Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Driving here is always an adventure. I'm going to call it adventure, because "taking your life and others' lives into your hands" sounds less fun.

But the truth is, it's like a game of Frogger out there and I am constantly baffled as to how this city maintains a population of 20 million people. You'd think at least a million a day should be eliminated by what's happening on the streets.

It's not so much the crazy driving, which is rampant. No, it's the obliviousness. There really is a principle of "If I don't look at you, you have to make way for me." The problem is, what happens when two people with that same philosophy meet?

I'm particularly disturbed by the pedestrians who embrace this mode of operation. Pedestrians do NOT have the right of way here, but they move around the road like they do. Just this afternoon I was pondering this while coming up on the left side of a biker. I thought, "Take this guy here. I bet he's going to turn left right in front of me without looking" and sure enough, he did! I had to slam on my brakes not to hit him, and his reaction was to look at me like, "I'm turning this way now." I would have expected more of a, "Gee, thanks for not killing me" look or at least a "maybe I should have looked" look.

This happens all the time, so my question is - how do people not get in more accidents? It is one of the great mysteries of life here.

Appliance Issues

After extensive scientific study (translation: I used the timer on my watch) I have determined that my Chinese-purchased hair dryer will dry my hair at a weak setting for approximately 35 seconds before expiring. I then need to wait for it to recover from overheating (I can expedite this by blowing into the front of it until I hear a click) before I can use it again.

35 seconds is not a long time for hair, so I help it along by pushing the cool air button. That, combined with the low power means that my hair takes about 2 hours to dry.

Ok, I may be exaggerating.

But it is a fine example of the appliance issues we have here. Purchasing locally can result in poor quality appliances. Buying imported appliances will drain your bank account. Bringing them from the US carries the complication of converting power from 110-220. If you neglect to convert, things happen, like curling irons that burst into flame. Even if you do use a converter, it might not be strong enough as in the case of my sewing machine. After one use with a weak converter it became possessed and would sew on its own. I could only stop it if I turned it off.

God bless the people who made dual voltage appliances, although they failed to consider that the plugs also need to fit into variously shaped outlets. Since Singapore and China both use 220 power, we were able to bring our appliances here, although the outlet shape has been a problem as well. Thank God for a husband who knows how to take the plug off and replace it with an appropriate one.

So back to my hair dryer. I'm in a debate right now between buying a new hair dryer on Tao Bao with a higher wattage, or buying a slightly more expensive one from the States that is dual voltage for Erik to bring back from the States in about a month.

These are the kind of issues I never knew I'd have.

Friday, August 26, 2011


Confession: I don't love China right now. It's been a long time since I've felt that way, but two months of a Minnesota summer will do that to you (Minnesota summers are the BEST!). It was hard to come back to pollution (more than usual!) and crowded, lawless streets, and "what is that smell??" and people staring at me and "I can't remember how to say that" and "I never learned how to say that in the first place."

Erik and I have been wondering why it's so hard this time. We were in the States a year and a half ago, and we didn't mind coming back then. Then we remembered that we were in Minnesota in the winter (Minnesota winters are NOT the best).

Confession 2: I'm not loving my responsibilities right now. This isn't surprising given that our Minnesota summer included grandparents and aunts and uncles who often shared the load of watching kids, and even if they didn't we weren't homeschooling which is my most time consuming responsibility. I thought those two months off would refresh me to start back up again, but it appears they made my responsibility muscles atrophy. I don't want to do anything.

Add jet lag and a little sickness and you've got a Gina who would really like to lay on the couch all day watching Hulu. This is not a viable long term option.

I've been praying a lot about how I've been feeling, and God has been gracious to remind me that my calling here isn't dependent on how I feel about it. Every moment of frustration or difficulty can be an opportunity for me to offer my heart again to Him, to say, "I will gladly endure this for Your sake." And really, if smells and crowds are my "sacrifice" I think I'm getting off easy.

As for responsibilities, I know this is all an opportunity to rely on His power, and to choose joy and gratitude. I know this in my head, and I'm hoping that it will eventually make its way to my heart. I'd appreciate your prayers!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Aftermath

The unfortunate aftermath of spending the last three days in a whirlwind of loving our family and packing our things, being flung through the air at high speeds in a pressurized metal tube for 13 hours, sleeping 2 hours, waking for 2, then sleeping another 6, is that today I have no adrenaline left with which to do life.

Thankfully, when we got back yesterday we plowed through 90% of our unpacking. That might sound impressive, but actually it means that 90% of our stuff is now on the floor instead of in bags (ok, maybe 75% - some of it did make it back into its rightful place).

And thankfully our maid went and bought some basic food for us (and left us a note that said "Welcome to Home" in English - so sweet!) so that when the kids ran down at 5 am I had something to direct them toward eating.

Ideally, I would spend today putting away all those piles and buying more food to make meals beyond toast. I'm thinking the only way that might happen is if I slam down some Red Bull and set myself a goal like "If you do this, you can eat that whole bag of candy you brought back from America when you're done." (for the record, I have never consumed a Red Bull). But that probably won't happen.

More likely is that at some point I will get up enough gumption to shower, possibly drag myself over to the blind masseuse to fix this back ache, and then by mid-afternoon I'll find it in me to put some things away in order to keep myself awake.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

A Summer of Fun

So here was my train of thought: driving to Mankato - Pa Ingalls used to drive to Mankato to deliver the lumber - Walnut Grove - where is Walnut Grove again? - there it is on my map - and hey, there's De Smet, where the dugout was - memories of our Laura Ingalls Wilder southern MN tour - I meant to do that with Megan this summer, shoot! - what else did we plan to do that we didn't do? -

And that's where I derailed myself, because it wasn't going to go anywhere good. Instead, I decided to make another list this morning of the things I'm SO glad we did manage to squeeze into our time in Minnesota this year:

1. Speaking at Erik's home church 5 times in one weekend
2. swimming lessons
3. bike rides
4. VBS
5. the cabin
6. time with family (this could count for about 100 entries - one for each day plus doubling up for extra people)
7. New York
8. Boston
9. Oxbow Park
10. Milwaukee
11. baseball
12. kickball
13. swimming at the pool
14. All comers track meets on Tuesdays
15. playing with the dog
16. speaking at my home church
17. selling things on Craigslist (seriously!)
18. knitting
19. latch hooking (those last two are Megan's new craft projects)
20. mini-golf
21. slip n' slide
22. 4th of July with the Higgins
23. Rochesterfest parade
24. Annie (the musical, not a person)
25. breakfast on the farm
26. soccer
27. camping
28. roasting marshmallows over a campfire
29. grilling
30. early morning exercise
31. working on Boy Scout merit badges
32. libraries
33. Valleyfair
34. CSU
35. libraries
36. watching Twins games
37. time with people like the Zenks, Gaugers, Wedels, Higgins, Halversons, Woods, Roises, Pedersens, etc. etc.
38. washing the car
39. House of Bounce
40. finishing my writing project
41. croquet
42. driving through the Rocky Mountains
43. a night in Vail
44. Parks
45. refreshment!

By the way, I don't think Megan really cares that we didn't do the Laura Ingalls Wilder historical tour.

Friday, August 05, 2011

The Packing Game

It's that time again - the time in our trip when I begin to strategize about how to get all that stuff back across the ocean. As always, I vacillate between, "We've got plenty of room" and "maybe we can't take that" and "we're doing great - let's go buy more!" and "good night! this is never going to fit."

After years of managing this, we have learned a few things. This is what it looks like:
1. As I buy things throughout the summer, I put them into a suitcase. This isn't how I take it back across the ocean, but it gives me an idea of how much I've been accumulating.
2. At least a week before we leave, I take all that out and start packing it for real. I gather things around the house that I know I won't use again and pack those too.
3. I know that there will be at least one bag's worth of last minute stuff I find around the house to pack, so I leave a bag open for that.
4. We bought a hand-held luggage scale so we don't have to do the "stand on the scale holding the luggage trick" anymore.
5. U-Haul has great boxes you can buy that are incredibly sturdy but slightly outside the luggage dimensions. For a few years we left them full size and were never questioned, but now we cut them down a few inches (from the bottom so you can keep the handle openings!) because otherwise they're too heavy. They're also good for carrying bulkier items. We have three of those this time.
6. We have one carry-on size suitcase that we fill entirely with books. Even completely full it's only about 40 pounds. If we're really over on luggage we could take this on the plane, but I'm hoping it doesn't come to that.
7. I pack about 80% of our stuff and then I usually hit a wall. Erik then swoops in and packs the other 20%. He sees it as a challenge to fit it all in. I love that about him!

So that's what it looks like to pack for an international flight. Let the games begin.