Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Post 101- Recent moments in motherhood

This is my 101st post. I feel like I should celebrate in some way. But I can't think of anything, so here's to post 101.

I have a six month old son, my first child. And motherhood creates some interesting experiences.

Like buying toys for your son, only to watch everything become a teething ring. And earnestly welcoming first teeth, only to get bitten.

Watching him tear off his bib, "I'm DONE!"

Hearing him say "dadadada dada bababa dada baba" and acting like he's saying something that I understand. "Oh really, then what happened?"

Changing explosive poop diapers in the airplane bathroom WITHOUT the changing table and a wriggly baby. My idea of a good time.

Trying to get him to go to sleep...he smiles and laughs so you can't help but smile and laugh with him, even though you are frustrated and waiting for him to close his eyes...so you can do laundry, send some e-mails, make a phone call or two - wait he doesn't sleep THAT long.

Introducting new foods - ice cream, loved it. Sweet Potatoes - hated it! They were spit out and throw at me. He has good aim for someone with less than stellar hand-eye coordination.

More to come...
Oh, and HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

SSN

Some of you have e-mailed me to express your shock and outrage after viewing Dispatches: Saving Africa's Witch Children. Although I obviously had a strong response, it is still surprising that so many of you thought and felt the exact same things that I thought and felt, even though I didn't blog about my reaction. It is also reassuring. I wanted everyone to see for themselves, and so I did not want to write too much, and I am glad that I didn't. A picture is worth a thousand words. 

If you haven't had the chance to watch the videos yet, please take the time to watch. Some of the images are not "easy" to see, but you can still listen to what they are saying, even if you have to turn away for a few seconds. Feel free to comment. Continue to e-mail me. Here is a link to Stepping Stones Nigeria's website, for those of you that are interested in learning more or sending money to help them. 


Monday, November 24, 2008

The best medicine

My husband and I do not like to argue. We do disagree and discuss, but no yelling, fuming, mud-slinging arguments. It's just not our style. We try not to go to bed angry at one another, even if that means getting little sleep. So far, this has been a simple task. The reason this is so easy for us is that he has two essential skills: 1)he does not get angry easily and 2)he can make me laugh when I am angry. 

With this in mind, we were talking the other day about the various ways that spouses settle disagreements. In this conversation, he reminded me that no matter how upset I am with him, he knows that he can make me laugh and clear the air. So, I told him that I would do like American women, and make my husband sleep on the couch. A little confused, he asked where the wife sleeps.
"In the bed."
"In their bed?"
"Yes."
"And the husband sleeps on the couch?"
"Yes."
"What?"
"The wife kicks the husband out of their bedroom, and he has to sleep on the couch in the living room."
Silence. Then laughter.
"If you told me I couldn't sleep in our bed, I would just go to the children's bedroom."
Chuckle. I tried to imagine him willingly leaving our bedroom like the men on TV, and I knew it was almost impossible. "You'd sleep in there?" 
"No. Play. Play with the baby. Make noise. Play games. Have a lot of fun. We would be so loud you would beg me to stop."
All I could do was laugh. 

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Dispatches: Saving Africa's Witch Children

After a conversation with one of my aunts, my mother asked me to look up a show called Saving Africa's Witch Children. Apparently, it aired on Channel 4 (in the UK) a few days ago and caused quite a stir, at least in my aunt's circle. She stated that she only watched the first 10 minutes, it was so disturbing, but suggested that we try and watch it.

So, with the help of google, we tracked it down. I like to watch documentaries and "based on a true story" movies, my most recent Netflix movies included Rabbit Proof Fence (Australia's Stolen Generation), The Business of Being Born (self explanatory), Hurricane Katrina: A Requiem in Three Acts (also self explanatory), The Devil Came on Horseback (Conflict in Darfur) and Fidel (Castro, of course). Although it was a little difficult to find, my love of documentaries propelled me to keep searching, and finally youtube proved fruitful. I prefer to let those of you that are interested formulate your own opinions, and so I will post the links to the youtube videos (it is broken up into 6 segments). 

I would like to say that a few things about the presentation annoyed me. 

1) The events chronicled take place in Nigeria, the entire show was filmed in Nigeria, and yet the title of the program is Saving Africa's Witch Children. Why couldn't it be called "Saving Nigeria's Witch Children"? I have a few guesses about the answer to that question, and they all frustrate me.

2) Although I know that people are people, and I shouldn't see race, I do. The world just isn't there yet (despite the fact that Obama is the president-elect of the US). And unfortunately there were moments when I was watching when it looked like a white man coming in to save the black man from himself. Although I do NOT condone what is being done, and I applaud ANYONE of any race that is trying to make a difference, because of the ways in which most African nations and people are viewed and portrayed, it still bothers me when there is a tilt, however subtle, towards the idea of savage, uncivilized, barbarian Africans and their need to be lifted out of their darkness (pun intended). I do not think it was intentional, and they did show at least two Nigerian men that are making a difference so perhaps that is redeeming.

3) This television show made me think, again, about the power of religion. Over and over and over again I see people use God as their cover. Child abuse. Robbery. Rape. Murder. All in the "name" of God. It makes me sick.

Watch it.

Saving Africa's Witch Children Part 1

Saving Africa's Witch Children Part 2

Saving Africa's Witch Children Part 3

Saving Africa's Witch Children Part 4

Saving Africa's Witch Children Part 5

Saving Africa's Witch Children Part 6

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Birthing

I just watched The Business of Being Born, a movie that I would recommend to all women intending to have children. Even if natural childbirth is "not for you", I think being informed is important, and unfortunately, a lot of the women that I know are not informed. Some of them would like a "natural" childbirth, but have never seen one and have no idea how to go about it. Others are making decisions about their body and their baby without getting all of the facts. Epidurals relieve pain, but they also slow labor. Getting one intervention often leads to more interventions. I, personally, think that hospitals are for sick people, and birthing is not an illness. OB-GYNs are trained surgeons, and most of them are excellent at what they are trained to do and I am glad they are there for when we need C-sections. I just think we have way too many unnecessary interventions, and too many of us say "yes" when our consent isn't actually informed. I watched the nurses hang IV bags without talking to me, assume that I had an epidural and blood pressure medication, and act as if first baby automatically equalled an unbearably and unacceptably long labor, among other things. I think we should be able to take advantage of the advances in technology and medicine without disregarding centuries of birthing knowledge and experience.

Obama the Anti-Christ?

I try not to talk about politics, it is an easy way to make quick enemies.

However, in the past few days I have had a few conversations about politics. It seems that some of our neighbors think that everyone shares their political views. It is strange to me, because most of my friends, regardless of their political views, recognize that everyone does not agree with them, and so engage in political conversations with a degree of caution or a desire to discuss. Our neighbors here, however, assume that everyone is a white, Christian, conservative, Republican, and I guess we "fit in" so much they forget, for the moment, that even if they think we are the last three, we are definitely not the first. So, in conversation they have expressed their glee that "the vice president is a woman" [note the tense used], "we don't need a president that would side with the muslims" [and not with "Americans" as if the two are always mutually exclusive] and "I can't believe how Obama is talking about Sarah Palin's daughter like he wasn't raised by a white trash mother, 'cause she slept with a black man and that made her white trash back then". [And judging by her tone, it still does.] I am concerned that they are assuming the election is in the bag, although I am in FL, so they might be on to something. It bothers me that people still think that American Muslim is an oxymoron, or that Sadam Hussein was behind the Sept. 11th attacks (that was also mentioned). I am amazed that reporters = Obama and confused about how Obama's "white trash" upbringing is related to Palin's daughter's pregnancy and why either is a central issue of the election. 

But all of that was completely erased from my mind with the next statement.  
"Barak Obama is the Anti-Christ." 

I was floored. I guess I've been in a China/baby bubble, but I had not heard that one. I have so many problems with that statement, I don't even know where to begin. 

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Credit

This is the longest amount of time that I've been the US in about two years, and some things have changed. The change that is bothering me the most right now is the power, influence and importance of a persons credit report. Need car insurance? Your rate is determined not by past accidents or tickets, but your credit score. Great for all of the reckless drivers with excellent credit. Trying to get a new job? Your perspective employer would like to run your credit. You know that three digit number will tell them exactly what kind of an employee you will be. And of course, in order for all of these people to run your credit, you have to hand out your social security number like M&M's. In days identity theft driven world, you have to write down your Social Security number on your job application for CVS. CVS. Nuff said.

Then the other day I read this in November 2007 issue of Parents Magazine. 
"The only institution that you are legally obligated to give your Social Security number to are your employer, your bank and the IRS. Your utility company, cell-phone provider, or credit card company may request it, but there's no law that says you have to give it. . . Remember, even if you think the company is reputable, once you give your SSN it can be seen by every customer service representative or receptionist who has access to your file. [p.134]

News flash. If I don't give the cell phone company my SSN I don't get a cell phone. Refuse to give it on job applications, no job. Credit card company, c'mon. I might not be legally obligated, but my life will be very difficult. And it is a horrible system. Not only because of identity theft, but because the overall system seems designed to keep the rich rich and the poor poor. Let me give you an example.

I went to university. An excellent university. One of the best. Which means it is expensive. My family is not rich so I took out loans. As a result, I left university with a lot of education debt. Then, although the US government wouldn't admit it, the market was already beginning to downturn, and I had a hard time finding a job. So, when I finally found work, I was making less than I paid in tuition, and it was a struggle to pay my bills. But, I went to work, sometimes working two and three jobs to try and pay my loans, and rent, and still eat, and maybe even save a little. Then I get a used car. They run my credit. Remember those loans? Well, my credit score is not great, not awful, but not great. So, my insurance rate goes up. Now the market is bad, and the company I work for goes belly-up. I try and find a new job, and everyone runs my credit. All of those enquires bring down my credit score. Then I get a letter from my credit card company. Not a card I use, my emergency card that I always pay on time, have never been late on, and have only used 3 times, in emergencies. The letter says that they did a review, and have decided to close my account. Not because of issues with their card, but because I owe someone else too much money. Oh, those student loans again. Great. Now one of the positive things on my credit report is a negative because they closed that account. The number is dropping. And because I'm having a hard time getting a job, the bills are going to start to pile up. Do you see the pattern emerging?

Now, if I had a trust fund, I would not have had to take out loans for college. Not getting a job right away wouldn't have been problematic, because I would have been able to pay rent and any other bills anyway. Laid off? No problem, there is enough in savings, or investments, or daddy's bank account. Get the picture?

Monday, September 15, 2008

News Flash

It is amazing to me how the time flies. It seems like just yesterday I was sitting at work in Shanghai, imagining what the summer would be like. And now the summer is almost over.

So, here is a quick rundown of summer tidbits.

Before his birth, my little one visited 6 countries (yes, I travelled that much while pregnant). After his birth, we introduced him to the Eastern part of the United States. He has been to Disney World (thanks to my friend and Disney cast member, KG), and we visited family in Washington D.C., New York City, Virginia, and Maryland. Oh, and he has driven through Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. He has endured two plane rides (without crying!) and even a five hour journey in the car...even though he HATES the car seat. I think his travel training is off to a good start. Is wanderlust inherited or learned?
All of my friends that had the opportunity to be at the Olympics in Beijing this summer had a wonderful time. So far no stories of racism or other shameful behavior, just a wonderful, warm, inviting, and invigorating atmosphere. A great time was had by all.
A sleeping schedule has finally emerged. That means more blogging for me...and more enjoyment for you. Carmen Sandiego is in the US of A right now, preparing for more around the world fun...and my future adventures will involve my husband and baby. This is going to be fun!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Baby Wearing

"That's dangerous."
"Can he breath?"
"How did you do that?"
"Why do you have your baby in/like that?"
"Oh wow, how did you do that?"
"What is that?"
"Where did you learn that?"
"That's weird."

If nothing else, baby wearing generates comments. Although a few have been positive, the majority of comments demonstrate ignorance. Primarily concerned that I am suffocating my infant, people have done everything from comment under their breath to demand that I prove my child can breath. If I am in the right mood, or the person is quite persistent, then I will show them that the baby can breath. They are often surprised (but never apologetic).

Everywhere from FL to NY, all along the eastern seaboard, my baby wrap has attracted attention. A lot of stares, even in a place like D.C. where I thought it wouldn't attract any attention. And then the comments. Sometimes I want to tell people to mind their business. Occasionally I think it's because I look young, which just demonstrates some of the issues younger parents have to deal with. Do people think I am so stupid that I would suffocate my child? Or is that indicative of their intelligence? I must say, none of the mothers I have encountered have questioned my parenting skills or common sense, even the ones that thought it was "strange" or "weird" based on their comments. They have asked "how" questions, but never implied that I did not consider my child's safety first and foremost. I never imagined that this baby wrap would attract so much attention, especially of the negative kind.

Nevertheless, my son and I love the baby wrap. He feels secure, and I have full use of both of my hands without the discomfort of buckles and straps. It is also easier to keep out dirt and dust when necessary, and also hands and germs and kissy strangers. I love the baby wrap. And mine was $10 because I went to the store and purchased the fabric myself. If you want to know more, comment and I will send some links and other info.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Is it true?

The latest scandal...







In case you can't read the small font, check out the highlights here:
I do have some friends that will be attending the Olypics, so I will blog about their expereinces in a few weeks.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

My Birth Story

Disclaimer:
Childbirth is a very personal process. Many things influence the approach to and experience of giving birth, including culture, religion, country of origin and residence, available healthcare, socioeconomic status, level of education, personal experiences, and health considerations, just to name a few. I am not making a judgement call about the various ways in which children are brought into the world. When the words "natural childbirth" are used, it is merely for connivence as it is means, in the American lexicon, childbirth without pain relief and/or other intervention, I do not wish to imply that any other type of birth is somehow unnatural. This is my story.

When I was pregnant, lots of people had advice and stories to share with me. Some of what they said was helpful and useful, but often I had to separate the wheat from the chaff. Generally, that was not problematic, but there was one area in which the advice and stories often seemed to take a negative spin and finding wheat was nearly impossible. Of the many people I spoke to, of all the stories that I was told, I heard less than 5 positive birth stories. It would seem that having a baby is challengingly wonderful, pregnancy is often beautiful, but childbirth is awful, hell, terrible, and hands down the worst thing a woman will ever experience. Everyone has heard numerous horror stories about childbirth, and few, if any, positive ones. I did have one friend that had to have an emergency C-section, and refused to tell me the story until after my baby was born, I really appreciated that. Generally though, most people were not that considerate, and though the best thing for a first time mother was to inform her of all the worst case scenarios. Perhaps helpful to some new moms, but often frustrating for me.

For various personal reasons, including a dislike of hospitals, my preference for a holistic approach to healthcare, the usefulness of webMD and google, my own personal beliefs, and an allergy to aspirin, I wanted as few interventions as possible during childbirth. I would have been perfectly fine with a home birth, but that was not an option. I have not taken pain medication for anything in well over a decade, and to me an epidural (the most common form of pain relief) sounded like crack. Seriously, I can't even drink coffee without getting the jitters, the thought of an epidural, which is a narcotic, was actually scary. But when I informed others, including my doctor, of my desire for a natural childbirth, I was often told things like "Many first time mothers want to do it natural, don't feel bad if you change your mind." "An epidural is HEAVEN." "It's so much easier with an epidural." Not encouraging or optimistic. I wanted to hear something that would give me hope that I could achieve this goal. So, being a nerd, I went to the internet and the library for help. I knew that not everyone got an epidural, and I wanted to hear from those women. I read books, and blogs, and anything I could get my hands on. I wasn't able to take a childbirth class, so I prepared myself as best as I could. I knew it wouldn't be easy, but I also knew that it was possible. Armed with information, strategies and some coping techniques, I went into labor.

Actually, I'd been having contractions and intense pelvic pressure for about two weeks. I was focusing all of my energy on NOT going into labor, as my husband had not arrived. I hoped and prayed, and tried my best to will my body not to go into labor. I wasn't sure how effective my methods would be, and I knew that at a certain point there would be no stopping labor, but I gave it all I had. So, I dealt with contractions and pelvic pressure for two weeks, while my family kept my spirits up and a smile on my face. My husband arrived on Saturday night. I couldn't sleep, and he kept asking if I was okay. I was okay, but restless and having contractions. I had been having contractions for a while already, and these felt like the previous ones, so I didn't think anything of it. We went to Walmart on Sunday afternoon, and at about 1:00 my water broke. In the store! I had read that only a small percentage of women experience their water breaking while out in public, and when it does happen it is usually a trickle and not a gush because the babies head acts like a cork. Well, I gushed! I thought, "Great, of course I'm one of the 2% of women who experience this." We left Walmart, with my husband walking behind me to sort of hide the fact that my pants were completely soaked . . . partially because it was a little embarrassing, but mostly because I wanted to avoid causing a commotion or stir. (I could just see someone trying to convince me to call an ambulance, scared that I would have the baby in the frozen food aisle). So, we went home, and after some strong urging from my mother, I called the midwife. Of course, she said that I had to come to the hospital, because my water had broken. I was not happy. My plan was to labor at home as long as possible, and now I had to go to the hospital and be stuck in bed, on monitors, with people poking and prodding and stalling my labor. Argh! The upside was that my body and baby had held out until my husband arrived, and I was quite happy about that. I decided that staying at home was not worth the potential risks, and got myself ready. At about 2:30-3:00, I was admitted, and hooked up to the fetal monitor. I was only 36 weeks, so an IV was started with antibiotics. I wasn't happy about the IV, but I decided to be positive. As I laughed and joked my way through centimeters 4-6, the nurses seemed a little surprised. According to the monitor, I was having intense contractions, but my behavior did not line up with what the monitor said. I could feel the contractions, I informed them, but I was doing okay. Although strong, my contractions were irregular. The nurse came in to check on me, and started changing my IV. I looked up, and realized that she had hung an additional bag. I asked what it was, and she said Pitocin. NO! I am not a fan of Pitocin and was trying to avoid it. After I explained to her that I prefer to be an informed patient (no giving me meds without talking to me first), I decided not to argue about the Poticin. She said that because my contractions were irregular, they wanted to give me a low dose to help make them more regular. I was already having strong contractions, and making them more regular would only help labor progress faster. From what I learned about Pitocin, I wondered if they also wanted to see me squirm. I held up okay as the contractions got more intense, breathing through them and talking in between. Then, when I was about 8 centimeters, they were so hard and fast there was no "in-between". I used the birthing ball for a while, until I felt like sitting was irritating. Then I crouched on all fours on the bed. When the nurse came in and saw me like that, she adjusted the bed so the top half was higher than the bottom half, and the bed was supporting my body weight (instead of me supporting myself). It was wonderful. I did have a "Bridezilla"-like moment, when I yelled at my husband (who was on the phone with his parents) "I am in labor. This is not a social hour. GET OUT!" Sorry babe, the extra noise was irritating. The next time the midwife checked, she said, "Let me know when you are ready to push." I think I was already ready, because about 5 minutes later I was asking my mother (who was also my wonderful doula) "How do you know when you are ready? Do you only want to push during the contractions or in between?" Then I realized that during the contractions I was bearing down. So, I pushed the call button. "Yes, how may I help you?", responded the sweet male voice on the other end. "I WANNA PUSH". "Okay," the sweet voice responded, "I'll let your midwife know." 

Within 2 minutes, the midwife and nurses were in the room. Everyone put on gloves, they adjusted the bed and got everything ready, and I began to push. After contractions, pushing was a relief for me. I was so focused on pushing that I didn't want to do anything but push the baby. They asked if I wanted a mirror, and I said no. Then they asked if I wanted to touch his head, another no. I closed my eyes and concentrated on breathing between contractions, and pushing with them. The midwife had to tell me to open my eyes, and when I did I saw his beautiful face. One last push and he was born. It was 6:55. They laid him on my chest, and allowed the cord to stop pulsing before my husband cut it. I fed him, and then they cleaned and weighed him and gave him back. After that they left us alone for some much needed family time.

All in all, I had a positive experience. Was it perfect? No. But I was prepared for some things to not go "as planned", so I didn't let those things bother me. I tried to focus on the positive, and it was effective. I did not have to take pain relief, we were both healthy, I sustained a minor (1st degree) tear (because I when she said push slowly, I said "What?" and didn't relaxing my pushing). I was in a room filled with positive, supportive women. It was a relaxing atmosphere, they allowed me to turn off the lights and labor in whatever position I was comfortable in. The midwife only checked me twice to see how dilated I was, when I first arrived, and right before I started to push. My labor was quick, only 6 hours from the time my water broke until the baby was born. The hospital staff was respectful and supportive, especially after I articulated myself. So, yes, it is possible to have a positive experience. Was labor intense? Yes. But the pain of labor is pain with a purpose, and for me it helped to keep in mind that I knew why I was pain (because my cervix was dilating, because my baby was getting ready to born) and also that it would have an end. It wasn't easy, but I wouldn't have had it any other way. Every contraction, every pain, every moment, every breath, pushed my body beyond limits never imagined, showed me even more of myself, and brought my son into the world. What is not wonderful about that?

Birthing a baby is a beautiful thing, not only because of the "reward" at the end, but also because of the amazing thing that your body does when it nurtures a life, and then brings that life into the world. Giving birth was not the easiest thing I've ever done, but afterwards, I felt like a warrior. I am calmer than I thought. I am more in control than I envisioned. I am more determined than I acknowledged. I am stronger than I ever imagined. That warrior spirit is mine.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

It's been a long time...

First, an apology. I have gone quite a while without posting, and I have heard from some of you that you miss reading my blog. That is both exciting and humbling. So, please accept my sincerest apology for going so long without posting.

Second, an explanation. I am now a mommy! I took some time to return to the States, have a baby, and care for a newborn - hence the long silence. What an adventure!

I have a list of things to post about...China, childbirth (NOT a horror story), and musings on life in general. So, please stay tuned...I'll be right back.

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Change

A lot of people, my husband included, have had difficulty renewing their visas. First, we couldn't figure out why he was having such a hard time. Then some of his colleagues related similar stories. Next, a few of our other friends started telling us that they were having difficulty. And then some of the students we know began having trouble. Suddenly, the requirements got stricter. Without any notice, the rules changed. In short, many people were being told that they would have to return home in order to renew their visas. This is not something that was a problem before, at least not with those on student and business visas. But now, it is a problem. Officially, there has not been a change in China's visa policy, but the word on the street tells quite a different story.

Then today I read some blogs and news, and discovered that the problem is as wide spread as I thought. And when a company can not send their employees to do business, the issue becomes more than just the problems of a few scattered individuals. A recent Tim Johnson (China correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers)
blog headline reads "Biz opportunities are being missed." China won't change, and hopefully it will return to normal after the Olympics...it will be interesting to see what happens next.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/mcb_china/20080425/wl_mcb_china/bizopportunitiesarebeingmissed

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Ethnic Profiling...

SUCKS!

I don't know what it is. Trying to get rid of the "bad elements" before the Olympics, anger about the protests in other countries when the Olympic flame was there, the recent Tibet drama or what, but to be honest, none of that has any direct correlation to my life. Or so you would think.

A few weeks ago, when returning to China, I was the only person, out of the hundreds that walked through customs within 15 minutes of me, to be stopped. The only one. There was only one customs official, it was 7am, and no one else was stopped before me, or, of course, while he was asking me questions.

"Where are you from"
"America"
"America?"
"Yes, A-me-ri-ca".
My flight had been delayed over 12 hours, I was tired, and if I did not catch the 7:00 bus, I would be late for work. I had no patience.
"Give me you passport."
I hand it over.
"You from America? But this flight from -"
"The flight is from Singapore. I am American. I was visiting Singapore. OKAY?" I said, clearly agitated and with my voice raised.
Usually, I am calm and respectful, but that morning, I was just pissed. All these people, and the only one you pick out to stop happens to be the only the brown person in the bunch. Yes, I was not pleased.
He said "Okay" and let me go. I made the bus just in time.

And then today.

I get to immigration. The woman looks at me, the cover of my passport (not the inside, the outside where it says United States of America), and then my husband (who was still in line, they make you go one by one). She makes a stern face, and then proceeds to inspect my passport. Every page, every visa, the picture, the cover, the seams, EVERYTHING. I have 24 used pages in my passport, 5 of which are taken up by visas, the rest have an average of 5 stamps each. And she inspected every single one. Analyzed the picture on the info page, the picture inside (on one of the visas), investigated the seams, the visas, again. Then, she looks under the microscope type thing, at EVERY SINGLE PAGE. Slowly. She thinks my passport is a fake.

Then, her colleague comes over, she explains to him what the "problem" is (I couldn't hear them). So, he sits down next to her, and begins to do everything she just did. While the guy is looking at my passport under the microscope, with infrared, she told my husband he could come. Thankfully, his passport is newer, and not as full, so the super inspection is not as intense. And, his is also not an American passport, so less likely to be forged. She took her time, and investigated, and scanned it four times, but at least she doesn't have to look at over 20 pages of visas. All the while, the guy is still looking at my passport. My husbands passport gets stamped, and when the guy finishes, he says "it's ok" in Chinese (I could read his lips) and left. She takes my passport. I think they are finished, he said it was fine and they have both throughly investigated it. I was wrong.

She proceeds to it check, AGAIN.

At this point, I have been standing there for over 20 minutes. I really wanted to shout obscenities at her. Is my passport old? Yes. It is due to be renewed next year. But I can't be the only person with a nine year old passport she has ever seen. Do I understand that immigration officers have to do their jobs? Yes. I have traveled enough to know that I might have to answer questions, produce documents, etc. But, I have traveled to Europe, Africa, Asia, and South America on that passport, and NEVER, not once, has anyone thought it was a fake. Not once. Do I think it is, plain and simply, a case of racism/ethnic profiling/discrimination. Yes. Especially because I watched all of the white people and non-Chinese Asians go through without any problems, and then I had to stand there for 30 minutes while two people checked every aspect of my passport more than four times. Yes, I think it is because she saw brown skin and blue passport, and assumed that it is not real. If there was something suspicious about my passport, I'm sure it would have caused a problem earlier in the nine years I have used it. It has never been a problem. I do not think she is some amazing eagle eyed immigration officer that is serious about her job. I'm sure you can guess what I think. While I'm standing there waiting for them to finally give it up and admit that my passport is real, they probably let 50 people with light skin smuggle drugs into the country. Not to mention the human traffickers. But a brown girl with a US passport, a Chinese residence permit and a legitimate job, let's stop her.

Can you tell I am pissed? In the end, she let me go. Cause well, my passport is real.

And then, of course, we get stopped in customs. At least there wasn't a body cavity search.

Friday, March 07, 2008

A Day in the Life...

Two interesting moments from my life as a teacher.

Here is an excerpt from a student's work:

N is for Negro. Sometimes, I wish I could be Negro, because they have natural talents with music. They could give full play to their innate ability. If I were Negro, I will overcome the racial discrimination; change the stereotypes of Negro and hold concerts in different countries.

And here is a picture of a student's assignment:




















Miss Cow's Lecture? Should I take that personally or just hope the student thought the picture was cute?

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Scrambled like eggs

As most of you know, my husband is a native French speaker. Sometimes, this means that we experience hilarious gaps in communication. My French is still in the beginning stage, and the errors too numerous to mention. However, his English is almost fluent, and so his mistakes are usually funny - to me anyway.

For example, at the wedding, the guests wanted me to make a little speech. Having no idea what to say, I looked to my dear husband for some guidance. "Just say 'good appetite'", he says. Good appetite? Sorry dear, but that doesn't make sense, and it is just hard to say something incorrectly in my own language. Although I understood that he was translating the French literally
, in English we don't say "good appetite". So, I did the next best thing. I said, "enjoy your meal". But no, that was not good enough. No sooner were the words out of my mouth than the M.C. , who had heard my husbands instructions, felt it necessary to reiterate my words. With much gusto, as if to cover my mistake, he nearly yelled into the mic. Speaking in English, he tells the guests "She said, 'Thank you for coming...and good appetite!'" Maybe "eat well" would have been a better choice.

The other night, we were having one of those mushy memory lane conversations that couples, relatives and old friends sometimes have. As you know, here in China I was (am) the "untouchable", and he was laughing about some of the things his friends said to him when he expressed his interest in pursuing me. The guys here often talk(ed) about my complexion and hair texture, and occasionally use(d) my appearance to reinforce their reasoning. As he laughed at how much has changed, and how I went from being the untouchable girl to his wife, he made a remark about my (naturally curly) hair. "My wife, with her scrambled hair." Of all the words used to describe my hair, this was the first time I'd heard "scrambled", even from him. Laughing hysterically, I said "Like eggs?", in order to be sure he was saying what he meant. "Yes!" he exclaimed, "Scrambled like eggs."

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

CAC Cook-Up

On Sunday night, I went to a Caribbean Association (of China) meeting and potluck dinner. Shanghai is a big city, and this time the dinner was near my house. So, I went to the supermarket and picked up a dessert (I know, I know, being lazy) and took a taxi to my friend J's house. J' is a Jamaican-British, married mother of one (with one on the way). I arrived as food was still being cooked and warmed, and generally mingled. After the meeting, I stayed and chatted for a while, and all in all had quite a lovely evening.
The food was good, the company was good, and the meeting was productive. There are a lot of good things going on, and some activities I might attend. The biggest news of the night however, was this:

The first ever Jamaican restaurant is opening in Shanghai!

Of course, as CAC members we are invited to the pre-opening testing. That is when you go to the restaurant and sample dishes in order to give the chef your feedback. Free food that should taste good. Sign me up. My husband and I will be there!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Todays Tidings

A few notes...

Chinese New Year has ended! I think. Last night was another round of fireworks, I think marking the end of the clebration. Although I love festive events, I do not love being unable to sleep because of the fireworks. So I enjoyed the festivities, and am glad they are over. Speaking of Chinese New Year, can anyone tell me why I can't seem to find a lion/dragon dance in Shanghai? I do live in China, don't I? This shouldn't be so difficult...

I must be the ONLY person in Shanghai that doesn't have an ayi (domestic help). I going to have to join the club, and start paying someone to wash dishes, clean the bathrooms, and esp. those white tile floors. Hm, this sounds good already, I might have to find myself an older Chinese woman to help around the house wherever I go. It would also help me practice my Chinese...

I had all of these things I wanted to write, but now they've escaped me.

On a final note, a friend of mine commented the other day on how my relationship status on Myspace went from "single" to "married". Unlike most people, I never put "in a relationship" or "engaged". She said that she should take tips from me, never letting him know he has you. I thought it was funny, as that wasn't exactly my motivation. (Esp. being as he doesn't use myspace, so he had no idea what it said). But then it made me think a little bit. You know the movie Big Fish? In it, the father tells a story, and the punchline is that the only way to catch an uncatchable woman is to give her a wedding ring. I think that line sums up my relationship pretty well. Here, my husband is called "the man", among other things, by the group of guys that knew us both before we became a couple. Why? Because he got the "untouchable girl" (what they said most often when he would ask them about me). He thought I would be easy to get, perhaps like most of his relationships. I wasn't "hard to get", but I was in some respects an uncatchable woman. I like it that way.

Friday, February 08, 2008

春节快乐!

Happy Chinese New Year!

Here's a short video clip of the fireworks that were visible from my bedroom. The two sets in the foreground were set off in the courtyard (thanks neighbors). Note the noise and "background" fireworks also. The entire city was lit up. I had numerous fireworks displays visible from every room in the house.


video

And a shorter one, from a window on the other side of the apartment. This side of my building is next to a school, which is why all of the fireworks are in the background.







video

Thursday, February 07, 2008

ERA

ERA-Intersection of time.
The other night, I FINALLY went to see ERA. I've been attempting to get to this show, which plays every night, since I first heard about it a little over a year ago. Not wanting to go alone, my main problem was finding someone to go with me. The other night a friend that I had mentioned the show to a few days before calls up and asks if I want to go and see it that night. Having now other plans, I said, "of course", called the box office, reserved the tickets and off we went.
ERA is actually a little difficult to describe. It is mostly an acrobatics show that fuses traditional Chinese culture with modern technology. It is breathtaking. The things the performers due are beautiful, and classic and amazing. The show is riveting from beginning to end, and leaves the viewer wondering what they are going to do next. It is family friendly, and well organized. The choreography is beautiful. And everything is live, the music included, which adds an extra element of intrigue. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and am so glad that I finally got to see this Shanghai staple.
Photography is forbidden (yay!), so I took pictures of the pictures in the program book that my friend purchased. I am not sure about the copyright laws involved, so the copyright of these pictures belongs to either a) my friend who purchased the book or b) the original photographer.
Enjoy...



Look at those arms! Yes, I spent a lot of time appreciating the bodies of the performers, especially the women. Look, women with bodies! Figures. They are not hungry! They are in amazing shape, of course. Those thighs are rock solid - but they exist. And I think they have to um...EAT.












Flexibility. Balance. Strength. Beauty.

CHINA.










Yes, I want my husband to hold on to some material with one arm, and me with the other, and then be lifted into the air just like this. I want the music in the background too.

This piece was one of my favorites in the show. At one point she was holding on to the the fabric suspended from the ceiling, and supporting his weight with her free arm (so her free hand was holding one of his hands, and his other hand was free as part of the movement - and I think, to aid in keeping balance). They didn't have wires, which increased the beauty and suspense as they went swirling and spinning through midair. And the singer was great (I could even understand some of the words of the song). Loved it.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Snow snarls transport, strands thousands in China

Sat Jan 26, 5:05 AM ET

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Heavy snow and rain closed airports, highways and train lines across central and eastern China on Saturday, stranding tens of thousands of travelers and threatening to block food supplies.

Snowfall since mid-January has been "the heaviest in a decade," affecting about 32.9 million people and causing an estimated 6.23 billion yuan ($865 million) of damage, the official Xinhua news agency said.

The snow has collapsed homes, caused power blackouts and destroyed crops, causing the deaths of dozens of people in weather-related accidents.

By disrupting food supplies, the weather could also fuel inflation, which hit an 11-year high of 4.8 percent last year, becoming a major economic and social problem for the government.

"Transportation of fresh farm products - including vegetables, fruits, livestock and poultry - faces an extraordinarily grave situation," the State Council, China's cabinet, said in a statement late on Friday.

It ordered authorities around the country to clear snow and ice from roads, exempt vehicles carrying farm produce from all traffic tolls, and ensure that gas stations gave "unlimited supplies" of petrol to those vehicles without raising prices.

Pricing, finance, commerce and quality authorities across China were instructed to exempt wholesale suppliers of fresh farm products from "as many charges as possible."

About 40,000 passengers, many of them traveling home for the Lunar New Year Festival in early February, were stranded at stations along the railway line from Beijing to the southern city of Guangzhou on Saturday, Xinhua reported.

A total of 136 electric passenger trains were stalled in central China's Hunan Province after snow damaged power lines. Diesel locomotives were being used to haul the electric trains out of the area as over 10,000 workers repaired the power lines.

At least five major airports, including those in Hunan's capital of Changsha and one in Nanjing, capital of the eastern province of Jiangsu, were closed, state television said.

Highways around Nanjing were closed, as were 28 major roads in the southwestern province of Guizhou, where 27,000 travelers were stranded in bus stations, Xinhua reported.

In the eastern province of Anhui, 12,000 people were evacuated from dangerous locations because of the snow, it added.

The snowfall extended as far as China's commercial centre of Shanghai, which saw its heaviest snow this decade on Saturday, causing city authorities to promise to intervene in food markets to keep stable the prices of goods such as grains and milk, the official Liberation Daily said.

The National Meteorological Centre said some areas of central and eastern China could see at least three more days of snow.

($1=7.21 Yuan)

(Reporting by Andrew Torchia and George Chen; Editing by Bill Tarrant)

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20080126/wl_nm/china_weather_snow_dc


My two cents: Emphasis added. It is snowing right now, has been since about 10am. I am not excited. I am not intrigued. In fact, I am thinking, why is China experiencing one of the worst winters in 50 years (according to the news) now? Couldn't this have happened two or three years ago, before I arrived. Oh how self-centered am I.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

SLEET!

On Saturday it snowed. On Sunday it snowed and rained. And today we have sleet. Which means that the sidewalks are a nasty, icy, slippery, slushy mess. Ah, great fun. I saw a few people today with plastic bags over their shoes...perhaps they fancied a bit of ice skating.
With that said, I am earnestly awaiting the arrival of summer. Last year, it did not snow in Shanghai. Actually, it does not snow most winters here. And considering that the government has decided that we are in the "warm" part of China where indoor heat is not required, it is a good thing that it is usually not cold enough to snow. Of course, the snow is caused by a warm front meeting a cold front, but that cold front is serious. It
is COLD.I think the warm front is so high up, we can't feel the difference.
My heaters are simply not powerful enough to keep the rooms warm. My kitchen is so cold that things in the cupboard are freezing. I went to put some honey in my tea, and the honey was frozen solid. I can see my breath when I am cooking, and have taken to cooking the fastest meals possible. Lots of stir-fry noodles for me in the past two weeks. The living room/dining room is too open for the heater to work well, I have it on 30 (degrees Celsius) and the room hovers at around 16. And so, my bedroom has become my refuge. I come home, go in there and turn on the heaters (the wall unit and a space heater). Then I take off my coat and boots and head to the kitchen to whip up a fast dinner. Then back to the room. Being cold indoors really irritates me, and is the only thing about Shanghai that I seriously detest. Honestly. This weather alone makes me seriously consider if I can take another winter in Shanghai.
I will be glad when summer comes. Quickly I hope. Quickly.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Bare Bottoms

A few observations from daily life...

It is winter here. As such, people are wrapped up - gloves, winter coats, boats, and other cold weather attire. Babies in snowsuits that weigh as much as they do. With there bare bottoms, not always, but often enough, visible through the slit bottom pants (all three pants, and the snowsuit). I honestly do not comprehend how if it is cold enough to bundle up your child so that s/he looks like the Abominable Snowman, it is not cold enough to put on a diaper (cloth or disposable) or maybe snap pants and no diaper, just something that will protect their nether regions. Maybe I just have a pampered Western tush, but the though of it hanging out, uncovered, subject to wind and freezing temperatures...

Chinese New Year is fast approaching. As many of my colleagues are braving the crowds and holiday prices and traveling around Asia during this time, I am still trying to figure out what to do. I do not like crowds, or overpriced tickets, hotels, etc, and therefore try to avoid travel during peak season. However, I have been here for over a year, and not visited anywhere else in southeast Asia. And so as I watch the line for the train tickets grow insanely long, I wonder if there is anywhere that perhaps wont be too full, or too expensive, (or too COLD) that I can go and visit for the week. So far, I've come up empty handed.

The semester is drawing to a close. That means that this school year is almost half finished, and I need to start making some concrete plans about next year. Should I stay or should I go?

I had something else to write about, but now I cant remember. Oh well, next post...


Sunday, January 06, 2008

I's married now. I said, I's married now...

To quote Shug Avery from The Color Purple, "I's married now!".

Yes, I took my happy self, as my people say, and went to Cameroon and got married. It was an interesting, exciting, unique, challenging, exhilarating and amazing experience. I am not even sure where to begin or what to say. I was "stingy with the details" leading up the wedding, and so most of you had an idea that I was getting married, but little else. So, here are the details.

On December 31, 2007 in Kumba, Cameroon, I became Mrs. B. We made our vows, in the sight of God and man, exchanged rings and sealed it with a kiss (or two). The entire town was there to celebrate, and sing, and my mum provided support and love for the blushing bride. It was wonderful! I will send out pictures via e-mail to all of you in a few weeks, so make sure that I have your e-mail address.

So, to answer the frequently asked questions...

1) Why the secrecy/rush?

There wasn't a rush, we've been planning this for months. The secrecy was because a) I didn't want people to feel bad about not being able to come, b) although we were planning for months, because of timing and visas and money, things didn't come together until the very end, and I didn't want to have to keep changing information or giving updates and, c) I am my mothers child (if you know my mum, you know what that means, if you don't, then don't worry about it).

2) Why did you get married in AFRICA?
Wanderlust baby! That and getting a fiance visa to the US quite complicated. Not a process I wanted to go through. Trust me, trying to co-ordinate a wedding when you live in China, your parents are in America, his parents are in Cameroon and you both have close family members in Europe is not easy. It would have taken years, and most of you know that I was NEVER a fan of long engagements. We considered all of the other possible options, destination weddings, waiting a year or two, etc. and this was the decision we made.

3) What is Cameroon like?
National Geographic. Beautiful. Seriously. You will have to see the pictures.

4) What was the wedding like? Did you have a traditional ceremony, a church wedding, what?
We had a civil ceremony at the council house. We wore traditional attire for the ceremony, and western attire for the reception. Although the ceremony was a civil ceremony, we said the traditional church vows (love, cherish, have, hold, rich, poor, sick, health till death us do part) and there was a scripture reading at the end. But there was no wedding march, altar, or anything like that. We signed the marriage certificate, and we were officially husband and wife.
Afterwards, there was lots of singing and jubilant calls from the women, which was great. Getting married is truly a community event, and a time for everyone to celebrate.

5) May I send a gift?
Thanks! Please be mindful that at some point, I will have to pack everything I own into two suitcases. I will be visiting the States this summer, and it might be easier for you to hold on to the gift(s) until then, or mail them to me at my mums address in FL (if you have it). It will also be easier, cheaper, and I won't have to worry about paying duty or potential customs issues. If you would still like to send a gift, e-mail me and I will send you my address.

6) Wait, weddings, gifts...I am WAY behind. How did he propose?
There wasn't a conventional "proposal", very indicative of his personality (and mine) and our relationship. This is what happened. He said to me one day, in a very serious voice. "L, I spoke to my father today". "Ok" I responded, expecting something grave. "I informed him of my intention to marry you. He agrees and thinks it is the right decision. So, I would like to get married in the next few months." There it was. I'm not a big one for surprises, so I am glad he didn't try. At the time, I just thought it was so funny, esp. because he was so serious that I thought he was going to tell me that someone was in the hospital and he had to go home! (I'm glad that the news wasn't grave.) I was laughing really hard though, and it took about 5 minutes for me to compose myself. He, however, was not laughing, and could not understand what I thought was so funny. So then I had to calm down and ask him if was asking me to marry him. He said, very nervously "What, you don't want to marry me?" At which point I decided to relieve him of his angst, and told him that I would love to marry him.

Although I would have loved for most of you to be there to celebrate with me, at the end of the day it is the marriage, and not the wedding, that is most important. I will be sure to send pictures, and diligently answer all of your questions. I know a few of you are a little upset with me, but that is ok, love heals all wounds. It was no easier for me than it was was you. Trust me. I would like to thank all of you that prayed for me, and celebrated with me across oceans and continents and multiple time zones. I would like to thank my siblings especially, my favorite uncle, my grandmothers, and closest friends, for their strength and perseverance, and for their presence in spirit. I would be lost without you.

And yes, we're gonna have a party when I come home, so get ready! Oh, and HAPPY NEW YEAR!