Jacquelyn

#aphotoaday Beauty in the Morning

This is what my wife looks like in the morning.

I know, right? Even in the morning she glows.

But more than what she looks like, my wife is pretty incredible. She works hard and cares deeply. She loves me and makes efforts to show me. You can’t get better than that.

She’s stronger than me.

And she’s better than me.

And I really like her.

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Chengdu 成都

This past weekend I “surprised” Jeremy with a weekend away to Chengdu, which he has said he wanted to visit for over 2 years now, to celebrate our 4 year anniversary. Our anniversary isn’t till June 28 but this was the only weekend that Jeremy didn’t have assignments due for his MBA and before he starts his new job (which he won’t be able to take time off). I arranged for our friends Lee & Becky to take Anna as we flew to Sichuan province Friday night returning Sunday afternoon. It was our first time to be away from Anna over night but we all did really well. I think Anna didn’t even miss us! Unfortunately I had some problems purchasing the tickets so Jeremy knew we were going but it was that thought – right?!

Chengdu is famous for being the home of the Giant Panda, tea capital of the world and having the best food in China. I found that the people were the friendliest there. Our Chinese teacher, Francis, said that is because Chengdu is self sufficient and therefore very relaxed. Chengdu is in the valley of mountains and supplies their own food . . .etc. . . so they are good all on their own.

The trip was short and not without some kinks but we still really enjoyed ourselves. I wanted to make sure we experienced the food, we walked around city, went hiking, drove through the country side, saw rice fields being flooded, visited the pandas and enjoyed each others company. We both really enjoyed walking around the city because we live out in the middle of no where and don’t get to experience China night life like we did in Dongguan.

The next few blogs I will go into more detail of what we did. Please enjoy!

Bring On The Rolls

My son was born at a healthy weight of 6lbs 15oz but quickly began to lose weight, as do most babies right after they are born. Unfortunately with Lucas he continued to lose weight and at 16 days Lucas weighed in at 5lbs 14oz. Doctors recommend that babies should be back to their birth weight by 10 days! As you can see by the picture on the left Lucas was very skinny and dehydrated. It was a very difficult few weeks nursing constantly, carefully keeping track of feedings, wet & poopie diapers and weighing him every night to see if we were making any progress.

Today Lucas is 3 months old and looks very healthy (picture on right). Today he weighed in at 12lbs 14oz!! Way to go Lucas, you even have a double chin!!

Turn Up The Heat

It is said that SiChuan (四川)has the best food in China, it also has the spiciest food! Jeremy and I wanted to make sure we experienced this world famous food while we were there so for every meal we asked the waitress/waiter to give us SiChuan speciality food.

For breakfast Jeremy had boazi (包子)(top right hand pic.). It is basically a roll that has meat stuffed inside. They steam it in wooden baskets (seen in top left hand picture). We have actually had these before, they are a popular breakfast/snack food all over China. I ordered beef noodles (牛面). I have to say those where the spiciest things I have ever eat! They made my lips burn for 15 minutes after I was done eating. I loved them! (mmmm they sound good right about now.) The bottom left hand picture is strips of potatoes wrapped with a thin layer of fried bread. It was greasy but delicious!

Here we had a tofu soup, spicy chicken (bottom right) and fish (bottom left). I couldn’t eat the chicken plain, it was too spicy. I had to eat each bite with a bite of rice to soak up the spice. For both of us our favorite dish at this meal was the spicy chicken.

This meal brings back bad memories because we made a rookie mistake. When ever you are going to buy anything you ALWAYS ask the price. Often times Chinese will see your pretty white face and think to themselves “Ooo, they have money and don’t know any better, I can raise the price.” But after living in China we DO know better and we DON’T have money so we can usually get the “normal” price for things (what a Chinese person would pay). We could not believe that for a 3 dish meal they charged us 240 yuan! That is more than what we pay to eat western food! But because of our easy going natures we looked at each other, shocked and appalled, paid the bill and walked out. The meal was good but it was not worth what we paid for it.

Hot Pot! Hot pot is probably my favorite meal in China (click here to see when we did hotpot in our home). With hot pot you order dishes, then they bring them out and you cook them in your pot of water which has seasoning in it. As the dishes cook it soaks up all the flavor of the spices and makes the meat/vegetables taste delicious. SiChuan’s hot pot’s spices are suppose to be the spiciest in China. While eating it we both had to blow our noses and wipe our eyes a few times. (It was very spicy but I didn’t think it was intolerable – my breakfast noodles were spicier!) We got the pot that is split into two, one for spicy and one for not. That way if it was too spicy for us to handle we could cook our food in the non-spicy side. Again we asked the waiter what was popular and he helped up order. The majority of the things he said Jeremy understood except one. When it came we figured out what it was – lamb stomach! (bottom right) I didn’t mind it but Jeremy couldn’t eat it. We also got regular lamb meat, mushrooms, veg eatables, blue birds eggs and noodles. We also order yindubobing (印度博冰)Indian bread (that is the direct translation). This was one of our favorite things to order in Dongguan but haven’t had it here in Beijing. As we cooked each thing it soaked up all that spice and tasted so good and cleared out my sinuses at the same time. Over all this was my favorite meal!

Yummy Lamb Stomach!

We really enjoyed Sichuan cuisine and I am ready to go back for more.
Yeah Sichuan Food ~ Bring on the Heat~
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To Shanghai and Back Again…Now Repeat

We knew for quite some time that our daughter, Anna’s, passport and visa were going to expire soon. We planned to go and take care of it as soon as our son Micah was born. After all, he would need a passport and visa as well. We might as well take care of it at the same time. Plus, Jacquelyn was really in no shape to travel being as far a long as she was.

We Pause now for a Context Explanation: In order to get a new passport for a 5 year old, both parents must go to the Embassy or one of the Consulates and show a photo for every 6 months of life of the child proving that the 5-day old picture of your child on the old passport is the same child 5 years later. Also, before we could get a passport for Micah, we had to get a Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA) – which is like the equivalent to an American birth certificate for us Expats. Again both parents must go and show their marriage certificate and passports along with the new baby’s Chinese birth certificate (which is a rather interesting process in and of itself…I’ll share that another time, I guess.) In both situations, it takes about 10 working days to process the paperwork, make the new passports in the US, FedEx them to China, and, if you do it in Beijing, they’ll mail it to you!

So Micah comes and we’re extremely happy just enjoying our new treasure. Micah was born on a Thursday and the following week was spring break…great timing for a birth, actually. I still had several paternity days, which we were planning to use to go take care of the passports.

During this pre-paternity-days spring break I went online and scheduled the earliest appointment available at the Beijing Embassy. The appointment is 1 week before the Anna’s passport and visa expire. I’m not too worried about it, though. Surely, as long as the passport is being processed, the visa can go over a couple of days. After all, the Embassy could provide proof that the passport was being processed. So, on the first day back to school I check with our visa liaison to make sure this was okay. It turns out that my assumptions were wrong. The visa-processing-people would not be able to accept that the passport was being processed as, “there was no policy for this situation”. If Anna overstayed her visa, we would be fined 500 RMB (75 USD) for each day overstayed…plus she would have a “bad record”. I’m not sure what a bad record means, but I do know overstaying your visa accidentally or otherwise is not something you want to do. You can end up in jail in addition to the fines and bad record.

This was not the news that we wanted to hear. So I get on the phone with Jacquelyn and talk about our different options. We could try to go to Beijing and just do a walk-in appointment, but there was no guarantee that we’d be able to see anyone.

Context Explanation: The lines outside of the Embassy are tremendously long. Of the 1.3 billion people in China, about half are trying to get a visa to the US…okay, not half…but the line seriously snakes around the block for along way. Being American citizens, we most definitely probably wouldn’t have to wait in that line…but still, the thought of being in any line that resembles that one scares me. I actually have a recurring nightmare about such a line.

Another option was getting to Hong Kong. Although the Consulate down there didn’t have any appointments available either, we don’t need a visa to be in Hong Kong for like 30 days. But that would have been ridiculously expensive. Finally, we came up with the idea of going to Shanghai. Shanghai’s Consulate had appointments right way. Jacquelyn finds tickets online for that very evening and books them! We’ve got plenty of time. I can go home from work at 4:30, eat a nice dinner, pack up clothes and head out the door for a stress free trip to Shanghai.

As a review, here is the timeline up to this point:
-Monday 7am – find out we need to get the passport sooner than expected
-Monday 8am – talk to the embassy on the phone and try to figure it out
-Monday 9am – panic
-Monday 1pm – purchase tickets to Shanghai

I get home as planned and have a nice dinner. Just after finishing, I go to the computer and check online to make sure that we have all the documents needed as requested by the Consulate. Marriage Certificate – check; Anna’s age progression photos – check; current passports for the whole family – check; Anna’s CRBA – not with the other stuff. Hmm, okay, the search begins…

Remember, the CRBA is the equivalent to an American Birth Certificate. We cannot update Anna’s passport without it. We tear the house apart looking for it. We can’t find it. I have this faint idea that it is in a green folder. I had to use it to apply for Anna’s SSN like a year ago. Oh, no. Does that mean that I left it at my office? So, I pack several days worth of clothes, not sure if I’ll be matching in Shanghai or not and head out the door to my office. Jacquelyn continues looking for it at the house just in case it’s not at my office.

The taxi driver is not the best driver. He’s one of those drivers that can’t seem to figure out how to slowly press the gas, gain speed at a steady rate, and then in the smooth and calculated way press the brake when needed. If you’ve ever ridden with someone who rides the brake, you know what I’m talking about. We’re a block a way from the house and I’m already car sick and contemplating if it would be too rude to ask to get down sooner than what I already told him in order to change taxis. Unfortunately, there wasn’t time for such luxuries. But one things was for sure, I was not going to ask him to wait for me at my office to take me home. I’d try my luck at finding a different taxi – even though taxis aren’t as frequent out at the office.

I finally make it to the school and look everywhere for this thing that I think should be in a green folder. It’s not there. I run up to my storage room in case it inadvertently got moved up there. The lights don’t work in the room, so I’m using my cell phone as a flashlight. It’s not there. It’s got to be at the house. This is not good. I’m 25 minutes from home not helping in the search and just wasted about an hour going to the office. We need to be leaving for the airport in about 45 minutes. There’s no point in going to Shanghai if we can’t find this cursed CRBA. Can we get money back for the tickets that we purchased?

In the taxi ride home Jacquelyn and I go over the places that she’s looked and she starts re-looking in those places. We say a panicked prayer to God asking for help. She opens a backpack – somewhere that she’s already looked – and locates a green folder. Inside is the CRBA! Tears of frustration are replaced by tears of joy.

Update on Life in the USA

We’ve been back in the States for about 3 months now. God has blessed us in many ways since being back. The biggest thing has been His providing of a job for me. For the last month I’ve been working as the Webmaster for a family-owned chain of grocery stores here in the Hudson Valley of NY. I love the work and the people there are great.

Additionally, I’ve started working some freelance web-design projects. I just finished the first project and am quite happy with it. I’ll be writing another blog about it later.

Jacquelyn has adjusted pretty nicely, too. It’s been tough on her as she’s had to adjust her routine to me finding a job. Am I there all the time? Am I working on freelance projects? Do I have a job? Now that I’ve been working for a month, though, she’s finding her stride. Even though we’ve only got one kid in school, it seems like there’s already a bunch of running around to do.

Anna is attending the same school that her mother attended when she was a little girl. We’ve seen her shine so much since starting school. She was definitely ready for school! She’s reading very well. Jacquelyn is giving her piano lessons, as well, and Anna is doing EXTREMELY well with it. She’s got such a high aptitude for learning. She’s still having some hearing issues, but we hope to get our insurance situation worked out shortly and we will be visiting an ENT to get it fixed soon.

Lucas has taken a bit of time getting used to things around here. It took about a month of tears every time we left him in nursery at church for him to finally embrace it. But he’s such a fun and easy-going kid. He’s now loving being there. We’re also thrilled to report that He is now peeing and pooping on the potty! Woo Hoo! We’ve had a few accidents, and will probably a few more in the future, but he’s basically got it down.

Micah is super-cute. It’s hard to have a bad day when he’s around with his huge smile and crazy get-up-and-go crawling and attempts at walking. He’s very much like his big sister and the opposite of his big brother. When he and Lucas get older, I think it’s going to make for a very interesting relationship.

Some Observations about the Party Scene

For JK’s birthday I thought I’d take her out on the town. There was a band in town called Immaculate Machine. (I forgot the name, though, and kept telling people we were going to see the Immaculate Conception.) The band was from Canada. What they were doing in China, I have no idea. Their music was quite good. I always wonder what motivation rock bands have to go out on tour. This band didn’t seem to be in it for the party scene, or money, or hookin’ up. They seemed genuinely interested in the music…which is nice. Overall it was a good night. We had a fun time together.

While talking together, we made the following observations:
-Neither one of us have really experienced the party scene before
-Neither one of us particularly like it
-Both of us think it is quite smoky
-We both enjoyed the music
-We’re usually in bed by the time the headline band hits the stage
-I think we’ll do it again, sometime


Immaculate Machine’s website:
www.immaculatemachine.com