Sometimes, when I’m reading facebook statuses and blogs about friends at home, I forget I’m in China. And then a load of firecrackers goes off. at 8:30 AM. On a Tuesday. And I remember where I am. 🙂 Oh, Shanghai…
Life here has settled into a somewhat comfortable rhythm. And I am so so thankful for that! There are little things here and there that seem to jar us, but that happens no matter where you live. I was talking to a friend yesterday about how we are settling and I said we are seeking contentment and cheerfulness…same as always. Things are different here but that’s just the skin of our life. The inside is the same…we still seek the Lord in times of need and often forget Him(momentarily) in times of gain. We become selfish and have to repent and ask forgiveness of those we hurt(mostly each other). I am freshly amazed by God’s provision in so many areas of life(including emotional strength in my weakest times). And that freshness is a gift. It’s so sweet, like a little chocolate all wrapped up and nestled in a box. It seems like faithfulness should be dull and boring…I mean it means things are always the same, right? But His faithfulness to forgive and go beyond forgiveness and BLESS us is crazy. I think about Andy’s faithfulness. And it’s constant and always there and so easy to get used to, but when I stop and think of what life would be like with an unfaithful man, I am humbled by Andy’s gift to me. And it’s all fresh again.
okay, I didn’t get on here to preach;) It’s just that the Lord is making life good, not us. So here’s what’s good about life;
This week has been a really big Chinese holiday, so Andy got the whole week off! yay! We bought a guest bed(who wants to visit?!) on Monday, went to the Zoo with friends yesterday and puttered around the house today! We have been enjoying having Andy around so much!
Andy and I are officially in our smaller size clothes now! We have both had to put away ‘too big’ clothes. I can’t even tell you how happy I was to do that! AND it’s finally chilly out and we have had to unpack our fall/winter suitcases! Seriously, getting my fall and winter clothes out is one of my FAVORITE things to do! Not kidding. I think it’s the scarves and coats and it is a sort of tangible definition of the excitement and expectation of the coming changes of season! And, I just like fall clothes…the colors and coverage. haha. I don’t enjoy getting out spring and summer clothes out. I probably cringe. haha. Except the flip-flop part but I don’t actually ever put those away… Anyway…that happened this week, and it has gotten me nearly giddy:)
Emma is growing up. She just is. She has such thoughts and ideas on her own and it tickles me to sit and have a chat with her(in the quiet of the early morning, me with my coffee and her with her warm ovaltine). I made her promise that we will stay close through her high-school years. I hope so dearly that we do. She has such a tender heart and is so eager to love on others. I have to keep entrusting her to her Father, because I have realized I have no way of protecting or permanently keeping her from the hurts of the world. And I rest in the assurance that He will protect her and heal her when she inevitable gets hurt. She is such a sweetie though, and it makes me sad that her grandparents don’t get to enjoy these moments of two year old Emma. She can be a hoot.
Seth is growing too, but he is just starting to babble, so I haven’t been nearly as sentimental about him;) He has the softest, blondest angel hair ever. I don’t know if I will ever be able to cut it. Andy may have to take charge when he starts looking like Emma’s sister instead of brother. He has 6-8 teeth now and is chomping away on anything he can grab. He is a snuggle-bug though and I take advantage of that:) He really likes Ms. Wong and just grins ear to ear when he sees her. So cute. I still carry him in the Ergo a lot and he likes to look up at me when we are walking along. He just stares at me and if I look down at him he grins and gets all bashful. It’s scrumptious.
We have gotten to build a few friendships here and that has been a blessing! We enjoy having people over here and I am learning how to host a dinner here. Honestly, it’s WAY more fun:) Ms. Wong does the cleaning and I get to focus on the cooking and food prep. it’s perfect for me…one more amazing blessing!
So, there are a few snippets of our life. Also, I am continuing to try local yumminess and am enjoying the culinary adventure! More on that later!
So, due to high demand(one person mentioned it), I am finishing the Top Ten I started about a month ago.
If you haven’t read part one yet, do it now:)
6. I feel the need to recognize two very special items that have been helping me through the past weeks; dragon fruit and chocolate bubble tea. yup. For those who know my weaknesses, I am totally addicted to dragon fruit! I have a history of over-doing fruits that I really like(Jess, I can hear you laughing), and dragon fruit is no exception. My tummy is generally in a state of upsettedness but I just can’t help it! If you haven’t tried dragon fruit yet, go to an international farmer’s market, get your hands on a dragon fruit, lop the thing in half and eat the white, seed speckled flesh with a spoon! So yummy! And a perfect snack. Chocolate bubble tea. It’s not really tea, it’s like cold hot chocolate with black tapioca bubbles in it. You drink it with a big straw to ensure you get a few bubbles in every sip. yum.These two things have made life a little…sweeter:)
7. Do people in Asia eat dogs? Yes. Do they put it in your food under the name of some other meat? Maybe. Do they also advertise it along with the beef, pork and chicken? Why yes. Yes, they do. What is the best way to instantly kill your appetite? Read a menu with dog listed on it. Done and done.
8. As some of you know, Andy’s master diet plan was to move to China. And it’s working! He has lost probably around 15 pounds and I have lost about 10. The key to our success? Not owning a car(walking or riding a bike…a lot) and not having yummy, affordable, tempting junk food on every corner. I guess if I just really loved congee(gooey rice porridge thing) then we may have a problem but since most of what is readily available(except that darn Mcdonald’s delivery) is not appetizing to Andy and I, then we are in the clear! I’m so glad that my parents are coming in October(so soon!!) and they can bring us smaller clothes!
9. This doesn’t have much to do with China but is entertaining all the same. And it’s a conversation that happened since we moved here, so it counts:) Emma and I were walking and she was telling me that she really needed to go shopping. I asked her what she was needing and this is the list she promptly gave me. (I should say that when we go to the grocery, I make a mental list outloud before we leave and I ask Emma to help me remember it, and she repeats it the whole way there) She needs; a computer, sunglasses, a bra, a car, a bike and some Pocky. Last time I checked she was 2 years old. Am I missing something?
10. The more I see of Shanghai the more I LOVE our little corner of the city. People say we are ‘way out there’ because we aren’t near the city center, but let me just say I am so glad to be ‘way out here’! Yesterday I ventured into the city(alone) just a little(about 7 metro stops) to a huge mall to do some shopping. The sheer amount of pedestrian traffic is nauseating. AND, while I was there I saw some crime! I think. I was in the basement part of the mall where the food court and an exit to the metro is and I heard a loud noise. I looked over to see a man falling down the ‘up’ escalator. Thankfully no one was on it. But then…he jumped up and started running and there was a woman chasing him down the escalator running and yelling(in Chinese, so I have NO idea what she was saying). I wondered what to do as he BRUSHED BY ME. ack. But then some security guards appeared and chased him down and tackled him. By now there was a group of us(yes, I said US, I wasn’t about to miss out on the action!) following to watch and then the lady showed up with a walkie-talkie. She looked official and important and they hauled the BLEEDING man away. As in, he left blood drops on the floor. I was so shocked and grossed out by the blood(so unsanitary…what do they do in the states when someone is dripping blood in a public place?) that I just bolted for the metro and went straight home. I hugged my purse the whole way back and realized that we really do live in a sort of bubble out here in Minhang where there is not much going on and the streets are generally quiet-ish. I have to make one transfer and I just couldn’t wait to be on our Line 10, headed home. I think it may be one of the first times I considered our little apartment here my ‘home’. I longed to be securely tucked away on our seventh floor nook where the floors are clean and it doesn’t smell like cabbage. And English is spoken and Pixar films play. As I exited at the Longbai Xincun stop, I felt immediately better. I relaxed my grip on my purse and walked the two blocks to our apartment along the tree lined Qingshan Lu, happy to be home.
I know it’s been a bit since I blogged last. All I have to say for myself is that we have been busy trying not to be busy. Make sense? But after today, I thought a quick(or not so quick) hello was in order.
We have been experiencing acute ups and downs. Highs and lows. Mountains and valleys. These highs and lows aren’t like one day high, the next three days low, then another couple days of high. We are talking a swing every 20 minutes. Thus the need to be busy trying not to be busy. And today’s experience provides a compact example…
Andy and my schedules have ironed out a little and it seems that I will be working 6 hours on Saturdays and that’s all. Fine with me! Andy on the other hand is a little busier! haha. MUCH busier. So, I am constantly figuring out ways to take the kids out on my own successfully. Grocery shopping has become fairly routine, and I
think thought I was getting to be a pro! Here’s how it goes. I plan a trip when Seth has just woke up. I feed him, then put him in the Ergo. Usually I have planned for this trip so Emma is ready and when asked, she gets her shoes on and climbs into the umbrella stroller. I grab a few bags for the groceries and out we head! My local grocery(who does not stock any imported american items, but does the job for daily needs) is a brisk, fifteen minute walk away. The walk is through a sort of pedestrian street and ‘park’. On the way, we pass our fruit market(there are about 10 just on the way to the grocery) that we have established a rapport in. The girl who works there has always been so sweet. She helps me get the stroller up the stairs and assists me in my fruit choosing. She even once convinced me against getting old looking fruit and suggested something I had never seen before, and it ended up being very simalar and deliciously fresh! I have gotten ripped off at a few markets and I have been so pleased with this market not overcharging me! I always go there on the way back from the grocery. As we were walking along, I looked over and she was standing there and waved as I passed, and truly, it warmed my heart. I thought, wow, I am really getting established and getting to know the neighborhood! Such a great feeling of familiarity after feeling alienated for so long! I walked with an extra bounce in my step all the way to the grocery, did my shopping and headed back cheerfully. Well, sure enough, she helped me get my laden stroller up t he steps and assisted me in my fruit purchasing. And then it happened. She went to ring me up and added an extra 1 to the beginning of every number as she was weighing. For example, I was getting a red delicious apple and they were meant to be 9.80 per kilo. And she punched into the machine 19.80 per kilo. She did this to all of my purchases, and a bag of fruit that is usually between RMB 10-15 was just shy of RMB 50. I pointed out the prices and then pointed to the signs, but the problem with not speaking Chinese, is that you can’t argue or express outrage! She made some explanation and I heard a woman who was shopping chuckle. Arg. I should have just left it and walked out. But I went ahead and paid because 1. I needed the fruit, 2.my fussy-free baby time was running out and 3. to be honest that is still under $10 for 5 plums, an apple, a bunch of 6 bananas and a medium sized melon. But I knew what had happened. It made me so sad. I think because I had let myself ‘fly up on the wings of anticipation’, imagining a flowering relationship over our time spent here. ..Planning to suggest her as a good vendor to others, and planning to frequent her establishment only for fruit! But no. When Ms Wong got here, I asked her about it, and it seems she agrees that everything is grossly overpriced. She was making all sorts of un-approving sighs. Oh, and I didn’t mention that walking home, it started pouring. I was a sad sight to behold, I’m sure.
So, this illustrates the possibility of ups and downs. Within an hour I was confident, excited, warmed and open only to become frustrated, disheartened, jaded and sad. But life goes on…and this was a learning experience. I need to just leave when the price is obviously jacked up. And it happens. Often.
We are doing okay in general. Emma is warming up to Ms Wong, but still has trouble being left(especially since we don’t leave her often now that I don’t work at all during the week). Emma has gotten to meet a couple of other kids as well, and we are planning to play next week with Annabelle, a three year old friend:) Andy will start teaching full time in about 10 days, but he is in orientation now, so he’s spending a lot of time away. It’s been an adjustment, but I think we are getting used to it! I take the kids to walk every evening and it is a great little routine we have! I think we all thrive on normalcy and routine, so as things get more mundane, we become more comfortable!
I know I need to complete the “Top Ten”. I will soon!
With love(and longing for Kroger and Publix),
i was pondering yesterday whether i am too transparent and open on my blog. i do have a problem with sharing ‘tmi’, but usually it’s other people that are made uncomfortable by my open, sometimes crude-ish, content. so if you are one of those people, stop reading. i’m going to be frank. not frank the person. just frank.
so i was pondering a lot yesterday. andy and i were planning to have a standing date night on saturday nights, but he is having to teach a class until 8 pm on saturdays now, which means wong gets to our house at 5 and andy isn’t available to date me for another 3 hours. so i took advantage and took my journal and bible(and my ponderingness) to my favorite cafe near where he works. it was a meeting with God. really. He met me there. i don’t think i even knew that we had an appoitment, but we did. i wrote furiously in my journal and i’m sure any onlookers were concerned, but my heart needed healing and He poured His love over me so completely. here are a few tidbits. first of all, i have been depressy lately. i know, i know…’you just moved country, for crying out loud!’ but in my book, that’s not a good enough reason. my depressy behavior was affecting my dear husband, and poor children. and i know(personally) the author of my moods/hormones/heart, so why would i not ask Him about it. so i did and He reminded me that a thankful heart is a happy heart, so i wrote out what i am thankful for here. and i was floored. i hadn’t stuck my head up out of the cloud of selfish-petty-ness to see the lavish blessings i am currently receiving. i am not one to seek a luxurious life. i mean, i don’t like housework, but i never imagined i would have a maid. i am capable, so why would i not do it. but here’s where the kicker is…i STRUGGLE with motherhood b/c of all the different aspects of keeping a home(cooking, cleaning, mothering, wifeing, and being a fun and creative on top….or trying to be) and to be honest, andy and i have considered, though we want more children, if we should maybe not take on more than i can handle. and this is where He stepped in. my heart longs to be a good wife and mother, above all. to spend intimate and real time with my babies and to invest in being a good wife. and in smyrna, it was a struggle. somehow, laundry and the dirty bathrooms conspired and stole my time away. and it was a battle to find time to do everything. now, let me just say that this battle is worthwhile, and if that’s where God has you or me, it’s worth the fight to do all those things well! and we are more than capable to do these things . but my very literal Savior saw my distress and swooped in to rescue me. and this is where the blessing start piling up. andy works in the evening so i am home, alone, with the kids every night. and the past 2 weeks of this routine of being all alone here, taking care of the wee ones caused a feeling on entrapment in me. like my freedom was stolen because i had to stay here and take care of my children all alone! oh no. what could be worse?! right. i wonder what the Lord was thinking when He saw these feelings welling up in me. the Lord gently revealed to me that He had given me exactly what my heart yearned for. time for my children. with no distractions…no laundry to fold, no supper to make or clean up from, no long overdue toilet to scrub. i have been given this gift, this incredible gift, of 3-4 hours of uninterrupted time/per day in a freshly cleaned house with my eager children. and i can do what i want with it! i can read to them, play with them, take a walk together(watch out for the fan club though), and just share life with them. and i don’t have to think about all that other stuff that i hate! what in the world?! i would not have chosen such an extravagant gift for myself. but Christ saw my longing heart and gave me my desire. so, at the top of my ‘thank you’ list, is ms. wong’s name. She was the one, after all, that was watching seth and emma during my meeting with Him. and she makes a weekly date with my love possible. i wonder if she knows what a blessing she is to our family!
here is another reassurance that the Lord gave me yesterday. somewhere in my mind i had this thought bouncing around that because we are in china, where ‘christian culture’ does not exist, then the Holy Spirit is less strong here. or something like that. like, that because there is no foundation of christian attitudes, then Christ’s work would be hindered or less active or something. i don’t know how to define it, but it was wrong. He wrote some verses on my heart; ‘You have enclosed me behind and before. You laid your hand upon me.’ – PS. 139.5 His hand is upon us. even in china. ‘For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. plans to prosper you and not harm you. plans to give you a hope and a future.’ -Jer.29.11 He is prospering us. but we have to trust Him to know best for us.
and i think this one spoke the loudest to me;
‘…that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from everyone of us; for in Him we live and move and exist.’ Acts 17
He is not far. but sometimes, groping is required. have you ever groped for Christ? i am so thankful that when i do, He is easily found.
Here is a quick list of my top ten experiences so far. as promised. These are in no special order.
1. All the baby booties. I may have shared with some of you already, but the Chinese don’t diaper their babies. They simply put clothes on with a gaping crotch and then when the baby needs to go, they hold them over the grass or the toilet, or the baby just goes on the floor and it gets cleaned up. I knew this but I was not prepared for all the bare booty I would be seeing! It’s comical. There’s a baby, and sure enough, there are the cheeks peeking out:) It’s a good thing baby bums are so cute!
2. Emma and I sometimes walk in the evenings. I push Seth in the stroller and Emma has a babydoll and a babydoll stroller. I have had people stop and comment. I have had people stop and comment and then follow us. I’ve had hoards of people stop, comment, poke, pinch and follow us. for a long time. until we get to our apartment complex. and they may have kept following if I hadn’t given them a death stare. When I say hoards, I mean crowds of 15 or more huddled around us so we can’t walk and when I do start to walk the bubble of onlookers just moves along with us. It makes evening walks difficult. We will probably be sticking to walks in our complex for awhile. (oh, and it’s scary b/c I always have a little motherly instinct that fears the worst…Emma being snatched away in this crowd of eager entertainment seekers!) Oh, China.
3. After a stressful move into the apartment, Andy suggested that I go find something nice for myself, so I went in search. Here is the first part; I got a haircut. But this was no ordinary haircut. I walked into a salon in the evening and it was empty except one gentleman patron. I started second guessing by judgement in choosing this spot. But I asked the prices and they seemed reasonable and I was altogether too tired to be seeking out alternate venues. So I went for it. Did I mention that all 15 of the stylist were male as well? And they all had emo-crazy-dyed-styled hair and euro style(read-tight clothes and an attitude). The ‘master’ (who was the only older person and the rest were youngish) declared that I should have my hair wash and the boys went scurrying. After that, the ‘master’ artfully, with flair, combed out my hair and commented on it to the 10+ audience of ‘learners’. I really have no idea what was going on. But I just sat there and let the master do his thing. It was THE LONGEST hair cut I have ever gotten. 2 hours for the cutting part. Not kidding. I think he demonstrated just about every technique that can be used on straight hair that is given layers. I was tired and it was mildly entertaining to watch this spectacle, so I sat through it. Then he blow-dried and styled my hair so beautifully! I wish I could just stop by every morning and let him do my hair for the day! haha. Anyway, all of this was a mere 80 kuai. around $12. I’ll take it. And it’s the BEST haircut I’ve ever gotten! I let it air dry everyday and it looks so cute! Thanks Asian-Euro-Master! 🙂
4. On my walk back I was noticing my neck was sore, and I had seen these street massages right near our house, so I went for it. Here’s how it works…someone sets up a folding chair on the sidewalk next to the street and you stop in for a massage. I had seen this one older lady in action a few times…hammering away on someone’s back I set my mind on getting a street massage from her. It was a 20 minute neck and shoulder massage with a little arm and hand work for 10 kuai, or about $1.50. I was sore the whole next day, but in a good way. I can’t wait to go back sometime soon. Also, a perk of a street massage is that you get to watch the people going by while your tension is relieved.
5. Lets back up a bit. Here’s the story of moving into our apartment. We had found ‘the one’ after days and days of living in a hotel and looking at lots of apartments that didn’t fit the bill. We were set to move in on Friday, so we showed up at the real estate agent’s office to sign the paperwork. After about an hour at her office signing papers, we went to another office and spent another hour and a half signing papers and paying large stacks of cash. Then we went to the apartment and spent another 2-3 hours doing I don’t know what b/c it was all in Chinese. By the time we were finished at the apartment it was time for Andy to teach his evening class. So he jumped into a taxi and headed off to work. (it’ about 6pm by now) But I had a dilemma…I needed to get all of our luggage(about 10 suitcases worth) back to the apartment from the hotel and I also needed to go get Emma and Seth who had spent the entire day at a friend’s house. Also, it was VERY important that I see Seth soon, as I am still nursing and I hadn’t seen him since about 9 that morning. But the problem was…I didn’t know what my friend’s address was, and I didn’t know where I was either. So I called her and she was in a taxi almost to her house. We had already established that we live very near each other but didn’t know exactly in which direction or how to get to each other’s house. So I am standing on the side of the street talking to her and she is yelling at the taxi driver(in English) where to go, and then getting mad at him when he didn’t comply. All this while I’m on the phone with her. She arrives at her house after driving around a bit looking for me, so we decide I should try and find her. So….I jump into a pedi-cab and motion a direction. Rachel is standing out on the side of her street looking for me, and I am just flying through intersections, hanging onto the side of this rusty, springy contraption, looking for Rachel! Thankfully, I found her quickly, and paid the nice pedi-cab driver his fair wage…5 RMB. In the middle of all of this, I am struck with a certain euphoria that comes only from doing something completely out of the ordinary in the life as you know it. And what’s funny is that I take the pedi-cab regularly now and though it is a little sketchy sometimes, I generally just sit back, and enjoy the jostling, breezy ride!
After the pedi-cab ride, I went up to Rachel’s apartment, fed Seth, took Emma with me to the hotel, loaded up all the bags into a taxi, somehow got to our apartment, unloaded all of the bags outside of our building, transferred them all the to elevator, rode up to the 7th floor, transferred them all to the inside of our apartment, closed the door and collapsed. Thankfully Andy came home shortly afterwards and I was able to walk to Rachel’s to pick up Seth and bring him back to our new home where we enjoyed the previously mentioned Mcdonald’s Delivery service:) Don’t judge. 😉
I know I said this would be my top 10, but it will have to be Part A: 1-5 of the Top Ten.
More to come later…