Saturday, November 27, 2010


I left home at age sixteen to go to college in a town 120 miles away. Although I was itching to get out of the house, I found to my surprise that I was terribly homesick when I got to my new dormitory. I called home at least once a day and drove my parents crazy, especially my mom who wanted me to stay home for college in the first place. One night, I couldn't find my parents at home, so I called my sister Rhonda, who said, "Yes, they're here having dinner, and they could use a break from your whining, so go find something to do and leave them alone." (She probably said it more sweetly than that, but that's what I heard at the time.) After about a week or so, my classes started, I made friends, and that was the end of my homesickness.

In 1995, I moved to Louisville, KY, again for school, and again experienced homesickness. In addition to missing my family, I missed the sunny winters, changes in elevation, and the beautiful Western sunsets against a broad horizon. I would drive down to the Ohio River or just around the elevated loop freeways just to see the sun setting behind something other than buildings or trees. My family came out to visit often, but I was only able to go home once a year, at Christmas. Although I knew when I moved to Louisville that I might not be getting back to Arizona, I couldn't shake the yearning for my home and planned to move back after graduation, but of course I met Joe before that happened. When I agreed to marry Joe, I told him that we would need to move back to some part of the West in the near future, and we moved to Flagstaff just after our second wedding anniversary (curiously, due to something he wanted to do, but I wasn't arguing).

While we lived in Flagstaff, Joe had to handle his homesickness, more of family than of place, so he would travel back each year at Thanksgiving. I would head to the much closer Valley (that's the local term for the Phoenix area) more frequently, especially when the weather was right. I would toss an email to my sisters or mother once in awhile, but didn't have much of a regular visit with family.

Now that we are here in China, Rhonda has asked if we are homesick, and I have always said no, but that's not entirely true. It's just that now, the feeling is different than the terrible pangs of my teenage years or the endless ache of my sojourn in Kentucky. Here, I just get little reminders that I'm very far away: seeing a picture from home (like the one above taken last week), a note asking if our apartment building was involved in a recent fire (it wasn't us), wanting a particular piece of clothing or kitchen utensils (the search for the potato masher reached comic proportions), and this week, Thanksgiving without my family (and having to go to work on top of it). We arranged to talk to both our families, and Joe and I had our first dinner party with some of our new friends, but it wasn't the same at all, and I think my attitude on Thursday was affected by the distance. Fortunately, I am finding that homesickness is easier to conquer here, usually by going out and doing something fun - dinner with friends, dancing in a local park, even having the nice folks at Best Hair "straighten me out." I'm not sure if this is because this new adventure is still so exciting (I am always expecting someone to yell, "Cut, that's a wrap!") or because the older me knows that time is really fleeting and I'll be back home again before I know it. We are also much more regular about talking to our families through Skype, and my weekly emails have taken the place of my blog. Jack the Dog, by the way, is doing very well, having attached himself to my brother-in-law Andy, so I guess some parting is easier to take.

Just the same, Rhonda, it's hard sometimes, but I'm still trying to take your good advice and not whine about it... too much.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Food, the Never-Ending Dilemna

The real irony of our move to China is that I have never been a fan of Chinese food, or Asian food of any kind generally. I was won over to Mongolian barbeque when I received a gift certificate to Louisville's best establishment of that sort (2 Han's Mongolian Grill, don't miss it!) from a parent at conference time. I have no argument with the basic ingredients of Asian cooking (except the fondness for shellfish and other rubbery things), but the sauces and spices are not my cup of tea. I did try several Chinese places in Flagstaff and found dishes I liked, but of course everyone warned me that "real" Chinese food would be completely different, and would spoil me for American Chinese food.

Now that we are here, we find ourselves having the same conversation as we leave school: so what shall we do for dinner? This is a conversation we brought with us from home, and it's never an easy answer. Despite having a wok, countertop oven, pot with lid, microwave, and frying pan, we have still not figured out the rhythm of cooking at home, nor have we asked our dear ayi to start cooking for us, as some of our colleagues do. I wish we could ask our upstairs neighbor what she does, because she cooks every night and it smells fantastic. We have met her when she dropped something down onto our balcony, but our relative language barriers prevented much chit-chat. In the first few weeks, we ate a lot of peanut butter and jelly, and that is still a common fallback position, but we enjoy trying our local restaurants as well. The menu prices are so cheap that we can eat out every night if we want, and we order in about once a week (more expensive, but also more variety).

One difficulty we have is in finding something to drink. Every place serves hot tea as soon as you sit, but it tastes to me like the leaves were burned before being brewed, although Joe assures me that it's very good. I drink a lot of Coke unless I can get bottled water, and Joe tries to order diet Coke but often ends up with the straight stuff as well. Once he ended up with some kind of canned flavored tea that tasted like cough syrup, so he just gave up and ordered Coke.

We have two favorites, each about a block from our house: the Japanese place, where the beef is as tender as you could ever imagine; and the Savory Eatery, where there is no English, not even on the menu, and we operate under the "point and pray" method of ordering. We have also tried a Taiwanese noodle house, a Vietnamese place, a German place (complete with Chinese waitresses in dirndl skirts), and even a lady who sells dumplings out of a doorway on a street near the subway. The last one scared me when we did it, because I had heard stories about sickness from bad street food, but her dumplings smelled and tasted delicious, and we had no ill effects.

One thing that makes us laugh is that almost every time we sit at a table, someone in the restaurant finds some Western music for us. Sometimes it's a pop hit parade including "Barbie Girl" and Michael Jackson, but probably the best was when the Japanese place played a collection of covers of Beatles and Paul McCartney tunes, including Sir Paul's hit "Live and Let Die" done in reggae. I nearly spit out my tender beef! I'm glad to say that we haven't experienced any health issues due to the food, and we hope to keep it that way, although we won't pass up good dumplings when we smell them!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Style: The Eye of the Beholder

After waiting until we were approaching a Bigfoot hairstyle, Joe announced one night that he'd like to go to Best Hair, where our kindergarten friend Ocean had a very successful experience for only 30Y (about $4.50). It's very close and I had given up on solving my tangled ends with any type of product, so I agreed to give them a try as well. We were ushered in, seated right away and brought the usual cup of hot water (which is faithfully offered even on the hottest day in August). After some negotiations in broken English and limited Mandarin, with a healthy dose of charades thrown in, the stylists went to work.
I had asked for a shampoo prior to my cut, having heard rhapsodies on the subject from our new friends, but Joe went right for the scissors, and his stylist (Jason #8) never once touched a razor, doing everything by careful and precise scissor work. Meantime, I was lathering up under a process whereby the shampoo is dissolved in a bottle of water and applied to my dry hair like tint or bleach. My stylist (Bao Bao) worked up quite a head of lather and piled it on the top of my head until I looked like a white haired queen. She also started a very thorough head massage with her thumbs of steel (more on that later). After a couple of latherings, we went upstairs to rinse out and apply great smelling conditioner, then back downstairs for the cut, I presumed. However, when I got back in the chair, a second stylist (Pa Pa) came over with her blowdryer and Bao Bao offered massages to my neck, shoulders, arms and hands, in which her thumbs of steel seemed sure to leave bruises. Massage is a funny thing. Bao Bao also cleaned my ears with a finely twisted Q-tip, which was pretty much as weird as you might imagine, but I kept my hearing.
By this time, Joe, figuring we weren't going anywhere anyway, was in the middle of his own shampoo and abbreviated massage (he skipped the arms, hands and probing Q-tip). It was a good call, because Pa Pa had started on the process of blowing my hair out completely straight. This is a totally useless quest, whether done by me or by a professional, but there was no way to explain that to Pa Pa, so I sat quietly and smiled a lot. After about half an hour, she got a beautiful, flat glossy look (seen above) that was no doubt the best she could do with my crazy kinky Western hair. The pics have been the hit of my Facebook page... too bad such a 'do requires so much effort (and would frizz right back at the first hint of humidity).
A couple of nights later, after finding too many knots that simply wouldn't come out, I headed back to Best Hair. Bao Bao and Pa Pa weren't there (and I haven't gotten a translation yet for their status, probably because I can't reproduce the sound of the word correctly), so I sat down with one of Joe's stylist (called Gui), who went upstairs and brought down another male stylist (never got his name). I went straight for the cut, indicating that I just wanted a trim of the ends, and that worked fairly well, but then the boys really wanted me to have a shampoo (which is after all, part of the fee), so I said yes. At this point the hard sell started, because my hair really was quite ratty, so Stylist Not-Gui decided that I had terrible hair damage and needed a very expensive treatment. Once I figured out what he wanted, I turned him down (a few times, even after he went upstairs to get the treatment bottle and show me). There was just no way to explain that I hadn't been to the salon in about six months and the cut was really all I needed to restore health. The blow dry was charaded as the "curly" style, which consisted of blowing everything out straight, then putting the curl back in with a small barreled round brush. When he was finished (and it looked very pretty, if rather flat), Stylist Not-Gui gave me a look that said quite clearly, "Well, crazy woman, this is the best I can do with it." Having seen that look before, I laughed out loud and assured both of the boys that it was just great (hen hao). I'm sure Best Hair will rest easy knowing that I might not be back for awhile!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Spots of Contentment

The Chinese internet is a very fickle thing. Our colleagues report some intermittent problems in service, but we really had a bad weekend after our first week of regular school, and that was very frustrating. Seeking some peace, we hopped on the subway to YuYuan Garden, a small plot of land made into a garden for a local ruler back in the 1500s, which is being restored after the destruction of the Cultural Revolution. The garden sits amid giant skyscrapers and commercialism of every description, but is itself a beautiful haven, and we were able to relax a little and remember that patience is a virtue. We bought a new router and did what we could throughout the weekend, finally calling our young friend Joey, who is 15 or 16 and knows everything tech. He waited patiently for the second China Telecomm technician to leave, tapped away on our keyboard, physically separated our modem and router, and had us working again by Sunday night. We also had our first Mandarin session with Tony, a young university student who is trading Mandarin lessons for help with his conversational English, so let's hear it for nice young people everywhere!

Our second week with students was threatened by a typhoon, and school was canceled on Wednesday, per order of the Shanghai Education Department. The day in question happened to be the first regular day of classes for the Shanghai public schools (Sept 1), so the local kids just got an extra day of summer. We were summoned to work at school just the same, so we got some extra planning time, which is always welcome. The typhoon, by the way, veered off toward Korea at the last minute, so the rain that fell would barely have been noticed in Phoenix, but it was nice to know that other school districts have difficulty dealing with weather predictions.

We had little bits of happiness during this week. First, I tried leaving a very short note of Chinese characters for Luo Yan, our ayi, to indicate that we were leaving her monthly wages. When we issued her August wages directly to her, we had some trouble communicating the purpose of the money, so I looked up the characters in the Oxford dictionary to say "for you." To my amazement, I got it right, and Luo Yan left a note saying thanks in English and characters. Next, we got our first piece of personal mail in our apartment box, an envelope of Sunday comics from my sister, Jill. What fun! Finally, we went on our first Payday Friday dinner to a Taiwanese restaurant named JoJo. Our Mandarin colleague, Helen, did the ordering, and the food just kept coming. We learned how to ask for a doggie bag (da bao) and how to count with hand gestures, which Joe is ready to use at his next wet market visit.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Meeting the New Students

The weekend was a good one when we finally got the internet connected at the apartment, and we were able to give our families a Skype tour of the whole place. We found a large grocery store much closer than Carrefour, so that will be useful, and we tried our first pizza delivery. It was delivered by bicycle and the toppings all slid to one side during the ride, but once we got everything shoveled back into place, it was "not bad," which is a popular way for Westerners to describe things, especially food related things, in China. "How was the new noodle shop?" "Not bad." We are hoping to find the places that are maybe a little better than "not bad."

The new students are definitely above the food standard. They are energetic (especially the first and second graders!), bright, and very cute. We have a lot of Asian and American students, but also a strong contingent of Swedish and Dutch. One of my first graders speaks nothing but Dutch and has no Dutch speakers in his classroom, so he is really operating under the sink-or-swim method. The kids had a great time laughing at me as I tried to pronounce their names, and many of the Asian students were quick to offer their Western names instead. I have a lovely fifth grader from Germany, so I asked him to say my last name over and over because it sounds so great when he says it. Each class is just under twenty students and I have fifteen classes, so the week stays very busy, but I managed to be in the right place at the right time.

Joe's office is really a work in progress. He has no furniture except a chair, no phone, and (horror), no air conditioning. He has the A/C control pad, but the office is a fairly recent partition of the building, so they forgot to include a vent in the ceiling, but the powers that be assure him it will be done soon. We celebrated our first week with a couple of dining forays, first to a burger place that offers burgers and drinks at two-for-one on Mondays, then to a neighborhood place called Casa Rosita which has absolutely no Mexican food, but we loved the Chinese food anyway (far above "not bad" so hooray). They put us in the front window table so the rest of the 'hood could see the Westerners eating there, and they played some Western pop music ("Barbie Girl" and various Michael Jackson tunes) so we would feel right at home. For those who wonder what one eats at a Chinese restaurant with a Mexican name, I had a Taiwanese fried pork chop and green beans fried with as much bacon product as possible. Joe had kung pao chicken and pork fried rice, although we skipped the pork parts, as they were somewhat wormlike in appearance. Just the same, we'll be back.

We had a tough Friday night because our internet was down when we got home. Joe did some fiddling and got it back, so he left to meet some friends, but was back shortly because he couldn't find a taxi. The internet had gone down again, so we watched some NCIS and went to bed. We have bought a few movie DVDs and decided to try a TV series. We got the entire set, all six seasons, for the low low price of 40 RMB, which comes out to about $7.75 US. Many of the titles are very recent (even some movies still in US theaters) and the quality is, you know, not bad.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Small World Syndrome Hits Shanghai

Last night, we went to hear the London Symphony Orchestra play in the Shanghai Oriental Arts Center. Joe had noticed the concert on a website before we moved, and we would never have this kind of opportunity in the States, so we were looking forward to the concert: Bernstein Symphonic Dances from West Side Story, Liszt Piano Concerto #1, and Rachmaninov Symphonic Dances. Amazing and chop-wrenching repertoire, and our seats were perfectly placed to see the keyboard and hear every note from the stage below, especially the power and precision of the brass section (lead trumpet is 22 years old). We really got our money's worth, as the pianist gave two encores (Chopin Etude in E flat and Satie Gymnopedie #1) and then the orchestra gave three (Dance of the Buffoons, a Chinese piece very popular with the audience, and... wait for it... Star Wars)! It was thrilling from the first note, and I was amazed to be hearing such a great orchestra and proud to be from the country that produced Bernstein.

Our friends the Giffords were there, because one of the violists from the orchestra is also the piano teacher to the Gifford children. We weren't sitting with them, but we talked to them before the concert and they asked us to come with them after the concert to meet the violist, so we agreed. By the interval (called the intermission by us common folk), we were looking for food and drink of any kind, but nothing was available, to my surprise. However, we discovered that meeting the violist involved getting on one of the orchestra buses and riding over to the hotel with the players post concert. In addition to the violist (Caroline), we met a violinist (Colin) and a cellist (Jenny), all of whom spoke to us as if it were perfectly natural to have strange Americans on the bus. We got to hear the story of the orchestra's flight over, when an oil light came on over Holland. Without the ability to check the dipstick right there, the flight was returned to London Heathrow, where the orchestra sat for the rest of the day. The funny part is that the concert tour is sponsored by Rolls Royce, and the engine that blew was, you guessed it, a Rolls engine. What sort of karma is that?

Upon arrival at the hotel (after I slobbered over both the principal clarinet and the principal bassoon), we went up to Caroline's room with Colin and found a great spread waiting for us, including lovely English cheddar, which is a great delight in this land of unbelievably sub-standard cheese. While we munched on cheese, grapes, chocolate, drinking either Chinese wine or Earl Grey tea (from the real country - Caroline believes in bringing her comfort food), we were joined by Nigel (violin), Jenny (cello) and Dick (viola). While chatting about this and that, Colin asked where we lived and when we told him about Flagstaff, he said he had been there to visit a violinmaker. Well, there's only one in Flag, so I mentioned Jeff's name, and all of a sudden, Colin didn't seem like a stranger at all. When we also mentioned our friend David (former LSO horn player), the room erupted with people who knew him, and somehow we were then among friends. The evening went until well after midnight, and Joe and I were pinching each other to be sure this was really happening. If you had told us a year ago that we would be partying with the LSO and talking about the next time we might get together, we'd never believe you, but this is China, where unbelievable things happen all the time.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Getting Around

To properly enjoy the traffic in Shanghai, it helps if you are a die-hard roller coaster fan, which I am. Let's start with the taxis. They are very cheap, about $2.00 for a short ride, maybe $4.00 if you're really going somewhere (30 minutes or so). We have ridden with cabbies who got lost a couple of times, and the driver turned off the meter both times, which was very impressive to me. I was in a cab in Louisville and we got lost in Cherokee Park, an easy thing to do, but believe me, the ride was full fare even on the scenic route. While there are traffic laws in Shanghai, they are taken more as suggestions, so trips really feel like a giant game of chicken, and the cabbies are often the boldest drivers on the road, even against buses and delivery trucks. I like to sit behind the driver, because you really get the best view of what is coming, especially the creative lane changes and mergers. Horns honk in abundance here, so my genteel friends from the South should probably bring earplugs for their visits. I gasped a lot in the first couple of weeks, but now I tend to laugh more and give the cabbie encouragement where I can.

You can also use the buses, which we haven't tried, but many of our colleagues swear by them, or the subways, which we use with pleasure. Our neighborhood subway line (Line 10) is the newest in the rapidly expanding system, which means that it is the cleanest, best air-conditioned and most high-tech. While waiting for a train, which comes every five to six minutes on the weekdays and twelve minutes at most on a weekend, we are entertained by video feeds of Expo commercials, sports highlights (a surprising amount of volleyball lately), or news. We have tried some transfers to other lines, but still have a lot of work to do in that area, as the maps are obsolete almost as soon as they are printed. We found our English map underneath our sofa, and it's not bad.

Another transportation option is the scooter or bicycle (electric or otherwise). These vehicles have a special lane at the edge of all major roads, one way with that side of traffic. Most of the time they all go that direction, but this lane can be obstructed by someone who decides to ride opposite traffic, a four wheeled vehicle that decides to park (usually quite suddenly), or (God help 'em) a cabbie who is tired of sitting in traffic and uses the two-wheeled lane instead. Again, horns are honked with great enthusiasm, and absolutely every human-powered bike takes special pride in having the squeakiest brakes possible so that you know that you have offended the rider by walking too slowly in front of him. The really impressive bikes have giant loads of all sorts of material that dwarf the rider and make the vehicle slightly more dangerous than a car, mainly because the brakes probably aren't as good.

Now we come to the lowly pedestrian, farthest down on the transportation food chain. The sidewalks are beautiful, tree-lined and broad, but that only makes them more convenient for the bikes and scooters, who are trying to avoid the cars and cabs in their lane. We have seen one car driving on the sidewalk, but usually cars are just parked there. Nevertheless, the sidewalks are the best place to see your neighbors out relaxing, sitting on various blankets or other ground cover, entertaining the preschoolers and babies. If you are walking late enough at night, you will also see people sleeping beneath the huge trees, as it's pretty hot inside at this time of year.

Of course, you can't walk down these beautiful boulevards too far before you have to cross a road. One of our friends who lived in China says she is only afraid of two things here: using a public toilet, and crossing the road. The intersections are governed somewhat by traffic lights, but again, these are merely suggestions and don't always apply depending on the type of traffic that is approaching. Government or police cars are completely immune to traffic laws and lights, and the hapless pedestrian has to watch out for right hand turns, because those are lawful regardless of the light color. Seriously, they don't even slow down, and don't forget, you have two lanes of turners, the cars and the bikes/scooters. The new arrival book suggests that you just cross when you think you can, and don't take too much time. I start just off the curb, move quickly through whatever two-wheeled traffic is coming (figuring that my large bulk will scare them off a bit), then stand at the slight curb to watch the four-wheeled traffic. If the road looks clear, I book it across, regardless of the color of the light or the pedestrian signal, although I do look behind for potential left turners from the intersecting road, because they can take you out and you never see them. I'm pretty sure a lot of the locals are laughing quietly at me, but I'm getting good at this. If you are good at the video game "Frogger," you're probably ready to cross a Chinese street.

Our neighborhood is fairly well off, and we see a startling (for us) number of very expensive cars; Audi, BMW, Mercedes, a Bentley, and even a lovely Rolls on frequent occasions. They tend to be black, perhaps because the earliest cars on the road were government cars and they were black. In all this controlled chaos, we have seen only one accident so far. A delivery truck had rear-ended a cab (most of the good cabs are VW sedans - not Beetles) on Hongqiao Road and the two drivers were out discussing the matter while the rest of traffic darted around them, honking angrily. Although the accident occurred right in front of a police station, the police were not involved, and after a lively discussion, the cab driver picked up his back bumper, somehow stuck it back onto the rear of the cab, and they both drove off.

Moral of the Chinese transportation story: Mao helps those who help themselves.

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Second Week - Meeting the Old Hands

This week was full of meetings and more trips to places and a party or two. We learned that Carrefour, like Wal-Mart, is best visited at odd hours, such as right when it opens at 7:30 a.m. During one such visit, we met Kathy and Bill, SCIS parents who also happen to work for a US governmental agency, which means that our years here in China will count for our state retirement in AZ, and that's very good news. They have three kids at the school and I will have the youngest in my class, plus she wants to play the violin, so we made the parents a little happier. We also visited a music store (Best Friends), where I fell in love with the gu-cheng, a Chinese traditional harp that rests horizontally on a stand and has 21 pentatonic strings (that's the five note scale that many early American hymn tunes used). The instruments were beautifully carved and inlaid with mother of pearl and surprisingly not very expensive, maybe $300 at the most. We also had duck with noodles for dinner, which was more gristle and bone than meat, but tasty just the same, and we were pleased with our new mattress pad and sheets, so I guess that Ikea trip was worth it, sort of.

We had a terrible start to our Sunday with the news that our second toilet was stopped up, and we were still suffering a bit from, shall we say, digestive readjustment. We ran to school for Skype meetings with family, then to Carrefour (third trip in 24 hours) for plumbing supplies, then off to church, where we got a couple of miracles handed to us. First, the pastor preached on how hard it can be to maintain a marriage in a city where things go wrong (okay, who told him about our toilet?), then we happened to sit in the same pew as the Gifford family, recently of England but now reassigned to China by Mr. Gifford's employer, National Public Radio. Some of you faithful readers might be saying to yourselves, "Hey, didn't she quote a passage by somebody named Rob Gifford a few months ago?" Why yes, dear reader, and here was the very same Rob Gifford sitting down the pew. I confess that I had a short fit, recovered, and introduced the family to Joe, who was equally amazed. I also confessed to Mr. Gifford about using his book in my blog, but he generously agreed not to sue me. (He didn't mention his publisher, however.)

The returning staff is a fun loving and helpful bunch, and I have a true leader in Helen Bendell-Hughes, the other music teacher. She is completely unconcerned about my lack of experience in general music and brims over with great ideas for everything. We also managed to get the VPN downloaded to our school computers, facilitating my triumphant return not only to this blog, but also to FACEBOOK! We were welcomed back with many digital cheers. Our ayi, Luo Yan, is the best housekeeper ever and I think we're just sorry we didn't ask her to cook. I read a different definition of ayi as "caretaker" which is a much better description for this lovely woman. By the end of the week, all our plumbing in both bathrooms was back to normal, we had keys to our rooms, and we felt sort of ready to start with the children on Monday. We ended our second week with a school sponsored bash at a downtown club on the 65th floor of a swanky hotel. Joe was the social butterfly while I sat and reviewed the partygoers with my friend Cheryl.

Our last hepatitis shot was quite an adventure. Normally, this is a 30 minute process if the county nurse wants to chat for a bit, but of course, everything has a new path in China. We made the appointment on Monday afternoon to return on Friday morning and got it approved by our new health care provider (really excellent benefits, but not in the US or Canada). When we arrived for our appointment, the process became an intake interview with our new doctor, Dr. Hussain from India, who speaks no Mandarin despite living in the country for four years. His conversations with the staff are decidedly brief. He approved our final shots, then Nurse Tina took us downstairs, where she accompanied us in the security guard's car for a trip to the Japanese clinic where the shots are actually administered. We had to wait at the clinic for 30 minutes to check our reactions, then back in a taxi to the hospital, where we had to meet with Dr. Hussain again to be sure everything was done correctly. By the time we were done, more than two hours had passed, but I guess it's nice to have your hands held in a country where you are functionally illiterate.

Next post, the real adventure of China: riding in taxis!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The First Week: Meeting the Other Newbies

When we last left our heroic traveling couple, they had just been dropped off at their new apartment in Shanghai...
Carnival Garden 4-201 is our new home, and it is far more beautiful than we could have imagined. Three large bedrooms, two bathrooms, large main living/dining room, laundry room and kitchen, and more storage than we needed even if we had brought everything from home. The floors are either terrazo tile or varnished wood, and the A/C works beautifully (which we might regret when we get our first electric bill). Our abundant luggage was waiting when we pulled up, and the bus driver and a few doormen got it up to our apartment, where we were met with the lauded fruit basket, one key, and yes, the famous stacks of money. We had to count it before we signed for it. We have two beds, one "king" (which might be larger than our king at home) and a "twin" (which is definitely a double), and the only drawback is that a Chinese mattress consists of springs covered by probably a 3/4 inch piece of solid wood, encased in material about the thickness of corduroy. It is, as promised, harder than anything we could have imagined, and we are eyeing the overstuffed leather couches as a potential alternative. Jet lag did hit hard the first day, so we took a long nap at noon, then got up, put things away and took a walk around the neighborhood.
Having no phone or internet service for the apartment, we headed over to school as soon as we could the next morning (which was quite early, as the time adjustment also meant we woke up around 4:00 a.m.), and Skyped with Joe's parents, then Rhonda and my mom. We had a little tour of the local shops, including the French sponsored Carrefour, which is much like a Super Wal-Mart, except with very little English and a cat in the vegetable/fruit section. We also put some faces to email names and started working on setting up utilities and finding someone to fix a stopped toilet (the school sent over a maintenance worker right away). The weekend found us again at Carrefour, where we met some of our new colleagues and had a nice dinner at a little diner. We had an initial unintentional subway ride on Saturday evening, when the security guard ordered some tickets for us and sent us on our completely unguided way. We managed to make it home again, and had a better experience on Sunday afternoon when we took off to find the Shanghai Community Fellowship, a great non-denom evangelical church with excellent A/C (that is becoming very important to me) and an even better preacher. The sermon was from Psalm 121 and was about how God guides us through the most confusing of circumstances if we will only trust Him, a much needed word in a long weekend.
The first week was a series of meetings and tours to different places: a hospital, a shopping mall, Ikea, the health inspection (not too bad). We met the Gribbles from Seattle, Amanda from Tucson, the Watts from Australia, and just about everyone else. The school fed us both breakfast and lunch (although after the first day, breakfast was just muffins and fruit), and we had one nice dinner at Big Bamboo, an American-style restaurant in a food street (Hong Mei Lu). We managed to get our bottled water service started (through Nestle, but not much English), had more toilet issues, and everyone started getting sick. Montezuma visited most of us, just cramps and such in our house, but some were running rather high fevers. I was the sickest on our Ikea day, and have vowed never to go back unless I must. We do need a few more things, but I'm going to try to get them online and delivered from the local store! We also met our ayi, a lovely tiny woman named Luo Yan, who will start next week if we can get an extra key and door card.
By the end of the week, we still didn't have internet or phone at home, but we had our school laptops and could run back and forth for email and Skype purposes. We also got a few electronics matters handled (good old Carrefour doesn't do clock radios) in the special electronics mall, which is conveniently close to the Shanghai Best Buy for anything else. My email buddy Steve Venema, who is unbelievably tall, led that expedition, and it seems that whatever you need, Steve knows a guy. Very handy.
We got a crash course in Mandarin and received a four page "cheat sheet," with lots of phrases in Chinese characters and pinyin, the English equivalent. Our tutor, Shirley Huang, teaches Mandarin at the school and is fixing us up with her university son, who needs to polish his English, for some language exchange. The cheat sheet is an amazing entree into the Chinese world; as soon as we bring it out, smiles break out everywhere and we are quizzed (and corrected) on every page of the guide, followed by instruction in more words and phrases as our Chinese friends deem useful. Our Mandarin, while still quite pitiable, is increasing every day, and we practice, sometimes by choice and sometimes by necessity, like when we went to the apartment management office to get an extra door card for Luo Yan. It is frustrating to be so hogtied by a lack of language skills, and we are certainly experiencing lots of adjustment, but the city is exciting and we are seeing so many new people and places that we have hardly had time to be homesick.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Flying and Landing

We've been in Shanghai now just over two weeks, and I have more to post than I ever imagined, so I'll try to break it down into manageable chunks, which is not my strong suit, so good luck, dear reader (always loved that phrase).
The flights were both great. Southwest got our bags checked with a minimum of fuss; it seemed when we were okay with paying for the extra two bags, nobody really cared how much they weighed. I did have a little moment during boarding because my carryon was too stuffed to fit in the overhead, so the flight attendants had to check it from the plane. I didn't figure I would need very much in a one hour flight, so that was fine with me.
LAX was an easier gig than I had expected. To begin, it was total fog when we landed around 7:00 p.m., so that made for a nice walk from one terminal to the other. We had our ten bags loaded onto two SmartCartes (a very well named device) and were hustling up on the elevator in the terminal where we landed to find our Korean Air gate. Silly first time travelers! Fortunately, we made some small talk with a maintenance worker in the elevator, and when he realized what we wanted, he got us directed back downstairs and out to the sidewalk, where we found an LAX volunteer who pointed us to the international terminal. There was no way we were going to unload all those bags into any type of motorized transportation, so we just started pushing, and after about 15 or 20 minutes, we got to the right place.
Korean Air is a complete delight. First, the baggage check was very simple (once we found the right desk) and the desk clerk politely told us that we could put more weight in the checked bags if needed (something about our pounds to kilos conversion). Hallelujah! We moved a ton (or at least twenty pounds) from our carryons to the big red duffles, and wheeled our lighter selves away. We had some Mexican food, more or less, and headed to the gate. LAX does not appear to offer wifi, free or otherwise, and the boarding process was less than orderly, mainly because our gate had absolutely no seating, so people milled about like sheep. We sat on the ground near a plug to juice up the laptop and wouldn't budge even when a gate agent was trying to set up some boarding lines. I told him if he wanted me to move, he would have to find me a new outlet (it was nearing midnight and I was getting pretty tired), so he backed down from the Ugly American.
Did a lot of sleeping on the big flight, and that is definitely a good preventer of jet lag. Our seatmate was a very quiet young Asian woman, and we really didn't talk to her until we had landed in Seoul. The Seoul airport was a bit hot (oh ha, I didn't know what was coming), but we managed to settle in and Joe napped while I gratefully surfed the web and did my last Facebook posting and chatting. The connecting flight was more organized in the boarding and we got a little bit of immigration paperwork done, as well as a pretty good nap. The Shanghai airport seemed completely deserted to us, and we almost didn't find our way off the jetway. After the wonderful service by the Korean Air staff, the Chinese airport workers seemed a bit distant, but I'm guessing it was more of a language barrier. The immigration line was swift and easy; not only did I not get hauled immediately to prison, I'm not even sure the clerk looked at me. I tried my best "ni hao" and "xie xie," maybe even "zai jian" to no effect. Baggage claim was also simple and everything made it, much to our delight. We cruised through customs with nothing to declare (our musical instruments probably exceeded the dollar limit, but we don't have valuations and weren't going to make extra trouble), and no inspection of our bags.
The pickup by the school was just like a movie, with our names and the school name on a butcher paper sign, and I'm sorry I didn't ask for the sign then, because it has since disappeared. Our Head of Schools, Mike Donaldson, was there to greet us and he knew us right away, probably due to the ten bags. He loaded our luggage into a school "bus" (which is really a 15 passenger van), loaded us into his very nice car, and off we went to our new apartment and life.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Longest Week

Well, yes, I'm a bit overdue on my blog post, but I'm not really talking about temporal matters here. I can't even remember back to when I last posted; the last few days have been so full and busy that I thought they might never end. However, now I'm sitting in Sky Harbor ("the friendliest airport in the country"), our SIX bags are checked (more in a moment), and we're waiting for our flight to LA, where we will connect with our flight to Shanghai. This is it!

On the house front, the renters decided to stick with the original three-bedroom plan (oh thank heaven!), so we stuffed the entire studio with our personal belongings, at least those that didn't end up in luggage or the Salvation Army, where the staff now recognizes us by sight. We found a second twin bed on Craigslist and outfitted everything with new quilts. Dan tracked us down at our last La Fonda Friday night dinner and got the keys, so the house is no longer our own. The rental idea had one unexpected consequence learned in our Tuesday meeting with Gerry the CPA; if we rent our home, we are not allowed to spend more than 14 days per year in the house. The more alarming statistic was about exclusion of our Chinese income, however. If we don't want to pay US taxes, we have to be out of the country for 330 days, which means we can't come home until July 7th. That was a pretty big shock, considering that our teaching year ends on June 17th, but we did take some comfort when we realized that Canada is NOT part of the US, so we can at least come back to the North American continent. We're working on a big family trip so everyone can see us sooner (my brother-in-law wanted to know if the dogs should come as well). It makes me feel slightly like some kind of weird draft dodger.

The luggage was packed, re-packed, and packed once more, and we were still overweight on all four checked bags, so Joe called both airlines (Southwest and Korean Air) and found out that we'd be better off paying for two extra bags. Jill and Rhonda were conscripted into baggage transport, having made the mistake of offering to drive us to the airport. The Southwest guy could not have been nicer, although I think he was a little surprised at so many bags for just two people. Family farewells were hard, but Joe's family was kind enough to gather together for one final Skype, and we managed to break up most of the goodbyes to my family over the last two days. My mom had knee replacement surgery yesterday at the same hospital where my father had his open heart surgery, and it was very hard to say goodbye to her while she was sitting in a hospital bed, but she is quite the good soldier and wished us her very best, while amusing us with her morphine-induced conversation. That is one fun drug to observe!

Little things from this week: we had a great lunch with my former accounting professors, the Pitts, and their son Brenden, who taught for two years in Japan. Ron has also recently traveled to China, so we got many good tips, and the food was fantastic (Kay is a good Oklahoma cook). We transferred title for the Corolla to Aaron, who has already washed and waxed the car, tinted the windows and fixed just about everything that was wrong. He loves that car more than I ever did, so I'm glad it's in his hands. Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook founder, claims in a blog post that he has a FB network in China, but he didn't mention how I could connect to that network. Very helpful, Mark. Finally, a piece of advice: when you need to cry, find a nice public place. We had our last dinner with Faun and Randy and Mira and Bruce on Saturday night at Horsemen's Lodge, a great Flagstaff steakhouse. Joe needed to do some shopping at the mall (very unusual for him), and I finally got to tired to walk around, so I took a seat outside Dillard's and did some people watching. At some point I realized I wouldn't be near Faunie again for a good long time, and I just started to cry. Although there were lots of people all around me, nobody came over to try to help me or ask what was wrong; they just let me get it all out. It was terrific, and I'm going to remember that probably quite a bit in the next few days/weeks/months.

I hope to post again very soon, but have some patience. Next post, Shanghai!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Single Digits

We are nine days away from getting on the plane. Holy cow!

Parties have continued with our return to Flagstaff. Monday night (Joe's actual birthday) found us at our favorite haunt, La Fonda, for a party with some of our FUSD colleagues, plus Bruce and Mira, Shirl and Bob. We were another party of 13 and we skipped the speech this time, but we managed to make little postcards with our new email addresses and our blog site, so everyone can go read all about it. Joe's Cromer colleague Carole brought us small travel gifts including Tush Wipes, much to the amusement of all. Oh yes, we also got to admire Faun's latest broken extremity, her left foot, which she broke stepping off a curb while on vacation in Colorado. She called us to tell us the news, but only told Joe, fearing a wild rant from me, so I just posted an oblique reference on Facebook. Saturday was a big party at Faun's house with friends coming from all over and lots of fun. We visited with the Shaws, the Cooks, the Schwartzes, the Horowitzes, the Juliens, Cindy and Jimmy, Paul, Leslie, Jill, Nancy, Bret, and of course, Faun and Randy. The burgers were great, the weather was perfect, and we took enough pictures to plaster our walls. We gave the speech and then Mr. Shaw asked if we could do it again, but this time with Joe speaking and me interjecting. Everybody's a comedian!

We also had a great visit on Tuesday with our friend Rick and his gorgeous wife Darla, coming through town on their way back to Mesa from their Montana hideaway. Rick flies to Korea on Tuesday, so he gave us his Vonage number and got us caught up on his progress, which is pretty good. His school has been in very close touch with him and he knows a lot more about what will happen when he lands in Suwon (southwest of Seoul). Also, we heard from our friends Paul and Jing (the couple from Kansas City who we met at the fair and were hoping to get a job in China to be near Jing's family), with the good news that Paul got a job in Tianjin, on the coast near Beijing, so we will have more UNI job fair friends somewhere near.

Our SCIS email appears to be offline at the moment, but we did receive an interesting email a week ago regarding new administrative changes. Nancy Stubbs (no relation to our dear stalker Jeff) has retired from her position as director of curriculum, so Tammy Rodabaugh, who was to be our new principal, has taken that position, moving the assistant principal (whose name I can't remember, but it's nothing like mine) to principal of the Lower School. I will miss working directly with Tammy, but I am relieved that little first graders aren't going to have to distinguish between Rodabaugh and Rauschenbach. I wonder if that's why she left? Also in SCIS news, my Aussie email buddy Steve (the orchestra director) announced that he and his wife Nicole are expecting their second child, which doesn't affect us that much, but it feels like we're making friends.

The primary packing for storage purposes has begun in earnest. Anticipating a visit from Jill, her grandson Bret, and our friend Nancy, we got the office cleared out enough to put a twin bed on the floor for Bret. We have bedrails also, but discovered that we have no box spring, causing the mattress to sag pitifully, so we just ditched the rails for now. However, that sparked an email to Dan, our renter-in-chief, to ask about whether the twin mattress would be part of a bunk bed arrangement (thus eliminating the need for a box spring). He wrote back the astonishing news that they were planning to put an extra bed in the guest room and oh yes, could Jane use the fourth bedroom (you know, our storage room)? I nearly had a stroke! Joe suggested adding some extra money to the rent for the fourth bedroom, so Dan said he'd talk to Jane and let us know. I also suggested that the office would be the only place big enough for a second bed, so we'll see what we hear tomorrow (our deadline for fourth bedroom notification). We also got our rental checking account set up, Joe found the way to clean our popcorn ceilings with the Shop Vac (and they were disgusting!), and we have an appointment with our CPA friend Gerry to determine how our finances (primarily tax matters) will be handled in our absence. I went to a continuing ed tax seminar on Friday and had my eyes opened quite a bit, so I have a list of questions for poor Gerry.

Next week is the last blog post I know I can write, because I'm not sure how long it will take me to get set up in Shanghai with the VPN. I have some email groups set up to get notice that we landed, but I sure hope the communications will fall into place quickly. I still have people working on the Facebook issue, and it occurred to me today to actually send a note to the geniuses who run the site; hey, maybe they've put some thought into this!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Joe turned 40 on July 19th, and we had a lot of fun with that during our weekend in Phoenix. We started down on Friday at noon, leaving Flagstaff with Joe, Jack, and our grandnephew Nathan, fresh from a week visiting his Flagstaff grandmother. About halfway down the hill (which is what we say when traveling from Flag to Phx), we realized that the Corolla's A/C is no longer working, and things got much warmer after that. Phoenix was having temps in the 110s plus monsoon humidity, so by the time we got to Rhonda's house, we were pretty warm and sweaty, especially Joe, who got to have Jack sitting on his lap most of the time. Fortunately for us, Rhonda and Andy were willing to let us borrow transportation with A/C, so we went to our first party on Friday night in fairly good style. Kim Marchbanks put together a party of 13 or so, plus assorted children, for friends who used to go to First Southern Baptist in Glendale. We ate and talked and laughed until well after 11:00 and Joe and I gave our little speech about how we arrived at this big decision, with lots of support and interest from all.

The second party was on Saturday, with just a few family members at the Miracle Mile Deli in the Arrowhead Mall. Joe and I took a little time to cruise the mall and Joe decided that all the clothes were either too old or too young for him, and that must be the problem with turning 40! We met Jill, her daughter-in-law Jaysen, Jill's grandson Logan, and our cousins Tib (newly naturalized after four tries and over 40 years living here), Julie, Debbie and Andrew. Miracle Mile does the only decent pastrami sandwich in this country (I tried them in NYC, no good), so we enjoyed both the food and the company quite a bit, and the cousins had lots of travel and Asian living advice.

The last party was on Sunday, when 33 people crowded into Rhonda's house for her fantastic green chile burros along with red and green tamales and everything else that goes with Mexican food. (Rhonda said we didn't need to have Chinese food, because that's not what we'd be missing.) We had Rhonda's family (children and grandchildren), David and Pam and all the children and grandchildren from their oldest son (we don't even know some of their names, there's so many), Jill and her youngest son's family, cousins Gene and Glenda, Dorothy and Maxine, friends Kay and Charlie and a couple of girls (Nicole and Mariah) who may or may not be related. We gave our speech (for those who don't read the blog), and we also had birthday cake and three family songs. In our family, we choose a tune and write alternative lyrics suited to whatever special occasion is at hand. I thought we were just going to do one song, mainly for Joe's birthday but with a bit of China thrown in. I wrote some quick lyrics to the tune of the Cincinnati Reds fight song (yes, they have one, and the Cincinnati Pops did a very nice version on an album called "Play Ball!" so look for that at whatever passes for a record store these days). However, Jill and Rhonda surprised us with a new version of "Chinatown, My Chinatown," and then Kelly's family came up with their new version of "Hey Jude" (creatively called, of course "Hey Joe). That song made it to Jill's Facebook page, if you can find it. It was a great party, and my dad would have enjoyed it as much as we did, but of course we imagine he's been busy this week lecturing the recently deceased George Steinbrenner on how much he messed up as the Yankees' owner. Sorry about that, Mr. Steinbrenner.

The plan for getting back to Flagstaff in the non-air conditioned Corolla was to leave late on Sunday night after all the festivities and drive in the (relatively) cooler night air. It was a great plan except for one thing: the Corolla's temperature gauge would not come down from the overheating position. We drove about ten miles, heater blasting (which was how we used to solve the problem in Joe's Cavalier), before we gave up and got back to Rhonda's about 12:30 Monday morning (when the temp was only 101 degrees). Joe joked that back when he was 39, he would have pushed on to Flag despite the gauge, but now that he was 40, he thought we should play it safe. Andy said we could borrow his van for the next couple of weeks, so we called AAA and had the Corolla towed to its new owner, my nephew Aaron, who is a very talented mechanic and promptly changed the faulty thermostat and will refit the A/C system for new freon. The tow truck driver (Jim) turned out to be a guy exactly my age who went to my rival high school, but not my grade school. He did a nice job taking away the first car I ever bought myself, and it will be missed. Also missing from our lives is Jack, who has moved to Rhonda's house, but I'm just not going to write about that.

Next week: we celebrate our 12th anniversary and try to clean out the office. Will we succeed?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Slimming Down

Well, not my body, but we are definitely a bit lighter in household goods. We took our grill and rain barrel over to our friends the Schroeders, who have just moved a street away and needed both things. This weekend, our friend Allison bought Joe's car and drove it away on Sunday afternoon. The garage looks strange with only my old Corolla, and I am now the official driver of the family. Yes, Joe knows how to drive a stick, but my car is a bit crochety in its old age and I know how to baby it. We also sold our push mower on Craigslist, and I took my wedding dress to the Salvation Army when I noticed several stains on the skirt. Maybe someone else has time to play with laundry magic!

I took a preliminary stab at packing my suitcases this week and met with surprising success, so maybe it won't be so hard to get everything there. We also talked to a school colleague who taught for a year outside of Beijing and she had both good and bad news. On the con side, she strongly suggested bringing all our hygiene products with us; soap, shampoo, even toothpaste. She says the products in China are just too harsh for us delicate Americans. However, she also said that we can ship things in personal boxes and they will get through customs without a hitch. She was less enthusiastic about direct Amazon shipping, though of course the company assures me that they ship to China all the time (but they couldn't tell me about customs). We figure we'll pack a box with some less important items, ship it off before we leave, and see if it makes it to Shanghai via the good old USPS.

The rest of the packing is rather slow, but we are trying to do a little bit every day. We found a wonderful local handyman who laid our flagstone patio in our backyard (see my first photo upload?), freeing us up to take a video production class through our former school district. We are learning all sorts of useful things and have great ideas for videos we could do at our new school. Jack will be moving out next weekend when we go to Phoenix for our farewell parties there, and that will certainly be tough, but I've probably waited too long already. My mother has scheduled her knee surgery for the day before we leave, and that will make for a very exciting week for my sister Rhonda, who will then have four dogs and two people needing a little extra care, not to mention her full-time job! I guess if I get grumpy about things on my to-do list, I can just think of her. Thanks, Rhonda!

Sunday, July 4, 2010


Happy Fourth of July! We missed the Flagstaff parade this year, but we figure that is one of those annual rituals that we can do when we come back in the summer. We also have lots of work to do in the house and quite a few farewell meetings scheduled. In other news, we have been ruled as acceptable risks by the Chinese consulate; our passports arrived this week with beautiful Chinese visas tucked right in. (Thanks Maureen and her unnamed colleague at TDS!) I put a picture of my visa on Facebook and my sister Jill started posting about how much she hates it. I told her to work on her attitude.

In preparation news, I finished two beaded necklaces, one with an Arizona theme and the other in black and silver for concerts. I have packed up the rest of my beads to stay in storage here. I'll take my tools to China, because I've found at least two bead shop addresses in Shanghai. We visited with our insurance agent this week, which was very productive, and the fellow who set up our Roth IRA, which was more of a "nice to see you." On his suggestion, I did some reading from IRS Publication 54, a fascinating look at tax rules for those living and earning income abroad. I think I'd rather just call our tax genius friend; call me lazy. We finalized the deal on Joe's car today and are hoping to turn it over to its new owner either next weekend or the following (when we will also leave Jack with his Aunt Rhonda for his new life of grooming fun, but that's another story; see the dog grooming section of

The "Facebook in China" controversy continues after our friend Merle successfully posted during his recent trip to China. He had a secret weapon that I'm probably not allowed to discuss, but he did give me an idea to try when I get there, so keep those fingers crossed. While I was doing some Amazon work, I found both a China page (in Chinese, so it didn't help much) and Amazon's assurance that they ship all over the world. Now that would be a big help, so I emailed my questions about getting things through customs and will await a response.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Preparing the House

Sorry for a short and uneventful blog, but packing a house really leaves little to the imagination. We are taking our time with the packing, but have actually put clothes and other personal items into the big red duffles. Joe informed me that he will have the two duffles and I will take the third duffle with the large suitcase. I think this will work well if he chooses to overlook all the stuff that ends up in one of his duffles. The luggage scale from our Cromer colleagues is about to get a workout. I have cleaned out the guest room closet and half of my dresser, so I think the clothing matters are going well, and the three piles (taking to China, leaving in storage and taking to Goodwill) seem to be in proper balance. Today I gave away a dress that has been in my closet for 20 years which I have never worn!

I've had a lovely time discussing prescriptional matters with the geniuses at the Walgreens Mail Service. I knew my order for a full year of pills would give someone pause, so I called Blue Cross to see how they would handle it, then I sent a very detailed letter along with my very clear prescription off to Walgreens. Naturally, I received an email saying that my prescription would not be shipped because it was not covered under my insurance. (My next thought is not appropriate for all audiences, so you can use your imaginations.) I talked to a very nice woman named Jennifer, who probably never understood my requirement, but at least said she could get it put through, so my pills should be on their way this week. I have a second prescription to fill in another week or two and I think I might just walk it over to my local CVS where they all know my situation. Sometimes the personal touch is simply more efficient.

We did receive excellent personal attention from Travel Document Systems, our visa processing service recommended by our friend Nate. We mailed everything (passports, extra pictures, visa application, letters of introduction, travel itinerary) to TDS early last week and received a phone call asking for information on our employer. This is a tricky question, as we really don't have an employer at the moment, but our TDS contact (who never gave his name, just his email) assured me that a former employer would do, so good old FUSD gets to provide us one last bit of service (thanks, Barbara!). I will probably be holding my breath until those passports come back.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Water, Water, Everywhere

A week in the Kentuckiana region (Louisville and the parts of southern Indiana right across from Louisville) really got me started thinking about living with humidity again. Great for my skin and violin, tough on my hair and any outdoor activity. Therefore, we stayed indoors for most of the rest of the Midwestern trip, which gave us time to make some preliminary plans for when Helen and Tim come to Shanghai, which they started talking about as soon as they heard our news in February. I read the first few pages of a book on learning "the basic 800" Chinese characters, a wonderful gift from Joe's sister Lisa, and was greatly encouraged to learn that the system of characters is no more complicated than reading musical notation. I wonder if the authors know how to read musical notation... We also visited with one of my seminary professors who was thrilled with the news and called me "Lottie Moon," a famous early missionary to China so loved by the Southern Baptist denomination that we named our foreign missions offering drive after her. (Remember that, Baptist friends?) In the continuing coincidence department, we ran into one of Joe's multicultural counseling professors as we were walking to our plane in the Louisville airport, so Joe was able to get some quick ideas about resources.

We got back to Flagstaff, thanks to Rhonda and Andy's taxi service, and found Faun with a newly broken hand (fourth or fifth metacarpal, nice waterproof blue cast), and we've spent this weekend hearing news about successive fires on every side of the city. Our home is safe (so far), but where is all that water when you need it? Rhonda offered to take Jack back with her, but I held off, as we'd barely seen him during the summer and I didn't think I could combine Father's Day with moving my dog away. I bought myself four more weeks, so we'll see if the idea gets any easier... hmmm, what are the odds? Also, we've started the party planning for here and in Phx, and the lists seem to get longer every day - whew! Well, I'm off to pray for rain; maybe a modern Lottie Moon can be effective in a slightly different role.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Farewell Tour Continues

First, we went camping with Faun and Randy, Mira and Bruce, Beth, Carol, and four dogs. It was a weekend of record-breaking heat in Flagstaff, but we still found lots of water in the tanks and even patches of snow for the dogs to enjoy. As an engineer for a large oil company (not BP), Bruce has traveled to many parts of the world, and we had a good time talking about gestures in Nigeria (a smooching sound that is intended to get someone's attention) and Brazil (where it is not OK to make the OK hand gesture). We will have an interesting time discovering Chinese gestures, which I assume will come more quickly than the spoken slang.

Next, we met many of my relatives, including my father's remaining siblings and sister-in-law, at a seniors' bowling tournament at Sam's Town in Las Vegas. I've been going up there for a few years to watch my Uncle Steve burn up the alleys in the Primetimers annual tournament, but this year we added a Maywald/Hayes family reunion, with family coming from the Houston area, San Antonio, Phoenix and suburbs, Vegas, Indiana (my side) and South Dakota. It was a blast to see everyone and we got lots of good pictures. We still have a big farewell party in Phoenix in July, but this was a nice start, and I got to show off the school brochure with the nice picture of the new auditorium.

Finally, we flew out to Louisville for a week with friends and family there. Again, we had a huge showing from Joe's family, with four generations represented. We were originally scheduled to meet in a city park, but local heads prevailed to move to a restaurant, and no sooner had we been seated than the northern Indiana skies opened for a "frog-strangler," as Andy Griffith would say. Nevertheless, we had a great time and everyone agreed that we should do it more often. Maybe next summer.

We've had more communication from our school about various opportunities. Jeff Stubbs, our old friend, wrote to ask about interest in pursuing online doctorates (EdD), although he hasn't nailed down a school as yet. He's talking to places like UCLA and Princeton, which really makes me think twice about adding yet another diploma to my wall. Jeff Martin wrote to give some basic details about our duties in activities, where each staff member leads or works with two after school clubs. He talked a lot about sports (probably because he's a PE teacher), so I'm wondering if I can start a bowling club. Today as we were driving through Indiana, we donated to a football team because the mascot was the Dragons, so we felt like that would give us a leg up on supporting our new school (also the Dragons), so there's our little bit of karma for the week.

Next week: getting home and starting the packing/yard renovation/clothing decisions... or maybe we'll just take some long naps.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Face to Face, More or Less

Joe got an email from Tammy Rodabaugh, my name doppelganger and his new Chinese principal, asking if we could Skype with her about general counseling issues and a potential Lower School music position for me. After a few tries, we finally got together on Tuesday night (her Wednesday morning) and had a very nice talk. She has very pretty long brown hair and large round glasses, which is not particularly relevant, but I like to remember first impressions. Her proposed music position was also an excellent first impression. One of the current music teachers, who happens to be Chinese, is leaving at the end of this school year (next Friday), and because Ms. Rodabaugh doesn't want her music teachers to be overloaded, she is hiring two people to fill the departing teacher's position. One person will be a local hire so the school can maintain Chinese cultural music, and the other person could be me if everyone agrees. This would be general music for 1st-5th graders, 40 minute classes twice a week, and grade levels would be bunched together, so I wouldn't have to try to switch gears from class to class. I would probably also teach some strings in an after school setting, which means that my teaching day might start later than others' because I would go later (maybe 8:30-4:30). Anyway, it's up to our head of school, Michael Donaldson, and I should know something within the month. Joe also got to speak briefly with the school librarian about his "bibliotherapy," which made her put her hands over her heart in love, I think. Winning hearts from across the ocean, that's my husband!

The SCIS school year will be done on Friday (June 11) and the kids are taking a trip to the Shanghai EXPO 2010 (also known as the World's Fair). I have been reading great things about the fair, and we are looking forward to going when we arrive, because it runs through October, but we'll probably wait for the hot summer weather to break. I'm hoping to get a preview from one of my email buddies.

FUSD is done, or rather, we are done with FUSD, having turned in all our keys, computers, etc. Our colleagues at Cromer were very generous, giving us a lovely sendoff at the annual awards assembly, complete with awards for each of us and a beautiful bouquet of roses, then following up with a travel bag full of travel items at the end of year luncheon. There is much drama to come in the next week, when the district will make its decisions about which schools to close and what grade levels will be included in the remaining schools. Already two different parent groups have hired lawyers to sue the district for whatever decision is made. The rehire process for the teachers who will have to transfer buildings and also those who received RIF notices sounds a bit confusing to me, but my friend Faun seems to know what she's doing. I'm glad I'll be out of town until the dust settles, at least for the big decisions. Legal dust will probably take a bit longer; it usually does.

Sunday, May 30, 2010


It's nice to be an affluent American (I know I'm affluent because I had to pay taxes this year when President Obama was giving tax breaks to middle and lower income Americans) and have a lot of stuff, but that stuff can really get in the way when you need it to fit in a small bedroom. We started our packing process this Memorial Day weekend and got the china cabinet packed (Joe likes that irony). Also, we ordered both our three 62" rolling duffel bags (red for good luck) and vacuum storage bags, and we'll see how well that works.

In my reading, I finished "Shanghai Girls," which I recommend if you like novels about Chinese women who survive the 1937 Japanese invasion and then fight against discrimination when they emigrate to Los Angeles. I loved it, especially the author's (Lisa See) use of Chinese vocabulary in various dialects. No, can't remember particular examples of the vocabulary; I'm still not really working on learning my Mandarin. I have started "Life and Death in Shanghai" by Nien Cheng, an autobiography of Ms. Cheng's experiences in a Chinese labor camp after the Communist takeover. So far my most probing question is how she was able to get iced tea in 1966, but I haven't read very far.

As the school year ends (two more days with children remain), I have been collecting my instruments, taking inventory and cleaning out my rooms. As that process completes, I turn in my keys to my schools, something I have never done in the past. I tried turning in the first set of keys this week, and ended up weeping all over the office, much to my surprise. Yes, I liked the school and my colleagues very much, but just didn't expect the simple act of turning in keys to be so emotional. This doesn't bode well for my upcoming farewell parties!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Pajamas Are Not Street Clothes

Or so says the Shanghai government. Like many people here in the US, the Chinese have recently taken to wearing their pajamas out in public, and with the Expo in full swing, the Shanghai officials are cracking down on this less-than-elegant habit. Citizens have signed up to be "pajama squads," taking public pajama wearers back home to get some pants, for pete's sake! Once again, I find myself coming down on the side of the communist government.

Our papers came from the school and they look really beautiful with all the characters. No idea what any of it means, but the document processing service says they can handle everything with no problem, so we'll send our passports, visa applications and introduction papers when we're done with school here in June. We'll be getting a 90-day visa at first, then upgrading to a multiple-entry visa after we get there, but I'm not sure how that works. I think that's one of those things taken on faith.

I also had a little experience this week that reminded me of something that's been happening in China recently. My kids and I were involved in a lockdown at one of my schools when a robbery happened in the neighborhood and the authorities thought the robber might be in our vicinity. We had an interesting 30 minutes or so (during which I did almost nothing according to protocol except for locking the door), and then everything was fine. My colleagues in China have not been so fortunate. The rural areas (not Shanghai and certainly NOT my school) have had several incidents where individuals have broken into the school and killed both students and teachers using things as basic as a hammer, which is a real heartbreaker when you consider that these parents only get one child. How will the government respond to this?

Just the same, we're still excited and amazingly, still finding people to tell. I spoke to a couple of my former teachers, my neighbor down the street (who had already heard and was really just confirming), and even the author of the book I read this week ("Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" by Lisa See, a great novel about the relationships among Chinese women in the 19th century, and I highly recommend it). One thing agreed on by people in the know: Shanghai in August is "hot and humid" (Ms. See) or "hot and sultry" (Wendy, my email buddy). Ugh. A recent point of contention centers around continuing confusion about the blocking power of the Great Firewall. Beth (a recent NAU visitor to Beijing) says Facebook is fine and blogging is blocked, while Chris (the IT genius at my school) maintains just the reverse. I guess I'll find out when I get there, but I've read more opinions supporting Chris than Beth. Also, my Australian email buddy is very enthusiastic about Chinese health care and medications, so I wonder if I'm not suffering from some American bias (or is that bigotry?). Problem is, China doesn't produce any credible healthcare stats for comparative purposes. Again, something to take on faith.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

More Farewells

We have eleven days of school remaining, and I am finishing up my final concerts. My colleagues at Knoles gave me a lovely send-off this week, complete with two pairs of earrings, nice and light so they will fit in my still unpurchased luggage. Joe is trying very hard to stay focused at work where most of the meetings and discussions deal with next year's schedules and personnel. Our visa supporting documents will be sent to us in the coming week, and Ms. Kasono has also sent quite a few emails about what and what not to say in our application. We will have to call our chosen consulate to find out if they will require us to have a round-trip ticket. If so, the school will contact its travel agent and help us out on that point, which is a relief to us and our checking account!

I'm still having a good time announcing my plans to the very few people in Flagstaff who haven't heard. I was waiting to get some blood drawn when the woman sitting next to me asked what I was reading. I had "Being Chinese" with me, which sounds pretty nuts when you look at my blue eyes and curly hair, so I got to explain my reading choice. By the way, it's a great book of stories of people who are ethnically Chinese but not born in China. I am fascinated by the importance of maintaining Chinese culture, regardless of the person's country of birth, as well as the rather recent history of paper sons and daughters (where Chinese children moved to other countries using immigration papers of other people), and I'm learning about Buddhist worship practices and Chinese holidays and festivals. I should probably put some of these on my calendar!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A Stack of Money

Both of my email buddies agree that when they arrived in Shanghai, they were greeted by an administrator bearing a "stack of money," both US and Chinese currency. We asked how much money we should bring with us and how much needed to be converted to yuan before we get there. The other point of agreement is that women with curly hair (me) have considerable trouble getting a good haircut in Shanghai. Wendy says that the female staff members have long hair pulled up because of the humidity, so I will continue my growing-out process and see what I need to do with my bangs when I get there. I can cut my own bangs (though many hairdressers have disagreed), so maybe I'll be okay if I pack my Fiskars scissors and a few hair doo-dads. I watched a video on dealing with frizzy hair, but it all seemed designed to leave my hair completely straight, which isn't really the way I'd like to go.

We also priced suitcases and got some sticker shock. Korean Air will allow us checked bags of a size of 62 inches (length + width + height), so we looked at some nice big bags at Big Lots, the cheapest of which was $50.00, and we need three! It was just a bit more than we had planned, so we came home and researched some rolling duffels online. We also bought a DSLR camera, which will arrive tomorrow and is supposed to use the lenses we already have from our Minolta 35 mm SLR, so there's some more money heading out the door. We got a quote on laying flagstone in our backyard, something which needs to happen before we leave, but the estimate of $3,000 is just a bit more than we can manage, so we're going to have to schedule some time for a little DIY project. Too bad that stack of money can't show up a little sooner...

Sunday, May 2, 2010

How to Get to Shanghai, Google Style

Beth, who is doing her student teaching in band and has been to China with an NAU music group, was kind enough to show me the Google Maps driving directions from Flagstaff to Shanghai. For some reason, the route goes up to Seattle, where the next direction is (I kid you not) "Kayak across the Pacific Ocean" for some 1200 miles or so. You pick up your car in Hawaii and kayak again on the opposite side of the islands until you reach Japan, then drive through Japan until you hop a jet ski into Shanghai. The directions are so serious that you just laugh until you are crying. I think we'll stick with Korean Air!

The "what will Tammy be teaching?" contest continues. Steve wrote with what he hopes is good news, that my current assignment will have a couple of strings classes (hooray!) and probably percussion ensemble. The only roll I can do on a snare involves the drum rotating sideways down a hall or something, but perhaps I can learn a little before August.

The countdown song produced some lively lyrics, mainly from my family members, who really like to create lively lyrics. Here are some samples, and you can fill in your favorite number of days (it's 93 today FYI):
# days 'til we fly to Shanghai, # days 'til we fly
"You'll be in a place where the government spies"
"You'll be in a place where they eat dogs in pies"
"Jack will be sad, in his room he will lie"
"Your family will all stay here and cry"
# days 'til we fly to Shanghai.
Clever, no?

I finished "Red China Blues" and recommended it to Joe. After recounting her experiences, Ms. Wong gave her (1996) opinion as to how China will develop in the coming years, and she, like many other China commentators, is at best uncertain. However, I found her analysis of the one-child policy to be rather convincing. She quotes a friend of hers, Michael Crook, who says, "If you have a population of Little Emperors, you can't have a population of slaves. Everyone will want to tell everyone else what to do. You'll have democracy." Hey, that sounds like a good idea! Someone tell the Communist Party, but not me. I'm still working on a visa application.

We tried a little home Chinese cooking, with different results. I made Kung Pao chicken and hated it, but Joe liked it. Joe made Curried Beef and loved it, but I hated it. The kung pao sauce (which involves soy) made everything taste burned, and the curry was just plain sweet. I love sweet stuff, but not as a main dish. Today we had hot pot cooking (the Chinese form of fondue with a spicy sauce instead of oil or cheese) and pork dumplings. Fortunately, for this experiment, no soy sauce was used and we went to the home of our friends Sarah and Nate, who have both been to China (Nate did his LDS mission there and speaks Chinese) and have good cooking skills. I loved both of the dishes, so hallelujah and pass the hot pot!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

100 Days

Joe got out the calendar today and calculated that 100 days from today, we'll be on a plane to Shanghai. That definitely motivates the transition activity! My father-in-law Frank suggests that we should adapt "100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall" as our theme song. We spent yesterday (a Saturday) in teacher improvement/professional development/pick your favorite euphemism. I started with a class on a particular type of creative software and, as one of my activities, chose a picture of Nanjing Street in Shanghai, which is the Times Square-type shopping street. Just seeing the picture made me feel lighter than air, and I was a bit obnoxious about making my colleagues look at the picture to see where I would be soon.

However, 100 days makes us realize how many things we still need to do. We've got to schedule our last medical exams so we can get all our necessary prescriptions filled. I have my regular stuff, but we were also cautioned to take an ample supply of antibiotics with us (Cipro was the recommended drug) to help with some of our "internal adjustments." (If you don't understand, all I can say is try eating some melon in Mexico, but that's another story entirely.) Joe's doctor suggested running a few blood tests and such just to make sure nothing will pop up. We already have dates with our dentist and eye doctor, both of whom are simply thrilled for us. It's nice to have such support, and our dentist even keeps electronic records, so we just get to download them to our computer and show them to a Chinese dentist if necessary. We will also get to visit a Chinese doctor for a health check when we arrive, and my email buddy Wendy says we will at least be diagnosed with "fatty liver," regardless of our actual health status.

We are continuing to read books about China and watch movies as well. For the movies, we started with "The Last Emperor," tried "Farewell, My Concubine" (lasted about 20 minutes on that one, but couldn't take the impromptu finger amputation), and saw "Raise the Red Lantern" last night. Stories about Chinese life seem to have unhappy endings. I've been reading "Red China Blues" about a Chinese-Canadian journalist who lived in Beijing during the early seventies, when she wanted to be a Maoist and then again in the late eighties. Her description of the events leading up to the massacre at Tienanmen Square are absolutely riveting, especially because she saw the whole thing from her balcony at a Beijing hotel right on site. We are also trying out some recipes from our Shanghai cookbook: Curried Beef is coming soon.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

What's In A Name?

I have carried an unusual last name all my life. I was born a Maywald, which doesn't look that complicated, but people got it wrong all the time, including the minister officiating at my father's funeral and the dean of my law school, which is another story entirely. Most of the men I dated had unusual last names as well, and when I married a Rauschenbach, I figured at least I wouldn't be confused with anyone else, especially not in China. Well, this week we blew that theory.

You may remember that Joe's new boss is named Tammy Rodabaugh. I got the link to my SCIS email and checked in this week to find 24 emails in my box. That seemed like a high number to me, and as I scanned them, I realized that the good folks at SCIS have been sending emails to "Tammy" without checking the last name, which is similar as well. I learned a lot about who had chicken pox, who was substitute teaching, and the names of new students. When I realized people were trying to set up meetings, I took a little action and contacted the IT department, as well as Ms. Rodabaugh, of course. We are hoping to have everything sorted out shortly, but in the meantime, I'm forwarding emails and contacting those who haven't figured out the problem.

We've had a few more interesting tidbits about our coming life. For instance, did you know that the denomination approved by the Chinese government for church services is Catholicsm? I wonder if the communists have caught up with that church's line on human rights, at least here in the US. Maybe they approve of the hierarchical structure. Also, my email buddy Wendy mentioned that many Chinese apartments do not have ovens, but she makes do with a toaster oven. Oh boy, lemon cheesecake and pumpkin bread are going to be difficult! Our new curriculum and instruction director, Nancy, tells me that Shanghai has some Mexican food restaurants that are not great, but "passable." Well, the point is to learn about Chinese culture, not to take my culture with me.

We had some good news about renting the house this week. A nice group of music students, recommended by our friend Beth, came over on Thursday and were very enthusiastic about living here in the fall, so we emailed our lease agreement. If everything works out, we'll have Dan (the trumpeter), Bryan (the euphonium), Jane (the percussionist) and Theresa (the clarinetist) as our renters in August. It's nice to have things falling into place, especially when time seems to be getting shorter.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

How Many Email Buddies Does It Take...

... to make me feel like I have a handle on things? Well, I really am hearing from just about everyone in Shanghai, and that's bound to make a body feel good. I now have two staff email buddies (Wendy of language arts and Steve of orchestra), I have heard from the principal of the Upper School (Roger) and our Head of School (Michael), and today I got a note from our IT guy (Chris). Of course, Ms. Kasono (Jeff's secretary) continues to drop little helpful notes every now and then. The last one was the contact information for a shipping company that has a relationship with SCIS, so that makes me think that I might not have to squeeze my entire life into four suitcases (well, three, because I have to carry on my violin). I'm verifying that point with Ms. Kasono before I ship anything, though.

One of the really nice things I heard from Wendy has to do with our first week in Shanghai. A school administrator will pick us up at the airport and take us to our apartment, which will have a fruit basket (ooh, like a tropical vacation!) and some basic food supplies. During the week, we will take guided trips to the bank, the grocery (the big one is called Carrefour), and a big shopping trip to Ikea, where we will buy everything not already provided in our apartment (or maybe shipped ahead). Neither Joe nor I have been to Ikea, so we are a little uncertain about that part, but one of our friends explained how the store works and I think we can do some advance planning through the Ikea website (assuming, of course, that whatever we see on the website is available in China and not just made there).

We didn't do much for our Chinese adventure this week, because we were getting our house water leak repaired, and that meant construction all week and painting all weekend (and into next week as well). I have a nice string tie folder with all our SCIS documentation and anything else I think will be useful, and at this point I couldn't tell you where it is, which is somewhat unnerving since our passports are in there. I have a general idea, so I hope I find it before Joe does so I can put it someplace familiar. I did manage to create a beaded watchband from some of my copper beads, so my Arizona jewelry collection has begun, and I will post a picture if I ever figure out how. If the furniture gets back to normal, I'll try starting my Arizona necklace, having created a general design.

We are still working on the two big issues: renting the house and finding a home for Jack. We have two or three potential groups to rent the house, so we just need to get our lease hammered out and find the best match. One group is four music majors from the university, another is a family from up our street, and a third is a mom and daughter to whom we haven't actually spoken, but heard about from a construction guy who knows our construction guy. I am going to miss the haphazard yet efficient social networking of the small town!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

What a Week!

It's hard to know where to start, but how about this: in four months, we will be on a plane to Shanghai. We've had quite an exciting week with lots of communications from just about everyone, so here's what happened.

Sunday night (last week), our nice college girls called to say that they can't rent the house after all. One girl's scholarship covers only on-campus housing and trying to move off is not going to work, so they are going to stay together on campus, and we are going to look for new renters. We've talked to a student teacher who knows nice music students, and we have a few other ideas.

On Monday afternoon, we got the list of all the FUSD teachers and administrators who will receive RIF notices on April 15. We are both on the list, which is not too surprising, but what a lovely way to end a Monday.

On Tuesday morning, Joe and I both got an email from the lady in charge of the visa processing, and we are the only new hires who have submitted all of our documents. I'm not sure what everyone else is doing, but I like being ahead of the curve (yes, thanks Rhonda!). However, I got an additional email from the principal of the upper school (grades 6-12), just a very newsy "here's what's happening for the rest of the school year." I checked with Joe, who didn't get this email, despite our assumption that he would be the upper school counselor, so I wrote back to the principal to see whether he had intended to write to the other Rauschenbach or whether we were confused about our assignments. He wrote back (the same day) to say that there is some confusion about our assignments. Joe is to be the lower school (grades 1-5) counselor and I'll be doing something (as yet unspecified) in the upper school. Huh?

Joe got an email from Tammy Rodebaugh, his lower school principal, on Thursday, with her version of school events and he was listed, big as life, as the lower school counselor. We have had a pretty good laugh about how Joe already has one boss named Tammy.... On Thursday night, we went to a birthday party and met the NAU coordinator for Asian students. Joe talked to her for well over an hour and had a great time. He also got some good financial advice regarding our Roth IRA investments. What a planner!

On Friday morning, I got an email from my music email buddy, and he had lots of great things to say. First, he mentioned that it's hard to tell what I will actually be doing. He has taught at SCIS for five years and has done everything from general music for three year olds to PE to beginning strings to yearbook to video production. He is teaching the high school orchestra right now and was very encouraging about the collegial nature of the music department, so I actually feel a bit better, even if I don't know what I'm doing. Also, he says there are quite a few playing opportunities for both of us, including jazz and Latin bands for Joe!

We spent the weekend in Prescott, playing and singing for the Easter services at Trinity Presbyterian. It was so great to spend time with friends, and we recommend the game "Balderdash" with five stars, because we laughed our heads off. Jack tried to behave himself, Joe got his fantasy baseball league set up, thanks to dear Andrew, and we celebrated Easter dinner at the Texas Roadhouse, which beats a ham anyday in my book. Next year, who knows what we'll have for Easter dinner?

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Chopsticks on Fire!

This has been a busy week for my chopsticks. After our initial success at Hunan East, we tried the Golden Dragon Monday, where our waiter George gave us advice on Chinese food and drink, corrected our Chinese pronounciation, and suggested that we contact his niece in Dalian (a coastal city near Beijing) so that we would know someone when we move. How nice is that? The jasmine tea, potstickers and Yang Zhou fried rice were also excellent, and we even had a complimentary glass of Dragon Silk Riesling, which was probably good if you like Riesling. My niece Kelly gave me a fancy set of chopsticks with a little silk pouch, so I am now eating in style. We tried Panda Express on Friday and that was also tasty, so I am happy to report that I can find good food even in the fast food area, at least here in the States. Joe has been practicing his Chinese using our language DVD and a website called Livemocha, where you trade language lessons with someone, both written and audio. He is speaking in complete sentences and tells me he knows what he is saying.

Good news from China: First, we got an email from our new Head of School with our list of email buddies, so I'll be contacting mine (a music guy) soon. Either I haven't had many new questions or I'm just not writing them down to remember them. The principal of the lower school is Tammy Roudebaugh, so my poor students will have to make some careful decisions about who we are! Second, there is a cupcake seller in Shanghai named Emily whose blog is maintained through her VPN on, so this blog might not have to switch to another site, I hope. Third, Shanghai has bowling alleys, including one named Sakura that has 40 lanes! Although I probably can't bring my ten-pound ball, I think I might include my bowling shoes. Finally, China does not observe Daylight Savings Time, so this Arizonan will leave her clocks unchanged even overseas! This pleased me greatly until I realized that I was agreeing with a Communist government on a matter of policy, but I'm just going to say that even a blind squirrel finds a few nuts.

On Saturday, we visited the Chinese Cultural Center, which is a combination office building and strip mall with all things Asian, including a big food market where we found all sorts of food, including squid jerky, dried snack anchovies and quail eggs. We passed on all of those things, opting for two types of tea (jasmine for Joe and Extra Gunpowder for me), a tea infuser, and also some music CDs and another book from a different store. We also walked through a huge garden on the backside of the building that had beautiful trees and replicas of various gardens and buildings from China, which gave us some good ideas for vacations once we get there.

Jack's situation is still uncertain, although we have two backups in my two sisters (Jill volunteered also). We will be back in Prescott next weekend and see if anyone there has found a place in both heart and home. We did get a call back from Tiffany the dental hygienist, but we decided not to follow that option. I went to a concert given by two friends of mine who play flute and glass armonica (you need to look this up), an instrument invented by Benjamin Franklin and composed for by just about everyone in the eighteenth century, including Mozart. When I told my kids about the concert and mentioned what great friends I have here, one of my kids said, "Mrs. Rauschenbach, if Mozart were alive today, he'd be your friend!" Kid, you have great instincts, because I always find wonderful and interesting friends, and although it's hard to leave the ones here, I know the ones in Shanghai are also going to be Mozarts.