Tuesday, December 23, 2008

what christmas means to me

What Christmas means to me.

The memories of childhood Christmases fill my mind, as I watch my own children and hope their memories are as sweet as mine. My first memory is of my mom locked in her room. What was she doing in there? Finishing up those last minute wrappings and sewing the final seams of a doll. The next memorable Christmas is also my favorite. I received a pink ruffled parasol I had been coveting and a large stack of books.

Christmas is filled with these memories. Memories of family. Finding the perfect gift for the family member whose name I had drawn. I got my mom three years in a row. Sleeping with my sisters and waking up at three. Opening our stockings while waiting for our parents to wake. My dad's ho ho ho as he came down the stairs. Memories of Christmas lamps - a story for another time - and snowmen.

We never forgot what the real meaning of Christmas was though. Every Christmas eve we would sing carols and read the Christmas story from the book of Luke. Then we were trundled off to bed after leaving cookies and milk for Santa.

Now I am building new Christmas memories and traditions with my children. Our memories will be full of warm tropical picnics on the beach. Santa in his speedo. Hotel Christmases. Chinese ornaments. But we will carry on our own Christmas eve telling of the Christ's birth. We will sing our carols and remember Christmas is not the gifts or the lights, but the celebration of the Saviour's love for us.

Monday, December 15, 2008


I went out tonight on my own. Now I have done this before, but tonight it was particularly dark, and I had to cross a busy road. There were about three other people crossing at the same time. We all took our chances and crossed halfway then almost got mowed down by a turning car. We all crunched together quickly as the car turned. the woman beside me was saying nasty things, thank goodness I couldn't understand. We made our way to the other side only to hear the ringing of bicycle bells. I just stood still while they went around me. How embarrassing would it be to be taken out by a bike? They really should have lights.

So i must say sorry for my absence. Things got a little crazy but I'm back again.

Christmas is in full swing here. I have been surprised at the commercialism here, since this is not a very big holiday here. Evidently many of the young Chinese like to decorate for Christmas, and in the last few years it has really caught on. There has been a noticeable increase in traffic and my trip to the grocery last week was extra crowded. There are lights and decorations everywhere. Friday was the last day of school and we have finally taken the time to decorate the tree after the last days of winter concerts and school parties.

here are a few headlines from my area:

these two women, caged and catlike, sat outside a shopping mall to call for people to shop eating cat meat. I have a friend who visited the local wet market and there was a bucket of cats, yum. some of the restaurants are reportedly serving cat now since the weather has cooled. Supposedly cat meat makes you warm.

Santa rides an ostrich - local zoo. What else can I say! In Finland he rides a goat, so why not and ostrich?

46 injured in popular Hong Kong shopping area. Two 750ml bottles of acid were dropped from above. No suspects were found. I will never understand what drives people to commit these types of acts.

I promise to return.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008


what is your favorite christmas carol? why?

It Came Upon A Midnight Clear

It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth,
To touch their harps of gold:
"Peace on the earth, goodwill to men
From heavens all gracious King!"
The world in solemn stillness lay
To hear the angels sing.

Still through the cloven skies they come,
With peaceful wings unfurled;
And still their heavenly music floats
O'er all the weary world:
Above its sad and lowly plains
They bend on hovering wing,
And ever o'er its Babel sounds
The blessed angels sing.

O ye beneath life's crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow;
Look now, for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing;
Oh rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing.

For lo! the days are hastening on,
By prophets seen of old,
When with the ever-circling years
Shall come the time foretold,
When the new heaven and earth shall own
The Prince of Peace, their King,
And the whole world send back the song
Which now the angels sing.

this is my favorite. it seems to encompass all. then and now. the beauty of that first christmas and the hope of what is yet to come.

what is your favorite?

Friday, December 05, 2008

#5 nablopomo

if i was remy i would be writing a poem about how


why am i putting myself through the pressure of posting everyday.

the truth is that today i am too tired.

larry is putting the only two home tonight to bed .

he even did toothbrush duty.

so i am going for a soak in a hot tub.

then straight to bed.


Thursday, December 04, 2008

nablolpomo # 4

i did go today to the four dragon store and the stationery mall. i did take my camera, but i took no pictures. never fear though as i must return tomorrow. i bought a christmas tree but - silly me - did not check it before bringing it home and it doesn't fit together. so pictures tomorrow. i bought some decorative plates and a jim shore santa for less than 10 dollars. in front of the stationery mall they had a lot of food vendors. i must try some octopus on a stick!

here is my cloisonne i commissioned from a local artist. i always stop and admire his work. when ordering this piece i failed to notice the child is wearing those pants that are open in the back. i suppose then it is more authentic.

here are the plates i bought today. they are square and quite intricate. the photos don't really do them justice. i quite like them.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

heartbreak / #3

it is so hard to be a kid. i think we often forget the heartaches and the insecurities of youth. most of the time i am happy with the choices my husband and i have made for our family. the opportunity, to live outside of the u.s., for our children has been wonderful. tonight though as i sat with my daughter, tears streaming down her face, i felt powerless to help. there was nothing i could say to help her. this is her fourth school. she is in fourth grade! i remember being the new kid. i wasn't outgoing so it took me a long time to make friends. as she struggles with finding her place in school and a very different culture, and finding friends that understand and seek her company as-well, i stand and helplessly watch. i love her. she is smart and fun. she is also so like me. quick to make judgements, feeling every little word that is said deeply. analyzing and berating every move she makes. i hope she knows i am always here for her. i hope i can be her safe zone.

And thou shalt in thy daughter see, This picture, once, resembled thee.[Ambrose Philips (1675-1749),

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

christmas cards - nablopomo #2

Two things happening. First being inspired by my blogging friend Cairo TypO and her NaBloPoMo success, I have decided to go for it, a whole month of daily blogging. Hopefully it will be meaningful, insightful, and not too much of me for you. Secondly I have found a great journaling blog called Tuesday-Tell-All. I thought it would be great fun. It is also a way to get some topics that otherwise I might not think of, for posterity you know. So this is my second December post and my first Tuesday Tell All.

So the topic for this Tuesday is Christmas cards.

Last year I received two Christmas cards in the mail. One from my sister-in-law. The other was from my gynecologist. You know the one, with the stamped signature and the picture of the office staff wearing Santa hats. Of course this may be due to the fact that in eight years I haven't sent cards. I always meant well, in the days before I completely gave up. I would carefully pick my cards. I would make sure they said me. I would get out my address book and write messages. Then I would never mail them. To this day I have several boxes of cards, addressed and not, just hanging out taking up space.

Now I send email cards. Easier in many ways, but the irony of the situation is that I love mail. I love to open the mailbox and find a letter or a card. I imagine having a box on my mantel, full of the many Christmas cards sent to me by friends and family. I dream of having meaningful correspondence through the post. Who knows, maybe this year I will change my stripes, or not.

world aids day

She watched him in the rear view mirror. His eyes catching hers in the mirror smiled. She resented the fact she was on this trip. Resented the fact that she must take her son to say goodbye to someone he had never had the opportunity to know. Her mind wandered back to the day they had met. Cocky and self-assured, he marched right up to her and kissed her. They had a whirlwind romance marrying just four months later. She loved his fun-loving ways and his zest for life. Fresh from college, life was theirs for the taking.

Looking back now there were so many things she should have seen. She became pregnant. She guessed it was a lot of responsibility for a young couple just starting out, but she was happy. He worried about how they would make ends meet. He often came home late after having gone out with the guys. Just letting off some steam. He had always been one to enjoy a party and the company of a lively crowd. It became more and more frequent and the tensions at home seemed to mount. She moved out.

Now four years later she would take their son to visit him. His once strong and vibrant body emaciated. His thick curly hair falling out. Lesions on his skin. His body under attack. A life full of careless choices. His drinking had made way to other things. Money exchanged in dark passages for a few hours of escape. A series of women who were always willing to share in the fun. She wondered where they were now. She also felt the guilt of thinking she should have been there, maybe if she had stayed it would have been different. Looking at her son she was glad she hadn't.

Facing AIDS - World AIDS day 2008

hiv/aids is the topic for bloggers unite this month. i am sure i have not done it justice but i am glad to be able to join my voice with the many who today will address this topic. we have come a long way since the beginning of this terrible world epidemic. the number of people affected is astounding. many are children and youth. education is vital to help, our youth especially, make choices that will keep them safe.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


today - thanksgiving - i walk to school like i do most days to pick up the poppets. i leave my hotel and head down the tree-lined streets on my 5 minute walk, 10 - 15 with parrish. the streets are clean and well maintained with a lane for bikes and a lane for pedestrians. parrish jumps from one section of the pavement to another, picking up sticks to wave in front of him, until he discovers how dirty this makes his hands.

we cross the road at the traffic light being ever alert that everyone is actually going to stop at the light and checking for bikes. we pass men having a break from work. they all stare in wonder at his blonde hair and try to touch him, not caring that he glares at them and quickly runs away. they laugh. we pass the men playing a gambling game. they squat down on the ground coins in hand, little pieces of torn cardboard for playing pieces.

across from the school there is a park with benches and landscaping. areas to sit and relax. in contrast, in the front of the school we wind our way through the people waving metal tins at us. shouts of hello, hello. deformed limbs and slow minds. sometimes we give a bit of something to eat, a package of bread, an apple, but today, of all days i have nothing.

i am so thankful for the many blessings i have. so thankful to have the opportunity to see and know what the world is, the wonderful and the sad. thankful that my children might not take for granted all they have. i hope you all have a blessed day. a day to remember the blessings of an abundant land, a day to share with not only those we love, but to also give to those who have not.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

family blogs

family members check out these blogs by some of my favorite people




they would love your comments

physical exam

today i went to get my physical, which is part of getting my residence visa. It was quite amazing and i wish that i had a photo journalist with me. I did have my camera but was busy running from room to room so i did not have time to take many pictures.

this all takes place at a designated hospital. you take a number and when called you turn in your paperwork and they take your picture and a fingerprint. you then proceed to the cashier and then the fun begins.
it is set up so you go from room to room for all the different requirements. I was impressed that people were actually queueing. i started with what was the shortest line.

  1. two vials of blood

  2. visual acuity

  3. ear, nose, throat check

  4. height, weight, reflexes

  5. chest x-ray

  6. ECG

  7. dental

  8. sonogram

  9. urine

if you have ever seen the movie "the court jester" it reminds me of that. in the movie Danny Kaye's character is to be quickly knighted so they just grab him and frantically shuttle him around from one event to the next so that he can speedily be knighted. it is very funny and i couldn't help thinking of this as i ran from room to room fulfilling all the requirements for residency. watch it you will die of laughter.

the last thing i did was the urine deposit. i had to laugh because you just deposited the open cup of urine on a cart outside the bathroom door. secure right. in about a week i will know if i am going to receive an all right. then it will be on to the police to register with them.

Parrish making friends at the hospital. this gentleman along with three women, all from the Philippines, is here for four months. they are working at the Sheraton as entertainers. singers i think.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


I miss driving. I have always loved to drive. For me it was always time to relax, time to unwind after work. Time for me. You didn't have to feel guilty for not doing anything. You know like when you sit around watching TV. In the car you are moving towards your destination. You pop in some music and turn it up real loud. You are a free.

Of course these days my time in the car is usually shared with four children. The calls of she touched me, he's looking at me sound in my ears. Still it is a privilege to be able to hop in the car and have the freedom to go where you want.

No matter how glamorous it sounds to have a driver, for me it is a freedom removed. While living in the smaller towns of Brazil and Venezuela I occasionally drove. I did not have my own car but would use Larry's when he wasn't using it or was out of town. Most people in Caracas had drivers since the traffic was so horrendous and there were security concerns as well. I usually had to call for a car service frequented by the company.

Upon moving to Rio I had more opportunity to drive. At first I was quite intimidated by the traffic. Mostly though I was worried about learning my way around. I am notoriously bad at directions and could see myself ending up in the middle of a slum. Larry forced me to drive and soon it became a wonderful pleasure. winding through the Rio traffic, people honking at you, motorcycles whipping around you, looking for that opening to squeeze through that will get you farther down the road. I felt so alive, so much a part of the city.

Now in China there is no option. My driver is quite nice, although we can barely understand each other. it was also reported to me that he thinks the same of me. Evidently a great coup. He is reported as saying i never make him just sit and wait for me all day just in case i decide to go out. I obviously am not a proper expat woman yet. Larry and I share the use but as right now Larry is only here on the weekends we have had no conflicts.

This has been one of the difficult adjustments for me. Not being able to jump in the car whenever I want and just go. Having to plan out my driving needs and schedule them. Maybe it will make me a more organized person. Maybe i will become a better passenger.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Thank all of you that made my BATW day such a success.
I had over 60 comments.
I hope many of you will return.
I very much enjoyed reading your blogs and
will be dropping in on you.
If i did not leave you a message know that I am
still answering some of the comments

I am getting so excited about moving into our new home. Last Thursday the realtors called and said could I please come and inspect the house, because it is ready and they would like us to sign the paperwork. I did go and they have done much of the work, but they are not finished. There were workmen everywhere. Most of the things that need to be done are minor except for a large water stain in the master bedroom. It is a new stain as there is fresh paint on the walls. I hope the problem is located and properly corrected since I do not wish to deal with a large water leak after I move in.

The hotel is beginning to feel cramped. I am sure if I was a more organized person everything would be fine, but let's face it, this is me! This is the girl who wouldn't clean her bedroom - even though she couldn't see her bed - just because it was expected of her. I hate clutter, I hate disorganization, but that nasty habit of procrastination is ever present. It tells me to read a couple of chapters in my book, do some knitting, watch a little TV, read some blogs. Then there is the homework, the story reading, the Lego play, and the refereeing.

My two oldest children will be getting there own rooms, while the two youngest will be sharing. Everyone has big plans for their space and Bronwyn has asked for a bedroom makeover for Christmas. I think this is a fine idea. Remy wants a loft bed with desk underneath and a sitting area. The little ones are excited about sharing bunk beds. Gwendolyn's turn on top with the promise of a curtain on the bottom for Parrish.

Such expectations; I hope everyone is not disappointed. This will be the first time in quite a while that we will be able to step out our door and do things like ride bikes. We will have a backyard and I foresee being able to throw a ball and have a picnic. Remy is already planning a camp out. So even if Santa is having an economic dilemma this year we will have a wonderful Christmas.

Can't wait to move in and give everyone the tour. Next week planning a trip to the Dragon Store with a friend. Will have pictures for you so see you then.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

ni hao!

ni hao!

welcome to china

a special welcome to all the BATW visitors today. For those of you unfamiliar this is a site where bloggers from all over the world can be connected. Every week a different blogger is chosen to give a tour of their area. I am very pleased to be invited and hope you all enjoy.

I am from the U.S.A. (me - Texas, hubby - Illinois) and with my husband and four children have been living in South America for over 7 years. We arrived in China in August and are just settling into this amazing country and enjoying learning about the people here.

We are living in the Guangdong Province, in a city called Shenzhen ( we are actually in the Shekou area). It is located just across the border from Hong Kong. You can easily take a ferry or train to Hong Kong for a nice day trip. Although I have not had the opportunity to visit much of mainland China yet I have the impression that this city is not like others in China. There are many foreign investors in the city, everything from electronics to clothing, pharmaceutical to machinery. It has become a proving ground of sorts to show the world how China is opening up.

One of the difficulties we have found here is the attention we draw as westerners, especially our children, having four plus the fair skin. Often on just a trip to the grocery store we will be assailed with people touching their hair and taking photos - with themselves in the picture of course. Last week we went to dinner and were stopped just outside the door for the photo fest. I think I could make a pretty penny if I set up a booth.

In Shenzhen there are restaurants for every taste. We have Japanese restaurants, thai, italian, tex-mex, and of course various fast food places. I have really enjoyed the chinese food although it is different from what I what see in the U.S. My particular favorites are the celery which is cooked in what I think is a sort of chicken broth and lotus root which is not only beautiful to see but tasty too. Martin Yan also has a cooking school here and gives classes.

Let's talk a little about language. Upon learning I was moving here I started to look into some mandarin. Finding that the words were in the same order as english i took heart, as this has been difficult for me in spanish. There are no singular and plural nouns, no gender specific nouns. You do not need to worry about past or present, active or passive, or pronouns. Wow, this sounded great. The pronunciation is so difficult and one word can have many meanings just by changing the inflection of your voice. so you must memorize where all the correct inflections go. How do you have a language with no alphabet! I see long nights of studying with headphones clamped to my head. àn bù jiù ban - one step at a time.

As I have the opportunity to travel more here I will share those experiences with you, so I hope you will all visit often. I leave you with some photos

visiting a temple

view from temple hike

hong kong haze

chinese cemetery from bus window

a favorite italian restaurant

a local shop

Thursday, November 13, 2008


i love this have a great day!

being expat

Before leaving Brasil, someone told me how much she liked me, that I was not like an American. This comment surprised me so much. Upon asking why this was, I was told that I was sincere. When I said something it wasn't just to be polite, I really meant it. This woman had lived in the U.S. for about three years and her experience was that American women say things insincerely. We smile at everyone indiscriminately, we ask how you are but really don't want to know the truth of the answer. We say things that are untrue so as not to hurt any ones feelings or make them angry with us, and then turn around and say the reverse to someone else. This left me with much to think about. How culturally different we all are.

When travelling to different countries I am ever more aware of the things I do. Do people think I am rude or affected, even insincere. I recently was in my seven year old's class-room and it was snack time. the teacher reminded the children that they must practice eating their snack with mouths closed and no slurping, as this is an American school. So the question is should we impose our cultural norms upon the world because they are what is comfortable for us?

About six years ago I was invited to a ladies dinner potluck, hosted by a dear Scottish lady. In my head I pictured us sitting in chairs around the lawn, a plate on our lap. I whipped up some not beautiful, but very yummy coconut oatmeal cake bars, and deviled eggs. I arrived to a beautifully set table with candles. I don't think one of my cake bars was eaten. Someone had bought a beautiful chocolate cake covered with chocolate shavings. It was all quite posh, and surprisingly formal. Isn't it funny how different our take on what the event was going to be. It was just supposed to be a bunch of us getting together for a girl's night but it was something quite culturally different.

While living in Brasil one of the customs was that when someone came to your home they must leave through the same door they entered, as being allowed in the front door and then ushered out the back meant you were not welcome. In China you always take your shoes off at the door. So many things to learn everywhere you go. Hopefully in my journeys I will be able to present myself well and also be able to embrace all that is good about others.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

I don't think I like this template look, but will try for a bit. It is a bit fussy on the sides.


I have been in a bit of a blog funk. I turn on the computer and sit in front of my post page and nothing happens. Today I will get back on track though. Debbie from BATW has asked me to host on monday. I don't really know what that entails but I am game. On the 10th I was supposed to write a refugee blog and I had read all these great stories and done research, and in my defense I did sit down to do it but never liked anything I wrote. If there is anything you would like to hear let me know, especially what questions you have on china as I will answer those for the monday post.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


Wow, what an election! History was made. I must say that whatever your political party, we as Americans can all be proud of this election. John McCain gave a very gracious concession speech. I was pleased that president-elect Obama's speech was very respectful of McCain and very considerate of all the Americans who may not have voted for him. he could have given a rally-like, gloatful (is that a word?) speech, but the tone, I thought, was right. Everyday I am proud to be a part of this nation. I wish Obama well and hope that in the next four years we can put party politics aside and get down to doing what is best for our country.
thanks to nina for sending me this cute video.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


vote, vote, vote, vote, vote.

post changes 2

i decided i needed a change. i think the template is beautiful but i hate that my navigation bar is covered. hopefully not too fussy. i downloaded about 5 different templates so i may be trying them out at different times. let me know if you like this or any future changes.

Monday, November 03, 2008

spirit week

some photos from spirit week :

here everyone is showing their school spirit by wearing the school colours.

crazy hair day

you probably can't tell, but gwendolyn was a beehive complete with little bumblebees. i don't know how crazy remys hair was as it looks like that often. bronwyn had what we called mini brains all over her head.

the girls show their spirit on pajama day.

do you like the backwards princess?

the last day was character day and we were running late and forgot to take the picture. sorry.

halloween fun

super parrish

g.i. remy, spa girl, flower fairy

I feel as if I haven't posted in a month, even though it has only been about a week. It was a successful halloween. Here at the hotel there was a pumpkin carving activity and trick or treating. The kids had a lot of fun and of course got too much candy. On saturday the school had a fall fair and the kids dressed up and participated in a costume parade, had yummy food and played all kinds of carnival games. here are some highlights:

pumpkin carving with fraser place hotel.

ready to trick or treat!

ready for the fall fair the next day and the costume parade. someone at the fair asked me where the face painting was - i was so proud