vases of pretty blossoms, platters of oranges and tangerines and a candy tray with eight varieties of dried sweet fruit. On walls and doors are poetic couplets, happy wishes written on red paper. These messages sound better than the typical fortune cookie messages. For instance, "May you enjoy continuous good health" and "May the Star of Happiness, the Star of Wealth and the Star of Longevity shine on you" are especially positive couplets.

Blooming plants - every traditional Chinese household should also have live blooming plants to symbolize rebirth and new growth. Flowers are believed to be symbolic of wealth and high positions in one's career. Lucky is the home with a plant that blooms on New Year's Day, for that foretells a year of prosperity. In more elaborate settings, plum blossoms just starting to bloom are arranged with bamboo and pine sprigs, the grouping symbolizing friends; the plum blossom also signifies reliability and perseverance; the bamboo is known for its compatibility, its utility and its flexible stems for furniture and other articles; the evergreen pine evokes longevity and steadiness.

Other highly prized flowers are the pussy willow, azalea, peony and water lily or narcissus.

The Chinese firmly believe that without flowers, there would be no formation of any fruits. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance to have flowers and floral decorations. They are the emblems of reawakening of nature, they are also intimately connected with superstition and with the wish for happiness during the ensuing year.

The candy tray - arranged in either a circle or octagon is called "The Tray of Togetherness" and has a dazzling array of candy to start the New Year sweetly. After taking several pieces of candy from the tray, adults places a red envelope (lai see) on the center compartment of the tray. Each item represents some kind of good fortune.


Everything you eat means something …

* Candied melon - growth and good health

* Red melon seed - dyed red to symbolize joy, happiness, truth and sincerity

* Lychee nut - strong family relationships

* Cumquat - prosperity (gold)

* Coconut - togetherness

* Peanuts - long life

* Longnan - many good sons

* Lotus seed - many children

*Oranges and Tangerines: Etiquette dictates that you must bring a bag of oranges and tangerines when visiting family or friends anytime during the two-week long Chinese New Year celebration. Tangerines with leaves intact assure that one's relationship with the other remains secure. For newlyweds, this represents the branching of the couple into a family with many children. Oranges and tangerines are symbols for abundant happiness.

* In the north, steamed-wheat bread (man tou) and small meat dumplings were the preferred food. The tremendous amount of food prepared at this time was meant to symbolize abundance and wealth for the household.

Once your house is properly decorated, the festivities can begin:

The first day of the Lunar New Year is "the welcoming of the gods of the heavens and earth." Many people abstain from meat on the first day of the new year because it is believed that this will ensure long and happy lives for them.

On the second day, the Chinese pray to their ancestors as well as to all the gods. They are extra kind to dogs and feed them well as it is believed that the second day is the birthday of all dogs.

The third and fourth days are for the sons-in-laws to pay respect to their parents-in-law.

The fifth day is called Po Woo. On that day people stay home to welcome the God of Wealth. No one visits families and friends on the fifth day because it will bring both parties bad luck.

On the sixth to the 10th day, the Chinese visit their relatives and friends freely. They also visit the temples to pray for good fortune and health.

The seventh day of the New Year is the day for farmers to display their produce. These farmers make a drink from seven types of vegetables to celebrate the occasion. The seventh day is also considered the birthday of human beings. Noodles are eaten to promote longevity and raw fish for success.

On the eighth day the Fujian people have another family reunion dinner, and at midnight they pray to Tian Gong, the God of Heaven.

The ninth day is to make offerings to the Jade Emperor.

The 10th through the 12th are days that friends and relatives should be invited for dinner. After so much rich food, on the 13th day you should have simple rice congee and mustard greens (choi sum) to cleanse the system.

The 14th day should be for preparations to celebrate the Lantern Festival which is to be held on the 15th night.

Some Chinese Superstitions:

  • On New Year's Day, we are not suppose to wash our hair because it would mean we would have washed away good luck for the New Year.
  • Red clothing is preferred during this festive occasion. Red is considered a bright, happy color, sure to bring the wearer a sunny and bright future. It is believed that appearance and attitude during New Year's sets the tone for the rest of the year.
  • Children and unmarried friends, as well as close relatives are given lai see, little red envelopes with crisp one dollar bills inserted, for good fortune.
  • For those most superstitious, before leaving the house to call on others, the Almanac should be consulted to find the best time to leave the home and the direction which is most auspicious to head out.
  • The first person one meets and the first words heard are significant as to what the fortunes would be for the entire year. It is a lucky sign to see or hear songbirds or red-colored birds or swallows.
  • It is considered unlucky to greet anyone in their bedroom so that is why everyone, even the sick, should get dressed and sit in the living room.
  • Do not use knives or scissors on New Year's Day as this may cut off fortune.
  • While many Chinese people today may not believe in these do's and don'ts, these traditions and customs are still practiced. These traditions and customs are kept because most families realize that it is these very traditions, whether believed or not, that provide continuity with the past and provide the family with an identity.


Year of the Pig Predictions:

So what should we expect in the Year of the Pig? The following is from Sherman Tai, Fortune Teller & Feng Shui Master ( ).

“The year of the Pig entails a lot of changes and a lot of opposition. There is constant gossip and disagreements; it is rebellious year. But don’t forget those who are highly successful and wealthy arose from tough competition and change, so therefore, we must be bold, have ambition and wisdom. When you see danger, do not proceed; plan carefully then take action. Work hard, take advantage of networking and opportunity, then you may find that career and finance can be within your grasp.

The I Ching (ancient Chinese text) tells us how to live life. It says that before the brightness comes, it must be dark; therefore, before success can be obtained, there must work hard. In the year of the Pig, you must have a good understanding of yourself; know what you are capable and not capable of. Don’t do bad things. Be humble, hard working and be wise. When those above and below cooperate, the sun can rise from the ground. The year of the Pig is a year where it is initially difficult, then good. When good comes to you, don’t be too careless and arrogant; make friends and be modest. With everything, you must ask more, learn more, and do more.

Though there is disarray, there won’t be major disasters or wars. Infectious diseases won’t be as serious (ie. SARS, flu pandemic), but people will still need to tend to their health. In general, the year of the Pig is good. Stability is winning. As long as people cooperate with each other, and not be too ambitious and arrogant, then everything going smoothly is peace for the people. In general, finance and economy is good.

In the past two years, banking, economy, and business activity flourished. Productivity and living standards were increasing. Unemployment rate was at a low. Most importantly, inflation was low. However, property values were high in both East and West coast increased by over 15%. The Dow Jones will increase over 11,000 points. What I have predicted in the past was correct. However, for people, things are not always good for a thousand days and flowers do not stay red for over a hundred days.”

A couple things he notes about the American economy:

· In 2007 there will be initially some increase in interest rates, approximately 0.5 – 0.75%, and then it may decrease by about 1-1.25%, so that averaged, there is a 0.5% decrease, producing a soft landing at the end of fall.

· In autumn, the economy will be more stable, so the last half of 2007 is where the American economy begins to recover. Buying power of the people will be weak. Housing prices will slowly decline. Depending on location, property values may be decrease by 5-8% decrease.

· Natural resources will decline in value, which will slow down the rate of decline of the American economy.

· This year, crude oil may drop below $60 USD a barrel, though will fluctuate between $58 and $68 USD, and gold, to $580 USD/ounce to $640 USD.

· For the small investor, don’t invest unless you have a lot of money. It is advised to wait until after autumn when the economy and financial market is more stable, before coming up with new investments.

· If you insist on investing in US stocks this year, consider science/technology, medical, mining, and finance/banking. The American dollar will not be very strong in the year of the Pig. USD to Euro will range approximately from 1.27 to 1.3. Therefore, USD to ren men bi will be approximately 7.8 to 7.78.

· Attitudes towards the Middle East continue to be very strong; however there is no chance of capturing Bin Laden.

· Safety of the people will not be good. Public shootings, school shootings, and robberies will be more frequent and prevalent.

· Government and financial scene may have a scandal. Corporate crimes will be more than before.

· There will also be more natural disasters in 2007, in particular fire, flood, and tornado disasters, and especially in the north and southeast, be aware of major accidents and disasters.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Go Figure

Of course. It always happens this way. I had no sooner hung up the phone with another mum (after I told her I would skip a play date due to the fact her child was sick), when I noticed Chase's nose had started to run - again. Oh, great, another tooth, I thought to myself.

This morning, however, the poor darling woke up with red cheeks. They were so rosy they looked like they had been painted on.

And so begins quarantine. I called and cancelled everything. Her music and language lessons. My language lesson. I stuffed her full of kiwi fruit this morning (vit. c), passed on the yogurt (to reduce mucus generation) and have been following her with tissues all day. The hardest part is trying to catch what comes out after a sneeze - before she does. Otherwise she wipes it all over her face. Her eyebrows and eyelashes will then stick together or form unusual shapes, much like the hair of a teenage boy who is using gel in his hair for the first time.

And so begins the waiting, watching, monitoring. Is she eating? Is she behaving normally? Does she have a temperature?

And to think I was just thanking my lucky stars that she had not had a runny nose for weeks.

The Car

As mentioned in previous posts, the transportation situation in Dalian is, well, frightening at best. Our best mode of transport is by taxi. The typical taxi does not have seatbelts and reeks of cigarette smoke. You are extremely lucky if the handles, which are used to operate the windows (1) are there, or (2) work.

And then there's the fact that taxis view red lights as decorative objects, pedestrians as nuisances, and sidewalks as elevated highways.

This wouldn't be so bad if I didn't have to actually leave my apartment. The fact is, I have to get Chase to/from appointments, I have to go shopping, and I have to do this all without a car seat. It makes me ill just thinking about it. So I try really hard not to.

The good news, is that hubs is working on securing a car and driver, which will actually provide safe transport (yes, we have a car seat that is ready to go!). He has been working with an agent to determine which cars are in our price range - but they must include a driver, as we have heard that Western drivers are often targets. You end up in court, and of course you can't understand a thing, and are taken for everything. Not fun. Plus all signs are in Chinese. Sure, we navigated through Europe, but reading characters on a map is, well, beyond difficult. (I can just see me saying to Hubs, "look for the exit with a sign that has a box with a couple dashes coming from the center, one dash from the right and it has what looks to be a hat on the top.")

So Hubs had four cars pull up in front of his office yesterday. With two representatives from each car company. He sat in the back of each, determined how much leg room/head room each offered, etc. Sadly, the one I was rooting for ended up being the one with the least headroom (he couldn't even sit up straight in it!).

After a thorough investigation of each, with a huge party of car representatives taking note of his every move, he almost decided on one. But it wasn't the car he wanted. So, he contacted another party to see if he could get a better deal on the car he wanted, and presto, change-o, it looks like we can get the car he wants - and it is within our price range. Fab-U.

So come Febbie, we'll have a safe mode of transport. I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to that - although I must say, I won't miss the driving on the sidewalk, the move to outrun a trolley in a lane with oncoming traffic, making a right across oncoming traffic from a far left lane ... I wish I could get some good action photos, but really you must be in the car as it can only be enjoyed if you are in a zen state.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Mandarin Lessons: Numbers

Today's Mandarin lesson is about numbers.

The numbers 1-10 are extremely important. Once you know them, you can, of course, count and tell time. Unlike romance languages and English, where you have to learn different words for days of the week and months in a year, the Chinese base these words on the number of the day within the week, and the month within the year. Example: the word for 1, is yi. Monday is xingqi yi. January is yiyue.

It's worth mentioning here that the number two is a tricky, tricky number. It's tricky because it is pronounced er, but if you talk about 2 of something, the number is pronounced liang.

While we are still talking numbers, I must admit I am currently fascinated with "measure words." You can't just say two elephants. You have to use the word zuo (which indicates you are talking about big things, like buildings or elephants - the example given in my phrase book) between the word two and the word elephants.

Other measure words include ba (chairs, knives, teapots, tools or implements with handles), bei (drinking receptacles), zhang (flat things - tickets, envelopes), duo (flowers - blossoms, not plants), tiao (long things - fish, snakes, rivers), zhi (non-descript animals - cats, dogs, chickens - I kid you not this is the example in my phrase book) and ke (trees).

I have to wonder who came up with that idea. Seriously.

Absolute Silence

I have developed a real appreciation for absolute silence.

While I was living in London, there was never really a time when I didn't hear city noises. I could close my door and my windows, but I couldn't really shut them out. Wimbledon was a little better, but as we were living on ground level, I could still hear cars passing by, and that strange whirring of the milk truck at 3:30 a.m., which I swear I thought was an alien the first couple times I heard it.

When we lived in Zurich, we were never far from a tram. The sound of wheels screeching to a halt became a familiar sound.

In China, we are up high enough to avoid street noise (except the occasional fire engine). The only real noises we hear are the neighbors upstairs, who are learning to play the piano (and rehearse all the time, which I don't mind too much because I'm sure some day soon they will play something good). They also seem to run around quite a bit.

Anyway, as I sit here typing, the only real sound I can hear, besides the soft buzz of Chase's baby monitor, is my own typing and the whir of the fan in my computer. And I love it. I love how quiet it is.

And then Chase will wake up and coo, and laugh, and giggle, and sing - and I would not trade this for the world - and I'll forget all over again what it was like to sit in absolute silence.

Sunday, February 04, 2007


As the weather was a little warmer and the sun was out, Brian and I decided to take a stroll along the waterfront. Just 5 mins from our apartment, we stumbled on an amusement park and a lovely boardwalk. This place is going to be crazy in the Summer!

Below is a view of the city from the boardwalk:

A view of our apartment complex, which is just left of the castle on the hill:

A seemingly popular game - you rent whips and a top.
You then whip the top to keep it spinning:

Sunset over the Yellow Sea:

Friday, February 02, 2007

Thousand Year Old Egg

This is a Thousand Year Old egg.

Okay, it isn't really a thousand years old, but it sure looks like it. The Chinese make this delicacy by soaking a chicken egg in a chemical bath for a couple months.
Tasty! (Just kidding. I tried it. I would prefer not to have another.)

Dinner Out

On Friday nights, Hubs and I tend to cross the river and eat at one of the nearby restaurants. Craving something, anything, other then Chinese food, we decided to give Dalian's only French restaurant a try.

The food, unfortunately, was anything but French - or good. Hubs ordered a sole fillet, with some sort of creamy, yellow, salty sauce. It was accompanied by oversalted, French fries. Nothing on the menu really appealed to me, so I decided to get a pizza, which was okay, but definitely not French.

Will have to try one of two Italian restaurants next weekend!