Sunday, January 24, 2010

Old Town Shanghai

Although it was a bit chilly, Nick and I decided to go to Old Town Shanghai yesterday - at least the sun was out.  Of course, when I got off the plane on Tuesday afternoon it was 65 degrees!  I shouldn't complain too much.  I am sure it's warmer here than in Indy.

We visited the Yuyuan Gardens, which were created for the old emperor of the Sizhuan province.  Lots of interesting rock formations, murky koi ponds, and some greenery.  Of course, Nick and I had to laugh that it wasn't much of an oasis in the middle of the city because you could hear jackhammers and car horns.

And how could we NOT go through this passage with a title like this?  I am a Hoosier so I know corn ears when I see them, and I didn't see them.

While the Gardens weren't too crowded - mostly Japanese tourist groups - the rest of the Old Town was packed with people.  I mean, super packed.  There were some places were we just put our heads down and plowed through.  Thanks to our strong and larger-than-Chinese American bodies, we were able to muddle through.  And, luckily, the dumpling shops were busy, but no one was at the Dairy Queen except for us!

This is dough that he's beating into submission. 

Chinese red lanterns are decorations for the upcoming Spring Festival, or Chinese New Year

And the Photo of the Week:

That's about US $0.30.  I really, really wanted to go in, but it was absolutely packed. Maybe next time.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The bombshell

We were hit with a bombshell Thursday night that the VN govt is denying 10 of the adoption 20 cases. We are not one of the 10, but it does not look good for the rest of the cases either. The Vietnamese govt has said our case (and 9 others) will not move forward.

Senator Lugar's office was on the case as of Friday morning, but we don't have a lot of details and there has been conflicting info.  Needless to say, we still have a lot of questions.

We are in shock over this news.  Just last Tuesday (the 12th) we had learned that it looked like some positive movement was starting to take place, yet 48 hours later, we learned of this incredibly troubling development.

There is a group of five parents who are bonding together their collective brain power to figure out the best way to get attention to our situation, but are waiting until we get more details before spreading the word.

We are emailing and calling as many influential people as we can possibly think of right now to help us, but we're still not sure exactly what we need to do. 

Get ready. We may need to mobilize everyone we know to campaign for these precious 20 children.

In the meantime, expect some humorous posts as it helps take our minds off of the news.  It is consuming every waking moment right now.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Joy of CoffeeMate

We love Fat-Free French Vanilla CoffeeMate Non-dairy Creamer (and no, this is not a paid endorsement by the Nestle company).  Nick's been drinking it in coffee for years (I think we can blame my brother- and sister-in-law for the addiciton), and I started drinking it about a year ago.  In fact, I think we go through more gross volume of this liquid than milk.  I didn't say we had the most discriminating taste.

We've been searching for this wonderfully tasty complement to our java in Shanghai since we got there to no avail.  I thought I had a sighting in the market downstairs from our apartment back in November, but when I went back to get it, it wasn't there -- a vanilla-flavored mirage.  We've tried multiple milk products (some of which we're not even sure what they really are, but they typically have a cow on the label, so we assume it's some kind of dairy product)  in our coffee and they have all been terrible (see blog posting about a really bad incident with Dunkin Donuts coffee and there may be a correlation).  So, I generally go without coffee, and Nick grabs a $5 cup of Starbucks, which is conveniently located on the lobby level of our apartment.

That is, until the Christmas miracle.    Nick went down to the market on Dec. 25 to pick up something for lunch when rays of light over the dairy section lured him over.  It was true - Fat Free French Vanilla CoffeeMate Creamer -- and there were two.  Nick grabbed both and was thrilled.  That is, until he ran out about a week ago.

Then yesterday he called and had a certain lilt in his voice.  I thought it was because I am coming back to Shanghai in a matter of days, and he can't wait to see me.  Nope.  The City Market got some more in new stock (he's been checking every other day to see if newly imported CoffeeMate has arrived).  Nick bought all eight bottles..

I thought the woman at the check-out counter must've thought something was weird about that, but he said she barely even looked up at him except to ask him for the nearly US$60 that the octuplet of coffee flavoring cost.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Happy Birthday Nate!

Today Nate turns two.  This time last year we just knew he'd be home with us by now and that we'd be celebrating.  But, instead,. he is still a world away in the orphanage waiting with his other brothers and sisters to come home.  My only solace right now is that one mom is still in Vietnam and will give him some extra love and attention - not that he knows the difference in today's date versus any other, but it makes me feel better.

My birthday present to him is to continue working on bringing him home.  Just in the last two days some amazing things have started happening.  We now have several influential people, even Congressmen, who are getting involved in our situation.  Thanks so much to everyone who has made a phone call or sent an email.  It is making a huge difference!  And, thank you to my dear family and friends who called or emailed to make sure that we're doing OK today.  It's not been easy, but I am hopeful that something positive is on the horizon.

Please pray, pray, pray that we can bring our boy home soon!  If you have any interest in crying your eyes out, you can watch this precious video of one of our dear moms still in Vietnam who sang Happy Birthday to him.  Ripped my heart out, but you can tell what a sweet boy he is: 

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Diversity - guest blog from Nick

Those of us who work for Fortune 500 companies all have had to sit through a number of diversity meetings.  These are usually run by HR and are designed to help all of us understand that having people with diverse backgrounds and ways of thinking are beneficial to teams.  But being in China has helped me to really think through what the concept of diversity is and understand the differences between China and the US.

Both China and Japan are rather homogeneous societies.  I remember reading a statistic that showed that over 97% of people in Japan are Japanese.  Both of those countries even have words for non-native people.  Gaijin  - Japanese and Laowai - Chinese.  Now both of these technically mean "foreigner", but they can also have a certain negative connotation to them as well.  We use the word foreigner in the US, but it is always considered rude to use that to describe someone.  I am sure that there are probably more negative words used in China, but I am ignorant of them, thus far.

As an icebreaker in meetings, I always say that I am not from China.  It is somewhat funny because it is so obvious.  But, you could not use that in the States.  My Spanish friend, Carlos, used to do the same thing - in his Spanish accent, he'd say he was from Kentucky, but the joke never really worked well.  Somebody who “looks Chinese” could very easily have been born in America.  My boss told me a story of when she was in NYC and she was asked for ID at a bar; it stunned her.  I told her that the bartender didn’t know that she was not a native because there are so many people in the US who come from different ethnic backgrounds.

I think that is one thing that makes America really great.  We have many people from all corners of the world who are “American.”  If you think about why people immigrate, it is generally for economic opportunities.  That is why so many people from developing countries come to the West.  They are trying to make their lives better through more economic opportunities.  And now, you are seeing the reverse with Westerners moving to China.

However, it is one thing to move and quite another to assimilate.  My old boss in the States is British and related to me that one of the challenges in Europe, specifically England, is that people immigrate, but yet they don’t assimilate.  I don’t know if this is by choice or if the society doesn’t allow them, but generally in Europe, foreign born people will stay in their own enclaves.  It reminds me of the ex-pat bubble I live in.  I have found that when I can get out of that bubble, my life and my experiences are much richer and more enjoyable.  Yes, they are uncomfortable because they are different, but that is part of the experience. 

The same boss compared this to Canada where they have done a wonderful job of assimilating people born in foreign countries.  You generally don’t hear someone in Canada say that they are a Pakistani Canadian.  These folks will say that they are Canadian but they were born in Pakistan. 

I miss the melting pot that is the United States.  Robert Heinlen wrote an interesting book in the 70’s called Stranger in a Strange Land.  Though it was science fiction, I always liked that title.  I have grown to appreciate that in countries like the US and Canada, you can become native.  If you master the language and the culture, people will begin to welcome you as one of them.

But, I will never be able to do that in China.  No matter how well I can speak Chinese, I will always be a laowai.  

Ok - fun observation.  China uses the 24-hour clock.  For my American friends, that means that 1 pm is really 13:00.  I never really thought about this until at a restaurant today (another nasty experience with jellyfish and a fish with the head still on it), the old clock in the corner chimed 13 times.  I wonder if clock makers have to make modifications for US clocks or if they chime 13 times but I never really noticed it.