Monday, December 14, 2015

Surviving (and Sometimes Thriving) in Xi'an

We have made it through the first six months in Xi’an!  Some days it was merely surviving and other days we did thrive.  Because these six months have required a lot of living, there hasn’t been much time to write about it.  Although I did compose many blog posts in my head.  Does that count?

Here is our recap of the first six months…

Leaving Suzhou
We moved from Suzhou to Xi’an.  We watched our boxes be delivered to an incomplete apartment, which means we had no appliances, air conditioners, lights, etc.  We couldn’t actually stay in the apartment, but yet I needed to be there during the day to supervise workers.

And, arriving in Xi'an.  Bikes were the first thing
to be unpacked!

We returned to the US for a month to get in as much quality time with family and friends as possible.  We also had doctor’s appointments, check-ups and other not-so-fun things.  In the US, we would be able to spread those appointments out over 12 months, but we were on a time crunch, so it was all crammed into 4 weeks.
Happy 4th of July to us...on our way to the US.

In August we carted our 10+ pieces of checked luggage back to Xi’an and moved into our apartment.  It was livable, but still not complete.  On our first night in the apartment I really, really wanted to make myself an egg.  We didn’t have a lot of groceries and not all of our boxes were unpacked, but I thought I could make myself an egg.  Wrong!  The ignitor for our gas stove worked, but upon closer inspection, we realized that the gas line had never been installed to the stove.  That required another worker to come and drill a hole in the countertop and then run the hose to the stove.

Hmmm, what else have we experienced?  Well, I thought that after living here for 4 years that surely we had acclimated our digestive systems to most of the intestinal challenges we might encounter.  We battled a few rounds of tummy troubles (affectionally known as Suzhou-stomach in our house) after a some meals out and one afternoon barbecue in the mountains.  It might have been the local produce, it might have been that the knives that were used to cut our BBQ meat were washed in the nearby stream, or it could have been something else.  Needless to say, Xi’an still had some surprises for us.

New school and no uniforms.
All three girls started school and we worked through a new routine for drop-off, pick-up and homework.  We got a puppy, which hasn’t been as challenging as I expected….though, I did set the bar extremely low, so anything seemed positive.

We took Oreo with us to a barbecue in the mountains.

We traveled to Dubai for October holiday.  It was amazing and some day I hope to blog about that!
Our first desert safari.

LBean and I have been traveling to Shanghai every few months for her orthodontist appointments.  Our  2-1/2 hour plane ride for a medical appointment makes me wistful for when it only took 10 minute drive (and three stoplights) to get to the dentist.  You can read about the time we went to Shanghai on the wrong weekend for LBean's appointment here: Piece of Humble Pie.

There is a lot of water on my floor!
Oh, and there was that time the workers came to turn on the in-floor heating and our living room floor flooded.  And, it was one week before Thanksgiving guests rolled in…that was awesome.  We mopped up 5 buckets full of water, moved furniture and dragged our new rug out to the patio and now we get to watch the remaining water creep up the walls in our apartment.  It’s going to take a few weeks for the workers to tear up all the tile in our living room and dining room and then fix the problem.  Merry Christmas to us!

So, most of that was just surviving.  But, there have been lots of thriving days too.  We love the people we have met, both local Chinese and other expats!  We have really enjoyed having families over for dinner, hosting parties, and trying to build community with new friends. 
We can fit a lot of people in our apartment and I'm so glad!

I’ve done a lot of thinking and comparing of Xi’an to Suzhou and here is my chart of “Here versus There”:

Here (XI’an)
There (Suzhou)
Noodles! We’re in the north, people eat noodles.
Rice (breakfast, lunch and dinner)
Rou jia mo (Xi’an hamburger-kind of)
Suzhou’s got nothing like this
Water canals
Pollution (better in the Spring, Summer, & Fall)
Pollution (at least we have them beat in the winter)
Northern dialect (words end with the ‘r’ sound)
Southern dialect (no ‘r’ on the end)
American international school for LBean & EBean - one class per grade (9-12 students per class)
British international school for LBean & Ebean - 4 classes per grade (17-20 students per class)
ChinaBean’s preschool-2 mornings in English/2 in Mandarin
ChinaBean’s preschool-all Mandarin, all the time
Starbucks, what Starbucks?!  Just kidding, there’s now one 10 minutes away by car.
Starbucks?  Which one, I could walk to 5 within 10-20 minutes.
Heat!  We’re north of the Yangtze River, some places have government heat.
No heat for you!  South of the Yangtze, you’re out of luck.
IKEA - opened in August!
IKEA - 35 minute drive away 
Expatriate community - it exists, but smaller
Expatriate community - 3 times the size of Xi’an!
Apartment living - 9th floor, 2 floors
Apartment living - 27t floor, one level
Amazing community of friends
Amazing community of friends

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