Tuesday, September 21, 2010

And the Patient Puppy of the Year Award goes to...

Beans Peek!

Beans would like to thank all who have helped her in her quest toward this life accomplishment:

Those who take her for a walk three times a day, even if it means waiting by the door while keys, shoes, and other such essentials are collected... (ok so realistically it ends up being two times a day and not three but who's counting?)...

those who wipe her little paws upon coming home from said walks because it's so stinkin' dirty outside...

those who continually refer to her as the "foreign dog" and ask whether she understands both English & Chinese, only to be disappointed to find out that she really doesn't respond to either...

those who buy her pink Argyle sweaters with rhinestones and mail them across the ocean for Christmas...

those who let her run free to swim through the slimy, nasty creek that runs through the apartment complex in order to encourage her dreams of identifying with Michael Phelps and David Hasselhoff...

those who put up with her excitement-induced incontinence...

to the neighborhood dogs on the block that have all been given nicknames: Stroke Puppy, Curly, Carl, and Apple...

to all the little people in the world, this little dog gives her thanks.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Penny Pinching

Well, I suppose "kuai/RMB/yuan pinching" (why does our currency have so many names anyways?) would be more appropriate but you get my idea. As most of you know, adoption is not a cheap endeavor, especially since they changed the laws in Ethiopia to require two trips to Africa instead of just one. It never made sense to me why it costs so much to care for orphans but that's just the way it is so we will happily oblige.

But in an effort to help our finances accommodate the mass exodus of cash from our bank account, I've gradually been making some changes. I've read all those articles online which are supposed to help you cut back on your spendings, but I haven't found them too incredibly helpful:

Get rid of your car--check, only bikes for us.
Cancel your cable--check, can't understand much of what's on TV anyway.
Limit your cell phone plan--check, only prepaid cell phones around here.
Ditch the credit cards & use cash--check, I think I'd get laughed at if I pulled out my credit card to pay for anything around here. And because of that fact, it has long since expired and I don't even think the new one has been activated yet.
Make a strict list at the grocery store and stick to it--check, there's not much tempting at our grocery store anyway. If preserved pig foot or dried fish scales aren't on my list, I think I can exercise some self-control not to buy it.

So what's left for me to cut out? Here are some recent thoughts...

Say goodbye to import food...I've never been the biggest fan of cheese or butter, but the exorbitant price tag it carries over here makes me even less inclined to incorporate it into our weekly meal plans.

Say goodbye to my hair...I hacked it off last month. I figure if I have less hair, less hair product.

Say goodbye to meat at least once a week...Tofu is so incredibly cheap here (like $.50 for an entire meal worth of it!) so I've been trying to go vegetarian. Last week was veggie meatloaf (which Kevin affectionately referred to as "poo loaf") and next week is meatless tacos.

Say goodbye to weekly laundry...We really do have more than enough clothes to go two weeks without washing. The weather is getting cooler so we're not sweating as much (a much more frequent occurrence here than in American where you can find A/C everywhere). I figure the phase of my life where I can get away with doing 6 or 7 loads of laundry a month will soon be expiring once the babies come, so I might as well take advantage of it now.

Say goodbye to the A/C...every month, we spend more money on electricity than any other family in our building. So we've weened ourselves to only turn it on at night when we're sleeping (or when we have other American friends over who can't stand to be hot). Now before you feel too sorry for us, fall is in the air and the weather hasn't been too unbearably hot recently. Maybe we won't come in 1st place for energy consumption this month!

I've always heard that motherhood is laden with sacrifices, but I've never thought about it from this perspective before. The things we're giving up are indeed sacrifices but I'm more than pleased to do it for the sake of these little ones. Money in itself is worthless; it's what money can obtain that has value. And what is more valuable than expressing our own adoption into God's family by bringing two orphans into our own?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Kai Xue (School Starts)

This past Saturday (Kevin's birthday no less!) marked the beginning of our English school's fall semester, so I'm back to being Becky Lao Shi (or Betty Lao Shi...or Belly Lao Shi...or whatever other interesting variations of my name seem suitable at the moment). We've got between 70-80 kids this semester, many of whom are repeat students. Since not a lot of exciting things happened on the first day of school, I figured I'd give some highlights of last semester (seeing that I was on blog hiatus then) to give you a better idea of the kids we get to work with.

My classes consist of the pre-school kiddos, roughly ages 3-6. During class, we work on colors, counting, basic actions, and the ABCs. Fascinating piece of random information: the ABC song is different here. You know how the song we grew up on crams L-M-N-O-P all together? As if "el-em-in-oh-pee" was just one letter instead of five. The Chinese version of the song splits L-M-N and O-P into separate stanzas. Brilliant, I tell ya!

Here they are rockin' out their version of "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes." It is so incredibly cute when they calls their knees their "kneefs." I guess I'm a bad teacher for not correcting them, but it makes me laugh too much.

This picture is from our graduation program last May. I say it just about sums about how orderly my class is--not even one kid is paying attention to what's going on. Let's just compare with Kevin's older, more well-behaved students:

Now tell me who you think deserves their pay check--me or Kevin?

And you never know what will come to class with these kiddos, including slimy pet turtles. So with the frequent cries of "He shui!" (I'm thirsty!) and "Niao niao!" (I have to pee pee!) that interrupt my teaching, it's a wonder these kids even remember their English names...oh wait...most of them don't! I've got one kid who had an identity crisis between the name Justin and Jason for an entire semester.

Speaking of English names, here's a classic example. Meet this xiao peng you, who cycled through at least 5 names last semester. On the first day of class, he was called Ken. He wouldn't talk to me and grimaced sourly at me every time I called him Ken. Thinking maybe he didn't like his name, the next week in class, I asked him what he would like to be called.

"Lao hu," he said. So I called him Tiger.

The next week, when I called him Tiger, he got grumpy again. Thinking maybe he didn't like this name anymore either, I again asked him what he would like to be called.

"Shi zi," he said. So I called him Tiger-Lion.

The next week, when I called him Tiger OR Lion OR even Tiger-Lion, he wasn't satisfied. For the third time, I asked him what he would like to be called.

"Ying," he said. So he was officially dubbed Tiger-Lion-Eagle. It's even on his little diploma and on our class roster.

Our school marketing slogan is "English is fun!" But maybe what we should say in order to recruit my little students is "English is fun, even if you have no clue what's going on because all the crazy foreigners are singing The Village People's YMCA." That's what this little guy is thinking.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Birthday Extravaganza

Honoring the 28 wonderful years of my husband's life was a multi-day affair. The fact that we were teaching class all day on his real birthday somewhat hindered the festivities. But not enough to miss out on eating cheesecake with chopsticks. Because everyone knows if you've never eaten cheesecake with chopsticks on your birthday, you haven't ever really celebrated being born.
These are some of the amazing staff and teachers we have at our English school. And yes, that is a map of America in our office. I have to admit that on not-so-hot culture days, I have gazed longingly at that map and all the places I wish I was...but thankfully, that hasn't happened in a while!

We had some of our American friends, the Winds, over on Friday night for dinner and birthday cake. Birthday cake that I made! No, it's not shaped like a car and it's definitely not a Martha Stewart recipe. Don't look too close or you'll notice that the cake is slightly burned. Oh well. That's just the facts of life...or the facts of a celcius-oven.

On Sunday afternoon, Kev & I biked to Dairy Queen for some ice cream and American-ish ambience. We listened to Aretha Franklin's "R-E-S-P-E-C-T" at least three times before we left. I guess their play list isn't very long. At least the ice cream was good.

Birthday fun took a turn for the worse on Sunday evening when I had attempted to plan a surprise outing for Kevin with some of our local friends. We were going to go sing karaoke at this fun place called KTV. Trust me, it's not the same as American karaoke. They were even going to give us a free fruit plate! But knowing that Kevin isn't huge on surprises, I told him a few hours before that we were going to go out one more time that day. He figured out where we were going and told me that didn't sound very fun to him. Oops! How many birthdays have we spent together? How little does it turn out I understand my husband? Our friends ended up coming over anyway and we played random games we used to play in college like Signs and Schlurble. It's amazing how much fun a bunch of adults can have with a balloon...

So that's how the birthday fun went down. Here's one more picture of the happy birthday family. (Beans particularly likes birthdays. It means she gets to lick cake crumbs off the floor.)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

My Birthday Boy

Here are 28 little tid-bits about Kev that make him super:

1) He loves Christ and makes an effort to keep our home & family centered on him.
2) He is so stinkin' hard working.
3) Forsaking the comforts of the American dream, he led our family to move to this country.
4) He never complains.
5) He is a humble & patient language learner.
6) He has learned that sometimes the best thing to do for a crying wife is to say "It's going to be ok" rather than offer a solution.
7) He is generous and loves to give our time and money to meet a need.
8) On movie nights, he will sometimes choose "Pride & Prejudice" on his own volition.
9) His can quote movies to always make me laugh.
10)He is a good listener & helps me reason through my thoughts & emotions.
11)When we ride bikes together, he always rides behind me to make sure I'm safe, even though he could go a lot faster.
12)When we play Gin together and he beats me miserably, he never gloats.
13)He loves listening to movie sound tracks.
14)He is my best friend & favorite person in the whole wide world.
15)He let me drag him around Europe for three weeks, sleeping in a tent along the way. He's even considering letting me drag him around Africa when we go meet the babies for the first time...
16)He buys me McDonalds ice cream cones when I'm having a bad day. And now that there's a Dairy Queen in our city, we might just have to change things up.
17)He loves kids and will be an excellent father someday.
18)When we eat with local friends here, he eats gross food off my plate.
19)My granny loved him dearly. Whenever I talked to her, the first question she asked was "How's Kev?"
20)He is so laid back about meals. He'll eat whatever I give him, whenever I happen to give it to him. In fact, on his birthday, I fed him leftover spaghetti--for lunch AND dinner. Did he complain? Nope.
21)In the beginning of our marriage, he obliged my requests to weed out some of the unfortunate wardrobe decisions he had previously made (for example, stone-washed straight leg jeans)
22)He happily listens to all my random childhood stories that I love to ramble on about.
23)Because of him, I have a slew of wonderful sisters.
24)He loves hosting & having people in our home as much as I do.
25)He tries to eat healthy & exercise clearly not because he needs to drop a few pounds but because he knows it makes me happy. In fact, the other day he commented to me, "My calcium intake has been rather low recently. I need to drink more milk."
26)He worked from 9 PM to 5 AM painting buildings to buy my engagement ring.
27)He dances with me in our living room.
28) He loves my puppy and walks her in the morning so I can postpone getting dressed that much longer.

So happy birthday to you, Kev Kev! Looking forward to next year so I can come up with 29 more reasons why I love you!

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

I won't be long...

It'll Just Take a Minute...
I'll be right back...
It won't take long...

All phrases of the yesteryear when I could actually accomplish things in a timely fashion. Case in point from this afternoon: All I had to do was walk to the shi chang (picture a giant warehouse farmers market with cheap produce straight from the countryside...I know, be jealous. It's a definite perk of living here!), pick out a head of lettuce, a tomato, and a bunch of cilantro, pay my $.80, and walk back home. Considering the walk is only about 50 meters, it really should have only taken 10 minutes. But here is what happened instead...

I figured I'd kill two birds with one stone and take Beans with me. Never in the past has anyone seemed to mind that I bring my dog inside the store. In fact, they seem to like it. So Beans and I set off, taking a short break to let her pee in the grass. "Great," I think, "I have no idea what I'd do if she decided to take care of business in the middle of the shi chang." (And that, my friends, is what we call foreshadowing...)

So we get to the shi chang and the first thing puppy decides to do is poo on the ground. Embarrassing but not the end of the world. I grab a random piece of styrofoam that's laying nearby and attempt to catch her stuff, but she gets distracted because a stray dog approaches her. (I guess my dog isn't the only one they welcome at the shi chang.) But this dog is pretty big and I'm not really in the mood to break up a dog fight in the middle of the market so I let Beans finish doing her thing, bum a plastic bag from a veggie salesmen, scoop up her stuff in said bag, and then scoop up my dog in my arms to be on my way. Simple as that.

No, of course it's never as simple as that. Stray dog follows us and starts jumping on me in order to make friends with Beans. All I can think is that his paws are nasty and dirty and I'm not scheduled to do laundry for another week and a half (a money saving tactic that is coming back to haunt me!) Holding one dog, warding off another, I finally make it to the closest veggie stand. Then the locals begin to flock...

Being a foreigner in a foreign land is kind of like being a second-class celebrity. People you've never met before feel free to ask you any kind of question they'd like (some welcome, some not so welcome):

Where are you from?
How long have you been here?
What do you do?
Wa! Your Chinese is so good! (which I have to refute...if I merely said hello in Chinese, I would receive this comment. If you, blog reader who has never set foot in China, said hello in Chinese, you also would also receive this comment. So don't be impressed with me.)
How much money do you make?
How big is your house?
Do you rent it or did you buy it?
Can you use chopsticks?

And on and on...not that I'm complaining because their curiosity makes it extremely easy to make friends. But when all I really want to do is buy some produce, not reveal all my life's details, it makes me wish my eyes were brown and not blue so I wouldn't stick out so much.

So back to the locals...This group of three starts with the initial questions, find out I'm a teacher, and then want all the details about our school. Any other day, I would be happy to try to recruit new students but not when all I want is my lettuce, I'm holding my dog, trying to kick away the stray dog, and still have a bag of poo in my hand.

When it rains, it pours. I suppose the bravery of these people to talk to the foreigner inspired half the other shoppers, who all gathered around me as well. One of the other veggie sellers even joined the crowd and, while trying to feed my dog steamed bread, says to me, "Say something in English! I want to see if I understand." Feeling like somewhat of a circus sideshow, I start talking about the vegetables in front of me, knowing she most likely understood about .05% of what I said and all the while wishing I could just buy the very things I was describing and be on my way.

Keep in mind..I'm still dealing with dog in my arm, dog at my feet, and poo bag in hand...

Ten minutes later, after my impressive demonstration of my mad English skills, the conversation wrapped up with a different woman presenting me her business card and asking me if I wanted to go have tea with her. Sure thing, let me just find somewhere to put my dog and my poo bag... Needless to say, tea with random market lady will happen next week (if it even happens at all...)

They went on their way, leaving me my first opportunity to pick out my veggies. But no, first group gone, another lady approaches me and asks if I will give individual English tutoring to her kid. During this conversation, the veggie seller whose booth I'd been standing in front of now for at least 15 minutes, senses my desperation to be rid of this stray dog and starts beating it with his shoe. He then offers to take my dog for me and walk her around the shi chang. No more dog in my arms, no more dog at my feet, yet I still have the poo bag. I wonder why he didn't volunteer to help me with that?

FINALLY I made it home, accomplishing what I thought would take 10 minutes in about half and hour. I suppose I could never call my life boring, could I?

Sunday, September 05, 2010

More family...

I suppose the only way to properly address a year plus long famine from seeing family is to see lots of family in a short amount of time. So we were thrilled to welcome Chris, Sarah, and our new nephew Jonathan at the end of last month. We laughed, played, shared life, and did the normal things that best friends & family do together. Our time together felt really rushed but I think at the end of it, we were really thankful for all we got to share together--meeting our nephew for the first time, seeing Chris & Sarah as parents, introducing them to our Chiner life, watching them struggle through their first Chinese lessons. There's a lot that could be said but I think I'll just be lazy and do pictures instead. Besides, pictures are the best part of a blog anyway.

We're not really sure what Kevin is doing in this picture. I mean, even the baby and the dog are making cute faces. Oh well...maybe we'll get a good family picture one of these days...

This is our wee little man. As expected, he was quite the hit all around town.

We wondered how our house helper would respond to having a baby in the house. We know she loves kids (like most people around here do) and especially foreign kids. She wouldn't let Jonathan cry for a minute, and he was the first person she went to see when she came over in the morning. It will be interesting to see how things go with JJ when our Africa babies come home.

Sarah & I went with a local friend to climb the 1000 Buddha Mountain. Yes, this picture was taken on top of the mountain. Remember my enthusiasm about the blue skies in BJ? Well, take a look at the sky in this picture and you'll understand why!

Instead of climbing down the mountain, we rode these zippy car things. Tai hao wan le! I've ridden these guys down the Great Wall too but these go much faster, ergo they are much more fun.

Here's a final peace out and goodbye from our lovely, local, pop-the-collar friends...

Friday, September 03, 2010

Happy birthday, Daddy

Today is my dad's birthday. My dad is one of my favorite people in the world and here are some reasons why...

For nearly every birthday & Christmas, my gifts always have something to do with pictures. Sorry Daddy, this birthday will be no exception.

I love my dad because he loves my mama. They just celebrated their 30 some-odd year anniversary last month. Their marriage has always been a predictable & stable part of my life, and I realize that that is not something a lot of kids these days can say about their parents.

I love my dad because he walked me down the aisle. Moments before the wedding was about to start, he whispered to me, "It's not too late. You don't have to do this if you don't want to." What he meant was that even though we had invested so much time & money in the wedding, my happiness was more important to him than all of that. I would probably say that after five years of marriage to Kevin, he's not sorry that I decided to go through with it.

I love my dad because he loves my husband. Daddy used to tell me not to marry someone unless they put a twinkle in my eye, and I would go as far to say that I'm not the only one in our family who is a big fan of Kevin. I also love the fact that my dad gives hugs to everyone, including Kev. It's quite a sight to see a 6'4 man and a 5'6 man hug.

I love my dad because he loved his mother (my granny) and took such good care of her as she aged. He faithfully did little "honey do" chores for her, even if they were frustrating or didn't receive the thanks they deserved. As my parents grow old, I hope to be able to serve them as well as Daddy served his (though I'm not sure they'll let me!)

I love my dad because he supports me in everything I dream to do. Not only does he not begrudge the fact that I've chosen to live overseas, but he takes a trip all the way over here, even if it means eating weird food with chopsticks.

I love my dad because he makes me laugh. He is one of the funniest people I know, most likely because he is one of the smartest people I know. Whether it's cracking jokes about acrophobic squirrels or making a funny face behind a giant soldier statue, there is never a shortage of laughs when Dad is around.

I love my dad because he will always watch "Napoleon Dynamite" with me and will laugh almost as hard as I do. He even votes for Pedro!

I love my dad because he loves his dog. In order to be a proper Corbin, you must have a deep appreciation for all things dachshund.

I love my dad because he provided me the opportunity to graduate from college debt-free. I didn't realize what a blessing it was until I grew up some more and realized college isn't cheap. For my whole life, Daddy has always taught me how to spend & save in a wise way.

I love my dad because he loves the beach. He could sit for hours and just watch the waves go by. If I had all the money in the world, Daddy, I would buy you and mom a vacation in Italy's Cinque Terre so you could watch the waves, drink wine, and eat gelato. But until I win the lottery, this tribute blog post will just have to suffice! I love you!