Monday, April 15, 2013

one of my faves...

Top 5 Fashion Faux Pas in FuYang...So Far. 
**this was an email written and sent during my first week in china, which was the height of summer, and these sightings were from one day out of the dorms.

these are actual sightings:

5. a woman in a pretty decent dress...and house slippers in bright pink with a big gawdy flower on the top.

4. totally saw a guy today in an unbuttoned dress shirt and dingy looking underwear. you would think he was dressed this way (the unbuttoned shirt and lack of leg coverings) in order to keep cool in the oppressive heat and humidity. but the shirt was long sleeved. so...impractical, to say the least.

3. dude buying a new phone wearing a shiny dress shirt in black with big purple circles on it hanging out of a pair of faded black and white striped sweat pants. the sandles he chose with this ensemble were a quite fashionable pair of black adidas. oh, yes...and a visor on his head. i think we may be seeing this on runways in paris soon.

2. an adult man wearing really bright blue and yellow crocs. personally, i don't think anyone over the age of 5 should be wearing these shoes in these colors, but that's not necessarily the faux pas. it was the pairing with his grey dress slacks and green polo shirt. oh, yes...and the fanny pack.

and the top of our fashion trend setting chart this week:

1. men folding up their shirts over their chests to bare their midriffs. now, i realize that this was a popular trend for women a while back and still somewhat hangs around today. but that was with women and only for those with a flat and toned tummy (hopefully). these fashionistas are not women, have paunches that extend further than their chests, and have not even had the decency to pierce their belly buttons to at least give us something shiny and pretty to look at when forced to land our gaze their way. 

while i would like to blame these, and those that didn't make the top 5, "what not to wear" examples on the country's backwardness, i have to admit to have witnessed some pretty similar, as well as much stranger, in california. thank you, hollywood, for bridging the ethnic fashion gap for us.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

the good side of china

i don't want you to think that everything in china has been horrible. it hasn't. it can be hard and different and strange. it can make you so frustrated that you start pulling your hair out. but there are a lot of positives that i've seen during my time there. so i have learned to look at my life there with the same attitude i have taken with my parenting of three little ones: you either laugh or cry, and crying is just more mess for me to clean.

so here are the positives to my new residence (yes, it's another list form. i'm trying to write this while answering the endless "why" questions from my 5 year old, so it's a list or nothing!):

1. i'm kind of a big deal. no, really. i'm a freaking celebrity. people know me all around fuyang. and i don't know them. people take our pictures and gawk and flock to us. i didn't know how awesome i was until i moved to china! we were even in the newspaper, although that was more infamy than fame....i can get away with a lot simply because i'm foreign. in the US, we have a much different attitude about this. we figure that people that come to our country ought to know and abide by our rules. we get angry and shake our fists at a foreigner's audacity to behave differently in our country than we do, regardless of the fact that we are a melting pot and should, as such, be more tolerant of differences. instead, we take offense and turn up our noses. shoot, i've seen that happen to people from a different state, much less a different country. but in china, these differences make me popular! they are very curious about me and the girls, about what makes us different. it is not so much for my celebrity that i applaud, but rather the more accepting attitude. it was a pleasant surprise and it makes me like these people more than i thought i would.

2. they are so nice to my kids. any kids, really. they absolutely love children and are willing to forgive them anything! they place any children's well being about their own (with a few exceptions, of course, that that guy is a post for a different day). they want to make sure the kids aren't hungry, cold, hurt, bored, under educated, or generally unhappy. now, sometimes, as i have complained already, this leads to some interfering that i do not appreciate, but i do appreciate the attitude of willingness and love that drives them.

3. fashion...tolerance, we'll call it. in the US, there is an expectation for the following of current fashion trends. if you don't, you could very well be shunned. even out of school, you can be laughed at criticized for the way you dress or don't dress. fuyang is totally not like that. in fact, it is a constant source of amusement to see the different styles of dress on a daily basis. there is no one or two current trend that everyone tries to follow. everyone dresses in whatever way they see fit, from really dressy, down to pj's! in this sense, they are more of a melting pot than the US. it takes some pressure off when it comes to going out to dinner with people, or choosing the girls' school clothes, etc. granted, my own dress style hasn't changed since moving, but if i decided to go out in grungy pj's or something, i could without any embarrassment. i have a post of an email i sent out back when i first moved that detailed some of the fashion sights i witnessed then that i would like to share with you, but it will have to wait for another day. again...i have a 5 year old...who is being strangely quiet in another room......

4. shopping. not for food, mind you, because that is a constant source of frustration for me. but for clothes and shoes and purses. if you know where to go, you get awesome deals.

5. entertainment. i like karoake. if you didn't know before, you do now. and karoake is so freaking awesome here! on top of that, there are some really nice parks and hiking trails are everywhere! the zoo is close by and cheap, as is the safari park (that you drive through and the animals roam around you). and on every few blocks in the evenings, they have what noe has deemed "block parties". tons of people gather and there's music and dancing. venders show up to sell toys for kids to play with (usually flying and glowing toys), and the kids all run around together while the parents visit. it's free, fun, and convenient. can't beat that. at the zoo, they let you do so much more than we could do in the US. noe got kissed by a sea lion. they got to feed the seals (and they get right up on them, too). you feed the monkeys and whatever else asks for it. don't try to pet the snapping turtles at the aquarium, though. they bite. no joke.

6. eating out. granted, i am not a big fan of chinese food as it is made in china. in fact, one of the things i've really missed is american chinese food...weird. but i have found a few restaurants that i like and we frequent pretty often. it's just so cheap! too tired to cook? let's go out. running late? let's eat out. had a good day? time to eat out. bad day? oh, let's go out to eat. the sun was shining today? terrific! let's go out. it's wednesday? must be time to go out to eat. you get the point. no more guilt over eating out.

well, there is a lot more i could go into, but i need to check on the 5 year old. she's been quiet way too long. 

Monday, April 8, 2013

proper chinese etiquette

i was really concerned when we were moving about the rules of conduct in our new country of residence. from movies and my previous visits to my husband's family, i knew there were specific ways to do things that could cause offense or give the impression of disrespect if done wrong. there is an order to pouring tea, which falls to the youngest, i think, at the table, so i would have to instruct noe. there are rules about your chop sticks, about what to call people, etc. i also knew that there were some rules i was used to following that did not apply there, such as what you are not allowed to say or ask people (calling people fat, asking how much money they make, etc.) that would surely offend me! so it was with not a little trepidation that i approached this new culture, mentally thickening my skin for the "education" ahead.

i should have thickened more. to say i had a bit of a shock is like saying shaq is kind of tall. here i was thinking that people were very polite and ruled by stringent rules of conduct towards others. i was wrong. not to say that people in general here are unfriendly. they are not. if anything, they are a bit overly friendly. but i learned quickly, and continue to marvel over, that the idea of "common courtesy" is not that common after all! some examples:

1. the concept of turns and waiting in line patiently is nonexistent here. i have been cut off in line at the grocery stores, missed what should have been my turn at lots of things while out in public, and been bumped and shoved around without so much as a "sorry" or even "move" so many times that i'm about to start carrying a big stick to start whacking people with. seriously, it has taken a lot of control to resist retaliation. control that i have possibly reached the limit of (which is another reason why i need to take a vacation from it all a couple times a least).

2. the rule of "right of way". there are really no traffic courtesies here at all, at least not where i have driven. red lights and green lights might as well be the same for the amount of attention people heed. pedestrians are as bad as the drivers, too, mainly because they would have to be or they'd never get to cross the street. and don't get me started on the scooters and three wheelers and bikers. i have a whole separate post about driving in china that i need to save that for. but i will say that the lack of proper driving etiquette here has turned me into a jekyl and hyde kind of driver. i'm a shrew behind the wheel. i tell my assistant that i have become a chinese driver as i successfully navigate the roads with the same aggressive finesse as my asian counterparts. but then i add that i'm not sure if that makes me proud or ashamed. i really had no wish to become such a driver, but have out of necessity.

3. people doubting your parenting skills. openly. in public. yes, parenting is different there than it is here. personally, i don't like the parenting style they adopt there, but i like to think i know better than to openly criticize or that i give them the benefit of the doubt. i recognize the good in their way, and must concede that it seems to work in the long run as my own husband turned out really well, as has his sister. so it really bothers me to have every body i run into on the street, strangers or neighbors (who really are still strangers to me), questioning the decisions i have made as a parent from letting my children dress themselves, feed themselves, and make all manner of other decisions befitting a child their age; to the way i discipline them and restrict their behavior by what i consider acceptable rather than allowing them to be rude or infringing upon others' rights. i thought that parenting here would be very strict and that i would worry about my kids seeming too unrestrained to them. it is the opposite. and it is not just the comments i get from these people that upsets me. it is their interference. that is absolutely unacceptable to me. so i had to learn a few phrases to use to prevent or stop these strangers from inserting themselves between me and my children.

4. sanitation. oh, people. i can not begin to explain my gripe fully here with this issue. it, too, like the driving, deserves its own post. i hope that i get the chance to write it while i am here, because it needs to be said! just know that i do not appreciate people's lack of respect for the health and well being of myself and my family. the littering, the relieving of bodily waste anywhere the urge hits (side of the road, bus, parking lot in front of my car...), the spitting, the lack of proper cleaning in restaurants, and who knows what else!! it's no okay!! how can this be considered appropriate behavior, when at the same time they are wearing a face mask to prevent a cold! they bundle up in three layers year around to keep from getting a runny nose, but this sort of filth is not a concern?! i would like to pin it on a lack of education, but we all know how china is about education, so that can't be it! do we not remember the plague, people? it's in the history books. a cold is not your biggest concern in this sort of environment!

5. invasion of privacy. having people looking over my shoulder to see my phone or kindle is rather disconcerting. and they are blatant about it. "no, don't mind me. i'm just poking my nose into your private business!" on top of that, the staring and pointing and exclaiming over the amount of children i have everywhere i go is getting rather old, too. either we're freaks, or celebrities. i suppose we could be both. i tell my kids all the time, "don't point", "don't stare", " don't bother them" when they see someone they are curious about. but this is an attitude limited to my house here, apparently.

6. saying "i don't know" when you really don't know. now, in the US, we joke about men driving around lost because they don't want to stop for directions. in china, it's a bit different. the people you ask for directions don't want to admit that they don't actually know the answer. so they make it up. we've been sent the wrong way more times than i can tell you. seriously, if you don't know, just tell us.

now, i understand that some of these issues are due to the fact that i am in a rather small area. it may be different in the bigger cities (i can only hope). also, i can even understand how some of it happened since there are just so many people that people stopped worrying about bumping into people or letting others go in front of you when you can squeeze them out (otherwise you might never get to go). but i find it very difficult to make allowances for most things. in a culture where you have strict rules about your chop sticks and the proper thing to call people you meet, i find it so hard to accept that so much discourtesy is tolerated! but, in case you decide to make the trip to fuyang (which is where i live), here are rules to live by:

1. do not allow other drivers, pedestrians, scooters, etc. to take advantage of  you. if you try to follow proper right of way or even just exercise common courtesy, they will run all over you. literally. without second thought. you must be aggressive and offensive with your driving or you will not make it through the first intersection.

2. carry lots of wipes, napkins, and sanitizer. in fact, you may even want to carry your own utensils if you are going out to eat.

3. learn the phrases, "don't touch","don't pick up", and "she can do it herself" before you go. perfect them. you will be using them a lot. i also had to add "i'm not afraid of cold"...because they don't believe you if you just say "i'm not cold" or "the weather is not cold". trust me on this.

4. learn to ignore rudeness directed at you. no sense in getting mad about it. you'll just drive yourself crazy. as i have.

now that i have finished my ranting, i would like to add that the people i've met have been very friendly. nobody is a stranger in their minds, and, while this makes me uncomfortable at times, it is nice to know that i'm not being shunned! they constantly offer us food and invite us into their homes. they want to take pictures of my girls and they want to talk to eme (who has probably had the hardest time adjusting). they really are very nice to us. i am not what i would call unhappy there. and you probably wouldn't be either if you are able to adjust and accept, or at least prepare. there is a lot that i have had to learn and adjust to and substitute for, or just plain learn to go without, but once i made those allowances and found my way, i live a very happy life. well, accept for the lack of doritos. and cheetos. and donuts....well, won't dwell on that today. we did that yesterday.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

things to remember when moving to china....

well, i'm back. for a few weeks, anyway. living in china has been interesting. oh, the things i could tell you...and probably will if i have the time and opportunity while i'm here. unfortunately, if you've been wondering why i haven't been keeping you updated here, i don't have access to blogger in china. you can catch me either on facebook a couple times a week (usually...although my time there is pretty limited, too), email me at hotmail, or through text plus, which is free even though i'm international.

but for this first blog, i want to take the time to prepare you for your own move to know, in case that happens. hey, never say never. i did.

so, things you want to make sure to pack that i didn't. these are in random order, so feel free to prioritize them as you see fit:

1. towels. i thought for sure i would be able to get those once i moved, seeing as how they are made there and should have been cheap. however, i was mistaken. the towels there are very expensive, and not well made to justify the price. they are also very small. seriously, i wouldn't use what they consider a bath towel for anything other than drying my hands or maybe to dry dishes! it won't even work well for the kids! if you want a bigger towel, they are available, for a whole lot more money! not worth it. go to walmart, get the $2 towels, and call it a day.

2. fitted sheets. one thing i have learned in the past several months is that you shouldn't assume anything is normal! including the idea of the fitted sheet. it is not universal, people. nor is the concept of covering the whole mattress with whatever sheet you do buy. the measurements are all screwed up. that's a rant for a different day, though. let's not get distracted. get the sheets.

3. make up. this is, obviously, not meant for the men. but if you are a woman who would like to wear make up while living in china, bring it with you. bring extra, in fact, in case you run out, because you don't want to have to buy it there. if you are able to find some to match your skin tone, it will be expensive and, likely, old. who knows how long that has had to sit on the shelf waiting for you? too long, i will tell you that.

4. barbies and ken dolls. this is very important for the kids. barbies there are even more pricey than here, and there are NO ken dolls. my kids have some knock off barbies that fall apart too easily or are even more inappropriately dressed than people think barbie is (think sheer...), and they have had to settle for some same sex marriage between their dolls for lack of a better, hunkier option.

5. hair products. if you have hair that is not your typical asian  hair, you are completely out of luck in china. don't let them cut your hair, i don't care how nice the salon looks or how high or low the prices. they have absolutely no formal training and no idea what they are doing! don't let them color it, cut it, or put any of their products on it. you won't have any luck in the stores finding what you want, either, unless it's hair spray.

6. shoes. shoes there are plentiful and cheap (most of the time). but they are weird and poorly made. what's that you say? the shoes here are made in china? well, yes. but you will learn very quickly that things made in china for china are completely different from things made in china for everywhere else. consumer protection? nah. quality control? what's that? no, just bring your own.

7. cologne for your guy. i can't find any there!

8. deodorant. you will find some...but the variety is nonexistent and i don't like what they have. but i do like not stinking, so i buy it. but now that i'm here, i'll be stocking up on "the good stuff".

9. cell phone. they are cheaper here, and they don't block vpn's or google. my very nice phone i bought in china...does. and it's driving me a bit crazy.

10. feminine hygiene products. ahem....i will not go into why. you'll just have to trust me on this.

11. your own spices. i have to buy my seasonings here. if it's not msg, salt, flour, sugar, or soy sauce...well, just bring your own.

12. jeans. see number 6.

13. batteries. their batteries last all of five minutes. no joke.

14. your snack food. i have missed regular flavors of snack foods. they have chips there, but they are flavors like "hot and sour fish soup" and "spicy prawn" and "seaweed" and "italian meat" and other such strangeness. do those sound like things that should be on a potato? they have chicken and bbq steak flavored cheetos. but no cheese flavored cheetos. they don't have beef jerky, but they do have squid and fish and duck tongue jerkies. now i've lost my appetite....

now, things that you should buy in china and not the US:

1. purses.
2. scarves.
3. gold.
4. clothes from the wholesale markets. i have had particular luck with jackets.

i'll have to let you know if i come across anything else that would fit in that category. until then, just assume you should bring it with you.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

a secret....

well, it would seem that even after nine years of marriage, there is still a bit of a language barrier between my husband and i. the main problem is really with this one word: secret. apparently, the definition of secret is different in chinese than it is in english. i had something i needed to tell some friends (it makes it easier for me if i can talk about it...i dont' know if you know this, but i talk a lot). so i did. then fai tells me not to tell people. so i email them not to say anything to anyone else. then someone mentions it to fai that they heard it from someone else. he denies it. they apologize for mentioning it. he says, "that's okay. it's not a secret." so, seeing as how it's not a secret, i start to talk to people about it again. so word starts to get around. he hears it. he denies it. then he tells me to stop telling people. so i do. but people already know. so they ask him about it (apparently there is some confusion at this point since....can't imagine why!) and he says again, "it's not a secret". picture this going on for about a month. finally, i decide to clarify what exactly a secret is. he says to me, "it's not a secret, i just don't want you to tell people so that they keep asking me about it." so i inform him that not wanting me to tell people is the definition of "secret"!!

well, now that that is all cleared up, i have something to tell you!!

the secret is out of the bag. (it's okay now. it's not a secret any least, i don't think it is.)

we are moving. fai has received an amazing offer that we simply can't refuse. believe me. i would if i could, but even i can't bring myself to reject it, and i really hate moving. this summer will be our last here for a while. and when i say "here", i don't mean st. louis (although that is certainly part of it). i mean here in the USA. we are heading to china in august. we will get to visit a couple times a year and you're all more than welcome to visit us!! fai is very excited for this job and i'm happy for the kids to get to know that part of the heritage and to take advantage of the educational opportunities, to learn the language and be able to know their grandparents on that side. i will, though, be very sad to say good bye to my friends and family here. and my house. and my yard. and my dog (anyone want a dog?). it's a lot of preparation to take care of (hence the mess of my house when the cops came), and i'm trying to pack as much into the next few months as possible for the kids. we'd love to see our friends who aren't local before we leave, but i can't promise anything (unless you want to come here....). we love you all and have really loved being here! and we'll be back, so start planning the party now! i will need a big one!

To Anonymous: You Suck

the mysterious Anonymous is famous for saying many amusing and some poignant things throughout his or her life time (and most of ours...seems to have been around a lot time). usually, i'm pretty okay with these little nuggets and even pin some on my pinterest board. what i didn't realize, however, was how gratingly irritating Anonymous can be. after all, he (as i have decided to label him for simplicity) seems to think that he knows everything. he thinks he's so clever, popping up every now and then to make us laugh or think or cry with their vast knowledge. if you had a friend like that, wouldn't you just want to smack them? as lizzie bennet would say, he is unwilling to speak unless he expects to say something to amaze the whole room. that's just pompous.

but, as i said, he has never really bugged me before, always good for a laugh. but now mister man has overstepped his bounds and gotten a bit too big for his britches. it's a slippery slope, you see, from allowing him to entertain us with such apt attention on our part, to becoming certain that everything he has to say is of some import. that everyone must listen because he is always worth the trouble. so he starts to make these phone calls. oh, yes. the famous "anonymous tip". now, don't get me wrong, i think it's a wonderful idea in theory. but, i have it on great authority (from an armed law enforcement officer standing in my living room) over 50% of anonymous tips are unfounded and false alarms. falling into this category? the tip that sent a gaggle of deputies in full raid gear to my house to investigate a claim of illegal drug activity.

oh, anonymous, i could wring your scrawny little neck (because pompous jerks always have scrawny necks). what were you thinking? does my house honestly look like we're running a meth lab inside? do i look like i do or deal drugs? does the constant chatter of little children or the stream of minivans that are seen coming and going raise suspicion of illegal doings? ridiculous! i can only assume that this was meant as some sort of sick joke meant to embarrass me in front of my neighbors (who now will be giving me strange looks and a wide berth) and frighten my young children as these armed strangers search my house for nonexistent drug evidence, and that is something i simply can not forgive. seriously. not funny. this is not some cutesy quote to be pinned on pinterest or an amusing post for facebook...although i could make it one.

the story is this:
my house is a mess. i have all the kids' toys piled in the family room ready for the sorting and trashing process. add to that a broken toddler bed and an empty dresser, and a mountain of shoes that have been undergoing the same process, jackets and socks the kids have shucked after coming inside, and a couple of dirty rags from the kitchen waiting to go to the laundry room after i changed them out for new ones for the second time that day. upstairs, there is dirty laundry in the hallway because i've been busy with the toy sorting and kitchen cleaning process to get around to picking that up, my room is the biggest disaster since that is where the five clean laundry baskets have been sent to be sorted and put away, the kids have left more toys there that they've played with during quiet time, eme has taken all the papers off of the desk and spread them on the floor, and the hubby and i had simply been too tired at the end of the days to do more with our clothes than just shed them before climbing into bed...leaving them on the floor. several days in a row. who knew the whole spring cleaning process could be so messy?! and really, don't get me started on the bathroom where the girls had just broken the towel bar, left bath toys on the floor, squeezed toothpaste on the floor, and who knows what else? their room is what you would expect for three little girls sharing a room. at least my brother's room was decent looking, since he's only been here for a week at this point. and i'd just cleaned the kitchen...before making lunch that just got it messy again, and the living room is usually kept picked a point. so i've just put the kids down for naps and quiet time and dropped my own rear onto the couch to relax when my brother and i notice a gathering of cars outside my house. before i can look out to get a good look at what's going on, there's a knock on the door, sending the dog into a crazed round of barking. great for nap time, btw. really helps the kids sleep.

so i open the door with a polite smile pasted on my face and freeze in what i am sure was a rather amusing look (a cross between confusion, shock, and intrigue...i have a strange interest in the whole bullet proof vest and exposed fire arm look...for writing purposes, of course) as i see four sheriff's deputies standing on the other side. the man in front introduces himself and informs me that they've received a tip from their good friend Anonymous that there is some illegal drug activity here. i pause. waiting. surely this is a joke. any moment, a cameraman will jump out of the bushes or something and everyone will laugh.

they blink. i blink. no cameraman.

i try to pull my lips up in a sort of smile as i reply, with a fair amount of wit, "Here?"

"yes, ma'am."

surely someone is going to laugh in a moment and reveal that this is a prank pulled by a mutual friend who asked them to stop by and give me a scare. perhaps from my husband? that seems like something he'd do. so i wait.

they blink. i blink. hm. apparently not. at this point i realize that this is real and they are waiting for me to say something. thinking quickly, i say, "Well come on in!"

Come on in? really, susan? like i'm excited to have company? like they are my best friends and are here to present me with a big fat check the size of my front door? but what can i say? i'm hospitable. so they do come in and i sign a paper giving them permission to search through my house (with the exception of the rooms where my youngest two are sleeping, because, law or no law, you don't wake a sleeping baby). i laugh and tell them that we have no meth lab (good to get that out of the way up front so they don't waste too much time looking for it, you know). i followed that up with, "the only thing we've got cooking is ramen!", which was still on my table from lunch. i did stop myself from offering them some, but only just. and mainly because it was all gone except for the drying noodles the kids dropped on my table. just to make sure they understood, though, i also mentioned that they were going to be pretty disappointed since i didn't even have alcohol. they double checked that one, though, so i stopped offering any sort of comment and let them do their job. although, i did point out the most likely locations for a drug lab and showed them how to get there. might as well speed this up.

hearing the commotion, noe came up from the basement. seeing strangers perusing our house with their guns strapped to their belts and the strange black vests over their shirts (even though it was rather hot that day), she of course saw this as the perfect opportunity to ask for a cookie. then she sat on the couch and enjoyed the show. such a well adjusted child.

so after they searched where they would and finding nothing other than a cat in a box on the deck (hey, he likes it), they apologized for the inconvenience and even had the decency to look embarrassed at having to do it. they leave without any more fuss and as they file back to their cars, i see the mass of deputies that have been circling my yard (presumably to catch any runners from our drug ring that may have bolted when the cops came to the door). it takes a little while for them all to clear off of my street and i spend my time fidgeting and posting on facebook. all this time i can feel my cheeks getting really really red, because i can't believe they saw my house like that!! it's taken me a while to get over the embarrassment (after all, if they search drug houses on a regular basis, i have to believe they've seen worse!), and to take away this moral to the story: just like the underwear rule (always wear clean underwear in case you're in an accident), always have your house tidy in case you are invaded by drug seeking cops. hey, it could happen.

Monday, June 20, 2011

a kreyving

kreyv-ing this:

i like kreyv and find a lot of inspiration for my budding design ideas there. but i am "kreyving" the print give away! if you follow my blog, i guess i like you enough to let you have a go at it, too, so check it out!