Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Bittersweet Celebration

Can you believe I've been at this blogging thing for 4 years now? Thank you all for reading and sharing!

What you might not realize though is that March 31st is a day that I always try to be happy. Because before I started this blog, it was my Mom's birthday. Mom died when I was 9 and in October, it will mark 30 years of her being gone. I can't believe she's been gone so long. Or I can't believe how old I am. Maybe a little of both.

Mom would have turned 7...wait. That's not right. I can't out her age on here. After all, when she passed away, I truly believed she was just 29. When I read her obituary in the newspaper, it said she was 42. I became very angry and told all the grieving adults around me that the paper got it wrong. "She wasn't 42! She was 29!" The only shred of humor shining through such a dark time. It was then that I learned it was ok for women to fib about their age after a certain point. I never thought of doing so myself. Until this year. In June, I turn 29 again. Just so you know.

Every single day of my life, she's been on my mind. Maybe not all day, but at points throughout my day. And of course, not all the thoughts I have about her are sad ones. I think of funny things too, like the time we were at a petting zoo and a goat tried to eat her long jean skirt. I can still hear her laughter in my brain, like the sweetest melody I ever heard. I think of how she once caught me eating all the brownies for breakfast because I'd woken up too early and didn't want to bother her. I wheeled one of our 70s-style kitchen table chairs on over to the counter, climbed on up and used a butter knife to slice off some brownie. But I couldn't resist and ate just about the whole entire tray before she found me. Instead of being angry, she laughed and made me a real breakfast.

I cling with every fiber of my being to the memories I have of her. I only had 9 years with her and like most people, I can't really recall much before age 4. They've all jumbled together over time, becoming fuzzier and fuzzier with every year. But I can't forget her kind nature or her spirit. Sometimes, as I watch my daughters sleeping, I think of her and how much she'd love them. How hard she'd laugh if she could see the videos I've made of them doing adorable things. What she'd want me to tell them as they grow up.

It's not fair she has to miss out on this. But maybe she's not. Maybe she's been here the whole time, watching over us, smiling as we smile. Laughing as we laugh. Maybe she's the reason I'm still here. She's certainly the reason I'm here at all.

Happy 29th Birthday, Mom!
This old photo, sent to me by my Cousin David, is so lovely to me. My dad still looks this handsome! Maybe he knows what restaurant we're in, but clearly, we're in one. Daddy is sitting with Mom and my Great Aunt Ann, who I also miss terribly.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Mean Moms Of Qingdao

 This movie will be soooooo fetch!

I have to admit it...I am TOTALLY a Mean Girls fan. Who isn't, right? So naturally, when I heard they were making a Mean Moms, I jumped for joy. Brilliant. Marketing at it's finest, targeting those of us who lived and breathed Mean Girls a decade later with the idea of being mean moms. Because that's definitely a thing. Unlike "fetch," it's happening.

Every mom has had a run-in with a mean mom. And Qingdao seems to be teeming with them. I was talking to two of my gal pals here and like me, they had also lived in Seoul prior to living here. We all have had the same experience regarding making friends. In Seoul, expats were SO much more united and friendly. But here? You could be out at a supermarket or walking around downtown and in a sea of Chinese faces, you see another foreigner! You smile and say hello politely as you pass only to be thrown an icy stare and complete silence.

Making friends here has been very difficult indeed so I treasure the select few that have made the cut. Because there are definitely more mean people here than I can believe. And I come from Miami! That should tell you something!

Let me tell you about a run-in I had a few weeks ago with a mean mom here. It happened at church services, the place where you expect people to have good manners and be kind. Or maybe we're weird for expecting those things. Anyway, let's just call this mean mom Sally Snottypants. Perfect.

Jeremy and I arrived for church while they were still making the weekly announcements before services. He led us into an empty row right in front of Sally Snottypants and her family. Jeremy sat down, as did Raelynn who was eager to go to her little Sunday school class which would start right after the announcements. I started into the row when Sally Snottypants' daughter (who is the same age as Raelynn) began coughing all over the back of my husband's head. Appalled, I ask Sally Snottypants if her daughter was contagious or had measles or anything I should be concerned about.

I should clarify here that this was before Seoul turned 8 months old. In China, they give the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) shot at 8 months. When we'd gone for Seoul's 7 month vaccination, the nurse warned us to stay away from crowded places because there had been an outbreak of measles. I reported this to the mom friends I have at the church so they could help pass that information around to the other moms. Apparently, this was either the first Sally Snottypants had heard of it or she is even more of a jerk than I previously supposed.

She gives me a major scowl and says, "It's just a cough." Just a cough? Um, hello?!? First of all, I have a small baby with me. Surely you remember when YOUR kids were babies. I bet you didn't want people coughing all over them. Secondly, why bring your kids to church when they're ill? Stay home! And thirdly, your child coughed all over my husband. Are you unable to apologize for that?

When Raelynn was still 2, I taught her to cover her mouth when she coughed and sneezed. She almost always remembers. And you better believe that in the odd chance she forgot and coughed on someone, I would be apologizing to them AND having her say sorry as well. "It's just a cough" is not an acceptable answer.

Shortly after, the children were dismissed to their groups. I walked Raelynn out to the lobby to meet her group leader. Sally Snottypants brought her coughy daughter out after us, yet she put her in line in front of us. I was too stunned to say anything to her, so I loudly warned my daughter not to get close to anyone that was sick. "And keep your hands clean. People have germs," I caution and Raelynn nods solemnly.

I told Jeremy what happened when I returned to my seat. "What a rude lady," he comments. The next week at church, we happened to show up as the children were being led away for their groups so we quickly put Raelynn on the line for her age group. We waved goodbye and as we started walking into the auditorium for services, who should be ahead of us but Sally Snottypants? Jeremy and I loudly teehee like teenagers and he says, "Oh look! It's Rude Lady!" I bet, given the chance, he might give her a stamp or two like he did to the rude lady at the Shangri-La.

Sally Snottypants isn't the only one, unfortunately. Like the ones that are nice to my face and then refuse my friend requests on social media. And still others are just rather unfriendly. But they do serve a purpose...they remind me that I'm lucky to have the friends I have back home and just as lucky to have made some of the few wonderful friends I have here. Quality over quantity has never been more true!

Monday, March 23, 2015

In-Law Engrish

Well, my last Engrish post was quite the fail, huh? I'm still shocked it's a thing but whatever. Surely this next item, spotted at my in-laws' house of vile smells, is a real Engrish deal.

For whatever idiotic reason, they have this stupid chart of fruit on their wall...
Ages ago, they had a couple different ones that they put up for Raelynn when they would, despite my protests, bring her to their stink shack while we were at work. But this one is new. I sure hope they aren't bringing Seoul over there. I can't wait to move.

Anyway, this weekend, on our way to the supermarket, Jeremy decided we should stop by their house to drop off some chicken he'd made. He promised just 5 minutes. I was not happy about this but thrilled it would be a brief pit stop at least.

I want to kill when I hear MIL's awful voice echo into the stairs, "Raelynn lai le!" she booms. Raelynn is of course happy to be there. Me, not so much. Because we're only staying a short while, I don't take Seoul out of the baby carrier. But that doesn't stop FIL from idiotically holding his sopping wet, just-washed hands out, summoning me to hand her over. While you get points for washing your hands (with soap too, no less), I have to wonder if you still have not yet figured out what a towel is for. Oh, right. You think towels are blankets. Sigh. 

For the record, this was the longest 5 minutes in history. Actual time wound up being closer to 10 minutes but I honestly felt like an eternity had elapsed. Maybe because I was roasting. Now that it's officially spring, the weather is heating up. Don't mind me, my dear old Floridian friends. For now when I declare it's too hot out, I mean it's about 55 Farenheit. Yeah, I'm that person now. Anyway, because it was so warm (or hot, as I like to put it) and we were only going to the supermarket, I'd thrown on a pair of old jeans and a sweatshirt. Under the sweatshirt, I only had on a sports bra. And in this, I was sweating.

In the parts of China where heat is available (believe it or not, some parts of China, particularly in the countryside, do not have any heating!), you pay a heating fee for the duration of the heating. For us here, it's from mid-November to mid-April. The radiators are always heating during those dates. Which means that when you have an uncharacteristically warm day, it is hot inside your house and there is nothing you can do except open the windows and let the smog in. So truly, being trapped inside their home in this kind of heat made me feel like I was in the seventh circle of hell. Run for your lives, folks.

Anyway, back to the chart of fruit that I happened to glance at while trying not to break my bitchface as I endured my dippy in-laws. Something caught my eye on that chart. Come in for a closer look...

Mmmm...you know what I just love to eat? Pawpaw. I thought that thing was called a papaya. Here we go again with the Engrish. At least so I thought. After the rapeseed oil turned out to be a real thing, I decided to check and see if pawpaw was a real thing. Guess what? It's just not my week for Engrish now is it? This link here kindly explains the difference between the pawpaw and the papaya. 

Well, I'll be. Twice in one week. Sigh.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Supermarket Engrish -- UPDATED!

This weekend, at the supermarket, we discovered a new kind of cooking oil...

Yeah, I'm pretty sure they meant "grapeseed" instead of "rapeseed" but that's ok. We'll just get something that won't force itself upon our food.

Like corn oil. Unless that one turns out to say "cornhole" oil.

How hard is it for the manufacturers of this oil to get someone who legitimately speaks English in there to check the packaging before they send it out? Oh well. Their idiotic oversight is our Engrish gold.

Well, I'll be. Apparently, there really IS such a thing as rapeseed oil! Who knew? Ah, my readers outside the US. Thank you for bringing it to my attention. After all, a day without learning something new just isn't a very productive day, now is it? Still, the name "rapeseed oil" is really very unfortunate and deserves a bit of mocking, even if it is a real type of oil.

Jeremy's Revenge

My husband is an amazing guy. Sure, some husbands buy lots of flowers and jewelry for their wives. Mine's not too stingy with those things either. But Jeremy knows exactly how to make a gal feel loved. Sure, he says it plenty but it's how he shows it that makes me feel like the luckiest woman alive.

Today for lunch, Jeremy took me and the kids out for lunch at the Shangri-La. It's home to our favorite buffet here and while it's not cheap, the quality of the food is perfection. Cafe Yum is a large restaurant with a huge maximum capacity. You better believe on a Sunday, it was packed. They seated us at a square table for four and brought over a quality high-chair for Seoul. Our table was at the back of the restaurant, along a wall. There was a very small gap between our table and the wall, which was fine by us. They'd put the high-chair between my chair and Jeremy's chair right in that gap along the wall.

The tables around us on the other side began to fill up fast. Jeremy and I took turns getting up for food. Sushi, fresh crab, Italian meatballs, assortments of cheese, minestrone soup, soft baked pretzels and gobs of other things adorned our plates. After I'd returned from one round, I came back to find Seoul had been none too pleased with my departure. She was wailing, a combination of being ready for a nap and being pissed off that I hadn't taken her in the carrier and had dared to venture off without her. I stood in the small gap between our table and the wall, trying to comfort her and put her back in the high-chair. And to my great astonishment, some woman from a table back by the windows that overlook the garden PUSHED past me in what little shred of space still existed in that gap even with my ass occupying it.

"Hey!" I snap. But she's off making her way toward the food. And now I'm pissed because there's a large space on the other side of the table that is MUCH easier for anyone to navigate through. In fact, there are many other ways she could have taken that were not out of the way for her that had much more space to walk through. She didn't even say sorry or excuse me, in Chinese, English or any other existing language. She just shoved by me and the baby like the rude nouveau riche pig she was.

"It's too bad money can't buy class," I huff to Jeremy as I sit back down to try to enjoy my food and keep Seoul busy. Meanwhile, Jeremy gets up to grab some more food. He comes back quickly with a big smile on his face.

"I just stepped on that rude lady's foot," he says, his eyes twinkling and his smile growing wider.
"Oh what a happy coincidence!" I giggle with glee.
"No, I did it on purpose," he explains.

Yes, my awesome husband went and accidentally-on-purpose stomped on that stupid woman's foot (more than once too, I might add) and bumped into her quite deliberately as he pretended to be overly engrossed with the Korean food. She threw him a nasty look and he then feigned surprise and said, "Sorry!" In English. God, I love that man.

As he relayed this tale while we enjoyed the rest of our lunch, I laughed so hard I cried. And then I realized just how much my husband loves me. We were in a nice place so he couldn't just shout at the woman and call her out on her rude behavior. Yet, he wasn't going to allow anyone to get away with it either. Thank you, sweet husband. I love you too!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

What A Pisser!

This month is already halfway over and I realize I've been slacking on the posts. Sorry, I've just been a bit pissy about certain situations that I have little to no control over and am just trying to cope with that. But as a wise (or drunk) person once said, "It's better to be pissed off than pissed on." I couldn't agree more. And I'm sure the stairs in our building would wholeheartedly agree.

For the last couple of weeks, someone has been peeing in our stairs. I've mentioned before that our building is 8 stories with no elevator. On each floor, there are just 2 units. This is very typical of Chinese buildings that were constructed 15 years ago, like ours. The first time the pissing occurred, it was on the 2nd floor landing. I saw it when Raelynn and I had come home from school and it looked like someone poured powder laundry detergent on it but had otherwise not cleaned it up.

I later found out from Jeremy who'd been informed by his mother that the people on the 2nd floor were pissed off (and rightfully so) because they were, in a way, pissed on. The culprit? It is rumored that a young boy on the 7th floor is to blame. He's older than Raelynn by at least 3 years, probably more.

Just about every day, there's been a new puddle of pee in the stairs. Once, it was between our floor and the 5th floor. The other night when my husband came home, I was busy nursing the baby when I heard Jeremy come in and put his things down. Then I could hear him going up the stairs and calling out to the folks up there, shouting about who peed all over the stairs. No one would admit to it. What pigs.

While many people here just endure stupid shit like this, including my husband on certain issues, Jeremy did not sit back on this one. He wrote out an angry note and taped it downstairs on the 2nd floor landing where the most urination has taken place. I had an inkling what it said but to be sure, I asked him and he said it basically translated to say that this is disgusting, this is our building and whoever is peeing in the stairs needs to have respect for the others in the building. He also added some mild insult at the end, according to him. I see my Miami is rubbing off on him. Passive Aggressive Notes: China Edition, here we come. I'll try to snap a photo of it. When we went for our evening walk, he didn't feel like stopping to take a photo for me as we passed it.

As we walked, we discussed the territorial pissings. If this happened once or twice with a small child, I'd be more forgiving. But this boy is old enough to hold it and old enough to know better. And shame on his parents or grandparents for allowing this. Even more shame for not going to clean it up. Let's just say for the sake of argument that Raelynn peed in the stairs. I would go and clean it up. I wouldn't just leave a big puddle of urine for everyone to step around.

Jeremy says he's going to try to talk to the mom or grandma of the boy again but I say he should wait until Raelynn makes another pee in her little potty and then quietly creep up the stairs and pour out her pee in front of their door. He made a horrified face, and I must admit that is really nasty but you gotta fight fire with fire. Or in this case, piss with piss. Hopefully the note brought out enough shame for this bullshit to stop.

I guess we should be grateful though...at least it's not poop.

Monday, March 9, 2015

How Many Times?

Every day when I get home, I am filled with pure joy when I see Seoul. She warms up my heart when I come in from the cold. Before I can hold her though, I must put down my things and wash my hands.

I rushed to put my pumped milk away and as I was washing my hands, I heard Raelynn angrily screaming in her room. Raelynn's pretty uppity and is usually very grouchy when you first take her off the bus and get her home since you're waking her from a good nap. But this was a different angry grumbling from her.

When I went to investigate, I saw just why she was so upset and it made me furious. Right there on a shelf that is eye level with her in her own bedroom, there was the peeled remains of a kiwi AND A FREAKING KNIFE! Dumberella (that would be MIL) peeled a kiwi in Raelynn's room and left the skin and the knife in an easily accessible place to Raelynn. I yell for MIL to get in there. When she sees it, she's all, Oh hahaha! Oops! (but in Chinese of course). Oops? OOPS?!? Are you kidding me, lady? You make a mess in Raelynn's room which is typical of you AND you leave something dangerous lying about and all you can say to me is the equivalent of oops?!? You make me feel real good about leaving my baby with you each day. And why the hell were you peeling and eating a kiwi in Raelynn's room? Can't you do that in the kitchen?!? Geez!

I scold MIL and then whisk Seoul off to our bedroom where I can feed her privately. I always love this feeding time with her because it's extra special since I haven't seen her all day. As I'm preparing to give her milk boobie goodness, I hear Raelynn cry. "Mamaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!" She wails. "Mamaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! She bwoke my gween toyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!" I ask her what all the fuss is about and it turns out that this plastic watermelon half from her play food set of items has been broken. When I inquire as to how, she explains that her grandma told her that Seoul broke it. Seoul shouldn't be playing with Raelynn's toys. She is a baby and has baby toys. The play food items are not for a child Seoul's age and I have told this to BOTH of my idiots-in-law numerous times IN CHINESE mind you but to no avail.

I plan to tell Jeremy but I'm sure he'll just tell me that they're old or to forgive them or some lame excuse because that's almost always what I am told when this kind of thing happens. But who knows...the knife thing is very dangerous and I hope he seriously says something to his parents about being more careful. The longer I spend in this country the more I question whether it is them that is insane...or is it me? If it's me, it's only because they drove me there.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

The New Old School

Tomorrow is the first day of classes at school. Last week, teachers had to show up to start getting ready for the new school year. But this year, it's been a bit of a challenge because the school underwent a massive remodel. In fact, it's still happening but classes will still begin tomorrow.

The school was a bit dumpy, but hey, it's China. And there are much worse schools here. It was functional but becoming more and more outdated by the day. The chairman decided to revamp everything. After all, this is a private international school. It should look more like one than a dusty old Chinese building, right? Right!

So please, come with me and see my new old school, which I'm sure based on the title of this post alone, my dear friend Kary Drake (see? I made you famous again girl!) might have mistaken for a post about our old dancing days in the club circuit with our awesome JNCOs. I tried to find some old posts with photos of how things looked before, but I'm afraid I don't really have anything. You can check here for my old classroom and here for the school lobby. I'm really surprised and mostly delighted by the changes because when we went on winter break, I was just told we'd get wallpaper in our rooms. I had no idea they were going to go all out.

For my friends who formerly worked here with me, this is the hallway just outside 1st, 2nd and 3rd grade. It looks way different now.  Though I am perplexed about the bright electric pee-colored glass where the boards used to be. I'm not sure how work is supposed to be displayed on those.

The elementary girls' bathroom was a nasty dump before. This looks classy, though I do feel like I've stepped into a high-class KTV karaoke bar or something. Hurry up with my whiskey, damit! Oh, wait...I'm at school...never mind...

 Funny story...our kindergarten bathroom was being worked on and therefore, unusable. So I ran here to the elementary girls' bathroom to go pee. Only this is what I found. At first, I flipped out because ZOMG! Toilets and no stalls! How do we go to the bathroom with no walls?!? Is this Sochi? But then I realized the toilets weren't even hooked up yet. Here's hoping those stalls were built over the weekend. This is such a great improvement because all through the school, every bathroom had squatters instead of toilets. Except kindergarten of course. Because we rock.
 Here's the other side of that bathroom, by the way.

 This is the lobby. They've built some interesting bench thing that needs a paint job or cushions, or both. And we are sporting an enormous garbage pile in front of kindergarten.

 We got new desks in the kindergarten office! So much nicer. I'm not sure how I feel about this old lady wall paper everywhere but the light green is really soothing at least. Oh and we got new floors. FINALLY!

 Kindergarten hallway. For those who have been here before, they got rid of that hideous transom that was over the door you see at the end of the hallway.

 Down this hall and to the right is the kindergarten bathroom, still under construction. I hope it's finished for tomorrow or else we'll have to take the kids over to elementary every time they have to use the bathroom.

 Our activity room looks like it will be closed for a while. Hey kids, want to play in here? Yikes!

 Walking down the hallway toward my classroom...

 Kindergarten library which I fixed up myself...

 Aside from the floors that need to be hit by the cleaning people and the big cable in the back which I left out so the proper people could deal with it, this place is ready to go.

 All we need are some nice table clothes. I hate that they didn't replace our tables and chairs. These things are so worn out!

It just needs a good cleaning on these floors here...and for those holes to be covered in the walls. There used to be a big, long sink in this room when I first started here and a year or so ago, they got rid of it. It sucked at first because we were accustomed to taking the kids there to wash their hands or rinse of paint brushes instead of going all the way to the bathroom but we've learned to deal without it. Still, I sure hope these holes are covered for tomorrow, or else I bet some curious little children will be turning the valves within.

My friend Jon's classroom is the first on the left, and mine is at the end just before the big white door. The construction crew left so much crap in the hallways and this is AFTER we cleaned it up.

Jon's classroom looks nice now though he got stuck with pink walls. He has my old classroom that I had when I first started at this school. After one semester though, they moved my class into the room I now have.

Which is this room. I like it better. I think it's bigger but if it isn't, it always has seemed bigger to me. My room is not as complete as Jon's. Why? Well, for one, dig on those missing ceiling tiles. My floors also need to be cleaned by the cleaning crew.

And then there's this of course. The electricians came by and went all down the hall. They came in through the big white door next to my classroom but somehow, they skipped right past my room and did EVERY other switch in the kindergarten. You have got to be kidding me! This better be repaired when I get in there in the morning or I am going to snap. They also skipped over my room when it came time to mount my flatscreen back onto the wall. Morons!

More of my classroom.

My makeshift desk until the new teacher desk arrives.

And finally, I leave you with this sea of metal parts that are the bases for all the desks in the rest of the school. They were assembling these all day Friday. It's my guess they were still doing so the rest of the weekend.

I'll take photos tomorrow and let you know what is still being worked on and how it all goes. Wish me luck!