Posts Tagged 'life'

Life Is Different

So it’s been about five-hundred years since my last post.  At least it feels that way!  And it also feels like our lives in China have fast forwarded quite suddenly as well.  This is likely because in the last year, I’ve had a baby (and boy does that fill your time!), gotten a new job, moved (across the street, but still), traveled throughout the US for two months, and to top it off, I am now a full-time working mom.

Our lives look a lot different than they did last year too, which is another reason it likely feels we’ve fast forwarded.  We are both working full time, and formal time as students of Chinese has come to a close.  Which is not all bad, since being a student is rather rough on the pocketbook.  Leo is in kindergarten, and is speaking Chinese all day either in school or with his nanny.  JM continues his full-time work as a teacher, and I am in an office all day, with mostly Chinese colleagues and some other Americans.  Rosie is at home with our nanny, a new ‘ayi’ that we hired to work all day from 8-5pm while we work.

We live where I work, as the company provides housing for the foreign employees.  This makes for the world’s shortest commute.  Our apartment is nice, and we are enjoying some creature comforts we’ve gone without the past few years – like a bathtub, carpet, a built-in oven, a clothes drier, central heating and air, and filtered water from the tap.

Lest all these perks fool you into thinking we have suddenly hit easy street :), know that I am working hard for the money.  I am separated from my children a LOT, but we are adjusting and managing.  I am working in education administration, and one of my favorite things about the work is that I work with mostly Chinese colleagues.  I enjoy my American colleagues, for sure, but it has been a great opportunity to use my Chinese far beyond the market, the playground, and the home. I am now using it everyday in a professional setting, and that is great.

So our lives have, over the course of almost three years, settled down here in China for the time being.  Life feels much more normal now than it has ever before.  We have some routines now that we haven’t had in the past, and it’s not as difficult as it used to be to navigate our everyday life.  And I count that as a blessing at this point!  I don’t have to look up new vocabulary words every time I walk out the door.  My newer challenges include things like getting to know an entirely different office and business culture and balancing two small children with a very busy work life.

For instance, I just returned from my first business trip away from my kids here.  I was gone for five days up in Northeast China.  I had the opportunity to meet a lot of directors of different educational programs, and it was a great trip all around.  One funny thing, although while I was on the road I worked about a twelve-hour day each day, my days seemed exceedingly relaxed in comparison to my days at home.  I practically didn’t know what to do with myself (but I figured it out eventually – time to read a book over a glass of red wine quickly became a fulfilled vision, as did an eight-hour night of sleep).  I had time to think and make phone calls; I even trimmed my cuticles.  That being said, I was glad to scoop my kids and husband back into my arms this past Friday afternoon.  There really is no place like home – sloppy wet kisses, snuggles, and sweet funny babies really make my days and nights.

So here we are, living this very normal/abnormal life here – on the one hand working and raising our kids, and on the other hand doing it in China.  It’s still exciting, it’s still exotic at times, and it’s still challenging in many ways.  But it’s a very different life than we’ve led over the past two years.

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Nanjing page update

We’ve been in Nanjing over two years! Time flies. It was high time to make a few adjustments to our Nanjing page at the top of this blog. Have a click, take a look, and see a few more pictures of our Chinese city!

The mystery guest

I (JM) have been playing my violin a bit more since our return, having purchased a new violin bow over the visit back home. Lately, one of the spare bows in my violin case seemed to be losing some of its hairs: after opening the case, some of its strands would be dangling away from the stick. I examined it on a few occasions, and thought perhaps it was catching on some edge inside the case, snapping a few of the hairs in the process.

Today I again noticed this problem, and it became obvious that these latest hairs were snapped a few inches down from the edge of the bow stick. I looked again, and there on the underside of the bow hair was a small larvae, complacently grazing on my horse hair!

This is the first time something like this has ever happened to my instrument, so of course I thought “Only in China.” Somehow the little critter worked its way inside my case, perhaps while it was open during my practicing, and found its way to an unlikely feast. It had been shearing the strands of hair for the last week at least, getting nice and plump in the process.

My immediate concern was that he might have found his way inside the wood of my violin- worm holes are an unlucky and expensive repair to need on an instrument. But so far no other signs of damage.

So I’m reminded once again that our life here in China is much more in tandem with the flora and fauna around us, welcome or unwelcome. At least the fall will bring lots of great produce at the markets, and a break in the summer’s heat. I don’t look forward to the chill of winter coming ahead, but we’ll enjoy this cool weather while it lasts, along with whatever critters it brings along with it.

But other would be bow-munchers beware, lest ye suffer the same fate as poor little Wormy!

Posting by email

Well, we may have figured out a way to bypass the ‘Great Firewall’ for good.  WordPress recently added a way to send blog posts by email, and this is the result!  No more cumbersome proxies. Just a simple email away from updating you with our experiences, and the best part is the pictures come through too!

So, here’s newfound hope that communication will continue unabated into our next year here in Nanjing!

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One-Child Revisions?

China instituted a one-child policy in 1979. The current generation of Chinese families rarely boasts a multiple-child family. The fine for having a second child is exorbitant, approximating an average person’s salary for a whole year by some accounts. For the small rich minority, the fine is no problem, but the majority of China’s 1.3 billion residents are restricted by this and other measures from having multiple children.

One of our textbooks has an essay devoted to this topic, or more exactly, devoted to discussing the benefits of this system. Children now are better cared for by their parents without competition from siblings. There is more food for them to eat, and more resources can be devoted to their education.

Obviously in the wake of the massive famine in the 60’s, the current order seems to be an improvement. But is it the result of the new population measures? Is it even a direct result of the Reform and Opening movement that is so often heralded as the new beginning for China? Or have other global forces been more direct agents for China’s growth and prosperity rather than national policy?

Our teacher today even expressed her own doubts about the one-child policy. If there are 4 grandparents, 2 parents, and one baby, there is a tremendous burden placed on the two working parents to support a family of 7, and afterwards on the child itself. Economic policy also exacerbates the challenges. The mandatory retirement age here is 50 for blue-collar women, 55 for other female workers, and 60 for men. Saving like crazy for a 20 to 30 (or 40!) year retirement is a huge concern. No wonder people pick through garbage cans with methodical patience in their spare time, dredging up pennies by finding a piece of cardboard here, a plastic bottle there.

Our teacher also said there is talk of reforming the policy (only talk, no actual measures as far as she knew). Perhaps doctoral degree holders should be permitted a second child, so the rationale goes, since they can provide a learned environment within which to raise another child. One wonders if this will really solve any problems, or just create resentment among the classes?

At least there seems to be some willingness to address the social challenges at hand, and perhaps revise the restrictive policy if the need can be proven pressing enough. Now is a time of unprecedented change in China- surprising and swift change is undoubtedly in the cards, if they choose to play them so.

Happy Thanksgiving!

We want to send our best wishes home to all of you friends and family. We are grateful for all the support you’ve been to us over the past 9 months- we know we wouldn’t be here now without your help!

Thanksgiving passed without ado here in Nanjing. We woke up, went to morning and afternoon classes, and Liz even went out for an hour in the evening to teach an English class! A few of our Chinese friends had heard of the holiday, but it came and went without any outward trappings. Certainly no football games to watch! We’ll have a small celebration of our own on Saturday when we can relax a bit. Our good friend sent us a no-bake pumpkin-pie recipe. If anyone has a no-bake Turkey recipe, that would also come in handy.

We miss you all back home. We are giving thanks for you and for all of our blessings!

Please leave a message

Back home we each had a cell phone in addition to our work numbers. No need for a land line anymore since we could be reached directly, and voicemail worked great for whenever we couldn’t answer a call. JM even tested a program that turned his voicemails into emails, receiving them in his inbox just minutes after a missed call.

They don’t have that here. The land of 1.3 billion people, with probably half as many cell phones, notoriously lacks phone message services. It took us awhile before we realized it, but after a few months of ringing up friends, colleagues, and even businesses, we began to realize that when they didn’t answer, they really weren’t going to answer. We thought it strange that the phone company took the liberty of interrupting calls with a recorded message: “The person you dialed cannot be reached right now. Please try again later.”

This inexplicable fact took some getting used to. No leaving messages about important business that couldn’t wait. No making plans with friends by leaving messages with options on their voicemail and then getting a call back from them later. Now when we want to connect with someone, we have no choice but to persistently call back until we reach them.

People here are typically more available, however. Without voicemail, people do seem to take more initiative at answering phone calls. It even seems to introduce a personal element in daily interaction- less playing phone tag back and forth, and actual communication with another human being.

Unless, of course, we send text messages! These have seemed to supercede the place of voicemail by and large- a written communication that you hope will be received by the person you want to reach, but are still unsure of the timeframe of a response, if there will be any.

Just another way we didn’t anticipate life would change drastically on this side of the globe.