Thursday, August 30, 2012

This is China

Found hanging in an Italian restaurant
In Macau, there's a saying to describe all the crazy little things that happen on a daily basis which are so unusual but end up becoming comically normal: This is Macau. The bus schedule says the bus comes every 10 minutes but you've been waiting for 50, and then when it comes it blasts right past you? This is Macau. Your house has been wired in such a way that using your hair dryer in the bathroom will trip the fuses for 75% of your flat, so you have to blow dry your hair in the living room? This is Macau. Calling for a taxi for 20 minutes to be repeatedly told "sorry no taxi" only to walk a block from your flat to find a line of 20 idling taxis anxiously awaiting fares? This is Macau. I could go on all day, but I'll stop. Because I'm not in Macau. I'm in China. And China is just as bad, if not worse. And within a week of being here, I heard a couple people sigh at something weird and say This is China, which was strangely comforting.

Let me share a couple This is China moments off the top of my head:

We have three elevators in our building. When they stop at a floor, they almost never stop level with the floor. So you have to take a giant moon-step to get in or out, or you trip and fall. And when it does actually stop level with the floor, it's so unexpected that you still trip and fall. Ask poor Andrew, who after three weeks was still stumbling in the lift.

The gas company hand delivers your bill to your door, and then stands there waiting for you to pay, in cash. The rest of the bills you pay using an ATM in the management office down in a corner of the parking garage under our complex, or in cash to the teenage kid behind the register at the Family Mart (the Chinese version of 7-11). I can't pay my bills online because I don't have a Chinese passport. Or at least that's what Google Translate informed me when I tried to register and my passport number was repeatedly rejected.

Speaking of passports, a government official comes round every now and then to check how many people live in your house, what country you are from, and to take a look at everyone's passport, jotting down names, birthdates, and passport numbers of everyone who happens to be home when they stop by. They are very friendly about it, but still.

You can get everything you need from some guy on the street. Example 1: I bought half a dozen huge plants from a man who swings by every day on a large tricycle filled with them. There's another guy who comes by with produce, but I've not yet sampled his wares.

I bought almost everything you see on his cart.
Example 2: Every week a shirtless guy positions himself on the sidewalk in front of our complex with a very old fashioned foot-powered spinning wheel contraption attached to a thick leather strap. People come from all over the neighborhood to get their knives sharpened by him. I tried to take a photo, but he held up a very large knife and said no. I didn't push the point.

Example 3: I needed to find someone to duplicate our very unique front door key. I looked everywhere for a locksmith (in the obvious places an American would look) to no avail. After sharing my trouble with our Mandarin teacher, she kindly took me for a walk through a neighborhood a few streets from our house to a tiny shower stall of a shop. They didn't have the key I needed, but recommended I walk a few blocks east to a busy street with a pedestrian overcross. If I looked under the bridge, I would find a guy who could help me. I was skeptical, but did as I was told. Sure enough, tucked in under the bridge was a guy sitting on a tiny wooden stool with a tiny wooden table with a very old and rusty key making machine. I had to bend in half to fit under the bridge to show him the key. He couldn't help either. Finally I saw a van with the back open parked near our train station, which had what looked like key supplies shoved in the back. What's approaching a van compared to a guy under a bridge? I boldly showed the closest smoking man my key. He had another guy come make me copy. Who needs the Home Depot when you can get what you need from the back of a van?

The man who delivers my groceries does so on the back of an electric scooter. Imagine a full sized American shopping cart, filled with groceries including 10 gallons of water. Now imagine it bundled together and strapped to something the size of a Vespa, with slightly more power than your own legs could provide on a bicycle. I try to tip him the equivalent of a buck or two, he doesn't always let me. Tipping here is pretty much a no-no. It's somewhat of an insult, like you're saying the person doesn't earn enough of a salary on his own and has to rely on handouts. The no-tipping policy may be one of my favorite things about China!

Every food product here has a Chinese label plastered over the one part that you may actually need to read, like the ingredients or the directions. It could be a huge box, but the one part you want to see is always covered. And trying to remove the industrial-strength label inevitably destroys the container or the label underneath, so you have to guess how long to cook it and hope whatever it is doesn't have shrimp in it, which will turn me red and itchy.

The Metro (the subway/train system) has x-ray machines at every entrance, with graphic poster-size photos of trains that have been blown up by explosives. The attendants will make you put your backpack through, but not your purse, messenger bag, shopping bag, or cardboard box. I guess people who wish to blow up trains only put their bombs in backpacks! They aren't all that vigilant about actually watching your backpack as it goes through the x-ray machine - I've seen more than one snoozing attendant and have gone through plenty of times when there was a person telling me to put my bag on the conveyor but no person actually sitting behind the machine to peep inside my bag. As long as we all feel safe, right?

Although there is so much more, that's all for today. Had to do something while I sat around waiting for yet another repairman (this time for the power button on the hot water heater which popped off and took the power with it) who didn't show. Or else he did show, but decided to come over in the 15 minutes I ran downstairs to walk the dog. But that's okay, we don't really need hot water, do we? I mean, This is China after all. Why would anyone want a hot shower when it's summer?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Three Months

Last Friday we hit the three month mark in Shanghai. And like I wrote back here in this post, there was a flood of misery, as if on cue. Problems with the house (gas leak), issue communicating to maintenance, trying to figure out who is responsible for repairing the typhoon damage (landlord vs. maintenance vs. builder), sudden very loud construction above or below us, and a particularly long and brutal bout of insomnia were taking their toll. It certainly didn't help that I spent Friday at a farewell lunch for my two closest friends in Shanghai who are both repatriating back to their countries in the next week or two. Couple that with having to cancel a planned trip to America in October and let me tell you, tears were only a blink or two away at any given moment this past weekend. But Monday came and this week brought a flood of lunch invites with new friends.  Michael and I went over the calender to see if a trip to the US in spring might be a possibility (looks like February might work). Things will right themselves soon. They always do.

And to make sure I don't leave you on a depressing note, I'll share with you the photo from our latest change of address cards, sent out this past month. While in Thailand in May, we got to hold a four-month-old white Bengal tiger. They handed me the bottle, and that baby reached out her gigantic paw and pulled my arm close so she could get that milk. So much power! A friend of mine who got the change of address card in the mail emailed to say that the tiger in the photo almost looked real. Friends, this tiger was very real, very alive, and very hungry. Momentary current misery aside, we are so grateful to live abroad and be able to travel to places to experience things we never could in America.

Misery fades. Memories of feeding a baby tiger? They linger on.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Dragons are real.

My son Nathan asks me at least once a week if dragons are real. Born in the Year of the Dragon (also the current year), I tell him yes, and point out the many, many dragons all over town. And remind him of the Komodo Dragon. He is largely unsatisfied with this answer, hoping instead of a lifelike topiary bush carefully carved into something like a dragon, for something with wings and fiery breath.

Today we saw two dragons. Neither had wings, but both could fly, if you count "flying" through the water. We visited the nearby Shanghai Ocean Aquarium, which was quite impressive. Especially in comparison with our last aquarium experience across town, with the 3-D movie in the storage closet... This closer one is on a one-way path, and boasts the world's largest underwater viewing tunnel. We took a lot of photos, and grimaced through a lot of people taking photos of us (really? I'm more fascinating that the incredible jellyfish displays?). But this is China and they were out-of-town tourists happy to snap at any strange new thing.

If I were the kind of dragon Nathan wishes could be in the world today, I could have flapped my tiny wings and protected us from the flashbulbs with fire of my own. But alas, we had to pretend, putting all the pressure on the magnificent Dragon Moray Eel and the stunning Chinese Water Dragon to protect us with their crowd-pleasing stunning beauty while we made it away safe and sound.

The one that looks like an eel with horns is the Dragon Moray Eel. The lizard-like creature is the Chinese Water Dragon. They have overnight camp experiences at the Aquarium, I wonder if either dragon might let his smokey guard down long enough for us to witness some flames when they think no one is looking. I'll report back if I do. We purchased a yearlong pass since it is right up the road and kids and fish are a good idea, especially the way the aquarium is broken down by regions and eras which keeps it interesting. I loved the special exhibit most, all about the very dangerous fish and creatures in the river and water around Shanghai. Nothing like thinking about whether the food you just ate from a street stall might kill you while you look at fish that could also finish the job if you jump in! No thank you.

We'll definitely return, we got the family annual membership. If nothing else, it's a great place to spend a blazingly hot and humid day which has low lights and blasting a/c. And real dragons.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Heroes Next Door

I found an amazing collection of photographs by Chow Kar Hoo placing superheroes in locations around Hong Kong. The series is called Heroes Next Door. My favorite is Wolverine, cutting up meat and smoking in the wet market. He'd fit right in.

Collection found here: Heroes Next Door

You can find more work by Chow Kar Hoo at his website here.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Not good with chili

Corn Bread. As in bread, with corn on it. Not the strangest combo we've seen featuring corn throughout Asia (in Japan all pizza came with corn mixed in with the cheese). But certainly the only one that makes me crave a different type of cornbread, smothered with whipped honey-butter and served with spicy chili...

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


So our first houseguest in Shanghai departed today.

He says he had a good time, and I'm going to believe he was telling the truth despite the many calamities that happened during his three week stay:

One chipped tooth. (His, done right before he left for the airport. He took it home in a baggie).

Two car accidents. (Yep, Andrew and I managed to be in yet another car when it got mangled. But we were not mangled. I promise. And surprise, surprise, it wasn't in a Volkswagen!).

Friday fender bender.

Two whining, crying, complaining rotten kids. (Mine, unhappy with the lack of routine and all the crazy changes being thrust at them in the last month with the addition of constant sightseeing and lots of getting lost in 95F heat).
Not posed. And I wasn't the only one who was snapping away at them sitting and pouting like this.

Three typhoons. (And a wet apartment and power loss to go along with them).

Four colds. (Nathan was the only one to escape getting sick this month).

The bounty from Michael's visit to the doctor.

Five (or more) hours spent wandering, lost, looking for things that have moved,  no longer exist, or were mysteriously hidden from view when they should have been in plain sight. (That's five cumulative hours, not all in one day).

I better stop now, or else our first houseguest will be our last!

But Andrew is a good sport. He's been to Haiti twice and Israel once. Shanghai, with its western veneer is a bit less strange than those other two places. I think. Good thing I'd asked him what his expectations were before he arrived (none really, other than being present and doing whatever we were doing). This meant he didn't mind the fact we were seeing everything for the first time right along with him, no way to know if anything was going to live up to the hype, greatly disappoint, or be appropriate for active 9- and 11-year-olds. Also, he was the perfect chilled out counterpoint to my tense, high-strung children.

I saw envy in many a local lady's eye while parading about with what they could only assume was my three boys.

And speaking of the children - my head is spinning from how rotten they've been over the last three weeks. My heartfelt apologies to Andrew! I want to say that they are not normally like this. But it is really difficult to gage what normal is these days. They (like everyone else in the world) thrive on routine and boundaries and on having a calm, cool, collected Mama. For the last... oh golly, let's say six months... there have been no consistent routines, boundaries that change weekly or monthly as our situation has changed, and a Mama who has been struggling with holding everything together, mourning for things lost while also overjoyed with the opportunity for adventure in a new place. Kids may be more resilient than adults, but they also lack the skills to articulate their own sense of loss, fear, and excitement. So of course it comes out in unsavory and embarrassing behavior.

As we bid farewell to Andrew and the wild three weeks of jam-packed, non-stop activity, as well as the last six months of uncertainty and whiplash-inducing change, we also need to warmly welcome a new phase of our international life. It's time to dig in and make a new normal with new routines and boundaries which will make us all feel safe and secure and move from simply surviving to actually thriving. It's a lot of work, which for the most part sits squarely on my shoulders, but it pays off with contented children, a happy husband, and a less crazy Mama. So while I can't guarantee that any of the other things from the list above will not happen to you if you come visit, I can promise that there will be improvement in the misbehaving children area. Starting right now while I dole out some affection on them as they sniffle over Andrew's departure. I don't blame them for being sad, Andrew is pretty awesome. Safe travels, friend! Here's hoping nothing but blue skies, safe drivers, perfect health and perfect teeth await your return to America!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Cannot Evade This Heart

****Edited to add: This is just a shopping bag I got with my purchase at the fabric market. I shoved a white calender in it to make the words pop enough to be legible. It confused a considerable amount of people, if the dozen emails I got about it this morning are any indication. Sorry!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Comfort Food

We've been in Shanghai for just shy of three months and I just came down with my first cold/sinus infection. Frankly, I'm surprised it took this long, with all the hacking and spitting and coughing that goes on around this town. If you're a germaphobe, this is not the town for you.

Since arriving here, we've had about a hundred soup and meat-filled dumplings, the cuisine that this region is most famous for. And I love them, they are great, both cheap and filling. But I've been missing the cuisine more popular down in southern China, Cantonese food. Specifically I've been missing the BBQ pork that hangs in every shop and restaurant window in Macau and Hong Kong, generally alongside a goose and a few ducks complete with feet and bills. This pork is served sliced up with a sticky-sweet sauce that almost makes it a dessert. I've been craving it!

My cravings were fulfilled yesterday when we found a tiny restaurant in the basement of China's tallest building, the Shanghai World Financial Center, which serves Hong Kong style Cantonese food. We ordered fried rice with preserved meats, sweet and sour pork, and my favorite meal of all, the BBQ pork with that sticky-sweet sauce. My stomach was happy. My heart was happy. My wallet was happy (as it was about $4 USD). Now if I could just make my sinuses happy...

Friday, August 10, 2012

Just keep moving.

Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving ~ Albert Einstein

Perhaps this is why my life is so balanced? Because I'm moving all the time?

Thursday we visited Tian Zi Fang, a little area in Shanghai which was formerly an artists' enclave. Today it is much more touristy, but many artists still live there and sell their wares in the tiny, charming shops that weave throughout the tight alleys.

It was just a quick visit and I only picked up a few things (a silver necklace, a journal made from an old propaganda poster), but I know I'll be back.


(It's right off Metro Line 9 at Dapuqiao Station, directly across the street from Exit 1 if you're local and trying to find it).

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Typhoon Haikui

We survived a Level Red typhoon in Shanghai. Of course, it stayed at Level Orange until Michael got into work, and then bumped up to a red. At that point he was "requested" to stay where he was instead of being sent home.

The boys, our guest, and I sat around the house, marvelling at the empty river. At Level Orange, all tour boat operation ceases and ships are sent into a safe harbor, but the ferries still operate. At Level Red, the ferries stop. Even in the dead middle of night, I've never seen the river without a boat or two, heading out to sea or returning with containers or soil. We had plans for the day, but most places close down at Level Orange, so we just stayed put knowing Level Red meant getting anywhere was going to be difficult. Some of the bridges closed and the Metro trains began running at 50% speed.

In the afternoon, it finally decided to start raining and we were so glad we didn't try to go out! It rained so hard and so fast, filling the intersections below with water, which the few cars on the road tried to avoid. The wild wind made the rain on the window trail horizontally. At about 2:30 p.m., I walked into the boys' room and noticed it smelled very wet. They have their own bathroom in there, so I though perhaps it was just musty. But I went to look out their window and noticed water pouring in from beneath their window ledge. The wind was particularly battering that side of our flat, so I quickly ran to check the office window and our master bedroom window. The office was fine. The master bedroom? It had streams of water coming in from where the top of the window met the frame.

When we left the States, I brought ALL of our towels with us. As much as the boys swim (and make general messes), it was a wise decision. As our bedroom and the boys' room began to swim, it was even more wise than I could have imagined! Before the night was through, I used close to 30 towels, sopping up the water that just poured in. The wind and rain were so fierce!

While checking Twitter for updates on the storm, I saw Shanghaiist was asking for haiku poems to commemorate typhoon Haikui. I spent a minute writing one and sent it in, which they then published on their website (here). It made me wish I'd spent more than a minute on it, but it was still the highlight of the whole typhoon for this girl!

Michael decided to brave coming home at about 5:00 p.m. I called several places who normally deliver for dinner, but all of them were closed due to the typhoon. Since we've been on the go sightseeing, we've had no time for grocery shopping. I scoured the freezer and pantry, and found some frozen burgers and buns, and a head of lettuce, as well as a bag of frozen potato wedges. I fired up the electric oven and popped in the potatoes. Halfway through the cooking time, our flat was flung into total darkness. An alarm (which we assume is there to tell you you've lost power) began wailing in the kitchen. We checked our elevator lobby outside our front door, and the elevators were still running and had power there.

I went around lighting candles as the last of the day's sunlight faded from behind the black clouds enveloping Shanghai. I took the elevator to the lobby, and through a particularly expressive interpretive dance, learned that the whole building (except the lobby and elevators) had lost power, but the appropriate people had been informed and power would be restored.

Michael came through the door and lit the gas burner on the stove, and I used our grill pan to cook up the burgers by candlelight. When they were done, I opened the electric oven door and pulled out the potato wedges. They weren't crispy, but they were hot and we were starving. As we ate in the glow of candles, the boys noted that we were truly in survival mode, as we were forced to eat leaves for dinner. Lettuce, leaves, it's all the same when you're eleven! I felt like it was survival mode as the temperature in our flat rose from the lack of air conditioning! Hot, rainy weather is so counter-intuitive when you're used to cold winter storms in Los Angeles!

After dinner, we put an iPod on our battery powered speaker set, and listened to some comedy from Brian Regan in the dark. Just as our still-slightly-jet lagged guest decided to call it a night, the power came back on. I was able to put some more towels in the dryer and mop up more water before putting the boys to bed.

The worst of the storm passed, and by midnight all I could hear was the wind. This morning the day was bright and dry and very, very hot. I read that two people died in the storm, one here in my neighborhood when a piece of glass fell from a building and struck her. I don't feel like we were ever really in danger, it was more of an exciting adventure mixed in with tedium from being trapped indoors.

Today was business as usual around town, and our guest and I continued on with our plans to see as much of Shanghai as possible! He leaves in one week, so you'll be seeing more photos of our adventures then. Right now I'm too exhausted (and hot and sweaty) to sit and write, I just shower and fall into bed each night! Life here is never dull, that's for sure!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Typhoon, Shanghai Style

Shanghai has been subject to three different typhoons since Friday. The first two did nothing except bring the temperature down and give us plenty of cooling breezes. This third one however, Haikui, is a bit more powerful.

We're currently at alert level Orange (the only thing higher is red), and all public parks and schools are closed, and the river cruises have all been suspended which means the river is wide and lonely and very quiet without the normal loud sounds of the boats signaling as they pass.

We got to experience some crazy wind today as Ben and I ran to the grocery to get a few things, but not much else. I hear the rain pattering a bit on our 38th floor windows, but that's it. The windows in our flat in Macau weren't sealed so tightly and typhoons there were noisy affairs. In fact typhoons in Macau and Hong Kong were more powerful altogether, being as exposed as they are in the Pearl River Delta.

Doesn't matter though. For a family and a guest who are all native Southern Californians (except Ben, born in the San Francisco Bay), big weather is a big deal. If we manage to get to level red by morning, Michael doesn't have to go to work. A lot can happen in the night! But I'm not staying up to watch, it's far too quiet to keep me awake. We'll see what the morning brings!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Capital D for Door


I have been in three major car accidents in my life.

The first was when I was about five, in my father's Volkswagen Beetle. A car going the opposite direction pulled into our lane and we slammed into him. My Dad's nose was almost completely cut off. I cut my head, and my brother hit his head hard on the handle attached to the glove compartment. That day marked my first ride in an ambulance. The ambulance guys pulled a sheet over my Dad's face to hide the gore from my little brother and I, but thanks to cartoons and television, even a five year old knows a sheet over the face means the patient is dead. I screamed louder than the siren and didn't stop until we got to the hospital where my Mom met us and assured me he was fine. His nose was reattached, but he has no feeling in it! I remember that night my Mom dragged mattresses into the living room and we all slept together there, where she could see all of us at once.

The second was the second day of school my junior year of high school. I lived an hour's bus ride from the school, but it was closer to forty minutes if I drove my own car, a diesel Volkswagen Rabbit. My parents had a rule that I could take my little brother to school with me, but I could not bring friends. I broke that rule and picked up my friend Jessica and my brother's friend Mike and we all took off for school. About a mile from the bus stop, the car started shaking. I freaked out a little as the driver's wheel jerked about in my hands. My brother reached for the wheel, and going into a long curve on the road, my rear passenger side tire hit the gravel on the side of the road and started fishtailing. I over-corrected, the car went into a spin, and we flipped off the opposite side of the road, rolling down a ravine and coming to rest along the barbed-wire fence of the local Army base. I will never forget the deafening silence of a car being upside down in the air, touching nothing. Soldiers saw it happen and came running just as the school bus drove past, our classmates horrified at the flattened car filled with their friends. We were taken to the hospital on base, where my mother had just started her first day of work in another area. She came rushing in to find my friend Jessica on a gurney... in shock, she asked Jessica if she too had been in a car accident. Jess informed her that I'd tried to kill her. Amazingly, miraculously, we all walked away. Sadly, another friend of mine from high school died in the exact same spot a few years later when her car also flipped off the road in the same manner. Jessica and I are still friends however. I was in her wedding and I'm her son's godmother, so I guess trying to kill her didn't mean we couldn't still be friends.

The third accident happened in 1997 when Michael was on tour with Pixar's A Bug's Life and I was driving his diesel Volkswagen pick up truck while he was gone. I was making a left hand turn into a parking lot, and the line of cars coming toward me all stopped to let me go. A boy who had just turned 18 and filled the family car with a bunch of his teenage friends went out joyriding. Seeing the line of stopped cars and not wanting to wait, he illegally passed all the stopped cars driving about 45 MPH in the gutter on the right. I was halfway through the turn and he T-boned my truck. The impact sent the truck sliding into a curb, where it flipped up and hit a concrete post and then slammed back into the street. The impact broke the front axle and all the glass in the truck. Amazingly it did not break me, though I spent months in physical therapy and still have residual pain in my back from the impact to this day. The boy and his car and all of his teenage friends escaped damage, thank goodness.

So what do all these accidents have in common?

After the third accident, we said no more and went out and bought a Saturn followed by a string of Toyotas. No more Volkswagen for me! So imagine my dismay when we moved to Shanghai and found that all the taxis are made by Volkswagen!

Does this make me nervous? Oh yes it does. Especially since we must rely on taxis if we want to go anywhere beyond the reach of the Metro train or our own feet. Since the boys were born I've been praying and praying that they will never in their lives ever be in a car accident. I was incredibly lucky to have walked away from all three of my car accidents and I don't want the boys to even be in a little tiny fender-bender. So far, so good.

Yesterday our family and our guest, Andrew, took off for a location about an hour of the Shanghai city center. We took the Metro train as far as we could, and then hopped in a taxi to go the doorstep of our destination. Most cars here don't have seat belts in the backseat, certainly not taxis. This was also the case in Macau, so nothing new here really. While Andrew has been visiting, we've been cramming the four of us into the back seat, putting Ben on Michael's lap, and then letting Andrew sit in the front next to the driver (which has a seat belt about 60% of the time). We've seen taxis jammed with even more than five passengers, so beyond an initial thought of, "we could never get away with this in the States," I haven't thought much about it at all. My biggest worry is more about how if/when we return to the States, how will we all get used to the mandatory wearing of seat belts once again?

After our day of fun, we all went to jump in a taxi. For the first time ever, the taxi driver refused to take five passengers. Since we were at a hotel and the desk could call us a second taxi, we just had Michael and the boys head to the train station in the first taxi while Andrew and I waited for the next one. We waited quite some time before our ride arrived. We never even got off the hotel lot before our taxi and an electric motorbike carrying two non-helmeted passengers collided with a loud thud. I looked out my driver's side rear window to see a mangled motorbike, a tangle of legs, a woman's bare behind (her skirt was around her waist), and blood. I couldn't open my door without hitting the pile of bike and bodies, so I pushed Andrew quickly out his passenger side door.

Before either my mom or Andrew's mom reads this and freaks out, let me just say that we are all okay. No damage to us, not even mild whiplash. I think I smacked my arm against either my door or the Plexiglas back of the driver's seat, but it all happened so fast and I had a quick moment of panic that we'd actually ran over them that I didn't really notice.

After we got out of the taxi and I heard the woman moaning and saw the man moving a bit with blood on his face, I left Andrew and raced back to the hotel lobby to tell them about the accident. Since they'd just seen me leave in a taxi after telling the driver our destination in Chinese, they all smiled and said, "You are going to the train station!" It took a bit of charades and finally a tug on their arm to get them to come with me. I didn't know if we'd need to stay for the police or if we could just go. I handed over a pack of tissues to both the man and the woman and then the hotel employee herded Andrew and I back to the hotel entrance to get a second taxi. We didn't protest.

As our next driver passed the first by, we saw the man on his feet smoking a cigarette, tissues pressed to the bleeding wound on his forehead. Andrew said the bone had come through on impact with the side of the taxi, but I tried not to look. The taxi had a sizeable indentation along the driver's side and the lady was rubbing her ankle. We made it safely the rest of the short ride to the train station and told Michael all about the craziness. And I felt immense gratitude that though quite minor, Nathan and Benjamin weren't in the car with us!

Every single day here I see crazy dangerous driving and I continually wonder why we never actually see any car accidents. Thanks to the little collision yesterday, I can no longer say I've never seen an accident here! Calm, quiet Andrew just shrugged and said, "That was quite an adventure."

Glad the adventure will continue another day for all of us!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Dear Young Self

While searching Google for something, I found myself among the search results! More on that in a second...

I admit that as I watch my kids struggle in areas that I too struggled with as a child, I want to make things easier for them. But just like helping a baby bird escape its shell will cripple it from ever flying, so too will me stepping in to smooth their path. They need the struggle to give them the motivation and freedom to go where they want to go.

My oldest asked me a week ago in a late night taxi ride home what I would do if I could do anything. Without hesitation I told him I was already doing it- living internationally, traveling every chance we get, learning another new language, and writing all about it. I'm reminded of conversations with my Mom and Dad in my early years when I would drive them to distraction and they would lift their arms in frustration and ask me "whatever are we going to do with you" with a deep sigh. My cheeky answer was, "Send me to Germany!"

I did go to Germany many years ago, and over a dozen other places since then. Awesome how my childhood longings came to pass. Thanks Mom and Dad for not making life too easy, so I would have the strength to live the life I'm living today.

Here's a Tweet of mine from a year ago, which was one of the search results on Google. What would you tell your young self if you could?

Friday, August 3, 2012

Minty Fresh

I've never had gum in my hair, even as a kid when I had hair so long I could sit on it. My kids have also been spared that fate as well. But our dog? Not so lucky.

Someone's gum didn't make it in the trash as they claimed. I didn't use ice cubes or peanut butter (Lucy Rocket hates to be cold and she eats peanut butter with relish, which might've hindered the process), but I did rub in some olive oil to work out the biggest bit, and then carefully clipped out the rest.

Good thing she already has a scheduled appointment with the groomer tomorrow. Sigh.

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