Monday, March 28, 2011

Bon appetit!

Above are some pictures we took at the local market around the corner. On the menu we have snake, turtle, and alligator. Mmmm!


I thought these babies weren't supposed to keep me awake all night until after they are born! Lately thing one and thing two have decided to start their boxing matches at around 12 pm. 


It's really hard for me to sleep when I feel like I have a squid living in my belly! I think they know that we're headed to the states soon and their getting a head start on the jet lag by staying up all night. Or maybe they're just as excited as I am to eat some decent food.


China would be a lovely place for someone that likes to diet, but its not so lovely for a pregnant American that has to eat a solid meal every couple of hours to even be able to function. I think I'm more excited to eat than I am to see our families! (That's a joke by the way)


My neighbor in the apartment above seems to have a certain affection for pounding at precise time intervals throughout the day: morning, noon, and night. Coincidentally, his "pounding time" seems to coincide perfectly with my "napping time." GRRR! In an attempt to keep me from doing some thing irrational I try to imagine that he is building some sort of beautiful sculpture.


But if he's going to keep it up much longer, it better be a sculpture akin to The David!!


Every so often Ezra and I run into other foreigners. When we do, we make sure to say hello. We love to find out what the heck they're doing in China.


We were in a little store scavenging for food when we ran into a cute gal from North Dakota. She and her husband are English teachers and they have a few young kids. We had a lovely little chat about where to find good vegetables and exchanged phone numbers. As we parted she explained that she had left her five-year-old daughter sitting on the front stairs and asked if we wouldn't mind checking on her as we left.


When we found the adorable little five year old, I noticed that she had a couple of gold fish in plastic bag.


Without thinking I said, "Are you going to eat those, or are they your pets?"


As soon I saw her horrified expression I realized what I had said. Of coarse she was not going to eat those pretty little fish. What kind of monster would ask such a question? She's not even a native!


My attempt to make her a friend was disastrous. She totally shut down and would not say another word to me.


Usually I have a much better way with children.


In defense of my behavior I have recently learned that rat is a delicacy in this area.


The thought of scarfing a goldfish doesn't seem sooo outlandish after all, right?!


Appropriately, Cat was the translator that informed Ezra and I of this. We asked her if she had eaten it herself. Her reply was "yes, it's delicious!"


Delicious! I should think not!


We explained to her that in the United States the consumption of such animals is unheard of.


It wasn't the next day when I saw a fat, foot long rat hanging out on the pathway to my apartment.  (Foot long only describes its body, its tail was not included in that measurement!) I never thought I'd be so scared of a stupid rodent. But it really threw me when it just sort of sat on the path and looked at me instead of scurrying away.


When I made it inside I texted Cat and told her that I had a huge rat for her. She texted back, "Great! Enjoy it!"


EVERYTHING is fair game in China as far as food is concerned. If can be boiled up or fried it's eaten. 


Our landlords Mrs. Who and Mr. Lue (no, that is not the correct spelling) graciously invited us to dinner. They took us to one of the fanciest restaurants I've ever been to in my life.


I knew we were going to be in trouble when we passed a poster of a gigantic cooked Salamander garnished with lettuce on our way into our private eating area.


The first thing they brought out was raw fish. The preparation of the fish went something like this:


Catch it, cut it into strips, and stick it on a plate.


The next fish they brought out was cooked, but it's eyeballs, scales, and bones were still fully intact. It's mouth was agape and its eye's were filled with its last plea for life, I couldn't just eat it!


At this point I started to worry, Mrs. Who and Mr. Lue are pretty much the nicest people ever and I knew they would not be happy if we didn't eat anything. I prayed for something edible. Luckily the next thing they brought out was soup. We carefully slurped and continued with some vegetables. We're not sure what kind of vegetables they were but they looked something like what you might find growing next to a canal bank in Idaho.


During the coarse of our meal we started talking about dogs. I said that I was surprised how many people I saw in Hong Kong eating with their dogs at their tables or even right in their laps. "So in China you can eat dog, with your dog."


Mrs. Who and Mr. Lu expressed their feelings on the subject and Cat who was translating said, "they don't like dogs, because the dogs, it produces the #$*!." Ezra and I started laughing and I explained to Cat that poop is probably a better word to use.


At the conclusion of dinner they brought out a drink- I got pretty excited when it looked similar to a pina colada, I just knew it had to be some sort of wonderful coconut juice. Boy was I wrong, the drink was basically warm puréed potato mixed with water. Gag.


While dinner was a disappointment, the company was great. Mrs. Who and Mr. Lue are such special people. Even though there is a language barrier we have felt so much love and generosity from them. 


And although our apartment floods were awful experiences we know that they were probably the necessary method for us to be able to form the relationship we have with these good people. We are so grateful for their friendship.


We tried to talk them into coming to the United States with us, but they think the same things about western food as we think about Chinese. 

Friday, March 18, 2011

Learning the ropes!

The first two pictures are of Ezra and I on a Gondola ride in Hong Kong. The last one is a picture of the Admiral City Mall that we live right behind, it's the shorter building with the circle. Ezra's work is the tallest building in the middle- floor 24. On the far right is the marriot and Walmart is on the left underground. If you look really hard you can see KFC.

So here's the story- I'm finding myself with ample time to blog and ample experiences to blog about. So if it seems like my posting has become a bit obsessive. Don't judge. It's keeping me sane.


My English teaching wishes haven't quite worked out. Between my "never know how I'm going to feel pregnancy" and all the traveling we've been doing it just hasn't been practical.


I once mentioned that my friend Ashley is all about getting the best deals. This week I learned where the best deals in Nanning are found. Ashley took me to a HUGE "shopping center" where most everything is sold wholesale.


I would rather take a big whiff of sewer (which we often do while out and about) than smell what was coming from some of the food stands in front of the entrance to this shopping center. I have no idea what they were cooking, but it is incomprehensible that anyone would ever want to eat it!


As we boarded the elevator I should have known it was not going to be a five star shopping experience. But I didn't care, I was ready to shop! Never have I seen so many clothes for sale. Each floor of the building was dedicated to a different group- mens, womens, kids, etc. It would literally take weeks to get through everything.


As we made our way around I began to feel like a very small mouse in a very very big maze. I stayed close to Ashley because I was terrified of getting lost, everywhere I could see, things looked the same. It was a ginormous indoor market and there was no sign of an exit.


I was so overwhelmed by the sheer mass of goods that did not buy a single thing. The fact that this place seemed to have no ventilation and was hotter than haiti's, might also have played a role. Once I had shed most of my appropriate layers and was feeling like I could no longer breath, we decided it was time to leave. When we passed by the food stands once more and I really started feeling awful, like I might pass out, awful.


That is when the real fun began. Rush hour in China makes rush hour about anywhere else look like a day at the park. We were going to have to find a taxi. The only problem was, it was time for the shift change. At this time of day 5-6 o'clock taxis are scarce and drivers will only take you in the direction they are already headed. Buses are out of the question because they are PACKED to the brim with people. In the US a bus is "full" when all the seats are taken. In China a bus is "full" when the driver can no longer close the door.


Ashley and I began to pray. We stood on the side of the road waving our arms like maniacs. After about 20 min of this I started to feel faint so she found me a seat in a nearby shop and told me she would call to me when she found a taxi. I watched her run back and forth across one of the busiest streets I've ever seen. (Only native Chinese have the ability to do this and not get run over.) After about another 15 minutes she finally found our taxi, now the only problem was that I was on the opposite side of the road. I was going to have to cross by myself!


The typical technique is to cross through one side of traffic and wait in the middle of the road til the other side has an opening. I rushed to the middle and then realized a huge bus was coming in the opposite direction, as it veered to avoid the taxi I was forced out of the middle of the road into on-coming traffic, cars were now veering to avoid me!


I was not feeling very confident. Unfortunately another huge bus was right behind the first so I just stood there with nothing more than a foot between me and all the vehicles rushing by. Not Good! Behind the second bus there was a band of scooterists. I figured that the scooterists were more agile so I pretty much closed my eyes and mad a run for it. I got honked at but at least I didn't get hit.


I never thought I'd be so happy sit my bottom in a dirty little taxi. Ashley told the driver where to drop her off and gave him directions to Xianxieli (my apartment complex.) After a few minutes Ashley hopped out, said goodbye, and told me to call her when I arrived at Xianxieli.


As we drove NOTHING was looking familiar. There is a main drag called Minzu Da Doa that leads to our apartment, he was not on it. I started to freak out just a bit and decided to call Ezra. I told him that nothing was looking familiar and for all I knew the taxi driver could be abducting me. Ezra gave me a few self-defense ideas and told me to call him back in a few minutes.


Soon my surrounding started looking familiar and I was able to calm down a bit… that was until my driver said, "we're going to Xianxieli, right?"


My eye's about popped out of my head. This guy knew English! I felt so dumb.


"Oh-yeah, by the way, I really didn't mean all that stuff about you abducting me."







Friday, March 11, 2011

Story time!

Above are pictures of Ezra and I in Hong Kong!

PREGNANCY UPDATE: I can feel the babies move!! They're still a little small for me to tell which baby is which but there is definitely some movement going on in there. It's so Fun! I mostly feel them when I'm lying down or relaxing. The movement started out as little pokes and prods and now I feel them more and more everyday. Ezra's even been able to feel them move a few times.

I haven't gotten to go to the doctor as much as hoped I would. My doctor here in China has more of a "if it ain't broke don't fix it" policy so she wont see me for another couple weeks. It's been reassuring to me to feel some movement, "we're in here mom, we're okay."

I'm just DYING to know what these babies are!

 A couple days before our departure we met a man that had done a good deal of traveling in China. His comment was: "You're moving to China, your lives are going to be crazy."

Man was he was right.

Crazy experiences happen everyday without fail. Some of them I would just as soon forget…like the giant rat that lives near our apartment, and others I wish I could share with the world….like the adorable giggly little girl we met at Sophie's.

So many funny things happen to us, I wish I could share all of them. We have had experiences that have been simply priceless as far as humor is concerned.

As most of you know Ezra is a wonderful storyteller (he always spices up the details).  I wish that he could be the one to tell these stories, but alas, he is very busy and well I'm kind of not, so you'll just have to put up with my version until you get a chance to see us in person.

Story 1:
CONFESSION: Ezra and I are regulars at Pizza Hut. (It's just another way I'm becoming more like my mother) ha

 It's not your typical pizza hut, and almost nobody actually orders pizza. In China all the meat is full of bones of every shape and size.  We were quite thrilled when we found meat on the pizza hut menu that came without all the bones and now we eat there all the time. That is, when we're not in Dahua.

This particular visit we were waiting for our meal and I had to make a trip to the bathroom. I usually do my best to avoid Chinese restrooms, number one reason being—they are filthy, number two reason being that they have Chinese toilets---aka the squatty potty.  It is nearly impossible to find western toilets anywhere in Nanning.

A squatty potty is basically a porcelain hole in the ground with a little bit of water in it and two designated areas to place the feet. To successfully use this toilet the "squatter" must have the appropriate amount of leg strength and balance. 

These are skills that I significantly lack- and I'm going to blame that on pregnancy. My squatty potty attempts have been relatively unsuccessful and far more stressful than a trip to the bathroom should be-especially for one pregnant with twins.

It was to my happy surprise that I found a western style toilet in the Pizza hut restroom. As I entered the stall I did my typical toilet analysis. As I checked the toilet seat for possible hazards I found a unique sample. Muddy shoe prints??.....Very peculiar. It took me a few moments to connect the clues but I soon realized that a very brave Chinese woman had had her first encounter with a western toilet.

Some tiny Chinese lady had mounted the toilet in a way that most of us westerners can hardly imagine let a lone even think to attempt with out the proper safety gear.

She had, in fact…….stood on the toilet seat.

As I pictured this scene in my mind, my laughter made my prompt use of the toilet ever more essential.

I quickly rushed back to my table to share my findings with Ezra. We spent the remainder of dinner coming up with the thoughts this Chinese women must have had, whilst a top the toilet seat.

Here are a few:

"The view from here is quite stunning" –yeah, Imagine if Ezra and I stood on the toilet seat nobody in the restroom would have any privacy!

"These westerners are nuts, bad engineering"

"I'm likely to fall in, why did they make the edges so round, they definitely need better foot holds on these things"

"My feet are slipping, my feet are slipping"

"I could really use something to hold onto"

Hopefully she didn't have to go any number higher than one-because the splash might have been record breaking. Okay that's gross but that's the effect living in China is having on me. Maybe next time she'll be smart enough to bring a harness.

Story 2: Culture Shock!

The other day Ezra and I had just finished dinner with the "American gang." The "gang" consists of all the American employees that are working here Dahau at the moment, plus a few translators that help us actually order our food.

We had just finished a lovely meal of goat, sweet potatoes, soggy lettuce, and dumplings. Ezra and I were headed down a darkened street to pick up Ezra's laundry.

We were making our way a long the edge of the street when a women on a scooter came zipping around the corner. Ezra had to quickly jump out of the way to avoid getting run over by this deranged scooterist.

As we continued to watch this woman it was clear to see that she was drunk. We watched her swerve all over the street. After a few moments she attempted to park and dismount. She was unsuccessful and ended up in a squatted position next to her scooter with its weight pressing toward her.

Just past this pathetic scene was the laundry mat. Ezra and I entered, there were two tables of women playing some sort of Chinese block game. It must have been a pretty intense game because the women didn't take a second to even glance at us.

We gave the receipt to the lady at the counter and she went into the back to find Ezra's clothes. Ezra and I were busy making faces at a few of the children hanging around the counter when the drunken scooterist entered the laundry mat. Ezra soon recognized her as the laundry mat owner.

She wobbled her way into the back room and came out with Ezra's bag. We were about to leave when she started winking at Ezra. She spat out what must have been some sort of joke, started laughing, and continued to try and communicate with Ezra. We can hardly understand any Mandarin when sober Chinese speak it, so we just stood there and kind of smiled.  

This lady just kept talking and laughing in her drunken way.

Then, out of nowhere she came around the counter, grabbed my arm, raised her arm high in the air and smacked me right on the bum. Hard.


The lady just laughed and wobbled into the back room once again. I was in a state of utter confusion and had no idea what to do. I thought, "Did that really just happen." Then all there was left to do was laugh.

Ezra got a pretty good kick out of that one. I think the lady meant to smack his bottom, but in her drunken stupor she smacked mine instead.  

I told Ezra that it would be the last time I accompanied him to the laundry mat. He suggested that I come with him the next time and return her the favor. And you know…maybe I will.

Story 3: Standing in line- Chinese Style.

Formation of an orderly line where each person retains their spot while at the same time retaining their personal space is a concept we Westerns fully embrace.  We enforce the rules of the line in family settings, at work, school, shopping, etc. We all know what the rules are and do not usually respond patiently when the "rules" are broken.

In China there is no such thing as a line. The Chinese do not line….they herd. If you do not move swiftly you quickly find your self at the tail end of the herd. If you leave an opening if front of you whether it be an inch or half a centimeter you will find yourself further and further away from your intended destination.

I had my first real experience with the "herd" in Hong Kong. At first I stayed calm- I stayed close to Ezra and tried not to breath out of my nose. Soon the lady with the red coat, who we were right behind, was five rows in front of us.

After about 15 minutes I started to loose it. I was really wishing I had the defensive instincts of a puffer fish.

"Why does this lady keep touching me?!"



 I was about ready to lash out irrationally. I shoved my purse behind my shoulder,

"Yeah, ya see that six inches my purse is sticking into your face, don't come closer than that!!"

All sorts of embarrassingly mean thoughts were coming to my head.

Ezra wasn't doing much better and we started coming up with plans to take care of things. We put our feet and arms together to create a wall. But nothing seemed to work. I hate to say it but by the time we made it to the front of the herd I was pushing people out of my way- I think I about knocked a few over.

After that experience Ezra and I vented our thoughts to each other. At dinner that night we came up with a series of inventions to take care of the problem. Everything from metal hula-hoops, to shockers, to lazer beams, unfortunately all of our inventions were highly impractical.  So I guess we are going to have to learn some patience instead.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Is this real life?

Above is a picture of Ezra at Walmart- he's just checking out the merchandise. And a 16 Week Belly picture, people still can't really tell that I'm pregnant yet- but I sure can.


I found out from one of Ezra's co-workers that the last woman that came out to Nanning had a panic attack and was on a plane home within three days.  So, as awful as it is to compare myself with some one I've never met. I'm feelin pretty tough. lol


Except for…. If it weren't for the gospel and all the tender mercies I've been blessed with I probably would have been in the same boat…..or plane.


I'm back In Dahua again this week- and feeling a little better.


I'm almost positive I'm the only white girl many of these people have ever seen, it's not exactly a big tourist town. People riding by on their scooters about crash because they're craning their neck to get a look at me walking along the sidewalk----instead of looking forward like good scooterist should.


With all these people staring at me sometimes I feel self conscious about the fact that my pants are unzipped to make way for my growing belly, and my humidity affected frizz-i-fied hair is sticking out in every direction (I've yet to find hair spray). Sometimes it's hard not to get envious of all the silky smooth black hair I see around me ( :


Maternity clothes weren't really on the list of necessities when I came to China. Honestly at the time I left I was having a hard time thinking about anything other than my nausea. I made no new years goals or resolutions. My only goal was to survive.


Now that I've made it here and am surviving, I'm realizing a little projective thinking would have been good. I am hoping that the clothes I've brought will hold me until April.


I've had a chance to get out on the town in Dahua a bit more this time. I am starting to feel less nervous about all the craziness that surrounds me. However, every once in a while, I'll have a sort of out of body experience where I actually start to take in what I'm seeing and I think "holy cow, I'm in China, look around, this is soooooooooo nuts, am I still on planet Earth?!"


It's crazy, it's weird, and some times it breaks my heart. There are people going through garbage cans all over the place. Most of them are little old ladies. They take the trash bag and sit on curb and go through the garbage one piece at a time. It's so sad and hard to see. I wish I could do something to help them.


The more I travel in China the more I realize that I could die at any moment. Did I ever tell you about our cab driver with turrets?


Every time he would have a muscle spasm, about every 10 seconds, he would either let off or push the brake or gas pedal and his head would turn back toward us. Um yeah…. Ezra and I were pretty scared. We looked at each other, and silently tried to figure out what to do.


Cab driver might not have been his best career choice but he was just doing the best he could. My heart really went out to him. Luckily Ezra figured out that the more we talked to him the calmer he got and his spasms died down. Ezra was so kind to him and I was proud to call him my husband.


Little did I know that incident was just the beginning of even crazier traveling experiences. Every time I hop into a bus, cab, van, three legged horse, or whatever it may be, I find myself face to face with my mortality. I can proudly state that I remain calm- I figure if it's my time to go I'll go and I know where I'm going and it doesn't scare me.


But I really don't think it's my time- so I have nothing to worry about. When other people in the vehicle, particularyly first timers to China, start to get nervous I tell them that it's not our time to go, and I promise them we'll be just fine. My reassurances don't really seem to help much. I still see their eyes bug out and they start looking for things to grab onto.


Ezra and I are headed to Hong Kong again this weekend, we have to get new visas. I'm really thrilled—I've spent a few hours researching where all the good western restaurants are. I know it's pretty pathetic to be so excited to travel to one of the world's most happenin cities just to eat.


But I can't help it…I've been eating GOAT----you know the furry little farm animal--I'm not kidding either. The only "western" food in Dhua is a KFC knock off called DFC and it's horrible. I refuse to eat there. I have been getting quite hungry and I've gotten to a point where I'm willing to eat just about anything that tastes even somewhat decent. And surprisingly goat fits that category.


I know I've mentioned milk in a lot of my posts- ---I'm pretty sure that stuff is addicting, and I'm pretty sure I'm an addict, and I'm pretty sure I'm having withdrawals. I never thought I'd eat goat meat, and it's really not that bad. So maybe I'd like goat milk too. I'll put that on my honey-do list for Ezra: find Jessica a goat