Friday, August 31, 2012

Damaged Goods

MIL is just on a roll lately with her path of destruction and mayhem. She tried to blame the baby for the missing cardboard chicken from the back of the toy kitchen. She keeps putting that same fucking knife either pointy-end up or into the tray of silverware with the forks, spoons and butter knifes. She even unplugged the refrigerator for no reason other than her complete and total lack of anything remotely resembling a brain in her dusty old head.

And she kept right on rolling with it this week too. She took Raelynn outside to play on Friday while we were at work. Which I've come to accept that now the troll will take my daughter places. We've at least come to an understanding that she dress her the way I want her to look, which means her clothing should be clean and MATCH. She should never attempt to dress Raelynn in something that she herself would wear. Oh no no. In summer, at least I don't have to worry about MIL putting too many clothes on Raelynn. But the woman clearly has no sense as she took Raelynn outside without putting the mosquito repellent on her. Or her sunscreen. Thankfully, she's not burned, but she DOES have tan lines on her feet from her little sandals. What kills me is there is a shelf in Raelynn's room that is filled with lotions, baby powder, diaper rash cream, nail clippers, mosquito repellent for babies and sunscreen for babies. Jeremy has shown his mother this shelf and further, shown her that the last 2 items (the repellent and sunscreen) are in English AND Chinese. So it's not like she couldn't figure it out because it was a foreign product or something. But I'm less mad about this now as when I showed Jeremy the big bug bite on Raelynn's hand and her new tan lines, he made a concerned face and nodded seriously. He'll make sure she follows that one. Raelynn's health and safety must come first.

Then, after the unplugging of the refrigerator, there have been some odd problems with it. It's a big double-door thing, very atypical of what most Asians, especially Chinese people, would own. A rich Chinese person would SO own this thing. The guys who brought this monster up our 6 flights of stairs really deserved double their earnings that day. We bought it a year ago when I first started my job at the kindergarten. The one my in-laws had in this house previously was much smaller. Too small really. People here like a small refrigerator portion and a larger freezer portion. I think I wrote about that thing already but I'm not sure which post it's in. Basically, the freezer portion was stuffed to the gills with frost-bitten meats of undetermined origins. There was no room to put any new food we bought, and it had begun leaking out the bottom. And that's how we came to buy this magnificently gigantic thing. Here's a photo (which I used in this blog at some point):
Anyway, on the left door, perhaps you can see a little screen. If you can't, take a look at a closer shot, from one of my posts regarding MIL leaving food out on the window sill instead of placing it into the massive confines of the refrigerator:
The screen tells you the temperature inside the refrigerator and freezer. It will blink on when you open it or if you bump into it. It locks so you can't accidentally change it. Ever since MIL unplugged this thing, it first FROZE all of the food on the refrigerator side. ALL OF IT. We're talking all the vegetables (try cooking with a giant block of frozen fucking mushrooms or just try to slice open a frozen-solid lotus root...go ahead...I triple dog dare you!). All the fruits. All the leftovers from the night before. Even my precious few remaining slices of Gouda cheese. Not just slightly frozen either. Jeremy was talking to his mother about this problem before I left for work the next morning. As I ate my breakfast, I heard him tell her he was looking for the phone number for the manufacturer (Hisense, very helpful folks incidentally) and he explained to her why. I heard her, no joke, say: "That's bad?" In Chinese: "Bu hao le?" OF COURSE THAT'S BAD YOU MORON! Not everything needs to be kept THAT cold!

Thankfully, while we were working, someone from Hisense came over and fixed the problem on the fridge. And it was fine. Until this morning. I noticed it said 19 Celcius for the refrigerator part. We had to call Hisense again and once again, they were great. This time, they were able to tell Jeremy how to handle the problem. Now we're hoping this is the last of the refrigerator's shenanigans.

And then last night, there was the discovery that something else had been broken by good ol' MIL. Our water pump on our giant water jug. Before you see the photo, I should explain that Chinese people think those upright water dispensers that you invert your giant jug of water onto are dirty. This cracks me up for so many fucking reasons, you just don't even know. One of them being that EVERYFUCKINGTHING ELSE AROUND HERE IS DIRTY and they don't seem to mind that. Public bathrooms with piss and shit all about and no soap? No problem. But water out of a dispenser? Oh now that's just filthy.

Anyway, they are also 'expensive,' according to my husband, but sometimes we vastly disagree on what is expensive and what's not. So he bought this thing for our water jug, which I actually don't mind. It gets the job done (though I fail to see how this stays any cleaner than a big water dispenser):
This is actually the new one that our water guy brought today. We'd called last night but of course, since it was after 8pm, we didn't expect him to be bringing it then. The old one is already in the garbage and just looking at it, you couldn't tell it was broken. Do you see the big blue part at the top? You push on that to pump the water out. Pretty simple. Well, somehow Dumbo broke that part because it wasn't working. My husband, determined to show me I was somehow using it wrong, gave it a try and realized the same thing: his insipid mother was the last person to use it, broke it and said NOTHING to anyone. Now, I know my Chinese isn't the best, but I would have understood her if she'd pointed at it and told me the Chinese word for 'broken.' She didn't tell me that. All she told me when she left yesterday was that my husband had given her money and blah blah blah blah blah blah (the blah blah blahs are for the Chinese I did not understand at all, which later, when I told my husband, he explained that those blah blah blahs I'd heard were her telling me he'd given her money to go to the market to buy us shrimp and some other items). BUT she didn't even call my husband to tell him about breaking our pump! I'm sure she didn't mean to. Plus, things that are made in China always break (just like they do in the states). But still, it just pisses me off that she has no sense whatsoever to call her son and say, "Hey, I'm so sorry but when I was pumping some water from the jug, the pump broke and you need a new one. Do you want me to have your father go pick one up for you now, or can you deal with it later?" She could have called her own husband too. Or the water guy himself! She knows the number! The pump is only 15 yuan, which is extremely cheap. It's not like we wouldn't have given it back to her. Sigh. I just don't think I will ever understand what goes through her head. Maybe it's an endless swirl of dust and tumbleweeds. I once hypothesized that it was 2 monkeys picking fleas off each other but that might be one step up from her.

And one last thing: she opened the window yesterday WHILE the A/C was on! I should mention it was so disgustingly hot out that it was nauseating. The humidity was atrocious. UGH! Ok, ok, I'll say something nice: at least she did make the most delicious wontons ever when I was sick with a bad stomach flu earlier in the week so that I didn't have to cook when I came home from work. She should totally make more of those. That would help me be less annoyed with her. She better get right on that then.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Not Me

Remember the old Sunday comic strip The Family Circus? I was never really a fan but I'd still find myself reading it and consequently rolling my eyes afterward. With one exception: when Not Me was featured. Even then, I thought the concept of Not Me as a mischievous apparition was extremely amusing. And fitting. Who has never tried to deflect the blame from themselves when something went wrong? Or when you were indeed the cause of said wrongdoing?

Here's one of The Family Circus cartoons with Not Me...
In this one, Not Me seems to have brought some friends along to cause some trouble at the dinner table. So what is Not Me up to these days? Well, he seems to be alive and well here in China because that is who MIL blamed when we asked her about that missing cardboard panel with the roasting chicken picture on it from Raelynn's toy kitchen. I nearly choked to death on the last bits of my breakfast as I heard her tell my husband that Raelynn did it. While I'll concede that if pigs happened to be flying at that moment, then perhaps it could have happened. But this piece of cardboard needed to be wedged into the back of the oven portion of the toy kitchen, fitted into a groove. In other words, taking it out would take some work. In the month that we've had this toy kitchen. it's never been a problem. Sure, Raelynn breaks lots of things and causes lots of trouble (arguably more trouble than Not Me himself). But supervised or not, she has never even come close to dislodging that piece from the toy kitchen.

However this piece came to be removed (which I can almost guaranfuckingtee was not by the hands of Raelynn), my in-laws then let Raelynn run around and play with it. And watched her as she dropped it behind the couch. I just don't understand their thinking, perhaps in large part because I can't fathom being quite that stupid. Let's say for argument's sake that Raelynn, and not Not Me, somehow knocked out that piece of cardboard. Why in the fuck wouldn't you put it back together? And supposing you really are that fucking lazy to neglect taking 30 seconds to fix it, for fuck's sake, WHY in the hell would you let the baby run off with it and WATCH her drop it behind the couch and LEAVE IT THERE?!?!? Our couch is an "L" shape and is very easy to push around. These people cart fruits, vegetables and large containers of water up our 6 flights of stairs and also their 5 flights of stairs in their own building. In other words, they are not feeble (physically at least...mentally is a whole different story). Why didn't they just push the couch over and retrieve it?!? They are so, so, sooooooooooooooooooooooooo dumb.

Here is a picture of that missing piece, just before I took 30 whole seconds to install it in the back of her toy oven:
We can only hope that Not Me keeps from destroying this toy, or any of the other ones. Or any of Raelynn's clothes. Or any of our things. Grrrr...

Oh, and MIL (or maybe it was Not Me) left a lovely present for us in the kitchen:
What is this, you ask? Why, it's a half-eaten piece of an apple that has apparently been sitting out for quite a while due to the browning. The chopstick under the drying rack just adds more irk to my jangled nerves. Here is a closer look at the apple piece:
Yes, let's take some bites out of a slice of apple and leave it on the counter. Because someone else will want to eat it. Not! Ok, maybe Not Me would. But not ME. Ewwwww. Oh MIL! Why can't you go back to that one week when you were actually helpful and didn't break or ruin anything? When you made us wontons and surprised me by cleaning the kitchen (not in the way I'd have cleaned it but it was shockingly clean for someone like her). How in the world did my husband come from you? I'll add all this to the list of things that make you go hmmm...

Sunday, August 26, 2012

See?!? I Told You So!

For any of you that may have been disheartened by my previous post, fear not! In case you're too lazy to go look and see what that was all about, I decided to go a little easy on MIL. What, did you think I'd never have a complaint about her again? Oh ye of little faith! OF COURSE I'll still complain about her endlessly. Because if I don't, I fear I'll erupt into an outburst of epic proportions and that won't be good for any of us. It's not that she's done any one thing that's outrageously horrible this time. It's just a series of things (some small, some large) that are starting to pile up like laundry. And before it goes from one load to 10, I better start airing it.

Let me begin with some things she's done lately that I LIKE. She bought us this very interesting and useful soup machine. You can put dry beans in there along with some water and in 20 minutes, POOF! You've got tasty bean soup. It can do other things too but Jeremy hasn't explained all the modes to me. She also whipped us up these potato and leek pancakes one day, which was very kind as they weren't too terrible, but we were heading out to meet a friend for dinner.

And now, on to more irksome things. Like each day when I'd come home from work, I'd find that one knife now mingling with the forks and spoons, which is almost as dangerous as when she put it pointy-end up. Almost. It blended in so well with the other stuff it was scary. I mentioned something to Jeremy and then just let it go. And then, there was the day I came home and discovered that, for Lord only knows what reason (I'll guess sheer stupidity), she unplugged our refrigerator. It was a good thing I'd gone in there to get something once she'd left because otherwise it would have gone unnoticed for hours. Upon opening it, I discovered the interior light wasn't on. And it felt a bit less cold than usual. Using my super sleuthing skills (not really), I checked the outlet and lo and behold, found that someone (coughcoughMILcough) had unplugged the refrigerator. But again, I shrugged it off.

Then, things got a little more than just annoying. For example, when I came home to find Raelynn playing with the top from a water bottle after Jeremy and I had specifically told his parents NOT to let Raelynn have anything that small. The whole bottle with the cap screwed on tightly? Go for it, but not just the cap. Still, despite it being a choking hazard, I kept my cool and told MIL to please not do it again and suppressed the urge I felt to choke her.

The annoyance level rose to the max on the day I came home to find that MIL had fed Raelynn a black bean soup. That part I certainly didn't mind. It was that I'd dressed her in an adorable shirt from Baby Gap that my boss had given us and now there were big spots of soup all down the front. I told her to use the bibs for crying out loud, and Jeremy echoed my complaint. Fortunately, I was able to get the stains out by washing it right away and my annoyance level dropped down a few notches.

And on to down right pissing me off mode, when MIL came over in the morning at the end of last week, she wouldn't hand over my daughter when I was leaving for work. Raelynn was crying for me and I wanted to give her a big hug and kiss for a proper goodbye. But the old troll was clutching her and wouldn't ease up her grasp. Thankfully, my husband stepped in and reminded her that Raelynn is my girl and I want, need and deserve to hold her before I leave for work. I know she wasn't doing it to deliberately piss me off, but I have to wonder what the hell goes through this woman's head sometimes.

I've been stewing in that anger over the weekend. I've really been trying to release it, but hey, that is just why I bitch about her in this blog. When I absolutely feel like I'm going to clobber her with a sack of flour and knock out her ugly, rotting fake teeth, I write about it. And as the weekend was coming to a close, I thought I felt my rage subsiding, which was a joyous and liberating feeling.

That is until I noticed something was amiss with Raelynn's toy kitchen. It came complete with a toy oven. The back panel behind the oven was a sturdy piece of cardboard that you had to slide into a groove to hold it in place. On this panel, there was a lovely picture of a big roasting chicken so when you looked in the front, it gave the appearance of cooking food. I thought it was a nice touch. It also served to keep in anything she threw in there, which we were vigilant about checking to ensure she didn't swipe some food and shove it in there, entombed until it let out odors afoul. She put mostly the items from the kitchen set in there, some of her toy trucks, and perhaps most amusing of all, a rubber duckie from bath time. Now this panel is missing. MIL (or quite possibly, FIL) removed it for more reasons unknown. It is nowhere to be found. It was hard to fit it into there so I know Raelynn couldn't have removed it herself. Where it is, I have no idea. Why it was removed is even more perplexing. What I do know is that I am absolutely livid about it. Yes, I know. It's just a toy. And it's just a piece of cardboard. But now everyfuckingthing falls out the back of the oven if she pushes it away from the wall. It just pisses me off that they would ruin something like that. And that if they've thrown it away or destroyed it, I will now have to make a new one myself. Which I will duct tape to the max to prevent the theft of this panel ever happening again.

And then the leftover duct tape I'll be using to fashion some sort of device to keep MIL (and FIL) from pissing me off again so that we can keep the peace in our home once more.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Letting Sleeping Dogs (And Babies) Lie

Precious little Raelynn sound asleep on our bed next to her daddy.

I realized today that I hadn't written a new post in a couple weeks (and received a few emails about withdrawals from my blog). Shameful, I know, but I just started back to work after our summer break and it's the usual getting back into the swing of things coupled with a boss who is as nice as the day is long but makes so many annoying and counterproductive changes that you start to forget just how nice she is. That's been a bit of a headache, honestly, but there is something that only the most astute readers of my blog will notice has been missing. Why, MIL of course! The reason is that I've decided to let the old dog lie. For now.

See, just before my vacation was over, she had come over to watch Raelynn so I could squeeze in a workout. I'd been under quite a bit of stress over the break because Raelynn's routine had been shifted around again. My once easy-to-put-to-sleep baby was now Rosemary's baby. It was horrible. In addition to asking my friends back home, pulled out some baby books and began looking for answers and ways to cope. In the end, the combination of white noise and giving her breast milk made Raelynn go right to sleep. But one book I read in particular, The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems, basically condemned me for everything I was doing that everything I was doing was wrong. It admonished parents like me because our children will never learn how to go to sleep on their own.

Blearily, I looked at MIL.We can say what we want about her (I can surely say LOTS. I already have, in case you haven't seen the rest of this blog.) and one of those things is that this woman does not read. I know I've pointed that out in many posts before (not sure which ones...perhaps all of them) and truly, while I know she CAN read (my husband has left her notes in Chinese) I never see her sitting and reading a book or magazine while Raelynn naps and she awaits my inevitable return. Chinese people are like this, especially the older folks, according to my husband. My husband, having studied abroad, is not like this at all. So, the old bag doesn't read. So what? Well, that got me thinking. If she doesn't read and most people here are of the same likeness, then NONE of them would read a book like the one I was reading (or any book about putting babies to sleep for that matter) would they? I know I make fun of this country a bit (and the people from here) as they have some very questionable child-rearing ways. And I know I make fun of MIL much more than just a bit. But the thing is, my husband - her son, has no problems sleeping. Meaning that MIL actually did something right.

Jeremy is out almost as soon as he lies down. Sure, he snores like a bear gargling with a pig that's choking on a chainsaw which totally sucks for me since I can sometimes still hear him even through earplugs, but he is always sound asleep. He'll sleep through any ruckus Raelynn might cause at 3am too. I wish I could sleep that well. So as Raelynn runs back and forth between MIL and me, I ask in Chinese how she puts the baby down for a nap. I know what she's going to say as I've seen her hard at work, trying to get my little diva to go to sleep. She described how she holds Raelynn over her shoulder, patting her back and walking around the room until she falls asleep. The book told me all those things were considered props. So I ask MIL how she once put Jeremy to sleep as a baby. And she told me she did the same thing for him too. Until he was how old, I ask her. She doesn't know what I mean. I elaborate further by asking her how old he was when she could just put him in his crib and he'd go to sleep. Ah! She nods, understanding, and I find it remarkable that my Chinese has improved enough that I'm having a conversation with this woman that doesn't revolve around her asking me how the dumplings taste and me replying they are good. She tells me that my husband was 3 when he would go to sleep on his own. Sensing my worry, she then told me that Raelynn is still small and when she's bigger, she will go to sleep all by herself.

And with that, I realized that maybe MIL isn't a total idiot after all. Oh relax. She's still a partial one. She'll still do enough things for me to complain about so don't you worry. Like the other day when my husband and I took Raelynn out for a family day. We went to the church play group and then off to lunch. And in the pocket on the side of the stroller, I noticed something. I dug in there and to my disgust, there was one of the baby's washcloths. I remembered being puzzled a few days before that when I'd realized it was missing from the bathroom. I thought perhaps she'd thrown it into the laundry basket and gotten so busy, I'd forgotten to check. There it was, still wet and in a plastic baggy. MIL had likely packed it in there in case Raelynn got her hands dirty. It would of course never occur to her to use one of the hundreds of wet wipes, now would it? No. Because it is much more fun to leave a wet washcloth in a baggy for days so it has an absolutely vile smell. That's okay though because once I forced Jeremy to take a whiff of it, he assured me he would insist to her that she take the wet wipes instead next time.

So, I've been going a little easy on MIL. And it's more peaceful around here. It makes my husband happy and I feel less stress. I hope it will stay like this, at least for a little while. Old habits do die hard though and I know I'll be back to my usual bitchiness as soon as she does something to poke the bear. Stay tuned!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

I Hate You, August!

This is what it feels like outside in August. Stupidest month of the year. Go away! Come on September!

I just want to say that if your name is August, I do not hate you. Any person named August is fine by me. We had some really nice neighbors growing up and the dad was named August. Thanks to Facebook, my brother and I reconnected with these old neighbors and were saddened to learn that August had passed away a few years ago. Actually, I've never met another person named August. But one can assume that with a name like that, you were born in August. And it is August THE MONTH that I hate. I truly loathe it all the more living here too.

Historically, August was the month you'd head back to school after summer vacation. So screw you, August! And on the other end of it as a teacher, I'm equally as bummed about heading back to school again. August sucks!

Growing up in Florida (or Flori-DUH as my friend Aaron and I like to call it), you'd get lots of tropical storms and hurricanes in August. There was the unforgettable Hurricane Andrew of course which leveled Homestead. Yeah. August sucks!

Last August at this time, my parents were here meeting my husband for the first time as well as their only grandchild. Perhaps because of their visit, this month didn't piss me off nearly as much. We rented a car and hired a driver (as this was before Jeremy began driving) because August here in Qingdao is the peak point in tourist season. As if this place wasn't crowded enough. Stand there and flail your arms all you want. You can't get a taxi. Because there are no taxis. All the hicks from China have come to see the beaches. Plus tourists from other Asian countries. And don't forget the beer festival! EVERYONE is in Qingdao right now. The buses suck even more than usual in addition to not being air conditioned because the tourists who can't get a taxi will just hop on there. And just try to go to lunch somewhere downtown! If you're here now, STAY AWAY FROM JUSCO!

Having our own car didn't help much today. Jeremy did an excellent job navigating through the miles of bumper-to-bumper traffic though. When he suggested we go to the Korean restaurant at the Jusco, I protested, saying it would be a zoo. How about the one by Qingdao University? Oh but no. It fell on deaf ears and suddenly, we were with every other person in Qingdao waiting to get a fucking table in a mall so crowded, it reminded me of the malls back home during the most wonderful time of the year, filled with not-so-merry last-minute Christmas shoppers. Despite the A/C being on in this restaurant, it was still nauseatingly hot as we waited to be seated. Raelynn slept in her stroller and as I watched her sleeping peacefully, I knew she'd wake up in just enough time to be a screamy, fussy mess that would force us to gulp down our food so we could leave faster.

Suddenly, I heard a familiar voice. "Teacher!" I look up. There's a cute little boy and I realize it's my little nose-picker, Peter. He's gotten taller in just one month since I've seen him. Amazing! So his family comes over to see the baby. I have never seen this boy more quiet before. EVER. He's really cute when he's quiet. Then again, aren't they all? Soon after we see Peter's family, we're seated at a table. Where, just as I predicted, Raelynn shrieked and carried on, causing us to take home part of our meal.

And that is the other reason I hate August, perhaps the biggest reason of all: IT'S SO FUCKING HOT! Everywhere you go, it's hot. We've talked about this before of course but in August, it is so much worse. Take the Jusco mall today for example. You walk in and A/C slaps you in the face. Ahhh! But keep walking and there are throngs and throngs of people, all of them making it hotter in there. Then, because it is Asia and people here LOVE to open windows AND run the A/C as if that makes any fucking sense at all, you walk by the stairwell and the windows there are open. And hot, humid air comes in like a noxious, suffocating gas.

So, too many tourists, not enough taxis, not enough air conditioning, traffic jams, and horribly hot and humid weather are the many reasons why I despise August. Tomorrow is my last day of vacation and you better believe that screamy baby and I will be sitting here with the A/C cranked up, enjoying ice cream and not sweating like I would when I do one of my workouts while all the other fools run around this town, so drenched in sweat it looks like they might have actually showered. But upon closer inspection you know damn well no soap smells like B.O. 

With A Little Help From My Friends (Updated!)

While very cute, these two little girls are not my friend Beth or me. I don't have any photos of us as kids together. Most of my photos are back home in my parents' garage which I will likely get a lecture about when they come visit in a couple months. Sorry Mom and Dad!

Do you remember your first childhood friend? I do. I was lucky enough to live down the street from Beth Gewirtzman. Our moms were friends before either of us were born. I can't remember a time when I didn't know her. Beth and I always played together after school. We would go swimming. Or play dress up. We'd even have lip syncing contests using Cyndi Lauper and Madonna tapes. It was SUCH fun! When I think back on my childhood, I really do cherish those special times with Beth.

Beth and I grew up of course and stayed in touch a bit. Somewhere around college though, I lost touch with her. And see, THIS is why I love Facebook because now lost friends can be found. It is all too easy to get busy with your life and accidentally lose touch with people you care about. Imagine my absolute delight when I found her again!

Only to be greatly saddened when I did. For this kind, smart and loving friend has been suffering for the last 10 years from interstitial cystitis (IC). It won't kill her but she is in constant pain from this disease. Beth would be grateful to wake up healthy again. I get angry with myself when I wake up and find something to complain about in my life - the way people are here, my MIL, the baby making a mess after I just cleaned, having to go back to work after vacation - because Beth would give anything to just live her life normally.

I want so badly to help her. So I'm doing what I can from here and asking you my dear friends, family and other readers of this blog, if you can donate any amount, please click this link to make a donation in Beth's name. If you can't, that's okay too. I'm not going to come kick your ass or anything, though I probably should for something or another. Anyway, thank you for taking a moment out of my usual sarcastic rants to read a serious one and if you can help Beth, I really truly thank you from the bottom of my heart.

UPDATE (June 22, 2013)
I'm so sad to say that my wonderful beautiful friend, Beth Gewirtzman, passed away on June 10, 2013. I have been wanting to update this post for nearly 2 weeks but my heart was so heavy with hurt from hearing this terrible news. I hope she is no longer suffering and I send my deepest condolences to her whole family. I will never forget her and I will always try to keep in mind what she'd told me a few months ago: appreciate your health. How very true. If you wake up, and you are healthy, then no matter what you are going through, you can get through it. Rest in peace, sweet friend.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

OMG! It's Another Jeremy!

Early this evening, after Jeremy had returned from his one-day/one-night seminar in Jinan, he'd promised to take us anywhere. I'd been feeling like having Thai food for so long and since he said we could do anything I wanted after having been subjected to a squealing toddler for over 24 straight hours with no reprieve, I suggested a Thai restaurant we'd seen a few months ago but hadn't yet tried. "The Thai restaurant by Carnegie's," I say. Fortunately, he knows what I'm talking about. He damn well should. A month or so ago, we were having lunch with my friend Andrea when, I shit you not, the following conversation took place:

Andrea: "Have you guys been to Carnegie's yet?"
Me: "Carnegie's? Oh, yes we have. It was great but there were no people..."
Jeremy (sounding confused and lost): "Carnegie's?"
Me: "Yes, Honey, remember you took me on Mother's Day."
Jeremy (sounding even more confused and lost): "Mother's Day?"
Me: "I had some Mexican food."
Jeremy (beyond lost): "Mexican food?"

It was at that point that Andrea burst into laughter because she thought he had to be joking around. But he wasn't. I know, I know...English is my husband's 3rd language but he does this a lot with words and things that I know for a fact he knows well. So we teased him about it until he laughed so hard he cried.

So yeah, Jeremy knows what Carnegie's is. But now he protests the cost of this Thai restaurant before he even knows what is on the menu. "Why don't we just go and if it's too expensive, we can eat at one of the other restaurants there?" I say, growing annoyed. After all, he's the one who told me I could pick whatever I wanted. Fucker's lucky I didn't demand he take me to the Shangri-La! He makes up a dozen excuses and then finally, when he's run out of them, decides it's not a half-bad idea and off we go.

It's our first time driving there though. Jeremy does a super job on the way there. Until he turns into the parking plaza for this restaurant and bar courtyard. Parking? Despite my telling him to stay to the right, he goes to the left where there is a BIG sign on the arm that blocks the path out indicating that it is the exit. Above, there are signs IN CHINESE that further elaborate on the pictures. Signs? The parking guard though is quite amiable and amused and instructs my husband to please back up and proceed through the entrance.

This courtyard is filled with restaurants, bars, billiards clubs and spas. It's really quite lovely and with the exception of Chinese signs all about, it makes you forget you're even in China. The weather was a little cooler too. A nice summer breeze was blowing through and for the first time in weeks, the air wasn't humid and sticky. Raelynn was certainly enjoying her ride in the stroller. We get to the Thai restaurant with an entrance that's flanked by two golden elephants. I tell Jeremy we should take a quick look at the menu to see if it's too expensive but he just allows them to lead us to a table. It was so pretty in there! But I soon felt a wave of disappointment. I should have just let Jeremy take me to the more Malaysian-than-Thai-style restaurant we've been to a bunch of times. The food is really good there though it's not wholly Thai. But no. I wanted to try this other place out. The menu looked like an overpriced offering of Chinese-ified Thai dishes. Where was the Pad Thai? Curry? There was some sashimi on there which was incredibly puzzling to me. We politely got up and left.

Next, we poked into the Spanish tapas restaurant which had also looked interesting. Despite a really lovely-looking menu, it too was overpriced. That's when we decided to go to Carnegie's, the place Jeremy will never, ever forget now. It was a great decision. We got mounds of food for a great price. And we got this adorable photo of Raelynn eating a french fry:
Isn't she darling? She loves french fries.

After our meal, we headed back to the car. And that's when I spotted it. Just 3 spots away from our car, there was another Jeremy-driver. The car had the same 'shi xi' practice driver sticker on it as our car. Take a look:
Jeremy shouldn't really be laughing since he still has much to learn but I found it quite amusing that there was another newbie driver just a few cars down. Here's a closer look at the sticker on the other car:
So, this of course means Jeremy is not the only beginner out there. Not that it's shocking news or anything. It's just amusing to see it advertised openly. I should add that here, they use "Baby On Board" stickers. It boggles my mind since not very many people speak English here, let alone READ it. And every "Baby On Board" or even "Baby In Car" sign is in ENGLISH. Just like this sign wouldn't mean shit to you until you read my explanation about what it means, I bet the baby signs mean nothing to the other drivers. Hell, they'll probably take aim. But a shi xi sticker? Better back the fuck off, bitches!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Beware! New Driver On Board!

Believe it or not, I've been brave enough to get back into the car with Jeremy driving several more times since my last post. He's getting better. Really! Well, these things take time. It's not like he's the best driver ever suddenly over night. But the more practice he gets, the more confident he seems.

Raelynn and I braved a ride to the Metro with him. Metro is like a German-owned Costco-eque store. You can buy some things in bulk but mostly, you can buy a variety of foreign products, especially groceries, at really great prices. If my husband really wants to make me happy, he can take me to Metro and plant me right in front of the Betty Crocker section. Of course, when I pointed at a can of artichokes that I wanted to bake onto a pizza, he refused, citing the 35 yuan per can as too pricey. Meanwhile, he didn't bat an eye at the cost of his Chinese-style sausage. But I digress.

The ride to Metro was just fine, if a bit slow. Jeremy drives really slowly. But it's okay because he's put a sticker on the back of the car. It says "shi xi" which he says translates to "practice driver." This is supposed to serve as a warning to the billions of other drivers here to lookout for him because, as I said, he drives really slowly. That and he stalls a lot. A LOT. Like when we left the Metro. First, he had trouble backing out of our parking space. He kept stalling out. He must have stalled out nearly 15 times on a simple reverse. I myself could never master the art of driving manual transmission but I will tell you this: the only thing I never did fuck up was driving in reverse! Oh Jeremy!

Perhaps even more amusing was when we got to our house shortly after that. Jeremy attempted to parallel park. If you know me personally, then you know I have got to be THE worst parallel parker. EVER. Until now. Yes, Jeremy has swooped in and stolen the title from me. How can I be so harsh? Very simply. Jeremy was trying to parallel park into a spot that had a spot open behind it AND HE KEPT STALLING OUT AND STICKING OUT INTO THE STREET. He must have restarted the car 30 times and I am seriously not exaggerating here. I had a hard time not laughing at him. He asked me to get out and guide him yet he ignored every instruction I gave him. Miraculously, he finally got the little Aveo into the spot properly.

Today, I took another ride with Jeremy. It's pay day and I had to go out to my school to pick up my money. I told him not to worry; that I would just sweat my ass off on the bus. After all, he is busy with work. But insurance agents don't have to sit about at a desk all day and he's got quite a bit of freedom. He insisted upon driving me so what was I to do? Well, for starters, I was to try not to go crazy as we crept along geriatrically down the streets of Qingdao. And I was to try to amuse myself with my own banter. My husband is so new to driving that talking during the drive is difficult for him at this time. I wanted to flick on the stereo but I didn't dare. I did take note that it has a CD player and plotted to bring along some music the next time.

Despite my telling him my driver Hao Shufu's shortcut to school, Jeremy took the long way. And he didn't put the A/C on which sucked big time. If you don't know how I feel about people being too cheap to turn on the air conditioning, please see this post. As we came to a stop at a traffic light closer to my school though, I heard an odd noise. Whir-eet...whir-eet...whir-eet...whir-eet...whir-eet...whir-eet. "What IS that noise?" I say almost rhetorically and as I turn around I have the answer. Somehow, my husband has managed to accidentally turn on the rear wiper. Which is waving energetically on this bright and sunny, rain-free day, at all the other drivers. That coupled with the sight of the "shi xi" sticker made me burst into hysterical laughter. It was only made worse by Jeremy's attempts at trying to shut the damn thing off. A passing motorist called over to us to tell us it was on. "Ta zhe dao!" (which translates to "he knows") I sing out and continue giggling away. Even Jeremy began laughing now.

While I ran inside the school to get my pay, he managed to make it stop so at least we didn't have to endure that whir-eet...whir-eet...whirt-eet sound the whole way back. And he did put the A/C on for the ride back home. Hopefully he'll have the whole car figured out soon. I mean, now he at least knows how to unlock the trunk all by himself. Here he is, posing with the "shi xi" sign on the back: