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Will & Tracy

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Thursday, August 31, 2006

Sing it with me .... One more night....

Come on sing it with me - that old goofy Phil Collins tune.... I know you all are dying for my blog entitled.. "One night in Bangkok.." Ahhh...last night at the Mayfair - it wasn't bad, Echo was always nice running the dining room, Clear and Nicky were snappy in getting a taxi for me when I needed it...but it is time to find our home and get stared at some place else -

So in celebration of my last full day, I took the Metro(versus taking a taxi) and found my way to IKEA and back to scope things out for the new pad. I spent less than a $1 getting there and back versus $4-$5. That seems goofy, but you can buy some good stuff for $3...heck Will can go out to lunch 2 days in a row for that. We get the keys at 1pm tomorrow and our boxes from the US will be delievered at 3pm. It will be a small miracle that it will all work out. However, I'm planning on having a bottle of wine on hand to relax and to put my feet up - after of course putting in our first load of laundry so Will does not get another rash. I'm sure that will be a great blog story since the washing machines are 3x smaller than the ones in the US and all the insructions are in Chinese on the machine. Its a nailbitter I know. :)

Also - good news - my niece Lilly Rose is home or on her way home or has been home (depending on how I interpret my sister's email). Officially she is almost 5 weeks old, but technically she is just over 35 weeks old and weighs a whopping 5 lbs. She goes home on a little oxygen, but otherwise she is doing well. Nurse Tracy was pretty good when she guessed she'd be home for Labor Day! Thanks to Lilly for making me look good.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Monthly cry day blues...

So much for my funny stories – I did not have fun today – heck I almost cried twice in my cab rides as I made my way throughout the city (picture the opening scenes of Office Space). I had such a nice breakfast with Will. Damn hormones. So what of it that you all now know my monthly cycle. This is my pitty party day – it lasts until Will gets home.

Things should be good. We got things worked out yesterday with the stupid landlord, we move into our apartment on Friday, I started my IKEA shopping list, I had my “lite lunch” with the girls at the she-she M on the Bund (that was for you Phil). I went to the fabric market (again this week) and yet I still sit here and sob. Heck, I even took a nap before 11am. I half hoped The Cat in the Hat would knock on my door to cheer me up on this dull gloomy day. Wilford Brimley is out, Thing 1 and Thing 2 would be much appreciated. And Will said this is NORMAL? When is manic depressive behavior normal? I even had flourless chocolate cake with a dollop of whip cream for lunch.

*Sigh*…not what you want to hear today, but what I’m feeling. Don't worry, I just need a good chick flick and a cheese pizza. So what shall I do, where shall I go? - Shanghai says…”Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn...”

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Working girl...

Well it has been about 3 weeks in China and Tracy has a little gig tonight (and I was thinking I would start looking in January – ha!). My new found friend Amy has been tutoring a 15 year old Shanghainese girl in English/History and Math/Science. However, since Amy is more the English/History expert she was a little concerned when Chloe (student) started asking her about Watson and Crick and “what is a phosphate group.” I said, I know what all that is…but do I have to do that math part too? As long as it wasn’t geometry I figured I’d be fine. She said it was Algebra 2 – solving for X and Y. Yikes, the cobwebs in my brain make me a little light headed – FOIL? What??? I quick review of DNA shouldn’t take too long, I just hope there is a Math for dummies primer online that I can refer to before this evening.

I told Amy that I would start out with picking up one of her 4 evenings – but just talking to Will about it stressed me out – how do I get there, how do I get home…is it safe? I mean really, it is from 6-9pm one day a week, good grief. Will said I didn’t have to do it and would it cut into our evenings together? ? etc…. I actually started crying. Geesh, the tears of stress flow so easily here. I have become a person of indecision – It is amazing what a scare-dy cat I have become. I can bring it up to 2 evenings a week if I want to for a total of – 6 HOURS a week – ooohhh aaaaahhh. It is $50US dollars a session – so that is actually some decent spending money if it works out. I already have a place to spend it too – I finally made it to the fabric market yesterday and bought this great reversible chocolate brown, pistachio green shantung silk asian jacket. It cost $31. So I just need to get out some of my favorite shirts, skirts and go nuts. The girls were talking about getting cashmere coats made for the winter season!! Oh la la.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Xitang Bike Trip Picture

Almost Famous...

Well folks, we made it back safely from our first official adventure in China (besides me getting pushed onto the plane in Chicago). I found this great website, and thought we might investigate this company by taking just a simple day trip to one of the water towns (a la Venice) partially on a bike. Of course the pictures look good on the website, people smiling, etc… I was even more nervous being in charge of the trip because a colleague of Will’s (Microsoft manager) Paul was in town and wanted to get together. I’m trying to be a good Expat wife and help assist Will in moving up the ranks at Dell, so I didn’t want to end up on 3 rusted bikes in the middle of nowhere.

We met up at 8am Sunday and we were pleasantly surprised that there would be a total of 8 of us on the trip. We met folks from Scotland, Russia (who works at Intel), and several people from the Philappines. Our guide spoke fairly good English and so we were off on an air conditioned bus to our designated drop off point about an hour outside of Shanghai. We were supposed to have van support all the way and for the most part we did. The bikes were not rusted out pieces of tin, but decent mountain bikes (note to self since I’m not sitting on my ass this morning – to buy padded bike shorts for the next adventure).

We made it to our destination in about 3 ½ hours, had lunch, took a little boat tour – got a taste of the local atmosphere (got to see kids peeing in the water a few doors down from someone washing the dishes…and why not…I just wish I could take a swab of their stomach flora). Will and I bought some BEAUTIFUL scrolls/water colors of the four seasons (you’ll just have to come visit) – and to top it all off –we had several locals come and take OUR picture.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Shopping in Shanghai....

Shopping was the name of the game today. I had Will with me and one week left in our hotel and we were after a nice, soft, comfortable is that too much to ask – bed (oh and maybe a digital camera for me so I can turn this blog into a multimedia experience). Jerry, our favorite compatriot expatriate gave us shopping tips. These of course are the places he has seen on the credit card bill from Patty (just kidding). Anyway, he gave us some good tips and I wanted to take Will back to Hola! (Yes, Spanish word for Hello is a very popular Pier1 of sorts in Shanghai) where I had also seen a pseudo-tempurpedic bed.

I’m sounding like a broken record here but the whole process is exhausting. That, and our approach is different (Will vs Tracy) in how to communicate. Tensions mounting and Tracy is not feeling that good anyway. We know we found a few good options and call it a morning - we say I love you and head back to the hotel (Will has *almost* a year of marriage experience in handling “Cranky Tracy”). Now we leave it in the hands of Will’s coworker who speaks Mandarin to help us order the bed and deliver it to our apartment successfully.

Tomorrow – we are off on our first trip outside of Shanghai – on bikes no less. Check out and go to the Shanghai link. We are doing one of day trips to check out the company – but if anyone sees a trip they like…let us know….

Expat Rich

This is an aside from my daily misadventures (don’t worry I still have plenty more).

What’s in a name and what do I mean by “Expat Rich.” I realize this is a cliché to say, but you really can write an entire book on the subject (I even read a book before I left about being an “expat wife” – including duties, responsibilities, etc…) Lets continue and see how brief I can be…

“Expat Rich”
Definition 1: Could be an individual, couple or family that is taken (thus “expatriated”) from their home country and placed in some foreign twilight zone, but given enough money and fringe benefits to never allow them to come back to the US and live in the same style or manor they have become accustomed too in the aforementioned twilight zone.
Definition 2: What Will and I are not (Will is what they call a “local hire” with a few added bennies.

I don’t want to bore you with the long list of possibilities that some companies come up with, but if you all are ever offered a “full expat package” take it and run!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Part 2–Where is Wilford Brimley when you need him?

Shanghai’s pharmacies in the mall are just not real. They sell OTC stuff with staff that is dressed up like nurses. Interesting. This is an easy one – how to communicate in sign language the need to find something to help itching. The pseudo-nurse got it! One point for me! I have purchased some kind of anti-itch “paste” – I have no idea what else is in it. With confidence, I go for the next item on my list – Dooo yoooo haaavveeee ooooaattttmeeaalll baaatthhhh? Trying to do my best charades impression of someone taking a bath and pouring stuff into the bath – yeah, I know, I shouldn’t have even tried it. I even laughed out loud at my attempt.

On to the Carrefor supermarket (a la SuperTarget) down the street from the hotel. Since this is a French owned company, Will and I have actually run into this French dude working at the store (he’s in the wine section – go figure). I’ve already gone to the cereal section and don’t see anything with the Quaker guy on it. I ask him – Do you sell oatmeal of any kind here? He ponders and says – no, no I don’t think so (imagine the French accent here). I actually don’t believe him (y'all know I have trust issues). I mean, where is Wilford Brimley when you need him – he’s trustworthy – he’d know where to find my oatmeal. How can you not trust a guy that sells Quaker Oats and tells you the importance of checking your blood sugar on those Liberty Mutual commercials? So I go off to find at least the “grains” aisle. I find rice, but then again there is an entire aisle of just rice – surprised? (I didn't think so). I’m about to give up when out of the corner of my eye I spot Coco Crispies - Huh? Another cereal aisle? How is this store organized? Well, you know, long story long….I find the oatmeal, pay my cash and make it once again safely back to the hotel….

Shaken, not stirred or deterred….

So Will has this rash that has been slowly getting worse the last few days. He’s a sensitive person, there’s nothing wrong with that. We are in a foreign country and are actually grateful for such a mild introduction. We think that it is the laundry detergent they are using at the hotel so my mission today was to go out and find: benadryl ointment, oatmeal bath and hypoallergenic laundry detergent.

I ask my local peeps about where to find anything organic – they tell me try the “Pines Market” – lots of expat stuff.I happen to have a catalog with *an* (notice I didn’t say “the”) address on it. I confidently write down the address, go to the concierge, translate it to Mandarin and then give it to the taxi driver. Did I mention my confidence? That was a mistake – I’ve been in China 2 weeks - who do I think I am?

The cab driver seems to know where he is going, but we continue to drive... farther out than I anticipated – we passed the mall that I was thinking it was in and my mind makes a mental note for me to learn the Chinese words for "stop here." Eventually he does make it to the store, but much to my surprise as I walk in (and the cab is gone), the place is half empty because they are moving to a new location – written in Chinese of course. Thinking that I was fortunate that I was not in the ghetto neighborhood, I realize that it's worse...I’m surrounded by subdivisions of the "expat rich" where they don’t need no stinkin’ taxis – they have their own drivers. DAMN! With cell phone in hand I repeat: “I’m not going to cry and call Will at work." I manage to make it to the next busy street and find a cab – still empty handed at this point, but I make it back to the hotel safely and ready for more...stay tuned for part 2…(do I ever find the stuff??).

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Blog jammed

I have to admit, I knew I had a few loyal followers (I can count them on one hand) and I thought what a cool journal I can look back on, but I’m realizing that a few more of y’all are reading it (and they are friends/co-workers of Will – you know the former English teacher and overall grammer (I know its grammar) king!). I’m now getting nervous and realize that my grammar and spelling are horrible. Who knew the pressures of a blog! I swear the added stress made me have a dream last night that I was back at work at Brackenridge. Dr N and Dr T (former MDs who will remain nameless) were running the board, it was crazy busy and I had JonBenet Ramsey? (hello?) as a terminal cancer patient (I worked in Labor and Delivery). I promise, I just took a benadryl last night. Or maybe it was the new restaurant next door. It’s Italian and the wine is cheap – well, as long as it is made in China. You’ll never guess the name of the wine – “Dynasty” - very original I thought….you know, not as in Linda Evans or Larry Hagman (wait that’s Dallas), but as in Ming and Qing.

Now to the boring part of my day – as the newest member of the Tai Tai’s For Life club (hereafter known as TTFL), I was invited to Sarah’s (6 ft blond Texan) OB/GYN appointment (I mean what else do we have to do today). Being the Labor and Delivery nurse that I am, I quizzed the MD (I never would do that back in the Austin!?) on her delivery procedures – how long would you let her push, when can she get an epidural (*if* she wants one), does she prefer to use vacuum or forceps, does she cut a you know what you know where…I wanted to ask where this MD did her residency, but hey, I thought I’d give her a break. Overall, I really liked her. We were then wisked back to pick up Sarah’s husband (oh yeah, we had the driver today), had lunch and I was conveniently dropped back off at my hotel.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Will's first Chinese haircut

Let me start out by saying that I'm a freak when it comes to getting my haircut (uh, no comments from the peanut gallery about the other numerous subjects that Tracy is a control freak about). For example, it took me 2 years to find a woman to cut my hair in Austin (her name is Kristy Freeman who now owns Salon Bloom in Austin - love her). For the next 6 years, I went faithfully to get my hair cut and colored - and it was rare that I came away without having some kind of panic attack (freak). So, with that little preface I can truly state that I think I married one of the bravest men in the world. Well at least that is what I told Will because I figured I'd be going back to the states in 2 years with two long braids and a bandana around my head.

We went to a small hair salon/barber shop in the underground metro station shops and we can't even read the sign on how much this is going to cost. Will pulls out his driver's license picture and the first guy shrugs and sits him in a chair (the guy has purple hair by the way). I watch from afar as Will gets this great shampoo/head massage for 15 minutes! Then another guy comes up and takes him to the hot seat. This guy actually looks at the picture. Will communicates in some kind of sign language to the guy (thanks Ann) while I'm praying (thanks Ann and Jenny). After 20 minutes I'm fascinated and really start paying attention - the guy is NOT done yet. It took at least 30 minutes for him to cut Will's hair - I've never seen anyone take that much time and effort. It was the best haircut (besides his wedding day) that he's ever gotten (we both agreed). Grand total - $5. Even though you don't tip here, Will gave him a BIG tip (10rmb or $1.50). The guy was happy, we were happy and then I bought Will an ice cream cone for being such a brave boy.

Monday, August 21, 2006

The search is over....

Aahhhh...stress level is down one notch. Will and I agree on an apartment and it came in at $1300/month which ends up lower than what we anticipated although fits better in our budget. Yeah, we can travel and have a nice place. As soon as we get our camera (our stuff is in China, but we are waiting one more week to have it delivered directly to our apartment!). Our apartment...we haven't had one of those since beginning of July! Don't worry, it has good security outside and also within the apartment there are little red panic buttons you can press and security will be up to your place in 2 minutes. The real estate lady is under contract with us for the full 12 months - so she is the go between for us and the landlord and the management (since we don't speak mandarin very well). We have a 2 bedroom and 2 bathroom place, 123 m2 (about 1300 square feet - so bigger than our yellow house). We have an oven, small washer (we had the landlord add a dryer). The furniture is pretty nice - probably want to invest in a slip cover for at least one couch (we have 2 in the living room). We are having them add a desk and chair for Will in the second room and have decided to get an aerobed of sorts for the second room so we can use it instead for a yoga/meditation room while it is just the 2 of us! But now we have a few extra $$ that we can go back to the cool antique warehouse we went to over the weekend and get a buffet table or something. Anyway...I'll post pictures when we move in. I'm so excited! And I forgot to mention that we are on the 13th floor (I said yikes at first) BUT - they don't like 4's in China (the word 4 in chinese sounds like the word for death) - so technically we are on the 12th floor. Also our street address is 888 YuYuan (and 8's are lucky). This was definitely a better day than Sunday for sure.

1st real weekend after jet lag....

Well the weekend was fairly planned - starting with our review of apartments. Will like the ones I picked out and I did too - however the gym was the sticking point. Only one complex had a gym open 24/7 for us early birds. One apartment (the nicer one) went down $300 to $1500/month which was cool, so I was hoping that the 3rd floor guy would do the same or go down at least a little - (Will didn't bluff on that apartment as well - I kicked him later):) So of course the negotiating is not my bag and it is proving more difficult. Will and our new friend Al suggested pulling out the big guns. Go to 2 other real estate agents and tell them what apartment comlex you want and your price - see if they have anything. If they don't, then we know we are getting the best deal possible. I know this all can be done in short order and we can wire transfer money in, but ugh! We are tired of being gypsies (although the hotel is nice) - and still be able to have enough money to save (a little) and travel.

Sunday we got up and I ran a 10K on the treadmill (6.2 miles) - yes all in a row! Seems like it should have been a good day. We were meeting friends for brunch and going to this awesome antique place. Before we even got to the restuarant, I lost my phone - which seemed to bring down my entire mood and roll up all the little frustrations about life so far in Shanghai. So seize the day flew out the window! Will said I could sit in my room and order room service all day if I wanted - it would be normal - well I can't be a wussy like that - I think I'll have to save that for something really good! Any other negotiating suggestions you all have would be great! I need to cut this short otherwise it won't let me post it! :) Damn firewall - I promise I haven't said anything negative - but yet, our internet was down all day yesterday - conspirisy or communism?

Friday, August 18, 2006

Shanghai ladies of leisure...

It is kind of embarrasing to say what my plan is for today (Friday). I have a break in the apartment search until tomorrow when I go with Will. So, I am going to hang out with the girls at the swank pool in town (where Patty lives at Ambassy Court).

What one needs to understand is who or what I am to become (if I choose to accept it) - "tai tai" (woman of the house) and/or as Sarah and Amy call themselves - Shanghai ladies of leisure. It is kind of sad the brain power that is going unused at the poolside. Sarah, who has her master’s and Amy with her bachelors, me with nursing and biology degrees.

Up until now, I have had all of these feelings of what am I going to do – I know I’m not a “kept woman” – but going from being independent and working, to stressing out about looking for an apartment – it was/is true that I felt an identity crisis looming. It was refreshing to hear the other women here going through the same things. They've heard countless times… “So what are you going to do in China?” albeit it is a perfectly appropriate question, but it always got my stomach in knots to try to be super woman in a foreign country. Although I don’t plan on being a full time “lady of leisure,” it is fun to hang out with similarly aged women going through the same experience. From talking to them, patience and confidence is important – especially since so many of us often value ourselves by what we bring in financially. This is going to be an ongoing battle with me throughout this time and I hope that I will find my niche here in Shanghai.

Off to the gym before going to the pool - we are having lunch delivered...but Sarah said it was too bad they don't have massages or give pedicures poolside. :)

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Day 2 - the inner bitch thing really works

Now granted, it was only via email and I was probably just dipping my toe in to see what would happen - but - when I met with Lydia this morning. She had taken my comments to the landlord of the apartment complex and he was will to negotiate! A little victory. It made me go into the mornings apartment searches a much more confident Expat. We saw a new complex that is right around the corner from Dell - no subway stops, nothing! Things were looking good. The places were all new and although the apartment was a little small (2nd bedroom barely will fit a single bed). I started out right away - "there is no oven, can you put one in? There is a combined washer and dryer unit, can you trade it out for 2 separate units? Maid service is how many times per week and it is included with the rent along with clubhouse membership?" Yes! It was a cool place, and the guy was flexible on lot of things - and most importantly probably the price.

side note: (Did I also mention that maid service aka "Ayi" is about $2/hr - sure I'll pay someone to scrub my toilet for that).

I also asked if we could see another couple at the same complex, but bigger (the bitch is glowing). It was nice that when we were done for the day, I sent Lydia an email saying that I liked these three places and I would like to see them with my husband on Saturday. I also told here that I was comfortably with any of them and it would just be down to who could make the best deal. I'm of course full of shit and know which one I want - that's called bluffing right?

I have a feeling it is going too well and it is going to blow up in my face...but hey, we have to work fast now - we only have 2 weeks left. Did I mention we still need to figure out how to wire enough money into our account so we can pay for this place? Maybe if I get the rent down below $1250, Will will let me have a baby. :)(this was at the end of the blog to see if anyone is still readying - including Will). Seize the day!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

"you just need to bring out your inner bitch"

Well, thanks to Patty, I was finally able to meet up with Sarah and Al Zimmerman (Al is a coworker of Patty's husband Jerry - follow?). Sarah is tall, blond and 6 months pregnant and a Texan! She is awesome. Had such a good day. While Patty and Jerry are out of the country, we got to enjoy the services of Patty's driver Samuel - very cool dude. We met Al for lunch downstairs from his office. We started talking about my apartment hunting adventures from the day before and he was trying to explain the negotation process a la the chinese way - in short Al says, "You need to bring out your inner bitch!" Sarah and I started laughing hysterically, but sounds like it is honest and true advice. I know you all know I can bring it out, but doing it in a foreign country is a little out of my element. So pray, say a mantra, wish me luck on the inner bitch thing... :) I head out tomorrow to see a couple more places..... Sarah also took me back to meet her friend Amy - also very nice. She lives at one of the apartments that I looked at on Tuesday, was nice, but wasn't overly impressed - well her apartment was great. Sarah said ot ask our real estate person to show us other options in the same complex and that if you don't like the furniture or you want them to put an oven in, you put it in the contract and it is done. I guess that is what they expect you to do - they jack up the price because they think since you are white you have money. We'll see how it works - Al says keep them hanging on the negotiations and make sure you negotiate on more than one place at a time - the more competition they know about, the more flexible they will be.

The great "firewall" of china

Will says that may be the problem occasionally - getting through China's firewall and being able to post the we'll see. Don't give up on me just yet.

Today is Wednesday and its my third day out and about. I had a really good day yesterday. I met Will's boss' wife - Mary. Talk about nervous meeting her, geesh - she and Darrell have a driver (their own black passat like my Heidi) and a drive named Qu ("Koo"). She was really nice and we squeezed in the car with the two real estate agents and we were off to look at apartments. None of them were real dumps, but a lot of places don't have ovens or dryers (only washing machines) - so the two places I found were at the top end of our price range of $1500. Will doesn't really want to spend that and neither do I, but I think we would miss an oven and I don't think I want all my clothes lined dried out the window with Shanghai's air quality. So I think I've convinced him to splurge and those that venture to China to visit will be happier as well. Although I really haven't found an unsafe area - dirty, yes, unsafe, no. Crime is rare here especially against foreigners. Mary said that the Chinese people will get 10x the punishment if it is against a foreigner versus one of their fellow Chinese. I think that is goofy. Alas, the only thing I have been warned about is having a good grip on your cell phone.

Mary also has a dachshund that looks surprisingly similar to Wyatt - except in much better shape. It is good to know that I am not the only one the spoils my dachshunds. Maxine (the dog) is tough cookie - but I finally was able to pet her and I came away from the visit with out any bites or scratches...which I felt was a success. But, it makes me miss my dogs a little more too. Sigh....

I am having some sinus issues/headache/stuffy I'm chilling out right now and might venture out to the metro to go down to the fakes market. That way I know where to take all of you when you want to go. :)

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

on my own

Monday post...

Well, today is Monday and Will officially started work, so I am on my own until at least 5pm today. I spent some quality time talking to my Dad and checking on the weiner dogs (which I think have it better now then when they lived with Will and me). Wyatt was on my Dad's belly and Happy around his shoulders. Must be nice!

Shout out to all of you - our VOIP phone works great and is such a blessing, so please feel free to call us up! We are 12 hours ahead of Michigan, 13 hours ahead in Central time zone (Austin). 14 hours ahead in Colorado.

We researched some apartments yesterday and we were going to go out and find them - we got on the subway thinking we were so smart and then 15 minutes later they passed our stop. How were we supposed to know that they closed that stop for construction. It blew my nice "safe" plan out of the water. Thank goodness Will is a little more adventurous - otherwise we would never get anywhere. We grabbed a taxi (actually the 4th one since the first 3 waved us off because they didn't understand where we wanted to go). We used our handy map and pointed a lot and boy I didn't realize how physically challenging it is just to try to communicate with someone who doesnt speak your language.

We found one place on our list and one of the agents showed us around and since we are American, she showed us this 2400 sq ft apartment with maids quarters (swank!) but it was $3000. We are trying to explain to her we want to see the $1000 version - no such luck. We got to see the $2000 version and then gave up. She dropped us off at the next subway station and we made it successfully back to the hotel. We bought a tea pot and 3 small cups for less than $2 and made our way back to the hotel and had some of our "relaxing" herbal tea we bought Saturday. Phew!

Have I burned up another 20 minutes for today? That leaves me with 8 hours until Will gets home. Wish me luck. I'm going out on the subway and see what fun adventure I can have today - or .... on second thought - I could always schedule a massage! Just kidding

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Dim sum with ovaries?

(Tracy). We started off the day leaving the hotel at 10am in order to meet our friend at noon. We thought we had mastered the subway the night before and we succesfully purchased subway reusable cards. The subway is the easy part, but if the place you are looking for is a street or two away, then it becomes a little more challenging. Needless to say it took 1 1/2 hours to get there. Otherwise it would take about 20 minutes, but we had fun doing it in the 100% humidity.

We then traveled to Yu Gardens with our new friend Kelly. We braved the crowds and learned a few new words - thanks to our friend. And yes my friends, it is true...they actually market their dim sum that way (with ovary and intestine of card?? huh?) We also learned 4 new mandarin words today...for "metro" (aka subway), straight ahead, left and right. I don't know how to spell them, so I will spare you. We also went to the Jade Buddha temple and went to their tea room. Their monks grow the herbs and then you can buy the tea. So we got a 2 month supply of a tea that helps you relax and good for skin allergies and the other one we got is to help lower BP and reduce cholesterol (For Will). She gave us a list of 10 herbs/roots so we can go back to that place or ask other tea places for specific things to help with migraines, arthritis, etc... We don't know if it works, but the tea tasted good! Will said he was going to do a blog this afternoon of our dinner adventure with his co-workers on Friday. All I have to entice you to read on is 2 words DUCK TONGUE!

Friday, August 11, 2006

Medical Exam - done!

Well, I don't know if we make all foreigners go through a medical exam but Will and I felt like GIs ready to get checked into the army. In order to get a residence visa we had to get a medical exam. What does that entail you might ask? We got blood drawn, an US of the upper GI/abd/kidneys, chest xray, general exam, blood pressure check and an EKG. It wasn't the latest equipment, but not too bad. Not sure how often everyone washed their hands....but it took about 30 minutes and cost each of us (well Dell paid for it) $90. I'm guessing it would be a lot more in the US. We get our results in 4-5 days. Definitely the experience. We also went to our first restaurant where NO ONE spoke even a little bit of English. We saw the infamous chicken feet on the menu in various forms. I had pork lettuce wraps a la PF Chang style. (one of the few things that looked safe - but what kind of pork, right?). It actually tasted pretty good and a much spicer version. Will had some shrimp dish and we paid about $12 total. We are off to take a nap (still recovering from a little jet lag) and then off to meet with the Bank to open an account. We may travel to "The Bund" this evening for dinner (touristy section of town).

Thursday, August 10, 2006

"justa wai fo minute"

Our next adventure was to go the big electronic store down on the corner - may be a cross between Best Buy and Sears. They have everything, but we were looking for an s-video cable (again) because Will forget his in Michigan. This is so we can watch American TV through our computer. ANYWAY... you know the comment I made about - oh everyone is so nice, no racism, etc... Well, we only had to wait a day. We walk into the store and of course people just watched us (weird feeling to be watched with that many eyes). One person who spole a little English pointed us to the 2nd floor. We go up there and find what we are looking for. You can't just pull it off the hook yourself, you have to have them go get it for you (a la Fry's, etc). So we are pointing and the two guys are talking back in Mandarin knowing full well we don't understand. I mean, how difficult is it to understand pointing at the damn thing and holding up one finger (the nice one finger I might add). Instead they proceed to "talk amonst themselves," shake their head no, ask a few more questions in mandarin. Will and I are chuckling at this point knowing that they are probably saying "you stupid americans," or worse....We had a small congregation around us by this point, but I think one of their bosses came by and miraculously they said (still in Chinese) that they understood what we wanted. We got it, we paid for it (they didn't overcharge). Then the one guy went off to go get it. We started to follow, but then the other guy - IN ENGLISH - states wait here four minutes. I gave a big smile and said "I had a feeling you knew English." It wasn't great, but it was still good enough to have a mini-conversation. He asked how many years we have been in Shanghai. I told him ONE DAY! He said, "Welcome to Shanghai!" Oh we laughed for hours about that one.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

2 postings in one day - I'm an addicted blogger

Yeah, Tracy and Will thought they could master jet lag in one evening. WRONG! We did a quick walk around the block and it was already in the upper 80s and HUMID! Will and I got tired, but I successfully navigated (without a map and knowing Chinese symbols) us back to the what you might add? "well I think we made a left back there, so now we make a right - and wait there is the Starbucks and KFC that are around the corner from Dell!" Will was impressed. So much so we came back to the hotel room and are finishing a 3 1/2 hour nap. Will said "just a little longer" - he wanted to make it an even now I'm writing my blog while all of you are getting your beauty rest.

Our hotel room is nice, but nothing overly fancy. I told Will I thought our rate was a little high for what we are getting (nice room, king size bed $90) - it is nicer by American standards. HOWEVER, on their website, we can get a standard suite for about the same price (a little less). It would have a kitchenette which would be nice since we will be here for 26 days. We spoke to the front desk, but nothing has happened yet, so we probably need to "ask again" - we'll see. I'm such a cheap skate....where's my coupon, right? :)

We made our first purchase today in a all chinese supermarket of sorts. We bought a bottle of water and a bag of salt (to use with our netti pot - for Will's sinuses). Grand total: $0.40. It is not a lot, but a start. I think we will venture out this afternoon, but using a taxi this time.

Ni Hao - We made it!

We're here and made it with our luggage through customs, 45 minute cab ride to our hotel last evening (Tuesday). I difinitely remcommend going to a country at some point in your life and be the absolute, no question, minority. It has nothing to do with racism (We haven't experience any directly) - but just looking around for anyone that looks like you. It is a really big city...but we are situated right across from Zhonzhan Park - mini central park. So Will and I got up at 6am (and from our perch on the 15th floor work out room) we saw people walk into the park and get into groups and do Tai Chi. It was cool. That will be a goal of ours later this week or next. It doesn't look totally foreign like we expected, but there is something "different." Some buildings are really fancy and then some are really run down - and they are right next to each other. Weather is similar to New Orleans style..mid day it will reach upper 80s, low 90s with humidity...but nothing new, right? We still don't have our digital camera yet because it is in our shipment...but we will pull out the video camera. Our plan today is to turn in our residency permit and just walk around to see what it what. Will doesn't have to be at work until Monday we have a little time to get situated. Okay...miss all of you. Take care and send me funny stories of work / like - otherwise these blogs will make Tracy a dull boy (a la "The Shining" reference).

Monday, August 07, 2006

The sweet smell reunion trash?

Well now that we are in Chicago anxiously awaiting our flight at 1055am to Shanghai I can now relay our funny misadventure even before we left. After most of the family left, Will and I finished packing. I went to go play with my nieces and an hour later Will was unpacking his bags and asked if I had seen the resident work letter and invitation letter that China had sent us Fed Ex last week (and I think to myself, you mean the ones that I wanted to hold onto in my "master binder," but that you wanted to put in your work bag). T: "No dear, I don't know where they are, when was the last time you saw them." W: "Thursday morning when they came in the mail (time now: late afternoon on Sunday)." We went through all of our bags and I said I had thrown away one fed ex envelope but swore I looked in it. But it was out in the trash bin. Fed ex envelope found, but it was not there. My mother is now involved in the search (mainly to try to keep me calm during the frantic search. My brain is racing and I am cursing Dell for putting us into this last minute frenzy. I am also wondering how long we will wait until we have China send us another copy and delay our flight. T: "Well, you start going through the trash, I'll be out there in a minute." I start going through his stuff swearing he must have overlooked it. Will in the meantime is going through 7 bags of trash (all of which has been sitting for 2 days in the 90 degree heat - including potato salad and diapers from nieces ages 1 1/2 - 3 1/2). As I start to walk out of the room, Will appears at the door waving the docs and with an exasperated voice, he proclaims..."I found them in the bottom bag, still in the fed ex folder, next to the poopy diaper. " As Will recalls the event over a beer (after washing his hands with scalding water...."That trash was rank!" I know I have done something like this before (yes, on more than one occasion), so you can't be upset about it, but Will let me keep the docs this time around.

Reality setting in. T-1 day

We have less than 24 hours to go. Our flight leaves from Grand Rapids tomorrow morning at 7am. Then our Shanghai flight leaves at 1055 out of Chicago. We had breakfast with old high school friends and said good bye to the extended family and now we are with Mom, Dad, Grandma and the nieces. Relatively quiet day of packing and reorganizing our gear. Trying to make sure we have dotted our i's, etc...but knowing that we haven't. I don't know what kind of mental condition I have that I have kept reality at bay (maybe alcoholism) - but starting to get a little more nervous leaving everyone - and the dogs. We see the family a couple times a year, so that will be hard enough to maybe go for one visit a year...but the dogs. Guilt, guilt, guilt. I told them to give them lots of treats and take them on walks. Hopefully both the dogs and my depression will be short lived. I have tons of things to do and organize once we get there, not to mention relax! Will seems to be suprisingly calm - or is faking it well for my sake (which is fine by me). After changing tickets to get an earlier flight out of Grand Rapids (to ensure we have plenty of time in Chicago), my Dad still offered to get up at the crack of dawn to get us there. FYI - here is a copy of my sister with Lilly Rose - who is doing fabulous!

Friday, August 04, 2006

Aunt Tracy and Uncle Will

Who needs 24 hour fitness when you are Aunt Tracy and Uncle Will. Skilled 30 somethings with good jobs, worldly experience. Well, we came back down to planet earth and pseudoparenthood last night when we took our 3 year and 16 month old nieces down to the fair and to the nightly show - which was Stayin' Alive and ABBA (Will and Tracy really kind of wanted to see the show). Instead Uncle Will and Aunt Tracy had a blast with Hanna and Madelyn and boy did they get us into shape. Dodging the crowds, keeping them out of meltdown status. We definitely heard music, but I think we were also seeing stars by the end of the night. Grandma and Grandpa were going to rescue us and take the girls home while we stayed out.... but Aunt Tracy and Uncle Will had the girls almost asleep by that point so we were happy to volunteer to take them home, have a glass of wine and go to bed ourselves. Praise parenthood! You all are awesome. I was impressed with Uncle Will - giving a 3 year old "rules"....which she actually followed - for a little while until she threw down her sippy cup and baton - then it was all over and back to the stroller it was. Overall a fun night!

Thursday, August 03, 2006

We logged 2600+ miles

Wow....who knew driving from Austin to Denver and from Denver to Michigan would take that much out of you. If you have never driven one, the Subaru Forrester is an awesome ride. Lots of space, etc. Will, the dogs and I survived the entire 31 hour driving experience - although I got a little cranky going through the contruction in Chicago! We made it to Michigan Tuesday afternoon. Will took a nap and I already had a message from my high school friend Stacy to call when I got in. We visited with our nieces (good birth control) and then went out to dinner with Stacy and her husband John - tapas and sangria - FANTASTIC! And a great time just to catch up. Today is a more lazy day although with a 3 year old and 1 1/2 year old, I'm not sure I could call it lazy - it is has been interesting trying to sneak a nap. The dogs are also handling it well with the not so "soft" pets from the girls.

And kimmie - wow - your home state of Kansas, well, hard to put into words - along with Nebraska and Iowa. The midwest was hot this past week! Glad you made it down to Austin that is all I"m sayin'!

We received our visas and invitation letter, etc... We are trying to go through and reorganize our suitcases...the time is going by really fast! I haven't missed work yet, but I do miss all of you and all the cute babies everyone is having. Maybe Will will get a hint hint whenever he reads this blog. :)