Posts Tagged 'work'

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.

Around the office

(JM) It’s just one of those odd days here at my office- don’t know exactly how to put my finger on it. Is it the four students smoking cigarettes in the hallway right under the ‘No Smoking’ sign? Is it the jackhammer right outside the window that has been interrupting my class all morning? Maybe it’s the office memo distributed advertising the new satellite TV service the resident teachers have requested, described as "provided using pirated software and non-original hardware".

No, I think it must be the mice. Cleaning up the desk of my office cubicle after the mice have been at it again last night just isn’t sitting well today. And no one even had a little hand sanitizer to help the cleanup effort.

Time off work?

JM here.  We have been swimming through four days of two kids now, one of them refusing to sleep anytime between midnight and 6am.  Lucky for us we have so much help from some good local friends, as well as Leo’s ever cheerful nanny.

When Liz went into labor last Wednesday, I knew I wouldn’t be able to make it in for work on Thursday, our last day before a week off for Christmas.  I immediately called the staff member who coordinates things, and told her excitedly in Chinese, “My wife has contractions! I can’t come into work tomorrow.”

To my surprise she said, “I don’t know. The students have missed a lot of classes recently. Can you please come?”

Shocked, I said, “I’ll see what I can do,” fully intending NOT to come in, since it was likely I would be with Liz through a long labor like last time.

So I confirmed the next morning that I wouldn’t come in, and she sent a brief message: “I get it. Someone will cover for you.”

When I called the substitute teacher later on, he sounded nonplussed.  I told him how grateful I was so that I could be with the new baby.

“What? New baby??” 

“Yes! Isn’t that what they told you?”

“No! They said you couldn’t come into class because your wife had WORK to do!”

Ah! My bad Chinese pronunciation the culprit again! I must have been unclear on the original message.  ‘Work’ in Chinese is: “gong zuo”.  ‘Contraction’ in Chinese is: “gong suo”.  And how often do people in an office get calls with news that someone has “gong suo”?

So, with a few more messages back and forth, everyone at work began sending in their congratulations.  No hard feelings. I wasn’t playing hookey so that my nine months pregnant wife could go to work.

But if the excuse worked this time, maybe next time too…  🙂