Friday, January 25, 2013

Low Clearance - UPDATED!!!!

Please note that the above photo is not of the sign I discuss below. I sadly do not have a photo of the low clearance sign in question. And the one I'm talking about is not attached to any overpass. But it is bright and obvious-looking so it boggles my mind how anyone could possibly miss it. 

(This post has been updated at the end!)
When I still lived in the states, I remember seeing signs as you'd pass under a bridge or large overhead signage that spanned the highway that would announce the clearance. For the average person who's just driving a car, this information really doesn't matter. OF COURSE your little sedan or even gas-guzzling SUV will fit underneath just fine. It's people that drive buses and trucks for a living. Those folks need to know the dimensions of the vehicles they're driving. It's their job.

Over here, we have those kinds of signs too. The only differences are that here, it's in metric measurements. That, and no one seems to regard them.

On the main road by our house, they've been doing a lot of construction work for the subway. There are big sheets of metal draped over places in the road where they have needed frequent access to the underground. That's nothing new. But what is fascinating is that they have erected this temporary signage above the entire road except for the right lane, which is for larger vehicles such as trucks or buses. It's very low and it has a sign in Chinese coupled with a "2.5m" sign indicating the height, coupled with a big picture of a truck with an "x" over it. It also has flashing lights on it. It's very clear to me that if you're driving a large truck or a bus, you need to get out of that lane and into the right one. And if it's very clear to me, even though I cannot read Chinese but for about 100 characters or so of it, then it should be perfectly clear to the Chinese people here, right? Right?


According to my husband, he read in the online edition of Qingdao's newspaper that this particular sign has been knocked down by trucks or buses...get ready for this...OVER 50 TIMES IN ONE YEAR. Yes, really. In the span of just 365 days, the same over-the-road low clearance sign has been crashed into by negligent drivers of vehicles that are in excess of 2.5 meters. In some instances, it was run into slowly. In others, it was completely plowed down. Let's just say for argument's sake that you drive a cement mixer and you have never before been on this road. If you can see the sign easily in a car, imagine seeing it in a truck, which is further up from the ground. It seems nearly impossible to miss it. How in the world is it that people driving trucks and buses here have hit this fucking thing over 50 times?!? I know this shit happens back home too but not 50 times in one year in the same fucking place. This is like a whole new level of stupid. At least my in-laws now look smart in comparison. Then again, they can't drive. I shudder to think how many more times this poor sign would have been crunched into the road with either one of them behind the wheel. Gah!

Updated! 1/31/2013
Yesterday, as my husband and I were driving home from Raelynn's Wednesday play group, I looked up and realized we'd been caught at the light where the infamous sign of doom is located. I gleefully groped for my camera and I am happy to present to you all a photo of the actual sign that prompted this post. Here it is!
I apologize for saying there was a Chinese sign on here. There is on the other side of the road for the traffic going the opposite direction. Which begs the question: why would you only put that for one direction of traffic? Just sayin'! Now that you can see the sign for yourselves, what do you think? Is it obvious enough to you? Or would you hit that shit too?

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Case Of The Mysterious Puddle

Someone call Agents Mulder and Scully because this is some X-Files shit right here. Ok, maybe not. But still. Call Mulder. He was hot.

So what is the big mystery over here? My husband ran some errands and when he returned, he discovered a puddle of water in the middle of our bedroom. *cue spooky music* Let me just tell you that it was not there before. Jeremy was only gone for a short while. During this time, I gave Raelynn a cracker and let her watch Nickelodeon in the living room. And then, she came to get me, jabbering away. So I went with her. But I shut the door to the bedroom. The puddle was not there when I left the room. As lunch time approached, I went into the kitchen to make us something to eat. Again, the door to the bedroom was still closed. Soon after, we sit down to lunch. While we're eating, Jeremy returns home with some things from the market, including new fish for our tank (we were down to just two and I felt they were lonely). He put the fish into the tank and then went to change. That's when he pointed out the relatively large puddle on our floor. How did it get there?!?

Here are our theories:
1) Raelynn did it.
This one is Jeremy's. He thinks Raelynn did it before I locked her out of the room. But I disagree wholeheartedly here. While she's fully capable of such a thing, there were no cups of water within her reach when she did have access to the room. All cups and bottles were in their original places still. Plus, when I left the room and shut her out of it, I would have had to walk right through the puddle. I definitely would have noticed this.

2) Something leaked from upstairs.
This would make so much sense. Except nothing else was wet. The ceiling has absolutely no signs of dampness. The puddle looked like it had been caused by something dropping down and splattering water.

3) It came from the window.
 This is the least likely because there is no rain or snow today. And nothing next to the window was wet either. I went through several moments of severe panic when I first saw the puddle simply because my computer IS by the windows. I inspected the whole area and there was only the lone puddle in the middle of our floor.

4) My husband somehow spilled water from the new bag of fish.
He totally denies this but I think this is the most logical explanation that isn't of supernatural origins. Our fish tank is in the bedroom on the counter that is between it and the living room. My husband had entered the room and walked around though I was busy with Raelynn at the time. I think somehow when he first came into our room, he must have sloshed some water out of the bag with the new fish.

Otherwise, aliens were totally here watering our wood floors. Hey, you never know!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Intruder Alert! Intruder Alert!

Does anyone else (besides my brother) remember this archaic video game from the 1980s, name Berzerk? Intruder alert! Intruder alert!

Last night, we had to endure dinner at my in-laws' house of dirt and vomitous smells. I didn't complain too much because my husband had kept them from bothering us for a full week and a half. This evening, I was determined to make us a delicious dinner to make up for last night's meal. Which actually wasn't too terrible. Just fried. Everything was fried. She made chicken wings, which were great. There was some fried lotus root thing that was also good but again with the frying. There were cashews she'd toasted in, surprise, surprise, peanut oil. And fried dumplings! See? Fried everything! They also served me this wine that I would like to call the Chinese version of sangria. It's black with slices of ginger in it and some weird pruney berry thing that, on its own, actually tastes great. But this wine itself was not something I'd drink if I hadn't been forced into it. It had a burnt vinegar taste. Served hot, it was really hard to get down and FIL kept pouring me more. I had to use the fried food offerings to get the taste out of my mouth. Once it cooled, it seemed to taste better. Either that, or it had burned off enough of my taste buds where I didn't notice so much anymore.

So tonight, I made potato and leek soup from scratch along with little ham and cheese sandwiches with a homemade honey mustard dressing. Husband and daughter were gobbling it all up with glee. As we were finishing our savory meal, our land line rang. I grimaced. Only 2 people call that phone. MIL and FIL. Urghhhh.

It's 7pm and they want to come over to bring us that fucking flavorless lump of shit that Chinese people think is bread called mantou. Like we MUST have that right away. On foot, it takes 10 minutes to walk from their house to ours. They finally arrived at 7:30pm which led me to believe they used the mantou as a bogus excuse to be able to intrude on us. I'll give them props for calling first but holy hell! Get a fucking life please! They had mantou which they likely picked up on the way, a couple heads of cabbage and some greasy, smelly fried fish. But the worst part of all was that they smelled. I mean REALLY smelled. Why don't they shower?!? I'm not trying to be a total twat but they both smelled like they hadn't bathed in well over a week.

When MIL took off her coat, I seethed. Jeremy told me they would just be stopping by for a minute. But of course, they stuck around for 30 of them. I'm annoyed because this is the 3rd time this week I've had to see MIL. Remember, she was lurking around our neighborhood on Tuesday. Then, yesterday (Wednesday), we had that dinner at their house. And now this incident today, Thursday. Enough alfuckingready!

As they were leaving, I heard them talking about "mingtian" which is the Chinese word for "tomorrow." I immediately tensed up. I don't want to see them ever but I especially don't want to see them tomorrow. And thankfully, we have dinner plans with our friend Rose tomorrow so we aren't available to be bored by the gruesome twosome. Jeremy assured me we wouldn't have to see them tomorrow. However, he made us dinner plans with them for Sunday. Oh come on! I've had enough of them. Why can't we go back to seeing them just once every week and a half?

I was never into Star Trek, but I think this photo sums it all up quite nicely...
"If we all fire our phasers simultaneously, perhaps that will deter this hideous alien voyeur."
Fire away, boys!

It's Pat!

Is it a boy or a girl? In China, sometimes you just can't tell!

Do you remember that stupid "It's Pat" SNL skit? That's what I thought of on Wednesday when Jeremy and I took Raelynn to a new play group. The group itself isn't new. We're new to it. I'd heard of it before but because I'm usually at work during the day and time it occurs, it was impossible to take Raelynn.

This week was our first chance to attend and all 3 of us had a great time. Jeremy got to network a bit with his insurance stuff and I got to make friends with more moms. And of course Raelynn had a blast. She made a calendar, she dumped sparkly stars all over the floor and then allowed me to pick them all back up again and promptly threw the container onto the floor once more and even with all that activity, she managed to play around with some of the other children there.

As the play group came to an end, Jeremy and I sat in some teeny tiny chairs and watched Raelynn as she raced back and forth, bringing us different toys. She brought us a tea pot. "Tea!" she shrieked with joy and we giggled as she tore off again. Once she ran back across the room, a Chinese boy and his mom approached. The boy picked up the tea pot and pretended to pour it over his head. All of us adults laughed. My husband then asked the mom how old her son was.

And then, there was that awkward moment when she told us that her child was a girl, not a boy. My husband and I exchanged glances and tried to be polite. I looked the child over from top to bottom. Poor thing. She looked like a boy to me. Her hair was short like a boy. I know, I know. Some small children get their hair in later than others. But this child was larger than Raelynn. This child was also wearing boy clothes. The sweatshirt was very masculine, as were the pants and shoes. I was stunned that this was a girl.

Was I surprised though? Here, no. I just don't understand Chinese people at all when it comes to things like this. Did you want a boy so badly that you thought you'd dress up your daughter to look like one so people won't look down on you? Do people really care that much about having a boy over a girl? Get over it. Without girls, you won't have anyone to reproduce your ill-mannered and spoiled boys.

I'm not saying everyone with a girl must dress her up in poofy dresses all the time either. But if you have a girl, like we do, don't you want her to look a little girly? Jeans and a pink Hello Kitty t-shirt. Bows or barrettes in her hair. Something!

The woman seemed confused that we couldn't tell her child was a girl. My friend Ruth was standing there while this went on and we had a good laugh at how if this conversation had taken place in America, the woman would have been offended beyond belief. "That's true," I conceded, "however, in America, nobody would dress their little girl like a boy." Ruth agreed.

I remember when I first moved here, back when I was still pregnant with Raelynn. My husband and I were at the immigration office filing my paperwork. A man came up to the counter with what I thought was a boy in a dress. Then I realized it was a girl who had sadly been given a terrible and unflattering boy-style haircut. This kind of thing is so common here. It annoys me every time I see it.

Anyway, here's hoping that next week, we don't mistake that little girl for a boy again. But given the way her mom dresses her, history will likely repeat itself.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Found: Lost Dog

I find it crazy that, living in a country like China where they make millions of things for export, I cannot find a bag of 5 - 10 pairs of white athletic socks for sale ANYWHERE. They make the socks here. Why don't they sell a big bag of them then? Is it because people here tend to wear the same thing for several days (see, or rather smell, exhibit A, my in-laws)?

I say this because my husband found 3 pairs of socks for me today while we were in Taidong. We'd popped over there quickly after taking Raelynn for one of her vaccinations. Taidong tends to be a total zoo on the weekends but early on a weekday, it's a breeze. Our main purpose was to find markers that were safe for Raelynn to use. Secondary to that, my socks, since all of mine had begun to develop large holes in them, rendering them completely useless. And as a bonus, we found the cutest pair of jeans for Raelynn too.

We begin to hurry home because someone is crying for "crackoo," Raelynn's way of saying "crackers." Jeremy parks the car and I run around the other side to unbuckle Raelynn from her car seat. And that's when I see it.

Looking like a mangy lost dog that hadn't been hosed down in months, MIL comes seemingly out of nowhere. Oh. GOD! Why is she skulking around down our street? Is she just waiting for us? She wants to see Raelynn and I try to force a smile to override the visible scowl I know I'm making. I just can't help it. She bugs me, lurking around our neighborhood. It's just too convenient. But thankfully, my husband tells her I have to take the baby upstairs now because she's really hungry. The downside: we have to have dinner with the old mutt tomorrow. At their house of bad smells and disgusting food. We had to go there the other night so they could show off how they finally got a real toilet. That night, MIL had made the most bland food ever. The only things I found edible were some toasted cashews and a tiny plate of fried shrimp. The other items were: a green cabbage dish cooked in way too much oil with some bay shrimp; a cabbage dish that had been cooked so long it was colorless, swimming in a sea of very unappetizing brown sauce; fried small fish and plain overcooked noodles.

Jeremy kept force-feeding me chunks of the fried fish, which was absolutely atrocious. Why they think this fish - the kind I'd use for bait when I'd go fishing - is so delicious, I will never know. It is just as bland as MIL's personality. I like fish but not this kind. The way she cooks it makes it so dull and tasteless. Blah. Before we left, MIL, noticing that I'd eaten very little, decided to fry up some chicken wings, which she actually makes quite well. Why she didn't just do that from the beginning I'll never know. Does she forget every single time that I despise the small fried fish she serves? That I grimace when I see her overcooked vegetables drowning in unpalatable sauces? Just like MIL herself, her cooking is totally for the dogs.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Pigs Are Flying!

From one of my all-time favorite episodes of The Simpsons, "Homerpalooza." "You're damned right I'm going to be pissed off! I bought that pig at Pink Floyd's yard sale!" - Peter Frampton.

OMG you guys! You'll never believe it. I almost didn't either. I thought this would never happen. But today, pigs were a-flying!

First, I'll start by saying my husband backed me up when it came to his parents being too intrusive. Whatever he said worked because I did not have to see those 2 morons for almost a full 2 weeks. It. Was. Bliss. Oh, the simple things in life I tell ya!

Second, and speaking of simple things, and simple things belonging to those with simple minds, my in-laws finally stopped being such cheapskates and actually had a REAL toilet AND a REAL sink installed in the bathroom. NOFUCKINGWAY!

In case you never read my post from about this time last year, or you need to refresh your memory because you're burnt, go here to check that out. As I've stated before, my in-laws pick THE stupidest things to be cheap about and then they will spend way too much money on something they shouldn't have like a stroller that weighs more than a pickup truck. Or ugly clothes and shoes for the baby. Or ugly jewelry for the baby. Oh man, I could go on and on ALLLLLLLLLLLLLL night telling you about the shit they buy that is a waste of money. But ask them to spend money on something important like a fully-functioning bathroom and it's like the most insane suggestion ever to them.

Until now. I don't know what changed their minds. Maybe they wanted to make sure that once Raelynn is potty-trained, she can use the bathroom easily. Maybe they were sick of me scowling at them and complaining whenever I had to use their disgusting bathroom. Maybe my husband finally got it through their thick skulls that it adds more value to their home. Whatever the reason, it no longer resembles an outhouse in some remote village where people use goats as currency. Come and see!

First, let's take a look at how the bathroom sink used to look:
Remember that? You gotta love the upside down plastic bottle to serve as some sort of makeshift piping that allows the water to drop down into that bucket beneath it.

And now, presenting the new and improved sink! Ta da! You'll notice it no longer has a large bucket underneath it to catch the water after it goes down the drain. That's right. It's a legit sink! Who knew! Of course, please note the container of bar soap to the right of the faucet. It is also pictured above on the cracktastic sink they had before. I do not know what the hell kind of soap that is but let me just tell you it fucking smells like burning tires. It is so vile. It is the only soap I have ever used that actually makes me feel dirtier after using it.

Next up, the toilet. Let's take a look at the old one, shall we?
The old toilet looked like it had never been cleaned even once. I should also mention that it was so nasty the last time I saw it that I seriously contemplated going outside to find a bush to squat and pee into because it was so beyond filthy, I didn't even want to go near it. The bucket of water with the scoop next to the toilet was how you would flush it - just scoop some water and toss it into the toilet. How fun! As you can see from the next photo, there was no flusher on this craptacular crapper either...
So are you ready to see the new toilet? No? Too fucking bad. Give a drum roll please, for the real, very flushable, very white and clean TOILET!

I wonder how long it will take for this thing to become as dirty and frightful as the old toilet. Probably not long since my in-laws never use cleaning products on anything. Seeing as I'm on vacation, my husband thinks it's a perfect time for us to go over there once a week for dinner so I'll keep watch for any developing stories in the can.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

It's Like Prison, But With Trophies!

Late last night, while I was perusing my news feed on Facebook, I noticed that a friend I once worked with posted a photo of themselves posing with a trophy in front of the logo of the company we had worked at together. This wouldn't be very noteworthy if not for the fact that I suddenly realized, "My God! Poor so-and-so STILL works in the seventh circle of hell! By Jove!" I shook my head sadly, realizing that I'd left those days behind over 4 years ago now.

A short while later, another friend of mine, also stuck at the same company, posted a similar photo of themselves. And then another friend. And another. You poor bastards. You will be working that job 10 years after you die!

Not one to marvel alone, I noticed that Aaaron, one of my best friends who had also had the pleasure of working at this company, was online. So I sent him an IM about it. For the life of us, we couldn't figure out what this trophy was for. It wasn't one of the coveted Addy awards. "Hockey?" Aaron suggests, but I tell him there is nothing even remotely hockey-esque about the trophy in the photos. And then it hits me! It's a ball and chain for being tethered to their desks for the remainder of time and beyond! Stupid us!

"I can't believe people still work there!" I tell him. "WHY!!!!!"
"Right?!? I'm just amazed that they are STILL THERE!" Aaron writes back.

Day in, day out, these poor unfortunate souls are still dragging themselves out of bed to work at a place that treats its employees with only slightly more dignity than Chinese factory workers. Now, I'm not saying I regret working there. I learned many things and met some fantastic people. But I will say that I truly felt trapped working there, especially after that fateful September 11th. We can make fun of China all we want but the fact is I'm not trapped here. If I hate my job, I can walk out and find another one. But back at this stage in my life, I feared I would be stuck there forever. A lifer.

And that's what these former coworkers have become. Lifers. "That place is just like prison, but with trophies," I declare. A real Hotel California. We finally made a break for it, escaping with what little shred of sanity we still possessed. It was the shred we clung desperately to during our sentences there as we sought out new ways to make serving our time more tolerable.

Like what we came to call the "Trog Tours." It all started innocently enough, about 10 years ago, as Aaron and I became rather inebriated on the couch of the apartment I shared with my loser du jour, Dan. I turned to Aaron and asked him the following question, one that to this very day incites peels of laughter at its mentioning: "Have you ever noticed that the people they hired to staff our old department are the ugliest bunch of people you could ever assemble together all in one place at the same time?"

I know, I know. I'm such a horrible bitch. It was true though. As I recall, it was a good 45 minutes to an hour before either of us could even remotely stop laughing. We'd started out working on the same team and through promotions we'd been upgraded from the common peasants to loftier positions on different teams. That meant our old department needed new employees. Now, if they were even remotely talented, I would have stopped right there. But I swear they found these people popping each others' ass zits at a truck stop restroom. They were so unsightly that it soon became a thing, with our friend and fellow former employee, Luis, serving as a tour guide of sorts, leading a cluster of other employees who inhabited the third floor offices down into the dregs of the creative department below them. We'd watch with great amusement and delight as he led them in through one door and then, several minutes later, reemerge from another door with each group abuzz about the ugliness they had just seen. "Wow! You weren't kidding! Those ARE really ugly people!" I remember hearing one person exclaim. And thus, the Troglodyte, or Trog for short, Tours were born. They should have given out trophies to the ugly people, but perhaps the fear of their ugliness reflecting off the trophies in some sort of kaleidoscopic effect prevailed in the end.

In any event, here's to the lifers still chiseling their license plates and attempting to squeeze blood from stones. May you one day break on through to the other side.
This is a very ancient photo of Aaron and me, circa 2005 or 2006, back when we were still working at the advertising sweatshop.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Half Baked

Yesterday, I mentioned that I was baking a gluten-free chocolate cake. I bet you're all hanging on the edge of your seats wondering how that hot mess turned out. Yeah, right. Well, for the 2 of you that were actually wondering (and I'm guessing one of those people is Kimmy who actually bought us the gluten-free cake mix), here you go:

I must say that I was really skeptical about how this cake would turn out. For one, the package of the mix had called for a tablespoon of lemon juice which I found highly unusual for a chocolate cake. Still, I followed the recipe precisely. I took a taste of the batter. It was weird, almost like when I used to bake special brownies way back when in my foolish days of yore. But not quite that weird and certainly not with any hallucinogenic effects.

I tried to make some cupcakes but I don't have a muffin tin so they came out looking a bit wonky. Hey, don't laugh. I should have known better but I read a tip on Pinterest that suggested you could make cupcakes take any shape of whatever pan they were in if you grouped them together. Yeah, that doesn't work. Or at least it didn't for me. I'll be bugging my husband for a muffin tin, but until then, go ahead and laugh at these wonktacular things:

So, I came up with a plan B, and that was to actually just make a whole cake. And that came out much more attractively:
So how did it taste? I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised. Despite the odd taste of the batter, the cake itself baked into an extremely scrumptious dessert. If I didn't know it was gluten-free, I'd be shocked if someone told me after I took a bite of it. It's moist and chocolatey. I'm impressed. And so is Raelynn. I'll end with a picture of her and her chocolate-crusted face, which you'd have to be made of stone to not "SQUEEEE!" when you see her. Enjoy!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to you all from the Qu Family! xoxo

This is just a quick post to wish you all a very happy new year, filled with good health and good wealth. Say, you're right. I AM in a great mood. Why? Because I cleaned my house the other day and it is STILL clean. That's because my in-laws haven't come over. I had to go there just before the new year to celebrate my FIL's birthday and then we went again the other night because they bought a dining table *gasp* and paid 2,000 yuan for it plus 4 chairs and a non-wonky stand for the TV. Of course, they HAD TO show it off. Look how much we paid for our stupid table, chairs and TV stand but we won't even think of getting a real toilet! And then I told my husband enough's enough. This is my vacation and I want at least one week without having to see either one of them. So far, my dreams are coming true. I am spending the day with my adorable daughter who needed a nap from all our play time. When she wakes, we'll color and eat what will hopefully be a tasty cake. I say "hopefully" because it is a gluten-free mix, courtesy of Phillip and Kimmy. The batter tasted a little odd when I popped it into the oven. It called for a tablespoon of lemon juice. Maybe that was what contributed to the weirdness, as in all my baking adventures, I've never once seen a cake mix that calls for lemon juice. Unless it's a lemon cake. But this one is chocolate. Hmmm...

In any event, at least it smells good baking. And I've got plenty of frosting to top it with once it has cooled. Stay tuned for the results! I can only hope every day of my vacation is this blissful. Sure, I'll get out a bit some days, but for today, it's just wonderful to be snuggled up indoors where it's warm. And clean. When we went to Metro the other day, they had a huge sale on Tide refills. I'd been bugging my husband for Tide but every time, he goes with the cheapest laundry detergent. This time, it WAS the cheapest. After running a load yesterday, Jeremy couldn't believe how incredibly clean and soft all the clothes were. And that smell! Ahhh! Heaven! No way my house smells like luo bo now! If my in-laws did come over, they'd probably drop to the floor much like insects do when you give them a good wallop of bug spray, crippled from the clean. When we went to their house for dinner the other night, the floors were so nasty - even after FIL "mopped" right in front of us - that the feet of Raelynn's black stockings were dusty and crusty. Ugh. Oh, and if you know someone is coming to your house with a small child, wouldn't you put away the knife you use to cut up fruit? No, you'd leave it out on the coffee table where she can get it, of course! And leave scissors in reach too! No wonder Raelynn likes going over there!

Anyway, here's to a new year, and hopefully less time with annoying in-laws! Huzzah!