Saturday, November 14, 2009


Today's Alarming Statistic:
RMB 200,000 ($29,412)
Daily operating costs of the "Bird's Nest" National Stadium, which has only hosted a handful of events since last year's Olympics.

Where is home? I've been home to Seattle and back since I last wrote here. My Mom decided she is tired of this life and is ready to be with my Dad. My brother passed this information along on a Friday and, as he is not a sensationalist, I was on a plane Sunday morning. Unfortunately, the Beijing weather didn't cooperate and our first snowfall of the season hit Saturday night, Halloween. Before I start the story, let me report that Mom is doing okay now.

Since my flight was on Northwest and not a Chinese airline, we were the lowest of the low priority to get out. They had problems getting access to the de-icer equipment etc. etc. and bottom line is we all (over 300 people) sat ON THE AIRPLANE AT THE GATE for nine hours without moving. Of course this whole time I am worrying about the state of my mom and desperate to get out of China.

Finally they made the decision to cancel the flight, which was to go through Narita (Tokyo) and on to Seattle. They claimed Narita has a curfew and we would be past it if we left this late. So we all piled off the plane and they put us up in a Crown Plaza by the airport. They gave us a dinner and breakfast voucher and we all had high hopes that we would just catch the identical flight the next morning and be on our way.

Got to the airport at 7:15 am just to find they had not re-booked ANY of us. We were in a mob in front of these poor agents who were either indifferent or about in tears. I won't bore you with the hideousness of it all. Suffice it to say I eventually got rebooked on a direct flight on Hainen (Chinese) airline for 4:20 in the afternoon. I took it and wandered the airport for 8 hours until my flight and then it was an hour delayed. It's pretty amazing how folks bond when stuck in this type of situation. By the end of the day there was a group that had obviously been drinking all afternoon and when they loaded us (like cattle) onto a standing bus to drive us to our plane this group was really whooping it up! The group I was hanging around with were much more sedate, thank goodness...

I got to Seattle and caught a taxi to Beth and Steven's house (Sister-in-Law and Brother-in-Law) who kindly put me up for the week AND lent me their car... THANK YOU! I just tossed my stuff in the house, grabbed the keys, and was off to visit Mom. She lives only about a 7 minute drive from them. When I arrived, she was so happy to see me! She cried and cried and said she is ready to be with Dad and how very much she misses him and what a great husband and father he was. She was on oxygen, but the caregivers said she has good levels of oxygen now and that they were just keeping her on it until the doctor gave the order to remove it. She was getting stronger after a recent 2 weeks in the hospital. She had an appetite, was able to laugh at certain things, etc. So I think she is just lonely and she probably is ready to let go any time the time comes. Here she is:

I visited her a couple of times each day and just let her know what a great Mom she has been to me and how much her love and support has meant. She remained somewhat weepy most of the time saying she was "ready to go". I told her God would decide when it was her time and she said, "HE doesn't KNOW!!!" That's when I knew she still had that spark we all love!

Being in Seattle was like a balm. Everything seemed so easy and quick. I was able to drive. I got to see some of my friends and family and didn't realize how much I missed them. It was great to see the election signs around the neighborhoods (you don't see THAT in China!) I felt really happy there. Even though I know this experience is one of a kind and a fantastic life opportunity, it can wear on you being in a place where you are isolated by the language barrier. So going home was great but also somewhat painful.

I couldn't go past our house because I hate to think of strangers living there. I did, however, get to go to our boat house (now known as "Lindsey and Jansen's")!!! They have fixed it up so nicely! Check it out:

It's pretty amazing that they have fit all the furniture in but it still feels plenty roomy. We had a dinner party there with 11 people and it was so cozy and nice.

Jansen is proud of the studio building which he has fixed up and cleaned all the dead ants out of! Here's how it looks now:

He's hung his flags and his manly shark jaw and the best part is he kept the Mona Lisa bead thingy!

Lately there have been no naked men, transients, or vandals in the area. Only Andre the cat coming home bloody after fighting with raccoons.

They also bought a washer and dryer and installed internet! The boathouse (I mean Lindsey and Jansen's place) ROCKS!

I had the chance to visit Kim and have dinner and a manicure with Bad Carrie and also stop by the gym to see a bunch of gymnastics friends. I got to go with Terry and Beth to Ronda's First Thursday at her fantastic jewelry studio in Pioneer square where I literally stole the bracelet right off Terry's arm (sorry Terry!) and then we had a great girls' dinner at Gaudy on Capitol Hill.

The week went by too fast! I did miss my family in Beijing though, and when I returned it was great to see everyone. It snowed another 5 or 6 inches the day after I returned.

This snow gives the workers a lot of stuff to do. Like scrape the snow and ice off the pathway through the pond. Because that is important. People might want to walk across the frozen water in below zero temperatures on those paths. You never know.

I shouldn't be so sarcastic. It was actually very wonderful to arrive late at night on Monday and be greeted warmly by our building guards. The next day I had to go to the market and walked back with heavy bags. As I approached I could see the guards scurrying and talking into their microphones. When I got to the building I saw that they had opened the two sets of doors for me and a guard was over by the elevators, pressing the button for me so the elevator would be there by the time I arrived. It is nice to be treated like a queen sometimes. There. You don't get THAT in Seattle!

Eric did an excellent job of single parenting and I have heard rumor that he may cook one meal a week now, though this has not come to pass. He's too busy at work. This is how he looks most Saturday mornings where it is still late afternoon Friday in Seattle: Yes, there are two phones in this picture- one for each ear.

He is a much more consistent and disciplined parent than I am and our little apartment would look like a wreck if not for him. Oh, in the background you may see the boxes from our international shipment which arrived while I was in Seattle. The boxes are still right there since we have no place to put the contents. Eric is having his office build us a "box" of wood with compartments to house the stuff. As I look through some of these boxes I am wondering - what was I thinking sending THAT???!

The girls grew a few inches while I was gone, (wink), but they are still my little bean and bell. Speaking of Ivy Bell, check out her outfit for dress up day at school. She was a business man.

Beijing City International School's Lower School had spirit week last week. They dressed up, had crazy sock and shoe day (no big deal for Ivy as her socks have never matched) twins day, etc. The teachers all participate and it is really pretty cool.

Greta's middle school group had Freaky Friday last week where they ate pizza, ran around, and watched a scary movie in the school's theater. There was also an Evening of Music last week which was very impressive. The music teacher is super high energy but it was all about the kids. Every student taking a musical instrument or in the choral groups were asked to perform on stage for a brief example of their work. It was inspiring to see how good some of those kids are. It made me want to get Greta and Ivy back to piano / drums, etc.

The middle schoolers are so nice and Greta has fallen in with a good group of kids. She is going to her second birthday party this Saturday and was one of only 2 girls allowed to come back for an overnight after the main party.

We missed our chance to see Obama in Beijing! As you might have heard, the government pretty much downplayed his visit since they don't want to appear to be uncool in comparison with him... ba ha ha! But even with Ivy being great friends with the Ambassador's daughter and Greta being great buddies with the daughter of a nurse practitioner in the Embassy, we still could not pull off a sighting. Bummer. I did see him briefly on a huge outdoor screen on the side of a building one day as I was on my bicycle, but that was about it. Maybe next time.

Speaking about bicycle riding - it is getting COLD in Beijing. I mean really really uncomfortably frigid cold. The winds are what do it. They blow down from the frosty north and bite at your face. All the Chinese people wear knit masks that look like surgical ones, but made of scarf material. I'm on the hunt for one of those. I'm still riding, but it's not so appealing as it was in the fall.

I am taking lots of Chinese lessons now. No excuse not to be fluent soon (ha ha!) I am doing a language partner thing with Mary, our private Chinese teacher. On Mondays I meet her at a coffee shop about a mile away at 3:00pm. We talk in Chinese for 1 hour and then in English for 1 hour. No money exchanges hands for this and it's great. She still comes on Wednesdays from 3-5:00 - one hour for me and 30 minutes for each of the girls which we pay her for. And then I take an hour and a half class at the kids' school with a group of about 7 people. I can now say, "It's very cold today"- (Jin tian hen leng), and I can ask for a menu and order pig, beef, chicken, seafood, fish, noodles, a bowl of rice, and vegetables. I can ask for a doggy bag and the bill. Too bad we never go out to eat!

The other day Ivy found Megan (her cousin) online and they had a chat session:

Ivy carried our computer all around the apartment and showed Megan the place and the snow outside, etc. It was so amazing to think of the technology we have to make the world seem smaller.

So where is "home"? Here for now.

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