Sunday, July 13, 2008

Welcome Home Party

We had a terrific welcome home party where we got to see many of our friends all at one time.  Since Sue's nephew Alex is here, I bought a sugary-cereal (basically junk food in my opinion) that the kids would really enjoy, called "Froot Loops".  You can see the giant sized boxes available for big families here!

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At an American party, there are not performances like a Chinese party; people gather in small groups and chat.  Here are George, and Kelly, (outside), talking with my brother-in-law, Balin (inside).
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Our little blond nephew, Sam.
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The kids finally got out of the pool to get something to eat!
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John and Tanner, having some sweets...
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The little boy from across the street came over and watched the big boys in the pool...
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LEFT: Madeleine, the daughter of Jack's 2nd grade teacher, and RIGHT: a friend of a friend who came with his sports gear on - very American looking!
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Sue's mom rented some big tents for us to have shade and protection from the bit of rain that fell.  It was a good place to sit and keep an eye on the kids in the pool.
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Maria, Nathan and Henry Flurry.  Henry was Peter and Jack's music teacher before we left.
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Mrs. Koons and Ms. Koons - so many blondies at this party!Welcome Home Party 078

Ken Walker and Marc Darr, drinking beer and watching the boys in the pool.
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Playing hoops in the pool - yes fouling is allowed!
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Hmm, I don't think you'd see this kind of play in the NBA!
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Cassandra grew so much while we were gone!  I can't believe she's 13 already!Welcome Home Party 102

Most people had left by 9pm or so, and the last person left about 11:30!  The sun set on a wonderful day, and we'll leave the cleanup until tomorrow!
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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Hail in July

We had a craving for American style pizza - our first since returning from China, so we went to one of the local pizza places.  It was a long wait for our pizza but well worth it when it came!  Here's Sophie trying to be patient.

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Peter and Jack's 15 year old cousin, Alex is here visiting us for a week.  The boys LOVE having him around and they rarely let him out of their room!
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Sue, also getting hungry as we wait for our pizza to be delivered.
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OK, Chinese friends, here's an authentic American pizza restaurant for you... and it smells so GOOD inside!
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Gosh, we live in a small town!  We ran into one of our old friends, Scott Simmons who was also coming in for lunch. 
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The monsoon started in the afternoon as it usually does this time of year, and we got not only rain, but HAIL!  Jack had to go out and stand in it to see how it felt.

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The courthouse across the street, looking through all of the hail!
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The streets are so deserted compared to China!  This is about 1pm on a Thursday... where are all of the bicycles carrying people rushing around under their rain ponchos??Prescott 019

Alex, outside, checking out the storm...
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The next stop was the local ice cream store - actually frozen yogurt, at the TCBY...
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The boys enjoyed their ice cream...
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... and I saw this old cowboy "chewing the fat" with some other customers... you wouldn't see someone like him in China!
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Saturday, July 5, 2008

This American Life!

Our friends in China were sad to see the end of the blog, and I realized that I could use this medium to show them some of our American life.  So in this blog I tried to see things through Chinese eyes, and show some things that I think the Chinese would think are strange.

Today, Sophie and I went to the grocery store, where she "helped" me shop.  This is the local health food store that sells everything organic, pesticide free, chemical free, etc.  Sophie is helping me choose some nuts and granolas, of which there are so many types to choose from!
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Of course going to and from the store requires a car, rather than a bicycle.  We have had a lot of rains lately, and no rain-poncho was required!  My car is a Toyota Prius, a hybrid gas/electric car that gets about 21 KM per liter of gas.  Notice the traffic - TWO cars going by during this shot.
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Sophie sits in the back in her US Dept. of Transportation approved safety car seat!  Children up to about 22kg must  be in an approved car seat or you can get a big fine!  The U.S. is  much more safety conscious than China.  Before now, Sophie hasn't been in a car seat for a whole year!  Peter loves being in my car because it is very clean, especially compared to some of the taxis we were in in Hangzhou!   "Dad, there's no cigarette butts in the cup-holder!"Prescott 003

Shopping for veggies at the store.  No individual wet market merchants here, just rows of produce!  Where are all of the people??  Who do I bargain with over the price of lettuce?
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So many times in China I would go to the local market and there would be no milk, or I would buy the last carton available.  The biggest size there was about a quart.  Here there are SO many milk choices and sizes.  Non-fat, 1%, 2%, whole milk, soy milk, vanilla soy, from a pint to a gallon!  I can't imagine them ever being sold out of milk!
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To my Chinese friends - I hope you enjoy!!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

A Goodbye to Blogging

WOW!  32,000 page views on this blog so far!  Before I started this great blogging experiment, I estimated perhaps 10,000 by the time we returned, a gross underestimation!  Thank you so much for watching and following our travels, and a double thank you to all of those who commented and emailed us.  It was so nice to have emails from home while we were so far away.

Coming down the driveway to our house is such a different experience than hiking up the 94 stairs was to our Hangzhou apartment!  We have fallen back into our cars very easily, and we have to, as the nearest store is about 10km away.  We miss the public transportation, the walk across the street to the little convenience store, and the smiles of "Grandma and Grandpa" the building managers at Qing Gong Lo as we went out every day.

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However, everything here is so big and convenient, and the air is so clean and clear!  We have left this sign up  that was made for us for the past couple of days.  Looks like a few cobwebs - a couple of spiders have moved in since we were gone!  They'll have to pack up their bags and move somewhere else now.
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Peter and his friend Danielle, hanging out in the pool.  The kids have been having their friends over and are just loving being social again!  The hardest thing about China was missing their American friends, and finding Chinese friends their own age to communicate with.
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A warm, sunny day in Arizona.  It is so inviting to be outside - we really missed our outside space in Hangzhou, but this forced us to get out of that apartment a lot to see so many beautiful things in China.
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To all of our western friends - Thank you again for all of  your support and encouragement during this adventure, we really had the time of our lives!

To all of our new eastern friends - we miss you dearly and we will try hard to keep in contact with you.  Though we're sad to be so far away from you, we feel very happy that we have made lifelong friends on the other side of the world! When you visit the U.S. our door is always open!

I'll continue to post to this blog occasionally as I think of things, but I will surely miss writing nearly every day about our breathtaking, fascinating times in China.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

We're Home Again!

It was with great sadness and great expectations that we left China to go back to our home in Arizona.  We will sorely miss the wonderful people we Coming Home 154met during our year there - the good friends we made, the hardworking students we taught, and all of the people that helped us and looked after us so well!

Flying over Prescott, and later, driving around and doing some shopping, the first thing I noticed was the complete lack of PEOPLE!  True, it was a Sunday night, but I drove to the grocery store on nearly deserted roads, and saw perhaps 20 other people shopping in the local Fry's store - so BIG and CLEAN!
What a pleasure it was to get into my sparkling car and drive around listening to a radio Coming Home 151station playing a song whose words I knew!  The few cars I did see obeyed the traffic laws and of course no one honked!  I bought a few supplies, and although being able to read the labels was SO CONVENIENT,  I found I also missed the challenge of searching for what I wanted.  I felt completely anonymous as I relished using the automatic checkout kiosk, paying with my debit card instead of wads of cash. Not a single person stared at me.

When we walked into our house, the first thing that struck us was that it was SO BIG!  For a year, the 5 of us lived in a space that is about the size of our master bedroom and bathroom, and by the end of the year, it seemed completely normal!  We laid on our BIG COUCH - one that can easily hold 5 people and laughed about the tiny sofa in our Chinese apartment that we had always sat on "cheek-to-cheek".
We stayed up until our normal bed-time in Prescott to catch up to our new time zone - finally going to bed after getting up 31 hours earlier in Hangzhou.  I opened the window, turned out the lights and climbed into my soft bed, listening to a few crickets chirp outside - what a delight!  We heard no honking, unmuffled engines, shouting in the street, building construction, or distant celebratory fireworks - just quiet!  Though we will miss the frenetic pace of China, the peace and blue skies of Prescott are a wonderful welcome home.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Patriotic Haircut

I couldn't post this earlier because Jack wanted to surprise our family back in the U.S. with his new haircut.  Also it took me a couple of days to get my internet service re-established.  In a previous blog, you may remember a little boy who had "2008" and the Olympic Torch cut into his hair.  This gave Jack the idea to do a US theme with his own hair.

First, getting the flag cut into the back...
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... and of course "U S A" cut into the top of his head.
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Lookin' good there, baldy!
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Now for the dye...
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Some of Sue's students, who came to the barber shop with us to help with translation...
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The flag is complete!
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... Now here's Jack with Sue's students - with his new 'doo.  Ready to come home!
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Goodbye to Jiliang Campus!

On Thursday, I gave my final and turned in my grades!  Friday we had a final visit to campus where we said our goodbyes to our friends and students.  The boys are very popular with the students as they don't have much chance to interact with foreign children.  Here we are with some of my students.

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Jack and Peter with two of my students, Sarah and Anna...
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Overall, we had such a wonderful time at Jiliang University.  We met so many wonderful people and we will miss all of our students!