Thursday, November 30, 2006

On our way...

We flew out of Grand Rapids this AM at 10. We now sit in Minneapolis waiting for our 1pm CST departure. Elijah and Anna both did great. Elijah spent the majority of the flight playing with Daddy which included chucking toys into the seatback (he was rearward facing in his car seat), playing with a Qdoba ball (thanks Megan), and pointing out footballs, basketballs, and "vrooms" in the USA Today. Anna kept Mom busy by requesting a new activity/toy every 5 minutes. Based on the size of Anna's backpack, I surmise that they used 8% of it's contents on the 94 minute flight. : )

We checked 12 bags and carried on 5 plus a stroller. I highly recommend hiring several sherpas ( if you ever consider traveling with small children.

Sorry I did not publish our itinerary sooner. Here's what is left:

Depart Minn at 1pm. Arrive Tokyo at 4:40pm, Friday, Tokyo time (12 hr, 40min flight, oh my)

Depart Tokyo at 5:50pm. Arrive Shanghai at 8:15pm, China time (3 hr, 25min flight)

We'll get the blog updated as soon we can. Our temp housing situation is in a nice 3 BR apt that has high speed internet access.

The family pictures were taken by Mom Bowman at the "point of no return" in the airport. You'll see in the others that Aimee/Anna sat 2 rows forward of Ryan/Elijah on the plane.
Other pics:
Chilling at Minneapolis Lounge
Picnic in the van with Gramma at Critter Barn, while Mom and Dad facilitate home packing
More later.....

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

600, 2000

Packing is 98% complete thanks to GI-normous help from family and friends. Heather and Dave (Aimee's sister and brother-in-law) came Monday night, helping to begin the crazy advendure of packing everything in less than 48 hours, Ryan and Missy Krauss came up from Maryville Illinois to help out Tuesday and Wednesday. Caitlyn Sternik, babysitter extraordinaire, stuck around after babysitting to help pack up lots of kid's stuff. And Beth Bowman joined in by helping out with some kitchen clean-up. Without everyone's help, we would be working through Thanksgiving. A GIANT THANK YOU TO Y'ALL.

A moving company rep stopped by today and estimated that we had 600 lbs of stuff in our "airplane shipment" and 2000 lbs in our "boat shipment". The airplane delivers in 2-3 weeks. The boat in 6-8 weeks. The weight estimate came in much lower than our allowance for shipping. Therefore, we plan to add a few "luxury"items such as the rocking chair, more books, and Ryan's car. J/K. If any family members want to join us free of charge, they say the "cruise" is nice this time of year.

The movers come on Monday. We are currently scheduled to leave Wednesday morning out of Grand Rapids at 7am.

Enjoy some pictures of the packing party.

Be praying for our family as we do the "farewell" tour this holiday season. Also pray for the kids as they embark on a journey that will take them across the world in a single bound.....and for the poor folks sitting near us on the plane. Aimee and I were noting today that we are so excited to have Anna and Elijah join us on this adventure. Their fun-loving, carefree spirits come from a trust that Momma and Daddy are going to take care of them, no matter what. For me, it's a reminder that my heavenly Father is going to take care of us, no matter what. In the middle of all the scary unknowns associated with this adventure, we rest in that truth.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

They might be Giants

So, everything is very busy in Shanghai. However, some areas are busier than others depending on the day/time. Well, yesterday, when I told Mary Schwartz, JCI manager here, that we were headed to Yu Garden and shopping area, she remarked, "Ryan, that place is going to be crazy today." She was definitely right but it was great. Every basic thing we take for granted, like safely crossing the street, becomes an adventure in China.

If you like people watching, come visit the Bowman's in China. We'll set you up here in Yu Garden, Nanjing Road (think Chicago's Magnificent Mile), or any other street corner for some of the most exhausting people watching you'll ever do.

Here are some more pictures. They capture:

- the "busy-ness" of downtown areas

- how we stand out - can you find Aimee's head in amongst the crowd in one of the pics?

- the Chinese interest in fish. Some of the homes we looked at actually had "in wall", beautiful aquariums that housed dozens of large,colorful fish. This picture was not taken at a pet store, but a jewelry store.

- our lunchtime McDonald's visit. There are 4 or 5 McDonald's in the Yu Garden district alone. The place was packed. Aimee and I had a Big Mac, Dbl Cheeseburger, med fry, large fry, med coke, and large coke for $4.00. When it comes to cost of living, eating at McDonalds is below the curve.
- familiar beverage selection options

Aimee Blogs!!

Written Friday morning Hello everyone! It's about time for me to join this blogging adventure! Everytime that Ryan has been on the computer before, I have been sleeping--no joke. The time change has been difficult for me. We get back to the hotel from house-hunting and I just want to sleep the rest of the night. Fortunately for Ryan, I have done that only once so the rest of the evenings have been filled with heading out to explore the city and some of it's restaurants. Overall, this has been a wonderful trip. I am very relieved with what we have found of the medical world in Shanghai. Although it would still be hard to deliver here because of lack of our family and friends, I think the experience would be quite similar to US hospitals and even more personal. The appt. yesterday ended up just being another tour of their facility--both the clinic where I would have my prenatal care and the birthing facility. It would have cost us 500 RMB (about $60) just to meet with him and ask some questions so we decided to just have a look around. While touring the birthing center, we did meet one of the other doctors and a midwife. It sounds like every birth has 4 people helping--the doctor, a midwife, a nurse and a pediatrician.
Sunday morning: Since my last writing, we have picked out a house as Ryan wrote--I liked this house best because it had an American stove (in normal style Chinese housing, the oven is very small and very different than American style. Our tour guide explained that most Chinese women do not cook-- they go to the store and purchase everything premade and just heat it in thier homes. The other practical difference is it has an American washing machine and dryer (A Chinese washing machine is much smaller and is a washer and dryer in one machine so you can only do one at a time--very difficult with a famliy of 4 and eventually 5. All of the homes that we looked at were absolutely beautiful but I think I will feel the most at home in this one and hopefully will have more time for the swimming pool with kids and getting together with others. The house is not finished yet. We will have to live in another housing unit for about a month until this house is finished. Like Ryan said we were able to pick out whether we wanted carpet or not. We also were able to pick all of the window treatments, the funiture, and where we wanted American plugs and internet at. It was crazy picking out everything. They had maybe 20 curtain samples, 2-3 choices for each type of funiture, 30 samples of sofa fabric, and 4 types of wood choices so we were able to choose it all. I think that it should look nice together. All of the choices were very neutral so I will have to bring in color and more of my style in the pillows and pictures and things. We toured 3 expatriot birthing centers and clinics and all 3 are very similar--only 1 has a clinic by our future home so I think that will be the one I will use and then there will only be the actual giving birth that will have to be downtown. Yesterday was the first day that Ryan and I were on our own. We went to two very popular downtown tourist attractions which was very fun. We had our first opportunity to barter with the local vendors. I think that we got some good deals and probably some not so good but we learned a lot. Thank you all for your prayers and support. We love you all so much. I will try to get a couple of my favorite pictures in for you.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Pictures of the House

I'm limited to a few photos per post. Here's the house. It still needs some finishing touches. The floors incomplete in 2 rooms (we got to pick carpet over hardwood). They are putting in a 110 outlet at the kitchen counter for Aimee's bread mixer. 2 car garage which will be dedicated to kid's stuff and the moped that Ryan hopes to get at some point. The neighborhood is very open and great for riding bikes. The clubhouse includes nice pool facilities and other great stuff. This neighborhood is crazy as to how American it is. It's definitely one of a kind in Shanghai, China. It was a no-brainer for getting our family into something comfortable. Also, the security is top-notch and the management team arranges activities, household help, kid's playgroups, etc. During our walk-through, we saw the neighbors. It was a pregnant mother and a boy about Anna's age. The other plus to this neighborhood is that it's 90% American/European families. I'll try to get more photos/info later.


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Thursday, November 09, 2006

Buckle your safety belts.....

Wow. What a whirlwind 48 hours we've just lived through. Yesterday, Wednesday, I headed into the office where I will be working while in Shanghai. My chinese counterparts were also very anxious to introduce their "North American Engineer" to the GM team that same day. Needless to say, there is much work to be done but it will be exciting making a big difference in China for JCI. Aimee spent the day reading at the hotel, exploring the city block that our hotel sits upon, and practicing her kung fu fighting. We have eaten a boatload of Chinese food in the last 2 days. And this ain't the stuff they serve at Panda Express! It's good but very different. Aimee has liked less of it than I have. I think my lack of smell may actually be helping. Our chopstick skills are developing fast. Our chinese hosts find our use of chopsticks very entertaining. We've had a lot of fun at meal times. I've got 2 good stories for you....

1. I had lunch with 2 JCI China people yesterday for lunch. I let them do all the ordering. Can you imagine the look on my face when Charlie looks up from his menu and inquires, "Ren, do you like dawg?" I responded with "uhhhh, excuse me" to buy myself time for a polite response. Unfortunately, he very quickly fired another "DO YOU LIKE DAWG?" only this time a little louder. This time, he was holding out his menun and I frantically looked at it to find the "dawg" he was referring to. Much to my relief, I found he was pointing to "duck". So, Rover lives to see another day.

2. There is a very unique restaurant tradition in China regarding seafood. We ordered some garlic shrimp as part of our dinner last night (in China, the dinner party orders several dishes and they are shared amongst all). Soon after ordering, a waiter approaches our table with a paper sack that obviously has something "live" in it. He shows it to Xiana, one our hosts. After approving of the bag's contents the waiter walks away. It turns out that the seafood you order in China is often brought to your table, LIVE, so that you can inspect. The rule is, the livelier the seafood (shrimp, crabs, etc), the better the meal. They actually negotiate the price based upon whether the crab looks rambunctious. Can you imagine, "Hey, the poor guy's a little lethargic. Can you cook him up for half price?" Minutes after the approval, those same shrimp returned on a platter, full monty (head, tail, legs, eyes). It actually was very delicious. Today, our relocation agent took us to a restaurant and after I recounted the shrimp story to her, she explained that we could go back to the "seafood" area of the kitchen after lunch. Sure enough, it was a pet store of lunch/dinner entrees swimming around in the aquariums. Lobsters, small fish, big fish, shrimp, crabs, Jacque Cousteau, clams, and more. What an experience. Anyone that comes to visit will definitely be rewarded with the utmost priveledge at the dinner table. "Is the shrimp moving quickly enough to warrant a spot in your stomach?"

We have narrowed our home search down to a couple of spots. Wow, these are homes that we don't deserve! They are very spacious and nice. Much nicer than what we have at home. Aimee's favorite is actually an American style home with a 2-car garage, central vaccum system, American electrical sockets (though 220 volt), American light switches (China uses a flip button style), lots of carpet (hardwood, marble, and tile are most popular here). The biggest plus is the full size oven, large kitchen, and full size washer and dryer. Because household help is hired for most cooking and cleaning, the kitchen and laundry equipment is normally small. This american style home is the only one that's included a full size oven. It's a 4 bedroom home with 2700 sq ft. It's not finished yet so we'd also be able to influence floor coverings (carpet or hardwood). It has a gas fireplace. The other home is a spanish style (imagine THAT in China) that is very different than an American home. It has lots of tile with 3 bedrooms, 1 VERY NICE GUEST ROOM (hint,hint), and a study. It's got a very large kitchen, but small oven. It's got lots of space, 3750 sqft. The yard is very large and enclosed. We really have shifted our focus to places with a yard and also good "community club house" features. So, the leading candidates both have indoor/outdoor pools, tennis, squash, aerobics, gym, swimming and kung fu lessons ( no joke). So, tomorrow, Friday we plan to make the final decision. Aimee is in the driver's seat for the housing decision.

Thanks for your prayers and your posts! They are very encouraging!

Ryan and Aimee

PS - regarding the title of this post, check out these videos for some live Shanghai driving action. You may need to copy and paste them into your web browser. I could not get the link to load into the Blog as I thought it should.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

It's much clearer to me now.....

why Americans and seemingly 1/2 of the Chinese don't drive in Shanghai. It's a "free for all" between cars, large buses, bicycles, mopeds, and pedestrians. I think the street lane markers and blinkers are purely for decoration. I am a little surprised that we did not see anyone/thing get whacked during our travels today.

Our day today started at 9am. Cathy, a representative of the relocating company (think realtor/tour guide/hostess) picked us up. Of course, now, she doesn't drive in the city and had hired a "professional/stunt driver" for the day. This driver is similar to the dedicated driver we'll have during our long-term stay here. We looked at 4 large apartments. The square footage in all of them was at least twice the size of our Holland home. The largest was a 4300 ft^2 townhouse. Though housekeeping is very affordable, ~$20/day, we are definitely leaning towards something smaller. We spent the morning looking at housing options and also visited 2 grocery stores. The Meijer-like "Carrefour" was very busy and a tad overwhelming. It is where most people get everything from groceries to dinnerware. I think Anna and Elijah will be intigued by the seafood section with aquariums stocked with fish, turtles, and crabs.

I spent the afternoon going through a medical exam required by the Chinese government for getting a long-term work visa. The process took a couple hours and I passed all tests, including the one where I get blood drawn and don't fall out of my chair. : ) If you know my history, this was no small task and an answer to prayer. I considered canning the whole Shanghai thing when they mentioned blood work. : ) During my medical escapade, Aimee had a Chinese lunch with the Cathy. They picked me up a Big Mac and it tasted just as unhealthy as they do at home.

We also visited 2 medical facilities today. One is the local med clinic for treating minor stuff. We also visited a new Shanghai hospital which included a nice birthing center with all the ammenities of the world-class Holland hospital. A funny story.....Aimee was reading a brochure quietly while we waited for the tour of the clinic. Quietly, until she read that epiderals were, in fact, available and commonly used in Shanghai. For a moment, I thought she was going to do some kung fu flips and roundhouse kicks right there in the lobby. It was all coasting downhill from there. She was able to squash much of the horror she had heard was part of Shanghai births (no epiderals, shared rooms, husbands do all the cleanup, etc) We have an appt. with a highly recommended OBGYN on Thursday. Be praying that we leave that appointment with clear direction on whom to see long-term.

The time zone change has hit Aimee the hardest. I believe it eccentuates the tiredness that already comes with the pregnancy.

We spent a lot of time in the car today so the pictures I got were just some shots of the city. Enjoy.

Ryan and Aimee

Monday, November 06, 2006

The Eagle has landed

Aimee and I have safely arrived to our hotel room at the Shanghai Renaissance Hotel. The process of getting through customs was really easy. Although, it was definitely a unique experience to walk along a carpet roped path with dozens of people alongside holding up signs. When we found the sign that read, "Mr. Ryan Bowman", we knew we were on our way.

The Chinese are very hospitable thus far. The hotel personnel and our hostess from JCI are super nice and accomodating. Their english is good but not great. I had fun teaching our JCI hostess how to pronounce "itinerary". Aimee is already asleep and preparing for a big day tomorrow. "Cathy" from the relocation company escorts us around town tomorrow to look at housing options.

We'll try and get some pictures posted tomorrow.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Do you want to know what tomorrow's world traveler is doing? You may think that it's a fast-paced world of mobile computing with blackberrys, treos, and all things WiFi wireless. Well, things are changing and Aimee Bowman is on the cutting edge. Yes, look closely at the picture and you'll notice that the new, improved world traveler brings along the quilting supplies!

Humor aside, Aimee had a tough headache on the flight into Minneapolis last night. We've picked up some Claritin and hope for better luck on the 12.5 hour flight to Tokyo. Be praying for Aimee's head. Other than the headache, everything is good as we make our way to the other side of the world. Things get a lot more interesting with our next arrival into Asia. Stay tuned.

Saturday, November 04, 2006


Just chilling in the GRR airport. We passed through security with no problem. We are now enjoying the last moments of "space" before we head off for Shanghai, (via Minneapolis). Shanghai has approx. 12.5 million people. For reference, the entire state of Michigan has 10 million. If we see grass, we'll have to take pictures.