4.30.2011

Where we live.

Here is a google map of exactly where we live on Xiamen Island. I have pinned our building. We have a beautiful view, as you have seen from my other posts.


View Lu Jiang Dao 99号China Fujian Xiamen Si Ming Qu in a larger map

4.26.2011

This evening

As I sit and watch a movie with Daniel (Green Hornet is dumb by the way), this is the view out the balcony window.

Arrivals

Last night we got our bins from the shipping container. 12 Rubbermaid bins of varying sizes. Now I am trying to put them all away. I'm not sure if I'm happy to have things from home to help me feel more at home or if I am sinking from the reality of our move, not vacation, and the length of time we will be here.

Tomorrow we will head back to Hong Kong to get our Chinese Residence Visa Z from the Chinese Consolate in Hong Kong. We can't get it here oddly enough. So we are going to use this opportunity to go to Hong Kong Disneyland and the Temple and a couple of other things in Hong Kong. It should be good.

This is my view to the right out my windows. It was very clear Sunday.

It's clear right now too. It's a very beautiful view when the sun is shining and also at night when it's all lit up.  I will take a pictures of that tonight.

We are headed to a business dinner with the President of Lifetime China tonight. I have to dress up. ;(. Oh well. Nice dinner for free, right? Good behavior is scheduled to show up about 6:00 - I hope it's not late, as that could be a problem. ;)

4.24.2011

Our Easter Sunday

We spent our Easter Sunday rather quietly. We went to Church at the Brittons and then stayed for lunch. It was nice to be with other members of the church on Easter. Brother Britton taught the Gospel Doctrine lesson - over the phone. I was asked to participate by sharing a time in which I lived a gospel principle and had my testimony strengthened.

I shared when I paid a large amount of tithing at a time when I was trying to save money for trip to Italy with my mother and in order to go I had to pay for it myself. I was working my tail off at various jobs and I sold my family so many Ligori's frozen pizza's they almost got to the point they wanted to pay me not to sell them. Later that same Sunday night someone from the ward called me and offerede m a job for the Christmas season. It was enough to help me finish paying for this trip. To a 15 year old it was an amazing testimony builder. It was odd talking into a phone from which I could not hear anything and I had no confirmation that people were hearing what I was saying.


We got some Easter Lilies and we are now watching a cute movie and blogging about life here in Xiamen.

I am very grateful for the life Heavenly Father has given me. Among my trials have been many tender mercies. I know the Lord is watching over our experience in China helping us in little ways every day.

I am grateful this Easter Sunday to have a Savior and to have a personal knowledge of my Savior. I am also grateful that we can meet as Saints in China and the technology that allows us to "congregate."

Our First Adventure

Here is our first Saturday adventure alone – since the other Lifetime employees from Utah have gone home.


We slept in first of all. We are still dealing with the jetlag a little bit. And we have been very busy keeping ourselves going. About 11:30 we headed to the market to get some things. I was trying to find a 12 inch, or so, mirror to help with my getting ready in the morning. Because this is what I am currently using.

Cute, isn’t it?

I have a larger one in both of the bathrooms, but due to the “inconveniences” of China, there are no outlets in the bathrooms. Yup. Wonderful. So I have to do my hair in the office, where there is an outlet, but no mirror. The closest outlet to the bathroom is by my bedside. We are thinking about using an extension cord. Now we need to find one. Hehe.

We did not find one at Rainbow (our closest market) so we decided to head to Trust Mart. Guess who runs Trust Mart? That’s right, our good friend Walmart. It doesn’t feel as cheap or depressing as Walmart though. The real Walmart here does and I’ll share that experience another time when I feel brave enough to go there and take pictures. It’s scary. Yikes.

Anyway, no mirror there either. But we did have success with some of the other things we were looking for. alarm clock, lamp for the nightstand, wall clock, and then the other things we needed. Here they charge you for grocery bags so we took our huge bag from Metro. (I’ll get a picture of that thing full one of these days). It’s not a good idea to fill it. Because then it’s heavy. Unfortunately we got carried away and got a few too many beverages. About 7 liters of water, juice and sprite. Oops. Plus everything else. Oh, and the 1 gallon of pure distilled water for Daniel’s C-PAP machine. So then we struggled home with all that weight. Walking. It’s not too far but when you have that much liquid in your shopping bag, it gets heavy quickly.

We had to cool down after that physical exertion.

At 1:30 we met Selena, Daniel’s assistant at work. She was spent the afternoon with us and then we went to dinner with her at some friend’s house with her.

(Street corner on Gulangyu)

We went to Pearl Island. She didn’t know what we meant. They know it here as Gulangyu. She had only been once before, when she was 18, for high school graduation. So we ended up being the tour guides to her. We bought the things we went there for and then wandered the island for a bit. We asked her if she wanted a treat and she didn’t know that word. She is very good with her English. She is in the 4th level English class at work. She is also pretty easy to understand, as her pronunciation is good. Some people here have such bad accents they might as well be speaking Chinese instead of English.

So we explained what a treat was and we got her an ice cream cone at McDonalds, while we got lunch there. Yes, we keep eating out at bad American fast food joints, but at Pizza Hut we got salads and pasta. You’d eat that too if you saw our options right now. Still not brave enough to cook our own food yet. That will be next week after we get back from our Visa trip to Hong Kong.

Next we wanted to get some DVD’s. Let me tell you about how you get DVD’s here. They are black market. No if’s, and’s, or but’s about it. And the places we go look pretty seedy too. I’ll get a picture show you next time we go. Selena thought we were going legit on this one. So that surprised her. Then when we got so many (about 430 ¥ worth) she kept asking us why we were buying them when we could watch them for free on the internet. She kept getting kind of nervous about the money we were spending. She is very careful with her money, as we should be. But the amount of money we make in comparison to what she makes is amazing. We are definitely among the wealthy here. She also kept wanting to take the bus instead of a taxi. The buses here are all just about broken down and I’m not ready to have that adventure yet. I hope we didn’t tarnish ourselves in her opinion.

Then she helped us at a place where Daniel could get his XBOX cord fixed. Like the dork he sometimes acts like, he plugged it in without an adapter. He knew better, but wanted to try it anyway. Dork. So now it’s getting fixed for 50He knew better, but wanted to try it anyway. Dork. So now it’s getting fixed for 50¥ and I get to go pick it up by myself tomorrow. Lovely.

Then we went to her friend Amy’s house where we tasted Pi Pa (loquat in english) – an amazingly yummy fruit that only grows in Southeast Asia. It’s in the apple family. I’ll document that sometime too. Funny thing about it is when you eat enough of it, it begins to have a mild sedative effect. It’s awesome.



Then we went upstairs to Amy’s mother’s apartment where dinner was waiting. She had 8 different dishes –
(clockwise from top left)
• tripe – not too bad, not as chewy as I’ve heard it can be,
• soup – with bamboo shoots and duck,
• prawn – with head and legs still attached,

• chicken wings – very yummy, but not like at home,

• a cold cucumber dish that was good,

• pig feet – which the meat part tasted very good and the skin looked about as appetizing as toe lint, (the Chinese love the fatty parts of meat),

• fish – it was good, but I’m not sure what the spices were, (the whole fish)

• leafy greens – tastes like spinach, which we like,

all served with rice. We tried everything. I really did love the meat from the pig feet, but I could not handle the bones or the skin. It looked gross. I’m sure you can imagine. I don’t like the fatty stuff. The prawn were good once you took the head, feet, and legs off. It’s a little disheartening when your food is looking back at you until you break its head off.

My only complaint about the food is that they cook with a lot of oil. I mean A LOT of oil. But the flavor of the “real” Fujian Chinese food is very good. She had made a hot chili sauce that was delicious. So much so in fact that Daniel commented on it a few times and used on most of his food. Then Amy’s mother gave us leftovers because we liked it so much. She said to call if want more sauce and she will make it for us. She also gave us lots of extra tripe – but I’m not stoked about that one. We are going to feed it to Daniel’s dad tomorrow night when he comes for dinner.

Then we saw the wedding pictures and video of Amy and her husband, who have only been married about a month. Oh. My. Gosh. If you think weddings in America are expensive and a big deal, they are NOTHING compared to what this was. Her pictures were amazing. She had 6 custom dresses made for pictures, including her wedding dress. Wow. The food, the cost, the photos was all beyond what I had imagined.
This post has gotten pretty long, so I will wait till another time to tell you about Fujian Chinese weddings. I really hope one of the office girls gets married while we are here so that we can attend a Chinese wedding!

4.22.2011

Money

The Chinese money is not too hard to understand. They operate with a base 10 system using the Yuan. They also call it the "quai," the same way we say buck, instead of dollar. Although Chairman Mao was such a bad man (read Wild Swans - an amazing book about China between 1921-1978) he is still very present. 

He is on the money.

Then there's the whole inflation thing. The exchange rate is about 6.5 Yuan to the $. What it's done for me is made me a cheap skate. I know that it isn't that many dollars, but I still see high numbers and then spend less.
This is our receipt from Pizza Hut last night. Looks like a lot, huh. No. It was about 30$. We treated Yimi to a western dinner because she helped us get me a cell phone. We would have been lost without her.



To encourage the businesses to turn in the receipts to the Tax Bureau, they hand out these scratch and win tickets. You get 2-4 when you purchase dinners. We hhad a few. Most say "Thanks for trying." Then last night when we were with Yimi, I got a winning one. I won 10 Yuan. Yay!! It's possible to win between 10 and 30,000 Yuan. 10 is most common. It's like $1.15. I felt pretty lucky.


So here is how big China is about receipts and stamps. The yellow ones are from the purchase of my cell phone, but not the service. We did that somewhere else. All the ones on the left with the stamps and little blue logos are from Daniel changing his USD in his CCB bank account to RMB. Yes 9 receipts. All with stamps. They seem to think that the more stamps the more official. They also carbon copy everything. They haven't even thought about going paperless. Funny though, they are deffintely on the "green" band wagon.


So there you go. One more glimpse into my life here. 

4.21.2011

Church in Xiamen, China

I believe most of you are familiar enough with Church as it is run in countries where there are enough members for a branch, ward, and stake. And also where the Church is allowed to hold meetings. Let me tell you about being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in China where we have special permission from the government to meet, but nothing further.
Here are some of the rules by which we can meet. There are only a total of 11 members in our area who are foreign nationals allowed to congregate. There are other members in China, but they are Chinese Nationals and we are not allowed to have anything to do with them. Not even e-mails or lunch. Nothing that can be construed as meeting. It breaks my heart. Technically people are not allowed to meet for religious reasons. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has special permission from the Chinese government for foreign nationals to meet. In each area where there are members in China there are two types of meeting arrangements.

The first is that there is a branch. Where there are enough members there is a branch president and they congregate in larger facilities. I'm not sure where they meet. The other is the group meeting that is tied together by a "virtual branch" based out of Beijing. This is how we meet. We get together with the other two families in our area. We have a designated group leader and we meet at their house. Then we call in by phone or by skype. This past week it was phone because the internet was having issues. When we are connected we can here the prelude music and what is going on with the larger group. This last week they were meeting from Dalian, as that was where the Branch President was conducting interviews for the youth for youth conference. This year Youth Conference is in Hong Kong. Jealous much?

So we call in and sing along with the opening hymn and hear the opening prayer. Then we have our only announcement, the same one we have every week. Please follow the rules by which we are allowed to meet. We have a very good relationship and positive status with the Chinese government. We are not allowed to actively or passively proselyte. If we are asked about why we do/don't do things that are religious in nature all we can say is that we do it for religious reasons and then state that we are trying to live by the laws that govern their country and we have been asked to not talk about it with the Chinese people. We can talk to them outside of mainland China and we can talk to other foreign nationals.

Then we have the sacrament hymn. Then they mute the main meeting for 7-8 minutes to allow each group to have the sacrament. Here they also address the women who are calling in who don't have priesthood authority with them. They are to use that time to ponder the sacrament and their covenants. When this was said it hit me hard and I was immediately very grateful for having a worthy priesthood holder in my life.

After the sacrament we have a regular sacrament meeting. This last week it was a family in Dalian. The mom, dad and the 14 year old son spoke and they gave some very good talks. Sacrament meeting was about 10 minutes short of what we have at home and for that last 10 minutes we do roll call. There are between 35-40 groups that call in each week. Our branch has a little over 200 members in it.

When roll call is over we have a five minute break and then we have a second meeting. One week it's Gospel Doctrine, the other week it's Priesthood/Relief Society. Sister Britton and I went in the other room and had Relief Society/Visiting Teaching. They are a few weeks behind where my ward was at home. After the second block we are done. That's it. 2 hours, comfy couches and an experience I never thought I'd have.

One thing that we talked about is how as members of the gospel we have an added advantage to being foreign nationals. We have the constant companion of the Holy Ghost to reaffirm what we are doing. We have that two way personal connection with our Heavenly Father to lead us, guide us and reconfirm to us that we are doing the right thing. To strengthen us when we waiver. Because I am still in the honeymoon phase I haven't had those hard days of wanting to cry and questioning what in the world we are doing over here. It will come and when it does we will be able to pray for comfort and guidance and feel peace. Only the kind of peace that comes from the comforter.

I am so grateful to be a member of God's church on the earth today. I know we are part of his great plan. Something greater than I ever imagined. God is in control and he has something amazing in mind. We just need to trust him and follow his plan for us.

Be grateful for your freedoms. Freedom of speech doesn't just mean freedom to say what you want, but also to have access to things that other people say. You cannot believe the things that are blocked over here. Wow. As I think of them I will let you know other freedoms that the people of China don't have.

Lots of words...

Some things about China:


I am still in the honeymoon phase. I kind of feel like I am on vacation. The reality of staying here for 8 months until we go home for a visit has not hit yet. I’m sure it will. The Brittons, in our branch, have a website about the various phases of culture shock and how to deal with them. I will be using that resource.



While in Hong Kong I just enjoyed being in one of the world’s premier cities. It’s amazing. I knew when we got off the plane from the US that it would be a while before I make that loooooooong journey again. Right now I am okay with that. Ask me again in a month.



On Saturday at the activity I kept thinking – “This is my life for the next 18 months. This is beautiful.” There are many moments that feel poetic and romantic. I feel like I am living a dream. But not the dream I ever thought I’d be a part of.



Had you told me 5 years ago that I would be married to Daniel and living in China after my 4th anniversary, I’d have thought you were crazy. I wasn’t even dating him till the June of 5 years ago. God has a plan for us and I am trusting him so much. He has given me so much good and has never messed up, so what the heck, can’t hurt to trust him, right. So I do. I trust in him with gratitude. Gratitude for letting me be part of something big.



Now, on to some other business.



Let me dispel some misconceptions and tell you about China and me and Daniel.



#1 – We will NOT be adopting from China. I know people have hopeful intentions when they mention this to us, but contrary to common thought, China does not have a surplus of babies. In fact, in order to have a second child in the cities, it’s a $35,000 fee. So there you go. My generation is more concerned with jobs than with having families.



Also, there are government requirements that Daniel and I just don’t meet. End of story. And then there’s the whole money thing. It’s like $40,000 to adopt internationally. I don’t know what kind of money you all might think we have, but we don’t have that.



#2 – Chinese food is good. Hah. Each province in China has a difference in their cuisine similar to different countries in the rest of the world. In Fujian, the province in which Xiamen in located, has mostly seafood. I don’t mean like king crab legs and poached salmon. I mean like sea worms and sea cucumber, whole fish on your plate and weird unidentifiable things. There is good food, but it’s not what America thinks is Chinese food. The stuff you get in Utah from the restaurants is an Americanized version of the Sichaun province and the Beijing area food. We’ll take pictures of our dinners from now on.



#3 – Having a maid is awesome. Sort of. It’s nice that she is doing things for us, but that means I have less to do and things are not done my way. Think about it women, would you trust another woman with the way she does things, without any knowledge of English, to run your house for you? It’s hard for me. I’m a control freak.



#4 – We will have a good time. Thank you for all the encouragement to enjoy things. We will. Don’t fear on that score. Nuff said.



#5 – We have an 801 number. It’s ….. Like I was going to tell you all. Hah. (I’m in a sassy mood, can you tell). The people who need it have it. So we do have an easy means of contact with our families in the states.



#6 – Mandarin is not the language of the people. It’s the official language of China, but each province area has their own dialect. It’s almost as diverse as the languages of Europe. Here is Fujian they speak Ming. They understand Mandarin, but at home in the country they speak Ming. It’s like the deep south where you know it’s English, but you can’t really understand what people are saying to you.



#7 – China smells funny. Sometimes it’s B.O., sometimes it’s fish, sometimes it’s sewer, sometimes it’s durian fruit, sometimes you don’t have a clue what that funny smell is. The air almost always smells. Sometimes good, sometimes bad.



If you have further questions about things, just let me know. Leave a comment or e-mail me and I will address other questions you all may have.



Thanks for reading!

4.20.2011

Our first Social Event in Xiamen

The guy who has been living here in Xiamen for the factory before us had regular activites with the office staff from the factory. There was one scheduled for this past Saturday. It was at the beach with bicycles, volleyball, jumprope, food and games. It was tons of fun. We were there for about 4 hours and I got to know some of the employees a little. I took the opportunity to take some pictures of the beach while the sun was setting. Here is the picture dump for this activity.



 There were a dozen brides or so at the beach getting their photos taken. It was beautiful.
 Our group playing volleyball in the sand.



Paul and Susan after Susan nailed Paul in the face with the volleyball. By accident.
 
 Some of the girls playing cards. They called it poker, but we call it Bridge.
The sun sets kind of red because of the pollution and humidity.


 Then the jump rope was brought out.
 Molly and Brian jumping.
 Daniel got him some hops! Look at him jump!
Brian, Mike, Alex & Daniel jumping.

 The girls still playing cards. These girls played cards most of the evening.
 Some of the girls riding one of the three seater bikes we rented.
 This is the whole group.The one in green is Xiao Jio - Daniel's driver. He's great. He works hard and has two kids.  His 5 year old daughter is in school all day while his wife works and his 3 year old daughter lives 1,000 miles away with his parents until she is old enough to go to school. He and his wife only get to see the younger one twice a year - Chinese  New year in February and National Day in October. She will be old enough for school this fall.

The one in the center with the shirt that reads "God Love Us" is Daniel's assistant. Her English name is Selena but her Chinese name is Xia Jing - it means small and beautiful. Her English is phenomanal. In June we will be going with her to her parents house in the country to kayak a local river. I am excited.

The woman in the pink shirt and gray jacket bending down by Daniel is Susan. She is an accountant. She is brilliant. She is married with a 2 year old son that spends all day with her in-laws. He will go to pre-school at 3. He would have come with her, but he was running a fever. I hope to meet him soon.

I am so excited to learn all the stories of the Lifetime employees. They are such wonderful people.

 

4.19.2011

Wow. We are really here.

WARNING: PICTURE DUMP!
You have seen the Atlanta part of our journey here. So here is our Hong Kong stay. It was 24 hours.

On April 13 we flew from Atlanta to Chicago. When we checked in we found that Daniel had enough miles that we automatically got upgraded to Business Class. Awesome. I loved it. But it made the flight from Chicago to Hong Kong that much harder. But we made it. With all 6 suitcases. We landed in Hong Kong on Thursday evening.

When we checked into the hotel, we got upgraded again. To a suite. It was nice. It's like the cosmos knew it was my birthday. (Friday). This was our view from our suite when we checked in.

We cleaned up and then headed into town to see things and shop. We ate at KFC (pronounced "kun da chi" in China). It was pretty good. The mashed potatoes and chicken tasted just like at home. I appreciated that.

Then we headed to Mong Kok - the ladies market. Here are a bunch of pictures of the streets, the booths and the sights. I wish I could convey to you the sounds and smells.

This woman was singing. I gave her a couple HK$.
 This is a section of the market. They set up stalls like these for four blocks.
 There are two sellers in each stall. One on each side.


 Daniel waiting at the Mong Kok subway station on our way back to the hotel.

The next morning we went to the flower market, the bird market, a Buddhist nunnery and the LDS Temple in Hong Kong.








video
The bird market was amazing. It was so loud with chirping birds.



 This is Nan Lian Gardens in Hong Kong.









Passion Fruit Summer Ices at Nan Lian Garden.


 This is the Lily Pond Terrace of the Nan Lian Gardens.

 The Buddhist Temple at Nan Lian.
 This is the Plaza Hollywood Mall in Hong Kong. It was huge.

 Did you know that Fujifilm makes beauty products in Asia? I didn't. But they do.
Next time I will post about our first weekend in Xiamen and the company activity on Saturday
afternoon.