28 July, 2017

It's a good life.

When I told Brett I was ready to start celebrating my birthday - because life is hard, and every year is an accomplishment - all I wanted was one gift, and a meal out. 

The gift came early, because I thought I would use it going to and from Drama Camp, but the camp location was moved, and I've only used it locally so far.
It's a Segway-mini! I'm told they were banned in the US.







Just one small part of the hike.
Drama Camp just ended days ago, and in the meantime, Monster Jam has been setting up in Beijing. Brett happens to be facebook friends with someone on the crew, so he's been running around finding things to show them and going out at night. Two days ago, there was a problem at the stadium, so his new friends were given the afternoon off, and they wanted to visit the Great Wall. My workday finished at before 1pm, so we joined them. The Day Before My Birthday! I immediately decided that, since lunch was the big celebratory meal ON my birthday, it was valid to count the 24 hours prior - which included this day. I finally got to the Great Wall - FOR MY BIRTHDAY! 

This particular section - within an hour of Beijing - is mostly stairs, so not everyone climbed. I'm proud to say that, although I was huffing and puffing like the 3pigs' wolf, I led the pack in the hike. BOOYAH! We climbed 58 flights before having to turn back due to time.


That flower? Duck meat. It's an art.
After that, the group wanted an authentic Beijing Duck dinner, so I had that - FOR MY BIRTHDAY! It's my 3rd time eating true Beijing Duck, but it never gets old. Even Brett, not a duck fan in the US, enjoys it here. 

Pretty cool birthday! No singing, no "birthday cake", but at the end, someone mentioned it, and the whole group did wish me happy birthday. God bless Brett, he prevented them from singing.

Next day, my actual birthday. I knew where I wanted to go for birthday lunch - to a genuine German restaurant we discovered, with quality food and truly German bier. Really, I think Germany doesn't export to the US because the primary American exported beer is Bud. Seriously. Not an impressive export.
Bier, Bavarian pretzel, spaetzel, other stuff. German.
Apfel Strudel. I have never had a pastry feel un-fattening like this.


As we walked away from the German place, I saw an amazing, huge, swan-decorated cake in the window of some place called "Black Swan" and walked closer to the window. Brett said, "uh-oh. They see you. You're getting invited in." I said, "nah, they're just working."

But his view and assumption was correct. A lovely lady opened the door and invited me inside. Into this WHOA! - Hyper-Expensive cake shop. Holy crap. There were small cakes on sale for the equivalent of several hundred dollars!  Apple Strudel or no, I had not yet had any "birthday cake" so I perused the single serving counter and plumped for a "rose-framboise" (rose & raspberry) slice of cake. The equivalent of $8 for one small piece. BUT... they served it with taste samples of several macaroons and pieces of chocolate, so there you go.
Cake, and macaroon & chocolate.












Pretty cool, for someone who never celebrates their birthday, huh?

It occurred to me that my birthday will always fall during Brett's school summer break. We could take vacations to random exotic locales every year! His birthday is stuck during school term, but we could maybe do weekend trips to Chinese places for his birthday. It could become a very cool tradition. 

This morning, after we woke up, Brett said, "It's still your birthday in the States..." and sure enough, I had a voice message from a friend wishing me happy birthday. I could get used to this.

It's a good life.

19 July, 2017

Birthdays

I went to one Chinese child's 1st birthday shortly after arriving in China. There were several children and a large group of parents. It was at a restaurant with a separate place where kids could run and play. There was cake. 

This past week, the little girl I tutor turned 3. A couple weeks ago, her mom asked if I'd be free to join them to celebrate her birthday. Cool! Yes! She didn't mention Brett although we've all had dinner together before. So I guessed this might be a similar party to the one I attended months ago - with a few friends, and maybe some of the girl's other teachers. (At 2 years, she takes art, music, gym, and English. That I know of. Maybe more.)

Last week, I asked to clarify, and she said it was just us - Brett and I invited to dinner. Oh!

Her husband travels a lot with work, and I think he enjoys being around a legitimate English speaker. Maybe. I don't know. But it's always "when my husband comes back from [Nanjing, Shanghai, Canada...] we will take you out for [hotpot, Beijing duck, fish]." So I assume hubs is the influence in these decisions.

I'm not big on my own birthday, but most little kids I've met LOVE their birthday! They love the attention, the singing, the candles, the cake, the presents - everything!

Little one here didn't even know what it meant. We all kept saying "happy birthday" but she had no concept that this was all about her. It seemed bizarre. I had bought some sticker books in English for her - something educational, but fun, and not just a book to read with "teacher". Her mom let her open one while we waited for dad, and she loved it. Didn't recognize it as a birthday gift though.

I'm baffled. Why not?

Is it a religion thing? I don't know their religion, if they even practice one. Are they Jehovah's Witnesses? The Jehovah's Witnesses seem to be doing well here. Of all the people I've met in China who are a-religious, I have also met THREE Jehovah's Witnesses! I only know one Christian, besides myself and Brett. 

...and were "they" also saying happy birthday? Maybe it was just me.

How do I handle this? Should I ask, when I see her tomorrow? Did I just commit a faux pas? There was no thank you, so maybe they are just letting the water wash under the bridge. I'm so confused.

15 July, 2017

The End is Near

Again, my good intentions backfired.

I have one good friend who is flying to the Midwest to see us during our upcoming trip. One friend. Just one. 

I feel a little guilty about not being 100% thrilled that she's visiting during almost the entire duration of our stay with my parents, but - Just One Friend! So I've been focused on being THRILLED that she'll be there - she is an awesome friend.

We are less than 3 weeks before the trip, so I thought it would be kind to give her advance notice - since she *is* flying, after all - letting her know we may be delayed in picking her up from the airport, because of lunch with friends from church. I neglected to provide her with the script. In my head, it was like this:

Me: Hi! Just a heads up, but we might be delayed in picking you up, because of lunch after church. Don't forget to bring a book - at least our airport is ranked one of the best!
Her: Okay - thanks! No problem. See you when I see you!

Not knowing the script, she responded with, "Well, I don't want to wait at any airport, no matter how highly ranked."

Wow. 

To be fair, this is a person who expects the best, and always provides the best. Waiting is not her game. My mistake was assuming my previous assertion that we are keeping a very loose and flexible timeline carried any weight.

Also to be fair, I am a TINY BIT stressed, but I've not been sharing the stress on social media. So perhaps my emotional response to her rudeness is disproportionate.

So I am just going to stay off social media. No more heads-ups to anyone. My trip is my trip. Next time we're in the country, I might just not tell anyone!

06 July, 2017

Better Late Than Never

I've been neglectful. Here I spent such good effort rebuilding my blogging habit, and it has dwindled. Guess I need another challenge. These last couple weeks I haven't even visited my blogroll as much as I'd like. 

Truthfully, I have been really busy. We went to this "Mandarin Mixer" on the 24th, and since then we've checked out three different Mandarin schools and their language classes. I'm ready to commit, but not until after we return from the States.

Plus, my primary job has been bleeding into home-life with extra tasks to prepare for more video recordings.

Plus, the audio recording guy re-discovered my number and I've been down at his studio for several hours a week the last couple weeks.

Plus, I have two drama camps coming this month that I'm preparing for. I finally finished the scripts and sent them to my Chinese counterpart. One camp will do an altered version of Jack and the Beanstalk, called Jackie and the Chili-stalk. The second camp will do an original play of my own devising, based on the poem The Owl and the Pussycat. I'm quite proud of it, but may have laced it with too many inside jokes.

Plus, did I mention we're planning a visit to the US? We're within the last 4 weeks prior to departure. I bought a new suitcase last weekend.

But it's okay.
It's all good.
I'm getting very good at focusing on the moment.

At the moment, it's raining outside. A steady downpour. I walked home from the subway in it after another voice recording session.

At the moment, I'm working on a yearbook for a private preschool - Oh yeah, another project that was dropped on me a week ago, for their graduation in a month. (School years are so random.)

At the moment, I REALLY want some popcorn. Preferably air-popped, but I'd take any salty popcorn. It's all sweet here! Crazy.

At the moment, I'd better get back to the yearbook. I just needed a momentary break.

20 June, 2017

The Debate Rages On

Remember back in the 70s, when the US was going to switch to metric? I remember having to learn a little bit about it - millimeters, centimeters, decimeters, meters. Our thermometer had both Fahrenheit and Celsius, and I didn't quite get it.

In college when I learned about degrees Kelvin, I realized that Fahrenheit is the better, more precise measurement. And now I live that every day. ...Live, knowing that Fahrenheit is superior, but having to use Celsius. I don't really know if Celsius is technically "metric", but they seem linked.

The WHOLE WORLD uses Metric. With the exceptions of Myanmar - a screwed up military regime which, let's face it, has very little credibility, Liberia - a tiny African nation which was founded by American President Monroe, and of course, the good ol' USA.

I'm guessing the only reason we didn't join the rest of the world in going metric is because we're big enough that we don't have to. Think of the headaches and financial loss to have to change EVERYTHING we use, across the board!

Here are things that have messed with me in China, by being metric when I was not prepared for it:

1. Bed linens. No "queen, king, double..." How many cm? We decided our bed is about as wide as a queen, but a few cm short.

2. Measuring cups & spoons. Seriously! Do you know how many ml in a cup? I found some empirical measuring cups for my own recipes.

3. Paper. Click "print" in any document. We use A4 - which is about 8.28" x 11.8". My computer still defaults to empirical units, so I have to switch it over each time. Oh, it would print anyway, but I prefer to see an accurate pre-print image. This one item: paper - impacts EVERYTHING - planner pages, notebooks, posters, mail, file folders, banker boxes...

4. Picture frames. I brought several lovely 9x13 prints with me, determined that I need to look for frames in 23x31, BUT the closest I can find are 21x30. So I had to trim the pictures anyway.

Those are just a few odd things I noticed, apart from when my students asked me how tall I was, and looked blank when I said 5'10". 178cm gets a big reaction, though.


Tsingtao Draft
On the plus side, beer comes in half-liter cans!

I think in terms of Celsius now. I speak in Celsius. I don't do a fancy conversion in my head, but over 30 is hot, 25 is nice weather, 15 is getting cold, etc. This beer can says "5*C-25*C". 25*C is ridiculously warm for beer, in my American opinion! But, that's usually how they drink it.

Kilometers still throw me off. Then again, even State-side, I judge distance by time more often than by miles. Fortunately, I don't drive anywhere.

18 June, 2017

When That "Self-worth" Bubble Bursts

Just a short Five-Minute Friday post. On these posts, I follow the one-word prompt from  Five Minute Friday.  
 
If you want to join, click that link. (It's a new link,  if you've tried before.) Every Friday is a new word, and the only rules are:  Write for 5 minutes.  Link your post there.  (You have a whole week to get your post up.) It's pretty cool, when I remember to do it. A great community feeling.

This week's one-word is "Worth". 

  
Timer starting...


I have recently been sent into reflection questioning my own worth. I saw a friend harming herself and abandoning her goals - I'd watched for a while, actually, and never spoke up because I know there are bigger issues at play. After months - over a year - I finally, last week, reminded her of her original goal, which seems to have been abandoned.

Perhaps - no, clearly - I chose the wrong words. My intention was pure. I have been part of supposed "accountability" groups which quickly turn into "pat everyone on the back for being lesser than they could be" groups instead of "encourage everyone to step up toward their goals" groups. Drives me crazy and I leave the group. I seek accountability!

We have been friends for decades, so I knew she'd take my nudge in the correct spirit.
Wrong.
She said I was being superior, and assumed judgment.

She has no idea that I am a fragile human under my outward appearance of strength. I've been in tears for two days. What is the point of my life if not to encourage others? How can I bring value to anyone's life if all I ever do is say "you are great"?

I know a handful of people who will faithfully argue that I - my own deeply flawed self - have worth. But right now, I doubt it with every fiber of my being. 

Stop.

17 June, 2017

I'm Really Big in China

(This may not be something you want your youngsters reading, fyi.)
(Not "dirty" or NSFW content, but read before sharing.)

Not me.

As an American in China, I am a minority. In many ways. I stand out. Not just as one of a few pink-skinned Caucasians.
I am tall. Even for a white girl.
I have red hair.
I have green eyes.
I have a visible tattoo.
I wear makeup.

AND... I am "blessed in the chest." I put that in quotation marks because it is more often a curse - just ask most naturally "gifted" women.


We've been here over eight months, and only a limited amount of clothing came with us. The time finally arrived that I decided to bite the bullet and buy a bra. In the States, buying a bra isn't daunting. I know my size. Here, not only am I several sizes larger than the vast majority of the female population, I have no clue about their sizing! (You'd think it was metric, but you'd be wrong.)
Their bra sizing chart. WTF?

There's a little, free-standing, lingerie shop that I sometimes walk past on the major road nearby. I've always wanted to go in, but was scared because of my lack of language skills. The other day, they had a table out front with, presumably, sale items on it. I stopped. 
We stopped. I was with Brett. (His perspective is different.)

Years ago, I worked for Victoria's Secret. I know a thing or two about bra-fitting. My best friend now works for another undergarment brand and swears they have a better method which is hyper-accurate.

Dude. There is no bra-fitting like a Chinese bra-fitting. I don't know if it's "hyper-accurate" - there was no tape measure to be seen anywhere. Just tiny Chinese hands.

I was escorted into a fitting room that resembled a high-quality bridal boutique display room. Whoa. 

Remember Jeanie's bottle from that old TV show? Yeah. I was there. Only three times larger. And it wasn't a round room.

My tiny little Chinese attendant directed me to sit on a silk covered stool ... not on one of the many low beds covered in purple and gold silk. I took off my top, and she motioned me to remove my bra.


That was odd. 

She didn't react to my large, aging breasts exposed to her. Just held a new bra in front of me to put my arms in. Like a mother to a young child: "Here honey, put your arms in the holes!"

THEN... She fastened it at the back, reaching down into the back part of the bra to pull any extra flesh into the VERY WIDE back. (I've noticed that. Even on tiny Chinese women, the bras have ample fabric across the back. It's just the style.)

After this mini-massage pulling my back-fat into the bra, she proceeded to do the same with the front, using her tiny Asian hands to pull everything from the side into the middle, and smooth the middle across toward the side so that ALL OF ME was inside the cup.

Think of the last mammogram you had, ladies. You know how the technician pulls all that side-boob onto the slide? ALL of it.

They had me trying several different styles and prints - leopard, zebra, seafoam green... each was hand-fitted. By hand. Not by measuring. I started to be comfortable with the fact that this was just this girl's job. She wasn't weirded out by my mammary overload. A couple other bra-girls came and went at different times.

At one point, as they got a new bra ready to try, I started unfastening the one I had on, and one of the girls swatted my hands away with an exclamation of horror. 

One attendant noticed that my pale, white-girl, boob-flesh exactly matched the - what I would arrogantly call - "flesh-toned" bra, and we all shared a laugh. 

I left with one new bra to see how I like it before buying multiples. To be honest, I feel kind of weird wearing it. The girls are too front and center for my comfort. But they behave! No spilling out the top, no need for me to fix it at the bottom. I tell you what - It is the best, most supportive bra I own, even if I'm wearing a bizarre size and can't hardly see over my own melons.

If you can get over the "Help! I'm being felt up" feeling, I highly recommend a Chinese bra fitting.

Oh, and after I paid, they asked if I wanted to stick around for a massage. I guess that's what all the purple silk beds were for.