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!