New Year’s Clothes

February 7th, 2014

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Most Chinese rush out to buy new clothes for the New Year, but we’ve never done that. Two  years ago, I started a sweater but come New Year’s Day, one sleeve was still not done. I finished it last year and Nathaniel’s worn it all year. I whipped up a dress for Catherine last year; I think it got left in America for baby Morgan to grow into. This year I had the best intentions to knit both of them sweaters, but I only got Nathaniel’s done…around 11 pm but I only weaved in ends that would be noticeable! The rest remains to be finished.

Again this year we were scolded by Santiago’s parents for always forgetting to buy new things, so a week before the holiday, I ran out for a quick shopping trip. I was certain I’d get his sweater done, so I just bought him some jeans. For Catherine I ended up buying her a cute floral shirt and paired it with jeans she had. I also put in the zipper on a sweater my mom knit her. While it didn’t match (no biggie…we’re in China where red, pink and orange can always be worn together!), it was cute.

Her red jacket and his blue sweatshirt were gifts from older aunt. Her hat was actually given to Nathaniel many years ago by Santiago’s coworker. She doesn’t have a child and apparently didn’t realize that it was more suitable for a girl. Glad no one else had a girl to pass it on to; it and the scarf are quite cute on Catherine.

Chinese New Year Children’s Book

February 2nd, 2014

Here’s the cover of a short children’s book that Nathaniel and I wrote about the Chinese New Year. It includes a several pictures of him celebrating the Chinese New Year througout his five years of life.

Spring Festival Letter 2014

January 22nd, 2014

Due to the chaos that occurred at the end of 2012, I never got around to sending out a Christmas letter…and I just realized that I never even sent out an email after Catherine was born in May. So I guess the whole year was chaotic! And now it’s nearly a month after Christmas and this is still waiting to be sent out. It’s now the Spring Festival letter.

Here’s a few stats about our quick and crazy, but well thought out, decision to sell the house which we’d put a down payment on back in 2009 (and in November 2011 we got to choose the house that we wanted):
  • 7 the number of days our landlord let us believe her apparent lie that she wasn’t planning to sell the house (though we’d heard via her mom that she was planning to sell)
  • 4 houses we looked at over Thanksgiving weekend 2012
  • 3 days it took to sell our other house (which wouldn’t be completed until 2014…maybe…and not in a livable condition until 2015…maybe!)
  • 1 the number of kisses I got from the wife of the couple who bought it (awkward! She would have been an interesting neighbor; now they own two adjacent houses so that one set of parents can live there to take care of their son)
  • 2 offers we placed on “secondhand” houses, but one was rejected because the husband’s parents didn’t agree with the couple selling the house so that ended their decision to sell
  • 90 minutes spent negotiating the price of house #2 with the couple and his parents; a lot of yelling was involved (by the two other women)
  • 22 days to get all the paperwork completed
  • 2 days to clean it since they seemed to go out of their way to trash it before leaving
  • 1 sink and shower we had to buy since they took them with
  • 1 trip made by the moving truck (so glad we paid to have help this time!)

So by 2013 we were settled into our new-to-us spacious 116-square-foot house on the 6th floor of a community just across the street from our old one (and Santiago’s parents). Here’s a bit of what happened in 2013:

  • 10 months spent trying to get approval for me to have a working visa to teach English at the local oil refinery
  • 1 trip to the USA to get the visa
  • 10 hours spent working before losing the job due to the president of the company losing his job, supposedly on corruption charges
  • 60 days Nathaniel, Catherine and I spent in America
  • 5 carry on bags I toted around with a stroller and two kids for five hours at O’Hare
  • 3 hour flight delay which netted us $20 in food vouchers which were promptly used on a coffee and snacks to keep the kids busy on the flight
  • 7 of Catherine’s teeth broke through, pretty much all at once, while we were in America
  • 85,081,500 the approximate number of steps (per person, excluding Catherine) climbed going to and fro our 6th floor house since we moved in last Christmas
  • 6 the number of months Catherine has been climbing all 105 steps up to our house
  • 5 minutes it takes her to walk up all the steps
  • 50+ words that she speaks in English and Chinese
  • 2 “babies” she sleeps next to at night
  • 276,079 approximate number of words I wrote in 2013
  • 60 students I tutor on the weekends
  • 1 tooth lost by Nathaniel on December 22
  • 3.45 minutes it takes Nathaniel to go through his addition flash cards (he loves graphing his time to see if he’s getting faster)
  • 9 weeks he went to his second year of preschool before being a “preschool drop out” due to him constantly getting sick and being home
  • 7 glasses of cocoa he drinks each week (the only way to get him to drink milk)
  • 27 the number of work related phone calls that Santiago got while on his three day vacation
  • 3 the number of times he’s had to go inf during the last 8 days of said vacation
  • 4 boxes of dried dates his suppliers have gifted us with in the last two months
  • 1 time a month that he takes the kids to an indoor play area and gets scolded by old women for “perming and dying” Catherine’s hair which is totally natural


So there you have it; a small look into our pretty average life. 

New Year Celebrations Are Over…Mostly

January 30th, 2012

Except for random firecrackers going off at any time of the day or night, thanks to kids still having a week of their winter break remaining, and the fact that there was absoluetly no meat for sale at the market today, the holiday is over.  Work resumed on Sunday in order for employees to make up for one of their seven days off.  The other day was made up before the holiday.  It’s a very odd system that I still haven’t made complete sense of.  I just search online to find out when the public holidays will be and hope that our local government decides to observe those dates as well.  At least once a year they don’t. 

Nathaniel goes back to school next Tuesday, the day after the Lantern Festival.  More firecrackers. I need to remember to air out his bedding a day or two before so that it doesn’t smell.

Home From Beijing- Part Two

December 1st, 2011

Saturday morning we called my grandparent using Skype on my iPod…just figured that one out…and it’s so cool!  It costs about 40 cents/15 minutes which is way better than what I paid using our landline when I first came to China.  That was about $30 for half an hour! 

After getting dressed we headed down the street to get on the subway and begin our hour long journey over to The Place in the Chao Yang district.  We got off at Silk Street and then walked the remaining 15 minutes to get to the ritzy shopping center which has some play areas on the fouth floor.  However, we first did some shopping at Silk Street because I realized that his waterbottle was gone so bargained to get a new one…started at 90 yuan and paid 50.  Then bought two bags to help bring our stuff home in and because I do need a new bag.  Ate another turkey sub at Subway; so yummy! 

Nathaniel spent 2 hours playing in a ball pit and jumping thing and building blocks and about ten other things.  We first went there at Easter as it was rainy and my friend’s home is not the best place for an active toddler.  I bought a card for five visits, thus getting a bit of a discount per visit and this was our third visit.  He hated the ball pit the first time. Cried when I put him in.  Now he loves it.  He was also able to play on most of the toys all by himself and was happy to wander off by himself.  A little too happy to do it as I was constantly “loosing” him even though  I was trying to pay attention while knitting. 

It is an enclosed place but I’m sure kids can easily slip out since there aren’t all that many staff watching them.  One parent is allowed in during “holidays” and two can go in during “non-holidays.”  It was pretty full of people, but I always found a place to sit while he played.

After two hours at The Place we headed back to the subway and after an hour long ride, standing since men don’t seem to care about the announcements to let women and children have seats, we did grocery shopping for our Thanksgiving dinner.  He became very fussy and while I was looking around for vodka, to make vanilla, he fell asleep.  

Once done, we headed out of the huge, part underground complex and I had some ice cream from Dairy Queen while he slept and I contemplated how I would manage to walk three blocks back to the subway and get through security while carrying a sleeping three year old who seems to gain weight by the day. Outside, his shoe fell off and I was scolded by an elderly woman for letting his ankle be exposed to the cold.  Sometime after getting on the subway he woke up and we got off and walked home without much trouble.  I rarely bother with keeping up my usual exercise routine in Beijing since taking the subway gets me plenty of exercise, especially when you half to transfer lines and walk about half a mile.  I’ve never measured it, but honestly think that’s a good estimate of the distance.

In the evening we ordered pizza and cracked pecans for a pie, made Oreo truffles, black bean dip and sliced carrots to be cooked the next morning. Then we talked to Santiago on Skype until it was time for Nathaniel to go to bed.  My friend and I stayed up late as she made dough for rolls and watched television. 
There were over twenty people at the Thanksgiving service and dinner which made the otherwise spacious house feel a bit crowded.  As suspected, Nathaniel was not too happy to meet the new Chinese friends who like to tussle his hair and comment on his cuteness.  He always rubs his head, or wherever they touched him, as if to wipe it away.  Any suggestions on how to explain that they do it out of love?  I feel bad that he’s not so polite but I can also imagine that he’s sick and tired of it since this has gone on since birth.  On the other hand, shouldn’t it just be normal?  I don’t know.  I just tell him that they do it because they like him and to not get upset.  
He really enjoyed the Jello, seven or eight kinds of it, which was his first taste ever.  I think he had three glasses of it.  Yes, he was eating out of a paper cup!  He also like baked beans and turkey but not the stuffing, which was a bit salty, but hit the spot.  He seems to have my dislike of overly salty foods which is amazing since he has eaten so much of his Chinese grandma’s cooking.  She goes through more than a pound of salt a month–just to give you an idea of how much salt is in her food.
At three we packed up and said goodbye and headed to the train station.  Earlier this year I discovered a special waiting room for moms with small kids and take advantage of it when we travel alone.  We were able to be among the first to board the train, ensuring our luggage got stowed in the overhead compartment, and didn’t have to push through an aisle of people who have standing tickets.  We soon found that a friend and his family were in the seats behind us and their four year old son and Nathaniel had a good time standing, talking and playing together from their seats, or rather standing on mom’s lap since they did’t actually have their own seat.
Finally got home at seven, Nathaniel told daddy the highlights of the day (seeing the train be filled with water!) and headed to bed.  Home sweet  home!

Home from Beijing-Part One

November 28th, 2011

Nathaniel and I had a fun long weekend in Beijing.  After getting in on Thursday night we ate dinner at an Italian restaurant and then went shopping at Jenny Lou’s, a small supermarket chain that specializes in imported groceries.  I finally got vanilla beans to try making my own vanilla.  A jar of 2 beans from Madagascar cost the same as 2 ounce bottle of imitation vanilla. 

Friday morning we went to the preschool where my friends teach and Nathaniel did pretty well being that it was a new place, with lots of cool things he’s never seen before, and that it was all in English and there are different rules and procedures.  I stayed with him and had to help him focus during the longer lessons, about 20 minutes.  Not sure exactly what things are like at his school, but I am positive that it’s very different.  He ate lunch with the seven other kids, ages 3-6, and then helped them set up their cots for naptime.  We left to play at the park for awhile and then went home.

Dinner that night was at Subway where he had his 5th or 6th taste of turkey.  He didn’t want to eat his half as a sandwich but rather in layers, asking for the meat first.  I gave it to him and said to eat the turkey.  He asked if it really was meat.  YES!  Apparently I haven’t conveyed exactly what a turkey is or is used for.  It was only five pm and the restaurant was empty except for one other table of people drinking tea and using their computers.  At one point I noticed him staring at the counter and turned to see what was so interesting.  There was a foreign guy.  I told Nathaniel that he should keep eating and not stare when he innocently asked me who the guy was.  I said that I don’t know him and told him to eat a layer of vegetables. 

Later it occured to me that he might think that I know anyone who is not Chinese, since whenever we see non-Chinese people at home I know who they are!  Twice over the weekend we saw several people with black skin and very dark skin and I was wondering what he’d say about them since I’m the only non-yellow person he sees on a daily or even regular basis.  He didn’t seem to notice them, so we’ll just have to wait.  I only hope his questions, if spoken in English around the people in question, are said with genuine inquiry and not like the stories I’ve heard about how Chinese kids react to dark skinned, non-Chinese people.

    About Charlotte

    I'm a wife, mom and freelance writer in small town China. My two kids and I are three of the dozen foreigners that live here, though we've yet to meet them.

    We're near enough to Beijing to visit occasionally, but far enough away to make it a bit of a hassle since we don't have a car.