Monday, September 28, 2009

In Which I Bore You With the Details of My Day

Ahem. So... now that I've hooked you in with that stellar title, let's get started, shall we?

Today was my second-to-last day of work. I turned in my project on Friday, actually, so today mostly consisted of sitting at my desk waiting while my boss read all 100-plus pages and occasionally shot an email question my way. Tomorrow I anticipate more of the same, with a few google searches on all sorts of crazy topics that I cannot believe I am learning about for my day job. This has been a super-interesting project, so part of me is sad to wrap it up tomorrow, but part of me is relieved to get a break. Of course it isn't much of a break because...

Wednesday happens to be the last day of school for awhile. It's National Week here in China, and this one's particularly big, because they're celebrating the 60th anniversary of the founding of communist China. I think I mentioned they're having a big parade, with tanks and soldiers and nuclear warheads. They didn't invite me, or else my invite got lost in the mail, so it looks like I'll be watching the parade like the rest of the riff-raff, on television. I don't think we'll be going anywhere either, because roads will be closed and things could get crazy. Well, and why not close the roads, just to match the internet? Everyone keeps saying they'll open up again and stop blocking Facebook, blogger, etc. after the holiday, but personally? I kind of doubt it.

But I digress. This is about my day. My wonderful, exciting day. So what else can I tell you?

That's pretty much it, really. Went home again, played with the kids, filled out my paperwork to get my VAT tax back, stared at internet pictures of beaches I'd like to go to over the winter break, read post reports for countries I'd like to live in, played with the kids, ate dinner, put everyone to bed...

All of which goes to show you: you plunk a working mom down in the middle of a foreign country, and her life is going to be just about the same as it was back in the good ole US of A.

I'll aim to have a more interesting update later in the week. Promise.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

China Moments

On Friday, as I was driving to work, I passed the construction site for the new metro line, which is conveniently located right down the street from my house. And by “conveniently,” I really mean “whose crazy idea was this, anyway?” Because the neighborhood is one crazy mix of migrant workers, piles of dirt, new cement overpasses and frazzled expats, all dodging the bikes and running the stoplights (the expats are dodging and running, that is – of course a cement overpass can’t run a stoplight. Sheesh).

I was stuck at the light watching these fellows struggle to move a wagon load of steel across the street. I took a picture with my phone. Of course, they noticed, and they slowed down to check me out – I suppose I looked as strange to them as they did to me. They hammed it up a bit as they crossed. They were actually struggling to get this massive wagon underway, but once it started rolling, a couple of the guys hopped up for a ride. And by the way – the sky? Yes, that’s just the color it is most days. It wasn’t raining – it was just… sort of dusting, I guess.

Awhile later, I passed another strange vehicle, but I couldn’t get a picture of it because I was in a precarious traffic situation. It was a 3-wheeled motorcycle, with two huge rafting inner tubes tied to the back, and some sort of homemade net, the size of a tennis racket, attached to the top of the tubes. I wish I’d been able to get out my camera. It really was bizarre.

On the way home, traffic was a nightmare. The whole city is getting ready for the big October 1st parade to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the founding of Communist China. Tanks! Weapons! Soldiers goosestepping! You’ll undoubtedly see it all on TV over there, and I highly recommend you watch it. It should prove to be quite the show. Because they’re periodically shutting down whole sections of the city to rehearse. If you live on the parade route (we don’t), you’re not allowed to open your windows or go out on your balcony during rehearsals. And you’re not allowed to invite guests to watch the actual show either. And since the streets will all be shut down, there’ll be no way to get there. So you might see more of it then me, despite the fact that I live here.

But I digress. On the way home, traffic was terrible, because there was a convoy of soldiers travelling the other way down the expressway, and everyone was slowing down to catch a glimpse. I looked, too. Bus after bus of soldiers dressed in their fanciest duds, heading in to rehearse, I suppose.

Traffic was so slow that I almost didn’t make it to Shay’s cross country meet. He placed in 3rd out of all the 4th grade boys. Type A that he is, he wasn’t happy with “only” 3rd place.

And, even though this entry doesn’t really have a beginning or a middle yet, here’s something it does have: an end.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Porcine News

The pigs are overrunning the school, with new cases of H1N1 cropping up daily. So far they've shut down the entire 8th grade and one section of 6th. Those students are all participating in virtual classrooms from home. Or, to more liberally paraphrase the notice sent home by the school, those students are spending more quality time driving their parents absolutely insane. Because, really, what kid wants to be home from school when he feels perfectly fine but is told he can't leave the house unless he wants to end up locked in a Chinese hospital?

Here at my house, we are battling this plague with a renewed commitment to hand washing. For example, instead of ignoring it when the kids come to the dinner table without washing their hands, I now forget to notice entirely, until one of them (a) grabs food off of someone else's plate with grubby hands or (b) sneezes ferociously. At that point, I shout "hey! wash your hands, all of you! do you want to get the pig flu and grow a snout?" and they mumble and groan and drag their feet all the way to the bathroom, where they are likely not using soap, anyway.

Perhaps, you're thinking, I am not taking the threat of H1N1 seriously enough? How wrong you are. I fear the swine flu. I fear the virtual classroom. I fear it's all coming our way shortly.

I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Funny Chinese Toys

Oh, there's so much that needs updating. But it was a long weekend of slumber parties and cakes and new bicycles and fights and I'm just not ready to re-live it in detail yet.

I did, however, spend a sizeable amount of time in toy stores this week. And I am here to report that there are some wacky toys being made in China these days. I did not have the courage to snap a picture of the obscene pencil sharpener in the toy store down the street. But let your imaginations run wild, folks, and I can almost guarantee you're getting close to imagining.

I did manage to snap shots of a few other toys. I used my phone, so the pictures aren't great. But here's one for you: it's a fake Lego set, marketed for girls. Do you see anything wrong with the picture? No?

Here's a close-up, to help you out. Now do you see it?

That's right. The girl on the balcony of the little sun porch is apparently getting ready to shoot the happy little parrot perched in her tree. That is one messed up set of Legos.

I had some other funny ones, but I'm too lazy to download them right now.

And speaking of lazy.... What's that quote? "Laziness is the mother of invention," or something similar. And that's how I came up with the theme for Aidan's slumber party: DIY.

That's right. They decorated their own cakes. Then we walked to a nearby restaurant they made their own pizzas. Instead of goody bags, which I loathe, they each got a t-shirt and some markers. That activity was quite a hit, except that I couldn't get one of the glitter paint pens to work. I squeezed, and I squeezed, and I squeezed some more, until POP! The pen exploded all over me and Aidan. So I guess you could say I decorated my own shirt, too. And my jeans. And my floor. All covered in gold glitter. Fancy.

I'll try to download more pictures later on, but I think I'm done for the night. Because if you've ever had a slumber party, you know there is little to no slumbering going on. And tonight, I'm hoping to make up for that with some quality pillow time.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Six Years Ago

Six years ago today, for the second time ever, I held a brand new baby in my arms and fell in love.

From then:

To now:

Yep. Still in love.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

It's Late and I'm Tired

So let's make this quick, shall we? If you're a Facebook friend of mine, then you already know that all four of my kids have gotten sick over the past week or so. It hasn't been the best of times over here.

I sent Shay back to school today. I went to work. A neighbor said, "have you heard? They found 2 cases of H1N1 at the school today." And wouldn't you know, my first thought was "oh, no, it's my two kids, isn't it?"

But it wasn't. Which means some other parent out there had a worse day than me today.

The nurses swept through the school, taking temperatures and swabbing throats. Lucky for me, my boys were fever free at last. A bunch of kids got sent home, and around 30 were put into self-quarantine for 7 days at home.

It'll be interesting to see if the government forces the school to shut down, or if the swift self-quarantine action appeases local health officials. If they do shut the school down, I imagine my new job will quickly become my old job, as I'll have to self-quarantine, too. Not really good when you have a project deadline looming.

And, oh, this project? I'm keeping way too busy and learning lots. The good thing about working at the Embassy is, there's always something new and interesting. Two bad things: no time to blog, and can't really blog about work, which is pretty much all that's going on for most of my day.

So there you have it. Spent my evening frosting cupcakes and catching up on all things domestic. But that isn't nearly as interesting as the view inside my eyeballs, so I think I'll go check out that view for a few hours.

Good night, good health.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Work/Life Balance: Day One

Today was my first day back at the Embassy. I have a new, very interesting project, and a new-to-Beijing boss.

I met my boss, chatted about her expectations, and carried a huge stack of reading materials to my desk to get started.

I sat down and started to read.

After about two hours of reading, during which time I managed to make only the slightest dent in the pile, the phone rang. It was the school, calling to tell me Aidan had a fever, and I needed to come get him right away. So I had to go tell new boss that I would be leaving early. On my first day. With a huge project looming ahead.

She was very nice about it, but I'm pretty sure she's wondering what kind of a half-rate employee they've foisted on her.

I didn't even mention that the school policy pretty much dictates that Aidan can't go back to school tomorrow - you have to be fever-free for 24 hours without medication in order to return to school.

I'm just guessing here, but I'm thinking new boss is not spending her afternoon writing up a commendation for Employee of the Year for me.

And that, my friends, is how work/life balance is achieved. Or, you know, not.
Please. Write your own stuff.