Send As SMS

Will & Tracy

This is our blog

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Next stop.... Malaysia...

Yeah, I'm spoiled...but hey, I've been told when you get a chance to tag along on your husband's business trips you just need to do it! So our next stop is to Penang, Malaysia. So we are going from 20 degrees F to 90 degrees F in less than a week. We fly into Kuala Lampur - which I think is just a cool name for a city anyway - but we don't get to stay this time around. Hopefully we will peak out the windows at the airport so we can see the world's tallest building which is located in KL. Then on to Penang. Pretty much all that is there is a beach. So I have my sun block, and I think they speak English there - or hopefully enough to understand "Mai Tai" - hopefully with one of those cute little umbrellas in it. Will has to work all day Friday and then we are heading to the Golden Sands resort for Saturday and Sunday and fly back to, sigh....Shanghai. :) So there will be even MORE pictures to show you!

Side note: One of the couples that was at the prenatal class I gave a couple weeks ago contacted me and is interested in the "patient advocate" thing. I think we are getting together next week to see what kinds of things she would like/not like me to do, etc.. I'm nervous and excited at the same time.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Harbin Pictures

Monday, January 22, 2007

Charge it to the Underhills....

Well we made it out of the city once again, this time to Harbin (Hahr – Bean), China for the Annual Ice Lantern Festival, Snow Festival, and other winter wonderland activities... We decided to forego the travel agency trip and go it alone when planning the vacation and “wing it.” Winging it is not in Tracy’s vocabulary so this caused some stress and grief, but Will took it in stride. I figure living in China has given me some tips and tricks to living life in the fast lane in not having a set plan day to day, so why not use a 3 day weekend to broaden my horizons. Screw calgon, ativan….take me away….

If you take a look on the map, you will see that it is farther north than Vladivostok, Russia!! We were a little nervous about the -50 degree C (that’s -58 F) we noted on CNN’s weather forcast, the week before we left, but we were lucky or unlucky enough to enjoy low to mid-20s F during the day and close to 0 at night. No wind and no fresh snow on the ground. Despite our hotel room (which was a little bit of a dive), we were in the center of the walking street with all its little Russian chotchsky shops.

We enjoyed a fairly carefree weekend on no one’s schedule but our own. It took a little bit of time to figure out which event was held where and how to get there, but I had my first successful “Chinglish” conversation. Will was impressed and I got another “hun how” (very good) from the coffee shop dude.

We found a great little Russian restaurant around the corner from our place and then Saturday and Sunday enjoyed the Ice Lantern Festival, the Snow Carving Festival and a little wining and dining at the Shangri-La. Its sad, but true, that being white has some advantages in China. Like showing up at the 5 star hotel (that we DIDN”T stay at) and telling the concierage we are looking for our friends, “The Underhills” and can we please leave our bags at the front desk while we go out for the day. Hey, we ate *and* paid for breakfast and returned for lunch at the schmancy place with mediocre food, yet I can’t deny that it didn’t cross our minds to sign the receipt with a fakey hotel number and Mr Underhill’s name…

(end note: I’m making final edits to Harbin: the movie – video clips and pictures from our adventure, but I’ll add a few above as well!).

Monday, January 15, 2007

A Bit O' Chivalry....not a shrubbery

Women's Lib is great and all, but wanting to change the toll booth to say "staffed" instead of "manned" - I think that goes a little far (I found *that* ongoing argument on some webpage, geesh)... BUT can we all agree that we like it when a guy opens the door for us? That's what I thought. In China, I think Women's lib prevails - well, okay, I think the more operative phrase is "every man (uh, "person") for themselves...

In my limited 5 months of observation and quick study here in China, I have learned (some of which have made memorable blog entries):
1. Not to leave a space in line in front of you because someone WILL take it
2. Pushing and cutting people off in line or in traffic is acceptable - it seems you have the "righter" of way if you are older and/or have the the larger total mass (be it a body or a cement truck) - I didn't realize my years of basketball defensive training would come in so handy.
3. Beware where you walk or what puddle you step in - it ain't just water, trust me. If you hear it go "squish" under your feet, it is best to keep moving and just not look what you just stepped in/on and then proceed to step in the nearest aforementioned puddle to rinse it off).
4. Stay at least 50 ft away from split-crotched children or old men for that matter.
5. Chivalry is dead, or at least I will give them credit and say they never knew about it to begin with... or so I thought (dum, dum, duuummmmm)

And so the story goes...

I'm finished with my Chinese lesson and head off to meet the Tai Tai's for lunch. I get on the elevator with 2 Chinese gentleman and proceed down the express elevator from the 21st floor. Before the bell dings and the door opens I usually have subconsciously decided what kind of mood I am in that day. Lately it seems I have been passive. Its not that I have completely given up, but sometimes fighting for position is just not worth it. Well that, and today I was going to be incredibly early for Tai Tai lunch, so I was in no rush. So when the doors open, I am in la la land, not even paying attention, just assuming the two guys would bump me out of the way. One moment goes by, then the next and I find myself looking up to the two of them looking at me and waiting for ME to get off the elevator first. I thanked them in Chinese and then added a little hop to my step because I honestly couldn’t believe that just happened.

Now, I’m walking to the outside glass door and I see another Chinese gentleman approaching it. I do a quick physics calculation and realize that the two speeding trains will reach the entrance to the door at the same time, but will they make a sound? Okay, so I really did the impromptu physics calculation and also noted his BMI was bigger than mine and so I paused at the door and stepped to the side. As I did this, I glanced up to recalculate and he had slowed down, paused even and... actually took his hand and gestured for me to go, ehm, FIRST through the door.

After going through the door I paused to the outside and looked up fully expecting some bird to poo in my eye… but really just looking for the full moon or some other SIGN of martians landing,… the end of the world….locusts…. Nothing? ... I’m still here and don’t have a fever. It was so odd in fact that I called one of my friends immediately to check and confirm my story that it was indeed a miracle. I’ve drafted letters to the Vatican and the Dali Lama, but maybe all I need to do is thank 3 Chinese mom’s out there for teaching their sons just a bit of chivalry and giving me such a nice boost for the day.

Thursday, January 11, 2007


Okay - try the link again to enjoy the Pearl Maddness we experienced in Suzhou! Uh, and sorry about the stupid, "..WWWOOOOWWW" at the end. I'm a dork, you all know that.

When we first entered the room I thought all the bags pilled on top of each other were bags of rice - and I'm thinkin' to myself - why are we here, the pearl market is next door. But this was a nice treat - thanks to our Chinese counterparts that talked there way into seeing this office where the early negotiations take place.... Click the link above

The Suzhou Experience - MiniCar Adventure

Okay - try the link above again - should take you to the Youtube site to watch the video that goes with the picture of Will and the Mini car.

Well as the internet connection and speed is getting faster, I was able to upload some video from our mini trip to the town of Suzhou. We went with our Ayi, Daisy and a couple of her friends. So we took the cheap seats on the train, got detoured in a mini-van, then on the public bus and finally made our way to the big pearl market in a Mini-CAR!!! Yes, there were six of us in this car! Great fun and cheap pearls. Taking orders......

Monday, January 08, 2007

Tracy Claxton for hire

Well, I can officially add it on my resume. This past saturday I was the Childbirth Educator for first time moms-to-be hosted through the Worldlink Clinic. After months of speculation and holding one's breath, I finally gave up in early December. Then on New Year's Day (ie when we were buying Will a fakie Tag watch, Alice (manager) texted me out of the blue and asked if I was interested in teaching the prenatal class on Saturday. Of course I'm such a sucker and didn't want to negotiate over the phone and she was out of town (Hong Kong) - so we met on Friday for lunch. She is trying to twist my arm to take a full time position (this time as the outpatient unit manager) - she actually admitted - you know, it might be nice for the foreigners that come to the clinic to see a white face - AAAAHHHHHH!!! Okay, so I'm still not holding my breath and I now know that this place needs some serious help. The MDs great, the equipment great, the nursing staff - just not good enough - and it is not their fault. They are not trained the same way and its a different culture.

However, after the prenatal class, one of the women came up to me and asked if I had thought of being a birth attendent/patient advocate (those that I worked with all know what an pain in the ass advocate I could be!!). I definitely had thought about that (Patty and I both had) - but being on call 24-7 - but then again, more flexible hours, .... and I know if Worldlink did offer me a full time gig - it would be more than a 40 hour work week. So long story long...I've made some business cards, my friend Robert is helping me put together a website, and I've emailed a couple of the expat associations and maybe I can make a living teaching prenatal classes and helping write up birth plans and how to find the MD that is right for you.

Geesh..I think if I go back and read what I just wrote I admit to myself how scatter brained I've been about all these decisions and what would be best for Will and I. I pray, I sit and try to do my worry beads, I've started up yoga again - now all I need is a Eureka moment to come down and wack me on the head. So I'll keep you posted.... and my Chinese lessons start again on Tuuesday!! Maybe I'll graduate to kindergarten chinese versus just being stuck in pre-k. ;)

Thursday, January 04, 2007

All I want for Xmas is my.....NEW ROLIDEX Watch!

(Okay - try the link above to Youtube to see if you can see the video)

Merry Christmas to everyone out in blog land. Will and I got up and enjoyed a nice cup of French press coffee and started making phone calls on our new internet connection phone. We now have a skype account and so we called out, but have no idea what number we have for people to call in. We also signed up for account – so we have a webcam hooked up. Also, if you have a Yahoo IM account, we may also be able to exchange video! So get on the technology bandwagon. Maybe I should my blog to sightspeed and skype to see if I get any free perks for those shout outs – because I know how popular my blog is. J

After waking up to the sunshine and finishing our phone calls around 10am we headed out to Yu Garden to spend my tutoring money I made last week (1200RMB = $125US) to see what we could get. We paid a visit to my favorite fakey dealer – Kevin (see video on Youtube). We came away with some “groovy” Coco Chanel glasses and some Hugo Boss leather gloves for Will – along with a mont blanc pen! Then he told us his Auntie sells fake purses and watches about a 10-15 minutes walk away. So off we went. By the time we got there, Kevin was already waiting for us. We scored with my new “Roledex” watch and Will finally found his man purse – which is a small fake TUMI bag! He was very excited!

We came back home and gave Maxine hugs and kisses and then went off to Jerry and Patty’s home for dinner. We got to see the new baby again, meet Sarah’s parents (who were in town all the way from Belton, TX!!), and our friends Amy and Josh stopped by. Of course Patty made way too much food and it was all fabulous. Despite all the great food, I swear, canned cranberry sauce and canned pumpkin pie are the best!!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

One cable, One world....

Well so much for keeping up with ye ole blog at the end of the year. Thank you China for having one internet cable that links you and the world that runs through the "ring of fire" fault lines in the pacific ocean. I realize that you would like to keep track of what we are all doing over here by editing and censoring our news and websites, but really, it is a serious pain in the ass and its hurting your overseas business and oh yeah the made in china stuff you were trying to sell for the holiday season.

Okay - so I hope this will post, the website looks funny because it took so long to load, so we'll see. The government tells us that it will be fixed in 2-3 weeks. In the meantime I feel like we are connected to a 56K modem again. Sigh.... So no pictures and videos for the time being. Its wonderfully smoggy and foggy at the same time right now so its time to go out and about for the day to breath in some of this not so fresh city air....

(Edit: There was an earthquake in Taiwan last week, right?? - because that is what the government told us was the reason for the internet being down - maybe they were trying to figure out a way to take down my blog - gasp!)