Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Ancestors and "Swimmy Things"

Here is yet another update from our Traveling Blogger -

Some updates. Yesterday we took Emma to get her hair cut at the same
salon. She won everyone over and was doing really well until the
hairdresser got out the hairdryer. She was already tired at that
point, so I ended up sitting in the chair, holding Emma in my lap,
singing songs to keep her calm and holding her head straight. As soon
as we put her in the stroller and gave her a bottle she fell asleep.
She looks quite sharp now.

After that we did a little shopping for me. I don't know if I
mentioned it, but Meng implied that it would be cold so I packed
primarily sweaters. It's been over 70 since I've been here, so I've
been wearing a variation of the same two outfits. But yesterday we
picked up two new tops for me. I also bought a purse.

The big event of the day was the trek up to visit Meng's grandfather's
(YeYe) grave. Actually, "graveyard" is an inaccurate word. It was more
like a grave-staircase. Its a concrete structure built on the side of
a hill. With each tier comes a set of steps going up the side of the
hill. YeYe was at the second to last tier so I got my exercise. We all
had red ribbons tied to our belt loops (even Emma had a red ribbon
tied to her diaper) to ward off the negative energy of the graveyard.
We forgot to bring an offering, but my father-in-law said a few words
and Meng introduced me as his wife and Emma said "HI!" We cleaned up
the site, and a few others that belonged to other passed family
members and made the trek home. Oh, and when I mean trek, I mean trek.
The graves have recently been moved, because the city wants to develop
the former site and no one will live near a gravesite here. If they
were to build around it, no one would buy the property after it was
developed. So the site was quite off the road, and the path up there
has not been properly built yet. So we had to walk up a dirt drive to
a vague path through broken rocks, until we finally reached the site.
Apparently, on holidays, the path is littered with people selling food
and flowers to use as offerings.

Today Meng and I got up early and met his uncle to go to "Polar
World." Think Seaworld on a small scale. They had balooga whales and
penguins and Emma thoroughly enjoyed herself. My favorite was the
sealion and seal show. This uncle is the same uncle whose opulent
apartment we are occupying. He and his wife need grandkids.
Desperately need grandkids. And they are willing to do pretty much
anything for Emma at the moment. Emma wasn't sure about Uncle for the
first couple of days but he has gradually bought her affection by
bringing her a new present every day. Yesterday it was candy, today he
took her into the gift shop. They meticulously went through the
stuffed animal selection, until Emma found the large, stuffed
balooga... so now we have a stuffed balooga which we've named Bologna.
(Am I spelling balooga right? It's not showing up in the
auto-correct.) We need to leave soon before Uncle buys her a herd of

After "Polar World," we went next door to "Ocean World," which is
basically a big aquarium. We visited the sharks and several different
kinds of interesting fish and so many different kinds of jelly-fish!
And they had one of those glass tunnels that goes underneath a tank
with a moving sidewalk. So we saw turtles and shellfish and all kinds
of swimmy things.

We stopped for a break in a little food court where we got lamb kabobs
and squid kabobs (rather, THEY got the squid) and fish-meatballs.

THEN we went to "Coral World," which was small, but since we had the
ticket we took the tour. It was a 10 minute trip.

We met Meng's dad and grandma for "barbeque" afterward. We started with two cold dishes of a salad-ey nature. The cucumber, onion peanut dish was nice, and I liked the dressing on the salad greens, but I wasn't a huge fan of the preserved egg. Then there were string-mushrooms, chicken wings, lamb, tofu-wrapped-spinach, toast, and more lamb, each on it's own little skewer. When we were about half-way done, they brought more lamb, and a huge trey of clams.

This trip has really made me think about what I eat and made me try
new things, and at the end of the meal when we were trying to get
everything eaten, I was happily appointed the eater of the clams. I'm
pleased to announce that clams are also for dinner, which I am not at
all hungry for.

Well, dinner is almost ready and I should go. We've comandered a high
chair for Emma. All is well, really really well, except that I have a
sore throat. Don't know why yet.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Visiting China...and Being the Minority

I am sitting on Meng's grandma's bed next to the kitchen table.
Teeny-tiny apartment but she likes it that way because it's just her.
There's a small kitchen with a minuscule fridge, stove and large sink.
A frosted glass panel separates the kitchen from the couch, which
seats 3 comfortably. Across from the couch is a breakfast table,
behind it a wardrobe and next to it a wall-mounted HDTV. Queen size
bed, (orange) nightstand, and several plants on the windowsill plant
stands throughout. We're on the 14th floor. There's no screen on the
window (no mosquitos up here!) so you can put your face out in the
(slightly smoggy) night air. It's nice.

Emma is sleeping next to me. She's had a rough couple of days. She did
really well on the plane over. She slept a little, ate a little, and
when she got restless we did laps around the the aisles. There were
plenty of people up and walking around, and probably 4 other
Chinese/American couples with small children, but they were all Asian
moms/American dads. Nice people none the less. Emma made lots of
friends her own size and bigger, and several people came to say
farewell when we got off the plane. She was on a first-name basis with
the flight attendants, one of which actually snuck her a banana during
our flight. We made our transfer in Beijing where Emma charmed her way
to the boarding gate. On Chinese flights they have clever little
infant seat belts. It's basically the same as a larger seatbelt, only
no seat. There's just a small loop attached that slips over an adult
seatbelt, so the infant sits on your lap. Emma wasn't the biggest fan,
but once she got a bottle she fell asleep and stayed that way until we
had reached the house. At one point in the baggage area, an entire
Chinese tourist group stopped and tried to gently wake her up.

This is how it is everywhere we go now. Everyone stops to say hello to
her. People are more relaxed about strangers talking to children, and
I haven't felt uncomfortable about it yet. They say that her eyes are
beautiful, etc. She drinks in the attention. A couple people even took
her picture today. I don't know how I feel about that, but there
really isn't a way to stop it, and it was just a couple of girls with
pink cell phones. Hardly predators. Still, it might be lucrative to
learn how to say in Chinese, "No pictures, please!" People stop and
stare at us, which is awkward. Some are simply unashamed to stop and
stare at us when we walk by. I'm learning subtle differences between
the kinds of staring. When people stop to stare at Emma, they talk to
her and say how cute she is, and well, generally pay more attention to
her. When people stare at me they look a little confused, often do a
double take at Meng, and usually have their mouth open. A car actually
stopped to look at me today. That was weird. I don't mind so much when
women stare. I just smile back, but I haven't really figured out what
to do when men stare. Sometimes I ignore them, sometimes I stare them
down, and sometimes staring them down doesn't work. I think the whole
baby thing throws them off, especially yesterday when I was running
around in 2 1/2 inch heels. Oh well.

Meng's family is great. His grandma really likes me, and I think I
earned some major brownie points by twice today making sure she had
someone to cross the street with. We just finished an amazingly (huge)
dinner of (the most ginormous) dumplings stuffed with chicken and some
kind of unidentifiable but inoffensive vegetable. There were also
small crabs, fresh (as in, swimming around hours ago) shrimp, fresh
(also that fresh) small white fish, clam and cucumber salad
(different, but good! I've re-discovered clams as something yummy),
stir-fried celery, carrots and boiled peanuts, and finally a raw
shellfish dish that I politely tried and determined that while I was
perfectly capable of eating it, I would much rather eat other things
at the table.

We took a long walk today through one of the largest parks in China.
We visited several statues, including an open book that is half the
size of a football field (we walked on it!), and a statue that
apparently caused a lot of stir when it was put up because
traditionally you are only supposed to put it in front of the
Emperor's palace... Arrogant much, Dalian? The oceanside was there,

More to come...

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Greetings from China!

Our Blogger is in China...and here is the latest update (posted dutifully by her loving mother upon request).

The house we are staying in is beautiful. Opulent, actually. TV in
every room, matching furniture throughout the house, and a same-size
replica of the famous Napoleon portrait in the staircase. Even the
telephones (which are everywhere) are ornate. I'll take pictures. We
also have a balcony, from which we can see the ocean (21st floor).

Went to the fishmarket today, and the biggest Wal-Mart ever. Bought
some milk (in funny little bags), some baby shampoo, and what I'm
hoping turns out to be hairspray. They didn't have American hairspray
brands even though they had other stuff in brands like Herbal Essences
and Pantene. Then I accidentally got a perm.

I meant to get a haircut. The salons here are very very nice and very
inexpensive. Meng said I could get my haircut for about 15 USD, and I
was feeling shaggy so I said sure. It was a full salon experience,
with hairwash, scalp massage, etc. In the US it would have been a $50
haircut. The confusion came because of a translation issue, and the
fact that Meng knows nothing about hair treatments. The stylist
suggested that we "tong" my hair. Meng didn't really know what that
meant, but the impression was that it would make my hair have more
volume, so he said sure. It looked to me like they were simply going
to curl it. Then they got out the funny-smelling liquids and I figured
it out. So I have some nice volume now. It's not too curly. I'll try
and take a picture of that, too, eventually.

More to come from the "Internationally Traveling Blogger"!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

BTdubs, we're going to China!

Meng is already there, actually. I leave on Thursday morning with my father-in-law and Emma. This is a super-short update to assure you that I am still on the face of the planet, just quite busy. Got my ticket, passport and visa in a matter of two weeks. Off we go!