Saturday, March 31, 2007
She also understands "hello," "goodbye," "ni hao," "zaijin," "fish," "hat," "milk," "kiwi," "papaya," "mu gua" - along with a handful of other words. It is amazing to see her connect words to objects. She can even tell me when her diaper is wet. Clever girl.
We have been singing "Patty Cake" for quite some time. Almost every day she will use hand gestures I use within the song - on her own. When I look down at her and say "mark it with a Ch," she smiles back as if to say, "yes, that is exactly what I was thinking."
She loves reading, although she still "grunts." I'm sure she is just concentrating. It will be interesting to see if this is just a phase or if I will be approached by a school teacher - I can see it now, "ahem, did you know your daughter grunts while she reads?"
Chase loves to compare things. She has two xylophones (one metal, one wood), which she loves. She also has two ring games (one plastic, one wood), which she loves.
She still adores music. We bought her an electronic keyboard for her first birthday. She dances to the music, plays the piano, explores the different accompaniments. It's a brilliant toy. Nana Cris brought out a 'build your own horn' which Chase really loves - she's just learned how to use it. She has also figured out how to play a harmonica - she still needs practice, but she can get a good note out every now and then.
She still loves fruit and yogurt - and Chinese food. She is good at trying new things - last night she enjoyed a taste of duck and pasta with cuttlefish ink.
Perhaps it is because she is worshipped like a little goddess here, but I can say without a doubt that she is very social and extremely extroverted. She loves interacting with new people. She is starting to learn what it takes to get attention (loud fake laughter seems to do the trick).
Chase has learned to drink milk from a straw, so now we only use bottles close to bedtime. Hurrah. Learning to drink from a cup is next ... wish me luck.
She is really movin' now. Chase has a little plastic fisher price walker that she just started using. She can stand without support for short periods of time.
All in all, she is simply amazing.
Thursday, March 29, 2007
It was so wonderful to see you.
Chase and I enjoyed every moment.
Qin Shoo Shoo's eyes teared up after we said goodbye to you in the airport.
You will be missed!
I hope you enjoy the Great Wall and the Forbidden City.
Can't wait to hear about your adventures in Beijing.
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Thankfully, I've been able to reclaim my body (although I have not had a proper work out in over a year) - my mind is a different subject all together. I believe my body is what it is due to the fact we have been in constant motion since Chase was born. (Nothing keeps you slimmer than carrying a small child everywhere you go).
But I've also realized that in spite of my best efforts, there are some days when I look in the mirror and feel that I have just let myself go. My clothes are usually spotty with various things, courtesy of Chase - food usually. My clothes don't really fit - most are either too small (thanks to the dryer) or too big (thanks to weight loss), too fancy (old, work clothes) or too stained (thanks to my inability to eat with chopsticks while holding a squirmy baby).
So here I am in China, where I can really do - anything. All I have to do is dream it. And somehow, because anything is possible, I have frozen up. With so much possibility, I can't focus.
Having Nana Cris in town has been so great. It has helped me regroup. I know what I want now, I just have to sit down and figure out how to do it (like most things in life).
Nana Banana has been in town.
So what have we been up to?
Picked mom (Nana Cris) up at the airport on Friday evening. The fog was so thick I was worried her plane wouldn't land. On our way to pick up hubs, I tried to show her around a little but the fog was too thick; we could barely see the buildings on the side of the road.
From the airport we drove to Hub's office, picked him up, and returned home. We ate a lovely dinner (c/o Pung) and played with Chase until she couldn't keep her eyes open.
We awoke early. I showed my mom around the complex. We then went to Starbucks, and then explored the nearby shopping malls (grocery store, children's store, among other stores). We then went to the flower market and paid a quick visit to Eddie the Baker (to pick up the Chasecake). From the flower market, we made a mad dash for home, so that Nana Cris could take her painting lesson. She painted the most beautiful peonies. Following the painting lesson, Nana Cris relaxed with a massage. We then ate Chasecake and sang Happy Birthday one last time to our littlest lady.
Saturday morning I had to make a quick trip to a lady doctor. Just one of those "woman issues" that I had been in denial about because I SO didn't want to go to a hospital here. I was pleasantly surprised that the doctor spoke English. The exam and hospital experience was quite long and complicated, as you have to do everything yourself, and there are three people for every kind of transaction. So, for example, when I went to pick up my perscription (which I swear is a yellow herb and black tea), I had to first get my perscription priced, then pay for it, then pick it up - every time I had to go to a different desk and talk to a different person. And then I had to go back to the doctor to figure out what to do with the stuff.
We then went to lunch at the Spa. Mom enjoyed a lovely sea cucumber and tofu lunch. We then went to a big market, hubs opted out, and it is a good thing he did. Then we went to the art supply store, to buy Nana Cris art supplies.
Next, we picked up Hubs and went to the Dalian Museum of History, where we all learned a lot about Dalian. From there, Hubs went home and mom and I went to the expo center, which happened to have an antiques fair. I bought a lovely jade flower.
That night, Chase learned how to let go (when throwing a ball), and had her first experience drawing with crayons and paper. She enjoyed a bath with colored tablets. She got scared of mom's black sock (because it said "baaaa"), and then she saw her reflection in the glass door - and wondered how she could be outside and inside at the same time.
First up - mom and I took a little stroll by the Yellow Sea. Then off to Dim Sum. Enjoyed a lovely meal at the Shangri-La. Then mom and I hit the underground maze of shops in downtown Dalian, while hubs hit the local bath house. We met up back at the apartment.
Mom talked to our friend, Craig, about teaching and Hubs and I enjoyed a lovely stroll along the Yellow Sea.
Mom was kind enough to do a little baby sitting. Hubs and I enjoyed a nice dinner out. Meanwhile, back at home, our little lady put both her hands into her pasta.
Mom woke up early (before we got up) and explored the great outdoors. She met a Chinese woman and went running with her.
We then explored the mall where Gymboree is located. Nana took Chase to her Gymboree lesson. We rushed home, Chase had a nap. She then had her French lesson. From there, we went swimming and saw a woman with hair down to her ankles. Amazing.
We came home and Chase passed out from exhaustion.
Mom woke up early (again). This time she went to where the Chinese practice Tai Chi.
We set off upon her return to the Temple of the Big Black Mountain. We wove through Dahai Village, and up to Xiangshui Temple (a famous Taoist temple built in the Tang Dynasty - about 618 AD). From there, we went to Shigu Temple (Palace of the Tang Emperor), which was built in at the beginning of the Sui Dynasty (580-618 A.D.).
On our way to the temple, we bought ghost papers (to burn for ancestors), incense (to burn for ourselves) and a bag of goldfish (to release). The fish were blessed before we let them go. Qin, our driver, guided us through the process.
One could also buy birds and turtles to release ...
We burned a lot of incense and lit a lot of candles...
Burned ghost paper...
Drank from the mountain spring...
And then we were off to the next temple ...
For those who are looking for spiritual cleansing, there is a path that winds up the mountain, near the top is an almost 70 degree row of 200 steps. Visitor are supposed to arrive at the temple gates in a state of inner peace. (Don't let this picture fool you, Qin drove us right up to the front door of the temple - I don't think he wanted to walk, and I certainly couldn't have carried Chase all the way up. A big apology to Nana Banana, because she wanted to walk the steps and I didn't let her.)
From there, we drove into the nearest town and enjoyed a big bowl of noodles. Next on the list, Russian Street, which is pretty tacky and garish, but worth a quick stop.
The morning seemed to speed by. We managed to get out of the house with enough time to do a quick lap around the mall, before heading to Gymboree. Nana Banana took the Gymboree class with Chase. We went to the tailor to pick up a lovely wool jacket for mom, and then we were off to a Chinese doctor - so mom could enjoy cupping and acupucture.
So, what will we do tomorrow?
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
(Chase was staring at the gathering crowds)
We awoke Chase early on her first birthday. We had told her we would need to wake up early to catch a plane to
We sang happy birthday and gave her a couple of her presents.
We didn’t give them all to her because we had a plane to catch, and nothing seemed less fair than giving her a gift and then taking it away from her.
After a couple minutes playing with her presents, we moved on to breakfast.
And then we were off to catch our plane.
We arrived in
It was amazing. Blocks and blocks of studio space filled with truly original, truly interesting art. We spent several hours there, taking it all in. The art was so good, that unfortunately other people noticed too – so the pieces started around $800 US, and only went up in price. The artists really weren’t open to coming down in price, as most vendors are in China, so Hubs and I were only able to afford a small pen and ink drawing on a cardboard role.
From there, we hopped a cab to the Bund.
After the Bund, we decided to visit the
After that, we decided to go for a little walk and stumbled across a great pedestrian street.
From there, we headed to a Mexican restaurant, called the
Exhausted, we headed back to the hotel, filled it with balloons...
... sang Happy Birthday one more time and then fell asleep.
Hubs had to work, so Chase and I explored
Unfortunately it was raining. I headed to Gymboree in hopes there would be a morning class she could take advantage of… there wasn’t. So, as outdoor activities were out of the question, we headed for the
The museum was massive, with four stories and three to four exhibitions on each floor. Some of my favorites included the Buddha, painting, furniture, Chinese currency and pottery exhibitions. After carrying Chase (who now weighs 10.4 kg, almost 25 lbs), and her baby bag (another 8 lbs), on and off for four hours, my back was literally breaking and my arms were weak. She, meanwhile, was enjoying a snooze.
So I called it a day and headed back to the hotel. We lazed about for the rest of the afternoon, watched the rain pouring down outside, and played with balloons. We checked out the lobby gift shop and the lobby quick stop (for a diet coke and snickers bar). Not much going on there.
But I kept hoping that if I rested for an afternoon, I would feel refreshed enough (and hopefully the rain would subside) in the morning so we could go out exploring again.
When I awoke, the rain had stopped and my back felt stronger. Chase and I headed to
Inside the gardens there was also a lovely shop selling paintings, one of which I ended up buying for Chase’s room.
From there we ran back to the hotel to drop off the painting. While we were there, Chase caught a quick nap, and we were off again – this time to
And then we hopped a cab to the French Concession, where we paid a visit to Sun Yatsen’s former residence. Sun Yatsen, known as the “Father of the Revolution” or the “Father of the Republic,” did away with
With not a moment to spare, we jumped back in a cab, met Hubs at the hotel and raced to the airport to catch our plane back to
Saturday, March 17, 2007
But instead, we spent this evening packing for another trip. We have an opportunity to see Shanghai, so why not?
So now my elaborate plan is not so elaborate. She'll get to open a couple presents tomorrow around 5 a.m. before we hit the road. I'll just have to find a cake in Shanghai. And while she doesn't know it, I've packed our suitcase with balloons so we can fill our hotel room (won't housekeeping enjoy that!).
We will return to Dalian on Tuesday night.
And even more good times and suprises are ahead for Chase -- Grandma Aiya arrives Thursday!
Friday, March 16, 2007
Mine is on the right.
The one on the left was painted by my instructor.
Mine looked like a dog at first.
In fact, my instructor laughed pretty hard.
Didn't exactly build my confidence.
But I'm glad I could amuse him.
He absolutely astounds me.
Watching him sketch and paint is so inspiring, but at the same time so intimidating.
Thursday, March 15, 2007
This one was too good to pass up.
The one above is for Chase (to enlarge, click on the photo).
I almost bought one for myself that said "Snoopy and Eteinds," which I can only guess was supposed to read "Snoopy and Friends."
I had tea (for the parents), fruit (for the kiddos) and mini sponge cakes (FYI: not a hit - maybe I should have put out an odd number instead of an even number?) on offer. The parents brought presents for Chase. I said, "not a party" over and over when I invited them, but they must have thought more than one invite = party.
I found myself wondering about cultural etiquette - do I save them and open them later or do I open them in front of them? I remembered reading somewhere that if you open presents immediately, it indicates you are greedy, so I put them on the bookshelf and said loudly "I will save them for Chase's birthday," but I'm not completely sure they understood what I said.
They mostly spoke in Chinese to each other. They got a good laugh out of her bed, which I think was the strangest thing they had ever seen. (What? No crib?) One said, "Does your daughter sleep here (meaning her room) alone?" I said, "yes." They continued, "Do you like her?"
Truth is, I don't just like her - I love her with all my heart. In fact, my love for her is so overwhelming it scares me. But I realized that responding in any way other than nodding with a smile would put me smack dab into the middle of a cultural discussion - something I try to avoid - especially when it comes to how different people/different cultures parent their children.
Now that it is over, I will admit I was really nervous about today. I have found the Chinese are very kind, and very inquisitive people. I have also found they talk a lot (gossip is perhaps a better word) amongst themselves. So I'm pretty sure that all the parents and the staff at Gymboree will get a full report - goodness only knows what they will say!
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Some facts about driving in China courtesy of CCTV.
1. In 1995 there were more than 950,000 REGISTERED car accidents in China, most of which were caused by new drivers. Given the fact that most accidents in China are settled by handing over cash on the spot, this is a terrifying statistic.
2. In the first two years after having passed your test there is a 15% chance of having an accident.
3. The average experience of a Chinese driver in China is less than two years.
When Chase and I went to visit the Chinese woman in our complex, it was the first time I had seen her. I have been trying to call her ever since to arrange a time for her to come to our apartment.
Long story short, I invited this woman , or someone I thought was the same woman, to come over tomorrow. Turns out - it is not the same woman. So I now have this random woman with her little boy coming over tomorrow to play. Seriously.
But wait, there's more. Let's not forget about the Chinese swimmer play date, which I set up for Saturday because I thought he was busy during the week. Well, he hears me talking to this random woman, who I have just invited over, and he tells the Gymboree woman who is acting as my interpreter that he didn't know there was a play date tomorrow, he thought it was Saturday. So then I have to explain that I thought he was busy, and of course he is invited tomorrow.
And then my Gymboree interpreter tells me that this random woman I've just invited is a really good friend of the woman who lives in my complex, and should she invite her to come along - to which I said, "oh yes, please do!"
So I have now become a hostess to a little gathering where nobody speaks English - and I am embarrassed to say I can't even tell my guests apart.
I've been secretly worried that Hubs might just, well, find them attractive (Heaven forbid). And, I must say, it didn't help that there was one time when I thought he just might be starting to fancy them, so I made up this thing about how much I liked male Chinese swimmers - which is total crap and just something I could tease him about when I was feeling insecure.
Fast forward a couple months. I'm in Gymboree and I meet this guy (ah yes, can you see where this is going?), who I think might make a good friend for Hubs - and bonus, he speaks a little English and he has a boy who is 10 days younger than Chase.
Last week, Hubs came along to Gymboree and I introduced them. Seemed like a good enough start. So today I went ahead and arranged a play date with him. He gave me his card.
Can you guess? He is a Chinese swim instructor at Ballys.
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
I've asked YP to cook for us twice a week so that we can sample local dishes.
Here's what's for dinner tonight...
Snap peas with garlic:
Spicy tofu (dofu):
Seafood salad (crab, cucumbers, seaweed):
Monday, March 12, 2007
It tastes like cream, and while Chase is happy to drink down gallons of it from her bottle, she won't touch it if it is in her sippy cup. I also broke down and bought a couple travel size Nestle whole milk boxes (no small organic milk boxes available), in hopes she would think it was "cool" to drink from a straw - no luck.
And so I find myself in between a rock and a hard place. While I recognize she is now nearly a year old, and it is time to transfer to milk - and some kind of drinking device other than a bottle - she has made it quite clear that she really doesn't want the milk unless it is in a bottle.
In addition, since we returned from Xi'an, Chase has also decided she isn't into the proper nap thingie anymore. I guess all that "Go Dog Go" and Koala bear sling time went to her head (she basically slept in her sling all weekend; we didn't exactly make it back to the hotel for nap time) and she has since decided she much prefers being as close to me as possible. Our little Empress has made it quite clear that she much prefers to be carried everywhere.
So I'm not sure what to do about the milk, or the naps, or finding a baby carrying device designed to ease back pain, but I guess it will all work itself out. It always does.
For now I will revel in the fact that I've managed to find organic milk from Australia.
Sunday, March 11, 2007
There were enough sites (smells and sounds) to keep us busy, we ran from place-to-place all weekend. Luckily, we found the city easy to navigate. The people were friendly and helpful - Chase definitely got her fair share of attention. We were there in the “low” (a.k.a. cold) season; the skies were grey, and heavy with pollution. I can’t imagine what it must be like there during the Summer months when the air is still and temps top 30 centigrade.
We caught the first flight from
Next stop – The Big Goose Pagoda, a Ming style building built by Emperor Gaozong around AD 648 (Qing Dynasty), in memory of his deceased mother.
We then decided to go for a little stroll to see the locals in action. We stumbled across a calligraphy exhibition and a fun park, and a guy who created edible spun sugar designs.
Then we hopped a cab, which drove us right through the City Wall, en route to the
The mango man:
The woman with too many boxes:
The traffic cops:
And finally, the Bell Tower ...
Next stop was the
From there, we took a right and found ourselves in the Muslim quarter, the home of the Hui community. There were narrow lanes, old mud brick houses and lots of little shops selling “antiques,” miscellaneous goods and food. I was struck by the number of birds in cages. They hung from (and between) the street lamps and filled the air with bird song. It was so lovely.
After this, we headed back to the hotel – exhausted. Ordered room service and watched some bad, American cable movies.
We awoke early and met Lucy, our Terracotta Warriors tour guide, in the lobby of our hotel. Lucky for us, we were the only ones in the tour group.
The Terracotta Warriors were discovered in 1974 by three peasant farmers who were digging a well (they are over 2,000 years old). Our tour guide indicated there were 8,000 warriors, but my lonely planet guidebook stated there were 7,000 figures. (I’m not sure how they are counting them, as many still remain buried and broken under layers of clay and soil.)
What I found most impressive was that each figure was different. Each was made by hand. Some were tall, some were short, some were fat, and some were skinny. Some were Northern Chinese (characterized by high, sharp, cheek bones), while some were Southern Chinese. Each had unique head, heart and life lines on the palms of their hands. Each was originally painted brilliant colors. (When the Chinese first found the warriors, they still had the original color, which sadly faded within a week of being exposed to sunlight. As the Chinese have not been able to find a way to preserve the color, they have left more than half covered by dirt and clay).
Tragically, all of the warriors (except the one pictured below) were broken and burned shortly after the Emperor Qin Shi Huang (whose tomb has yet to be excavated) passed away. (As an aside, Emperor Qin Shi Huang was a very interesting man. While his was the shortest reign of all Chinese Emperors, he accomplished a great deal – from ordering the construction of the Great Wall to standardizing
Originally built to protect him in his afterlife, the warriors were destroyed by peasants fearing they would come to life after the death of the Emperor. Each warrior held real swords, spears, etc. – almost all were taken by the revolting peasants (surprisingly they found a couple which had been left behind – and they were still sharp!)
All in all it was simply amazing. I’m so happy we went before the “international village” was completed. The “village” was comprised of empty buildings, which will soon be filled with more shops selling terracotta replicas, over-priced restaurants and even hotels.
From there, we went to see the natural
...and then back to the hotel (we stopped at Hee Hee’s Noodle House to pick up lunch).
Exhausted, we all took a rather long nap and when we awoke, we decided to try to fit in a couple more sights.
We hopped a cab to get onto the City Wall – it was closed when we arrived. So back to the hotel we went. Later, we decided to try a restaurant in the city. Hubs had seen a lot of Spanish in the markets, so we decided to try our luck at a Spanish restaurant. The concierge indicated there was actually An Austin House restaurant – so we thought Tex Mex, let’s give it a whirl. Well, when we got there, it was actually an Oyster House (think I’ll pass on Oysters served in the center of
Awoke early. Went back to the City Wall. Paid to walk on top, but should have walked through the park that is just below it. Much more going on.
Next we tried to catch a cab to a local craft market. Sadly, our cab driver could not find it. So we ended up getting out and taking another stroll, this time through what I can only call the Chinese version of the
And just outside the garden was a woman selling cotton candy from her bicycle ...
From there, we went back to the hotel, rested our aching feet (and backs – my, my Chase is growing!), checked out and made our way back to the airport.
What a great weekend!