Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Happy Chinese New Year

Since most everyone leaves Shanghai for the holiday. A few of us that were left went out to eat on Tuesday night. The engineering director (for the early blog readers, the guy that asked, "Rine, do you like DAWG?") and another engineer + families headed out for some genuine chinese food.

Here are some pictures. Charlie's daughter kept us all entertained, and Anna/Elijah especially. She was a cutie and after a little bit of "prep work", let me hold her!
Strangely enough, Charlie chose a restaurant that did not offer kareoke. Wierd.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Sharks, Eels, and sea turtles, oh my

We got a family membership to the local aquarium here. We visited again on Saturday. It was a little busier but the stroller makes a nice battering ram.

Here are some pictures.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Street food vendors and some videos

I walked 2 blocks to a local shopping mart. It's called "E-mart" and kinda like Wal-mart. The major differences are that "Wal" is replaced with an "E" and the vests are yellow instead of blue. An older gentleman didn't pass me a shopping a cart either. In retrospect, there really are a few differences in the 2 marts.

It has very limited western food selection but has everything else. Blow dryers, laundry hampers, TVs, chinese food, Disney dinnerware, and hammers. Aimee is there right now exploring it for herself. Along the way, I found the new Papa John's pizza. It has a nice sit down area. I venture that we'll venture there sometime soon as a family.

The day I checked out "E-mart", I skipped lunch at home. As I walked out of E-mart, I saw the typical street food vendors. One guy had a "trough" with hot charcoal briquets. In addition to his makeshift grill, he had a large table with lots of grilling options: "meats", corn on the cob, other vegetables, and hotdogs (they don't really qualify as meat, do they?). I passed on his monglian barbeque and headed over to an older woman's stand. She had a push cart with a 15inch diameter can on top. The lid on this can was a hunk of metal and it was hot. She poured a batter type liquid and spread with a spatula. She threw on a raw egg, a variety of seasonings (including green leaves, some red spicy stuff, along with other accesories). It cooked for 90 seconds and then she began to scrape up the thin crust. She began to fold it, adding large fluffy crunchy tortilla chunks as she folded it up. She sealed it together with some brown paste. I should note that she didn't add any of the stuff without checking with me first. But, "when in China, do as the Chinese do", right? I believe my biggest asset is my lack of smell. I'll eat just about anything here.

My jumbo, poor man's chalupa cost me 2 yuan. There are roughly 8 yuan per US Dollar. She refused to keep the change from my 5 yuan bill, despite my offer. After all the work she put in to cooking it, I felt like I was stealing it for 2 yuan. This woman was the first that I've met that spoke less english than I speak chinese. She seemed pleasantly surprised and eager to serve me her specialty.

It's impressive to me how these vendors take their show "on the road". While walking with Anna recently, we had to dodge a bicycle equipped with a charcoal "trough" hanging off the backend. The guy had integrated the gutter-sized trough into his bicycle frame. It was a mobile restaurant.

The big news here is Chinese New Year. It means fireworks and firecrackers off and on all week.

Here's a video that we took on the first night. This was 5 minutes away from our house. The booming continued throughout the night that day. It was mainly just a few hours each evening for the remainder of the week. Although, it is Friday and Sat/Sun are not here yet.

For those of you that enjoy our kid videos, here are couple of Elijah:

1. The future grunge band rocker,
2. When he's not rocking, his favorite hobby,

Pic 1 - a street corner near the Bai Bai Ban shopping district. He's got a spinning, rotisserie-style kettle over a flame. I did not get to see what he was cooking. If you click on the picture, it will enlarge. You can then get a better look at the vendor beyond him that's baking potatos over a barrel.
Pic 2 - our lunch options at BK in the Super Brand Mall.
Pics 3 & 4 - Anna and Elijah meeting Buzz and Geoffrey at Toys R Us in the SBM
Pic 5 - SBM with Pearl Tower in the background.

Over and out.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Extreme Bungee

Posting a youtube video is not typical for me but this one merits breaking the rules.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

I'm retiring.

People don't play basketball in China. American football is "slow and disjointed." And baseball is just plain boring to just about everybody on the planet.

And that leaves football, or as we Americans call it, soccer. It all started when Elijah was invited to a birthday party of a boy across the street on Saturday. We met lots of other people from the neighborhood at the party. 2 other families were from the USA. 3 or 4 families were from the UK. Families from Germany and Sweden rounded out the diverse crowd. It was fun and interesting to talk to these new acquaintances from all over the world.

The major outcome for me was being invited to play football with a group of guys from our 'hood. I immediately stressed that I don't really play football. In fact, I clearly told them that the last organized "football" I played was as a midfielder for the AYSO Yellow Jackets in 1989. And that dream season had been rudely interrupted by our family's move to Michigan from South Carolina. Every excuse I fired at them was rejected. Let me run them down...THE REBUTTALS ARE IN CAPS.

2. I don't have shin guards. NO WORRIES, STEVE HAS AN EXTRA PAIR.
3. I haven't run since June 2006. PERFECT, ALL OF US ARE OUT OF SHAPE!
4. If this is a league, it's probably a bit serious for me. OH NO, THIS IS HARDLY A LEAGUE. IT'S JUST FOR FUN.
5. I stink at soccer. YOU'LL FIT IN JUST FINE.

And, so, on Sunday morning I walked down to the service center to catch a ride with a couple other guys. Between the 2 guys, they are wearing full length Adidas warm-up gear and official "English Premier League" football jerseys. Peter has a pair of serious looking cleats on. Much to my relief, Jeff is wearing Nike running shoes. At that point, I don't feel so bad wearing my $25 Avia sidewalk specials, aka, the shoes in which those elderly "mall walkers" graze past you in. My relief is short lived, though, when after noting, "Hey Jeff, you're not gonna wear cleats?", Jeff points out his large gym bag that contains his cleats. Shoot, he probably had 3 pair in that bag.

As we travel to the football pitch (that's English for the field), I am told that our opponent this day is going to be the local varsity football team at the BISS (British International School Something). So, in essence, we're playing kids whose average age is less than half of our team's average age, and then some.

So, picture this. I'm wearing basketball shorts with a black basketball T-shirt and our team color is white. (I initally just removed my shirt but the opponents claimed that my snow white chest was too much of a "distraction". Imagine a beacon of light catching you right in the eyes). I've got on crew cut socks down at my ankles and my paint-splattered Avia's on. After strapping on my gigantic loaner shinguards, I was Napoleon Dynamite ready for some serious football action. Fortunately, Mike felt sorry for me and loaned me a pair of those gigantic soccer socks that run up to your hips and then fold down over the shinguards. At that point, I may have looked respectable....if you had your eyes closed.

Overall, the experience was real fun. My body did not appreciate the shock therapy that I put it through. My legs are still hurting tonight and it's Tuesday evening. My right thumb is black and blue. I found a way to injure my hand even though using the hands in football is illegal. I'd rather not give the full account of the injury so I'll just say that I put my best juke on the defender only to find myself laying on the ground watching him dribble the ball back the other way. And, of course, I landed on my gimpy thumb.

Sunday night, after church, we stopped at the local MC Sports equivalent and I got some football paraphernalia. I figure if I can't play football, I can at least run around and look like a football player.

So, for the time being, I've retired from American football, basketball, and softball. I'm starting into "real" football. And anyone?

The first picture is my semi-retired footwear. One day the basketball shoes may see the court again. And the Avia's will probably mow the grass or perhaps continue to keep the fresh Mouser cabin paint off the leaves up North.

The second picture is the apparel that's gonna transform me from Napoleon Dynamite to David Beckham with Napoleon Dynamite's skills!

Pics 3 and 4 are of Aimee and Anna shopping among the street vendors. Anna had fun picking out some new jewelry and hair barrettes.

Pic 5 is Anna in her new Chinese dress and purple purse. No joke, Aimee is the toughest negotiator in our family. She's tough as nails. Aimee got a great price on the dress, purse and my new sunglasses. I defer to her on all price negotations!
Oh, and weather update. It's 60deg here in Shanghai. See ya.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

An eventful week

The past week and a half have been very exciting for us. On Tuesday, our boat shipment arrived!!!! Elijah loves having his mower and rider truck, Anna her jewelry, Ryan (and everyone else) is loving the men's deodorant that he now lathers on and the outdoor toys including burley and stroller (now he just needs to find a bike), and I love my more completed kitchen (herbs, spices, canned goods, brown sugar!!!!!, and best of all, mixer). Friday Elijah turned 2!!!! We had a fun party celebrating him on Thursday (you all saw Ryan's adventures for Friday and Sat). He had fun eating his favorite meal, including the first homemade bread since being in China!!!, and brownies (often confused as face paint), and opening presents. He loves talking about how his is such a big boy begin 2! Sunday all of our pictures were hung on the walls, making the house more a home. The beginning of the week held 60+ degree weather that allowed us to play at parks and with the many toys that came on the boat. Today, Thursday, I had my first Bible study with my friend Florence. It was so nice to talk to another woman, face to face, about life and how God is working in our lives. And last, but not least, we had our ultrasound tonight and saw that God is adding another little girl to our family! We are all excited--Anna is ecstatic! She has been praying for a little sister for a very long time! There is also an added blessing with it being a girl--I will not have to go out shopping for boy summer clothes (which would obviously be more difficult here in China) Anna's birthday is June 21 and the expected due date for this munchkin is June 22. God is good!

Thank you all for your prayers and encouragement for my transitioning to life in China. I have had some really great days, and some really bad days, but think overall I am trying/learning to see the truth of God's goodness and faithfulness and trusting Him to provide what he knows that I need.
Some things that you can pray for are: wisdom in making the final decision of which clinic to use for having this baby (I have heard some disturbing things about the one I am currently at so am planning on talking to more people to hear other opinions), a homeschool group to get involved with for friends and encouragement, and for God to open or close doors regarding my working in an orphanage. I have always wanted to work in an orphanage so this could be a dream come true... I need to make sure it is safe with being pregnant, that it will work during a time that Ryan can be home with the kids, and that I can handle it. I have heard many horror stories so my desire was to just go and love the children, but heard today that the orphanages don't allow you to care for the children in ways other than what they can normally do, because otherwise the children will get used to it (like being held while being fed, or stopping the feeding while the baby chokes, or rocking the child) It will absolutely break my heart but I want to be able to do something. Pray that if it is God's will, I will be led to talk with the right people, there will be openings during times I can go, and that it would be safe for the baby and I (I was not able to get all of the immunizations because of being pregnant). Thank you all! God bless! Talk with you soon!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Saturday, February 03, 2007

To all my kareoke "fans", "The Lion sleeps tonight" was not available.....

Greetings from the land where the pig reigns supreme,

Wow, is there a lot of show and tell to deliver on this post! I had a "team building" exercise with the engineering group at work beginning Friday afternoon and ending Saturday evening.

We caravan'd to a famous city 2 hours away from Shanghai that is renowned for their crab dinners. It also is home to a conference center that corporations send people to have a good time. It was outstanding for multiple reasons...

1. Some great comraderie grew out of the time. I now know some of my colleagues that I don't get to work with everyday and deepened relationships with those that I already have come to know.
2. I successfully defended the honor of Bowman ping pong in this land where expert ping pong players come right out of the womb. My expedition was scarred, though, by a young man that had one of the wickedest serves I've seen since my Papa Bowman. He beat me both times in 2 close matches that went to "deuce" 5 times in the first one. Needless to say, the "ping pong-ese" were impressed by the lanky one.
3. We did some awesome go-kart racing. It was super fun and a riot mainly because these were high-performance go carts and most of these folks have never driven cars before. A true recipe for hilarious fun. The driving felt a little like my old Honda Civic again.

Check out my first heat video footage here:

4. If you were reading the blog in it's earliest days, you will remember the emphasis the Chinese put on eating "fresh" seafood, as in, if it was not still moving/breathing 8 minutes ago, it's too stale to eat. On Saturday, we went on an excursion to a large lake known for it's crabs. We completed the journey by boat, parking in front a small housebout that looked a little like "Bubba Gump's shrimp". We saw the live crabs pulled straight from the water, bound up, and served with all sorts of other seafood. Most of the food was great, some not so great, but all was part of the experience. Charlie, the tech manager at work, explained that he wanted me to see a part of rural China that most expats never get to see. He delivered!

5. Finally, I got the chance that we've all been waiting for. Karoeke! And, for all my "fans" out there in blogspace, I didn't stop at 1 song. I sang 3. My song choices were influenced by those I sang with. I did lead vocals with a backup singer in each. The first song was something by the Backstreet Boys. Later, it was "The Sound of Silence" by Simon & Garfunkle. Finally, it was "Let it Be" by the Beatles. And fortunately for you, I have the last song on video just for your viewing "pleasure". Train wrecks command your attention in the same sort of way.
Here's the link:
Hey, and to all my fans out there, I did this for you. Just look for the spot where I point at you, personally......because I'm all about the fans.

In the spirt of our poll, I honestly did look for songs voted upon but I came up empty on each. They had 6 or so pages of songs to choose from but Vanilla Ice was no where to be found.

Remember, you must laugh with me and not at me!

I've also included some pictures of the weekend.
1. Some friends of mine.
2. The view from my hotel room.
3. The whole crew from the trip.
4. The whole crew from the trip after I told them they had to "pose" for the next pic.
5. The crab shack.
Until next time,