Cultural Shifts

Monday, February 24, 2014

Third Trimester. Boom. And it's a bump that's finally a bump, not just a burrito, which makes me really happy. Every few weeks, I get really hungry and kiddo grows like a weed, and next thing you know there's more happening out front. And I'm really grateful so far that family genetics have been good to me and I still feel fine.

I've noticed a cultural difference in attitudes about pregnancy over here. We passed a woman last night who must have been right around the same due date as me. And, while I'm still pretty nimble and limber, thankfully, goooooosh, she was waddling. I've not seen a woman who was visibly pregnant walking like she didn't have a softball balanced between her thighs. It's crazy. I don't know if the Chinese physique really does get very uncomfortable much sooner, but I'm inclined to believe that women are expected to appear faint and helpless and not lift a finger during pregnancy. The wider the waddle, the more effective the baking of a kid? And most of them don't seem to be loving it even a little. Babies must be for grandparents. Because mamas look pretty blah about the whole thing. Weird.


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

While it's still a little too chilly to be prancing around in one of my newly acquired stretchy dresses with shorty sleeves, it's not half bad if one layers supa slim undershirts and double layers of tights (folded way low below my bump- it's getting squishy) under them. Oh, and spend the workday under a blanket.

Desk blankets. They're a thing and they're good stuff.

Also, this photobomber has been all up in my business since the beginning of the break. It got more intense as the fireworks were going off for the Lunar New Year, but she's been a permanent fixture on my lap whenever it's available and my little shadow as I mill around the house. The dog and I are usually little peas in a pod, so it's kind of fun to have this lady hanging around. It really was nice to have a routine of spending the day taking care of the house and critters (while snacking to my heart's content... there's something about cut carrot in a baggie that's way less satisfying that carrots fresh cut and in a bowl). So, Eddie, get ready, because we're going to snuggle like mad this weekend. And I'll snack on potato chips so you can lazily swipe one from out of the bag as you're perched on my lap.

The Grind

Monday, February 17, 2014

Daaangit. I'm back to work.

It's a big week to be fresh back at it and rolling at full steam- we have over 100 prospective students arriving for two days to audition for the music program and take diagnostic tests for musical knowledge. The Chinese higher educational system is really different from Europe or the States; students typically have to apply for the University, complete an audition (pretty normal), but the tricky part is the "quota system" where there's a minimum score on the entrance audition and a percentage allotted to each province based on how many applications we receive. On top of that percentage divided into 40, the maximum we can accept, a student's attendance depends on a passing grade on the National Test and our school being on the top of their list of acceptable schools. Lots of stuff has to line up to get kids in the doors!

So, wish me and my only legit pair of maternity pants (hauled all the way over from the States with fingers crossed that they would fit!) good luck, and keep your fingers crossed that we wind up with some great students for next year. Mostly my office mates need the good vibes, I just need to keep up a good attitude. Don't want to go back! I really liked managing my house and family for a month.

Out and About

Thursday, February 13, 2014

It reverted back to winter. Which is okay since I'm still on break and spending most of my time inside, but ultimately makes walking the dog really difficult. We call Miles "Little Mister Prissy Paws" when he gets all worked up about having to *shock and horror!* walk on the cold grass and pavement. And strictly business walks are okay, but it's when he's all wound up and needs to work kinks out of his back leg that it gets tricky. He charges off after a scent, then realizes he's made a horrible mistake, is too far from our building, and gets all tip-toe-walky the rest of the way back. And then can't be bothered to wait for me to use my tap card to open the foyer door and bashes his head into the glass. And let's be real here- if he was still in Ohio with my parents, he's be subjected to the whole snowpocalypse, so he's got it good here.

And despite the chill, Rob and I have made time to get out of the house together and figure out more about our city. We've pretty concretely determined that we'll move to the more Expat-populated area of town next year- convenience, more interesting stuff close by, fewer students, more diverse food (grocery and eating out), but, most importantly, the increased probability of finding friends. It's been a struggle since most of our neighbors in this area are apartments filled with students and multi-generation families. And the English speaking/ bilingual population is either 22 years old or in the midst of a career boom. So, we'll try for friends elsewhere! To kickstart the process, we've found a few restaurants that list things like Taco Tuesdays, Quiz Nights, Mommy Meet-Up's, etc. that we'll start making efforts to go and try to meet people. It's like dating. But worse, because there's not a lot of language overlap. Huge German, French, and Chinese speaking cool-people pockets of young professionals and mommies. And plenty of English speakers, but they're either 23 or 55. Where are my 27-37 kindred spirits?!

Not to worry, I'm putting my extrovert husband on the hunt.

Chinese New Year and Down Time

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Honesty is the best policy, no? Because if I'm being completely truthful with you all, I've been in real people clothes for maybe 7 of the past 25 days. I'm not ashamed to say that I've done every single dog poo walk in my pajama pants and have even done one or two of my pop out for groceries runs in them, too. And since I've spent the last seven years working my ass off supporting my family and in work clothes for 40-60 hours any given week, I'm more than happy to revel in sporting sweats daily for the entirety of this break. 

So, what have we been up to? While Rob was out of town for two weeks, I spent much of my time daydreaming, petting the animals, and snacking. The Chinese New Year fireworks (which were set off in the apartment community every 5 minutes by families to celebrate, day and night, for 48 hours straight) was pretty rough on the animals. Miles crapped inside a few times after some jerk set off a string of firecracker in the middle of us walking past him outside. Couldn't wait the 30 seconds for us to get out of the way? And Eddie got nervous, hid a lot (not normal for her), and lost her appetite for about 6 days, so I took her to the vet after she peed on our bed and didn't have a poop for 3 days. No diabetes, no bladder infections, no indication of problems other than stress. Poor little girl. And I swear to you here and now that I won't blog about my child's bowels when they arrive, it's just especially stressful when your cat baby (I've had her for over 9 years!) is showing signs of bladder infection or kidney failure (with a post-holiday diagnosis of "nothing is wrong") and personality changes just as EVERYTHING shuts down for 6 days. But, we're all back to normal, Rob is home, and we've had the really nice opportunity to get out and explore more of the city while all the students are still away and it's nice and quiet. 

Anyway, here's a few photos of the last few weeks and captions to fill you in on what's been up. 

My holiday uniform (pajama pants, crappy socks, and a random cozy top) plus a floppy-eared sidekick.

Daydreaming- making plans to buy a few household things for summer- crib, guest bed (for my mom when she comes to stay for a bit after the baby arrives), and a dresser. Because I'm happy to pay for furnishings myself in my furnished apartment since Chinese interior decor taste is pretty atrocious.

Our morning norm- Miles under the blankets to the right of my legs, and Eddie firmly snuggled between my knees. It's rare that she isn't snuggled into my lap if I'm sitting down lately.

Upon his return, Rob and I have been playing epic and cutthroat games. If you've never played Fill or Bust, find it and give it a whirl. You'll either love it or you'll start a war. 

My ultrasound records. Which the baby was too small for at 24 weeks, so they asked me to come back to try again. And now, the fun of retranslating them (I got the verbal explaination and all is a-okay, but I like having a record for myself).

One of my few for-fun trips out of the house. I went to Shantang Road in Old Town, Suzhou and finally found a pineapple vendor who uses this special v-shaped utensil to prepare the fruit. The big cleaver thing is for stripping and chopping sugar cane. If you see either of these utensils for sale in Williams-Sonoma next Chistmas season, thank my sister, who lived in Beijing and fell in love with how deftly the vendors could fresh-cut fruits for you, and is convinced the American obsession with kitchen gadgets will make these an easy sell. You're all welcome in advance.

Mild Weather and Walks

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Suzhou is in the midst of a nice mild break in the weather, so my days at home with the animals have been quite pleasant and layers worn haven't been quite as thick. We're due to dip back down, though, so don't get too harumph-y about my bragging.

I don't think I ever mentioned it, but poor Miles escaped my parents' house while he was staying with them, tore greyhound-speed circles around on wet, muddy grass, and tore a ligament in his back right knee, followed, of course, by surgery. In October. And he's still kind of gimpy (no shock, it's a long healing time). So, a lot of the reason I'm so very glad to have this extensive time home (especially with nice weather) is so I can take him on multiple slow walks each day, in hopes that the muscle mass lost in resting and healing can be slowly rebuilt and get his little ligament stretched out so it doesn't hurt as much. I'm not totally sure it's working yet, there's lots of evenings where he's hobbling around on only three legs, but we're trying. And since it's the week of celebration for Chinese New Year, almost everyone who is from elsewhere in the country has departed and gone to spend time with family, so it's much more devoid of crazy Chinese neighbors who panic everytime they round the corner on the weaving walking paths to see me and my big bad beagle sniffing the ground and minding his own business. Seriously, one 14 year old girl screamed, "DOG!" and ran away from us. Miles was literally 3 feet off the sidewalk, sniffing a discarded skewer from someone's cart food snack.

But, on the flip side, a 5 year old boy was playing some sort of chase or hide and seek game with his dad one evening and was really enamored with this weird looking critter (most "China Dogs" as my sister called them look like this or this. Perfectly cute, but nothing I'd want to love on). Miles could tell this kid was into him and sat down like a gentleman and I told the kid he could come over. He touched the silky ears, patted his head, and squatted down to look Miles in the eye. He then popped up, yelled he wanted to tell his dad, and came running back to show off his new buddy.

Melt me right into a puddle.

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