Saturday, August 30, 2008

Typepad, Wordpress,Textdriven , and 19,000 other sites

I was counting on anonymouse before we left but the gig was up here as of mid June and they are also blocked. Because Jazzie and Tahlia have an RSS feed I can go to bloglines and access the text now since I am not really going to their site, it is being pushed out to me. I am thrilled as a first grade teacher to be able to read about Jazzie's first week, but boy do I miss seeing the wonderful pictures, which I can't get. But hey, this is a major step in the right direction. I would really like to be able to view my sister's site and so many others. I began researching proxy servers and anonymizers here but got a little nervous about things being monitoring and the sites I was landing on so ... is anyone out there up for looking around to see if you can find a good work around site for me? Googling what is working for other bloggers that are here? Things may change now that the olympics are over, maybe they will open up more. Then again I need to be thankful that I can see my blog now which I couldn't do from the capital here when I came to get Abbey, but could from Guangzhou. It's like that, sometimes some areas are blocked and others aren't. Oh, and I don't want a paid site like GoTrusted. I need a freebie. Thank you!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Non-photo Kind of a Week

Yes, it's blurred...but it's all we've got. This is Abbey after our housemate's daughter returned home from the Beijing Olympics with lots of stickers (see forehead and leg) and little gifts for Abbey. She was so happy to see "Livie" again.
We both started coming down sick last Saturday. We rested all day and the next day made it to our first meeting since we've been here. It was at an expat community a half hour away. A guy shared on the topic of loneliness and spoke of his first experiences here in China as he came to teach English. It really struck a deep cord and was all I could think about for the next few days. I have been so busy surviving that I hadn't really had time to think about how lonely and isolated I actually do feel. Especially now that all the Americans that were here helping with our summer camp have left. I didn't think I would want to connect with other westerners in China, but now that we are here I do feel a big need to do that. By the evening I was already in my "I don't think I can do this" (ie stay in China for a year) thought pattern and feeling much sicker, when we had an incident. At 9:30 pm Abbey fell out of bed and hit her head on the hardwood floor. She had fallen a few days before in our extremely dangerous bathroom, that is all super slippery tile with a shower that is open to the bathroom, so the whole floor gets wet. In that fall she hit her head on the tile and it really scared me. This time within moments of falling she threw up a huge amount all over both of us. She was also acting very out of it - moaning and wimpering and saying "I want my mommy", when I am right there holding her. It was so hard to tell if the incoherency was from it being an hour and a half after bedtime. the shock of falling out of bed, or if she had a very serious injury. She wouldn't keep her eyes open either, but that could just have been because it was so late for her. Was the throwing up from the sickness we were coming down with or the fall? I called a friend who called a doctor here and he said that since she threw up I should probably take her to the ER and have a CT scan and then go back in 24 hrs and have another. I skyped my dr's off hour triage nurse back in the states and had her talk to my sister and then had my sister skype chat with me. They felt that if she had only thrown up once it was okay, but if she continued I should go.
It was one of those moments - trying to hold my inconsolable daughter, who is begging not to go to the "hobspital", balance the laptop to make calls, soaking in throw up and trying not to slip in it, that I thought - Oh, my goodness, this is one of my greatest fears and it's happening. My daughter is hurt in China and I don't know what to do. But after a little reyarp with my sister I really felt that going to the ER when we were both sick, and dragging others there to be up all night translating and making international calls about insurance, etc., and putting Abbey through the scans (I am not an x-ray fan) on probably old machines - that I felt more peace about just staying home and seeing how she did. I let her go to sleep for awhile and then woke her up later fully and had her drink juice (big treat for us) to see if she could speak coherently. She seemed much better although her head still hurt and the next morning she seemed to be herself again. That day I was supposed to begin presenting staff inservice training on literacy but was so sick I couldn't even stand up, and Abbey was very congested and sick too, so we had to stay home. We continued to be very sick the rest of the week but began pushing to go back to work because I hated to leave everyone in the lurch and we were at a point where staying home wouldn't be that good mentally, even though physically we needed it. It was a very hard week because we couldn't sleep with all the congestion and trying to speak and present things is hard when your throat is so sore and your head feels like it's full of bricks. Abbey was making it through with triaminic strips (our favorite children's cold med) and the dreaded nose suction bulb. I was trying everything I had and that anyone else had - dayquil, nyquil, sudafed, airborne, zicam swabs, tylenol, and the one thing that seemed to work was the chinese otc antibiotics. We also had some mild stomach issues. It felt like a super bug, but it's probably just one that's new to us here. You know how you can get down when you are sick? Well I kept thinking about the guy's talk on loneliness. His got so bad that he and his wife just scrambled and took the first flight they could back to the US. Eventually though, they got strengthened through their support group and came back and are now doing well. I have been in the sticking it out phase, but thinking I don't know how long I can make it. But after hearing him I kept thinking we could just get on the next plane and be home, and it was very tempting. But then I have no job to return to until next fall and my home has been leased, so what would we do? While we were at home sick I turned on the TV and found the only English option which was a very depressing show about the desert here and about the one tree that can survive there. I felt a clear message about needing to adapt in order to be able to make it in this new environment. The need here is staggering. Masses of humanity without knowledge of the hope that can be theirs. How will they know unless they hear? How will they hear unless someone goes? It's been very shocking to me and a huge reality check on how blessed I've been with friends I am surrounded with back home. After just one month without everyone tears rolled down my face at as the words "What a friend we have..." were sung at the meeting.
Towards the end of the week things got better though with the arrival of a new friend from the US, Heidi. She will have my same job at the school we are starting in the orphanage. She will live here in our apartment complex a couple of buildings away. We are going to a meeting again together tomorrow and evidently she has more connections with people who are like minded and here for the same purposes. She's had a lot more experience living overseas and worked in orphanages in Romania as well, so I really think she can help me with the things I am going through.
Please don't flame me about the decision not to go to the hospital, please.
And if some of the wording here doesn't make sense please know that I am trying to convey things carefully, and I need you to do the same in your wonderfully encouraging comments and emails. You will never know how much they mean unless you are in a similar situation some day.

Monday, August 25, 2008

JinXiu, Typepad, and Wordpress

Dear JinXiu I would love to email you but I don't have your email and your blog is password protected. My email is
Those of you on typepad and wordpress I just wanted you to know that I can't access your blogs here. I am really missing reading Sandra's posts with Jazzie and Tahlia, Julie with Tess, and Donna with Gwen and Maddy. I will have a lot of catching up to do when I get home.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Let the Joy Come In

Monday was our first full day at school and it was very tough. Abbey screamed the whole two hours of nap time, "Mama, I want Mama", as I attempted to work in the office next door. It was extremely hard for me. She fought her way out and escaped twice only to be carried back. The next day she didn't cry but didn't sleep either. The next day she cried a little and still didn't sleep, and then on Thursday she didn't cry and she did sleep, I was thrilled! It was so hard because she was so stressed at night and in the mornings asking me over and over if she was going to have to nap at school. By Friday she was acting like it's totally normal and everyone does it, which of course they do. I just really had to tell myself that it would build security in her heart to get through this and know that I will still be there each day and that she will always come home with me. I think somehow she thought she might have to spend the night there. So I feel like we've overcome a big hurdle this week. Thanks to all of you that held us up and offered advice and encouragement.
It has really been fun to have this little chance to be her teacher. In another week she'll be starting her real class for the school year, but she will still come to my room for phonics each day. She is singing all the new songs she's learned at school. If I can get drop shots or youtube working here I'll post her doing her favorite..."Goodbye, goodbye, see ya later alligator. In a while, croccodile, with a snap, snap, snap and a great big smile." She started trying to write letters this week. She's done a little before with L and O but this week she did lots of very good A's and a T. It's funny that even though I'm a teacher I haven't wanted to work with her on academic things, I just want her to have fun. I know she will pick up things at the proper time, so I'm in no hurry to introduce them. I love to listen to her self talk as she rehearses things that have gone on at school. I also got to see a little naughty side in the classroom. I don't know if it was for my benefit or not, but she definitely tried pushing some boundaries and got a couple of time outs. She's really determined to hold her own and look out for herself with other kids.
She's also been creating some of her own very sweet songs. Last week it was "Let the Lord come in, and let the joy come in, like the rain comes down" and it was really beautiful. This week her theology got a little mixed up and she was singing "Cinderella's castle, Sleeping Beauty's house, Hallelujah", although I guess there could be a song of thanksgiving for princesses.
Abbey had been saying she wanted a Snow White umbrella and I was thinking there is no way I would be able to find one here. When we went shopping this week guess what we ran right into? You got it, a Snow White umbrella. I couldn't believe my eyes. This little one has connections in high places.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Serendipity and Celebration

On Wednesday we had a culminating event for our summer camp. The children performed the Lion King and we had a party with the parents. Afterwards the staff went out to celebrate at what we hoped would be the new Starbucks opening down the street, but were disappointed to see that there had been a delay and it was not ready yet. It was one of those moments where I was hot and tired and thinking "oh why didn't I just go home to rest". As has happened to me so many times since we've gotten here, things seem to go wrong and then actually end up working out great. Our party stumbled down the street a little bit to the grand opening of a new restaurant. There were huge red and gold banners and giant floral displays with the princess style hostesses. They wear the floor length qipaos (tight fitting silk dresses with the sides split all the way up their legs - these were all red with gold dragons) and the sashes that remind me of Miss America. It was Shanghai cuisine and Abbey enjoyed the big pillows in our chairs, her fancy orange juice drink, and the "princess" playing the Chinese harp like instrument. The kids played in the fountains around our tables and the adults relaxed. I am learning just to go with the flow and be ready for surprises around any corner.

Very silly monkey who has escaped the circle of life and is running around eating cake.

This posh new restaurant was absolutely empty when we arrived, and a bee hive of activity when we left. People love to eat out in Sh#nzh*n.

Our friend Steve proposing a toast to Bob Ware, who once told him not to drink beer in Holland.

This was Abbey's favorite spot, playing with the lily pads and asking lots of questions about the instrument. She re-enacted this scene the next morning and was especially taken with the fact that the harpist had little metal picks on her fingertips.

Back at the Beach

Our friend Jasmine on the barbeque. Yummy shishkabobs.

Last weekend we went back to the beach for a double birthday party for two of Abbey's friends. Abbey enjoyed being with all the kids and had her first encounter with "musical chairs". She burst in to tears when she got out and I felt so bad for her. I think that game has been abandoned for good reason. There was plenty of other fun to be had, and she had it.
I was also very proud of our first trip out and around town on our own. We made it to Wal Mart and Children's World and got a lot of shopping done. It was really the first time we've been out of our complex without friends. Later in the week we were introduced to Metro, which is similar to Costco. I was thrilled to find some things that I haven't seen anywhere else, like tortillas. It's funny how much anything familar means to you. We are here to be with the Chinese and live in their world, and yet I feel an instant bond with any Westerner I see and even ads or logos from home.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Peasant's Lunch

These geese are about to be lunch for our party, but not me. Veggies all the way.

Hope this doesn't offend anyone but I've now had beer twice. When the bottled water I'm carrying runs out I have no intention of drinking tap, so beer it has been. When in China do as the Chinese, right?
Roasted peppers. I must say, with all my cringing that the meal was excellent. We had the most incredible pumpkin leaves sauted in garlic. The fried rice was fabulous.

Red lanterns are everywhere here. Abbey asks me if they are pumpkins. Everything is so lush, tropical, and jungle like.

This restaurant has not been rated by our food service standards, let me tell you. It was a faith walk for me. Very off the beaten path. We are going with the flow here.

They stick wood from that pile over there below these cooking surfaces and light it. Everything is done with huge woks.
My friend Emily selecting the veggies we will eat. I will spare you details and pictures of the animals being prepared at the table beyond that, I couldn't even look. I also will not describe the blue pool you can see the edge of in the foreground. Temporary home to turtles and crabs.

Mr. Yang and his wife June who have been so kind to Abbey and I.

Okay, this is one of the places things got a little gnarly for me. On the way home from the beach last week we stopped in a little village for lunch at a peasant's home. It was like a restaurant on a farm. There is really so much I cannot say, but my eyes were really opened on this venture. It may sound strange but this lunch really helped me understand China a lot better and why things happen that are hard for us to fathom (like children being place at orphanage gates). I've seen a lot on various travels, but this took things to a whole new level of understanding. There is just a lot I won't say at this point. I'll focus on the positive, we made it through.


The best move I've made since I got here was getting Abbey this little princess bike. She was having such a hard time the first two weeks and this has brought her so much happiness. I was going to wait until she was four or five but she really needed a boost at this point. She is still missing her old home, and of course her important people (as she just reminded me before falling asleep), but the bike has really helped. She only had a trike at home and has always been excited about bikes, even as a baby. She rides it from our apartment to school (the building next door) and to our friend's apartment (1/2 a block). We had a really special evening last week when she rode it around our complex. We stopped to play at a little playground and 3 of her friends were there. We came home and watched the Olympic opening ceremonies after that and we were both mesmerized. It was so beautiful. She asked a question every minute and still does whenever we've watched a bit of the games. Our housemate's daughter has gone to Bejing to attend the games. Abbey calls them the Bejing Limp Limps. She also calls speaking Chinese "Chi ying-ying". She is really into babbling in Chi ying-ying and is picking up words each day. Her current favorite is "Gong Ping", our housemates name. She is also really liking Zoo Phonics and is practicing her letter sounds and hand motions at random times. Next week will be another big step as she begins to stay at school all day and take a nap there. I would really appreciate your "agreement" for this to go smoothly. She's been begging me not to do this as I've explained what's coming. It's a hurdle we have to get over, but if all the other children can do it I know she can too. Mommy is part of the problem with the separation anxiety, it's very hard for me not to cry and to let go. Thankfully she has been eating better the past few days, so that helps me to relax more. Any tips or perspectives from those with experience would be helpful.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

June Sea Hotel

The islands you see in the background below are located off Hong Kong, across the water from us on the the mainland.

We had 16 friends with us and the apartment is very small so Abbey and I left with 3 others and went to spend the night 1/2 hour away at hotel. We also had a Japanese style room with an ocean terrace. Above are views from our room. I felt really out of sorts at first because I was separating from my American friends and there was only a 12 yr old with us with some limited English. Also I had no idea where in the world I was, the hotel is remote. But it worked out great. Abbey and I loved our room and we were treated to the best dinner we've had here. Through signs and repetition I tried to explain what we liked - bottled water, noodles, rice, jiaoza, and broccoli. Our sweet hosts ordered exactly what we wanted plus some delicious beef and thin crepe like pancakes with green onions, oh, they were SO good. Abbey ate more than she has eaten the whole trip. It was rather embarrassing as others politely ate small portions and we wolfed it down. Plus, I thought that I was doing well with chop sticks but had several serious faux pas during this meal, probably overly excited about getting exactly what we wanted. We returned to our room to find Ice Age playing in English and watched about 20 minutes of it. That was really a fun treat for Abbey. In the morning though our hosts ate heartily and we barely ate. There was nothing really recognizable at the breakfast buffet except for hard boiled eggs and noodles. Everyone else was eating huge bowls of soup and lots of interesting vegetables. No coffee any where in sight (sigh). Next time I know to bring instant wherever I go. Do we sound like wimps? We really are trying new things but there is a limit to how much we can take at once and we are on sensory overload. I am almost a vegetarian anyway, and now I am heading even further in that direction. We do eat some chicken but I have to push both of us to do so.

Japanese Luxury

Lovely Koi pond with water lillies and croaking froggies.

Abbey with the carved carp and a view of the pool.

This beach apartment had a Japanese design style. There is a children's playroom, a little store, and a restaurant. It's all top of the line and a very nice little get away.

South China Sea

Our friends have an apartment at the beach about an hour from where we live. Of course we live right by the ocean as well, but this is a very nice private beach and we spent last weekend there. We will probably be going back again this weekend as well for a litte party.
Abbey loves these little boxed milks because they require no refrigeration and she likes her milk warm. They are just her size. It's funny to see her back by the sea that she came from, just a few hours south in the same province. She was from a coastal city as well so it seemed like home.

The guys all went for a massage, 2 hrs for $20, and Cameron came back with the signs of a hot cup treatment. It looked like he had been attacked by a giant squid.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

School Begins

Abbey ready for the first day and wearing her school shirt that matches mommy's. She is standing outside our apartment and the school is behind her in the next building, but you can't see it with the haze. This was the third day we were here. Now she knows the school songs, teachers, etc. but we have new challenges ahead as I begin staying all day next week and she will have to stay for nap time, etc. Please join with me in asking for security in her heart and a smooth transition.

Ready to do scarf dancing with our friend Paulette who managed to throw in teaching a lesson to my class while holding her newly adopted daughter Annalise and assessing children with special needs.

Sisi, Abbey, and Cherry doing their "workbooks", i.e. scribbling

Monday, August 11, 2008

Filling In

Dun ta da dun - I now not only have a little internet access via cable, I have full time www with wireless!! And it is allowing me to post pictures too. I am so happy. BTW - if you email me and don't hear back it means I didn't get it. For some reason lots of emails get lost from here to there. Right now I am about 85 behind, so if you wrote in the last two weeks give me some time to catch up now that I can get online. The issue was having a Mac, which is highly uncommon here due to the expense. We had to buy a special router and they really spent some time getting it all set up. I was also thrilled to get Rosetta Stone from my friend Steve that's here visiting. Now I can start working on my Mandarin. Of course I am already learning words here and there, but I want to pick up the pace as we get settled. Abbey will be starting her Chinese class in a few weeks but in the meantime she is babbling and imitating and is very proud of the few words that she can say like "qing kai men" (please open door) which she says to the security guards over the PA system whenever we enter the building. We share our home with another mom and daughter. Abbey's new little friend Livie (Olivia, but Abbey has renamed her) will be a help to her language acquisition, and vice versa. She attends Abbey's school and her mom works there as well. Of course her mom is a big help to me with translation, explanations, etc.
I want to go back and fill in little since I couldn't post earlier. The first day we arrived here we were brought to the school right after dropping off our luggage at our home. When we walked through the doors a crowd of about 100 parents stood up and applauded us. It was like coming in on the red carpet at an awards ceremony, except it was all a surprise ( and we had been travelling for a couple of days and were not in tip top shape). They were having an end of term celebration and the parents were listening to a power point presentation where Abbey and I had just been introduced, minutes before we walked in. You just never know what's around the corner. After the meeting we were taken to a staff celebration at Brazilian Barbeque restaurant. It was neat because my travel group had gone to one when on my first trip to get Abbey, but we had been gone to Shenzhen and missed it, so now was my chance. They bring skewwers of roasted meats to you and slice them onto your plate and then you go through a buffet for soups, vegetables, etc. It was a fun kick off for our first day here and helped us stay awake.
About the third day I was here I got locked into my apartment and had to crawl out a window into another apartment. We are on the third floor of an eight story building. There are many buildings in our gated complex, which also houses the school. The apartments are very large and come as concrete box. You must put in flooring, bathrooms, kitchen, etc. We were very fortunate that our friends here spent months getting everything ready for us. The construction was getting finished just before we arrived. They divided our apartment into two. A very small portion is for a couple of ayis (nannies, housekeepers) that work at the school, the rest is for us to share a common living area and kitchen with my housemate and her daughter, and then Abbey and I have a seperate suite with our own bedrooms and bathroom. We take an elevator and then there is a big outer door that opens onto the patio that we all share. You then enter the apartment through a sliding glass door that has been split so that one side opens for the ayis and one side for us. Somehow our side got left with an outer handle but not with an inner one. The nanny next door ended up closing our portion of the door from the outside and then I had no way to open it or get out. So I crawled through our kitchen window which opens into their kitchen and came around to get Abbey out. This happened again and then they got us an inside handle. I locked the door from the inside the next night and my housemate came home late and couldn't get in and had to go sleep at her brothers. Then they replaced the whole thing and got us a door and lock we can all use. Then Abbey locked herself in my bedroom with the keys. By the time I got help to arrive she had managed to get it unlocked again from the inside. Locking and unlocking, doors and windows, just all ways to make life more interesting.
Everyday there are people here working on our home at any and all times of the day. Today it's the hot water system. At first we couldn't get any and then we had it so hot Abbey couldn't wash her hands, hopefully today they can work it out. Yesterday it was Ikea bringing our new sofa and chair and the wireless guy. The day before it was someone installing a safe for us. Everyday repairs, installations, deliveries and more. There is a constant flow of people in and out of out place from the school as well, mostly people trying to help set us up with phones, light bulbs, woks, etc. Last night a chocolate cake arrived at our door at about 8 pm and you know who was thrilled.
There is constant and continual construction everywhere at all times. They do take a siesta from 12-2 pm. The first day I put Abbey down for her nap a jack hammer started in overhead. Now she can not only sleep through, but fall asleep during all kinds and saws, pounding hammers, etc. I think all the apartments above and around us are just being put together. It's so funny how quickly you can get used to things. At first she was so afraid of all the noise, and now we don't even notice it.
I have so much more to share but will leave it here for now. I'll take some pics this week of our apartment and the school so that you can see what I am talking about.
A huge thank you for all the wonderful comments and emails. We know we are not alone and that you all are just a click away!

Backing Up

A few days before we left my family had a farewell dinner. Abbey was picking handfuls of white rose petals outside the restaurant and throwing them up in the air. It was one of those magical moments. She loved running from me at one end of the table to GG and Uncle Gene at the other end. This girl likes to party - the more people, food and fun, the better!

Why do they not look one bit sad to be saying good bye to us?

My incredible moving crew. My very gracious neighbors rented me their garage at the last minute to store all my belongings in. This amazing group of puzzle packed everything in like an perfect puzzle, and they did it so cheerfully I can actually say it was really fun. Thank you to all our friends, you are an incredible support and that morning just tied another knot in our hearts to you.
Abbey enjoying her flight. She loves anything involving headphones and was thrilled to have lots of buttons to push, kid food, and tv at her fingertips. (Tina, can you imagine how happy she was to have a little remote and do her own tv and music controls? It was her dream come true.)

Opening up a new Snow White toy to play with during our wait at the Hong Kong airport before the ferry took us to China.

Hong Kong

We went to Hong Kong for the day last weekend for some shopping and site seeing. This is from a very posh McD's that has a cafe similar to Starbucks in it, do we have those in the States? Anyway, someone was very happy to have an ice cream with mommy and watch some ice skating. You cannot fathom the line situation at McDonalds...I've never seen anything like it. They had Hello Kitty gifts that people were collecting like hot cakes.
The view from Victoria Peak which we hit right at sunset. We took a ferry ride there.

We were treated to a fabulous meal at the top and Abbey really enjoyed the way they served her chicken nuggets in a cone with little dipping sauces. Our wonderful new friend Heather, who has already left us to return to Boston, was so kind to Abbey.
The unfun part of the trip is that we left at 8 am and began our return at 9 pm, arriving home at midnight. Since Abbey had no nap she conked out around 9 and I carried her many miles through lots of subway changes, immigration, etc. I used muscles that had been resting for a long time. At midnight we ended up getting a Taxi because the trains we needed stopped for the night. In typical driving fashion here the driver pulled a uturn in front of the wrong car. A man went crazy with road rage and began chasing us and kept pulling up and yelling like he was going to ram us. Abbey and I slid down to the floor and then I reached through the wire opening and grabbed our driver by the shoulder and yelled "Stop, stop!" I decided that if he wouldn't pull over I was going to start choking him from behind. He did pull over and we eventually got out of harms way but it was so surreal, like a movie. We were very grateful to arrive home safe and sound. Other than those three hours the day went very well.