Saturday, June 30, 2007

Ayi Math

This analysis was actually put together by a friend of ours, but we figure it is worth sharing:

Couple of assumptions
  1. the population of the Chaoyang District (our district in Beijing) is 2289796 (2000 census)
  2. Most families don’t move to the other side of the world from each other so it’s not unreasonable to assume that you would have many generations of the same family living close by (and you said they both lived near by so I didn’t bother with the population of Beijing just your district)
  3. So let say a woman has two children, one boy and one girl (the one child policy is pretty new so this is totally reasonable). Each of them has two children, one boy and one girl. When the granddaughters are of working age you would have 4 women in the family who might be in the field (since you said the second girl was a niece I had to assume her mother or father had a sister or I would have only counted 3)
  4. Not that odd for a career to follow a family so it wouldn’t be odd that they all were in the same vocation.

So that’s 4 out of 2,289,769 or 1 out of 572,499... given the best set of circumstances that sounds right.

As a follow up: it turns out that the niece was not interested in part time work, so we will not be employing multiple members of the same family.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Yahoo is back!

Whatever unmentionable transgression that Yahoo may have made, it has apparently been forgiven and is once again accessible here in China.

Just to give you a sense of the confusedness of such occurrences:
While most of Yahoo became blocked on Wednesday, Flickr was actually blocked 2 weeks ago and Wikipedia, which I haven't been able to look at since I arrived in Beijing, is accessible. Hmmm... still can't view blogger - we can post, but not view.

Flickr was blocked because of some pictures of Tiananmen square that someone uploaded 2 weeks ago. It is possible that Flickr's disgrace is what affected the rest of Yahoo, but it is hard to tell. However, Flickr is also accessible once again... unless you actually want to see pictures, in which case you are out of luck. Right now I can go to their web page and do searches, but all that comes up are boxes with names in them and the actual images won't load.

Interesting solution

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Yahoo blocked - Arghhhh!

China has apparently decided that everything Yahoo is incredibly dangerous so as well as yahoo mail is blocked. Flickr, which yahoo owns, is also totally off limits. Well, the sign-in page is still available, but all the content past that page has vanished.

I've kind of gotten use to general useful search engines being blocked, but my mail? Come on! That is just not nice. And to add insult to injury, the anonymous proxies can't even be used to check mail because you have to sign in as an individual which the proxies don't allow. So, if you want to get a hold of me, it would be best to email Michael who uses gmail or send my emails to my same username but to gmail.

Hopefully Yahoo will get back on China's good side again soon and then all will be right in my world, or at least my email world. Until then, we are sorry for this interruption in our services.

Ayi Juxposition

The MBA class I am taking has 10 hour days Thursday - Sunday. Right now this is not much of a problem (other than being particularly exhausting) but once our forthcoming bundle of joy shows up, those 2 weekdays are going to get a little tricky. Last fall you may have remembered that we hired our first ayi. Now we are looking to hire someone new to watch little moose for the two days I am in class and Michael is at work.

Tonight we interviewed a woman who sounded great; She lives near us, cooks Indian food, and was described as 'cheerful'. One small snag - it turned out that she is the niece of our current ayi. In fact, she has actually been to our apartment with her aunt.

We are rather surprised that out of the entire pool of ayis, the two we have interviewed are related. What are the odds?

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Spicy food and baby sex

This past weekend I learned that craving spicy food means I will have a little boy according to Chinese customs. Of course, I am also craving sweets and pretty much anything that can be eaten quickly with little preparation work on my part so this particular indicator was not quite definitive.

Thursday, June 21, 2007


My latest MBA class started today - Corporate Finance. There is A LOT packed into this course, especially since I have never had accounting. To help prepare for class, last night Moose decided, for the very first time, to wake me up at 2 and keep me up until 3:30am. It was very thoughtful of her to make sure we got to spend some quality time together.

Today was a long day.

The bright side is that it will probably seem like a walk in the park compared to how much she will keep us awake once she is actually born.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Kittiy games

Its been a while since we have given updated kitty pictures, so today is a kitty-fix day. These first 2 are of one of their favorite games to pass the time. (Their very favorite is sleeping but those pictures getting boring pretty quickly.) The game seems to be called Cyrano ambushing Roxanne though they both play it quite a bit.

Another version of this game involved elaborate hiding tactics. Here is Roxanne employing the sofa slip cover as a masking device. I'm not sure how she managed to get the whole thing to lay down so smoothly after getting underneath it, but she definitely has the trick to it down.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Chinese Pregger Customs - Don't let the cold in

There is a lot of Chinese customs for pregnant women and I get to learn more and more of them each day.
During my last MBA class I was told that I should not eat hawthorn berries. This is probably part of the larger issues that 'cold' things are bad for preggies (though really there are a whole set of specific food requirements that I don't understand or even know about). What are cold things? Well, these are not only physically cold things like cold air but also items that fall into the 'cold' category like watermelon. The whole idea is that because women's joints loosen as the pregnancy progresses and especially right after the baby is born, that the woman's body is more susceptible to things. The one big issue to look out for is cold getting into the joints which will cause arthritis later in life. Chinese people would prefer that I don't even drink anything cold - which considering it was 32°C (90°F) is quite a bit to ask for.
Check out this article for more information regarding Chinese food culture.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Mangosteen season!

Yay! Mangosteens are back!
We have actually been able to find them around for a few months, but now they are cheap and oh so good. Both Laura and Brianne got to try these lovely fruits while visiting and became instant converts.

Gotta love those summer fruits!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Its a....

A few astute readers have asked about Moose's sex. So far we have just been responding to emails, but since someone actually went ahead and posted the question on the blog I guess we can give everyone an answer.

When we had the 5 month ultrasound we were told that it is 80% likely our little Moose is a girl. There is still a 20% chance that Moose was just being sort of shy for the pictures and that he will surprise us when he shows up in which case he will be wearing a lot of pink for his first year of life. (FYI - it is not that we believe that pink is at all required for little girls. We actually like blue, purple, green, fuchsia and really any color other than pink. But we have been given some cute pink outfits and we have been lent a lot of clothes from friends who happen to have a lot of pink... so pink it has been so far.)

There will probably be another ultrasound sometime in the next 2 months and it may confirm the sex, but for now it is ShamrockJewBabyGirl (aka Moose).

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Baby Update

At dinner tonight we realized that I am now in my 8th month of pregnancy. Wow.
Apparently little Moose is at about 50% of her final birth weight. She should be putting on about 1/2 a pound a week until she is born.

To help with all this new baby that just keeps on growing, I attended a pre-natal yoga class today. It was pretty funny to see all these women with bellies working out together. It sure was a lot different than the yoga classes I attended before becoming pregnant.

Monday, June 11, 2007

New Fun with Signs

One of the fun things about visiting China is that you not only get to try out a lot of new foods, you also get to try out some new toilet options. I have actually developed a fondness for the squat toilets, but I tend to be a lone voice among ex-pats in that department.

But as interesting as the toilets are, the signs are even better.

The one on the left is for a squat toilet.

The one on the right is for a western toilet.

And this one....

is for a western toilet with sidebars. And it was in the woman's bathroom.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Getting some exercise (Part 2)

Full of hope and anticipation at such a easy resolution to the pass issue I headed to the front desk and YES, they did have a letter for me to give to the hotel fitness center saying that I, Debbie Smith, should be given a membership pass.

For you astute readers, you have probably already picked up on the one small problem. Actually, I don't remember what name the letter contained except that it could have been American and definitely wasn't mine. (I checked 3 times just in case.) That led to another interesting discussion which eventually resolved itself with me needing to bring down our passports for the front desk to copy and then they could issue new letters for our family pass.

I decided that it could wait another day.

But a very nice front desk man called up to the apartment that afternoon and asked for the spelling of my name. Although he never mentioned passports, once again hope loomed large as I suspected he was probably calling about the fitness center pass. But why only my name since I was getting a family pass for both Michael and myself? Well, probably because Michael’s name is the one on the apartment, so the only one they were unsure of was mine.

The next day we once again received a notice that there was something for us at the front desk. Excited, but a little leery, I collected our second letter that did indeed entitle me (the real me this time) to a single person fitness center membership pass. No family pass? No Michael? Well, you can’t have everything.

I took my letter and a photo of myself over to the fitness center whose location I was well acquainted with due to my earlier adventuring and shockingly – everything went smoothly. They let me in and showed me around the very posh surroundings which actually do look just like the pictures. I then did about 20 minutes of laps in a pool all to myself! Some days it is kind of fun to not have to go to work.

After swimming I soaked my feet in the hot tub for 20 minutes (the Chinese foot masseurs have told me that is good for me) which I also had to myself.

I think that place will do just fine. Now, if we can just figure out how to get a family pass….

Getting some exercise (Part 1)

It is interesting how much more walking occurs when guests are in town. Once they head back home, the desire to explore the far ends of town definitely decrease. Actually, my personal desire to do any exercise at all took a drastic downward turn when some folks thought I should stop riding my bicycle around town. (I still miss it.)

I had sort of whimsically mentioned that the very posh hotel associated with our apartment is said to have a really lovely fitness center with a pool and that apparently our housing comes with membership to the center - but you have to ask for it. I probably would have asked, eventually, really... but I was egged on by the donation of a friend's swimsuit and then follow-up questions asking if I had used it yet. So about 2 weeks ago I mustered up my energy and prepared for the task of (dun dun duhhhhh) Talking To The Front Desk Staff. While these folks speak pretty decent English, non-standard requests can become lengthy and confusing conversations. But the bathing suit questions kept coming in, so I gave it my best shot and after 10 or so minutes of disjointed and oft-repeated questions and answers, I was told that I had to go to the desk in the hotel and not in the apartment building.

That pretty well used up my motivation for the day and it wasn't until this week that I attempted the hotel staff. They sent me from the concierge to the fitness center to the reception desk and then tried to send me back to the fitness center but after I told them I wasn't going back there instead decided I needed to go back to my apartment front desk. (Not so different from how we do it in the States really with a 30 minute game of pass-the-annoying-guest-around-until-hopefully-she-gives-up.)

My apartment front desk told me (unsurprisingly) that I needed to go to the hotel. After I explained that I had already tried that, a few phone calls were made, the result of which was a gentleman informing me that he had already issued me my gym pass.

Really? Hmm... Maybe Michael had picked it up and hidden it away in an effort to uh, hmm, well, really I could think of no reason Michael would not have immediately passed that along, but I still figured I should check before telling the mysterious man on the phone he was just plain wrong - which was exactly what he turned out to be. No pass had been given to us.

The next morning there was a note on the apartment door that there was something for us at the front desk! Apparently the nice man on the phone had also realized that he had perhaps slightly misstated the location of the pass which I had been told before that he couldn't give me and had moved to rectify the situation. Yay!

And on that happy note, we'll conclude today's post. But don't worry bat fans, tomorrow will conclude this fateful tale.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

TianTan (Temple of Heaven for you foreigners)

Things are getting a little out of order now, but of that bothers you that is just too bad because I am all the way over in China and you will just need to enjoy whatever information comes to you. (Though we do take requests.)

Last Friday Laura and I headed down to the Southern section of the city to check out the Temple of Heaven. The park officially opens at 6am which is when all the locals show up for exercise and hanging out. At 8am the temple areas open. We got there are 7:40ish so we were able to go through the temple areas with minimal crowd interference. We did manage to find a very nice Irish man to take our picture in front of the main temple building though.

And here is Laura in a very Chinese sort of pose in front of another of the temple. This visit was the first time I was able to look into the temple buildings without being pushed aside by some very tiny Chinese tourist with surprising strength. I really enjoy visiting tourist sights early in the day!

As for the locals exercising and hanging out in the park, their activities range from ballroom dancing, to tai chi, to (slowed down) hip hop, to hacky sack - Chinese style. I believe this particular group was learning to cha cha.

This last picture is actually from our way out at the much later time of about 9:45am. The walkway area has people packed onto the banister playing cards, knitting, singing Beijing opera, and just hanging out. We tried walking under the covered area at first, but it was just so crowded and loud (especially the karaoke machine with the Beijing opera) that we moved to the outside sidewalk to enjoy the view and (smoggy) air.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Time to go

Today was a sad day, the day for Laura to go home. The kitties are particularly depressed as Michael and I are not nearly as attentive. Here you can see them moping (well, actually they are sleeping and cuddling with cookie monster, but it is hard to tell the difference sometimes).

In honor of her last night, we went for Beijing Roast Duck for dinner. Here you can see them pulling a duck from their oven. The restaurant we chose was in the middle of a hutong and the cabbie was quite proud of himself for transversing the construction and road-wide ditches to finally arrive at our destination. We were quite impressed ourselves actually.
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Saturday, June 02, 2007

A Small Victory

The other night when we were meeting my cousins for dinner, I was responsible for making the reservation at the restaurant. Normally, this is something that Michael does since his Chinese is MUCH better than mine. Well that night, due to a lot of repetition with lots of verrrry slllllowwwwllllly asked questions, I managed to call the restaurant and make a reservation all by myself.

It was quite the accomplishment.