Friday, December 29, 2006

Very, Very, Merry Christmas

Sorry for the delay in posting. It's been busy here as we prepare for the move from temporary housing to the house. And, for some reason, the internet connection has gotten a little squirrel-ly.

Alas, here are some Christmas pictures. PSYCHE! THE PICTURES ARE NOT WANTING TO LOAD. I'LL TRY TO UPLOAD THEM IN THE NEXT DAY OR 2. We had a great day. I took just the day off from work since Christmas is not a holiday here. Aimee had fun making a big Christmas breakfast. Pancakes, eggs, orange juice, and the traditional grapefruit were enjoyed by all the Shanghai Bowman's.

We enjoyed watching the kids open gifts though they both got a little overwhelmed. Anna's favorite gift was a baby doll set with all the accessories - crib, bottles, changing table, diapers, fake poo, etc. Ok, so maybe the poo was not included. Elijah loved all his "choo-choo" stuff but the topper was the BIG fold-out train (thanks Tom, Shonda, and Tommy). That was a big hit with both kids.

I "hawked" most of Aimee's gifts down at the market, negotiating prices on everything from a purse to sunglasses. It was definitely a little more challenging than running over to the Rivertown mall and paying what's on the tag. In China, if you pay what's on the tag, you've been robbed. Most of the time, you can expect to pay 25% to 30% of the listed price. The final price depends on how good your haggling skills are.

I visited a local church for the first time on Sunday. It was really cool to find a Bible-believing, Christ-following church in a communist country. There were probably 300 people there and the pastor explained it was light attendance because of the holiday. They have small groups, adult sunday school and an appealing kid's program. Although, the brochures always look great, don't they? More to come on that front....

We move to the house this weekend. We get the key on Saturday at 4 and I'll deliver one van-load of stuff then. The rest of the stuff/family will go on Sunday. Not sure if our driver will complete our version of "Two men and a van" but we'll see. His official title is "driver" but he always insists on helping with carrying stuff in the house. I'm going to make him be consistent. "If you insist on carrying all 6 bags of groceries, you can't stop at the compact-car-sized pieces of luggage. No double standards here Mr. Liu!!" If he can help, that will be great. He is a great helper and is very caring. Pray that Mr. Liu doesn't have to get wheeled home on a stretcher Sunday evening.

We are all excited to move into the house. The apartment is nice but still a little cramped with our stuff.

Aimee had her first prenatal appt here in China. It went real well. The doctor is great and comes highly recommended. The only concern at this point is that Aimee was told and the doctor confirmed that anthesia is managed differently in China. They use less but feel that is safer because the mother can feel better when to push. We'll see how that goes over the next few weeks. Supposedly, if you feel strongly about increasing the amount, you can drive the staff to increase the dosage.

My Chinese language skills are growing....Here are the phrases that I now can say in Chinese.
Hello, Thank you, Your welcome, Where's the hole in the floor....I have an emergency, I'm sorry, See ya, See ya tomorrow, I don't know

And sometimes to impress people here, I'll combine all of them into one run on sentence, "Hello your welcome where's the hole see ya tomorrow see ya sorry thanks I don't know emergency"

That usually scares away the people chasing our children around with the cameras.

Hope all is well with you on the other side. We think of y'all often!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

We're not finding the Panda Express

So, I get to eat authentic Chinese food everyday for lunch. The JCI joint venture, called JARC, (Jinxiang Automotive Roof Trimming Company) and the GM joint venture, called PATAC (Pan Asian Trim Automotive Company) provide breakfast, lunch and dinner to their employees.

As an employee of JARC, I pay 2 RMB (roughly $0.25) for each lunch. I assume breakfast and dinner are the same. Overall, the food is good especially when you consider that for a 1 dollar, I eat lunch for a week. However, they definitely stress quantity over quality.

Lunch consists of one large bowl of white rice and 5 smaller bowls. The typical offering for the bowls is:

Bowl 1. Meat (usually chicken, pork or fish). It should be noted that they include the bones/fat. For example, when they serve fish, there is often a tail hanging out the bowl or a pair of eye sockets starting back at you. A little un-nerving for some but all good fun for the boy in me. The challenge is eating around the bones with chopsticks. It is as difficult as it sounds.

2. Something that looks like a meat but turns out to be tofu or bean curd or some other mystery substance. This bowl always gets me because it appears to be some juicy beef morsels in a barbecue sauce. I'm always rudely awakened to a soft, gooshy wad of tofu or equivalent.

3. A vegetable - often bean sprouts, spinach, or a noodle

4. Another vegetable - often some veggie that I've never seen before

5. Bowl of soup - eggdrop or a mystery soup that I can't define

Often, I ask the people that I work with what the food is. Frequently, the response is "I don't know the english word for that". That kind of answer always drives me to what I really wanted to know in the first place and I ask, "Well, is it an animal? Was it running around the neighborhood last week?" In China, I've been told that the Chinese make "efficient us" of the animal so I'm always wondering what I'm eating.

Bottom line is that I'm really blessed to have a "free" lunch provided each day.

We've heard wonderful things about the food in Shanghai. On Saturday, we decided to give it a try on our own (Aimee and I were hosted several times for Chinese food when we came to visit). Fortunately, most of the restaurants have full color menus that make it really easy to see what you're asking for. We packed sandwiches for the kids so we could order as we wanted. Here's what we got:

1. Teriyaki Chicken, they were cut into strips.

2. Fried noodles that were packed with vegetables, sauteed onions, and pieces of beef

3. A "hot pot" that had seasoned beef and lots of vegetables on a bed of rice.

4. Fried pork dumplings with soy and sweet/sour sauce.

It was really good and we look forward to trying more soon.

And so Panda Express, Wok In Wok Out, and China Inn are quickly becoming a distant memory. Our only disappointment is that they don't serve crabmeat rangoons here. In fact, my colleagues have never even heard of them!

The pictures are of our day out Saturday. We'll get Christmas stuff up shortly. Hope you and yours had a great Christmas! We shared our Christmas tradition of watching "Elf" with the kids. Anna especially appreciated the idea of putting syrup, M&Ms, sprinkles, and crumbled pop tarts on your spaghetti for breakfast.

Sunday, December 24, 2006


Hey, 3 things to cover this post here on Christmas Eve. I figure things are going to be hectic tomorrow and wanted to post these happenings from the last few days...

1. The airplane shipment arrived! It was the Christmas before Christmas....and all through the leased apartment, kids and Aimee were celebrating... Thanks to all who prayed that the shipment would arrive before Christmas so we could have all the gifts in time. Enjoy the celebratory pictures.

2. Check out this video of the paparrazi at a local shopping district. There was quite a stir over a couple of famous kids. The scene was also captured in the last still photo.

3. Merry Christmas to you and your family. If you're checking this blog, it means you are someone significant and special in the lives of the Bowman's. Enjoy the season for it's true meaning - that God sent His Son for us! Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Karaoke in Shanghai

It's official. I knew the day would come. The cliche most definitely would apply, "not a matter of if, but when".

Ryan has been formally invited to a karaoke night as part of a "team building" exercise with colleagues from work.

Now, karaoke is huge in China. That's what people love to do. When you want to have fun with friends, you gather around the microphone and belt it out. And apparently, this ain't just the younger crowd of "20 somethings".

The Commercial development MANAGER stopped by my desk yesterday and explained we'd have a "team building" on January 5th. I had heard at lunch this week that these exercises are fairly commonplace, as they are in the USA, to encourage colleagues to get to know one another. Maybe play laser tag, or figure out how to get everyone on the team "over the wall". Perhaps develop trust by falling backward into your team's waiting arms with your eyes closed. I've even heard of great comraderie growing out of blasting your manager in the rear end with a paintball pellet. In China, forgot about all of those.

I nervously asked the sales guy what the plan was. Perhaps simply a dinner and then go ho......and he jumped in with "Yes, dinner and then karaoke". And it didn't stop there. He tacked on that this team building is special because we are inviting our customer. Yes, the people we just got done arguing with over a technical specification will be christening the heated discussion with a little Village People and YMCA. Nice.

So, in the spirit of this upcoming occasion, I'm attempting to post a poll. Let's pretend that I do more than "participate" with a listenting ear (what's a karoke night without some dedicated listeners?) and get behind the microphone. Perhaps they slipped some special Karaoke drug into my Coca-Cola.

So, here we go.

Make your song selection. Remember, you won't actually be there so I haven't included the option for "Ryan, please just stay in your seat."

OK, so the poll is having a technical difficulty. I'm going to take it out for some Karaoke. Meanwhile, if you have a song preference, post it!

FYI - we are taking the kids into a popular tourist area for it's historic Chinese garden and shopping. Check back for pictures.

Free PollsIf Ryan does Karoke, what song should he sing?
Brick House, The Commodores
Kung Fu Fighting, Carl Douglas
Puff the Magic Dragon, Peter, Paul, and Mary
Ice Ice Baby, Vanilla Ice
King of the Jungle with motions, Heartland Kids Worship

free counter

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Very, Very, Very Rewarding!!

I was riding home from work today thinking about my job here in China.....and what would best summarize my sentiments. Well Victor and Roman from the new Citi bank credit cards sum it up pretty least, most days.

The team that I work with is 100% Chinese and their working experience ranges from none (a new hire starts Thursday) to a few years. However, they all have A LOT to learn which is where I can help. They are growing by leaps and bounds each day. In 3 weeks, I've seen tremendous progress and am encouraged by their willingness to learn and do whatever I ask of them. I had one of the guys doing a headstand on my driver's van because I led him to believe it would clear his thinking regarding a difficult technical issue. Seriously, I am humbled by their trusting nature and hard work ethic. Very, very, very impressed!

Chen Wei, Zhao Jianqing, Charlie Ren, Qi Ling, and even the customer Wang Chao are quickly developing improved skills and pushing this vehicle design towards production. They have shared with me that their livelihood depends on this launch because GM is treating this as a "real world test" to see if they can be successful. If they fail, GM may not reward them with more work. The vehicle will be built in the USA (Fairfax, Virginia) and in China. So, they/we must satisfy 2 customers - GM North America and GM China. And on top of that, some of the engineering is based out of GM Europe in Germany! You may wonder if I'm just enabling these people to ultimately take our jobs in the US. That's for another day and another blog.....

Now, some days are frustrating and the communication can be exhausting. I do lots of coaching/teaching/mentoring but I enjoy seeing them make connections and develop an understanding. At the end of my time here, these guys/girls have to be able to fly on their own. That kind of environment is exciting and very, very, very rewarding.

On a lighter note, I was initially taken aback by some of the noises I heard at work. You see, hawking up loogies (sp?) and belching are common public noises in China. And they don't stop at hawking, they proceed to purge it in the garbage. In China, it's not poor etiquette to belch, especially during mealtime, because it indicates your pleasure with the food.

However, they do have some boundaries. I learned quickly that dropping a stinky bomb on my neighbors desk was not taken as "Ryan really enjoyed the baked bean curd at lunch!". J/K. They do, fortunately, draw the line at farting in the workplace. Although, with my lack of smell, perhaps SBD (silent but deadly's)are encouraged. That may explain the sly grin I see on my neighbor's face after lunch. HMMMM.

The other thing that is interesting are the restrooms, and, no, I'm not going to go into great detail or post pictures.....unless you ask me to. I will say that the men/women share an area with the sinks and that the entryway to that area has a "gunsight view" down the wall with all the men's urinals. It's different but still works out the same. The toilets are also very different than ours here but that, also, is for another day/another blog.

We learned that Santa in a moving company van shows up on Thursday at 9:30am to deliver our plane-shipped stuff. Tonight at dinner, Anna was talking about the Barbies, Polly Pockets, and dress up clothes. Also, the shipment includes more clothing, diapers, lots of kitchen supplies, Christmas presents, wrapping paper and toys!

FYI, Christmas is Monday and you've still got wrapping to do!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Grocery Shopping-quite an experience

I went grocery shopping by myself this Saturday while Ryan stayed home with the kids. I was able to get a couple different videos of what the grocery department is like. They are pretty short because I was afraid that one of the many men in black suits would come and confiscate my camera. (I am not sure what is legal/illegal to take pictures of) I stayed as close to the shelves as possible to avoid standing out too much-- really though, could I stand out anymore? A tall American girl with a desperate look on my face? :)

The first picture is of the outside of Carrefour (like a super crazy Walmart or Meijer) the second building is right beside Carrefour and holds The Pines which is one of the grocery stores that carries some American foods. The third picture is of the entrance to the actual Carrefour-- the moving sidewalk that Anna enjoys riding up. The next 2 pictures are of the small International food area where I find spagetti sauce, salsa, some cereals, popcorn-- some of the treasures from home. It is an imported foods section so there is actually very little from the US. France, Spain, Asian countries-- pretty much all other countries are represented in this area. I think that Carrefour is a French store so there are a lot of French products.

The first video is of the fresh food area. The view is of the live fish tanks where fish of all sizes are sold (crabs, turtles, eels, something that looks like jellyfish...) If I would have been braver, it would have been cool to get closer to all of the live specimens. Sorry guys. I am a chicken. The next video is of their section of the store that is called hot pot. From my understanding, this is very traditional method of cooking. You pick your meat to throw in the pot to make the broth and then add a wide range of things from this area. Some look like meatballs, dumplings, I don't even know what else but this is a very large section in the store. I think this will probably be the first method of traditional cooking that I try. I just need to have someone with me to tell me what the different options are. I think once we are in the house and have my kitchen cooking supplies, I will ask the translator from Ryan's work if she will teach me how to cook something. She is very nice and I think would enjoy teaching me.

I think I have a pretty good feel now of the different stores and what to buy where. I have had a couple of good learning experiences-- in China, items that are outdated are put on sale. I have learned to look at the dates on everything-- milk, meats (each time I have been to Carrefour, I have looked at the prepackaged sandwich meat and everytime the same meat is there-- expiring Nov 20, 2006. Yuck! I have had only one bad experience with food that had not expired. I bought sour cream (expiring late Dec 06) and when I tried it on my nachos-- it was rotten cream! It was awful! I wonder if in shipping it got too warm. I am not sure how to remedy that problem. I will try it from a different store and see if it is the same.

God is good! We have found an assortment of food staples that are "home" for us. One morning, Anna and I prayed that we would find Mac n cheese and other staple foods so that I could make foods that we really like and that is the day that we found the store that Ryan told you about-- mac n cheese, flour, baking powder, and many more things. I think that will be one of our favorite stores. Well, enough of this novel. Much love to everyone!

Splish Splash, Here's a big bath

One of our favorite family activities is to head to the swimming pool here at the villa we are staying in. It's about an 8 minute walk.

It's cold in Shanghai. On the walk to the pool today, the sun was shining brightly but the kids had on their mittens and their winter coat hoods were pulled up. Fortunately, the pool water is nice and warm.

Anna is excited to do swimming lessons this year. We plan to sign her up once we move in to the permanent housing at BelleWood. They offer lessons at their pool.

Here is some video of the pool fun. (Anna is the kid pool) (Anna swims and Elijah spills)

PS - I know that Aimee's mentioned about the cleaning "ladies" that come in to clean our apartment 3 days a week. Today, I secretly videotaped them doing their routine. They do a fine job, don't you think? (Bowman cleaning team)

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Some of what Elijah misses most

2 videos we took in Michigan so that Elijah could remember some of his favorite things.

In other news. Elijah and Anna hit 2 jackpots today.

1. Momma found a grocery store that sells American food. Tostitos, ziploc bags, baking powder, and KRAFT MAC & CHEESE. Perhaps this was more of a jackpot for Aimee.

2. A family down the street is heading back to the USA after a 3 year stint in Shanghai. They hooked us up with a mini Bball hoop (video to come soon), bunches of toys, mosquito nets (needed for summer) and a toaster! Aimee and I both were encouraged by meeting them because they have had a great experience in Shanghai and are actually sad to leave. They are from California.

Enjoy the videos.

In my spare time...

When I'm not perfecting my numchuk skills, I've worked on my mountain bike tricks. Don't attempt these without my supervision.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Update on life +answers for Glorybabies3

Hey everyone! It is Aimee again. Tarnow family, I loved your questions.
The answers, Aimee style are:
1)what has been the hardest transtion?
- I love grocery shopping and cooking in the states and both are currently very difficult. I cannot find the majority of the staple food items that I am used to cooking with, including all-purpose flour, sugar, and brown sugar. Some of those items are being sent either on the plane or the boat but the others we continue to go to different stores looking for. The items that are available in the stores I have no idea what they are (can't read Chinese) and don't know how to use them even if I did know what they were. The other difficulty is the apt is stocked with only 2 saucepans--no fry pan, no pans for the oven--so I am limited by ingredients and also by style of cooking.
2)what has surprised me the most?
- How much attention Anna and Elijah receive when we go out to any public area--especially the grocery stores. We are stopped many times throughout the store with different Chinese people touching the kids hands, heads, and getting very close to talk to them in Chinese. They do know the words "cute" and "beautiful". The Chinese people are intrigued with foreign children.
3) What have I found to be the most different from Holland?
- you may see a theme here but the grocery stores (that is really the only place we have been traveling to :) )
4) the most similar?
- Home life is pretty much the same, but better than the past couple of months because it had been so busy and crazy that we have not had much time to enjoy one another and play together but that is pretty much all we do now--lots of hide-and-seek, reading, coloring etc.

I think all areas of the transition are day by day getting better. A lot of it has to do with feeling more rested, being able to receive and send emails, but I think mostly God's grace, provision, and help to get us through. Thank you for all of your prayers. I took a couple of videos of the kids playing and singing that I thought you would enjoy.

Elijah working on his Ronaldino impersonation.

Heartland worship sparked a flame....

Sunday, December 10, 2006

We found a free lunch.

Tell your Dad you found a free lunch. Aimee and I had very successful video conferencing with The Jones family twice in the last 48 hours. We had successful voice conversations with The Mouser Jr. and Krauss Families. Very cool stuff.

So, get your skype account going. Add "Redbeard76" to your contacts list and post your login name to this blog. Then, we'll add you to our contact list. It's a whole lot easier than eating with chopsticks.

The video conferencing obviously requires a minor investment, a webcam. I researched our webcam at You can try We have the Logitech Quickcam for Notebooks Deluxe.

Basically, if you've got $45 and a desire to talk to the Bowman's or be a recording artist on YouTube, get the webcam.

We swam in the indoor pool today. I'd have video to share with you but somehow the camera got left behind. Does that ever happen to you? I'll get some next go round.


Saturday, December 09, 2006

Let's give this Photobucket thing another try.

You may need to copy and paste this link into your web browser. Also, what I attempted to do was create a slideshow for your viewing pleasure. If you don't automatically get a slide show, look for the button "slideshow" and click it. Then grab the popcorn.

Post any comments you have. I'll continue to tweak as necessary.¤t=1165652089.pbw

Some pictures.....

- Airplane travel. Things were not always this happy. 15 hours on planes, 2 layovers, 5 carryon bags, 1 gi-normous carseat, 2 kids. Use your imagination.

- A family amidst jet lag trauma. It's probably 6pm at this point. All 3 are sleeping and, yes, those are Elijah's legs. The kids woke up at 10pm that night ready to eat breakfast.

- When Elijah wasn't helping to unpack bags or remove clothes from their closets, he was coordinating his new wintertime look. Pink is in for guys in China.

- Anna and Elijah with their homemade Christmas tree, thanks to Momma's help. Do you dig Elijah's fuzzy slippers? Big is in.

We hope you are enjoying the anticipation of Christmas! Though it does not look like Christmas outside here, we are still enjoying the season of celebrating Christ's birth. We got some Christmas shopping done today. The department stores were all playing Christmas music and had all the decorations too. The kids are getting excited too. We trust you are enjoying the snow. If you happen to see Phil Bowman this wintertime, chuck a snowball at the back of his head for me.

The Bowmans

You'll have to wait until January to visit us.....

To anyone willing to listen,

Yeah, the apartment is only 3 Bedrooms. I know you wanted to visit in December for the holidays but we want you to have spacious accomodations for the 3-4 weeks that you'll stay....

However, if you really want to, we can make due. Here is an apartment tour for you. You can have any room you want. We'll shack into the same room if all of you want to come at the same time!!

: )

We'll post again later today with pictures and stuff. Here's a video in the meantime. Granted....of course, you sleepy heads are all fast asleep right now....

Friday, December 08, 2006

Mission Accomplished. Skype has been downloaded

I have a skype account now. My ID is "Redbeard76". Apparently, skype works much like any other instant messenger service but takes it a couple steps further. At minimum, you can have a text-based conversation. If you're computer is equipped with a microphone/speakers, you can have a FREE phone conversation as long as both users have a skype account and are using their computers for the conversation. For a skype user to call a land line phone or mobile phone, there's a fee. Not sure the amount yet. Then, the best part, is if you have a web cam, video conferencing is available and FREE. Some of this sounds too good to be true so we'll have to test this lunch to see if it's really FREE.

The skype download/registration was painless and took 6 minutes and 28 seconds. That includes some time for testing your computers speaker/microphone setup. Bottomline, it was a cinch.

So, we are currently taking appointments for video conferences. The times that work best for us are 2am to 9am EST. That way we can see you with your bed head. Nice.

Actually, if you want to chat with Aimee/Anna/Elijah, any time during your evening (our morning) should be fine. If you want to talk to me, first have your head checked, then plan on meeting in your morning (6am to 9am). Otherwise, the weekends are pretty open.

We are looking forward to giving this a shot in the near future.

We'll get some apartment pics/video posted this weekend. Tune back in soon.


Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Comm 101

Aimee has an email. She'd appreciate hearing from you. She's also trying to populate her contact list and getting an email from you would help the process along.

My email is You can also use but the gmail account is preferred unless you want to ask a question about a sunvisor.

If you have not read all of the posts, you may not know that my parents made a successful phone call into our apartment in the last couple of days.

The phone number for our apartment when calling from the USA is 011-8621-6856-4702. They used a service called Penny talk ( or 1.888.311.8353). I'm not personally familiar with this service. The cost was $0.49 for the connection and $0.02/minute. Their 20 minute call was $0.87. Evidently, there is a little bit if "new math" going on there. Remember, we are 13 hours ahead of you all in West Michigan and the rest of EST.

We also have cell phones:

Ryan: 011-86-138-1787-9553
Aimee: 011-86-135-8590-2292

We have not yet tinkered with the webcam or skype. I'll plan on working that through Thursday night.

The kids continue to adapt to the time change. Aimee believes that Elijah is closer to the finish line than Anna.

Over and out.

Monday, December 04, 2006

"zow shang how"

So, I tried out some of my Chinese this morning with the driver that JCI provides to our family for all our transportation needs. When Mr. Liu responded with a smile, I knew that I must have been close and definitely did not offend him.

The subject title above translates, "Good morning". The rest of the drive with Mr. Liu was deathly silent though because I had exhausted my Chinese language capability. (He speaks very little english) I spent the drive reading my chinese-english dictionary. By the time we arrived, I had figured out "shyeah-shyeah" which means thank you. He proceeded to kick me in the shin because he thought I said "your van smells like cat on stick". J/K.

My Dad successfully called our house today. I'll update the blog once I get the details on what service he used. I believe the call costed him 42 cents for the connection plus 2 cents for each minute. I thought that was reasonable. We'll post the going rates people are getting so that we can all find the best deal possible.

We are still working to get the internet connection up and running at the apartment. Soon thereafter, we'll start posting pictures/video of the kids/apartment/activities/etc. I'm logged on at work right now and the blogger website is in Chinese so I'm clicking links/buttons based upon memory.

Thanks for your prayers. The biggest challenge thus far is the time change. The kids don't want to get out of bed from naptime. The one day we let them continue sleeping after nap, they woke up ready to rock and roll at 10pm. Not good!!! Also, they are missing the bulk of their toys that are being shipped by air. Aimee explained today that Elijah is following her around all the time because he's got nothing else to do. The bag full of toys we brought on the plane are not enough to keep Elijah occupied. I think they will start taking advantage of the clubhouse (swimming pool, indoor play area, game room, etc) on a daily basis. It's very convenient.

More to come later.....