Saturday, August 30, 2008

Chinese Corn Flakes

It's time to make lunch here on Sunday afternoon, but for those faithful readers who love photos, here's one:

Thursday, August 28, 2008

coooling off

Shame on me. I realized I haven't really set the scene by describing the basics of our living situation. So, especially for the most of you who have not been to Shanghai, here goes....

We are a couple hours' drive from the beach, at roughly the same latitude (31 N) as famed US metropoli El Paso, San Diego, and Montgomery, Alabama. When we first arrived this month, we had a lot of Montgomery-type days. Swampy. Lately it has been beautiful-- warm, sure, but clear skies and not so humid. A cross between the butt-ass dry heat of El Paso and the "vaguely damp but still pleasant" of San Diego.

Word on the street is that many factories were shut down for the Olympics (we had soccer here in Shanghai Stadium) so maybe we're seeing an artificially nice atmosphere. Oh well. I'll be sure to compare next August's weather and I'll get back to you.

We live in a gated community. (feels weird saying that) We are guarded 24-7, from what I'm not sure. Everyone we have spoken to here (even if only a "ni hao") has seemed very pleasant and not at all interested in jacking my $110 bike. BUT ONE CAN"T BE TOO SURE. So we have uniformed dudes all around who lift the big striped bar-thingy for us to walk under, and who peek into our taxi when we're driving in to confirm we're residents.

So our walk to work involves only 10 seconds of being unguarded as we cross the street that separates home from work, because the school is patrolled also. Better safe than sorry, I guess.

As for the natural enviro: cicadas were buzzing like crazy when we arrived, but maybe they were just crazy from the heat, because it's been days since I've heard them. Or maybe they were just promotional cicadas for the Olympics? The dragonflies have continued unabated, but don't get your hopes up to catch one. They have this amazing ability to stay away from people. I wish the mosquitoes had that. We have to stay indoors around dinnertime, or risk being their dinner. But most times of day, there aren't many out.

Only other wildlife to speak of is this wretchedly scrawny cat who wanders around, foraging. Yesterday he rustled up what (I hope) was his worst meal ever--a used diaper. Ahhhh! Our nanny (feels weird saying that) got in a bus accident, so she's home for a few days. The boys both had some stomach issues yesterday, so I stayed home. Dutiful house-husband that I am, I had been cleaning up and had put a bag of trash on the porch for later transport to the communal trash can. Couple hours later, I walk into the kitchen and the big kid is all agitated, looking through the porch door. "Dad! It's a catandhe'stryingtoeatadiaper!" Trash strewn all over, including one of the little guy's diapers, which (mercifully--see "stomach issues," above) had not come open. Still, gross. So I banged on the glass, but the cat cared not. I pegged him with a peanut, but rather than flee, he seemed grateful. At this point, the 5-year-old is exhorting me to "Kill it!" I talked him down and we put shoes on to go make peace with our emaciated intruder. By then, the poor wretch had lost interest in shelling the peanut and he slinked away. Man Vs. Wild, indeed. That's what passes for high adventure in the Pearlz house these days.

In other news, we found a grocery store that's actually not too overwhelming: Metro. Lots of stares and curiosity about the boys in our shopping cart (who I tamed with some Sesame Street on the iPod--thank you, Steve Jobs) but no touts aggressively demo'ing the latest mop, like at the Carrefour in GuBei. yikes. Metro has stuff in bulk, and when each trip eats up half a day, bulk is niiiice. One of these weekends, we'll actually be tourists, but so far it's been all shopping.

Last Saturday, on our way home from the store, I snapped some photos to give y'all a sense of the changes going on here. Our neighborhood is on the west edge of town, and construction is everywhere. Our friends downtown joke that we're out in the country, and it's kind of true. But not for long. Everywhere there are cranes, piles of demolished walls, trucks and carts full of building materials. And the occasional dude relieving himself on a wall.

I'm excited to hear from more of you. Thanks to all who made me happy by replying to the plea for email. Take care...

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Kountdown to Kindergarten ended yesterday

So the big boy began kindergarten yesterday. After a one-day orientation on Thursday, he found out who his actual teacher and classmates are. Mom walked him home at 3 and heard all about it. By the time I got home at 4:30, he wouldn't say boo about it. Oh well. We are excited and will both get to stop by his classroom periodically during the year. It is about 20 yards from Mom's office and about 200 yards from mine. So nice to be so close.

As for little, he started at the Wonderful World of Learning on Friday. He'll go for half-days, then home with ayi (nanny) in the afternoon. His teacher seems very nice, energetic, fun. Soon he'll be hearing nothing but Chinese in class. Only 10 kids in class, and 2 of them are kids of nice people we know from SAS.

We have been quite busy of late, with work, fun and reading/watching Olympics with the boys taking up most of our time. And don't forget shopping! With the generous resettlement allowance school gives us, we have money to set up our kitchen, maybe get some nice beds made, find soy yogurt somewhere in Shanghai (we did! Carrefour). So each Saturday so far has seen us hitting one or more stores. We have bikes now, a toaster oven, blender, dishes, towels, you know, stuff a family needs if it is to eat, shower, be healthy, have fun. No luck finding baseball gear though.

Which I mention as a segue into announcing that I am the assistant coach of the SAS Eagles varsity baseball team. I know what you're thinking: Why not head coach? I'm excited, tryouts start tomorrow, and our China Cup tournament this year will be in Beijing. So I'll get to see the capital, the Olympic aftermath/hangover, and the fam is likely going to join us. 

So Go Eagles and check the blog starting in 2 weeks for score updates. I'll try to create a page within the blog just for baseball. We play on Saturdays, and several of our opponents are teams of Chinese men, like 40-year-old guys. How cool is that? The umpires speak only Chinese, I think, so we'll need our players to translate if there's a rhubarb or dustup of any sort.

What else is going on? On yeah, work. I finally got to meet my students. Half of them Thursday, half on Friday. Seem very nice and capable. I have 2 study halls, all ESOL sophomores. And I see those same 18 or so students in other periods, in their history class when I "push in." So I work with 3 other teachers, and see about 5-7 of my kids at a time in a given History course. I've got a US History since Civil War and 2 Modern World Historys, which is basically 20th Century blood and guts, plus le French Revolution (don't ask). I'll also man the high school's Writing Centre for a few periods a week, editing papers, etc. I'm reading The Crucible so that I know what I'm talking about. All 10th graders read it and have to (get to?) write a paper about it. Devils, sex and witches, so far so good in Act One.

I hate to stop, now that I have my blog mojo ("blojo"? working, but it IS 11:11 pm and the USA women are done whuppin' the Aussies, so it's bedtime. I'll be better about updating, and you faithful readers (all 4 of you) would really brighten our day if you'd fire off an email every now and then. My dad gets the prize for writing lately, and Larry wins for Skyping the most. If only that dang camera would work better...

Photo above is from 3 hours ago. 2 sweaty boys after partying at the annual welcome back to SAS barbecue. Lots of fun, best weather day since we've been here. Can't wait for it to cool off.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

happy birthday dad

you are a gold medalist in my book.

Monday, August 11, 2008

apartment tour video, still not uploading

Hi all. The slowness of my youtube uploading has reminded me that there are some tech challenges to living in China. One of them is that my emails to you might get flagged as spam. So please check your junk folders to see if any of my emails have ended up there. 

Also, on the off chance you have not seen Flight of the Conchords, check these guys out:

IKEA, part 2

So we began our IKEAttack inauspiciously, getting stuck in the front door. They were the kind they have at Portland airport, which automatically rotate and when the gap comes open, you shuffle in and try not to get run over. Well, a bunch of people were trying to cram in, and it just stopped. So we're standing there, with a 2-foot gap left behind us, and no way to go forward. Thankfully, people stopped squeezing in when they saw it was stuck, or else I could have been headed for a serious claustro-freakout. We backed out, and tried the other door, but it was stuck too. A couple minutes later, they started up and we went in. We proceeded to the starting line.

Keep in mind, the store is not yet open at this point. They let you in the lobby, but the showroom floor is still roped off. We've arrived this early because any later in the day, it's apparently a nuthouse. So at about 9:59 we get the green light and the race is on. With my little cart bag-holder thing, I feel like Richard Petty. I'm trying to cruise ahead and put some distance between me and the masses, but Sarah's like "chill out." And taking the curves too fast is bad for Desi because the cart seat is way too small for him. His body weight was being supported largely by his crotch. But he was a trooper.

Anyway, we bought most of what we needed. Plus some of what we didn't. Made it thru the maze unscathed and still civil to one another. Had to fight off several touts pushing delivery or taxis, and of course bag up all our stuff. As of June 1, stores in China were forbidden to give out plastic shopping bags for free, so we sprang a buck for 2 *HUGE* IKEA bags. We got all our stuff together, we roll outside, and I see our bus rolling away. The school had taken us there, so I tracked down a school person, and they called the driver. Meanwhile, the security guy was trying to tell me I couldn't take the cart outside, and his buddy (a relentless tout) was trying to "help" me with a cab. Once the bus finally came, I ignored them both and loaded our junk in to the bus. Then the 2 dudes helped me return the carts. Even the people hassling you are nice here. 

Sunday, August 10, 2008

IKEA? Next time, youKEA.

So we have been nesting lately, which has meant lots of shopping. The school has been thoughtful enough to organize bus trips to megastores on weekends. These are places I habitually avoid at home, but here and now, when we need dishes, kid furniture, clocks, towels, spatulas, etc., where else to go but IKEA? There is Carrefour, kind of a French Fred Meyer/WalMart place, which sells imported food and housewares in addition to lots of local stuff. But our needs dictated a trip to IKEA, so Saturday morning we got on the bus. Having been told by our friend Leo, who lives downtown, that he'd rather be shot in the head than go to IKEA on a Saturday, we were prepared for the worst.

boys are awake. more later...

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

no more long commutes

I don't think we'll be buying a car.

Watch the video to see why.

Monday, August 4, 2008


Greatest Nap of All Time--

We all laid down at 1:00 pm Tues. for a nice post-lunch nap. Well, it's 11:20 pm and the 3 of them are still asleep.

now it's 11:40...

It seems like now is the quietest time of day. We live in a place called Westwood Green, which is on the western edge of Shanghai. So noise is definitely not a problem. Coming from our very quiet house in Portland, though, we just notice ANY noise. So the steady rumble of trucks and a few honks per minute is fast becoming white noise to us. So at midnight, as I sit here on the couch, pondering Earth's time zones and wondering how long of a massage to get tomorrow after the nanny arrives, the relative silence is a nice treat.

I'll keep y'all posted on how long of a massage I decided to get. :) (Hey, summer break ends in 2 days. Teachers gotta get the most of our time off).

Here are the promised photos, including one of Keller, who is the son of Leo (college friend) and his wife Sue Ann, who flashed her Jedi skills with our electric mosquito swatter the other night. The photo of me is of the flusher for the toilet in our half-bathroom. It's got a small flush and big flush. I love having options. 

UPDATE: It's Wednesday night now. Desi just went to bed after being up for 20 hours. Emmy and I woke up at 3 am, and he got a nap today, so Desi and Sarah are the big winners of today's no-sleep contest. So maybe tonight's our night to get normal... 

By the way, no massage today. Maybe tomorrow.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

the eagles have landed

we are here in shanghai. zhudi town was jumping on a saturday night as our bus rolled into Westwood Green, our new gated community. (never thought I'd write those words).

flight was fine, kids were great, Benadryl was used sparingly, iPod was not. 

we all woke up about 2 in the morning, after 4 hours of sleep. our place is nice. all the people we have met have been nice. including the 2 security guards who came to turn off the alarm Emmett activated. there's these red panic buttons on the wall, right at kid height. surprise, emmy pushed one.

we are mostly unpacked, and tired, but very excited. Desi had already befriended one of new neighbors here at WWG before we even left the San Fran airport. another family new to the school was on our flight.

photos soon. i'm low on battery (my computer is too)