Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Ho Ho Ho! Christmas in China

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Pictures at last!
I had every intention of making a little video tour of our apartment right from the front door outside, up the elevator, and then around our home. I wanted to do this as soon as I had things put away perfectly. Well, that hasn't quite happened yet and I don't know that it will happen before we move out. Perhaps I will get around to making a tape for family or something. For now, here are some pictures of our home sweet home.

Above you can see the view you have as you walk down the entrance hallway. There is usually a small table where the Christmas tree is, but you get the general idea. If you turn to the right is our living room/dining room and also the kitchen.

The kitchen

Our TV/computer/guest room (if you come to visit we will clean it)

Bedroom, including my reading windowsill
One of our three bathrooms (we have two tubs and two showers)

Monday, December 19, 2005

He doesn't seem to do anything...

My nephews (turning three this week and just turned five last week) look at their new baby brother. The middle kid is excited to be a BIG brother now! Now someone has to break it to him that not only will he not be four on his birthday, but that his big brother is no longer four. How will he ever catch up? Oh well, he can do more than the baby can!

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Is it really THAT bad?

Rob said that I look scary in this picture. Nice thing to say to your wife, isn't it? I don't think it is my best picture ever or anything, but I don't think that merely looking at it is going to cause small children to have nightmares. He says it looks like I didn't want my picture taken. Like he does?

This little girl had already had a million pictures taken and her mom made her go back for another. Doesn't she looked thrilled? She was happier once I took the picture and let her see it. Her mom wasn't showing her the pictures and I think that was part of what had her not so thrilled.

There were cool yo-yo koosh balls for the kids to play with. The balls lit up when you hit them against something. The kids loved them and adults could be seen playing with them too.

And of course, what is a work Christmas party without the appearance of Santa Claus? A lot of the Chinese kids weren't so sure about this guy, even though he spoke Chinese. He did come bearing gifts, but doesn't your mom always teach you not to talk to strangers or take candy or presents from them? I guess it is okay if they are wearing a funky red outfit and wearing a fake beard.

The adults also got presents of sort at the party. All of the official gift stuff that people get over the year is saved up for the Christmas party. Each is numbered and numbers are put into a container. People draw numbers and get to keep the corresponding present. Some are neat and some are not so neat. Luck of the draw. Well, Rob was sure excited to get his as I am sure that you can tell in this picture. Later he did model it a bit for us. We are wondering though exactly why that was given as an official gift and who initially received it. The gifts are usually more business or city related. This just doesn't seem to fit either of those categories. Oh well.

Death of a DVD Player
Don't you hate it when you decide to watch a movie and the DVD player doesn't work? I had one die on me in the States, but it went slowly. At first it wouldn't play all of my DVDs, then when it was loading the ones that would play I would have to tilt the DVD player back at an angle. It got to the point where I would put my ear up next to the DVD player and depending upon the sound it was making I would increase or decrease how much I was tilting it. When it finally died it wasn't much of a shocker. I had seen it coming. I admit that I didn't want to throw it out and we ended up keeping it until we moved. I finally was able to part with it then (I did check one more time to make sure that it hadn't recovered) because moving it with us to China just seemed a bit excessive. I guess part of it was that I felt so wasteful. It probably could have been repaired and had many years of use. Why would I pay more to fix one than to get a new one though?
Our lovely DVD player here had a sudden death. We went to watch something and it refused to read any DVD or CD. The previous night we had been watching something and hadn't had a problem. Our only difficulties with the DVD player had been (1) not being able to read the Chinese characters on the remote control and (2) whenever the power went out it went back to the default language setting of Chinese. Perhaps we will never know if ZNX is a bad brand or if it was just bad luck. We had gone really cheap, so perhaps we got what we paid for.
Our new DVD player is an AMOI, one of China's best brands as the saleslady pointed out. We got the second most expensive model in stock and shelled out $62 for it. Of course when we turn in our receipt for VAT refund we will get 17% of that back. We also got a special bonus gift of two karaoke microphones and four DVDs. Looks like three of the four are going to be in English, but the fourth might be only Chinese. After she had made the sale is when we learned about our exciting bonus gifts AND when she showed us how to use the remote. This remote is also in Chinese so she hooked up our DVD player to a TV and showed us what the different buttons did. One of our favorite features is that you can change the lighting color on the DVD player. That's right, a feature you always wanted and possibly needed, but hadn't thought about. You can now have the DVD player match your decor by pushing a button on the remote. How do people even come up with features like this? Does it make this particular model more appealing? Do people try to decide which DVD player they want and then realize that hands down this is the best one, I mean you can change the color! Too bad it is hard to capture that with the camera. I tried earlier in the day and too much sun was coming in the window and then later it was dark and if I used the flash it took out the light color. Here are two no flash pictures to show you blue and red. You probably can imagine green, white, yellow, purple, etc.
I hadn't realized before that many DVDs purchased in the US have many different language and subtitles available even though they are not listed. With our new DVD player we can get several of each (spoken and subtited). I suppose it is because our player works on regions 1-6. I was having fun listening to the movie in Chinese with Portugese subtitles or in French with Korean subtitles. Doesn't take much to amuse me. Plus, I got to change the color display as I watched. Wow!
On a loosely related note (it involves an incident on the way back from buying the DVD player)... We were waiting to cross the street at a busy intersection. There was a bus stopped there that is one of the buses that looks like it should be in a junkyard or taking the riders straight to Hell. The kind of bus with more rust than not, door that doesn't close all the way, and of course the old lady with the megaphone shouting out to those who will listen as to why they should choose to ride this bus. Well, the bus was not moving and the honks were getting louder and more numerous. A couple of people got off the bus and started to push it. They were having little success, so they got back on and recruited some of the bigger looking guys to help them push the bus and try to get it going again. Their timing was great. They want to cross an intersection while other cars are making left turns across it, blocking their way. So the bus driver is trying to steer around the cars (which are also swerving and breaking) as they make their way forward. Too bad the light changed and we got to cross. I would have liked to have seen how that ended. I was so mad at myself for not having my camera to take a picture of these people pushing the bus. It was an amusing sight. Oh well, Rob's work Christmas party was this weekend too. I have some pictures to put up of that. I suppose that will have to make do.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

Today I went to Wu'Ai Market with two Americans who work at the consulate (and live in my building). I managed to buy a 6 foot tree and a wreath for the door for $12.75. I don't think we got ripped off too much. Anyway, I was willing to pay that much. Haven't taken the tree out of the box and don't plan on it this year since we already have one up. Here is a picture of the wreath though, not too bad, huh? I mean, I have seen nicer ones, but it was under $4. If I can find a way to ship them easily and cost effectively perhaps I will get some for gifts next year and mail to people. I was so excited that Karen introduced me to this area of the market. I hadn't ever been in it before I I think I will have to go back to explore some more. They had a lot of great stuff and even if I have to pay the white girl price it should still be a deal.

Here is a picture of me with Rob in front of one of the trees in the hotel lobby. Thought we should try to get a couple of pictures of us together. Seems one or the other of us is always taking the picture so we aren't in them together.

Thanks to customs forms, Rob won't have any suprises this year at Christmas. Evidently he did a dance in the mail room when he got the package that the game I bought him was in. Oh well. I guess this way he gets to be excited twice.

Tomorrow is the Christmas party at the consulate. The Chinese employees will be there too. I hope to get some pictures of the little kids with Santa Claus.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Warning: This is a food related post. :)
My poor sister. Will she ever live down telling me that I have too many food related posts? Perhaps if she lived here in China and had to try to figure out how to put together meals she would become more food related too. Since October vendors have been selling these crabapple type things on sticks. The little round red fruits are coated in candy apple type sugar coating. They look pretty good and I see people eating them all the time. I see people eating gross things all the time too, so I suppose popularity isn't really a good gauge for me to use. Anyway, one day when I was walking back from Fu-Mart with my groceries, I saw a guy selling these apple kabob thingies. I figured I would give it a try. I kept my fingers crossed that they were somewhat fresh and that no bird flu infected birds had been licking them. It only cost 12 cents, so you really can't beat the price. At least I think you can't beat the price, perhaps I got ripped off because I am American. I am thinking that 12 cents is a decent price though. And in Chinese currency it is an even amount of 1 kuai so it isn't like a weird amount. It was pretty good. Since it didn't make me sick I will probably get one again sometime. I wish they had more of the sweet sugary coating on them, but I doubt they could ever have enough sugar on for me. It is really sweet as you first bite in, followed by a tart taste that makes you pucker. Good thing there is that sweet coating on the other side to help get rid of that tart sensation. I took a picture to show what it looks like. It is quite an attractive picture. Have you ever tried eating candied fruit on a stick while taking your own picture? It took a couple of shots before I got me in the shot.

Noodles in a Box
It was mail day for me big time! Don't I look so cute reveling in the whole mail experience? Poor Rob had to have a bellboy help him up with the mail. It's not everyday that a luggage cart filled with mail makes it up to your door. UPS is probably glad they didn't have to deliever to us. (Of course UPS doesn't come only once a week so they could spread out the mail load over multiple days.)
My favorite piece of mail (okay, it actually came in two huge boxes) was my nativity set. It is something that I would never buy for myself. Before my Grandmother died she gave her grandchildren money. I wanted to get something
that would truly be special and remind me of my Grandma. I had wanted to get it last year, but I just couldn't get myself to spend that much money on something that wasn't even useful. I kept thinking I could get it cheaper if I waited. I also wondered where in the world I would possibly be able to store all of the packing materials so that it could be packed for moves. By the time I finally deci
ded to get it, it was out of stock! I was so excited to see it in the catalog again this year. It is so beautiful! I think Grandma would be pleased with my selection. I know I will treasure it for years and hope to be able to pass it down in my family for generations to come.