Friday, August 31, 2007

Hangzhou Botanical Gardens, YuQuan temple

This morning, we went to the Hangzhou Botanical Gardens, which are an amazing retreat just 15 minutes from our apartment!  When we announced to the boys last night that we were going to go, they said, "aw, not GAAARRRDENS!!"  We were there by 8:30am this Saturday morning, and they changed their tune immediately!

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The gardens encompass about 625 acres and contain about 3,500 different species of plants. There's even a Sequoia Pine that Richard Nixon gave China on his visit.  The purpose of the gardens, which were opened in 1956, are scientific study, preservation, and recreation.

We stopped at a Tea House in the gardens and watched these men playing their game together.

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Very picturesque tea house out in the middle of the forest!

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Gratuitous flower picture...

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Entering the YuQuan temple garden.  This scenic spot was established nearly 1500 years ago during the Southern Song Dynasty (1129 - 1217).

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Peter LOVED this spot!  "It's so MOIST, Dad!"  Peter loves to be moist.

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There were many peacocks strolling around.  It was all the kids could do to keep from chasing them!

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There were lots of other little kids around with their parents.  This boy was particularly curious in all of these white faces that had invaded his garden!

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Sophie found this little girl to play with.

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Gratuitous flower pictures...

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Sophie, Sue and Jack enjoying this gorgeous place.  Such a contrast to being in the city only minutes away!

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We got a couple of drinks; Jack with his orange soda and me some green tea that was too sweet.  Jack wanted you to see the Chinese.

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Mixin' it up with the locals!

Some more shots of us integrating into our new life here!  This is the nice courtyard of Peter and Jack's school, and the children lining up to be dismissed for the day.   
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Jack retrieved his bicycle and is ready to go!  The first day they only went until 11am, next week they go until 3:30.  Here's me practicing my Chinese with the locals!

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Peter got escorted out by the English teacher.  They are taking really good care of the boys - the ONLY foreign students in the whole school!

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Some girls are practicing their English with me, and I'm practicing my Chinese with them!  They're definitely better.

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We went to a restaurant near the school and this boy came up to us and introduced himself in English.  He has only had 1 year of English so far, and he was very good.  He's 8 years old.

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A laundry scene from our main bathroom.  We have no dryer so we hang everything up in there.

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I found the DVD market so Friday night was movie night.  We watched I-Robot which the boys hadn't seen and they loved it.  We sent Sophie to bed so she was none too pleased with being excluded.  That's what happens when you're the little sister!

I'm posting 2 blogs today since my next one is a big one, and I wanted to break them up.  Happy Reading!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

First Day of School

Today was Peter and Jack's first day of school!  We left our lovely apartment building this morning, here it is in all its glory!

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The cost for the kids was about $800 US apiece, to go to school for the year, but the ATM would only allow me to withdraw about $200 US per day, so I have been diligently going to the cash machine for the past few days and getting out the maximum.  We also needed $600 for Sophie's school, so we've been hoarding our cash as much as we can!   Finally, we got what we needed for the boys' school (60 bills!)

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Here is Peter getting introduced to his Chinese class.  This is his mathematics class; the boys have 7 subjects; math, art, music, PE, English, Chinese, and rest period where they are expected to take a nap :).  He had a struggle today as EVERYTHING was in Chinese and he didn't understand a word.  He received textbooks today that were all in Chinese, so he is overwhelmed.  I told him not to worry - his giant brain will catch on quick, just be patient with himself!

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Jack, sitting in his Chinese classroom.  He rated his first day an "8".   The kids (mostly girls) tried speaking some English to him.  He says his class is really rowdy - that he could have shouted at the top of his lungs and no one would have noticed!

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Can you guess which one Jack is?

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Here are two English teachers at school, "Green", and "Ms. Ho".  Green is Peter's teacher and Ms. Ho is Jack's teacher.  They are both very nice and extremely helpful!

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Without the boys, near the hospital going to get Sophie's hospital record for the school.

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We made a stop at the local market, here are some scenes...

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Pig legs and other pork products...

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Nice store, although Sue did see a huge rat going between the aisles!

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Sue buying some cake in celebration of the boys' first day!

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Sophie's happy wherever she is!

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Now, how to get all of our purchases home on our two bicycles!

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Me at home, diligently studying my Chinese.  Is the book upside down?  I can't tell.

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Sophie at a little sidewalk playground.  Danger Girl strikes again!

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Yesterday's shopping trip... we go to the store often as we always are finding things we need at home.

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Here's Jack having done his shopping...

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Peter helping with the groceries on his bike.

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Peter and Jack having fun on the sidewalk, with spectators as always!

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Going home with the groceries!

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Wow, he's movin' fast!

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Sophie, meeting the locals!

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Last night we got the boys haircuts.  First you sit down and they soap up your head and massage it for about 20 minutes.  Then they rinse it off and massage it for another 15 minutes.  Then a haircut, and another rinse.  All of this for about $8 US!  If you pay $15 US you get an upper body massage while they cut your hair.  I'm definitely going back there when my hair needs cutting!

I may have to jump on the train and go back to Shanghai.  Apparently we need a proof of family relationship document to show that our children belong to us, before they can get residence permits.  Our application expires on Monday (9/3), so I have been on the phone on hold with the US consulate many times and it's IMPOSSIBLE to get through. 

Sue is very nervous about me leaving her with kids in a strange city.  She is experiencing culture shock big time, and is very moody and grumpy lately!  She doesn't have any language ability or friends, so it's more scary for her.

However, after school today we met one of the Moms who speaks English and is an English teacher at a local university, and we exchanged numbers, so she may be a good friend to help Sue get adjusted!

Current adjustment factor (which changes by the minute):

Tim:  OK
Jack:  OK
Peter:  Almost OK
Sophie:  Wahoo!!
Sue:  Crankster!

Our apartment internet comes tomorrow!  Can't wait - this internet cafe is so smoky.  I think there are other people here but I can't see through the haze!

Culture Shock!

We realize now that going to Shanghai first was a really great idea, as it eased us into Chinese culture slowly.  Coming to Hangzhou directly would have been quite a shock!  I thought I was immune to culture shock but I was feeling it big time on our first couple of days in Hangzhou!

When we rolled into Hangzhou to our apartment, here is the apartment we came to.  We are the third and fourth windows over from left on the top floor.  There is no elevator so we hoof it up and down 6 flights of stairs several times a day.

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We got to our little apartment which had no bedding, dishes, towels, or food!   So, here we were in this strange city without the essentials, so our waiban, Nancy, took us to the store.

A "waiban" is the school's person assigned to help us get situated.  She had assumed that we would bring all of the above items with us! Ha!  King sheets and dishes in my suitcase?  NOT!

Looking out the windows on both sides, this is what we saw - a huge construction zone, where they were demolishing a building (lower right) as they were building the new one.

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On the other side, more construction!  A huge set of new shopping areas are going  up, so soon this area will be very nice.  Right now however, construction continues 24 hours a day!  It is very noisy, so we have been short on sleep.

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so with all of this lack of basic household items, the noise and the small space we were all in SHOCK! 

Here we are all crammed into the car to go to the Supermart to get some supplies for the first 24 hours.  There were 5 of us plus another teacher, Alexis, plus Nancy and the driver.  Eight of us in a small car the size of a Toyota Corolla!  Sophie is on Alexis' lap.  We are in total shock at this point!

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We filled 3 shopping carts with household goods.  Below are Peter, Sophie, Alexis, Nancy (our waiban), and myself.

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By now it's about 8pm and Jack is getting tired!

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... and finally we're back out of the store and wondering how to get all of our stuff, and all of us back into the car!  I would have taken a picture of the result, but I was too dazed!

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Here we are the next morning after a sleepless night, feeling pretty grumpy.

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... and here we are fakin' it for the camera!

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We were totally ready to MOVE to a new apartment in the first 24 hours, and I even went and looked at a few.  We quickly realized however that the one we have is very clean and nice, especially compared to the ones that we saw which were pretty gross. 

In our "living room", there are no windows, so the only natural light comes from the kitchen, and it is about the size of the boys' bedroom back home.  It is taking a lot of getting used to, the 5 of us in such a small place!

Ultimately, we decided that we could live where we are, and spend more time out of the apartment.  We haven't been here a lot in the past few days, but instead out exploring the city.  It's been a lot of fun to be out exploring, and learning the language, especially since we got the bicycles.  It is so much easier to carry Sophie around on the back of a bicycle than it is walking.  She enjoys it, and she is getting so HEAVY to carry around, especially for the miles we have been walking!  It's also incredibly warm and humid here, so we are usually drenched with sweat within the first few minutes of leaving our apartment.  On top of it all, we have no internet at our apt. until around September 1!

All of these factors had really contributed to a sense of total disorientation, but things are coming together now and we finally feel much more comfortable.  We have housewares, drinking water service, air conditioning, and comfortable bedding, as well as a cell phone, and my Chinese is getting better, and internet is coming so all of these things are contributing to our sense of well-being.  We have been out exploring the neighborhood and now have some favorite restaurants.

School starts for Sue on Sept 3, as well as the boys, and Sophie.  I start a week or two later since I have grad students, but it hasn't been pinned down yet!

So that's our little culture shock story, which hopefully I'll get uploaded soon!