Today's Alarming Statistic:
Number of Active Facebook users left in China. Down from 1 million before the site was blocked in July, 2009
Well it's been about two weeks since I last wrote and I'm sorry! I actually got sort of busy with school events and then experienced some internet difficulties... excuses excuses, I know.
The school opened up to parents and guests for the annual Terry Fox Run.
This is good news because we were told not to come originally because they didn't want random germs entering campus (puh-leeze! this mentality is starting to make me crazy.) Luckily they lightened up a little and the kids all ran. It was a warm day for the runners but quite lovely for the spectators.
As you can see, Ivy has continued her "signature move" of wearing only mis-matched socks. Ms. Dumont should be proud! The 3rd girl to the left of Ivy is Gracie, daughter of the US Ambassador to China, Jon Huntsman. She and Ivy have become very good friends and I'm still scheming for a playdate at the embassy. Emawa is the girl to the right of Gracie, another great friend of Ivy's.
The kids were supposed to get pledges, but since we didn't know a single soul to ask, Eric and I provided their donations. This is BCIS's biggest contribution to charity and a big deal to them (and to cancer prevention.)
Greta and Ivy each ran 12 laps and were tuckered out by the end. I met several parents at this event and have since spent time with a few of them. The Australians, New Zealanders and Dutch seem to be the most friendly, though everyone is nice.
Last week Greta went to her first birthday party on a Friday night. Simple as that sounds, it is quite a challenge here in Beijing when we don't live close to the school and don't have a car or driver! Tempting as it is to throw your kid into a taxi on their own we're just not there yet. So here's how it went down...
I went to school that day to watch Greta in the "Dash and Splash" event - a running race, then swim race for the swim team only. It ended at 4:30. (Greta did great. Check it out!)
Then Ivy, Greta and I jumped in a taxi and showed the driver the address (which was in Chinese, of course - a Chinese family) so no problem there. Except that he dropped us off and we had no idea which giant tower was hers. So we started walking, asking guards along the way and they all kept pointing the same direction so we figured we were good. Many long city blocks later, with backpacks, swim gear and a giant lasagna pan from my contribution to International Day (more on that soon) we finally found the right complex and then began the hunt for which building and apartment. It all turned out fine and Greta was delivered and the host was kind enough to let us leave all our stuff in the apartment.
Ivy and I got a taxi back to some apartments across the street from school where we had been invited to hang out during the party. Ivy was in heaven playing Wii the whole time with a boy in her grade. Prue, the mom, and I chatted and had a glass of wine and I benefitted also be learning lots of good inside tips - she has been here a couple of years and is really in the know.
The school celebrated International Day last week. What would you make to contribute "American" food?! I settled on mac and cheese, of course.
The American table was pathetic... all cookies, chips, mac and cheese, brownies, cupcakes. The Koreans and Chinese were amazing... works of art. Also the Japanese. The Dutch went all out too. Sigh. No wonder we are all fat and sick in the USA.
Well, my mac and cheese was EXTREMELY popular with the kids of all nationalities and the American teachers - it was gone in a flash and I swear the pan weighed 50 lbs. Glad to do my part to clog some arteries!
On the social front I was also invited to a coffee morning of a mom who sells "Essentially Asian" products - not sure what that is, but I assume it's like a tupperware party with cooler stuff. It was today, but I am not feeling great so I skipped it because I have to be well tomorrow for a swim meet - I volunteered to take timings.
Also I am invited to a Melbourne Cup Party - big horse race in Australia which I believe has become a national holiday. That's November 3rd. If I'm not self conscious I'll bring my camera and take pictures of my new friends for you.
On the sports front, Ivy had her end of season soccer tournament at Dulwich College of Beijing last Saturday. I swear she is one of the best players on the team - and that's not just mom talking. She improved SO much during the season. She is a natural, and very coachable. She is fearless, plays her position, and never gets tired. We were so proud of her! Here are some pictures.
The coach is Pamela McManus, from New Jersey. She is married to a teacher who teaches at a different International School. She has donated all her time to practices and weekends to games.
No extra stipend or anything.
The dedication of the teachers is pretty impressive at this school. The head of school makes an appearance at most weekend events and when I thanked him he said he comes because he truthfully likes to watch. How refreshing!
Another big event for Ivy was her first track meet. It was especially important since she isn't even on the track team! They must have been low on athletes because they recruited her to join them for this meet out of the clear blue sky. Of course, Ivy was happy to oblige! It was a cross country meet at Harrow International School. Many of these schools are way out in the boonies - an area we call Shunyi, near the airport. There are compounds for families to live where they never would even have to know they were in China (except for the air).
We're talking serious Desperate Housewives material out here. This is the housing - if you want a big house American style you can come live out here.
To get here we took a taxi and had our first really bad rip-off experience. It was our own fault, but he totally knew what he was doing. When he stopped for us (family of 4 westerners out at 8:00am with sports gear in tow), we got in and showed him where we were going. While looking at the directions, he raised pinkie, ring, and middle fingers which means 3. We assumed he was asking if he should take the 3rd ring road. We kind of shrugged and off we went. We got lost several times and had to do u turns on this super narrow "country lane" out in the middle of nowhere, but finally approached the school when Ivy noticed that the meter was not running! If you ever come to visit us here, make sure the meter is being used in a taxi. So you guessed it - he charged us 300 kuai for the trip which, without getting lost (his fault) should have been around 75 max. Arghh. It spoiled the next couple hours for me but now we have our story and now we know.
On to more happy thoughts - here are some pics from the cross country meet - notice again, Ivy's lack of sock coordination:
It was a brisk morning, so Greta got a chance to bundle up - her favorite thing...
Yesterday we had our first private, in-home Chinese lesson. Our teacher's name is Mary and I think we're going to really like her. I got her name from the private tutor of a friend I met and she says my pronunciation is very good, so I think we'll keep her. Every Wednesday, an hour for me and 30 minutes for each of the girls. Eric wants to get his own teacher for lunch hour at work. Mary taught me to say "tai gui le" (too expensive) so I can keep bargaining.
All for now, missing you...