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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Going solo.

Today was a historic moment. My little girl is turning into a young lady. Suzanne took her first trip on an airplane by herslef. She is staying in Beijing for a week with friends and attending a weekend church conference camp. WE LOVE YOU VERY MUCH SUZANNE. Have fun and come home safe.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Trip down memory lane.

I received a message on Facebook from someone I used to go to high school with. We went to Woodbridge American high school on RAF Woodgridge in Suffolk county, England. It was the sister base to RAF Bentwaters. We graduated in 1986 and I later found that the base had closed and for some time was being reclaimed by the surrounding forest. Now I have discovered it is being used in part by the locals for housing and in part by the British Army. There are several sites that talk about the Woodbridge Warriors. I had to leave behind my year book when I moved to China but can still recognize some of the names. When I think about Woodbridge I think of a quote that was used in one of my favorite movies, 'Star Trek: The Motion Picture', "It was the worst of times. It was the best of times."

May Day.

The comment was made that Labor Day is a long time to wait to enjoy the summer. It would be too late if I was talking about American Labor Day in September but I am referring to the Labour Day or May Day that the rest of the world celebrates on May 1. I hope this will help clarify the confusion.

Monday, April 26, 2010

At long last.

It has taken over a week of temperatures above freezing but all the snow is almost melted. The weather has turned from cold and white to cold and wet with scattered nice days. I didn’t like working inside all day at CMC when the weather was nice and all I could do was look at it through an open door. Here, I can work a few hours in the morning and still have the whole afternoon to enjoy it when the weather is a nice day. I am told the city is very lovely in the summer with lots of flowers. They have been planting in the parks and along the roads all week long. Labor Day weekend should be very nice and we will take full advantage of it.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Nice day to get out.

Suzanne won a bracelet at the mall arcade and Destiny wanted to try it out. She just wanted to try it out in her mouth. The only way we would let her play with it was if her pacifier was in her mouth. She hasn't figured out how to spit it out to get something else in.

It is supposed to be raining during the week, so we decided to take advantage of the good weather today and went to 'Xilin Park', just one block away from Ivy. There were many people out doing the same thing.
The tree Deb is holding up is very unusual with its extremely long branch being supported by concrete pillars that look like tree trunks. Here is also a picture of what looks like it used to be a church of some kind. It is located one block off the main road through town in a part of town that is a little run down. The street it is on has apartments, small businesses, pool halls, massage parlors and nice restaurants. It seems odd to see new mixed in with the old.
The next chance we will have to get out will be next weekend and the weather should be nice. It will be the first time I haven't worked on Labor Day that I can remember. In fact, I had forgotten that I get three days off for Labor Day until some other teachers were talking about what they were going to be doing on their three days off. With Susan going to Beijing, we are just going to stay here and explore the city and enjoy the parks.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Lots of walking means new shoes.

Debora took Suzanne with her to buy some new shoes after we had lunch today. After they found some Deb liked Suzanne bargained with them to get there price of 680RMB, a price equal to $100US, down to $15US. Then after work Deb went with me so I could get some new shoes. The first place had some that were not the right size so they went in the back and came back with the same shoe only with a different size sticker put over the original. I walked away from them and continued looking. I found some others and after trying them on began to haggle. They started at 580RMB which is $85US. This of course was too much so I made a counter offer of 30RMB or $4.50US. They laughed at this offer but as I started to leave they began to come down some in price. After they came down a little, I went up a little. I continued to walk away and they continued to lower there price to 140RMB. I saw that they were now serious about making a sale and I gave them my final offer of 110RMB. They countered with 120RMB and I dropped my offer to 100RMB. She finally agreed to sell the shoes to me for 110RMB or $16.50US.
After we walked home we took the dog out to the park to play ball. It was 50F and DJ had a good time until she got hungry.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Busy evening.

To celebrate Suzanne's improved math scores we all went out to the arcade at New-Mart after I got off work at Ivy. Also, Suzanne is going to a church youth conference weekend in Beijing in two weeks and staying with our friends there for a week. I picked up the ticket today and Deb will put her on the plane on this end and they will greet her on that end. Then reverse the whole thing a week later. The church is going to reimburse us for the tickets so long as we pay the 500RMB for the conference. I think she will have a wonderful time and maybe will bring us back some gifts for Mother and Father Day's. (Ha, Ha) When she comes back she has to take SAT's. I will be able to give them to her myself instead of paying for her to go back to the states just for this. DJ will finally be getting her six month shots on Wednesday, six weeks late because she had been sick.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Hey! What happened to the water?!

We started off the day pretty much normal. I looked out the window to see what the weather was like today and saw a neighbor out front doing Kung-Fu exercises with a sword. I made sure he was finished before I took the dog out just in case. Debora took a shower and just after she got out I found out the water wasn't working anymore. There was some sort of notice put up on all the apartment entrances that must have let everyone know the water would be shut-off. Of course it was in Chinese, so it was a suprise to us. Someone told me it would be off for 12 hours. I found out later that it was a city wide water outage and these are frequent when the weather gets warm. We have bottled water to drink and will just have to keep a look out for more notices in the future. We can put some extra water in the tub for washing dishes, bathing or flushing. When we went shopping this afternoon there were a couple of gentlemen watching us and pointing like they had never seen a fat American and his wife shopping before. To us what was really strange was as we were leaving we saw a dog wearing clothes and jewelry in a cart. The water did come back on and after letting it run for a bet, it seems to be back to normal.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Spring snow.

It started snowing yesterday and has snowed or rained since. If it was just snow it would be about 10-12 inches. Instead it is now about 2 inches of slush.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Relaxing day.

Today was just another Monday for everyone. Carl went to work at the public school and had classes until about 11:30am and then went and picked up some rice for our lunch like he does three days a week. On the way home, he found a place that sold cotten candy. That was a treat since we haven't had that since we've been in China. After lunch, Suzanne and I had decided to go to what we called a mall and heard it's actually a department store between New-Mart and Fu-Mart. He had been in it the other day and noticed that they had a lot of baby toys in there. We walked down to it, and found DJ two toys that she has been playing with and loves. While Suzanne and I were gone to do shopping, Carl, DJ and Spot stayed home and napped and relaxed.


It has been predicted that it was going to snow tomorrow and then again later in the week. The weatherman just forgot to tell Mother Nature that though, because it had started to snow and then rain some today. Tonight, Suzanne is fixing tuna casserole for supper and then we are going to watch a Easter church service online from the church in Beijing that TJ and Jenni attend.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Today is a good day to get married.

There were many people gathering outside our bedroom window in the courtyard this morning at 6am. We continued to try to sleep even when there was a great deal of shouting going on at 6:15. Just as we were getting to sleep good again at 6:45, there were tens of thousands of firecrackers going off in the courtyard. When we looked out the window we could see many people standing around dressed in black and more shiny cars with red ribbons parked outside than we have ever seen. There was one of the entrances to the building behind us decorated in an arch of pink and white ballons and flowers. We watched as the people all filed inside and then shortly came back out only to get in their cars and wait. Finally the bride and groom came out. We had been watching the beginning of a Chinese wedding. All over the city today there were many such events taking place. First the groom would do firecrackers at his home to chase away evil spirits and then go to decorate the bride's home. After negotiations with the bride's friends and family he would set off more firecrackers and share tea with the bride's family before taking her to his family's home. There would be many dinners over the next three days as part of the wedding ceremony. It seems that there are not as many days in the 2010 lunar calendar that the stars are right for weddings as there were last year. Today is the 26th day of the 2nd month of the year 2010, or February 26, 2010 on the lunar calendar. Here are some links to some information about Chinese wedding traditions and someone elses observations of a different wedding.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Food for thought.

Some people have asked me about the Great Wall and if we have seen it yet. It is a dream of ours to visit the Great Wall and have a sandwich while setting there, looking out and drifting back in time. We were only about 20 something miles from the wall when we were in Beijing but it was too cold then. The nearest section of the wall to us is the most Eastern part which is 700 miles to the Southwest from Jiamusi and 170 miles East of Beijing. You can see on the map of the wall that it has many different parts. The other map shows what was Manchuria which is the part of China we live in. We are 190 miles Northeast of Harbin.
Deb gave Destiny a pickle for her to teeth and she really enjoyed it. If anyone has any questions about anything please write and let me know. I am more than happy to share our life in China with you.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Afternoon walk.

We all took a walk this afternoon to a park about two blocks to the East of our apartment that I saw on Google Earth. At the front of the park is a large rock formation you can see Suzanne standing on and the sidewalk going under. There were many people in the park doing all kinds of different things. The first thing we were drawn to was someone playing a musical instrument and people singing what sounded like opera. Not far from them were some people practicing their Kung-Fu with swords. On down the path were many people dancing to music. When we stopped to watch them they all stopped and came to watch us because we are a very rare sight to see around here. They were fascinated with the baby of course, Suzanne because she made a choice to where shorts and they had never seen a dog like Spot. After we pushed our way through the crowd we walked on to see other people doing another form of Chinese stretching and exercising. It had warmed up to nearly 50F today but there was a strong cold wind so we kept moving and headed back home. We took a little detour down a side road to the river and took a picture of the boat building and the new construction that is always going on. Everyone enjoyed the walk including DJ and Spot but I think the Chinese who stared at us as they walking by, looked out windows or drove along side enjoyed our walk even more. I can only imagine the blog they would write about seeing us. Every time we get out we are more a tourist attraction than tourist. We could just about set-up a tent and make a living charging admission.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Shopping.

We had to go shopping again and this time I remembered to take my phone out and get some pictures. After working all morning from 8:20 to 11:30 I felt like taking a nap after lunch before going shopping. Usually if we wait to go shopping until late afternoon the store is very busy. Today there was only two or three thousand Chinese shopping instead of the normal ten or twelve. After you come in the entrance and take the moving sidewalk underground into the store you must first place any purses or other bags into a security bag with a lock the store puts on the bag which they remove when checking out. The first part of the store is all the clothes and things that are not food. Each different department of the store has a place where your selections are weighed and price tagged. The hardest place to get around in the store is the produce section because of this system. The meat department doesn't sell meat in packages. Instead the meats are slaughtered fresh daily right behind the counter for all to see and the different cuts placed out front for everyone to look at using tongs. They do grind some meat up before putting it out or you can ask for a roast you select to be ground. Then they 'bag it and tag it'. The different kinds of meats such as poultry, beef, pork or other small animals like lamb, are kept seperate from each other. The fish and seafood section has too many types of fish and seafood to name and is all fresh. There is also a section that sells dried fish. There are sections that sell spices, nuts, candy and dried goods. There is a large bakery and seperate stalls that sell fresh cooked foods ready to eat. For right now we generally steer clear of the traditional Chinese foods since we don't know what they are and they don't look or smell good to us. We did pick-up some roast chicken, or maybe it was duck. Either way it was very good. Something that we have had that wasn't any good is corn on the cob. It is not the same as in the states. It is very firm and wax like in texture and flavor. There are isles of food including one whole isle for dry noodle soups but not many canned foods. After you check out you leave by passing many booths trying to sell things. I am very proud of myself that I was able to tell the taxi driver where we live without him having to read the little card the school provided me.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Getting around.

Now that the weather is starting to get warmer we will be walking more rather than taking a taxi. For where we live and where we go it is only 5rmb or $0.75US for a taxi to take us. The cars are all small or smaller and there are different prices. There are taxis that are very dirty and barely held together and then there are newer taxis that are cleaner and a little bigger. It is 5rmb for the first 2km for any taxi and after that it varies in price from 1.3rmb to 1.6rmb for each additional 0.5km I think. There are buses as well but we haven't tried them yet. There is no subway in Jiamusi but there are rickshaws. The rickshaws are usually only 2 or 3rmb. The rickshaws are three wheeled bikes with an enclosed seat for two on the back. The drivers sit out front and control their own prices. I don't think the rickshaws are company owned like the taxis. Traffic lights have countdown timers on them showing how long before it changes to either green, yellow or red. Even with the lights I haven't seen any order to the traffic other than to keep moving. It seems the bigger you are the more right of way you have. Everyone uses their horns alot to let people or other motorist know they are coming. It is a lot like when in baseball two outfielders are going to catch the same fly ball and the one who calls out first that they got it is the one who tries to catch the ball. We have been in taxis that have turned left from the far right lane. The roads are marked off in three lanes each way with a bearier between directions. Cars, buses and bikes all share the road with people walking along the side and crossing anywhere. Even though the lanes are marked cars weave from lane to lane or even straddle the lines sometimes going five wide in three lanes or at lights six or seven wide. At the lights the taxis try to time it so they are already half way through their turns by the time the light turns green, like someone stealing a base in baseball. We haven't seen any accidents but I have heard of one. We have seen an ambulance get held up at a light because nobody wanted to move even with its lights and siren going. We have also seen police out at lights but do not know what they are there for. I have seen police going down the road with lights on and getting passed and cut off by taxis. People are a little more courteous with cars that are black, especially when they have dark tint. These cars are usually owned by people with money or power or both.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Cookie

We started this Monday by putting Destiny in her Easter dress for a picture and to talk to her grandma over Skype. This morning Deb and Suzanne went out for a walk in the snow and this afternoon I went to visit my friend George. After eating this evening Destiny wanted to practice with the spoon like she was feeding herself. TJ and Jenni had sent us a cookie mix from Beijing in a care package we got last week, so today we borrowed a toaster oven from George and Suzanne and Deb fixed one big cookie. It turned out very delicious. Thank you TJ, Jenni and George.