Monday, December 30, 2013

2013 Rewind

Here's a photo of the original party princess, Raelynn!

New Year's is here already (at least in China, it is). What are your plans? Once upon a time, I was out at smoke-filled bars enjoying overpriced bottle service in the VIP section of the hottest clubs until the sun came up. Now I'm lucky if I can even stay awake until midnight. But you know what? I'm happier this way. Truly I am. Though I do wish I could at least STAY UP until midnight, you know? The last few years have been like this for me. Jeremy too. We try our best. I usually fall out first though. But hey, I'm pregnant so I can (and should!) go to sleep when I'm beat.

When I think about this year, I feel like I started making some progress with my in-laws. Some. Rome was not built in a day. Neither was the Great Wall of China. But now that I'm pregnant again, I'm feeling that territorial growl rising up inside of me. The one that desperately wants to get Raelynn potty trained while I'm on my 2-month winter vacation so she can come to school with me in March. Not only do I want to remove her from my in-laws' care, I also want to keep them from having 2 children to look after at once. I'm not at all convinced they could manage to watch both children without any problems. Besides, Raelynn needs to be around other children more than just a couple times a week. I worry about this poor baby though. Hang in there, baby! I'll save you!

Which makes me think that as soon as the clock strikes midnight on December 31st, thus rendering it January 1, 2014, I am that much closer to my due date. July 2014 seems so far away now. Until the year changes and I'm actually IN 2014. That's trippy. I am trying to imagine what life will be like for us with 2 kids. And it honestly scares me a bit. I seriously fear this kid will be a boy and that I will be miserable. So my first New Year's resolution will be to just get over that. Because, yeah, boys suck and they smell. But MINE won't. Right? Oh GOD.

So, 2013. Yeah. Not a bad year. It's been fun watching Raelynn grow up more and my happiest moments from this year have been when I've been playing with her. This year, we also had a great time down in Shanghai visiting with my family, plus I got to meet a friend of mine who I'd only known online for 15 years. Good stuff! What else? I had my third kindergarten graduation. I made some new friends here. I got back in shape. We celebrated 3 years of marriage. This year was mostly a good one. I have to focus on the positive, but of course, there were a few negatives. I had a couple friends pass away this year and it wasn't easy to handle. It still isn't, but that's life for you.

Anyway, if you want to sift through your favorite A Broad Abroad (a blog a blog) moments from 2013, you can do so here for shits and giggles. And stay tuned for 2014. Because there's a baby coming. And there will be a ton of crazy crap from my in-laws, I'm sure. Speaking of my in-laws, every New Year's Day, I am forced to spend with them. It's true. It's horrible. It happens to be FIL's birthday on January 1st. But thankfully, because I am pregnant, instead of forcing us to endure their house of nasty, they will come over here. And just for dinner. So I'm at least spared having a whole day of them on my first day off during my winter vacation. Hooray! At least I can take a nap if they bore me to sleep. I was wondering how I'd endure not drinking around them. Honestly, there are some things alcohol makes better and my in-laws' company is one of those things. I might also go hungry because many Chinese food smells lately have been leaving me nauseated. Especially if MIL has cooked it. Maybe she'll surprise me though. And not in a look-I-made-you-chicken-feet kind of way, I hope.

Thank you all for reading my blog this year and I hope you'll keep reading it into the new year. And the year after that. And the year after that. And the year after that. And, well, you get the idea! May you all have a new year that is happy and bright, and if you have annoying in-laws, may they be less bothersome in the coming year. Happy New Year, from my little growing family to yours!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Mis(ter)information

Today, we went to the Wanda Plaza mall after Raelynn's play group. I'd been talking with some of the moms in the group about maternity wear. Many of them had stuff they'd brought with them from the US (or had visiting relatives bring). I myself have some things that are still in good condition from when I was pregnant with Raelynn, but I bought those things when we still lived in Seoul. I'm still able to fit into regular pants but they are getting more and more snug. It's only a matter of time before I have to say goodbye to real waistlines and don maternity wear full-time.

One of my guy friends is married to a lovely Chinese woman who happened to be there today. They have 2 kids, so I asked her where she shopped when she was pregnant. She told us the name of a store called October Baby. She said they're in every major mall here, even the Wanda Plaza mall, which is closest to us. So Jeremy and I decided we'd go there for lunch and then look at maternity clothes for me.

We ate a quick lunch and then we went to find the maternity store our friend had told us about. We decided that, instead of wandering around the mall with a toddler (who actually happened to be very good today, thankfully), we should ask about it at the information station. Now, just like in the US, there are information stations in the malls and the airports and such. And they are universally adorned with an "i" to indicate information can be found there. So we head toward it.

There's one lone guy behind the counter. Jeremy asks him if there's a maternity store called October Baby. The guy says he doesn't think so, but he's not sure. So Jeremy asks him if he could tell us where ANY maternity stores are in this mall and the guy says he has no idea. He tells us he only has a small list of stores in the mall, not a full list. One of them is the Vans Department Store (not affiliated with the brand of shoes, incidentally). He says maybe there might be maternity clothes in there. Ok, could you call them and ask them if they carry maternity clothes, my husband asks. And then the sorry excuse for an information guy points at some phone numbers on display and says WE can call them. Then my husband asks him where the closest entrance to the department store is from where we are and the information guy says, "I don't know, but you can try walking that way. I think it's over there." Yes. This really happened. There are many people like this in their jobs here. Utterly useless. How the hell can you work in an information booth and have no fucking information for anyone? I have never before seen anything like it. It's even worse than the Carrefour on Shandong Road where you ask employees what aisle something is in and before you can even finish asking them they curtly snap, "Meiyou!" which means "don't have." Lovely. It's why we never go to that location anymore. It's the worst Carrefour in the city. In case it's not obvious from this tale (or many of my others) customer service doesn't exist in this country.

Would you like to see the lazy mis(ter)information guy? Sure you would! Photo credits for this post go to my amazing husband. Thank you Jeremy!

Do you see this? He is just playing on his phone. What a waste of a salary on this guy. I guess if you want a cushy job in China, work in an information kiosk.


I love my husband. He blatantly walked up close for this shot. And this guy is too oblivious to notice. Congratulations, useless tool! You're being made fun of in my blog.

So, you might be wondering if we found maternity wear or not. We sure did. But in the Vans Department Store, it was insanely priced. I found a ton of pants I liked priced from 346 rmb to 549 rmb. Yeah, I'm not paying those prices. I showed Jeremy every pair I liked and we checked the sizes. We ordered them off TaoBao for much cheaper. Here's hoping our measurements are correct and the material isn't shitty. It's got to be better than the crap we found at the market out in Taidong (the best area of town to shop). There, some buttfuck was smoking inside the store and my child had thrown an epic tantrum but I still got a chance to leaf through a few things. And all of them were horrid. They looked like they were made for midgets or small children (child bride, anyone?) and they all were decorated with stupid babyish crap on them, like bears or bunnies. I'm 37. I'm having a baby, I'm NOT a baby! Yeesh! I wouldn't even put my kid in something like that. At least the stuff in the department store gave me hope that I can find maternity clothes that won't make me look like a giant baby.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Nasty Troll Slippers (Updated!)

And now that the cat is out of the bag, I can finally bitch with a clear conscience, knowing that I'm not giving away special news before the immediate family gets to find out via Skype. Now, we can get back to my usually bitchery that you all know and love so much. And with that, I present to you these nasty troll slippers...
These WERE nice slippers from some fancy hotel somewhere. My mom had rounded up a ton of these kinds of slippers from their travels and gave them to us for use. Because she gave us so many of them, we gave MIL a pair of them to wear when she's here. This is how they look now. I should add that none of the other slippers have wound up this grungy. Just the ones she wears.

How in the world does she get them so filthy? She wears socks while she's wearing them and they STILL get dirty inside! MY GOD! Does she just not wash her feet? She actually put these things in our laundry basket for me to wash. The one thing that woman doesn't wash herself! She'll wash one pair of Raelynn's socks by hand but she won't wash her own nasty slippers. Yeah, right on top of that one, Trollzilla. I'll have Hazmat swing by and pick them up when they come check out the insane air pollution over here.

UPDATE!
I just wanted to add some photos of Raelynn's little slippers so you can see as a comparison to MIL's slippers. It truly adds to the mystery. How can my kid who makes a mess of everything have cleaner slippers? Does MIL walk out into the filthy stairway outside our door with them? I just have no idea. Check out Raelynn's slippers...

One with flash and the other without:



See?!? How in the world does MIL make everything so encrusted with disgustingness??? Raelynn apparently wonders the same thing...

Christmas In July

I hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas! I've got a little present for you all that I have been waiting to share. If you're a family member or one of my friends, you've likely already seen my Facebook post. I'll let Raelynn do the honors...
Yes, baby Qu #2 is on the way, set to arrive in mid-July! Now you know why I had been neglecting the blog over most of December. I had to tell my brother and parents before I could say anything. How could I announce to them via Facebook or my megabitchy blog that I was pregnant again? Exactly. Though some of you were quite astute in noticing something I had said about being sensitive to smells in this post. Nice decoding!

In any event, I'm mostly excited, a little scared...I mean, I just KNOW I'm never going to sleep again, am I? And I wonder how I will be a great mommy when I have to split my attention between two children. Is it a boy or a girl? Will it be as cute and fun as Raelynn? Will they team up to make me go insane? Even worse, will my in-laws make me even more crazy than they already?

Stay tuned for all that and more!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

I'll Be Homesick For Christmas


The last Christmas I spent at my parents' house in Florida was in 2008. Can you believe that? In 2009, we were all in Seoul visiting my brother Phillip, and despite being far from home, we were all together for a gorgeous white Christmas. I moved to Seoul myself in February of 2010, then to Qingdao, China in November 2010, so every Christmas since has been spent here.

Jeremy, Raelynn and I have managed to make our own little traditions revolving around our slightly pathetic little Christmas tree and I'm happy we can make special memories together. It will be Raelynn's 3rd Christmas this year and now she's old enough to know what's up. She was worried Santa wouldn't come and we've been lording it over her head so she'll be good. She's currently sound asleep this Christmas Eve, hopefully having sweet dreams.

And in our room, I'm missing my family and the traditions we had together when I lived in the states. Christmas at my parents' house is an amazing event. It begins whenever we roll out of bed to open gifts. Even the family dog, Tasha, knows Christmas is special and she's ready for the fun too. We enjoy mimosas and exchange presents, then Mom makes some insanely delicious things for breakfast. Florida is lovely at this time of year. The sun is warm but the air is cool and comfortable. Perfect for lounging by the pool. Drinks and a dip in the water. Small lunch to tide us over. Then Mom begins making an epic meal. I assist and we watch A Christmas Story over and over and over again on TNT, never tiring of it as we recite it verbatim. After a dinner that about makes us all pop, we lazily help Mom clean up and then one by one, pass out from our glorious food comas. Yes, Christmas at the Raskin house is something I miss dearly. I miss my stocking which, to my knowledge, they STILL hang up even though I'm not going to be there to see it. I miss all the Christmas decorations Mom adorns the home with. And most of all, I miss my folks. And Tasha.

I just saw my family a couple months ago in Shanghai. It was a great visit, but like all great visits, it just flew by. About a month ago, I Skyped with my folks and they'd told me they were sending us a package for Christmas. I thought it was incredibly sweet and figured there would be a gift for Raelynn and some chocolate. When it arrived and I opened it up, I was so touched by this package. I never expected them to go to such great detail. There were some clothes for Raelynn, a talking Dora doll, a Dora book, a Dora adventure phone and a variety of other little things for their only grandchild. And then there was the chocolate. Mom sent me so many of my favorite chocolatey treats I couldn't believe it. Things you can't find in China. AND some cans of artichoke hearts (they are insanely expensive here) and packets of Hollandaise sauce. To top it all off, they even included 2 whole rolls of Christmas wrapping paper and a small Scotch tape dispenser. Over the last few years, I've missed my folks during Christmas, but this year, I miss them even more. I wish we could be in the same place so that they could watch Raelynn open her gifts.

My husband of course understands this and has done everything to make me feel less homesick. He likes to hear about how my family celebrates Christmas. But he also likes to make our Christmas here as special as possible so that I feel less sad. My school is one of the few schools here to be closed on Christmas so I have the day off to spend with my beautiful Raelynn and to attempt to cook a meal even 1/4 as awesome as my Mom would make. Also, no MIL! Hooray! That might just be the best gift of all next to my 2 months of paid vacation that starts in January. I guess it's a very Merry Christmas after all!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Ooh That Smell! Can't You Smell That Smell?!?


This morning while Jeremy played soccer in the subzero temperatures outdoors, I disinfected our kitchen further (click here to see why). He'd almost completely restored order to it and I would have been furious that he'd left more crap for me to clean up from his dolt of a mother, but he also made breakfast for Raelynn while he cleaned up so I let it slide. I was just enjoying the freshness and cleanliness of the kitchen, as well as our couple of other rooms, when my husband returned from his game. We buzzed around the house, talking Christmas, and decided it would be a fine time to head over to Metro to get all the crap I'd need to prepare for our feast on Christmas day. Since I had to work on Thanksgiving, I couldn't really go all out. But we have off for Christmas so it's a go.

As we were preparing to leave, Jeremy's phone rang. It was the trolls. They told him they had some mantou (that barfy, flavorless Chinese bread that I hate unless I dress it up with butter or fry it or use it as the base for a makeshift pizza) and fried fish for us. I could hear him telling them we were on our way to the supermarket but then I heard him telling them we'd come by. Ugh. Seriously?

Jeremy smiles that winning smile and declares we've got to stop over there before going shopping. "We'll just stay for 10 minutes," he promises. But I know he's lying. Not intentionally, mind you. I just know he wants to make me happy and leave quickly but it won't be like that. I couldn't possibly be that lucky.

I've mentioned before how much I hate going to my in-laws' house. I totally hate it there. It is so boring. THEY are so boring. Drinking is the only thing that makes it tolerable but I couldn't justify it on such a short visit when we weren't even staying for a meal.

But beyond that, one of the worst things about their home is the smell. It doesn't help that I have been extra sensitive to all smells good and bad lately. And their home has a bad smell. Very bad. Let me attempt to describe it so you understand why it's so unbearable. Close your eyes and imagine the smell of old dirty shoes with a bit of foot stink to them combined with greasy, oily fried fish smell mingling with old man soap that has been pickled. Yes, that sums it up. It smells just like that. And I can't get used to it the entire time I'm trapped in their lair.

And a place that is that smelly is definitely dirty. You've seen the kitchen there so just imagine the rest of the place. While it's certainly not as cluttered up as the kitchen, I noticed in one bedroom today, they had clothes piled in the chairs. I should mention that they HAVE a wardrobe in each of the 2 bedrooms AND they have a chest of drawers in there too. Sigh. What bothers me most about the filth there is the floors are so nasty that my daughter's socks were visibly grungy from running around in there. And her off-white jeans she wore today? She looked like she'd been rolling in the dirt outside when we left there.

In total, we endured 35 minutes of boredom where I was forced to eat a fucking luo bo and drink some tea (the tea I didn't mind) while Trollzilla herself insisted we stay longer so she could feed my kid some greasy fish crap and mantou. I know Raelynn is half Chinese but I cannot even fathom how she finds some of that shit to be edible. Of course, after this ordeal, it was now 1pm and we were running short on shopping time before Raelynn would throw a fit out of pure exhaustion and need for a nap. That need to sleep coupled with her idiot grandparents spoiling her in all the wrong ways is EXACTLY why my kid acted like a total brat at the store. I worked so hard with her over the summer to get her to behave and these two birdbrains messed it all up. I've got my work cut out for me this winter when I get to correct her behavior without them interfering and setting me back every single day while I potty train her. I can take her with me to my school next semester, which starts in March and I really want it to happen just because I don't want her to be stuck with my in-laws all the time. I definitely need a Christmas miracle here. Due to this torture, I hope my husband is aware that he now owes me some more jewelry. Or at the very least, a full-time maid.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Extreme Home Makeover: Disgusting Kitchen Edition

Holy hell. Has it really been a month since my last post? My apologies, it's been a little hectic and I promise I'll catch you all up on that soon.

For now, I'd like to tell (and show!) you all about my newly redesigned kitchen. Yes, that's right. I left for work this morning and it was clean and orderly. And when I came home this afternoon, this is how I found it:
Thank you, MIL! I don't even know where to begin with this. I suddenly have no counter space AT ALL on the right side of the kitchen. There is all kinds of random food and random crap on the left side. MIL has made another mountain of half-assedly-washed dishes on that side too but you can only see my white cutting board which still looks filthy.

Well, at least we know where she got her inspiration for this design. Don't you remember her own kitchen? Take a look again at this horrid filth that is MIL's kitchen. Dear Lord! At least when my husband came home and saw this disaster, he promised he'd clean it. I'm holding him to it, or he'll have to include some new jewelry for me under the Christmas tree.

If you like MIL's style, please contact me immediately. I can ship her over to you free of charge and then you too can have a stunningly sloppy pigsty for a kitchen too!

Monday, November 25, 2013

A Thanksgiving Post To All



Thanksgiving is just about here. I miss being home with my family for Thanksgiving and Christmas too. Since I can’t go home right now, I have to make my own traditions with Jeremy and Raelynn. Doesn’t mean I don’t miss my mom’s awesome meals or hanging out with my dad, watching football and lounging by the pool (which must sound weird if you don't know that I'm from Florida). This month, I’ve noticed so many of my friends posting what they are grateful for each day. I think it’s lovely, but I also think there’s a lot we should be grateful for EVERY day of the year, not just every day this month.

Sure, I piss and moan about my in-laws, but who doesn’t need to vent from time to time? I might not post it every day on Facebook, or on this blog, but each day, I wake up and I think about what I am thankful for.

I’m about to share something very personal with all of you. I have only told a few people about this – my husband, one of my best friends, a friend of mine who’d been going through a rough time, and my boss at work. I had to tell my boss because what I am about to tell you caused me to be quite late to work one day, late last November.

Some of my wonderful friends are going through tough times right now. Without sharing the private matters some of you have confided in me, I will say that I hope this story helps brings you strength and hope and reminds you to never forget to be thankful for what you do have, even when things seem very uncertain and bleak.

One day, late last November…
My driver had picked me up for school. As we turned off my street onto an adjacent one that ran perpendicular to the major road abutting my street, I noticed the traffic on the major road was completely backed up. Right away, I noticed it was worse than the typical morning rush hour mess. I figured there’d been some small accident down the road and I started looking to see if I could figure out how far back all these cars were. That’s when my driver Hu Shufu warned me: “Jenny! Bu kan! Bu kan!” Which means, “Don’t look!” But it was too late. Despite his best efforts to shield me from it, I saw it.

It was an old man, lying dead in the crosswalk. At first, I thought he was just hurt until I saw all the blood coagulated around his head. He was very, very, very dead. I’d never seen a dead person like this. I’d only seen dead people during wakes at funeral homes. I felt like I looked right into the sun. It burned my eyes. It burned into my brain. In those brief moments as my eyes locked on this grisly scene, I saw a policeman deftly prompting other pedestrians to go quickly out of the way as he feverishly took notes from 2 people he didn’t tell to “zou.” On top of that, he was directing the traffic on the other side of the road to keep moving. And then I noticed that there was no car stopped there. Some disgusting excuse of a person hit this poor man and left him to die in the street.

It’s possible the man wasn’t crossing carefully. You should see how they cross streets here sometimes. In some places, there is no choice but to make a run for it between the cars. In this place, there was a crosswalk but no traffic light. You have to go at your own risk and it is very dangerous. Even still, whether the old man crossed carefully or not, he didn’t deserve to be left dead in the street. He was probably somebody’s husband. Father. Grandpa. Friend. He probably got up that morning and went about his typical day, never imagining that it would be his last.

Every day, we have a choice. We can wake up and be thankful we’re alive, even if we are coping with some of the worst shit there is in this world to deal with. Because even in the midst of the worst shit, you still have a chance to come out on top. That old guy will never get a chance again. We can live in fear that we’ll be run over or come to some horrible end, or we can live for today and make every day the best day that we can. Sometimes, I forget this. I’m currently stressing about obtaining a visa for my husband, and wondering what our future in the US, if we can get there, will be like. Will we find jobs? Will we be safe? Will we have a life as good as we have here? We aren’t the richest people but we are very comfortable. I fear we’ll lose that comfort and live sad lives. And then I take a drink from my husband’s infinity pool of optimism. And I realize that we have to try for what we want or else we’ll be left with the ugliness of “what ifs” lining the road of our future.

Fear. It causes us worries and makes us think about all kinds of things that might very well never happen. What we all really need is a huge leap of faith. Fuck that fear. Today, I am here, and if you’re reading this, so are you.That means we've got a chance to go for what we want, to embrace those we love today and be thankful for everything we do have as opposed to being obsessed with what we don't. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Lunch Lady Bitchface

I have to say it: our head lunch lady at school is a total bitch. In fact, the title of this post will be my new moniker for her from now on: Lunch Lady Bitchface.

If only she were more like Lunch Lady Doris (rest in peace, Marcia Wallace).

But she's not. She's truly a horrid beast.

Lunch Lady Bitchface is always yelling. In Korean. In Chinese. All she does is yell. Every time I see her, I must resist the urge to beat her fat head in with a lunch tray.

Why do I despise her so?

It started last year when our annoying Korean director, Lesley, was still in charge. At that time, our kindergarten children ate lunch in the classrooms instead. The lunch staff would bring us a big box of food and we were stuck serving it to them. One day, Lesley neglected to tell Lunch Lady Bitchface that we'd gotten a couple new students and they needed to send more food. So as we were serving it, Christina (my Korean teacher) and I discovered we were short some food. She was busy putting the food on the trays so I ran down the hall to tell Lesley so she could get one of the Chinese teachers to help me get more food.

Lesley, Eun Ah, and 2 Chinese teachers (yes, that is 4 people) were serving food to the smaller children. There were not that many children to serve but Lesley told me to go up and get the food. I stare at her, bewildered that I have to do this. But if I don't, some of my students will be missing food from their trays and Christina and I won't get to eat. So up I run to the cafeteria. That's when I try to explain to Lunch Lady Bitchface that we're missing food. And she screams at me. SCREAMS! Like, really, bitch? I hate her. Thankfully, my friend and English boss, Patrick, was right there and helped me get to the bottom of that mess. Lesley wound up getting in trouble for that one (served her right) but ever since, Lunch Lady Bitchface has always been a total twat every time I see her.

This year, our children eat in the cafeteria. It's easier for the Korean and Chinese teachers who now don't have to clean the classroom after lunch, you know, because we have cleaning ladies who don't do anything but mop the floor with toilet water. They're too busy doing that of course. Eating upstairs is a bit nicer, I'll admit, especially since the Chinese teachers put out all the trays and food. Which means I just have to get my kids upstairs, have them sing their lunch song and then I can start eating too. Most of the lunches are pretty blah. It's Korean food, which I love, but just like American school lunches, it's not very good Korean food. Some days though, Lunch Lady Bitchface surprises us with a stellar meal. And last week, she dished up some killer dumplings and a rice porridge soup with chicken in it. The rice porridge sounds kind of bland, and usually it is, but it was very cold outside and I love that stuff in this weather. It warms you right up. Also, there were 2 sauces being served with the dumplings that could easily help jazz up the porridge.

The sauces were on a common table where teachers and older children can serve themselves some kimchi and other various side items, like pickled radishes. I took a spoonful of each sauce and poured it onto my tray. As I ate, I practiced my poor Chinese speaking skills on Wang Laoshi. We were enjoying the dumplings. She tells me I can go get more if I want. And I think that sounds like a great idea. After all, it's not every day that lunch doesn't taste like old shoes. So I take my tray up and before I can even ask for a few more dumplings, Lunch Lady Bitchface begins shrieking at me.

She's screaming like a banshee because I have put both sauces on my tray and she thinks I have used too much sauce. Yes, really. I want to throw the spicy sauce into her eyes but I just stare at her, partly amused and partly pissed off. There is a ton of sauce - more than enough for all of the students and teachers in the school - on the common table. She is SO weird like that. Once, the Chinese teachers got a small soup bowl and filled it up with kimchi for us all to share and Lunch Lady Bitchface came over and bitched at us about that. She was telling us not to waste it. We weren't wasting it - we were all eating it! My God! She is China's Soup Nazi, now isn't she? Or rather, the Sauce and Condiments Nazi.

As she shouts away, I tell her to relax because I'll be using the sauce in the porridge. My Korean teacher, Christina, happens to be behind the counter because, for whatever reason this year, the cafeteria workers don't serve the food anymore and they have the Korean and Chinese teachers take alternating shifts every other week. She gives me a sympathetic look and I tell her I think Lunch Lady Bitchface is very rude. I tell her I'd like some more dumplings and Lunch Lady Bitchface gets all huffy, like there are not thousands of dumplings up there, and like my own Chinese teacher didn't just stuff her face with about 15 of them. I had only been given 4 initially. Lunch Lady Bitchface starts screaming again and Christina translates even though I understand her. She wants to know how many dumplings I want. I should mention that most of the time, I cannot understand Lunch Lady Bitchface. Why? Because she screams so loudly and speaks so quickly that I have no idea what she's saying. She almost sounds like the Crazy Cat Lady from The Simpsons.

Fearful of asking for too many to cause her to become even more bitchtacular, I tell her I want 3 more please. And she throws them onto my tray. Because of course! She's Lunch Lady Bitchface! I hope that evil woman gets kimchi seasonings in her eyes.

My Husband's Crazy Idea

One recent afternoon, Jeremy was able to come pick me up from school. As we talked and drove, catching up on our days, he told me he was thinking it would be nice for us to rent out our home and move to a bigger home closer to my work. This is not a new idea of his. We've discussed this before, but it seems easier at this point to stay in our current home, where we pay no rent.

On this day, however, my normally sane husband farted out this insane idea:
"We could get a bigger place and live there together with my parents."

Um, WHAT? Did he really just say that? He did. He totally did. And I was left to stare at him with the kind of look that could turn someone into stone.

"No!" I instantly shout. "No way! Not happening!"

What could possibly compel him to say such a thing, you might ask. Well, his dippy parents come to watch Raelynn while we work. Right now, they live only 10 minutes away on foot. Jeremy felt that if we moved a little further away, it would be harder for them to come watch Raelynn.

Harder for them? HOW?!? They get up at the crack of dawn (willingly, I might add) and they know how to take all the buses around the city. How is it harder to them? So I strangled my handbag as I explained to him how this idea was the worst idea I ever heard. Lovingly, of course. But firmly. Very firmly.

Could you imagine my life if we lived under the same roof with them? Dear Lord! Let's count the ways:
1) I'd never get to cook anything I wanted. Ever. Because she'd always be in my kitchen making farts with fart sauce or whatever the hell it is she concocts in there, and she'd always insist that I should eat it.
2) My kitchen (and every other room for that matter) would always be dirty.
3) She would decorate things the way she wanted them to be. We've seen my in-laws' decorating skills, yes? Gag!
4) Jeremy and I would never ever ever have any privacy. I think the reminder that we'd never get to have sex again was the one that jarred him from this stupid idea.
5) We would never get to spend time alone with Raelynn without his parents interfering.
6) And speaking of Raelynn, we wouldn't get to raise her the way WE think is proper.
7) Flies would totally call our place home. 
8) MIL would ALWAYS be digging through our laundry basket.
9) We'd find more of the things we love broken from their carelessness.
10)  Instead of just putting up with my husband's bad habit of chewing louder than a dog gnawing on a bone (that's with ANYFUCKINGTHING he eats), I'd have to hear the 3 of them chewing like that in unison.

And that's just 10 of the things I can pull out my ass as I type this. Thankfully, Jeremy realized this was the stupidest thing ever and dropped it. The thought of living with them is enough to give me nightmares. Especially if we rented an apartment in this now infamous building (which is actually close to our home) here in Qingdao, where they painted windows on the north side of the building to save money. No kidding:

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Idiocracy Continues

Not to be outdone by his wife's defiling of my kitchen items, my FIL has done something so idiotic, you'd think it was the plot of some sitcom. What I am about to tell you is exactly how it was relayed to me from my husband who had been told about this by his parents.

According to Jeremy:
"My mom went to the market down the street to get some food to make so my dad stayed with Raelynn. He told Raelynn he was tired. So Raelynn told him to go ahead and take a nap. My dad listened to Raelynn and took a nap. He woke up a little while after and discovered she had chocolate all over her face. While he slept, she got into the kitchen, opened up the cabinet and stole the box of chocolates from there."

I'll tell you why this is disturbing:
1) FIL actually LISTENED to Raelynn's suggestion to take a nap. She is 2 1/2. YOU'RE THE ADULT! Wait until she naps, then you can nap, dumbass!
2) We have a door to our kitchen which we shut and lock when we're busy or roll over to go back to sleep on Saturdays and Sundays. We do this because she can get into anything in there, from the dishes to the chocolates. She long ago figured out our child-safety locks too so I fear she'll open up the cabinet under the sink and play with the cleaning products. He neglected to shut this door, obviously.
3) MIL looks like the more sensible of the two of them now, huh? Then again, she was the genius who left him in charge. But how could she know that her grandchild would convince her grandfather to sleep so she could make off with chocolates?

I'll end with a photo of Raelynn with a chocolatey face from another time she got to enjoy chocolate (with permission from us though):
Also, I would just like to add that MIL is the unfashionista who decided to put a collared shirt with this kitty sweatshirt. At least she used a matching color though, but it still clashes in styling.

Something's Fishy Around Here

Just because I've been pretty quiet doesn't mean MIL hasn't been getting on my nerves. She has. It's what she's good at. But it's been the typical stuff: rifling through our laundry to wash an ugly garment she gave our daughter, putting clothes that are still too damp back into the closet, making mountains of dishes on the dish rack, leaving luo bo and other gross food items all over the kitchen counters.

It's as irritating as it ever was.

The worst though is her inability to clean anything properly. Allow me to demonstrate with this:
This is the lid to our wok. Do you see the filth on that? Yeah. Lovely. When I went to make dinner this week, she had somewhat washed the wok and put this nasty thing on top of it. She does this all the time though this is probably the most disgusting she has ever left it. It makes me gag to think she probably never washes the lids for anything in her house either. What is she thinking when she does this? Does she just not feel like washing it? If that were the case, why wouldn't she just leave it in the sink so one of us would wash it? I think it's more likely that she doesn't perceive this as dirty. And that very thought scares the shit out of me.

Speaking of not washing things properly, I'd like to tell you all about a horrible discovery I made when I went to cook dinner recently.

MIL had brought over some vegetable. I was delighted to find a carrot among them. I love carrots for salads. Especially for making that yummy carrot-ginger dressing you get in Japanese restaurants back home. (In fact, I've got a lovely recipe for that which I'll post below so keep reading!) We ALWAYS  have fresh ginger, toasted sesame oil and soy sauce on hand. But we don't always have carrots. Immediately, I knew I'd make the carrot-ginger dressing to serve with my salad.

I pull out our blender and see that it looks a little crusty. At first, I think perhaps Jeremy didn't wash it out well enough after making a fruit smoothie. I take a sniff and I nearly bowl over. It smells like fish. FISH! And then it hits me even harder than the stench of a bait shop...several weeks ago, MIL insisted on making us these fried fish balls. I was busy playing with Raelynn, but I remember hearing the blender. Oh GOD. She just rinsed it out, didn't she? No soap, I'm sure. And probably with cold water. I look in it again and notice that, under the blades, there's a grayish ring. Remnants of blended fish. Seriously, MIL?!? UGH! That total nitwit! For the next 45 minutes, I cleanse the blender, soaking it in boiling water with soap and then using a metal chopstick to PRY the ring of fish crap off the bottom. My hard work ultimately pays off, but I'm seething. A dinner that should have taken me less than 30 minutes to throw together had taken me over an hour.

Unfortunately, I don't have pictures of the blender, but as I mentioned before, I have a KILLER recipe for that carrot-ginger dressing. All you need is a blender (one that hasn't been defiled by your MIL of course) or food processor to make it.

Carrot-Ginger Dressing
2 small carrots, peeled and chopped
1/2 medium shallot, chopped
1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoon of finely chopped fresh ginger
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Combine all the ingredients into your blender or food processor until well-blended. Should look like this when you're done:
And of course, don't be a cow and forget to wash out your blender when you're all done!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Splitsville: Population - My Pants

Today began as any work day usually does. I got dressed, ate breakfast and hauled ass downstairs. I hop into the awaiting taxi and greet Hu Shufu with the usual small talk and as I do, I hear a noise. It sounds like chips being crushed but I scoot over and look at my seat and see nothing. We arrive at school and say goodbye. Up the mighty steps I climb and disappear inside. Somehow, I'm the first one there. I do the usual mundane things I always do here too. Unpack my snacks from my bag. And my green tea. Put my sunglasses away. Turn on my laptop. I also take off my coat. I'd worn my heavy coat today which is longer than my lighter-weight black jacket. The weather is happily turning frigid now and the other day, I was so cold I couldn't stand it. I had wished I'd worn the heavier coat.

Perhaps I overdressed for today as it was a little warmer than yesterday. I'd worn a tank top under a large multicolored sweater with a pair of gray jeans. I always liked these jeans because I bought them in Korea. They had hearts on the back pockets. They were also fitting me so nicely now that I've dropped some more weight. The sweater is pretty warm, especially with a tank under it so I guess the heavy jacket was overkill.

But it wound up saving my ass.
Quite literally.

In our kindergarten office, all was quiet and peaceful. I think all of us teachers really love that time of the morning, an hour and a half before our kids arrive. At least I do. Anyway, I was using the sink in there and my Korean teacher, Christina, asks me what that is. "What?" I say, dazedly, not yet feeling the effects of the caffeine I've just consumed. Christina, challenged by English comes up to me and seems to check something and says, "Oh! Jennifer! Your pants!" I stare at her, alarmed. Is there a big bug on my pants? I rule that out immediately. She'd be screaming if that were true. She continues to elaborate, gesturing as she does. "Your pants! Your pants! Broken!" She shouts out "broken" with triumph. Not that she's happy about giving me this information, but more like she's happy she's figured out a word to use that will make sense to me too. Immediately, I twirl around to see in the mirror over the sink.

Oh. God. Nooooooooooooo.
My pants are completely split on the ass.
Lovely.
Just fucking lovely.

With no way to go home and nothing to change into, I have no choice but to keep my heavy coat on ALL DAY to cover up my bum. I try to be somewhat grateful as it could have been so much worse. How, you ask? Well, it could have ripped DURING one of my classes and my students would have been impossible to control after that. Still, as the sun warmed up the day, I felt soooooooooo hot and miserable. My only reprieve was when I could sit down in my office and take my coat off at my desk.

It's funny because, and I totally am not shitting you about this either, 10 years ago, something very similar occurred.

I was working my old ad job. I put on these pants that my friend Aaron and I had called "space pants" because they were made from this weird material. Being in Florida, it was a bit warm in these things, but a bunch of us were going out to a happy hour afterward, and I wanted to look hot to attract a guy I liked. While taking a break with my friend, Laura, she noticed that my space pants had ripped on my ass. Discretely, she tells me and we laugh as she walks along with me, trying to help me keep my ass under wraps. I shimmy along the walls until I reach my desk again, where I had the embarrassing conversation with my boss (a guy) about the situation and asked if I could please go home to change (permission: granted).

Wow. That's fucking trippy, isn't it? History DOES repeat itself after all!

Off With Her Head!

This evening, we went out for dinner at one of the restaurants on our street. We also enjoyed a couple beers with it while Raelynn watched episodes of Dora the Explorer on our Chinese iPad. It was quite nice. Until we got home and I was getting Raelynn ready for bed. That's when Jeremy tells me he has some bad news.

"Your yak mug broke."
"MY YAK MUG?!?!?""

 I should clarify here. The mug I am talking about had a cartoon yak on it. It said "Y is for yak" on one side of it. It was so adorably weird that I just loved it.
My beloved yak mug is pictured here in this photo I used a while back to show how MIL puts that damn luo bo radish thing everyfuckingwhere. RIP, yak mug!

I bought it in Korea at some discount store. They also had an "M is for Moose" which I'd bought for my brother. I kept checking back in hopes that they would have other letters and animals but no such luck.

I loved this mug because it was so unique. And now, it's gone.
But that wasn't all, apparently.

"Um, your Starbucks mug broke too."
"WHAT THE FUCK?!? How did this happen?!?!"
The look on his face said it all. I gasp. "SHE broke it! Your mother! GOD! That clumsy fucking oaf!"

You know why these mugs broke, don't you? Because that old troll stacks the dishes on the drying rack like this:
I'm just as pissed about the Starbucks mug, incidentally. It was just a plain red mug with "Starbucks" on the side, but it had been given to me with some coffee (which I never did get to enjoy as it was before we had a coffee pot at home, so I'd brought it to work and that skank girl from France that they hired after Genesis moved away drank it all without my permission. Whore!) by one of my favorite students last year, Ella.

I know mugs are cheap and I can easily get more of them. I'm just pissed that out of the 20 mugs in our home, the only 2 with sentimental value were massacred by a total half-wit. Jeremy tried to change his story and tell me he was responsible for the slaying of my mugs, but it was too late. I knew he was trying to cover for the old goat.

Lately, MIL and I had been getting along so much better. But this week, it seemed like she really wanted to reclaim her #1 spot on my shit list. All week, she kept putting this flower-patterned zip-up hoodie on Raelynn when she took her out. I should tell you that the hoodie isn't entirely hideous. Not what I would pick but paired with the right things, it's cute. And we all know MIL cannot pair anything correctly, even if her life depended on it. I noticed she used it 2 days in a row. So the next day, I made sure to lay out a different jacket (Raelynn has quite a few) so MIL would dress her in that instead. But she insists upon dressing my kid like a migrant worker by putting her in the same thing every day! Gah! She totally outdid herself though when she apparently hand-washed this fucking thing and then put it back into Raelynn's closet while it was still noticeably wet. THERE ARE 5 OTHER JACKETS IN THERE! USE THEM!!!!!!!!

So yeah. She's back at the top of the list of people I want to throat chop. Like you even thought she would ever be off that list for good. As if!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

My New Simile For The Impossible



I love cake. Don’t you? One of the best perks of teaching kindergarten is the birthday parties because of the cake. Except when the moms send in a cake that has that blah-tasting whippy frosting topped with grapes (with seeds!) and dragon fruit. Meh. But most of them do a good job of picking a delicious cake. Even when students in another class have a birthday party, I can still count on getting a glorious piece of cake.

But there is something quite odd about cake-eating here. I noticed it in Korea too. Instead of giving you a fork to eat it with (or even a spoon or a spork), they give you a teeny tiny shrimp fork. No joke:

The one in the photo happens to be wooden, but most are plastic. In either case, trying to eat a piece of cake with one of those is as close to impossible as it gets. You wind up destroying what was once a lovely slice of cakey goodness in a desperate attempt to get a bite into your mouth. I think using chopsticks would actually be easier!

Prior to this, my favorite simile to use to describe doing something that was impossible came from Mr. Anderson from Beavis and Butthead. Remember him? 

He was the old neighbor that was constantly terrorized by them. He once said, “I feel like a one-legged cat trying to bury turd on a frozen pond,” though for the life of me now, I can't remember why he was saying it. Perhaps he was trying to eat cake with one of these damned things too. In any event, I now have my very own simile to coin:
I feel like I’m trying to eat a slice of cake with a puny plastic shrimp fork.

Feel free to quote me on that.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Day I Was Mistaken For A Chair







After our grueling one-hour-that-felt-like-ten-hours-flight-with-a-tantrumy-toddler, it was refreshing to easily claim our luggage and start on our way to our hotel. We took an early flight so we had plenty of time before my family arrived in Shanghai. Jeremy suggested we take the subway. He probably wouldn’t have made this suggestion had he realized it was about 12 stops away, but that was fine. We both love subways. They are building one in Qingdao and we can’t wait until it’s finished. Riding the subway in Korea was one of my favorite things. I loved being able to get around so easily. Plus, we thought Raelynn would enjoy the ride too. She is too small to remember the first time we took her on the subway when she was 1 month old.

While Shanghai people are far more polite than those up in Beijing, they aren’t as friendly as Qingdao people can be. In Qingdao, get on any bus with your kids and watch everyone jump up to offer you their seat. In Shanghai, get on a subway with a baby and people will pretend not to notice you as you struggle not to wobble over while simultaneously holding your child. As the train prepared to make a stop, one of the seats opened up and Jeremy told me to take Raelynn and sit while he kept the luggage from rolling away.

I sat down with my kid, who, for whatever reason, decided she did not want to sit. So while in my seat, I have a squirmy kid trying to escape, screaming all the while, and then, I am not joking when I tell you some horrid cow sat on me. Yes, that’s right. She fucking sat on me. I was sitting in a chair on the subway and she sat right on my lap. Being the loud, bitchy American that I am, I of course yell at her. My husband gets involved as I jump from my seat, absolutely astonished that someone would sit on me and then not even notice. She settles into the seat and people have now actually gotten up to let her husband and grandchild sit down. The grandchild is apparently sick and they are taking her to the doctor. Oh good! Bring a sick person onto a train. Why don’t you take a taxi?!? There are tons of taxis in Shanghai. They are quite easy to get. She tells my husband she didn’t see me there. HOW DO YOU NOT SEE ME, YOU OLD BAT?!? She starts apologizing and as Jeremy is relaying what she’s saying, I’m offering my own very snide commentary on the matter. I notice some of the passengers understand English quite well because they are chuckling at my caustic remarks. Another seat opens on the bench next to these people and she’s telling me to please come sit down. I don’t want your sympathy seat, asshat. I don’t care if I never fucking sit again. Cow. And I certainly don’t want to sit next to your grandchild who is ill so that my daughter and I might come down with whatever it is that is ailing that poor child. So yeah, shove it.

I know I’ve lost a bit of weight recently but I had absolutely no idea I was beginning to resemble a chair of all things. Now this situation is a bit amusing to me of course, but I have to ask you all – would you be able to sit on a subway (or even a bus) and not notice there was someone already seated in the seat you were attempting to sit in? And suppose you really truly from the depths of your soul did not notice them, would you continue to sit on them as though they were just a chair, without offering an apology until their spouse demanded one of you? Yeesh. My grandpa was truly right on when he used to say, "it takes all kinds."