Shopping in Metro– think Chinese Sam’s Club– when we see this sign. Something about hot pot? Super special hot pot!
So, helloo…. Here in China many things have been happening. But basically after Bali, it has been school, school, and more school. Henry is chafing at the possibility that he might actually have to finish out the year at his current school. Why he thought he would be moving to Lucas and Ava’s school in the middle of the year is anyone’s guess. He has been telling his teachers since August that this week is really his last. Enjoy his wit and wisdom while you can, suckers! Henry isn’t going to be here for you to kick around much longer! Of course, he eats those words every Monday morning as I march him right back to his classroom. He has begun to parrot back to me all the things we tried to say so diplomatically when it became obvious that Ava would need to make a change last year. “It just isn’t a good fit for me!” he will announce as he attempts, once again, to have a sick day. No dice, little buddy. Every day he asks how much longer until summer vacation and scowls when I inform him that it is a long, long way away.
Ava is thriving at her new school. This is a big deal for her after last year and I am relieved. So, so, so relieved. Her most recent parent teacher conference involved me seeing her progress and then bursting into tears. Ava was leading the conference so I was forced to explain that they were ”happy tears”. I looked less ridiculous when her teacher started crying too.
And Lucas is, well, Lucas. He likes his school but complains in the morning. He likes riding the bus. He does well in his classes. He is playing the clarinet. He loves the swim team. He likes China but sometimes wishes we could move back to Maryland and settle back into our cozy yellow house. But usually he is happy.
They are all speaking more Chinese than I ever imagined. Henry mumbles to himself and sings Chinese songs. Ava and Lucas argue over the pronunciation and meaning of characters. All of them love correcting me, of course. I am the Mandarin idiot around here, still struggling with the most basic things. Lucas has needed to translate for me with workmen more times than I would like to admit. Even Henry congratulated me a few weeks ago after a trip to the wet market. It had been so smart of me to bring him along. He had helped me so much with his “translating”.
I am still less settled in than the children, I think. Being a tai tai* is less exciting than one might think. I go to my Chinese class twice a week. I spend an obscene amount of time procuring food for the family. I go to the fabric market and the fake market and the flower market to buy more crazy things. I have lunch with my new friends. I work on my never ending dissertation. I try to wrap my head around daily life in China and usually fail miserably. Why do Chinese people do that? I have no idea. Don’t ask me. I am thinking about next year and how I want things to be. I am considering going back to work but I am unsure of how that will pan out. We will see. So things are fine. Things are good. Thanks for asking.
*Tai tai means wife, but since I am White and unemployed by choice it is the equivalent of “ladies who lunch.” Yes, this is killing me. Let’s never speak of it again.
Halloween in China looked like this:
The kids got to trick-or-treat twice because while the North American parents thought we should hit the houses on the 31st, the management office thought we should all beg for candy on Saturday night. Not surprisingly, none of my children complained! Two nights of trick-or-treating thoroughly confused everyone. Some of our Chinese neighbors had decorations up unaware that this meant kids would be ringing their doorbells looking for candy. They certainly weren’t expecting it on two different nights. Ava was surprised to be given three large grapes by one perplexed Chinese woman who apparently thought this was either the equivalent of a chocolate bar or better than nothing. The kids were also less than excited by some of the other items that ended up in their bags. Many, many things here are individually wrapped for no good reason which resulted in things like fancy looking prunes being part of our Halloween treat mix.
I planned ahead and made the kids pick costumes over the summer when I could order them easily. There was less selection, but I didn’t spend weeks running around looking for things. Henry was supposed to be a Power Ranger, but since he needed to dress up as a pirate for school (the reasons for this are still less than clear for me), he opted just to wear his pirate things for one round of trick-or-treating and his other costume for the Saturday round. I try not to ask too many questions.
Other than the expected difficulties of missing our house and all of our Halloween decorating– this would have been a knock out year for our political jack o’lanterns!– the one thing that turned out to be the most difficult was the candy. I had a hard time finding bags of candy and ended up traipsing around on the hunt for fun size candy bars. I ended up with some questionable Chinese candy from the bulk bins at Carrefour mixed in with some teeny tiny Dove chocolate bars. By the second round of trick-or-treating I had some bags of Chinese candy and a few of these cookie bar things.
It was the first time Lucas was able to go out in the neighborhood with his friends and NO ADULT SUPERVISION! Are you surprised that this resulted in one kid needing stitches on his face? Of course you aren’t! Luckily, it wasn’t Lucas but one unhappy family had to make a Halloween trip to the Chinese hospital.
Ava and Henry went around the neighborhood with a friend since Mark was delayed at work. I handed out the candy and actually missed the days of Hawthorn Road with the fog machine and the glow in the dark eyeballs. The kids came home to sort their loot and ate the imported candy first, followed by the Chinese candy made by foreign companies. Now we are down to the Chinese candy that none of us recognize. Almost half of these experimental tastings result in a run to the nearest trash can. At least their dentist can’t complain.