Tuesday, January 17, 2012

In A Beijing Minute

When we first arrived in Beijing, I thought for sure I would like it. The grand airport was reminiscent of my favorite airport, Incheon, the one I traveled through when going to and coming from Seoul. It was so big, yet so organized and easy to navigate. In Qingdao's airport, I'm lucky to have a changing table in there for Raelynn. In Beijing, there are nursery areas where I can privately feed her and change her without having the general masses gaping at me. It gave a great first impression.

Even the ride on the airport bus into the city was pleasant, offering us a small unmanned tour of brilliant architectural sites. But in a Beijing minute, everything can change. And indeed, it did. As the taxi rolled up to our hotel, I couldn't mask my terror. "Here?" I say, my voice trembling. "Honey, are you sure this is the place?" Lane said that it apparently was. The Beijing Forestland Hotel was awful, but I convinced myself to go have a look, thinking that it's what's inside that counts. The outside was this wasting-away flamingo pink. It looked like the dumpy buildings in our own neighborhood but with better paint. Inside was even worse though. We enter the sorry excuse for a lobby which opens with a foyer. The floor of the foyer completely lacks any ambiance whatsoever, not that I should have expected any from the impression I received when I first set eyes upon this place. The floors are wet and ripe for slip and fall incidents from the haphazardly stacked tanks of fish swimming away the last of their moments before becoming lunch or dinner at the restaurant I can see just beyond the lobby. The lobby itself is smaller than our living room and is filthy with tobacco stains as far as the eye can see.

Apprehensively, we approach the counter and Lane asks if we might view our room first. There is an odd-looking woman with ill-fitting glasses and a young man with some of the stupidest hair I've ever seen sitting behind the counter. We're given the go-ahead to go and look but neither one bothers to go show us. They merely point out the staircase when we start to head the wrong way. There are no elevators here. Not that I'm at all surprised. We head up this insane span of stairs which resembles something from an M.C. Escher painting if he chose to paint cheap Chinese hotels that model themselves after American crack houses. There are also random bed mattresses stacked against the walls of each floor. I am ready to collapse by the time we get to the 4th floor. The room we get to see is grim and frightful. It looks worse than my in-laws' bedroom. The bed was large but took up the entire room. There was no room to walk anywhere except to the bathroom or turn for the door. The bathroom at least was better than my in-laws' but not by much. We high-tailed it out of there and the only thing I regret is that I was too shocked to take any pictures.

 Here are two photos, above and below, of us shortly after checking into the better hotel.

The Beijing Forestland Hotel had offered 170 rmb a night and shown fake pictures of the establishment which were nice enough together to convince my husband to book it instead. Lane had found a nice one called the Da Wan Hotel before choosing this dump for 260 rmb a night. He gave them a call and we were soon on our way to a better stay. This new hotel was MUCH better. It wasn't the Ritz, but it was a solid, decent place, well worth paying the extra money. Our room was very large, clean and neat. The lobby was a real lobby. And there were elevators! The restaurant in the hotel was also reasonably priced and quite delicious. I have to say I grew quite fond of the Beijing-style dishes. Those of you back in the states would like them too because these are the kind of offerings you all see on Chinese menus there. For once, I didn't complain about eating Chinese food.

We didn't do very much that first day because the next day was the most important day of all. It was the very reason we even made this trip in the first place. We had to go to the US Embassy to register Raelynn for a social security number and I also needed more visa pages added to my passport. I'm happy to say this, though a boring task full of paperwork, was so simple. The embassy, as always, was a pleasure to deal with. With the hard work out of the way, Lane, Raelynn and I went back to the hotel to arrange our plan for the next day. We'd agreed that the coolest thing we could do while there was to go visit the Great Wall.

Very early the next day, we got ready to join the tour for the Great Wall. Lane had talked me into having a Chinese tour guide. It was 50 yuan cheaper per person and he said they told him the only difference between the Chinese tour guided group and the English tour guided group (besides the obvious difference of languages) was the price. I figured it would give me an opportunity to hear more Chinese and hopefully pick up on it better. Plus, my husband worries about saving money and this trip wasn't exactly cheap. So I agreed. We were picked up by a large van and were joined by 2 other families. One family consisted of a father with his two adult daughters. One of the daughters had a horribly-behaved little boy and though she was quite pretty, she'd completely drawn eyebrows onto her face. Like COMPLETELY.  Later, it occurred to me that with such a mischievous and poorly-disciplined son, perhaps he'd somehow been the cause of her lack of natural eyebrows. Still, they were nice people. The other 2 people on the tour were 2 Middle Eastern women who spoke Chinese quite well and although quiet, were also quite nice.

However, our tour guide was unbearably annoying. So much so that both Lane and I began to regret our decision to go with the Chinese tour guide. The beginning of the tour was wonderful, with a trip to the Ming tombs. My husband didn't need to translate very much for me since there were placards everywhere with English descriptions on them. It was fascinating and honestly, there was this eerie, ancient vibe there that I couldn't shake off. You can see what I mean when you check out these photos:

Next up on our tour, our guide decided that this was where she wanted to piss me off severely. She dragged us to a factory outlet for jade. She told us that if we buy anything, she will receive 2% commission. We weren't planning to buy anything anyway, but once she said that, we were downright determined to ensure that wouldn't happen. There were some stunning jade sculptures that we would have loved to own but we simply couldn't justify the cost of such a thing. Add to that our lack of desire to further fund this woman's pocketbook. While I had noticed the English tour group at the tombs, I did not notice them here. With no place to sit, we were stuck wandering this massive jade outlet for a good 45 minutes. Raelynn became hungry and fortunately, some of the women behind the large display counters offered me a stool to sit on while I fed her. As if we weren't already annoyed with our tour guide, she kept pestering me while I was feeding my daughter. She wanted to hold her and kept pressing the issue while Raelynn was still eating. And then, just when I was almost done resisting the urge to grab this woman by the hair, throw her to the ground and kick her in the ribs, when I gave Raelynn her pacifier, this dumb bitch had the nerve to take it out of her mouth and tried to tell us it was bad for her. How my husband remains so calm and polite during this kind of shit is a mystery to me, but he managed to shoo her away before I could act on my impulse to fully throttle her head until it burst like a grape under a shoe.
Here is a shot of some of the jade pieces we saw, which were no question about it, absolutely beautiful. We were really irked to be dragged on an overpriced shopping trip rather than to be taken directly to the locations the tour had boasted we would visit in the brochure.

But soon after this, it was time to eat. Apparently, there was a giant restaurant that all the Chinese tours took their groups to attached to this sales pitch of a store. I also noticed the English group was absent from this and I couldn't help wondering what delicious food they got to eat instead. Our food wasn't bad but I was beginning to resent being the only foreigner in the place. The Middle-Eastern women had gone off for something else because they did not eat meat.

After lunch, Lane and I figured we'd be on our way to the Great Wall finally. But our tour guide had another shopping detour in mind. She took us to a store known for it's vacuum-sealed Beijing duck. They gave out samples. I thought it was just okay. Lane wanted to buy it until he felt how small the duck was in the bag. I'd rather a fresh-cooked one any day. Besides, I have always been a bit of a skeptic when it comes to shelf-stable meats. The store was a labyrinth. You couldn't just go back out the way you came. You had to wander through this horrible maze like cattle on their way to their slaughter. The shelves were lined with bags of ducks along with dried fruits and those sorts of things. We wound up buying a bunch of dried fruit. Lane wanted it for his birthday which was the following day. As if being led through this hell wasn't enough, once you paid, you were released into another shopping area with cheaply-made Chinese crafts. It was just dreadful. We were so happy to get back to the van.

And then finally, it was time for the Great Wall. I have to say it is as spectacular as you see in photos. Although, it is grander than you could ever imagine when you are there. We took the cable cars up and down which gave us a phenomenal view of the wall and surrounding mountains. I felt special after having seen it, almost like I was sprinkled with good luck. I'm quite sure it was just my imagination though. Check it out for yourself:
 A view from the cable cars on the way up. 

 As we approached the end of the road on the cable cars at the top, we were treated to this beautiful view of the Great Wall.

 Do you see this incline? I seriously felt like I was going to throw up. For me, it was completely disorienting.

 Not for Lane though. He is hamming it up, diaper bag and all. Due to the steepness of the inclines and the stairs, he traded me the diaper bag for Raelynn. It was slightly easier moving about up there without having to hold her.

It was one of the most magnificent things I've ever seen in my life. Despite the vulturous tour guide, it was so worth the trip. Take the English tour guided group!

It had to be my imagination running wild, because the next day, Lane's birthday, we were set to fly back to Qingdao at 11pm. So we had all day to see some sights before heading to the airport. After checking out, we decided to visit Tiananmen Square. Only when we were in the subway, someone bumped into me on the stairs and I lost my balance. And down I went. I tried stopping myself but it was no use. I was going down and I knew it. All I could do was protect my daughter. And protect I did. She was just fine, still sound asleep strapped to me in the baby carrier. As for me, I banged up my left knee and my right foot was hurt badly. I moved it around and checked to see if it was broken. Thankfully, it wasn't but it was still beyond painful. Lane helped me move to a chair out of the way. The pain was initially so severe that I began to black out. The sounds of the subway were tinny and hollow in my head. But soon, everything snapped back into focus. With Lane holding me up on one side, I hobbled up to the train.

I spent the whole day in terrible pain, attempting to walk it off in the name of not ruining my husband's birthday and seeing a few more things Beijing had to offer. Truth be told, I wanted to leave with the good impression I'd entered with. But it was all dissipating slowly from my mind. All I could think about were how unbelievably rude people had been to us. We had one nice taxi driver the whole time we were there and then every other one was a prick. Even our upgraded hotel, the Da Wan, was rude to us, calling our room at 10pm to demand more money when we'd already paid our deposit for the room. And the room itself despite looking nice had the most uncomfortable mattress I've ever slept on. It felt as though a thin sheet separated us from the poking coils beneath.

Additionally, the pollution was atrocious. Incidentally, the news had even said it was "off the charts" while we were there. The traffic was just as bad. I've never seen anything so horrible. The subway was also difficult to take. It was confusing even to Lane but worse were the crowds of people. After visiting the embassy, we tried to take the subway back to the hotel but it was impossible. The trains were so crowded we couldn't even get onto them. We watched in horror as a woman struggled to get off the train only to get her bags stuck in the cluster of people behind her. NO ONE helped her. That's when Lane called it off and we went back upstairs to hail a cab.

The final straw was when we went to find the airport bus to leave. The hotel had told us that we'd need to take a taxi to the nearest shuttle location. The traffic was already so backed up it was insane. We tried for over 30 minutes in blustery cold weather but it was no use. Then, as my husband went into a store to check on something, I did it. I got us a taxi. In my broken Chinese, I attempt to explain to the driver where we need to go but I have no idea how to tell him "airport bus." I call Lane and tell him to hurry back. He talks to the driver and it becomes apparent this guy doesn't want to drive us. He claims we can walk to the airport bus location. He points and explains it is just up on the next street. My foot is killing me and I just want to saw it off at this point, but we keep walking. And walking. And walking. We don't know where we are walking to, so I talk my husband into stopping at one of the big, fancy hotels to ask as we're passing by. Surely they would know. And at least I could use a nice, clean bathroom.

How I wished we could have stayed in the place we walked into! And how I wish I could remember the name of it. It looked like the kind of place my parents would stay at. Opulent and just fabulous in every sense. I haven't felt this close to home since my parents stayed at the Shangri-La when they came to visit us. One of the bellhops here was able to give us better directions as to where to find the airport bus. It was further down the street we were on at one of the other large hotels. That lazy bastard taxi driver! Walk there?!? Fucking walk there?!? Now, mind you, I don't ever mind walking. I like getting my exercise so that I may someday get completely back down to what I weighed before having Raelynn instead of just being close to it. But this was an absolutely ridiculously long walk, especially after Lane had explained to that sloth of a cabbie that I had hurt my foot earlier.

I almost couldn't believe it when we were standing right in front of the airport shuttle bus. Soon, it whisked us away to the airport, where in one last Beijing minute, everything changed again. We were able to check our luggage early, had no long lines to wait in or horrid hassles with checking in and security, and we even found a TCBY where, for Lane's birthday, I introduced him to a Coke Float.

So, will the Qu family ever go back to Beijing? There's still so much to see like the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace, Tiantan Park, and TianNing Buddhist Temple, to name a few. Maybe not in a Beijing minute, but perhaps in a Beijing lifetime.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

UCO - Unidentified Clothing Object

Yesterday when my friend Frances came over, I'd shown her the newest of vomitous apparel offerings from my in-laws. Whenever MIL gives us things like this for the baby, I discretely take those items and stuff them into one of our very large suitcases. But because she just gave us these items, I can't bury them just yet. Raelynn will unfortunately have to make an appearance or two at her doltish grandparents' home donning these heinous things.

After Frances left though, I realized that any awful things I may have missed prior to this, or that were found in my previous hiding place, could easily be forgotten about now and hence shoved away into utter darkness where they belong. I went through Raelynn's closet once more. I sorted her blankets and bibs too. And that is where I found the UCO. The Unidentified Clothing Object.

Take a look:
I have absolutely no earthly clue as to what these things are. I myself had forgotten about them so I know she has too since she forgets to use soap 5 minutes after you tell her to wash her hands with it. She had brought these for the baby while I was still pregnant so whatever these identically wacky-looking things are have been here this whole time. I'm happy I found them again first so I could personally ensure they go into the vortex of ugly things from Grandma. But before they did, I HAD TO put them on here. Because I need help identifying them. I know I'm a new mommy but I have never seen something like this before. WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS?!? My first thought was that it was some horribly complicated summer outfit.  Like one piece is the front and the other is the back. They love to use pants with open crotches here because from what I can ascertain, they do not want to spend the negligible amount of money it costs to buy diapers.

But then again, Chinese people LOVE to overbundle a baby. The mercury could be shooting out the top of the thermometer and you will see people wrapping their babies in heavy blankets and winter coats and hats. When they see the likes of me, they come over complaining that my baby isn't dressed warmly enough. It takes all my energy to resist the urge to throw one swift chop to the throat. It's funnier when Lane tells them their babies are overheated. The look on their faces is priceless. Anyway, I am second-guessing my initial theory because it wouldn't cover enough of the baby.

So maybe...these are some demented bibs?!? Has anyone ever seen anything like this? I also love that it says "Sland Map" in English on there. I couldn't tell you what the Chinese says but if I had to guess, perhaps it is the name of that sheep-like character on the front who is apparently all hopped up on mushrooms. But how could these be bibs? They are so overly complicated. If you're going to go to that much trouble to protect your baby's clothing from milk or mushed up bananas, why not just put down a fucking tarp? It's hard enough getting the standard type of bib secured around my baby's neck when I'm introducing her to some solid cuisine. She wriggles, wiggles and squirms around. I thank God I've only got to secure it around her neck. Seems simple enough but my little angel is a master at even more quickly removing it. Dressing her each day is like wrestling with a tank full of live octopi. Ditto for diaper changes. So if this thing is a bib, it is truly the stupidest design I've ever seen.

And now, I ask you. WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS THING??? Any ideas? Please, if you think you have it figured out, I would love to hear it. It does not mean I will use this thing...except perhaps a gag for MIL the next time she starts singing.

Found: Ronald McDonald's Baby Shoes

It wasn't enough for my in-laws to annoy and agitate my very last nerve on New Year's Day when my husband forced me to go with him to their home to celebrate FIL's birthday. Oh no. Because they had even more torture planned for us! Who knew?!

Lane and I had spent my first official weekday of vacation (and my last day before starting my diet so I can blast away this last blob of baby weight before the next semester) by going out for REAL pizza with lots of cheese and no corn on top. The waitress even asked my husband if I was sure this was the type of pizza I wanted. I gave her the "bitch, please" side eye. It's MY pizza. The restaurant you work for SERVES a scrumptious cheese pizza. It is on the menu like that for a reason. BECAUSE FOREIGNERS LIKE ME LIKE OUR PIZZA LIKE THAT! We even ordered a chocolate lava cake for dessert which was just heavenly. It seemed a fitting way to bid adieu to foods that will only keep me at the same plateau of weight I've been hanging out on for a couple months now.

How to top that? Let's see...by petting a random dog in the park that looks EXACTLY like the family dog, Tasha (or, as my parents refer to her, my sister) and then hitting up an amazing furniture and home goods market. Seriously, this place was bliss. Lane and I played around picking out things we wish we had room for and discussing how, if we had a larger home and were starting to decorate from scratch, we would adorn it. Our mission was to get a medium-sized area rug for in front of the couch (we got rid of the crappy red rug with the line drawn on it) and we were quite successful with that. We even found a new wicker laundry basket.

We also found something else we didn't expect. Or even want. My in-laws decided they wanted to play another round of let's-over-pay-for-something-ridiculous-and-continue-to-use-sub-par-bathroom-facilities-in-our-own-home-and-complain-about-the-cost-of-that-instead. And for this round, they bought some clothing for Raelynn. Oh poor Raelynn! You remember what kind of garments MIL picks out, don't you? Click here to refresh your memory.

The next thing I know, Lane agrees to let them come over for just a few minutes to give Raelynn whatever tacky-ass crap they've picked out. Manipulative assholes. Of course he's not going to kick them out after just a few minutes. And of course that demented trollitard of a woman is now snatching Raelynn from my arms as though she belongs to her. I make a sour face and my husband shoots me a nasty look. I have to bite my tongue or further upset Lane. So I dig my nails into my own flesh and paste one of those big, fake smiles on my face that I keep stashed in a bag of pretend just for when I have to deal with these two clowns and I watch to see what kind of junk they claim to have spent all day and lots of money shopping for.

They bought three things. Of those three things, I didn't mind one item: a pink ski cap. She needed a new winter hat since it seems that overnight, she outgrew her old one. It doesn't exactly match her coat but it is cute on her and keeps her little head and face warm. But as is typical with my in-laws, one step forward, 10 steps back. Exhibit #637: the miniature grandma sweater. Check it out:
 Here it is sans flash and below is with flash.

Let's pretend for just a moment that it is indeed the 1950s. Keeping that in mind, THIS IS FOR A BABY! Good Lord! What is wrong with this woman? Must she try to make everything around her as dated and lame-looking as she is? My friend, Frances, came over today and I can tell you she's a much nicer person than I. And even she had to say this sweater was absolutely dreadful. I showed Frances where I shove hideous garments that MIL brings for the baby. I do hope it swirls off into some vortex of its' very own and materializes in some alternate universe where it could be woven together to make tents or something. As long as it isn't on my beautiful daughter when I get home. Ah, but this is too recent a purchase. I am going to have to put Raelynn in this ghastly thing at least once before she outgrows it, or ideally, when MIL forgets all about it.

But even worse than that, Frances and I agreed, by far was this pair of red shoes:
 With flash, above, and below without.

My brother will likely take this opportunity to point out that I once had red Reebok high-tops. Which I loved. IT WAS THE 1980s! I was a tween, which back then, we weren't called "tweens." No. We were called pre-teens which sounds decidedly so much uncooler. Anyway, back then and at my age, my red Reebok high-tops were the shit.

But these...these are SO not cool. On first glance, I thought she'd discovered Ronald McDonald's long-lost baby shoes. Upon closer inspection though, I can tell you they look just like a mini version of something MIL would wear herself. She probably thinks these match that stupid fucking sweater too. They look tacky and cheap, the same as everything she buys that she wants to show off with. Frances said they reminded her of the special kind of shoes you would wear if you had one leg shorter than the other. She hit the nail right on the head with that one. Yes, what troubles me most about these is that they look like some odd orthopedic shoes. And they are hard-soled which she doesn't even need BECAUSE SHE CAN'T WALK YET. They are also a little big but that is something I will not fault her for since she'll grow into them quite quickly. And I pray she grows out of them even more quickly because I am embarrassed to be seen in public with a baby wearing THESE HIDEOUSLY FUCKING UGLY OCTOGENARIAN-STYLE SHOES!

At least Lane promised that we'd only put these awful things on Raelynn when we go to his parents' house. And those visits are relegated to once a week for dinner, when it is dark out and no one can see how unsightly these shoes are at least. Shoe shopping for tasteful footwear like cute black shoes or little baby boots for Raelynn has now become a high priority for my husband and me. While we might not always see eye to eye on issues with his parents, when we look at these eyesores, we both see red.

Monday, January 2, 2012

New Year, Same Old In-Laws

In my last post, I mentioned that I'd suffered over 5 hours of being bored shitless at my in-laws' house for New Year's Day. See, New Year's Day is also my father-in-law's birthday. My husband and I offered to take Baba out for lunch. I was happy to pay for whatever he would want to eat. I was even willing to bake a cake. Oh but no. The most boring people alive wanted to stay in their crusty home with the outhouse-esque bathroom and eat there. Oh boy!

There was no need for us to bring a cake. I tried but was shut down. My FIL's old company sent him a cake. A Chinese cake. And to me at least, it's not really cake. Chinese people should just stop making cakes. Stick to the little pastries they make and dan tat (see my husband's first and second attempt at making dan tat here and here) and quit ruining cakes. Chinese cake LOOKS like a normal cake. Only it tastes like they forgot to put sugar in it. So it's an absolute waste of calories. Lane's parents are indeed odd as they served the cake first. They tried to give some to the baby and thankfully, my husband ordered them not to. Raelynn will have cake alright. On her first birthday. And a real cake that Mommy bakes just for her. Not some vile lump of flour with bland frosting on top. Not for my little princess!

Next up, an array of food that was just ok. I was forced to eat it to be polite. Thankfully, Lane didn't force me to eat things I cannot stand. I stuck with things that I like but even those were hard to eat because things that should have been served hot, or warm at the very least, were cold. And so began my torture. Thankfully, there was beer. But drinking a lot of it meant visiting their deplorable bathroom. Take a look:
This is the bathroom sink. Check out the plumbing if you will. That's right. What you see is an old plastic bottle of some kind serving as a half pipe that drops all the water from the sink into the bucket below it. I want to remind all of you that my in-laws are not poor. They aren't the wealthiest people either but they CAN easily afford to fix this. Hell, I might have my husband send someone over just because this is so wrong. I can understand being frugal and not going out to eat all the time (or never, which is what they do) but this is insane. And they spend money on stupid things too, like overpriced and ugly jewelry for the baby but they won't spend money when it's necessary to fix something.

I am willing to bet that this toilet, if you can even call it one, has never seen a cleaning product. Not even once. It doesn't even flush either. There is no flusher. There is no tank! You can see that for yourself in the next photo. See the bucket of water with the scooper in it? Yeah, you take some water and throw it down the toilet to flush it. It truly is one step up from an outhouse, isn't it?

Here, you can plainly see there is no tank for the toilet, or flusher for that matter. I have no earthly idea why anyone would be so cheap regarding something so important, but there you have it. I find it unsanitary and disgusting. I don't like my in-laws, as you probably well know, but I don't even think they deserve to live in this sort of condition. And the kicker is THEY DON'T HAVE TO! They have plenty of money to fix this hot mess. MIL will BRAG to Lane and ask him to tell me that the lamb she's serving me is 1,000 yuan (which is VERY expensive to most Chinese people) because it is specially cared for up on the Laoshan Mountain. I'm betting this poor lamb was just hit by someone's truck and they saw a fool when they met MIL. I've had much cheaper lamb that was much better and not chewy, thankyouverymuch. She'll brag about the ugly clothes she overpaid dearly for that she bought our daughter (wait until you see the latest crap...that will be coming in the next post very soon) but she won't even fathom the thought of spending the money to make her bathroom work right and it would cost LESS than all those things I just mentioned! AUGH!

Anyway, trying to suppress the urge to strangle MIL with my bare hands was definitely difficult. Say something nice. Something nice something nice something nice. Oh! I know! She did get the baby to nap. So there you go. Well, while my husband felt it necessary to prolong my agony, I needed to do something to keep from completely losing what is left of my mind at present. So I diverted my attention to the howling from the television. Lane and I have satellite which provides us with many quality channels. Otherwise, we'd always be subjected to the kind of boring crap we're forced to watch when we go to his parents' home. Even my husband will tell you that Chinese television is incredibly boring stuff. Watching it makes you feel like you've fallen into a time capsule. It is so antiquated that it would be fascinating, and on some levels it is, if not for how annoying it is.

If you need an example, please check out the following photos I snapped of the TV while my in-laws had it tuned to some ghastly New Year's extravaganza. It looks like a dinner party on a senior citizens' cruise. I was surprised to find out this was for New Year's since I can swear to you, they have shitty programming like this craptacular hell on ALL the time here. No fucking joke. Here we go:
 Check out these audience members watching this grand spectacle! Dare I say they look like a spectacle themselves? The hair! The clothes! It's like the Grand Ole Opry was swallowed into a sink hole and came out erupting through some Chinese nursing home.

 Wow. Just. WOW. Look at that crazy suit! He definitely looks like he's supposed to freshen your towels on the cruise to hell all the while singing and serenading your grandma. Look at that hair too. Or maybe he's a cast-off from another round of let's-remake-The-Love-Boat-again and is the token Asian person. Maybe!

 This crazy old lady must be screaming for more of that Asian Love Boat reject!

 Her singing was just awful. What could be worse? MIL sang along to it and her singing is like listening to a medley of lobsters being boiled alive coupled with innocent animals being skinned and slaughtered. I jammed my fingers into my ears. If only you could switch on and off your hearing like with hearing aids!

 A wide shot of this insanity.

 Another fashion victim who should have been gagged before coming onto stage. Again, MIL sang along too and it was like what I imagine hell must be.

 See? It has that whole cruise ship dinner ambience to it.

 This guy is loving his cheesy dinner and a show.

 These two weren't too terrible. But like a wolf to the moon, MIL began causing my eardrums to overload and implode. Ugh.

 Dig the chandelier!

 I think this is the same audience member from the other shot. Maybe he's someone important? I don't know. He is just so beyond excited to be at this crapfest. Good for him!

 Here are some dancers on the stage to go with this duet.


 And then, there's this guy. Check him out. His mustache and goatee are fake! In a few photos, you'll see he's removed them. I should also add that he was sweating so profusely, they had someone come mop up his face with a towel!

 This guy again!

And here is the sweaty guy who removed his fake mustache and goatee. I don't know if it was part of his act or due to his excessive sweating but whatever the case, it was my only source of entertainment while trapped at my in-laws' home on the outskirts of hell.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2011 Rewind

Happy New Year! How did you spend your New Year's Eve and New Year's Day? Hopefully, you enjoyed yours more than I did. I spent the eve putting a fussy baby to sleep and barely even finished my beer before nodding off while feeding Raelynn. Then she awoke just before midnight too and wouldn't go back to sleep again. And I spent the day stuck at my in-laws' house because it is my father-in-law's birthday as well. The sheer torture I endured for over 5 hours of my life is not wished upon a soul. But that story is for another time and I promise I will write about that very soon.

This post is about things that made my 2011 special. Here's a look back at the best things that happened to me:
Stunning Singapore skyline at night.

In January of 2011, I went to Singapore to visit my brother, his awesome girlfriend Kimmy, and our parents who had also flown over. I loved Singapore. It was beautiful and it was easy to get around. The weather sucks though. I truly hated that, perhaps even more so because I was 7 months pregnant at the time and my ankles swelled up so much they didn't reappear until I'd been back in Qingdao for 3 days. My parents had brought so much stuff for the baby that Phillip and Kimmy had to ship it to me. I had asked them if they found my ankles to please throw those into the box as well. I also got to see an old friend from high school who happens to live out there with his wife and children. The other sucky thing besides the weather was that Lane couldn't get his visa for Singapore in time so I had to go without him. I had an amazing time, but it would have been even better with him!

Enormously pregnant me and Lane stand on the Bund with all the famous Shanghai buildings in the skyline behind us.

In February of 2011, my husband took me on a mini-honeymoon. We only married at the US Embassy in Seoul. We have not yet had a big ceremony or taken beautiful professional photos which we would love to do. We still want to do those things AND have a real honeymoon, but our mini one to Shanghai was an outstanding way to have one last trip together before we had our baby.

The first photo ever taken of Raelynn very shortly after she was born on April 16, 2011 at 11:28am.
In April of 2011, the absolute highlight of our year of course was the birth of our beautiful daughter, Raelynn. This is without a doubt the most priceless memory of the year, if not my whole life. And then, at the end of the month and into early May, my brother came to visit me here and meet his little niece for the very first time. I needed him to be here. I was so happy to have someone from my side of the family around to help me keep sane. Thanks again, Phillip! I love you!

My big brother Phillip is happy to be an uncle!

Back in Shanghai again, this time with Raelynn outside of my uterus.

In May of 2011, just after my brother went back to Singapore, Lane and I took Raelynn to Shanghai to register her as a US Citizen. It took FOREVER for that passport to come out. We are so thankful to our friend Cherie for letting us stay with her. Thank you, Cherie! We also thoroughly enjoyed getting a chance to see Shanghai again.

Lane and I in Seoul, standing in front of the US Embassy, where we got married in September of 2010. 

In June of 2011, at the end of the month, my husband and I had to fly to Seoul. All I'd wanted to do since we moved to China was go back to Korea. But because China is a big meanie, they wouldn't let us take Raelynn in and out of the country, we had to leave her with the village idiots which made the trip quite difficult for me. Plus, it was my 35th birthday. It was nice to see some old friends though while we validated our marriage certificate. At least China accepts our marriage now.

Mom, Dad, Raelynn and me at a castle by the sea in horribly humid summer weather.
In August of 2011, my parents came to visit us. It was their first time meeting Lane and the first time meeting their first grandchild. It was one of my favorite moments of 2011. I love you Mom and Dad! I can't wait until you come back!

August was also the same month I started teaching kindergarten at the Korean school. I have to say I've mostly found it to be a rewarding experience, despite that the school can be a little disorganized at times. It was an especially enriching experience just a few days ago at the end of December when my class graduated. I'd been forced to make them perform a song and dance. It was really challenging to teach them to sing AND dance while instructing them in English. Some of them just don't understand directions, no matter how simple (and no matter which language you use). But they managed to pull it together and did it perfectly on graduation day. They did so well that my boss complimented me on it. And with that final moment, I realized this year indeed was a happy and successful one. Here is hoping that 2012 brings us even more joy and accomplishment!

 Announcing for my kindergarteners on stage at graduation. It was really special to be part of that moment for them.

My little graduates! Congratulations guys!