Thursday, 29 March 2012

Time Change

Adjusting to our new time zone happened fairly quickly for all of us, but now I am working on adjusting to the cultural differences in how time and schedules are kept. In Portugal it was a well known fact in our household that our German friends would always be right on time, and right on time to our Portuguese friends was 20-30 minutes late (or even more). Dan reported that was also normal in work situations. I seemed to adapt pretty fluently to the Portuguese schedule, though having two small children to get out of the house contributed significantly to our never actually being on time to anything. Here in China it seems to run in the opposite direction. If someone is scheduled to show up at our house at noon, they are always there by 11:45am. In addition to getting the kids ready we also are suffering from the phenomenon of it always taking twice as long to drive somewhere as it does to drive home. Hopefully that will change over time as our driver learns the location of the places that we generally want to go. Once Amelia actually starts school next week I will have an actual schedule to keep in the morning and we will need to get out the door on time, so I guess we better adjust to that time change as well. After 4.5 years of Portuguese time, I think that will be a harder than changing time zones.

Saturday, 24 March 2012


View of the City
Flowering Trees

View in the Park

One thing Amelia really doesn't like about China is all of the attention she gets for being a cute, blond, little girl. Yesterday we took our first real family outing and went to XuanWuhu Park, a beautiful park on the islands of the big lake right next to downtown. There were tons of other people there since the weather was great and it was a Saturday (and, um, it's China), and I think the children had their picture taken at least 100 times (we still don't know what they do with these photos). Tristan of course doesn't understand or mind, but Amelia does not enjoy it, and it happens daily, even when we go to the grocery store. I guess it gives us a taste of what it must be like to be famous, and I must admit I do not enjoy having to try to protect them from that, and to explain to people in a language I don't speak that I won't force my daughter to get her picture taken for the sake of a stranger who is the 20th (or 50th) person that day to try to do so. If she wants to cover her face with her hat that is just fine with me. An ice cream cone was able to diffuse her anger, but unfortunately she will have to develop a thicker skin over the next few years here. Luckily she still seemed OK smiling when I held the camera.
Preparing for the Onslaught
Still Smiling for Mommy

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Language Barrier

You would think I was talking about the one that exists between our family and nearly everyone around us, but really it is the one inside our house that I am struggling with lately. Tristan seems to have had a word explosion in the few weeks since our arrival, is repeating everything, and is starting to string two words together. However, we still run into the problem where one word that sounds the same to us, actually means four or five different things to him. So "do-do" apparently is helicopter, cracker, tractor, and 1 or 2 other things that I forget, and if I guess wrong the shriek that follows is usually pretty eardrum shattering. At least none of the Chinese people we have met have done that to me yet.

Friday, 9 March 2012

All Together Again

Yesterday everybody arrived home from quarantine, yea! Our agent had made a special petition for Blaze so he never went to quarantine, but the other three were there from when we arrived on March 2 until yesterday. So really only 6 days (normally it is 14-21 with a maximum of 30), and the kids and I got to visit them all once when they were there. They all generally seemed fine after quarantine, though Tazzy was very much in need of a bath. Baba seems to have lost a little weight, but after arriving at our house she quickly found a spot she liked to lie down and I put a bed there for her and she seems content. Since Blaze was with us the whole time he is already getting used to the new house and routine, but once his friends arrived yesterday it was an exciting reunion. They all seemed to do well on the flight. The cats were with us and were only slightly hesitant to use the tiny makeshift litterbox I prepared for them, the dogs were quite thirsty when they arrived. We had left them with frozen water bowls, but I am guessing they didn't last too long and we were travelling for nearly 16 hours. We filled up Tazzy's water bowl three times before she got taken away for quarantine, but we were at least glad that we got to see her and make sure she was doing well before she left. So that is the news from our four legged family. Walking around our neighborhood there are actually quite a few other dogs, which surprises me, but is nice to see.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Getting Here

Leaving Portugal

Well, we made it. The past couple of weeks have been pretty crazy, but I guess somehow everything got done, or at least done enough. From Monday to Wednesday the movers efficiently packed and emptied everything in the house that didn't get sold or thrown away. We spent the last couple of nights "camping" in the midst of boxes and then in an empty echoing house. We enjoyed our last meal at Gafanhoto and for some reason decided it would be wise to host a dinner party for 13 the Saturday before leaving. We said lots of good-byes, and then snuck away in our 9 person van jammed full with 2 cats, 2 dogs, 2 kids, 2 adults, 5 check-in bags, 2 carseats, several small carry-ons, 4 crates for the animals, and who knows what else.

A quick 2 hour flight to Frankfurt and then a long 11 hour flight to Nanjing. Tristan slept a lot, Amelia played with the iPad and slept a little. The cats came on board with us and were generally well behaved. Blaze let us and everyone else in the airport know before we cleared immigration that he also had landed in Nanjing, and Tazzy was equally happy to see us though luckily less vocal about it. We had petitioned for special permission to bring Blaze home directly with us and that was granted, but unfortunately the other 3 ended up in quarantine, likely just for 7 days of the 30 day quarantine, and then the rest at home. We are applying for a visit to the facility for Monday or Tuesday, and I won't actually relax until everyone is home with us.

A little tired perhaps?
We went straight from the airport to our new home, but since contracts with the landlord only recently finalized, preparations were still ongoing with a full cleaning crew, satellite and appliance  installation, and the heating system blowing cold air out on an already cold day. So we were off to a hotel and are planning on staying here for a couple of nights before we settle in, and of course it will be around 2 months before our container arrives and we can make it really feel like home, but each step makes it feel a little closer.