The Countdown

As Bill and I count down to our 25th anniversary trip, I am going to reflect on some earlier anniversary celebrations. The following blog entry is one of my mom’s favorites.

Bill and Beth Celebrate 18 Years…..

Sunday, April 6, 2008

On Saturday night, Bill and I went to a restaurant called “La Villa Rouge” to celebrate our anniversary.  It is set in quaint old house, which was once part of a recording company. A park has been created behind it, where the record factory once stood, and at this time of day is scattered with older women doing Tai Chi, and children volleying balls around. We had the place to ourselves, as we were having an early dinner, with a table by a large window facing the park. It was the kind of restaurant where kids are not commonly seen, and you get a little bit of very tasty food, at a very steep price.

We ordered a bottle of wine, with no worries about who would drink how much…..a benefit of having a driver, and the couple who hardly ever drinks, finished it off. That would be a first in 18 years. Now if you had been the waiter, or the other two gentlemen standing at the desk, you may have thought I was drunk on my way to the ladies room. This impression may have begun to develop when the American girl (that would be me) came down the stairs and missed a step at the bottom of the first landing. Our waiter, being the gentleman that he was, put his hands out to try to catch me if I continued to fall. He was, however, still a flight below me. I steadied myself as I walked across the landing and then promptly stumble down one…..”I’m fine”………two….”Whoops!”…….three……”Honestly, I’m not drunk!” …….more steps. All the while, our fine, young waiter is standing at the bottom with his arms out, trying to save my ass. Each time I stumble, he apologizes. “Oh, saury……saury…….oh, saury!” Just for the record, they were shallow steps, and the back of my heel kept catching on the last one. I was not drunk! Just very relaxed.

After dinner, we went to the beautiful Shanghai Oriental Arts Center to see a Yue Opera. We were two of what appeared to be five westerners in the whole place, and better dressed than all but the cast. Apparently dressing up is not what they do for the opera in China. They had screens with English translation to the sides of the stage, but you could get the basic story without them anyway. It was the story of an army general and his wife, and there were several other male characters in the show, however, in the tradition of the Yue Opera, every one of them was played by a female. It was a fun experience, and the costumes were gorgeous.

After a romantic, child-free evening together, we arrived home happy, relaxed, and in the mood, so we climbed into bed………….pulled out the fifth season of 24, and watched four episodes. Perfect. 18 years.

 

 

 

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Running From the Law….in a Kayak

Last summer we vacationed in The Finger Lakes region of New York with our friends from Canada. This was our second trip with them, and we’re looking forward to our third this year. We have been friends since meeting in Shanghai, at the bus stop where our children stood every day waiting for the school bus. Nick and Brennan have been good friends ever since, and the same with Lin and I. We are especially lucky that after both of our families repatriated, we only live a few hours away from each other.

Last August, we rented a small house on Canandaigua Lake. The water was a mere 20 feet from the back of the house, it had a long dock for fishing, a couple of brand new kayaks, a blow-up boat-like raft, and a gorgeous view.  One afternoon, Bill and I, Lin, and her husband, Jiming, left the kids at home to go to a food festival, and a couple of local wineries. It was an overcast day, not great for being outside, so we expected that they would watch TV or play cards, maybe fish from the end of the dock…………..we underestimated their ambition.

While at one of the vineyards, I got a text from Brennan. It was vague, but suggested they had been out in the kayaks, that it had started to rain, and they had come in. Oh, and by the way, they had been stopped by the “lake po-po,” (his words, not mine) for not having life jackets. This, of course, peaked my interest, so I asked him for details. He said that they were following him, in a small boat, that did not appear to have official markings.  Or none that he could see from the front. He has always been a very cautious boy.  Constantly looking out for anything suspicious. This nondescript boat with two men in it, made him a little nervous. They called out to him, and he picked up speed. Heading for the hills. Or the dock. Certainly not towards them. They called out again, and tapped the throttle. He went faster still. In a KAYAK. Against a BOAT. With a MOTOR. As they floated up next to the vigorously paddling teen, they asked him to stop, blew a whistle, and turned on the siren for a second or two. He finally stopped. Appeased that they were not serial killers, kidnappers, or pirates. Regardless, I’m pretty sure he realized at that point, his efforts were futile.

This is how Brennan recounts the conversation. One of the officers asks  Brennan why he didn’t stop, and he responds that he didn’t see them. The officer scoffs and says, “You looked right at us.” Brennan: “Ummmmmm. Nope, I didn’t see you.”  They ask him if he has a life jacket, and Brennan says he does not. Po-Po: “Do you have one in the hull hatch?” Brennan……..”Where’s the hull hatch?” Po-po: “How are you using a kayak you know nothing about?” (Implication: Did you steal it?) Brennan: “It came with the cottage we’re renting.” At this time, Nick is passing by in the other kayak. He says, “Hello, sir” to the police, then turns to Brennan with……. “THE LOOK.” The one that says….you DON’T know me. DON’T tell them you KNOW me (in my matching kayak.)  They ask Brennan, “Do you know this person?” Brennan: “YUP!. He’s my friend.” They proceed to ask Nick if HE has a life jacket, to which Nick also says he does not. They then ask the boys where they live, and Brennan points in the general direction of a hundred other docks. Finally, the officers decide their fun is done, a warning is given, and they are “released.”

The boys pull away, relieved, and ready to go home. But first, they head out to rescue Nick’s older brother and Carleigh who have been endlessly circling in the water. A twenty-something and a ten-year old unable to get a productive stroke going to make progress. The first group to be approached by the “life vest patrol” (Carleigh was the only one in compliance).  It will be a childhood memory they joke about for years. Our children’s first interaction with the law. Let’s hope it their last.

Mommy-mares…….

Morning nap, hair appointment, blue skies, sunshine. Perfect. But this great day changes. I am driving down the road, thinking about the afternoon appointment that Carleigh has. How we will be on the same stretch of road that Ethan will be taking on his way to school. In an instant, I am having flashes in my brain. Pictures of a car accident. My son’s car. An ambulance. Those daydreams…or day “mares,” that pop up out of the blue, and darken a mother’s day.  There is no telling when these will come. It’s not often, but when they do, my heart sinks. I know it is not rational. I know it didn’t really happen, but just the thought of it is like a punch to the chest.

When Bill and I were first married I would have these about him. If he was late coming home, or wasn’t answering his desk phone. Of course, back then, we didn’t have mobile phones. The best we got was a giant corded phone you plugged into your cigarette lighter (with this revelation, I age myself, but it’s actually a result of the speed of technology.) He would go on a business trip, and the plane would get in late. It would be a long drive to the hotel. In my mind, accidents were happening. Plane crashes, car wrecks. I would work myself into a complete panic. Pacing the floor, crying. Waiting for his call. I knew it was absurd, but I couldn’t help it. Thank God for age, and the wisdom and experience that come with it. Remember, patience is a virtue that I did not have much of in my twenties.

When the kids were babies or toddlers, and “slept in.”  A rare occurrence. I would go in to check on them. To see if they were still breathing. Instead of sleeping in myself or enjoying a quiet cup of coffee, I would be distracted by the reason WHY they weren’t up yet. Or late night coughing that suddenly quieted. Are they choking?! If they tripped, but caught themselves, I would think of what  COULD have happened. They could have fallen down the stairs, off of the play structure. If they were walking behind me in a public place, and I wasn’t paying attention for a minute or two….they could have been kidnapped, walked out into the street. It was the fear of letting them down. The realization that even as a mom, I couldn’t always control what happened.

As the boys have grown into teens, Ethan less than a year from his twenties, I have even less control. I have to hope that we taught them well. That they will make good decisions. But I have no way to protect them from the other people out there. The ones who might not make good decisions. The reckless, the unlawful, the bat-shit crazy. I hope my kids can recognize a dangerous situations and get out before bad things happen. And if they can’t,  I hope God will protect them for me.

Over the years, I have learned that worrying is a waste of time. Find a solution, if it’s possible. If not, wait. Soon enough the answer will come. There is no point worrying over something that you can do nothing about. Something that hasn’t even happened…..except in a mommy-mare.

 

Patience is a Virtue……

Patience has always been a struggle for me. I’m pretty sure I had 0% patience as a child. Not much more as a teen, or even in my twenties. I have grown leaps and bounds in this skill, but it is a daily battle.

During my Crohn’s years, I was constantly waiting for a new medicine to kick in, for a fever to subside, for a break. There were times I asked God, “Why? Why me?” But then I would remember how many people were suffering from cancer. How many people in the world were so much sicker than I was. And my patience grew.

Adoption is a complete leap of faith. You never know what is going to happen that may delay, or stop, the process. When we were getting all of our paperwork together, we had quite a bit of control, but not all. We had to complete several steps in the home study with the social worker, and wait for documents. We had no control over those. They took time. We had to work with an adoption agency, on their schedule. Once our dossier went to China, we were at the mercy of a foreign government. Anything could happen. My patience flourished, and tanked, and rebounded again.

When we learned that Bill may have a chance to work in China, it took many months for it to develop. We were told it would not be certain we were going, until we were on the plane. We went through all the steps. Cultural training, social worker studies, conference calls that lasted hours. All planning the move. The move that was not certain to ever happen. Once we were settled in Shanghai, there were many other tests of patience. Language barrier, cultural differences, Internet speed. Too many to even recall. When we were done with our first 3 year contract, we didn’t know if we were going home or staying in China until the very last minute. We stayed another year. I didn’t mind. I loved it there. We were blessed to have the experience of living and traveling abroad. Many never have that chance. So, my patience grew.

Last year, as I have said, was a rough year in our family. There were innumerable meetings with doctors and school staff. There was plenty of waiting. Not knowing what was coming next. Waiting for things to improve. Waiting for brighter days. And my patience grew some more.

How many times do I have to tell my son to put his clothes in the hamper? I mean it’s RIGHT NEXT to where he drops them. Same with my daughter. Clothes on her bedroom floor. Mere inches away from the dirty clothes basket. How hard could it be?! Put the dishes in the sink?! Nope. Left on the table, until eventually I take care of them. Or better yet, until the dog realizes there is a tasty treat lurking nearby, and I start to hear the clinking of the collar and tags against the plate. I try to wait. I don’t want them to think someone else will take care of it. But eventually, it annoys me enough to do it myself. Backpacks, books, phones, glasses, shoes. They don’t intentionally leave them. Something else is pulling at their attention, and they just forget. Often.

The oldest does put his stuff away. His problems lie with getting up in time. Leaving the house in time. How many times do I have to wake him up in one morning?! Too many. Shave your face. Put on deodorant. Brush your teeth. Daily maintenance is a burden to him. He picks things up, walks around with them, then sets them down. Somewhere else. I have to go track said item down. He constantly has very important things going on in his head. He doesn’t even realize he’s doing (or not doing) it.

Over the years I have learned to pick my battles. They are good kids. I know they’re trying because these things have improved over time. Slowly. I continue to remind them. I find methods to encourage improvement. Reward. Punishment. Whatever works for each individual child. I remind myself that I am lucky to have kids. Healthy kids. There are so many people in the world who are not so lucky. And my patience grows again.

All of these things, little or big, have been lessons in strength for me. I worry less. I am less stressed. I think of the positive. I thank God for all of our blessings. And I remember…..patience is a virtue. I will continue the struggle.

Encounters with The Law

When we lived in Shanghai and something would happen that we thought was unique to our current location, we would say, “This is China.”  Below, I have posted an entry from my first blog discussing one of my favorite “This is China” moments.

My First Encounter with the Shanghai Police…..and My Second

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Everything was as usual on Thursday. I was trying to get things done, Carleigh was trying to make it as hard as possible…and I had a limited amount of time. Wednesday afternoon, Bill informed me that the next night we were going out to dinner with one of his superiors, and I had nothing to wear. Thursday afternoon, just hours before dinner, he informed me that it was my job to pick the restaurant… no pressure there. Nice.

So Carleigh and I headed to the mall, and after three hours, came out successful. Great, so far so good! I got home with a few hours to spare before dinner, and decided which of the new outfits I was going to wear. Good, step two done. Now, I needed to get our AYI, Yuan-Yuan, to iron the skirt. I would have done it, and tried, but she thought she was failing us if she didn’t do it. I got the voltage converter out of Brennan’s room, and got out our American iron, for the first time in Shanghai.

It’s a little appliance, so I didn’t think to check the wattage of the iron, with the wattage max on the converter. After AYI started ironing the skirt, I left the room. About two minutes later I heard a pop and a scream (from Carleigh) and the converter was smoking… piece of junk! I just bought that! My phone rang, and it was Bill.  I told him the story and, engineer that he is, he advised me that  irons draw quite a bit of current….hmmmm, what do you know… Iron: 1500w, converter max: 150w. Whoops, my mistake! I told Yuan-Yuan not to worry… in charade form… and moved on.

Then she tried to turn on a light… no power… no power ANYWHERE downstairs… oops! We must have flipped a breaker. She made a call to maintenance, as I never mess with that stuff in China, for fear of screwing something up. Maintenance came and flipped the switch back, and the house alarm started trilling. They shut it off…..no problem. Five minutes later, compound security showed up. Yuan-Yuan explained the situation. Actually, with the little bit of Chinese I know, I heard her RAT ME OUT!  “Tai Tai (wife) gave me the wrong converter!” Do they really have to know whose fault it was?!  Five minutes later, the police were at the door. She explained again, and then they looked to me, forcing me to feel the need to charade my explanation.  They smiled. I’m sure that was fun for them. Entertainment by Expat. I signed a piece of paper that they assured me was not a ticket, and they left. I then set AYI up with a larger converter, and she promptly  plugged the iron into the 220v instead of the 110v plug. Since the iron was from the States, it immediately started smoking. Good grief! Now the refrigerator was not working. Maintenance showed up again to fix the problem, and I thought to myself…..”Did you RAT YOURSELF OUT THIS TIME, AYI?!

During all this, I still had to find a restaurant which was suitable to take Bill’s boss to for dinner, and make a reservation. Mr. Tao was supposed to come pick me up at 5:30 and take me to Bill’s office, however, signals got crossed, and when I called him he was still sitting in the car under Bill’s office at 5:40 PM. By 6:00, I was on my way to pick up Bill and a coworker, cross the river to pick up his boss, and make it to a 7PM reservation on “The Bund, ” which lies on the old side of Shanghai, along the river. With rush hour traffic, it would take a miracle.

We actually made it by 7:15PM and the restaurant was fabulous, with a beautiful view. I figured, not much else could go wrong, so I stepped out of the box, for me, and picked the wine for the table. Luckily, it was a great choice. At least after the stress of the afternoon, things were going more smoothly. After dinner we walked along the river, which was bustling with tourists and vendors, and offered a gorgeous view of the cityscape on the newer side of Shanghai.

Eventually, we called Mr. Tao and set off to our pick up site. We linked arms to cross the busy Chinese street, and one of us, I won’t say who (but it wasn’t me), decided it was time to cross the street, illegally, in front of a police officer. Now for most of us in the group, we could just feign stupidity and language barrier, but we did have Wen, who was a Chinese Aussie, with us. It was her idea to pretend we didn’t know the language, which was funny because she is the only one who DID, and looked like she did. No surprise, we were stopped. She pretended she didn’t understand him and had never lived in China, and he didn’t even attempt with the rest of us. We were sent back to the other side. No worse for the wear. For me, on that day, it was par for the course.

 

 

 

In an Instant……..

And in an instant the next blog post has changed. A broken bowl spins on the floor, the high-pitched din it makes slowly fading, until it is gone. An angry child sees the consequences of carelessness that comes from anger. From not concentrating on the task at hand. This reminds me of all the other things in life, that change in an instant.

Last year, we were preparing for a championship sports weekend with one of our kids. Proud parents. All, or most, seemed right in our world. Yet in an instant, we are in a hospital emergency room. There will be no championships for us. The rest of the spring, summer, year, will be a trial in strength. It will change our priorities. It will remind us of what matters.

In August, just after returning to their winter home, my father has a stroke. He has been the healthier one. In an instant, he is not. My mother is scheduled for neck surgery, so I leave my husband and kids to care for my parents for five weeks. That’s what we do. We honor thy mother and father.

Years ago, May of 1998 to be exact, I was a mother with a two-year old son, but in an instant, I was a mother with Crohn’s Disease, and a two-year old son. That instant, that diagnosis, of course was just that. It is just a moment I remember well. Too well.  And that day in August 2002, the instant that I got my life back. When that foul, damaged, organ was removed from my body. When I started learning how amazing life really is.

The night my husband asked me what I thought about moving to China, was the instant I realized that I was braver than I ever gave myself credit for. The instant I realized that I was meant to be a world traveler. I wanted the adventure. I wanted to live in the moment. It was the moment I realized that too many people die without doing the things they would have really liked to, hampered by fear of the unknown.

The instant that I discovered that living and traveling abroad, has changed me at my very core. That I will never be the same person I was when we left, but more. That I will constantly dream of other places in the world. Where we can go, when we can go, or go back. And the realization that the possibility of that, can disappear in an instant. Nothing is guaranteed.

My oldest turned 18 a little over a year ago, and I suddenly realize that he is “officially” an adult. We all know that this is relative. There is plenty more learning and maturing that will happen. But in an instant, I no longer have control of many aspects of his life. His medical records and decisions. His school records and grades. I can’t call in for him when he is sick.  I have to hope that we have raised him well enough to do the right thing, or that he will ask us for advice.

Those moments, because they happen now and then, when you hear of a tragedy. When  you remember that your mother, father, siblings, husband, children, and friends, are not going to be here forever. That they, or you, could be gone tomorrow.  When the phone rings at an unusual hour, and your heart jumps into your throat. That your family could be broken, in an instant.

These “instants” happen throughout our life. Some are wonderful. Marriage, baby, adoption. Travel, new job, new house. Some are pretty good. Raise, good grade, great game. Some are disheartening. Sickness, job loss, broken pipe. Some are devastating. All of these instances put together, make us who we are. They remind us of the important things, and help us put events into perspective. They are a reality check. Because you just never know what could happen…..in an instant.

 

 

 

 

Blessings from Heaven- A Letter to my Friends

I have the most amazing friends. I am the luckiest lady alive. My life is far from perfect, but my friends are. They are perfect for me. I hope they know that.

I have a friend that I have known since the day she was born. She is one year younger than me.  Our families are very close. My earliest memory with her is riding tricycles in her driveway. We had dug a couple of old baby bottles out of the cupboard and had her mom fill them with juice for our “bike ride.” We were somewhere between 2 and 4 years old. We traded weekends at each other’s houses. Some of my best childhood memories.  She had to move away when I  was in middle school. I still remember the day we said goodbye.  We have never lived close to each other since, but we get together every few years, if even for a day while passing by on another trip. I hope she knows how often she is on my mind. I wish we could talk more, but when we do, it’s as if no time has passed at all. We have so many memories together, she might as well be my sister. She is, really. I hope she knows I love her. I can’t imagine my life without her in it.

Yesterday, I went out to lunch with a friend I have known since seventh grade. She cracks me up. We always have a great time. She makes me smile until my face hurts. I hope she knows how much I appreciate that. We have taken very different paths in life, but we still have so much in common. We only see each other a few times each year, as she works, and I have kids going in all directions, all the time. But when she calls to tell me she has a day off and wants to get together, it makes my day. Occasionally, we are joined by another classmate. The three of us have a blast. We also happen to have worked together at a movie theater. The best first job ever.  All the more shared memories. I hope they know how much I cherish our time together.

When I joined the local moms’ club In 2001, I met a phenomenal group of women.  I hope they know how lucky I feel to have found them. Our kids are of varying ages, but when we gather as families, there are always a few who are close enough in age to hang out together. We used to have potluck dinners every month, but as the kids got older, they dwindled. Everyone’s schedules are full. Besides, us moms need a break too, so many times we go out on our own.  Last Friday night, a few of us got together for a birthday. Dinner, bowling, and karaoke at a local bar. Just the ladies. These girls are part of a select few who I would get up and sing in public for.  Turns out…..I kind of liked it. We may be back. I hope they know how long it took me to wipe the grin off of my face that night.  I hope they know they mean the world to me.

About 9 years ago, we put an addition on our house. That summer we spent a lot of time outside due to the clutter and noise. That was when I got to know the neighbor a few houses down. We had met before, through a moms’ group friend, but hadn’t had time to hang out much. I hope she knows I gained more than just a bigger house that year. We are opposites in many ways, but not the important ones. She is a strong woman who has dealt with many hardships in life. I hope she realizes how amazing she is. She moved from that house a few years ago, but I know she’s always just a quick trip away. If she’s not, I hope she knows I will hunt her down. She’s stuck with me. Forever.

As an expat for four years, I had the privilege of meeting people from all over the world. I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to make friends from so many cultures, and even make new American friends, some from my home state, while living in Shanghai. I feel blessed that I still keep in contact with many of them online, meet up with a few that live nearby, and even vacation yearly with a Canadian family we met in China. I hope they know how honored I am that they are a part of my life. I hope they know how grateful I am for the ability to stay in contact through social media. I hope the women I was closest with, know how much I miss them.

Last year was a rough year in our family. We had several serious medical issues. As I sat in a hospital emergency room with one of my children, I chatted on a social media site with a high school classmate. We weren’t really friends in school, more of acquaintances who had a few classes together. I don’t know how we started the conversation, but I know that it helped calm me during a crisis. It was unexpected. I hope she knows how much that meant to me. Around the same time of year, I was also contacted by another classmate. In our school years, we occasionally talked on the bus, and our brothers were good friends, but we didn’t really know each other back then. I hope she realizes how much I appreciated her reaching out to me. I hope she knows how it touched me. I hope they both know how happy I am to call them friends.

I’ve recently started chatting online with, and getting together with a few of the younger relatives in my family. I didn’t really know them well, until the last few years. I hope they know how much I love seeing them grow up. What beautiful people they are becoming. How much I enjoy our conversations and messaging, giggling over old family photos, or whatever the topic of the day may be. Our breakfasts. Our spring break trip for a family wedding. I hope they know how much I love that I can call them a friend, as well as a sister or niece.

I hope all my friends, every single one of them, knows how rich my life is  just for having them in it. That I will always do my best to be there for them, as they have been for me. That they are irreplaceable. That they are perfect for me. That they are blessings from Heaven.

 

 

 

The American Gawker

I don’t think there’s any getting around the natural curiosity of people. Everyone at some point or another, will be interested in what someone else is doing, buying, reading, wearing, eating, saying, etc. In most cases, it is not intended to be malicious, something has merely peaked interest for some reason or another. Below is my version of the American Gawker.

The Incognito Gawker- This person is out in a public environment and the weather is such that they have sunglasses on. When something out of the ordinary catches their attention, they realize that they can place their head so it does not seem they are watching, while moving the eyes to an effective viewing position.

The Tourist Gawker-The Tourist gawker is also out in a public place, usually with at least one other person in their group. In this case, the gawking is usually caused by an unusual appearance or activity that could be easily captured in a still frame form.  One person will pose for a picture in a manner where the subject of interest is in the background, allowing a photo to be taken without it appearing suspicious.

The Morbid Curiosity Gawker- This gawker, or gawkers,  are either a secondary cause of a traffic backup, in the case where the accident is at least partially blocking traffic, or the main cause when it is not. As he or she slows down to try to identify the possible injuries or deaths, cause of an accident, damage done, and vehicles involved, they cause the remaining traffic to have to slow, or stop.

The Dart-Eyed Gawker- While watching a person, or group of people, this gawker will get caught in the act. This causes them to dart their eyes in another direction, as if they were actually in the process of turning to look at something else all along. It rarely works. Busted!

The Gap-Mouth Gawker- In this case, whatever the situation that is grabbing someone’s attention may be, it is so shocking that even though they will not walk right up to it, they will be beyond the worry of being noticed, so caught up in their amazement they are in a full-on stare.

The Background Gawker- This person is usually at a family event, a party, or wedding, and sits along the side of the room, or in a corner, watching events unfold. Rarely, does anyone even realize this person is still there. Hidden in plain view.

The Modern Technology Gawker- This gawker initiates a texting circle among friends or neighbors to find out what is going on with a mutual friend or neighbor. In most cases, these are started once a police car, ambulance, or other emergency vehicle is seen near, or at the subject’s house. It can also be caused by unfamiliar car observances, loud noises, or social activity.

The Small Town Gawker- This gawker will come out during the same situations as the Modern  Technology Gawker, barring snow, rain, hail or cold (these conditions would fall back to the above method),  and drift toward the subject of interest. Once finding another neighbor who may have information, they will gather at a distance and compare notes.

The Social Media Gawker- This person may, or may not be, a “lurker” who rarely posts, but reads news feeds and checks the home page of anyone that may peak their interest. This can happen on Facebook, Twitter, Pintrest, or any other similar social sites.

The Foodie Gawker- This most commonly occurs in restaurants where someone sees an interesting dish pass by on a tray. This person wants to know what it is.  If they still have a menu, they will immediate start scanning to find the item. This also occurs at ethnic restaurants. When one wants to find the tastiest and most authentic food or dish, they will find a restaurant with the most people who appears to be from the nation that the food is from, and then watch to see what they order.

The American Gawker usually does not want to be identified. They prefer to gawk on the sly. This happens for a number of reasons. One is because we are (correctly) taught that “staring” is not polite. We also don’t want to appear to be “nosy.”  In many cases, such as the Foodie Gawker, and once the situation has cleared, the Modern Technology Gawker or Small Town Gawker, they could just ask the person involved. This, however, is usually avoided due to embarrassment, lack of relationship with the subject, or fears of how the questions will be received.

Human curiosity is not going anywhere. Inquiring minds want to know. The gawking will continue, the methods will change and evolve with time. Who knows what it will be next!

 

 

 

Chinese People-Watching

Gawkers in China

August 12, 2008

Gawkers are seen every day in China, much the same as in the US.  However, in China people seem to find vastly different situations, and ways, in which to gawk. This is not something that occurs only when a fight breaks out or someone is injured, it is a part of daily life. One’s day would not be complete, without a little bit of gawking to break things up.

There are several types of Chinese gawkers. Below I have listed a few examples:

1. The Celebrity Gawker: This person is usually found at the zoo, museum, or other tourist attraction. They are Asian descent and are so excited to see a westerner, they need to capture the moment on film. To prove that they were actually there, they are  required to be in the photograph as well. The smaller the westerner the better, and if that child is wearing red they are a moving target. There will be no avoiding this type of gawker.

2. The Opportunistic Gawker: This person is afraid that they will miss something that is important, deeply discounted, or worth any sort of money earned, if they do not stop to see what others are looking at. Usually involving some sort of sign or advertisement, you will see up to 10 or more Chinese people reading it at once.

3. The Drama Gawker: This is the person who sees someone talking to a police officer and goes over to see what the commotion is about. The difference between this situation in the US and in China, is that the Chinese don’t mind if people are aware they are gawkers.  They will walk right up to the incident as if they were also involved, therefore positioning themselves to see and hear better. This crowd will grow up to 20-25 people.

4. The Cultural Gawker: This person, or group of people, want to see what westerners eat, wear, read, drink, smell like, talk like, look like, feel like………you get the point. If you pick up an item at the grocery store they will look over your shoulder, or wait until you walk away, and then pick up the product to inspect. If you are in an arcade they will watch you or your children play video games for hours on end. You might think that this person is waiting to play, but if you walk away they will wander off, most likely to show up at the next game you play. If you are found in a bookstore by this gawker, they may just sit right down to watch you look at books, providing commentary in Chinese. When you look up, they will smile and nod.

Most gawking directed towards the expat is done in a good-natured, curious way. They are intrigued. They would love to be your friend, if that darn language barrier didn’t get in the way. They would ask questions if they could. Sometimes they do, in what we grew to know as “advanced charades.” We were curious as well, but our people-watching was done with the American approach. On that note……coming soon…..the American Gawker version.

WINE and Milk

Today, as I wrote a grocery list for my husband to take to the store, I thought about the ways I try to relax. How I deal with the pressures of parenthood, and how I occasionally escape them.

The first thing that came to mind for my list, was WINE. I need wine, to deal with the whine. Recently, a glass of red every evening seems to do the trick. Two on a bad night. As the kids get older and want to drink soda and juice more, I tell them to drink more milk and water. I have even stopped buying juice and soda as often. But as I have reduced the money spent on those things, I have increased the funds spent on wine.

I start looking forward to my glass of vino around 3PM, but I won’t drink if I have to drive, so I usually have to wait until around 6PM.  It takes the edge off. Dealing with a pubescent  tween, and a teen, is a difficult task. One on the way in, one on the way out. One girl, one boy. Big mess. The college kid is still living at home too. This means we know if he wakes up late, gets to school or work late, doesn’t go to school or work, or stays up all night. Things we would be oblivious to if he were staying in a dorm. There is a perpetual parental lesson going on. I am constantly trying to find a happy medium for my younger two children, and give independence to the oldest to find his own way.

Every now and then, but not nearly enough, I get together with a group of friends from my city. We met years ago, when our children were toddlers and newborns, in a local moms’ club. We have grown very close. At times, they are my rock. I can say anything to them, and them to me. We do not judge. I recently started saying “I love you” to them. A lot. I do. They are amazing. I don’t ever want them to think otherwise. They make me laugh. They put me into happy hysterics. They keep me sane.

We went out on Friday night. We ate some food, and drank some wine. And some Rumchata coffee. And a few Rumchata and Fireball Martinis (Except the designated driver, of course…..and to that person, I got it next time. You deserve to drowned your worries now and then too.) We know when it’s time to stop, and we don’t do it often, but the occasional release from the everyday is bliss.

When I woke up on Saturday, I realized how much better I feel the next day, than when I did after a night of drinking in my twenties. I could actually function. My stomach felt a little off all day, but nothing like the miserable hangovers I had in my younger years. I thought to myself……I think I’ll skip my daily glass for a few days. Maybe even weeks. The thought of a drink was not appealing. When I was younger, it would have been weeks at least, before I would partake again, and I wouldn’t even make it out of bed that day. It’s not that I’m proud of my higher tolerance, I just find it interesting. When I recall back to childhood, I don’t remember my parents having a daily drink, at least not faithfully, until the first child hit high school.  It must be something about those teen years. One child affecting  you sooner than the last. A cumulative effect.

On the complete opposite side of the “party with friends” spectrum, the restorative effects a hot cup of coffee, quiet house, and a good book can have are amazing. Escaping from reality for a few hours. Living in a different world for just a bit. A warm blanket, a lap dog, a purring cat. Heaven

As I’ve gotten older,  I enjoy staying home more than going out. There are actually days that I have little battles of will in my brain. “Maybe I should have my gal pals over.”  “Ooooor….I could just snuggle into bed and watch Netflix.” “I could really use some girl time.” “Movie marathons with Bill are so nice though.” “If the kids are doing their own thing, it may be quiet.” “If not, we do have those really good ear plugs from our overseas flight days, and I’m reading a really great book.” Usually, a quiet evening at home wins. That’s what makes those girls’ nights out so special when they do happen.

This afternoon, as the tween mouth went off on a rampage, I realized one day without my glass was plenty. Cheers…. to the lessons I learn from the kids I love, the love of my life, whose always by my side, and the best friends a girl could have. None of which I could live without.