Thursday, July 28, 2011

The first 168 hours

Our first week in China has already come and gone.  We packed a lot into seven days!  Although we flew out on Sunday morning, we arrived on Monday afternoon.  The 13 hour flight and 13 hour time change caused us to loose a half a day, a whole lot of sleep.

For the first two mornings our task was to visit various furniture stores to choose new things for our apartment.  We are bringing some of our own furniture (our beds, china hutch, couches), but other furniture will be purchased by the landlord and then remain in the apartment after we move out.  Furniture shopping with two young kids isn't any fun anyway, but throw in a lot of jet lag and you have a potential disaster.  We tried to make the most of it and was fun to see hear the girls' opinions on things.  LBean was really into the "princess furniture" which was the over-the-top Louis the 14th frilly and sparkly furniture.

I wish I could explain the size of of the furniture buildings that we went walked through.  Just to give you an idea, maybe the size of the Galleria in St. Louis and filled with only furniture stores.  And then, next to it another building the same size with more furniture.  Then repeat that on the other side of the street.  It's appropriately known as Furniture Row.


We had the excuse of nap time to go back to the hotel and rest in the heat of the afternoon.  Illinois and China have had about the same amount of heat and humidity this past week.  Then, we'd wake up around 6 p.m. and try to drag ourselves to dinner.

On Thursday morning we drove out to Dulwich College where LBean will be going to kindergarten.  We turned in our application and got to walk through a bit of the lower level of the DUCKS (DUlwich College Kindergarten School) building.  Then back to Furniture Row to finish picking out furniture.

Friday morning was our "health exam".  The government requires that adults applying for a residency visa participate in a health exam.  Our realtor, who should really be called a relocation specialist because of all the work she does (helps us fill out paperwork, find a driver, order furniture, visit the school, etc.) went with us.  It was an interesting experience in part because I didn't know what was involved in the exam...or how complete would it be?!

We moved from room to room visiting each testing station.  We completed a vision, hearing, dental screenings, blood-work, an x-ray, EKG and renal sonogram.  HIPPA laws aren't in affect here so I was present when Jamie had his renal sonogram and the technician complimented him on his lovely kidneys.  I hopped up on the table fully expecting the same result.  Hah!   The technician started calling out "kid-di-ney" like she was looking for a lost pet.  Uh-oh.  Then she called over another technician and they both stared at the screen, hemming and hawing in Chinese.  I have no idea what the problem was, Jamie thinks maybe they were concerned about kidney stones, and after they asked me if I had ever had my kidneys looked at (I had and they were fine), I was allowed to get up from the table.  During another one of the tests the technician told me to relax and I couldn't help it, I laughed out loud.  I wanted to say politely, "listen here lady, there is nothing relaxing about this process".  But, it's done and we were happy to move on with our day.

A fun part of the week has been exploring different shopping areas of the city.   We tried to learn where I will be shopping and what stores I'll need to go to for clothing, household items, and food.  We visited the Korean market near our apartment complex, the Incity mall (with Wal-Mart), Auchan (pronounced O-shawn), which is the Chinese version of Wal-Mart, and Times Square (an indoor/outdoor mall area with a Toys 'r Us).

During our shopping we have been very aware of the fascination with our girls.  As you can imagine, blond hair, light eyes and pale skin is very unusual here (and some consider it lucky).  Our girls, especially EBean literally draws a crowd.  Old men will stop walking to stare at them (it's not rude to stare in Chinese culture), people will take pictures (sometimes they try to be sneaky), and I've seen women double-back just to walk by a second time to see our girls.  I'm sure this will get very old during the next few years, but for now it's nice hearing "piao liang" (pretty) and "mei li" (beautiful).  Some Asian women try to lighten their skin to show that they are wealthy enough to not have to labor outside in the sun and American women try tan to show they have the time to sit in the sun and not work.  You can't win!

At JDL, a furniture store in Times Square.
At the carpet store in Furniture Row.

Friday night we walked to a near-by German restaurant at RainboWalk for dinner.  Sometimes its best to ease into a culture slowly right?! The restaurant is called Big & Whistle (not sure why), but I had heard that was originally called Pig & Whistle.  I have no idea what brought on the name change!  There is a good size German ex-pat community here and I must say we benefited from this.  Big & Whistle was fantastic!  Fresh, homemade pretzel rolls, mashed potatoes, peas & carrots and for me Sheppard's pie.  Yummy!  We have avoided any fruits or veggies that have been washed in local water, which has limited the variety in our meals.  It was great to see the girls chowing down on good 'ole peas & carrots.

People starting to gather by the lake for the 8 p.m. laser light show.

The Rainbo Walk building.  Great Mexican & German
restaurants and Cold Stone Creamery.
We walked back to the hotel along the lake where the laser light show is performed every Friday and Saturday night.  It was a bit loud for LBean, but in the future she'll be able to see it from her bedroom in the apartment.  It was impressive and we watched the finale from our hotel room.
The laser light show set to music and a little bit of fire thrown in too.

The view from our hotel room.

Saturday morning we had our driver take us to Times Square, an area across the lake with shopping (both indoor and outdoor), food and entertainment.  The top floor was almost like a children's museum and it will be a nice place to visit when it's raining.  We found the Toys 'r Us and then crossed a walkway and discovered another toy store.

Jamie got a new Lego set at the second toy that can no longer be found in the States.  So everyone came away happy!

For lunch we were very daring and had...Burger King.  (Remember what I said about easing into the culture slowly?) 
LBean asked for this picture.

Our week ended with a bang, literally.  We successfully made it to Fellowship by catching a bus provided by the Fellowship near our new apartment.  Because of the time we had to get onto the bus, we were not only on time for fellowship, but early.  Shocking, I know! (Stop laughing all you WCC folks.) LBean decided that she would like to go to her class and Ebean sat with us.  Things were a bit different this week because the pastor was back in the States.  So, by the time the service was done, we collected LBean and walked to the bus stop, the buses had left and it had begun pouring.

As we left Fellowship I'm pretty sure that I was chided by a Chinese grandma.  She was upset that I had borrowed EBean's miniature umbrella (who was protected in her stroller) to cover my head.  Sometimes you don't have to speak the language to understand the intent.  Oh well, you can't please everyone!

We huddled in a public restroom with all of the Chinese workers that had come in from working in the park and LBean's Sunday school teacher and his family.  They had also missed the bus and were waiting out the storm too.  Between our ability to call the hotel for assistance and LBean's Sunday School teacher's amazing Chinese speaking skills, we agreed to pay the hotel to send their bus to pick us up.  Most of the city was using all of the available taxis and the other option was to walk the four miles back.  In the mean time, EBean slept through most of it and LBean ran around with her three new friends, the Sunday School teacher's children.  They enjoyed squealing every time it thundered or lightening over our head and peeked at the Chinese bride that was getting ready for her wedding pictures.  I got to talk with LBean's friends parents and make a new friend too.

Finally the bus arrived and the girls insisted on sitting together.  They were soaked, but very happy (which made me happy too).  The warm baths and room service we had at the hotel made up for the unpleasant part of the afternoon.  Plus, we made plans to eat lunch with our new friends next Sunday, hopefully under dryer circumstances!


  1. Thanks so much for sharing your journey with us Kara! It is so exciting to hear all about your adventures. I'm so glad that things are going well and you are enjoying this experience.:)

  2. Well, it sounds like you got your worries about it being less exciting than you hoped!

  3. The way you write makes us feel like we are actually there... thank you so much, friend, for continuing to "take us with you" on your amazing journey. Love across the miles.... :)