Tuesday, July 26, 2011

What's In A Name?

Call me a cliche, but Romeo & Juliet is my absolute favorite of Shakespeare's plays. And one of my favorite lines from said play is when Juliet is lamenting about how Romeo is from the Montague family and says, "a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." It begs the question, what's in a name?

I ask this as I look over at my adorable Chinese husband. His name is Xiaolong, which in Chinese, means "morning dragon." I never asked to call him by any other name, though of course I have some nicknames for him including the typical "Honey" that every English speaker uses as a term of endearment. And then there's "Jagiya," which is Korean for "Honey." And finally, there's "Pabo," (though some people pronounce it as "babo" because the character at the beginning the word which looks like  - 바보 - can take on a "b" or "p" sound) which means "stupid" in Korean (and before you think I'm mean, I should point out here that this is said with the utmost of love, as he is technically "Large Pabo;" I am "Medium Pabo" and the baby is "Small Pabo" and together, we are the Pabo Family). My brother and many of our Seoul friends call him "Shoes" partly due to the fact that our last name "Qu" is pronounced like "chiu" and tends to sound a bit like "shoe" and even more largely due to the fact that my husband once went off to work with a smile on his face and 2 completely different shoes on his feet. He had gotten all the way to the subway station before realizing this and had to come running home to change. Ha!

About a month ago, we were having dinner at our friend Genesis' home when another friend of ours, Andrea, who has spent a great deal of time teaching English in China, asked my husband why he didn't have an English name. He did, very briefly, use an English name while we were living in Seoul. He had taken a job at a hotel-style residence. Unfortunately, the Korean government is really picky about giving working visas to Chinese people and wouldn't grant him the working visa for that job so he only worked there for a few days. But not before they gave him the English name of Kevin. Yes, Kevin. Look at him.

Xiaolong poses with dried cuttlefish, one of his favorite (but not mine!) snacks, in our old house in Korea.

Does he look like a Kevin? I don't think so. Also, just saying the name "Kevin" makes me cringe because I swear it was the English name every naughty boy adopted in the Korean school I taught at. I'm not kidding either. I had 5 Kevins and ALL of them were unruly, holy terrors that I had to punish daily. I shudder to think what hell my teaching experience would have been if all of them had been put into the same classroom at once. Dear God!

Anyway, Andrea began suggesting names for my husband to use. And suddenly, there was "Lane." He decided that was the one for him. So I've been trying to incorporate usage of this in our daily lives. After all, some day when we move to the states, it will be far easier for all of us if he just goes by "Lane" since most people in the states will have a hard time pronouncing Xiaolong ("sheow-long" in case you've been sitting there for 10 minutes attempting to say it aloud to yourself). It's not that I don't like the name "Lane." It's much better than Kevin, no offense to any Kevins out there (except my English-named Kevins who didn't do their homework, wrote on the desks, kicked the chair of the kid in front of them constantly, talked out of turn and slept during my class). True that a rose is a rose and still smells like one no matter what we call it. So why should it matter what I call him? It's just that it's his identity and being that I love him for who he is, maybe he'll still be as sweet but nothing sounds as sweet as saying his name. Except "Large Pabo," of course.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Celebrating 100 Days Of Raelynn

Raelynn, with the infamous ugly necklace and her mommy (me) posing in front of some new artwork in our home which my husband selected in order to rid us of  his parents' crappy decorating tastes.

Someone very small and cute is a tired little girl today because yesterday was her big day! Yes, Raelynn in all her adorableness that shined through despite being forced to wear ugly jewelry to make her grandmother happy had a very special day for her 100-day party. It was quite the success!

I'll admit, the day started off in a troublesome way. At 6:30am, my husband's phone rang. It was his driving coach. 6:30am. Saturday morning. Whatinthefuck! See, driving school here seems much like fraternities and hell week. You get a call and you HAVE TO go to your lesson, whenever that might be. And, I'm being totally serious here too, if you bribe the guy with cigarettes, he'll make you a priority. Lovely, huh? So, off "Lane" goes to learn how to drive as badly as the rest of the residents of Qingdao (which includes but is not limited to riding in two lanes at once, honking constantly, side-swiping, driving toward oncoming traffic, aiming for pedestrians and turning around while driving to look at the person in the backseat while you're driving) but not before telling me that his parents would be coming at around 9am. I should mention the party was to start at noon. I try to go back to sleep but with this curse looming about the room, threatening me to have no privacy in getting ready thanks to our open wall between our bedroom and living room (see Photographic Evidence of My Mother-in-Law's Destruction for photos), plus Raelynn who is happily cooing away in her crib, it was impossible.

Somehow, I managed to get both of us dressed before my in-laws invaded. I had to finish my make-up so I bit my tongue and smiled big and fake while handing them the baby. I had the A/C on in our room but when I saw how sweaty these two were, particularly my FIL, I cranked up the A/C on the other side of our apartment too. He reached for the baby but I instead pointed him towards the water jug and the A/C. But my MIL in her infinite lack of wisdom comes from the bathroom after freshly washing her hands, takes the baby and then I watch in horror (and anger) as she hands Raelynn, in her new, pretty dress, to my FIL who is still sweating profusely. I go in my room and strangle one of the pillows on the bed and remind myself that this is Raelynn's big day. And I make a mental note to slather some more baby lotion on her to get their smell off of her before we go.

According to my husband, the banner basically roughly translates to "Happy 100 Day Celebration."

After that though, the party was a hit, despite an odd start. We arrive and about 30 of my husband's family members are all there happily greeting us. I think MIL might have coached them on not touching the baby which I have to say impressed me because they kept their hands to themselves (I'd prepared disinfecting wipes and even rubbing alcohol in case I ran out of the wipes). But they did crowd around to have a good look at her. She'd fallen asleep in her carrier until we arrived there, at which point she looks around at everyone else, then looks up at me, frowns and begins crying. She was already so tired and now there was a lot of noise, new people and she was in a new place. She wasn't happy about this arrangement. At all.

All of my husband's relatives edge in for a gander at Raelynn. You can barely see me as they surround us!
I manage to calm her down and as relatives come up to take a look, they hand us the traditional red money envelopes. In Chinese culture, it's very rude to open up a gift when you receive it, for you will appear greedy. Knowing this, I smiled heartily, thanked each giver and stuck them safely away for later.

The dump-truck stroller, as my friend Genesis dubbed it, which weighs so much that it is actually more inconvenient to us to use it.

We make our way to one of 3 tables in the large party room of this restaurant. I've got Raelynn in her dump-truck stroller next to me, which we brought along to appease MIL though we plan to sell it soon since it is utterly useless to us (and poor "Lane" is wiped out from carrying it down the stairs of our building and then up all the stairs inside the restaurant). And I soon begin to fear that despite how hungry I am, I won't get to eat. The room is air conditioned but as is the case with Chinese people who would sooner die of heat stroke than just pay the extra money on the electric bill for 2 months out of the year, they don't have it turned up nearly enough. It's still hot as all hell in there and Raelynn is upset because of it. I'm fanning her with one hand and using the other hand to roll the massive stroller back and forth to calm her down. FIL comes and scoops her up so I can eat something and she's happy to be with her grandpa.

Yes, it's the real deal. Chinese food in China.

But I'm not happy at this point. The food they bring out are things I do not at all care for. There is a chicken dish which isn't bad but that is all. Oh and the wine. And beer. But soon, my mood brightens because they start bringing Chinese dishes that I adore, like roasted duck and a whole large steamed fish. Suddenly, this party's not so bad. I also notice that every time I empty my glass, it is suddenly filled back up again.

My FIL makes a toast. He's actually a lot of fun to drink with.

Meanwhile, MIL hogs the baby all to herself. But it looks like Raelynn is making her fart side-eye face so maybe I dodged a bullet there.

Plus, Raelynn has calmed down now. And despite I haven't gotten to hold her since we got there which makes me sad and a bit angry, I remember that I have to be gracious. My in-laws paid for this party. Plus, if I am rude to them in front of the extended family, it will more than embarrass my husband. It will break his heart into pieces. So, I do my best to try to speak as much Chinese as I can, I clink my glass with each guest and I remind myself this is all for Raelynn. And in the end, she's all that matters. Happy 100 Days Raelynn! You make our whole world complete!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Baby Bling

Tomorrow is a very exciting day for the Qu family. It will be Raelynn's 100-Day Celebration. In Chinese tradition, on the baby's 100th day, you throw a big party in hopes that it could lead to the baby living for 100 years. I know what you're thinking. I thought it too. Oh it's so mean, but yes, the thought crossed my mind that MIL might have had one of these parties way back when, and bless her old brainless heart, I just hope if she does live THAT long, that we live far, far, far, far, far, far, FAR away by then. I cannot imagine putting up with her when I'm in my seventies.

Anyway, back to the party. This is one of those Chinese traditions that I think is really nice. Of course, we'll need hand sanitizer to spray on all the relatives, but when Raelynn is big and looks back on all the pictures, I think it will make her happy. Besides, whether I like them or not, it's important for her to know her father's side of the family. And MIL of course is thrilled because she gets to do something useful. And, dare I say it, she's actually done a good job from what I can tell. She's reserved a room at a nice restaurant down the street from us and we'll all get to eat and drink while the relatives give presents to the baby. Well played, MIL.

As soon as I was told about this event, I went through Raelynn's closet to figure out what I'd dress her in. It's quite a momentous occasion so she has to wear something fabulous and look her best! I immediately grabbed for her dresses. She only has 3 dresses right now. All of them are darling, but two of them are just a little too big for her at this time. Thanks to my wonderful friend, Pam, the third one is an absolutely adorable Old Navy dress that fits Raelynn perfectly right now. Just look how cute she is (below)! And happy! She loves playing dress up already! I cannot even wait to take her clothes shopping when she's bigger.

I was so relieved I got to pick the outfit because MIL has some of the worst taste I have ever seen. But of course, she couldn't leave well enough alone, could she? I can't complain too much because it is a nice gesture, even if it is hideous and a bit tacky. She bought Raelynn jewelry, which I do like the idea of because Raelynn can always remember her grandma by it and can hopefully pass it on to her children someday. Anyway, MIL bought 2 matching bracelets which I actually think are alright, even if they look a little more like they should be on a little Chinese boy. It's the necklace (below) that's got me. It is so fug, right? Look at that thing! A giant gaudy chunk of silver adorned with a rabbit. And the bells! Gah! But on a more serious note, I'm worried Raelynn will try to eat the bells since her new thing is to eat her hands, blankets, rattles and anything else she can bring to her mouth.

I also left the price tags on so you can see how much she spent. In Asian culture, it is very acceptable, if not expected, to inquire how much someone spent on something. Here, you brag about how much you spent, which I try to accept but it is really hard to get used to. I find it so utterly rude still. Take a look at what all this cost. Each bracelet is 212 yuan (so 424 for both) and the necklace is 996 yuan. Yes, really. For most Chinese people, that is a LOT of money. Plus, she insisted on paying for this party, which cost her about 5,000 yuan. So now she's bragging she bought this expensive (but ugly as sin) jewelry for her grandchild. What's worse is I HAVE TO put this crap on my poor angel baby tomorrow or else I'd be a huge bitch. She paid for the party and now I'm being guilt-mailed into putting this junk on my baby. I know she doesn't have to wear it all the time but it just irks me that MIL complains about money and yet throws it away on shit like this that could be a potential choking hazard or a stroller we can't use due to it having more atomic mass than all the planets combined and us not living in a building with an elevator. And then she complains when "Lane" and I spend money on something that truly needs a large expense, like when we had the hot water installed in the sinks so we could properly sanitize our dishes or when we run the A/C because it is hot and humid outside. Isn't that why we BOUGHT the A/C? So in the 2 months that it is actually too hot here, we can avoid sweating to death?

I guess all I can do is continue to tune out her shrill, annoying voice and be happy for Raelynn. Her grandmother might be a troll with no sense of any kind (fashion, common, hygienic to name a few), but she has a big heart.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Qingdao's Famed Plastic Bags (UPDATED!!!)

Night view of May 4th Square in Qingdao.

Silly me. All this time, I thought Qingdao was famous for its beer (which is packaged as "Tsingtao" for all the rest of you out there). It's darned good beer too, so imagine my surprise when my husband "Lane" (his new English name he's decided to use now, in case you didn't read my last post) tells me, proudly, that his hometown of Qingdao is famous throughout China for the use of plastic bags. Allow me to clarify.

The Qingdao (Tsingtao) Beer Museum, which is sure to be loads of fun, especially with my family. After their visit, I'll blog in extensive detail about our adventures there.

Sure, it's still famous for tasty beer. And many people come to see the beer museum, which is close to our home. I've actually yet to see it and am quite excited to do so. When I first arrived in Qingdao, I was a bit too pregnant for such an adventure. Now, we're just waiting for my family to come visit in August to go with them. Also, for you Olympics aficionados, when the 2008 Olympics were held in Beijing, they made use of nearby Qingdao for the sailing activities. Plus, in all the advertisements, Qingdao is touted as "The Sailing City." But apparently, the locals are quite pleased by this distinction of being known for using plastic bags over all else. "Lane" pointed this out to me when I was perplexed by his arrival home with 2 plastic bags full of beer. His parents were over for lunch and perhaps in an attempt to make them more fun or make me less annoyed by their presence (whichever it was, it worked!), he'd gone out to purchase some beer. You'd think he'd come back with a 12-pack or something like that, right? Oh, not in Qingdao! Oh no siree! I was absolutely mesmerized. Imagine 2 clear, plastic bags - the kind you'd get at the supermarket - filled with beer. Not Ziploc bags, but the kind you'd have your groceries bagged in. Yes, those.

Since then, I've noticed this EVERYWHERE in this city. If we get take out or if we have any leftovers we want to take home after dining out, they put the food IN PLASTIC BAGS. Even soup! No containers, just plastic bags. That must be why all these tourists are here now...for the bags! Aha! It all makes sense now. No wonder the buses are even more crowded than usual. Everyone is flocking to Qingdao to enjoy beer and Chinese food out of plastic bags. Yes! Come for the beaches. Stay for the bags! It should TOTALLY be their new tagline.

Several different beach shots in Qingdao, which actually translates to "Green Island" though it isn't actually an island. It's a peninsula which still makes for plenty of beach space here. And though I may complain about living here sometimes, I have to say a quick trip to the beach will always put a smile on my face.

Perhaps the real mystery is why they're so proud of such a thing. I mean, there's plenty of really cool things here worth bragging about. Beautiful beaches. Scenic mountains. Outstanding seafood. The Tsingtao Beer Museum. Underwater World. May 4th Square. Polar Ocean World. Qingdao Huadong Winery. The Qingdao TV Tower. And let's not forget the epic Qingdao International Beer Festival which happens every August (and hence, why my parents decided to plan their visit next month to coincide with the festival). But plastic bags? Where are those environmentalists when you need them anyway? They'd have a field day with these people and their plastic baggery for sure. On the other hand, I've never been to a place that lets you do take out with draft beer, so I guess that's an advantage. It's certainly an odd thing to gloat about though. That's like me telling people I come from Miami and bragging about the constant live gunfire that takes place instead of boasting about the Everglades or Florida oranges. Then again, with all the bad publicity Florida gets these days, maybe I shouldn't even mention I'm from there at all. Oh hell...you can take the girl out of Florida but you can't take the Florida out of the girl. If anyone needs me, I'll be drinking my bag o'beer.

My lazy-ass FINALLY got a picture of the beer in the bag:
Here is a recent bag of beer we were consuming, as held out by my husband who is now contemplating arm modeling. Of course, I remembered to photograph when we were almost finished, but you get the idea. Imagine that thing full! Pouring takes some skill though.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

It Was Just Her Imagination

This month, I officially began teaching English again though on a part-time basis. The decision to go back to work wasn't an easy one since I truly hate being apart from Raelynn, not to mention I don't particularly care for leaving her with my MIL on top of that. But over here, teachers get paid quite a bit and it would be foolish to pass up these opportunities to make money for us. After all, it's all for Raelynn and I would do anything to make her life a happy, fulfilling and amazing one. Part time is all I'd really wanted to do since it would give me the best of both worlds: I could teach again while getting out of the house for a little while and it would give Raelynn time with her grandma while giving me time away from my MIL.

But recently, my dear friend Genesis introduced an opportunity at the school she teaches at. It's for a full-time teaching position but the hours are more like part-time. And the pay, well, it was quite a lot. If they offer me the job, I'd be a fool to say no. So earlier this week, I had an interview. Genesis had asked me to take my husband along because the woman I'd meet with there didn't speak English very well. It's a Korean school and although I can speak Korean on a beginner/intermediate level, I don't feel comfortable holding a whole interview in Korean. Besides, my Korean skills are neither here nor there for this position. They want someone to teach English. And we all know I am quite well versed in that.

So while we were gone, MIL came over to watch Raelynn. And in the few short hours we were gone, she claimed to my husband (who, incidentally, has decided to use an English name after our friend Andrea suggested it, which would be "Lane", so from now on, we're calling him "Lane") that she cleaned the house for us. I almost doubled over laughing because the only difference in our home from the time we left to the time we returned was that it was DIRTIER. And it smelled funny. Is this her version of cleaning? I think perhaps she just imagined the whole thing. Just like she imagines she'll get to trot Raelynn out to one of the nearby dirty street markets and brag about her wonderful grandchild. No fucking way, lady. I went through the house all day yesterday cleaning and scrubbing everything and in no room and in no place could I visibly see where she could have possibly cleaned a single thing. True that she didn't leave dishes in the sink; the ones she "washed" were dirty still. And she left a pot full of sauce sitting on the counter to attract bugs. Oh and speaking of bugs, the fucking flies all came back because her troll-ass had a bowl of peaches sitting on our coffee table where she'd eaten some and then thrown her peach pits on top of uneaten peaches. Oh ew. I refused to eat any of the remaining peaches in the refrigerator for fear her mangy teeth came anywhere close to them plus let's not forget all the flies that were buzzing all around them! Augh!

And then, you know what she does? While we're eating, she takes the baby with her to go swat at the flies. You. Fucking. Dolt. Seriously, put my baby down while you do that! GOD! She could have dropped her! She could have swallowed flies too! My husband "Lane" was initially upset with me for getting upset about this. It took him a good couple of minutes to understand WHY I was pissed off. This woman is just so dumb. She knew about the flies the other day. And "Lane" asked her to please put all produce in the refrigerator immediately so as not to attract more bugs. He told her to especially not leave the peaches out. And what does she do? SHE LEAVES THEM OUT. So on top of her imagination running wild, she also let the flies run wild in our home again too. Yeah, you cleaned. And Casey Anthony is innocent. MY ASS! MIL is in no way creative. In fact, "Lane" recently admitted that she was (in his own words) an "uninteresting" woman. I imagine that in her head, there is one scraggly hamster with 2 broken legs trying to run on a broken wheel in a dirty cage, so I find it hard to believe she would just make this up for sport. What I believe is that she's just that dense in that she maybe took a dirty rag out of the laundry, wiped it around on the counter for 30 seconds and pronounced the house as "clean" because to her, in her world, that is what "clean" is. And THIS is WHY I won't let my in-laws take Raelynn to their home. Because I shudder to think what sort of filth they live in. If she leaves fruit out here, I can only imagine how much fruit she leaves out in her own home and how many flies must be milling around there at any given moment. Yuck.

So, will MIL get to torture my sweet little baby 5 days a week while "cleaning" my house? Well, that remains to be seen. If this job is meant to be for me, then I'll have at it. If not, I'll be ready for the next opportunity that comes along, which I'll watch out for in between cleaning up after my mess of a MIL.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Plague Of Cucumbers To Replace The Flies

 Oh God forgive me because I have really been trying to be nice to MIL. I put on my big, fat fake smile when she comes in and I try to just pretend I've had a frontal lobotomy so I can be on her level. And I dig my nails into my legs in an effort to keep myself from digging them into her neck. I really have been trying but I truly from the depths of my soul despise this woman. Is it her annoying voice? Is it that putting her in charge of my baby is frightening because she has absolutely no sense at all? Is it that she is just dismally dumb as can be? Is it that she puts the channel on the TV to the most annoying one of all, with horrible Chinese music that even my husband makes fun of? It's probably a bit of everything. Add to it a pinch of resentment too since I have changed everything about myself to live over here. And that old bat won't even try to use the cookbook that I bought for her.

I detest her cooking as much as I detest her overall. She makes a few dishes well like steamed clams, a garlicky cucumber salad and a tasty whole fish sauteed in some sort of sauce that is miraculously not soy sauce (because everything else she makes is just covered with the stuff). I have to be honest and say I'm sticking to my theory that maybe she's slowing down mentally because when I first came here, she wasn't this horrible in the kitchen. Or she wants us all to die from her terrible culinary concoctions so she can hog my beautiful baby to herself. Cow.

Yesterday, I thought I was going to starve to death. For lunch, she made this fish dish (not the good one) with small fish. I hate small fish. This is the kind of fish I'd use to catch a big fish. So to me, this is bait. It smells and it has so many bones that you do more spitting than eating. She knows I hate this but she made it for her son (who, for some unknown reason, likes it). Or perhaps she's not as stupidly innocent as she appears. She also made another dish I can't stand. It has this rubbery pork in it (she never buys good cuts of meat) with green beans and potatoes. And of course is topped in salty soy sauce. She makes this all the time and every time, I refuse to eat it (though if I am hungry enough, I pick all the potatoes out and leave the rest because whatever she does to the green beans makes them taste just plain awful). I took one look at this crap and went back into our bedroom. My husband coaxed me out of the room to at least eat some rice and said she was making another dish for me. Unfortunately for my rumbling stomach, that was a fail too. She cooked up shrimp WITH CUCUMBERS. I love cucumbers but I hate them cooked. They taste terrible that way. I picked a few shrimp out, ate my rice and left the table.

I should stop here to explain that MIL grows some of her own vegetables. And it's lovely of her to bring some of this harvest to our home. But she brings a ridiculous amount of the same things. I've been busy making different eggplant dishes, baking potatoes, mashing potatoes and creatively cooking potatoes; and looking for new cucumber salad-type recipes. The eggplant and potatoes I can cook up easily and finish off. It's this mess of cucumbers that is doing me in.

And after much ado, we finally have the fly problem under control too. Xiaolong bought a spray in case we see any more of them. I still blame MIL for this problem even though my husband thinks it was his fault for not taking out the trash right away. He's done that before and we never had any flies in here. She's also to blame for hindering our efforts by putting peaches out on the table. FLIES LIKE FRUIT, YOU IDIOT! Augh! I had to collect those up, wash them and stick them back in the refrigerator. And then there was that rag I use to wipe our counters that I'd thrown after I saw them all piled up on it. She did something to it. Now I know what. Today, a new rag (same color) waited in the spot where the previous one was. This rag, as is widely known by my husband and BOTH his parents, is just for wiping up excess water on the counters and those sorts of things. It's relatively clean (or it should be which is why after she shows up each time, I try to remember to toss it in the laundry so we're not wiping something gross onto our surfaces) but it's not something you'd want to touch with clean hands. And today, I see her trolltastic self wash her hands and then dry them on this rag!!! O.M.G. Seriously. Something is wrong with this woman, truly.

But now that the fly problem is under wraps, we have a new plague. Of cucumbers. There are. SO. MANY. CUCUMBERS. The old troll made us lunch today and thankfully, she made clams (which I eat) and she also made her garlicky cucumber salad thing (which I also eat but I am getting tired of having it every single fucking day). And then she made us some cooked cucumber dish seasoned with soy sauce. I didn't take photos because my husband was in no mood to field my complaints today so just imagine very soggy, brownish cucumbers that tasted like how farts smell. As if this wasn't nasty enough, she had to outdo herself with an even more barfy dish also using cucumbers! It's as if she imagined herself to be competing on Iron Chef. Only they would totally never use cucumbers as the secret ingredient. And even if they did, they'd make something good. But she could never be on that show because she sucks at cooking. It would be fun to watch the judges tear her apart though.

Anyway, this next cucumber dish was a soup with egg and cucumber and it was so bad it tasted to me like how it smells when your house floods and the carpets get wet. Yes, that nasty-farty-carpet smell. So our lunch was essentially clams and cucumbers. You know it's bad too when my husband tells her he didn't like it. I would like to point out that we had many other things in our house to make. As I mentioned, we have plenty of potatoes and eggplant in this house too. It boggles my mind how many cucumbers she must have used because there were 3 dishes chock full of them and there are about 10 in our refrigerator now (which I put there because her brainless ass had them on the counter to beckon the flies with). I am hoping that she'll stay away for a few days and we can perhaps donate this excessive supply of cucumbers to our neighbors. But I'm sure when she shows up again, she'll come toting a bag of cucumbers and more ways to disgrace their naturally good taste.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Flystalker (UPDATED!!!)

While most of the flies I've killed today are smaller than this one, I had several large mammojammas like this one here. Eek!

Early this morning, my husband left for the city of Jinan. It's in our same province (Shandong) and it takes about 3 hours to get there by bus. He'd hoped I would come along and I know his troll mother would have jumped at the chance to continue making the mess she was making from yesterday and hog the baby all to herself. Not so fast, Trollzilla. I didn't have enough breast milk stashed in our freezer so there was no way I could go anywhere without the baby. As a lovely kind gesture even more delicious than the chocolate donuts he brought me yesterday, Xiaolong asked his mother not to come over today. It's Mommy/Daughter day in the Qu household! But while she naps and rests up for our adventures (which include rocking her while I watch satellite TV, playing with her toys, tummy time, imitating the faces Mommy makes and just watching me do whatever it is I do), I have become...THE FLYSTALKER.

I noticed some flies in here last night while we were eating dinner. I figured they followed the smell of unwashed human wafting off my MIL when she visited yesterday. Or it could have been from my FIL who came to fix our bed frame (yeah, yeah...I know what you're all thinking and you'd THINK this stupid bed would've collapsed while we were doing something else. Likely, it's what caused it to START to break but it was my husband's flopping down onto it while I was holding the baby that caused the actual collapse). FIL was pretty sweaty when he got here. Or...it could have been MIL's sister. At any rate, I have no earthly idea how these little bastards got in here. It's been too hot not to run the A/C and any time we've opened the windows, we've used the screens. There are just too many of them to have snuck in. But now, I, The Flystalker, am trying to get to the bottom of this caper, whilst murdering flies left and right.

If you've ever had the pleasure of dining with me outside, you know my utter disdain for all bug things. Of course, roaches, spiders, wasps and bees are the absolute worst and will have me shaking in a corner somewhere if I see them. But flies just piss me off. They buzz around trying to land on your food or they fall into your wine and you have to pick their little nasty corpses out of your glass. I HATE THEM. I swat frantically and after a while of them trying to penetrate my food or drink, I start cursing and swearing while flailing my arms, looking a bit like a person with Tourette's.

Last night, Xiaolong and I were much like cats pouncing on our prey. We clobbered a few of them between us and neither of us noticed any more intruders. However, today is a different story as I am left to defend myself and the baby from these rude uninvited guests. After my husband left this morning, and after I'd made sure Raelynn was fed and changed, I went into the kitchen to make my breakfast. And that's when they all came out of seemingly thin air. What the fuck?!? I swatted and swore, using my sandals as weapons. I couldn't tell where they all came from but I was jumped by at least 50 assailants. Now I've been trying to get them to take their house party elsewhere. I shooed some out the windows. But as you may have guessed, flies are rather stupid beings and even when I was trying to help them, they kept flying into the window panes.

Next, I went full force on their asses with a flyswatter. And I thought I'd eliminated all of them. Oh boy was I wrong! I'd gone to handle Raelynn right after breakfast because she'd begun to cry. So I'd left my dishes in the sink. Now that I'd gotten her to take her next nap after eating and play time, I thought I'd go clean those and make myself another cup of coffee. As I grabbed the rubber gloves off the towel rack, a crew (as my husband would say) of them launched after me! They came from behind the little rag that I use to wipe the kitchen counters with. I should have known that dumb woman better when I saw her with it in her hands yesterday. Every time, I have to tell her THAT rag is just to wipe up the counters with. Not for dishes. Not for big messes. Just to wipe the water off the counters along with some cleanser. She must have put it in something else though I cannot figure what because these little fuckers were all over it! I promptly tossed it out the door, but not before these damn things went all over the place. I tried to kill as many as I could and then went looking to make sure I'd found the source. But nothing else seemed to be attracting them, not even the garbage or the cabinets where she always sticks vegetables instead of the refrigerator (I was relieved to find just coffee in that cabinet today). Even the watermelon ripening on our counter was fly-free. They wanted THAT rag. It is STILL bothering me as to WHY they wanted it. But it's gone now, and hopefully, they are too. The Flystalker has tracked them throughout our whole home. I've smacked them with the flyswatter. I've crushed them with my shoes. I've thwacked them with books and the rubber kitchen gloves. I even sprayed them to death with kitchen cleaner (we don't have any bug spray).

Now it is eerily quiet and I wonder if I can change from The Flystalker back into Mommy. I love that Raelynn has slept through almost all of this chaos. I hope that I've gotten them all and that we can enjoy our Mommy/Daughter day together without any annoying visitors of the bug or family kind!

Well, I spoke too soon. I changed the caption on the photo at the top because when I first posted this, I had just been fighting off smaller flies. But I've since encountered 4 large ones like the one pictured at the top of this post. Ugh. My war was far from over. I thought I'd pinned them to the rag but after I killed off what I thought was the last of them, there was another round hiding out. Damn these guys are good! I venture to say now that I have eliminated the enemy, breaking the flyswatter in the process. And if any happen to still be alive after my brutal assault, well, my husband will be home shortly and it will be his turn to go to battle with these pesky little shits.  

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Chinese Menus Interpreted: The Real Meaning Behind Chinese Food

A few days ago when my husband and I went out without our beloved angel baby (the same day we had the pleasure of being driven around by Qingdao's best-dressed bus driver), we happened upon a partially-indoor shopping area. It was really hot outside so we'd stopped in a convenience store for some ice cream before heading home to rescue Raelynn from my MIL. We were eating it inside the store when we discovered a very cool breeze coming from a partially opened door in the back. Through that door, we found something spectacular. My husband, who was born and raised in Qingdao, didn't have any idea this was there. It was quite perfect finding it now since we're starting to plan activities for when my family comes to visit in August. It's a shopping and dining area that's not completely indoors or outdoors but it's painted to look like a charming European-esque street with starry skies. We saw something similar in Shanghai at the Renmin Square subway station, which I've included to give you a rough idea of what we're talking about.

Nice, huh? Anyway, we poked around the little shops and carts with the kind of trinkets tourists would buy. One cart was very different though. It had a bunch of crappy, cracked-out looking toys. I should have known what we were in for when the woman running the cart was mean to a bunch of children who were just trying to look at the toy selection. I wouldn't have paid any mind to this cart but there was - get ready for it - a plastic double cheeseburger-shaped truck with a very scary Ronald McDonald driving it. Seriously. This was the day I'd forgotten my camera so I point excitedly and ask my husband (who is also rather amused by this item) to get a picture with his phone. But the woman was a total bitch! She realizes we just want a photo of it and grabs it like a football and covers it. Um, yeah. Thanks you cow. Good luck getting any sales with your attitude! My husband says something not-so-nice to her and off we go. We pass a large fountain and as we enjoy the cooling mist from the water, we notice another long stretch of this lovely shopping area, filled with more little shops and restaurants.

We decide to check out one of the restaurants as we walk by. There's a menu out front and we're curious to see if this might be a good place to eat with my family during their visit. My husband might have been oblivious to this area ever existing, but apparently tourists are not because the menu of this establishment (and others including a sweet looking dessert place) was in Chinese and English. And that's where the real delight occurred. Because some of these items truly got lost in translation.

So here are a few of our favorites that we snapped shots of. An extra big thanks to my wonderful husband for his photography on this one. I should also mention that when he gave them to me on his jump drive, he had put them in a folder that he named "Stupid Menu." My husband LOVES the word "stupid." I would venture to say that it's his favorite English word. By far!

You'll notice my finger off to the right, pointing at "Confidential Vegetable."This, incidentally, was what prompted me to cackle with glee and ask Xiaolong to get on camera in the first place. They're not telling you whatever it is. Maybe it's not even a vegetable. Hey, it's a communist country, folks. The photo (which is below the title) isn't any more telling than the name. It's a secret! Shhh! Also in the same photo, we have pure confusion with "The privately owned starch fries the house noodles." So, the starch, which is owned privately, will fry the house noodles? Or are the starch fries a thing? And of course, we have "Eucommia nutritious scalloped kidney." I probably don't need to tell you that "eucommia" is not a word. To their credit, they probably used a translating program to interpret their menu. English is my husband's third language and while he speaks it very well, he doesn't have the words for everything. When that happens, he'll use the translator on his phone to explain his meaning. Unfortunately, much of the time, it will give some random phrase that doesn't make a lick of sense. As a matter of fact, I think I've seen some of those phrases on other menus in town. Anyway, if the "eucommia" didn't frighten me away, "kidney" did. 

In the next photo, we have "Peasant Family Smelly Egg." It speaks for itself (and probably stinks for itself) doesn't it? Blech.

And "Live fries compares the tube fish." What do they compare the tube fish to? And what, pray tell, IS a tube fish? Maybe I'm just not on the up-and-up with the whole seafood movement, given my disdain for sea life on pizzas. This one's just as perplexing as the starch fries from the first photo. Maybe live fries are related to starch fries somehow. Or, Lord help me, maybe they meant "tube snake?" Eep.

Friday, July 8, 2011

3 Cheers For The Bus Driver (UPDATED!!!)

The bus pictured above is from an entirely different city in China and is being used for illustration purposes. Because blogs look better with some sort of picture. This bus is much cleaner and nicer than the one described below.

Today, my husband invited his mother over. But much to my surprise, he had done so in order for the 2 of us to get out of the house without the baby. Since Raelynn survived almost a full week of Grandma's annoying voice, I figured she'd be just fine for a few hours. And so, Xiaolong and I set off in search of new decorations for our home (as we are trying to replace many of the things here since, if you haven't read any of my older posts, this home was a wedding gift from my in-laws and all of the decor is their horrible taste. For photos, see In-Law Interior Designs).

I must admit, Qingdao isn't as horribly hot as Florida though no one here cranks the A/C like they do back home. But now that it's July, there is little escape from the heat. As unfortunate as it is that people don't run their A/C as strong as they should when it's hot like this, it's even more unfortunate that the buses don't even come equipped with it. Opening the windows does make for a nice breeze but that doesn't cut it when you're so sweaty that your sweat is sweating. That's why I can't blame the bus driver on the number 4 bus for his outfit. Not entirely anyway.

I apologize that today was one of the few times I forgot to take my camera with me. Then again, maybe it is best I spared your eyeballs after all. My husband had his camera phone but the seats we found were on opposite sides of the bus from each other and a sea of smelly soap-less people kept each of us with our faces close to the windows. It was impossible for me to get his attention during this time. Plus, I had the better view of this shocking ensemble. The bus driver wore very short black shorts that he'd hiked up to his crotch some more and as if this wasn't nauseating enough, he wore a half shirt that exposed his flabby belly. Now, he wasn't horribly fat or anything though his stomach did roll over the top of those shorts. Anyway, he was in no kind of shape to go around in public like that especially while at work driving a bus! I stared in awe at this majestically disgusting creature as if I'd stumbled upon some alternate universe. Who let him show up for his job like that?!? And who let him perform his job in that outfit?!?

It made me think of that song we all used to sing as kids. Remember?
Three cheers for the bus driver, the bus driver, the bus driver!
Three cheers for the bus driver who drove us today!
He drinks, he smokes, he tells dirty jokes!
Three cheers for the bus driver who drove us today!
His eyebrows are mushy! He has a fat tushy!
Three cheers for the bus driver who drove us today!
He drives off the road! He looks like a toad!
Three cheers for the bus driver who drove us today!

Well, his outfit inspired me to add my own verses to this campy song from my childhood. Feel free to sing them aloud to yourselves...
Three cheers for the bus driver, the bus driver, the bus driver!
Three cheers for the bus driver who drove us today!
He wears daisy dukes! They reveal flabby glutes!
Three cheers for the bus driver who drove us today!
His shirt shows his belly! It jiggles like jelly!
Three cheers for the bus driver who drove us today!
Those shorts are so teeny! I almost saw weeny!
Three cheers for the bus driver who drove us today!
He looks like a troll with that tummy roll!
Three cheers for the bus driver who drove us today!

I could probably make more verses but for now, I think I've sufficiently laughed myself to death. Next time, I promise to take the camera with me in case we get the same bus driver when we take bus 4 or when we see other assorted fashion WTFs around here.

Maybe those in charge of public transportation here in Qingdao are reading my blog. I say this because the bus drivers are now being made to wear uniforms. Perhaps because it is tourist season and the officials want people to come back to Qingdao again next year instead of scaring them away with nightmarish images of flabby stomachs jiggling with every bump in the road. For whatever reason, thank you! Now, if you could get people to use soap, stop spitting everywhere, and put diapers on their kids so they don't pee and poop all over the streets like dogs, that would be much appreciated.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

My Annoying Aviation Experience

Please note that the above photo of an airplane is for illustration purposes only. We did NOT fly Southwest during this trip.
If you read my previous post When 2 Loves Collide, then you have no doubt been jumping up and down with anticipation for my promised post regarding our return trip from Seoul. Yes, it was so eventful on its own, it deserved its own post. That being said, here goes...

I've flown in and out of Incheon Airport numerous times. It's a truly fantastic airport, filled with stores I can't afford (Gucci, Prada and the like) plus gift shops, Starbucks, restaurants (including Bennigan's!) and fast food. I also discovered this time around that it has nursery rooms which have play areas for bigger kids and private rooms for nursing moms (or ones who need to pump their breast milk while they're away from their baby, like I was) so you don't feel the creepy gazes of strangers staring at your over-sized melons. Incheon Airport truly thought of everything so it's no wonder it has won gobs of awards for being an exceptional airport (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incheon_International_Airport#Awards.2C_certifications.2C_and_ratings for complete list).

The airport here in Qingdao should take some notes on what Incheon Airport does right. Or at very least, take a look at Shanghai's 2 airports and try to be more like those. I must say though that before this incident, I never had a problem at Liuting National Airport (the official name of Qingdao's airport). I simply found it a horribly boring place to await departure, though once arriving from all of my flights, it has been very quick and easy to get my luggage.

But our annoying aviation experience wasn't solely the fault of Liuting National Airport. It all began long after we'd boarded our China Air flight at Incheon Airport in Seoul, while we were high up in the sky. The flight to Qingdao from Seoul takes about an hour and 10 minutes. I noticed something was wrong after they'd announced we'd be arriving in Qingdao soon but it had been much longer than any person's definition of 'soon.' It was a mid-afternoon flight and suddenly, it became dark as night in the cabin. When we hit such major turbulence that people actually screamed several rows back, I gripped my husband's hands with all my might. While flying the fucked up skies, the plane shook and pitched about and for an instant, I became truly terrified I would never see my daughter again. But the pilot navigated us out of that mess of torrential rain and lightning. The sky began to lighten up too. I then noticed the plane turn in a different direction after I'd turned back to re-reading a Carl Hiaasen novel I'd read several times before that I brought along to entertain me. Twenty pages later, I realized we still had yet to land. Before I could jam my index finger into the flight attendant button to complain, they made an announcement.

While China Air does its best to hire flight attendants that speak a little English, it usually doesn't matter because their pronunciation and accent are indecipherable. Even my husband thought it didn't sound like any English he'd ever heard. Fortunately, he was able to interpret the Chinese announcement which stated that due to severely bad weather, we could not land in Qingdao. The pilot would be landing us shortly and temporarily at an airport not too far from Qingdao where we would await further instruction.

Now this of course is not the fault of the airline. In fact, I'm rather relieved they didn't try to land us in Qingdao during that storm (which, by all accounts of those that were here in Qingdao for that storm, it was extremely bad). I am a bit antsy now though as I was hoping that by this time, we'd be speeding along the highway in a taxi back to our house and I'd be scooping my darling Raelynn into my arms. Xiaolong pats my hand and tells me not to worry. We'll be home to Raelynn soon. But his definition of 'soon' and that of our air carrier's definition of it were vastly different.

We touch down in a city called Lingyi, where we and the other passengers start to jump up and gather our things, thinking we'll all sit at the gate while we wait it out. But no. We're told to please sit back down and we'll be given more information shortly. Meanwhile, they put the 4 shitty songs they have on a recording that they play while you enter or exit the plane. And they LEAVE it on. For over 2 hours. While we all sit there with nowhere to go except to the cabin bathrooms. They promise us some food too, while we sit in eager anticipation to go back down the runway as we'd been told we'd 'soon' be lining up for takeoff. But what they bring us is a snack around 6pm (mind you, we should have been in Qingdao by 4pm) to attempt to make up for the delay. We're hungry and we open these boxes of food to find (I'm not kidding either): 1) a tiny loaf of bread, smaller than the size of a mini-muffin 2) some weird pickled vegetable in a small bag (smaller than the size of your typical bag of airline peanuts) 3) a small bag containing 5 pieces of dried fruit and 4) two vanilla sandwich cookies (which were, sadly, the highlight of this so-called meal). I was so grateful we'd stopped at the Dunkin Donuts near our gate in Incheon Airport otherwise we'd have starved!

And yes, what was considered 'soon' was another hour of sitting on the airplane on the ground in Lingyi. Because I had no where to pump by breast milk, my boobs were now the size of small watermelons and they ached. I kept praying for us to be granted clearance for takeoff and further, clearance for landing in Qingdao.

Finally, my prayers are answered. The horrible music is shut off and we start taxiing toward the runway. Up, up and away we go without further complication. Our flight takes off and lands without incident, much to our great thanks. But the aggravation returns after we've landed. We've been cleared to remove the seatbelts and, as is customary over here, people begin to leap up and charge the door. We're not in first class but we're in the 3rd row behind it so we are up and in line to exit before we get shoved down by the passengers in the back. And we stand, waiting. And waiting. And waiting. Until my usually very polite husband begins to swear in Chinese. What in the hell is taking so long? Ah, well, on a dark, rainy night like ours, complete with thunder and lightning, instead of taking us right up to a gate, the plane parks in the middle of the airway and awaits a staircase to be rolled on over. What. The. Fuck. THERE'S A HUGE STORM! I should point out before you all object to my bitchiness that I can SEE the other gates and they are open. There are NO planes there. So what the hell? Why should we have to get pelted with torrential downpour on a barely-covered staircase, make a run for it to a waiting bus and be driven up to the terminal when you could have pulled the damn plane right up to the building? ASSHOLES!

At this point, I'm beyond pissed but I begin to feel better 'soon' afterward, when both pieces of our luggage come round in a timely fashion. We toss them onto a cart and make our way outside for a taxi. And we both stop short in our tracks. The line for people waiting for taxis was astronimical in length. Even worse, there were NO taxis anywhere to be seen. The rain was pouring down in sheets and bolts of lightning were cracking down very close by. My husband, who was born and raised in Qingdao, reported that he'd never seen anything like this happen at this airport. We line up behind the hoards of other passengers, hoping to get to their destinations in this lifetime. But our hopes dim as in 10 minutes, only one taxi comes through. It was at this time Xiaolong made the executive decision for us to take the airport bus to an area close to our home and catch a taxi from there.

Because of the lack of taxis (which we still have not found out WHY they were not at the airport, which has me completely baffled), everyone is now trying to get a ticket to one of the airport buses. If you come to Qingdao, unless you speak Chinese, I'd advise you to just wait for the taxi. I couldn't have dealt with this without my husband. But the tough girl in me was called on in full force, which impressed my husband greatly. The next bus rolls up and, here, no one lines up for anything...they just push and shove their way onto the bus without any regard for you, your foot or your child (if you have one with you). So now the small suitcase and I are wedged between a bunch of people who desperately need to be introduced to soap while my husband is trying to stick our largest suitcase in the compartment underneath the bus. He's calling for me to come give him the small suitcase too but I can't move. I brought out the big guns.

"ZOU KAI! ZOU KAI! ZOU KAI!" I shout with all my might and everyone freezes as I push and shove and punch all those folks the way they pushed and shoved and punched me. Maybe they were heeding my demands as 'zou kai' roughly translates to 'move it' or maybe they were surprised a white person was using the phrase. Either way, they let me through. With both bags now safely stowed in the large compartment underneath the bus, we pushed our way back on and to the back where we found some seats. I have to say that at least the bus had excellent air conditioning. We rode in cooled silence, smiling as we anticipated seeing Raelynn.

And by OUR definition of 'soon,' we were home, where we discovered my husband's parents hadn't turned on the A/C and it was as hot and muggy inside as it was outside. But Raelynn was alive and happy to see us. Her smile made all our troubles melt away.

As for China Air and Liuting National Airport, I sure hope they get their act together very 'soon.'

Monday, July 4, 2011

All The Things I Miss About America

In honor of Independence Day and my home country, here is a list I've been meaning to put up for a while. I can't think of a more fitting occasion for it than the 4th of July. For those of you back in the US, party your asses off for me. My friends and family should also know that this list has no particular order as there is nothing I miss more than you guys. And of course, the Raskin family dog, a.k.a. my 'sister' Tasha.  I love you guys! Now, in no particular order...

My mom's cooking. Sitting by the pool at my parents' house. Walking Tasha on the boardwalk in Stuart. Rum runners. Really gooey mac n' cheese. IHOP, especially the chocolate chip pancakes with whipped cream and strawberry syrup. Boysenberry syrup too! Traffic laws (it's every man for himself out here). People that use soap. English as a first language. Choices. Freedom. And freedom of choice. Publix. La Spada's Subs (everyone back home knows just what I mean). Wendy's. PERSONAL SPACE!!! People actually lining up for things instead of stampeding. People not letting their kids piss and shit on the sidewalks like pets. Also, people picking up after their pets. Sweet desserts (some things here like mooncakes look like they'd be sweet and filled with chocolate but they have red bean paste in them. They aren't bad, but if you want a chocolatey cake, that won't cut it). Chipotle. Krispy Kreme (they do have it in Korea but even Shanghai doesn't have a Krispy Kreme! AUGH!). Arby's and their horsey sauce and beef and cheddars. Properly made sandwiches. Pizza WITHOUT corn! Not having to boil water every time I am thirsty. Not being served chicken feet and heads when we order a chicken. American holidays. Barbecues with kegs of beer. Deodorant (there is only one choice at the store here. It's better than nothing but it doesn't work well and it's an aerosal. I'm eternally grateful to my brother for bringing me a bunch when he came to visit after Raelynn was born. If you're reading this now, Phillip, which you must be because you're my brother and you're obligated to, could you pretty please with sugar on top bring a few more sticks? I never want to run out of the stuff!). Toilets in public bathrooms (we just have squatters out here except in the Western establishments like Starbucks and Pizza Hut). And soap in public bathrooms too (I know...ewwww! I bring disinfecting wipes with me EVERYWHERE!). Regular use of air conditioning, especially in very large supermarkets and department stores in the summer. Customer service (while it exists in Korea, it has either not yet made it to China or they stabbed it to death in an effort to get on the bus before it). Just paying for what you want (here, in many department stores, you have to get a voucher, take it to another counter, pay, get a voucher saying you paid and take it back to the counter where you saw the thing you wanted). Sweet Tomatoes. Dishwashers. Dryers. And garbage disposals!

I think that sums it up, though I'm sure since it's been a while, I've probably forgotten something or other.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

When 2 Loves Collide

A spectacular view of Seoul from high up, featuring the iconic Namsan Tower in the background.

My love for Seoul knows no bounds. An incredible metropolis with a side of silly thrown in, I'd fallen hard for it in December of 2009. It's where I met my wonderful husband, Xiaolong. And it's where I up and moved to teach English in February of 2010. But when we got pregnant and then got married in September of 2011, we had to make plans to move due to my husband's visa complications. In November of 2011, we moved all our things over to Qingdao, China where we now reside.

Qingdao isn't a bad city. It's just that it takes a lot of getting used to. I had very little in the way of culture shock when I lived in Korea. But here, it's an entirely different story. Here, things can be frustrating by being difficult or just plain outdated. I have missed Seoul from the moment we boarded the plane here. I cried the entire flight. I have wanted to go back from the moment we got here. And I finally got my chance. But there was a catch. A huge catch.

The Chinese government won't consider Raelynn an official US citizen until she goes to a Chinese Embassy in America to get her visa. Don't you have enough citizens, China? Sheesh. This place is full of your citizens. Xiaolong and I had to take care of some important paperwork with our marriage certificate back in Seoul. The Chinese government again was making things difficult by telling us they wouldn't recognize us as a married couple until we went to the Chinese Embassy back in Seoul to get it validated. And so, because Raelynn doesn't have a Chinese visa from one of the Chinese Embassies in the states, we had to leave her here. With my dimwitted in-laws.

To their credit, Raelynn was alive and relatively unscathed when we came home. But of course, my in-laws didn't listen to us on some things. I'm not too angry though as it came back and bit them on the ass. Hard. See, the day before we left for Seoul, Xiaolong and I had lunch out at a nearby Chinese restaurant. It's hot out, but hey, why run the A/C, right? Cheapskates. It was very hot in the restaurant and Raelynn became instantly agitated. So much so that I could only get several bites of food in before we gave up and had it packaged as take out. Nosy people kept coming to stare and I yelled for them to go away. Normally, this would make my husband uncomfortable for me being a total bitch but he was totally behind me on this one. As soon as we got outside where, by comparison, it was largely cooler (and breezier), Raelynn stopped screaming immediately. We warned his parents to make sure that Raelynn is not at all hot. She'll whine a little if she's cold but if she's hot, she'll flip out. Apparently, my in-laws didn't sleep much during their 6-day stay with Raelynn. And I know just why.

But meanwhile, back in Seoul, we handled our paperwork with relative ease. And I turned 35. It doesn't feel too different from 34. I wish I were as skinny as I was last year before I got pregnant but Rome wasn't built in one day, now was it? More than being stick thin again, I wanted to be with my little baby but that wasn't going to happen. I was torn between two loves. My love for Seoul and my love for my daughter. Ultimately, the love for Raelynn trumps all. We decided to make the best of it and try to enjoy the city we both love so dearly. It was complicated due in large part to SK, the phone company I'd had my prepaid phone with before I left, which was handed down to me from my brother when he'd lived there. I never had trouble adding money to it before. But now, they made some upgrades and my phone was considered obsolete. Because they wouldn't add money to it at the SK location in the airport where you can actually rent phones, I had to go into the city to find this out. Now we were stuck without a working phone. My husband's cell from China would only accept calls but would not dial out. We had to make do with pay phones which were all very difficult to use due to being in crappy conditions. I get it...why replace those phones when everyone has a cell phone? Little things like this are what make foreigners feel unwelcome there. Still, we did the best we could with what we had.

For my birthday lunch, we enjoyed a traditional Korean meal. We so totally missed all the side dishes that come with the meals here. Yum!

We enjoyed the Korean dishes we'd missed all these months. We managed to get in touch with some of our friends and enjoy drinking in their company, though there were still many more we couldn't reach, much to our great dismay. We visited the site of where we got married. There was a lot of walking and shopping involved too. All in all, a lovely visit. But something indeed was missing. And that was our little Raelynn!

While we did our best to enjoy ourselves despite missing our little angel, my in-laws suffered the consequences of not heeding our advice. We had called via calling card each day while we were away and his mother mentioned they did not sleep more than 3 hours a night. When we came home though, I figured out WHY they didn't sleep. Sure, Raelynn missed us tons and was probably annoyed that she had to hang out with her grandparents for that long without seeing us. But that's not why she kept waking up. I discovered just why when we finally got home. It was very hot outside, about 80 degrees. And when we got upstairs with our luggage and entered our home...it too was 80 degrees! And muggy, just like outside. They had the windows open during a huge storm. It wasn't one of those storms where it cools everything off either. It was as bad as I remember how hot and wet the summers of Florida are. I also discovered one of Raelynn's long sleeve shirts on the couch, a sign they'd had her dressed in that. This particular shirt is made from terry cloth, not exactly summer material. I checked the baby's closet and all the short sleeve onesies were clean and folded, waiting to be worn. Raelynn herself was wearing a short sleeve onesie when we got in. The same one we left her in too. Nice. They must have yanked that long sleeve job off of her when we called from downstairs. I have no doubt that they overheated Raelynn each night trying to save on electric. Dude, it is HOT. Just use the air! It is only hot here from the end of June until early September which isn't as bad as most places. Friggin' morons could have slept a good solid 5 hours each night if they just listened to what we had told them. Joke's on them! Ha!

We hated to leave Seoul but we were so happy to get home to our daughter. And after the hellish day of travel we had in order to get home (coming soon in a future post), only one thing made it all better...Raelynn's smile.
I live for this face!