Monday, November 2, 2015

The New World

Is it really true? Could I fiiiiiiinally be updating the blog after all this time? Yes, it's really happening, so quit pinching yourself and read up.

So what took me so long?
Well, for starters, I had to relocate my whole family. Give that a try sometime. Seriously, I'm stunned that we made it through all of the things that we had to go through to get to this point. You don't realize just how many little things you've got to do to simply START getting settled. I won't bore you with the minutia of that, at least not now though that might be a useful and informative post for some of my readers so I might just put that on the docket to do later. I had to take care of EVERYTHING because I was the US citizen bringing my immigrant husband over. Now that we're more set up,things are getting easier.

So what's been happening?
Jeremy got a job right away, lucky for us. And we got Raelynn into the VPK we wanted. Thanks to the insane cost of daycare though, I'm relegated to being a stay-at-home freelance writer, mommy, chauffeur, chef, seamstress, police officer, shopper, coupon clipper, maid and homemaker. That's an awful lot to put on my LinkedIn profile, so I usually stick to freelance writer. It's really different but much more enjoyable than I ever thought possible. One day, my kids will be grown and I can get back out into the rat race. Until then, I'll save us money by making whatever I can and not having it go directly to paying daycare fees.

Now, I'd like to answer the most common questions I get asked now that I am back:
1) How does Jeremy like America?
Sadly, while I'd hoped to make a sister blog to this blog (and much thanks to my friend Erin and her husband, Will, for their incredibly clever suggestion of "Return of the Broad (and her brood abroad)") I just don't have enough time to devote to writing something that I'm not getting paid to do. So I'll just be keeping this blog and hopefully updating it more often. Anyway, to answer, Jeremy loves it here. He loves how clean and peaceful it is. He loves the choices and freedoms and he's happy every day because he loves it here. He enjoys his job too.

2) How about Raelynn and Seoul? Do they like it?
Well, duh! My kids adore it here as much as Jeremy does. Quite honestly, it's awesome to watch the 3 of them experience things for the first time here. Like going to a fair at the park or celebrating Halloween. Seoul is a pretty happy baby so she seems to like everything (except when she meets her hero, a bird, in person and then flips out...). Raelynn is old enough to understand what's happened and thus seems to really enjoy the new things she encounters. When we first got to the US, I took Raelynn to the bathroom at a bank. As I'm helping her, she says, "Mommy, I love American bathrooms." I couldn't stop laughing, yet I agreed completely. You have no idea how refreshing toilets with real stalls and sinks with real soap are unless you've spent time living in China. NO IDEA.

3) What did you miss the most?
Aside from family and friends, I missed the freedoms most people here take for granted every day. I missed all the choices. The fresh, clean air. I even missed Florida itself, especially the nature and wildlife that just randomly passes by you each day. In Sanford, we always see cranes walking around the medians on the roads or in parking lots and it really takes my breath away. Of course, I also really missed the food here, which became too obvious after about a month of making up for lost time. Now I'm attending to that by hitting the gym 4 days a week.

4) Is there anything that's very different to you?
Oh yes. Like, everything. Everyone uses a smartphone for everything, and I'm no exception to that now. When I want or need to really write something though, I have to use my laptop because typing on such a small surface (plus autocorrect which likes to inject its' own zest here and there) drives me mad. Also, ATMs are so much more modern. And chip technology on your cards! I am always swiping when I should be inserting and vice versa. Prices. Things have gone up a bit since I was home last, except for gas. I couldn't believe how expensive IHOP was. I remember when a big breakfast with pancakes was $4.50. Now it's like $8. For IHOP! Jesus!

5) What's a typical day like for you now?
It's such a change from my old teaching job, which I do miss. But I'm much happier back in America and holding my many job titles mentioned above. We have only one car at this point so I'm in charge of driving everyone around. Jeremy's job is very close to our home, as is Raelynn's school, so it's not too annoying. We drop Jeremy off at work before 9am and then Seoul and I take Raelynn to school. If we have errands to run (post office, bank, supermarket or some place else) I usually get those done right after we drop her off. Seoul's a perfect companion most days. I've tried taking both girls in the afternoon and Raelynn gets upset about stuff I won't buy her at the supermarket, screaming and crying until I wish that a sinkhole would swallow me whole. I do a lot of coupon clipping as well as seek out rebates on my phone through various rebate apps, so some days, like today, I'll go to 2 different stores to get the groceries I need. If I'm not out stocking our pantry or handling our affairs, then I work on chores around the house and the best part, play with Seoul. We go get Raelynn around noon and then I fix us lunch. I put Seoul down for a nap after lunch, and when I'm done with that, I sit down with Raelynn to help her with her homework. Once she's busy with that, if I have any freelance projects, I get busy on those while Seoul sleeps and my writing juices are running. Once Seoul wakes up, I'll read to her and Raelynn. We'll also eat fruit or some kind of snack. Then when they're busy playing, I start getting dinner organized. Some nights, I make sure it is completely ready before we pick up Jeremy so that I can dash off to the gym once I get everyone home. Other nights, we eat together as a family. I bathe the kids and Jeremy cleans up the kitchen and the dishes. We have story time and most nights, Jeremy will call his parents on the video messenger on qq (a Chinese app, much like Skype meets Facebook). After that, I get Seoul to bed and Jeremy makes sure Raelynn gets ready for bed. Once Seoul's asleep, Raelynn will be waiting for me to come kiss her goodnight. Then Jeremy and I enjoy some time alone together without the kids interrupting our conversations. We talk about our days and watch TV. Sometimes we enjoy some wine and cheese, a perfect ending.

6) Does Jeremy miss his parents?
Of course he does! He worries a lot too because unfortunately, soon after we arrived in America, his father's health problems were becoming more of an issue. He was at high risk for a stroke and I told him he needed to change his diet and take blood thinners but he didn't listen. He wound up in the hospital again for about 2 weeks. He's doing much better now, but every time Jeremy calls them and they don't answer, he thinks the worst.

7) Do YOU miss his parents?
And this of course would be the most popular question. The one thing everyone wants to know. So? No, I don't miss them but since we've come  here, I like them more. Much as I suspected. MIL's voice annoys me much less coming through the qq app. I made peace with MIL right before we moved too. Maybe it was all the baijiu I'd drank at a dinner his relatives took us all to the weekend we moved. Or maybe I finally realized she wasn't going to impede us from leaving. But it felt good to leave with a clean slate. You might think we wish we had her to watch the kids so I could take an office job too, but no. If they were here, I'd be even busier than I am now. Which is insane to imagine, tbh.

I am going to try to be more on top of this blog so I can tell you all about our first Halloween in the US, what it's like to make an international move with 2 small children (spoiler alert: it sucks but the end result is worth it), and much much more.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Guest Post - Top 10 Do's and Don'ts When Learning Mandarin Chinese

Hello from the good ol' USA! I owe you guys LOTS of posts, I know, I know. But it's been really hectic over here with apartment and job hunting and everything in between we've been doing to get settled in. I am still hoping to make a new sister blog about how Jeremy's handling life in America but that's just going to have to wait until the dust settles more.

In any event, you may recall this guest post from a while back from Learn Mandarin Now and thanks to them, you now have some new reading material. Enjoy, and I hope I'll have a chance to post something more soon.

From Learn Mandarin Now:

Learning Mandarin Chinese is one of the most popular things to do in the world today, and more and more people are taking up the challenge.

Naturally, the ways to learn the language can vary and may include on-line learning, in classes or via one-to-one tuition. Similarly, the reasons for such study will depend on the individual and may be for career advancement, to challenge one’s abilities or simply as you enjoy the sounds and rhythm of the language.

In any event, as part of our continuing efforts to help you with learning better Mandarin Chinese, we at Learn Mandarin Now are always looking for ways to bring you new ideas, tips and suggestions—and, hence, we devised and wrote this Infographic:

We believe that, if you are really serious about learning Mandarin Chinese, it’s well worth learning something about Chinese culture; plus, find out about some do’s and don’ts. In our view, not only will this give you a greater insight into the language but also, perhaps, prevent you from getting yourself into potentially awkward situations!

After reading through our Infographic, if you want to know more about How to learn Chinese take some time to read about the results of a recent extensive survey we undertook, and get some top tips and advice from others in a similar situation to you.

Have fun and learn well—you might be surprised at how quickly you start to learn Mandarin Chinese once you get going!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow...

After 4 years at KISQ, tomorrow will be my final day teaching there. Or teaching anywhere, because I'm seeking employment opportunities that focus on writing as I go into my future in America. I certainly don't regret this little hiatus to teach. I'm stronger for having done this. But teaching was never an official, permanent career change. It just was a way to be useful in the world. I got so much more out of it than that too.

I began teaching in Seoul as a means to an end. It was just easy pay. If you're good with grammar and spelling, it's an absolute cakewalk. Honestly though, I've seen people with lousy English skills teaching while I've been in Asia. I think many schools are just happy to have a native English speaker to stand in front of classrooms and look the part.

For me, it was more than looking the part. Sure, I went into it for a paycheck. But as I come out of it, I realize how much I've gained from this experience.

I taught children how to read, which is probably one of the things I will always treasure the most deeply about teaching. I remember a few years ago, I had a boy named Tony in my class. He was struggling to read when I first met him. I worked with him, patiently teaching him to sound out each word. And suddenly, like a bird taking flight, off he went. He went on to become one of my strongest readers. I had many like him who suddenly blossomed into fluency. Watching my kids get it was one of the best feelings I ever had while teaching.

I taught children how to remember the often randomly insane rules of phonics in my native English. I made them laugh while I did so, hoping that it would help them crack the code with every new word they'd learn. And when they'd read new words I'd never taught them without missing a beat, I knew I'd gotten through to them and it made me feel proud.

I gave these kids my all, every day. And as I get ready to leave, I realize they gave me so much too. They showed me that I could really be kind and patient. That I could really cut my own finger with the scissors and NOT shout out a profanity (I am still amazed by that one).  That I should always find the opportunity to smile and laugh. That sharing is love. That we should always make time to play. That teachers make fun monsters on the playground. That the stuff we learn in the books isn't all they learn from me - it's my speech patterns and my informal lingo that they love to mimic the most (beware: there are a bunch of Korean kids who now happily go about using "dude" and "bro" and "you must chill!" in daily conversation).

I've had 4 different classes over these last 4 years. The first group of children is now in  4th grade. Because living abroad is a transient experience as families will come and go like the changing tides, many of the children I had in my first year at KISQ are gone. Five of them are still there though. One of them, Wendy, said hello to me today in the cafeteria, as she often does. I looked at her and nearly cried. She was so tall now, and even more beautiful than she was as a kindergarten child. I couldn't believe that she was getting close to being my height! Her English was fairly good when she was small. Now it's excellent. I wish her well and tell her how lovely it's been to watch her grow up, and then I tell her I'm moving away. She looks sad too and I realize I must keep a smile on my face and not cry. God. I'm going to cry. No, not here. I can't. Somehow, I get away before my tears betray me.

Somewhere in the middle of all this, I did find out more of who I am by teaching these children. I found a reason to be proud of myself. Sure, I survived in advertising but could any of those people be strong enough to suddenly uproot their lives and move to two different countries to do a completely different job from what they'd ever done before? I learned I could adapt. I learned I could work with people from different backgrounds who didn't even speak the same first language as me. I learned what it was like to be responsible for something so much more important than words on papers designed to motivate people to buy something.

Through all my classes, this year has been my favorite. I started with 9 children. Two of them left within the first 3 weeks due to an issue with the school's bus pickup times. Then I was left with 7. I've always had at least 15 children each semester. Having so few was really a nice way to end my time teaching here. In a smaller group like this, I had more opportunity to work with each of my students to help them improve where they needed strengthening. And we all got to know each other better overall. So maybe that's why it's so hard to say goodbye to this bunch.

Last week, Jinny parted with us as her family moved back to Korea. Today, we said goodbye to Chris, who will be moving down to Shanghai. And now tomorrow, I will say goodbye to Ann, Jaeseo, Rachael, Jason and Joy. I've known Ann, Rachael and Jason since they were only 4 years old, when they were in the baby class.

I'm so excited for our move to the US in just a few days. It's something I've wanted for so long but of course, parting is such sweet sorrow for the wonderful relationships I've created over here from my friendships with other teachers, the few friends I've got out here still (and the ones who are already back in their home countries who I still stay connected to and my darling students who kept me feeling young and in turn, will stay forever young in my heart. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Things I Can't Unsee

Less than 2 weeks before we move and things are getting INSANE around here. I just realized it's been about 10 days since my last post and I have inadvertently kept you all waiting about my reader poll. I just want to thank those of you that contacted me with your votes and other suggestions. You rock! I will debut the new blog with a new name once I'm back in America. For now, you'll just have to wait and see what I've decided as I'm busy packing and looking for jobs online but I had to take a break to tell you all about this.

Have you ever seen something and then promptly wished you could rip out your eyes, burn them and replace them with new eyes in hopes that the image you just saw will be washed from your memory? Or perhaps you go share it with someone because nothing helps more than spreading some grossness around, amirite? Of course I am! So enter, if you dare, into my Hall of Things You Can't Unsee!

Now, because we're leaving so soon, I'm stuck with my in-laws constantly in my face. I've never been so relieved to go to work each day so that I don't have to be trapped with them. But on weekends, which normally should be my quiet and peaceful time with Jeremy and the children, my chimp-like in-laws come trampling over at 8am to make us food I don't want to eat and let Raelynn act like a brat. I'm trying not to let it aggravate me too much since we'll be on our way to America hopefully before I completely lose my mind. Though sometimes, they make things even more difficult for me to refrain from flipping out.

Like when my FIL came over on Saturday and then proceeded to grab MY Miami Dolphins cup that I ALWAYS use off the table and drink MY green tea from it. Yes, really. I had to resist the urge to vomit. Has he done this before? Oh. My. God. Please tell me this is the first time he's drank from my drink. "Zhe shi wo de," I say, trying not to sound so shrill but I am straining so hard not to scream it truly hurts me. "Oh oh, wo zhe dao," he replies "I know" to my "that's mine." I hurry to the kitchen to make him his very own teapot full of tea and bring it to him, with a glass for him to use. While he's distracted with that, I go to disinfect my glass and make myself fresh, non-FIL-contaminated tea.

MIL of course is busy wrecking my kitchen which I gave up on about a month ago. I have no time to clean up after that woman anymore. She's taking over this dump and it's just easier to let Jeremy exhaust himself picking up after her. I wonder how he will react when he sees my parents' open-plan kitchen. Even simple things like a garbage disposal will likely entertain him. Me too, because over here, we've got sink traps. They're essentially metal cups with small holes in them to strain out the water. When you wash your dishes, any bits of food get collected into the sink traps. When they fill up, you just empty the traps into the garbage and all is well and good again. Of course, any sane person would use plastic dish washing gloves for this task. But MIL being MIL gives me such a treat as I walk into the kitchen. I watch in helpless horror as she sticks her BARE HANDS into the sink trap, digs out the clumps of food and tosses it into the garbage. Then, to make it even more disgusting, she rinses her hands ever-so-briefly with cold water and dries them on the dirty rag she uses to wipe down everything, and continues cooking. God. Help. Me.

I try to explain to Jeremy who is also disturbed by this but pats my leg reassuringly and reminds me that this is why he doesn't like to go out to Chinese restaurants because the old people that work there do stuff like this too. I'm not sure how this is supposed to make me feel any better.

After the meal, which I haven't eaten much of, I go put Seoul down for a nap. As I rock her to sleep in my lap, I stare off into the fish tank in front of me. I'm humming a Pink Floyd song and zoning out on the fish as they swim around, thinking about all the tasks before me: packing, finding work, where to live, enroll Raelynn in school, pediatrician, driver's license renewal...and as it all swirls around in my brain like a cyclone, Seoul drifts off to sleep. Ah, now that's a nice sight. A sleeping baby. I smile and then I make the mistake of looking up at the fish. And that's when I see one fish swim up to the butt of another one and eat poop right out of it. GOD NO.

So yeah. I told you so! But hey, I'll help you cleanse your eyes by leaving you with this very darling picture of our sweet Seoul, who will be turning one shortly after we arrive in the US. My how it's flown! Yay Seoul! We love you!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Goodbye, Car!

This weekend, Jeremy sold our car. I didn't expect to feel so sad about it. After all, I was the one who didn't even want him to drive here in the first place. We've been through a lot with that car. It's become like a member of our family. One that I will miss more than my husband's parents.

Jeremy went with a buyback program at a dealership. They offered him a fair amount for it and agreed to pick it up on Monday. That gave us an extra day with the car. So we decided to say goodbye to it.

I've had 3 cars in my life so far. The first one was my 1993 Saturn SC1 which I had for 8 years until a drunk driving loser smashed into it. Lucky to be alive, I then bought a 2001 Nissan Sentra. And my last car was my favorite...a 2006 Pontiac G6 V6. I loooooooooooooved that car.

But this 2008 Chevy Aveo was Jeremy's first car. His face says it all - all his hopes for the future and all his sorrow for saying goodbye. It is oddly difficult to bid adieu to cars, isn't it?

We decided to take our special red car (as Raelynn had nicknamed it) to Metro one last time. That way, we could also say goodbye to Metro. For better or worse, it's been the supermarket we've frequented the most during our time here.

We bought wine and cheese, green tea ice cream, cereal, bread, yogurt and a few other essentials that we'd need over the next 20 days. It was strangely uncrowded, which was a plus. But despite it being mid-June, the air conditioning was not on. Add that to the list of things I won't miss about living abroad in Asia. Sigh.

Raelynn got a sample of yogurt but accidentally dropped the small plastic spoon they gave her through the bottom of the cart. Sorry kid...maybe you can try to slurp it out somehow but we're not giving you a spoon that fell on the dirty floor. Yuck!

Jeremy poses for a photo to commemorate our last time in Metro because I didn't slap on any make-up and was not about to document that by taking a picture. At least this face is happier than the one he was making by the car. Maybe because he's happy it wasn't crowded and the lines were short. Or maybe he's thinking that he doesn't care it's our last time at Metro because I've told him so much about Publix.

In any event, goodbye Metro. We will miss you, but not as much as we'll miss our special red car. And to our special red car, thanks for making our days in Qingdao a lot more convenient. We hope your next owner comes to love you as much as we have and that if they have any children, they will not get as many crumbs in you as Raelynn did.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

My Husband's Twin

I can't believe I never posted about this!

We've had these foam blocks since Raelynn was a baby. Now Seoul enjoys playing with them. But all of us enjoy laughing at one of the pictures that happens to be on the block that has "D." I swear to you, the picture looks like Jeremy.

You be the judge! See for yourself!
We've always said it's "D" for "Dada" which is just perfect. You can see the duck on there too. "D" for "duck." So there. You see? It MUST be "D" for "Dada" then.

Jeremy doesn't completely agree with Raelynn and me, but he is a good sport about it.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Oh No You Don't!

My husband the comedian says this to me last night:
"I want my mom to immigrate to America in the future."

No. No. No.

He can't be serious. Can he?
Oh but yes. He is. Why in the world is saying stupid stuff like this? Men are such idiots.

In the morning, I'm still homicidal.
"You're still angry?" he asks. My Drew-Barrymore-Firestarter-stare must have given me away. He implores me to calm down. That it's something we can discuss again when we are settled in America.

Yes, time is on my side. And I'll buy as much of it as I can to keep those parents of his from coming over permanently.

I kept stewing in my rage so I decided to look online to see what I could find out. Had anyone else been in this situation before? And thankfully, I discovered that I can't be responsible for his moron parents. They're not MY immediate relatives. So I can't bring them over. Oh darn. Yes, that was a heavy layer of sarcasm coating that statement.

Even though I can't get them a permanent resident visa, there is one person who can. Their own son. Yes, my husband can do it. But not while he's a green card holder. He needs to become a full-fledged US citizen first. And that will be lots of paperwork, money and time. Plus, he'll have to prove he has enough money to support those two before they will grant his parents green cards.

I don't like my in-laws. You know this. I don't want anything bad to happen to them though, despite how much I despise them. I really don't. But just because I don't wish any ill will on them does not mean I want to dote on them. I did not work this hard to get out of here and get my husband and daughters into a better place just to have tthem tag along. Maybe that sounds selfish but I don't want to waste my earnings on 2 people who are old and aren't going to accomplish anything else in their lives. The money we make should be spent making our daughters' lives the best we can make them.

I'm fine with them visiting or us going to visit them. I'm fine with sending them money. Even though they have money. Fine. But I'm not in any way, shape or form down with this.

I know that getting all worked up about something that's not even happening yet isn't helpful either. I just had to vent though to get it out of my system. And now that I feel a bit better, I will be praying that this idiotic idea of my husband's never ever comes into fruition.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Reader Poll! Please Vote!

Unless it's your first time visiting my blog, or you're as dense as my in-laws, we're moving to America in less than a month. Wow. It's occurred to me that once we get there, I won't be a broad abroad anymore. So what will I be?

Don't freak...I will still write updates about my in-laws and weird Chinese news on this blog. BUT! I will be starting a new blog chronicling our new lives back in the US. I'll write about things like what it's like to repatriate, and of course, I'll be documenting everything Jeremy finds weird or interesting too.

Which brings me to my current conundrum...what do I call this new sister blog?

I have 2 ideas:
1) The Repatriated Broad (and her husband abroad)
2) The Martian and the Alien

The 2nd title stems from my feeling like I might be out of place like a martian as I return home, and the alien is my now legal alien husband. The 1st title is much more self-explanatory.

So now I turn to you, my wonderful readers. Should I call it "The Repatriated Broad (and her husband abroad)" or "The Martian and the Alien"? Or, do you have a suggestion you think is even better?

Tell me please, in the comments below, on my A Broad Abroad Facebook page, or even hit me up on Twitter along with #NameMyBlog tacked on there. Thanks for your help!

Monday, June 1, 2015

All I Really Want - UPDATED!

Knowing that we'll be in the US soon makes enduring the food here easier. Even though Jeremy is an excellent chef, there are times when I have simply had my fill of Chinese food and need something that is comfort food by MY standards.

So now, I got to thinking about all the things I can't wait to sink my teeth into when we get there. Here's my ultimate wish list. I'd tell my Mom to take note but I can pretty much bet she's thought of everything on here. None of this will surprise her in the slightest. I can see her saying, "Well, DUH, Jennifer!" Thanks, Mom! I love you!

Jennifer's American Foodie Dreams:

Key lime pie. A whole one. Not so I can eat the whole thing but so my husband can see what he's been missing his whole life.
Conch fritters.
Stone crabs.
Crab cakes.
Chocolate chip pancakes from IHOP. With whipped cream and strawberry syrup on top. And a side of hashbrowns.
Mozzarella sticks.
A roast beef sandwich.
Corned beef on rye.
A reuben.
All kinds of deli meats piled high on rye. Or challah. Or both. With cheese. And good mustard. 
An everything bagel, toasted, with chive cream cheese, chopped onions, capers and smoked salmon.
Home fries.
Biscuits and gravy.
A cheese platter with all kinds of cheeses on it (especially brie and Gorgonzola).
Gorgonzola burgers.
Guacamole. Guacamole. GUACAMOLE!!!!
Nachos from Moe's with extra guacamole.
Burritos from Chipotle with, you guessed it, extra guacamole.
Carrot cake.
Tuna salad from Stuart Fine Foods (or whatever they call it now...oh's STILL there I hope, yes?).
An Italian Special sub from LaSpada's if we go down to Ft. Lauderdale. If not, Publix Boars Head version please.
Pizza from the little place down the street from my folks'.
A Mexican fiesta, or at the very least, a meal at the awesome Mexican place by my parents' house.
EVERYTHING my mom cooks, especially her Boursin chicken and prime rib roast. Oooh! And her chicken noodle soup. Oooh! Oooh! And her lasagna! And brisket! And meatloaf! *drool*
Barbecue. Burgers, steaks, chicken...the works. American-style.
Bloody Mary's.
Gin and tonics.
Little Debbie Swiss Cake Rolls. Oatmeal pies. The zebra cakes. Oh God. One of everything, please.
Broccoli and cheese soup.
French onion soup.
Lobster bisque.
Publix subs. Especially the chicken tender sub.
Ben & Jerry's Phish Food. And Half Baked. And any of those new ones with the cores of awesomeness in them, especially if the core is caramel.
Arby's. Beef n' cheddar. Curly fries. Horsey sauce. Jamocha shake.
Hot off the line glazed donuts from Krispy Kreme.
Dunkin Donuts. Chocolate glazed and Boston cream.
Potato skins.
Buffalo wings. With bleu cheese dressing. And bacon cheese fries with a side of ranch.
Bar food...onion rings, jalapeno poppers and all that fried nonsense.
A Nathan's hot dog with sauerkraut and mustard.
Chili! With cheese on top!
Americanized Chinese food - shrimp with lobster sauce, egg foo young, mushu pork, garlic eggplant...what? I said I'm sick of Chinese food here in CHINA. Americanized Chinese food is totally different. I need it. Especially shrimp with lobster sauce.
Italian sausages.
Baked stuffed artichokes. Oh artichokes, how I love thee!
Philly cheese steak.
Gyro. With extra tzatziki sauce.
Miami Subs. It's still around, right?
Cheese ravioli. And tortellini. Lobster ones wouldn't suck either.
And speaking of lobster...
Oh yeah. Boiled. With a side of drawn butter.
Oysters on the half shell.
Fish without bones. I'm so sick of spitting bones out with every bite over here. Gah!
Shrimp cocktail. I miss cocktail sauce!!!! I'd lick it off my own arm if I had it right now.
Those soft sugar cookies with the frosting on them. From Publix.
Pizza rolls and bagel bites!
Boston Market! OMG! Creamed spinach. Mashed potatoes with gravy.
Homemade mac n' cheese. NO BOXES!
Bacon! Bacon! Bacon!
Buttery popcorn. Doritos. Cheetos.

Some of my friends were quick to point out some very wonderful items that I'd stupidly neglected to put on this list. It's not like I haven't thought of them or told Jeremy tales of them but rather, as I was writing this list, I just forgot to put it on there. My apologies Cuban cuisine, because you I do so deeply miss. Black beans and rice. Cuban sandwiches. Cafe con leche. Guava and cheese pastries. Fried plantains. EVERYTHING. OMG. No, I did not forget you in my heart. Just on my list. 

Unlike Hall and Oates, I could go for that. Totally. ALL of that. There's probably more stuff too that I'm forgetting. If you'd been away from your home country for a long time, what would you want to eat? Is there anything in the US that you think I've been missing? Tell me in the comments, either here, on my FB fan page or tweet at me.

Look out, America! Here we come!

Add This To My List

You know, it's not just my in-laws who annoy me here. Other expats can, well, kind of suck. Let's not forget this cow at church. There's plenty more where she came from too. Like this sellout. Urgh.

As we get closer to moving, I put up an ad on one of the email groups for Qingdao. I listed a bunch of crap we're getting rid of along with prices and my contact information. There was a frenzy for our coffee maker and grinder, which I wound up selling to a woman I've known here for a while. I don't see her often but she's genuinely lovely. She was also the 2nd person to email me about being interested in purchasing those items. The first person was only interested if the coffee maker brewed more than 6 cups (it didn't).

Beyond that though, I had some inquiries about some toys. One of my friends will buy some of our toys and my small dumbbells. Another asked for photos but discovered the toys were not suitable for her older boys.

That's all fine and good. But the kicker was one woman who messaged me that she was VERY interested in any children's books we had for sale. It was hard for me to round up all the children's books we won't be taking because Raelynn would come right along and steal them away. I finally managed to do it when the trolls had taken her to their home. After a dinner out on Friday night, Jeremy let Raelynn stay at their house of gross. Let's not get into that. It did wind up being useful for rounding up books and toys from her room unobstructed though.

Anyway, I take photos of some of the books and send them to her. She tells me which ones she wants and I tell her the prices. "Keep them coming!" she tells me. Because we live far, I offered my purchasers the chance to meet me downtown at the Crowne Plaza hotel at noon on Sunday, when church would be finished. My friend buying the coffee maker and grinder arranged to have another mutual friend come pick it up as she was unable to and a nice Russian lady asked if she could meet me there to buy some books from me. Another one asked us to leave a book with a friend of ours and get the money from her.

The lady who wanted the children's books also asked to meet up with us at the hotel.

Then last night, I got a text message from her. She asked if it was possible to meet us before church services because they usually eat and then nap around noon. She said she was available from 6am to 11am. I chuckled a bit. Who the fuck makes plans at 6am? I explained to her that we'd be meeting some other people there to give them the items they wanted to purchase. I told her that if she wanted to meet us before we went in, we could send her a text message when we were on our way. She said that she would do it this way then. And that was the end of that.

Or so I thought.

On Sunday morning, I got another message from her. She told me they decided to go to the beach that morning. Not just any beach but one that was especially far. Even from where we were headed. "Do you live near Shi Lao Ren?" she asks me. Um, no. That is even further from where we live, hence why I offered to meet at Crowne Plaza since that's close to where all the other foreigners live except me of course. Then she hits me with the. "I am going to really try. If not I will come to you this week for sure."

Try? TRY? Are you for real? I am not having my husband lug a big bag of books down to our car in the chance that you drag your butt off the beach to meet me like you ASKED to meet me. We're not a delivery service. You want the books? Come pick them up then. Let's see if you're serious about coming here "for sure."

I'm now severely enraged and so I send her a curt message. Some excerpts:
"Ok please let me know before noon if you can make it. I have 2 small children of my own and can't wait around forever."

After relaying this to Jeremy, I then send this:
"My husband doesn't want to lug the other children's books up and down our stairs if you might not come for them. You are obviously busy today so I will hold the books you requested for you and you can check out what's left later this week or on the weekend."

She wrote back later with an apology and asked if she could come during the week to get the books. Fine. She tells me she has an ayi during the week so it makes it easier for her. An ayi is a nanny, if you were wondering. Anyway, I tell her she'll have to come around 4:30pm. Now she says her husband will come. I should mention she's told me she has a Chinese husband too. Interesting. So will he come? I'm not holding my breath. But at least I don't have to stand around a hotel lobby, wondering if she'll show up while I hold a bag of books and two screaming children.

Why do people suck so much? You want this stuff? Come and get it!

Oh, and if you're wondering, no, we cannot leave the in-laws in charge of this stuff. They would totally mess it up. They'd probably sell the books we're taking with us because they're just that base.

Anyway, here's hoping we can clear out some of our stuff before we move and that the other people we'll deal with won't be so flaky.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Completely Clueless

When you know you're moving away from your moron in-laws, life seems rosier. There's a light at the end of the tunnel. And you tend to overlook some of the annoying things, reasoning with your brain that soon, very soon, you will be flying over 8,000 miles away from them. Of course, my in-laws seem to really want to me go completely insane before we leave that is.

Today, I came home and discovered this...
Yes, that's part of a green bell pepper on our dish drying rack. Why? Lord knows what ever goes through the head troll's empty head except a constant swirl of sawdust.

As I took the baby back into our bedroom, I noticed something less amusing...amongst all the toys in there, there was an open box of Raid plug-in mosquito repellent discs. Really? Because she has absolutely nothing else to play with. Let's give her a freaking box of poison! I holler to MIL and ask her what the hell is up with this being in the crib and she of course blames her idiot husband. OF COURSE! Not that I doubt he's probably the culprit but if you see your nutsy husband giving the baby something unsafe like that, how about telling him NOT to do that? Or taking it away? No, this couldn't possibly occur to MIL because she has such an alarming lack of common sense it's frightening.

But soon I will have the last laugh. It turns out that maybe they don't know quite when we are moving away. Jeremy confessed that he simply told them we were leaving this summer. So that will be interesting. I told him not to tell them until the day we leave. Ha! Bye Felicia!

Monday, May 18, 2015

More Encounters With Crazy People

 This photo is NOT of the crazy woman described in the post. Much thanks to Google for turning up this ge.

Just when I think I can't possibly be more aggravated with being in China, we had an encounter with a truly insane person on Sunday. Remember the crazy lady in the library? This next one just might be even more certifiable.

Church services are now held at the Crowne Plaza. We're still getting used to that but they sell cupcakes there for 10 rmb, which is a pretty sweet deal. In any event, we'd gone to the first floor so I could use the bathroom. It's a long wait if you ever try to use the bathrooms on the same floor as the services. As I went into the bathroom, I asked Raelynn if she needed to go. She said no and stood with Jeremy outside the door. But as the door closed behind me, she shouted to me that she needed to go.

So in she came. I let her go first and then I had her stand outside the stall, which I now regret, so I could go. The stalls are small and I had Seoul strapped to me. The stall doors were wooden with slats in them so I could still keep an eye on her. If I hadn't known Jeremy was right outside, I'd never have just had her stand in front of my door by the sinks. But I had a misplaced sense of safety. As I peed, I heard a woman come in. She began asking Raelynn lots of questions, like how old she was for example. I could tell from her accent that she was Asian even though she spoke English. I called to the woman and told her to please leave my daughter alone. "I'm her mother," I shout but she ignores everything I say. I whip out of the door and the woman is trying to coax Raelynn to go out the door. She's holding the door open and I can see Jeremy outside.

"What is wrong with you?" I shout at the woman. Now I'm furious. She ignores everything I say to her in English and obviously speaks English rather well and she turns to me and speaks in Chinese! What the hell?!? She tells me she was just taking the girl to her father. "That's not your business! I told you to stop bothering my daughter and you kept talking to her!" The woman begins pleading to Jeremy that she was just trying to be nice and this is the thanks she gets.

Jeremy is trying to make her go away. And he tells me it's because she IS crazy. He explains that when he was working at the nearby bank branch selling financial insurance, she came in a lot and she was totally crazy. Well, damn! No duh!

Mental illness is a huge problem in the world, especially here where no one wants to admit anything is wrong. Add to that the hierarchy-style society and you have a lot of messed up people walking around here with no one doing anything to help them because "it would be insulting to them." Yeah. It's sad, but hopefully people here will start catching on that this is a real problem and these are real illnesses that shouldn't be just swept under the rug and ignored.

I learned my lesson though...even if Jeremy IS indeed standing right outside the bathroom door, I will keep Raelynn and Seoul in the stall with me until I'm done. Especially next time we go to the Crowne Plaza. Eek!

Thursday, May 14, 2015


A few evenings a week, my in-laws take Raelynn over to the neighborhood mountain park. They're usually gone for about an hour, returning her to us around 8pm. Which is a little annoying but because we're moving away, I am letting it go. It won't be much longer we have to endure The Stupids. Thank GOD!

When I came home today, I found half of a watermelon sitting on our table. My husband had cut it open last night and wrapped the remainder of it with cling wrap. Now it was sitting out, sans wrap, attracting gnats. Who wants watermelon with gnat corpses? Oh me me me ME! NOT.

She saw me scowl at it and quickly covered it up. Why don't you take the tainted watermelon home and eat it then, if you like leaving food out for insects so much? Dummy.

Then, I went to turn on the satellite TV so Raelynn could watch Nickelodeon while I fed Seoul. And as I go to turn the cable box on, I see, sitting on top of the wires that connect it to the TV in a place the baby can't yet get to (thank GOD!) a gnawed on apple segment that was now rubbery and textured like it had been sitting there ALL day. Please note this was not there when I left for work. I grabbed the offending apple piece, chucked it at the table and just began shouting at the sky. "I hate it here! Gah! I can't wait to move!" Is she trying to make me even more excited about moving away? If so, job well done, though I sincerely doubt that's her intention.

Just after 8pm, as I'm almost about to worry, I can hear Raelynn in the stairwell. So I start to whip open the door. Only FIL and Raelynn are standing right there and he's stupidly rang our loud, noisy ear-splitting doorbell even as the door is opening. Because. He's. A. Total. Idiot. Hello???? Sleeping baby in here! I tell him as nicely as possible the baby is sleeping and he seems confused as to why this is an issue. Or he's just jerk. I'm not really sure about that, but what I am sure about is that very soon, we will be moving away and I won't have to deal with these troglodytes for a good long while at least. Hooray!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

No More Oven Lovin'

 Just so you know, this is NOT our oven. But ours is a toaster oven because in China, it's rare to have a normal-sized oven like we're used to in the US. To look at ours, you couldn't tell it's no longer working so I randomly selected this gem from a Google search.

Thank GOD we are moving soon. Because MIL broke our oven. Seriously. How does one do such a thing? I've no idea. And I suspect she'd have played dumb and denied it if she hadn't been using it to roast some ribs (which Jeremy taught her how to make so they're really good). Somehow, it broke while she was cooking them and she had to use that crazy barbecue setting on the microwave to finish them off. How is it she manages to kill, maim or ruin everything in our home? I have used this oven for the last few years with no problems. And now she starts using it to make her rib things and she breaks it. When this woman visits us in the US, I will not allow her to use my kitchen. NO.

In addition to killing appliances in our home, she simply has to do all she can to kill my good mood. So she stands there in the living room when I come home from work while I'm turning on the satellite TV. It's so quiet in our home that I can't stand it. I've never been the type to endure this kind of silence, even in my younger years. I need sound. But you know what sound I DON'T need? Her (or anyone for that matter) making that sucking noise people make when they have something in between their teeth. AUGH! Can we just make it a universal law that if someone does that in your presence that you can punch them in the throat, free and clear? Let's make that happen!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

My Marvelous Mother's Day

Happy belated Mother's Day to all of my mommy readers out there! I hope you had a wonderful day! For me, I'm still getting used to the fact that I am a mom. This was my first Mother's Day as a mom of 2 kids though. Last year, I was very pregnant with Seoul as we went out for lunch at a nice Italian restaurant. Click here if you'd like to read what I wrote for last Mother's Day. It's got some great old photos!

Anyway, in regards to this Mother's Day, I just want to say that this is, so far, the best Mother's Day I've ever had. Feel free to outdo yourselves next year, Jeremy, Raelynn and Seoul!

What did they do to make me feel so special? Well, let me just tell you that they perfectly figured out what would make me happy.

It all started the night before when Jeremy declared he'd give Raelynn a bath and send her off to bed. And then he picked up the awesomeness again in the morning with Seoul waking at about 5:30am. She does this now, which is rather annoying since, during the work week, I don't need to be up until 5:55am. But she's just so cute. She can't help that she rises with the early-rising sun. So when she woke up, Jeremy took her to Raelynn's room so I could get some more sleep. 30 minutes later though, she was wailing for me. So everyone came back into our room and we had a lovely family snuggle. I really love those precious moments when Jeremy and I can cuddle up with our kids. We laugh and play and soon, Seoul is sleepy and ready for her morning nap. So I put her down for the nap and Seoul gives me her gifts - she falls right asleep and she STAYS asleep. For 2 whole blissful hours. And I get to nap right along with her. And Jeremy keeps Raelynn quiet and busy that entire time so I don't hear a peep. In fact, I sleep so soundly that I am astonished when Seoul wakes and I see how much time has elapsed. I'm amazed.

As if that wasn't a wonderful start to my day, my husband, I discover, is making me breakfast. He made some sort of eggy-crepe-like thing and stuffed it with homemade hash browns. Holy fuck was it delicious! Way to go, Jeremy!

On Sundays, we usually go to church but Jeremy wanted me to relax and not worry about rushing around. So I took my time getting ready to be taken out to lunch. I rummaged through my closet for something I didn't hate, did my hair and makeup and then dressed both my daughters in adorable clothes. We killed some time watching The Take Home Chef on TV and while we did, I had 2 glasses of wine without anyone pestering me. Ahhhhh. Bliss!

For lunch, my sweethearts took me to The Diner. It's a Western restaurant with several locations. Usually we go to the one in May 4th Square but fearing it would be crowded, we chose the location in the Taigu area, near The Canvas, just in case it too was crowded. That way, we'd have plenty of other choices within walking distance. I have always liked The Diner, but I also like The Canvas too. Jeremy has never liked The Canvas though and wasn't up for trying it unless The Diner was a zoo.

But it wasn't. The downstairs was packed but upstairs, there were plenty of open tables. As we sat down, I noticed on a board of specials "Artichoke Pizza." I took it as a sign. We were meant to be there. This was the right choice. See, one of my most favorite things ever in this world are artichokes. Of course, it makes sense that I would also adore it on pizza. So we ordered an artichoke pizza, an appetizer of beef nachos and a burger. Drinks were also buy one, get one. So I got mojitos.

When our nachos came, I thought I'd died and gone to heaven - there was guacamole on them. REAL guacamole! Probably tied with artichokes on my list of favorite things is avocados and guacamole. It was perfect. Soon our pizza and burger came out, and those too were so beyond amazingly delicious. We'd never been disappointed with The Diner on any visit ever, but on this visit, I swear it was the best it's ever been.

Seoul had been happily distracted with a crazy straw. But with food on the table, she wanted a taste too. She's still breastfeeding but we're of course giving her bits of this and that to taste and try. She's had bread and pizza crusts before. I shared some of that with her this time too but she seemed curious about the burger. None of her teeth have poked through yet so I thought the soft burger meat would be perfect. I'm happy to say Seoul is my little American girl. She gobbled up the burger. And potato wedges too!

After all this food, I was stuffed. But Jeremy insisted on ordering the chocolate lava cake for us with 3 spoons. And to make it even sweeter? He took Seoul and held her so I could enjoy the dessert without incident. God was it good!

At dinner time, I was still stuffed from lunch. Jeremy made us a light dinner and did all the dishes too. Yes, the whole day was just one fantastic thing after the next. Probably because my husband knows very well "happy wife, happy life." Thank you, Jeremy! Raelynn and Seoul too! You made me feel relaxed, refreshed, appreciated and so unbelievably happy. I love you all so much!

Monday, May 11, 2015

They Know

I thought I'd mentioned it in one of my recent posts but a quick glance through them tells me that I neglected to write about it after all. What is that crazy broad abroad talking about now? Why, I'm talking about how my husband didn't tell his parents when we were moving away. Yes, really.

Jeremy told them that he was issued a visa to the US. He told them we needed to be inside the US before the date on the visa. But he did not tell them WHEN that would be. Even after we booked and paid for the flight, he still didn't tell them. He was putting it off, trying to figure out when he'd say something. Surely, they had to have an inkling.

But this weekend, after packing up 2 of our suitcases (leaving me to wonder how the heck to fit the rest of our crap in the remaining 4 suitcases, but that's a story for another time...), we had nowhere to put those heavy badboys. We shoved them out of the center of the floor but it's quite obvious the process of moving has begun for us. So Jeremy manned up and told them when we're leaving.

And MIL seems cool with it. They will come live in this apartment when we're gone because all the appliances are better. And we have internet that we paid for already. We'll get them a new computer so we can Skype with them too. Most of all though, MIL insisted we sell the car. I told Jeremy we should sell the car but he said he wanted to leave it for his parents. Which pissed me off because THEY CAN'T DRIVE! After exhausting myself explaining about depreciation in regards to motor vehicles and how maintenance is still mega-important even when you don't drive a car for a long time, this lecture plus what his mom said got through to his man-brain and now we'll be selling the car.

I kind of feel sad about the car. It's been a member of our family. Even though I never drove it personally, it's been our little car for most of the time we've lived here. I will miss it. I mean, remember when Jeremy first started driving? If you don't, it's worth checking out here and here. He's come a long way from those days, back when his English name was "Lane" and he'd decided to change it to "Jeremy." Hahaha!

Anyway, now that the in-laws know exactly when we are leaving, I am sure they will constantly be in our faces even more so than they already are. Which will be even more annoying but at least I know there is a light at the end of the tunnel and when I feel like I'm going to snap, I'll just remind myself that we'll be leaving in just under 2 months. And I won't have to deal with them for a good long while after that. Ahhhhh...splendid!

Saturday, May 9, 2015

And So It Begins!

With 8 weeks to go before we fly home to the US, we don't have much time to spare. Since we decided we're not shipping anything, the task now is to go through our things and decide what can fit in the 6 checked suitcases we will be bringing with us. I took command, telling Jeremy we should pack what wintery items we wanted to take along with us because we don't need those things now.

I explained my strategy...
Since we will have 6 suitcases with us, we do NOT want to dig through 6 suitcases at my parents' house while we're staying there. We want the things we need while we're there to be confined to one, maybe 2 of those suitcases. Yeah, I know. I'm fucking brilliant.

So I began the process of rolling and folding and loading. And before I knew it, one suitcase was packed to the gills.
Before I stuffed it completely full, I crammed in some of my favorite Carl Hiaasen novels. Like hell am I leaving those behind!

But the real genius is my friend Meredith who left a comment on my luggage photo on WeChat. She suggested we get those vacuum clothing bags off TaoBao. And suddenly, I felt like a huge idiot because WE HAVE THOSE! I cannot even believe neither Jeremy nor I had this genius idea. Maybe I'm not as brilliant as previously suspected but hey, we still have plenty of time to pack using this newly acquired strategy. Stay tuned for more adventures in packing!

Friday, May 1, 2015

For Why?!?!?

It's the start of a 3-day weekend! Last night, I had a migraine and was determined that today would be awesome. But Seoul has a cough and runny nose so we've been chillin' at home. I decided it would be an ideal time to begin going through my crap and whittling it down. I know the next 2 months will fly by and I don't want to be panicking before we leave for the US.

So I started with a giant storage bag (the kind you vacuum-seal shut) that was under the crib. I noticed my fatheaded troll of a MIL had been in it because she took out the ugly polka dot pants she'd given Raelynn. She must have taken them home in defeat because they're not in Raelynn's closet again. Good. I'm not wasting precious suitcase space on ugly garments from her. I will be absolutely thrilled when that woman is not rummaging through my items!

Anyway, I pour out all the items onto the floor, much to Seoul's great delight, who has helped herself to some of my bikini tops while I begin trying on shorts and t-shirts. Oh what did I expect? That I would fit into my size 3 pants now? Ha. They mock me as I try to pull them up but I'm rather surprised that I can get them pulled up even partially over my butt. That's progress at least. But since it will be quite some time before I'm a 3 again, I put them in the pile for sale. Most of my cute Hollister t-shirts were a no-go either. I'm so booberific now that they appear like they have shrunken onto me. No, no. I'll go buy new ones at Hollister when I get back. They're in great condition so I'll sell these too.

And then I find some stuff that's just had it. It's old and ripped and I've no idea why we've wodged it into a storage bag. Time for it to be thrown out. I make a pile of things to be thrown away. I'm pleased though that there are a few things at least that I can wear again since having kids. Not many things, mind you, but I'll take it. And hey, at least now I have good reason to go shopping.

I sort the bag out and then fill it back up with carefully folded items to be sold. I feel productive. Jeremy comes in and I proudly show him my work. I point to the pile to be thrown away and he gets all concerned. "Oh no, we can't throw it away. We'll give it to my parents," he tells me. "Um, what? WHY?!?" I ask. He explains that in China, there is none of this culture of giving away or selling your things, or throwing clothes away. Even ripped clothes. "But these shirts are old and ripped! What in the world are they going to do with them?!?" One of the shirts in question is a black t-shirt that has faded to that grayish black and has lots of holes in it from being washed excessively. It's an old shirt I creeped from an old college boyfriend and it says "SECURITY" on it. For many years, it had just wound up in my closet as that t-shirt you wear to sleep. Somehow, it wound up in this bag. And now, he's going to give it to his parents. Because. I have no earthly idea why. What will they do with an old ripped shirt?!? I used to have one that said "FUCKER" on it (from a different college boyfriend) and if I find that one, they can have it because I HAVE TO see one of them wearing it. That would totally make my day.

But it just seems odd to give them old clothes they will likely never ever wear. Perhaps they could make rags with these old things, but they won't. They will use the same dirty rag over and over without ever washing it once we go. Jeremy and I wash our rags every week. I bet they will never get washed again once we move. Would my FIL actually WEAR any of these old shirts? He wears this one shirt of Jeremy's. OMG. I need to tell you about that.

HOW did I NOT tell you guys?!? About 3 years ago, MIL bought a decent shirt for Jeremy. It's a Tommy Hilfiger. It may or may not be a fake but if it is a fake, it is a darned good one. I was stunned that she'd picked out something that wasn't fug. Anyway, here is the shirt in question...
 This was on our 2nd anniversary, incidentally.
We had left Raelynn with the trolls so we could go out to a nice Thai restaurant.

Anyway, I hadn't seen this shirt in Jeremy's side of the wardrobe in ages. I had been wondering about it. I think he'd been wondering about it too. Guess what happened to it? His dad took it. No, really. He took it. I checked and checked the closet. So did Jeremy. This was not a case of his mom buying her husband the same thing. No, he randomly took it at some point. Why? We have no idea. When I ask Jeremy about this, he just laughs and laughs. Maybe because he can't explain it either. Now every time FIL wears the shirt over here, we laugh hysterically. It's just bizarre.

So maybe they will wear our old, ripped, outdated clothes. Or they'll just shove them in the cupboards and we'll find them when we come back to China to sell the properties or, his parents, whichever comes first.