Monday May 12, 2008


So precious, the portrait is almost as loveable as the artist. Those are nostrils, in case you were wondering.

self portrait

Tuesday Sep 04, 2007

need some wedding ceremony ideas

My friend Aaron is getting married! He and his fiancee Jia Ling have asked Buddy and me to officiate the Beijing ceremony. We're honored and thrilled, and looking for good ideas for the ceremony.

Please think back to your own wedding or commitment ceremony. Which part was the most meaningful for you? What part do you remember most vividly? Please leave me a comment so I can get some ideas for Aaron's ceremony.

As for me, I was in a little white country church in Alabama. Buddy and I were standing in front of the pastor (my uncle and godfather) and I was looking at the beautiful arched windows behind him. All we could see through the windows were leaves on the trees outside, it was a collage of emerald and jade and sunshine. It was more beautiful than any stained glass I'd ever seen.

Thursday Aug 30, 2007

Miscellaneous Thursday Thoughts

Our house still for sale
Our house has been on the market for 4 weeks now and still hasn't sold. That's not surprising, given how hard it is for buyers to get a loan right now. Fortunately we can be patient on this one. Not like we have any choice....

Unlisted We Stand
Two times last week I was trying to find a friend's phone number via Yahoo's people search function and got this message "Unlisted Phone Number & Address Found." Both of these friends happened to be married women. So how did I find their numbers? Easy, I used the same website and searched for their husbands' names. They were listed.

Thank you for your votes
travel channel shot
Many thanks to everyone who voted for us in our contest. You guys are great, especially John and Forrest. If you look at the website it appears that we have been trounced by the family from Shanghai. That's because they cheated. No seriously, the website is only showing the votes cast by the Internet - it doesn't show the votes sent by cell phone. Buddy and I suspect the Shanghai family put all their effort into the internet voting and ignored the cell phone voting, so when the cell phone votes appear we'll suddenly pull out ahead. Or at least not as far behind as it would appear right now.

How can this be?
Last night the mosquitoes and I had an especially fierce battle. They bit me 4 times and I killed 8 of them. Now how is it possible that my dear husband sleeps through all of this and gets not one single bite?! It just doesn't seem right. I wanted to wake him up and bite him just to make myself feel better.

Wednesday Jul 05, 2006

Moving to China: what to take, what to leave?

My husband and I packed up our lives and 560 pounds of stuff last year and took a great leap into the unknown - we moved our family to Beijing. It seems we were part of a trend - my husband is one of thousands of "sea turtles" who return to China every year . There are also lots of folks who have no historical connection at all to China but are coming as well.

For anyone considering such a move, I thought I'd write a list of things I'm glad I brought with us from the U.S. to China, and things I could have just as well left at home.

Glad I brought:
- Books that are special to the kids. We can find English-language books here but not the ones that my kids love, and since books are easy to pack it makes sense to bring them along. And at bedtime on their first night in their new beds, my kids were really comforted to hear some familiar stories.
- Hand sanitizer. Our family doesn't have immunities yet for a lot of the germs we run across in China and as a result we've been sick quite a bit this first year. I think the hand sanitizer has warded off a few fevers and colds, I always have a small bottle in my purse.
- The kids' car seats. They're available here but oh so expensive, and I have no idea what sorts of safety standards they meet. Since car seats don't count as luggage as far as the airline is concerned, I'm really glad we brought ours.
- Greetings cards. The selection here just isn't as good.
- Photo albums. We love browsing through them when we feel homesick.
- The kids' sippie cups. I haven't found good, sturdy sippie cups here.
- Easter Egg dyes. While Jenny Lou's carries almost everything a Westerner could want, they were not ready for Easter this year. I was glad I had some dyes with me.
- Sturdy shoes. Most shoes here are...glitzier than I like. And most are not very sturdy. And the selection of shoes in size 40 (US size 9) is limited.
- Skin bronzer for my legs in summertime. The idea of bronzing your skin on purpose is foreign here, most people prefer to whiten their skin.
- Make-up. It's so expensive here and the selection is limited. Since mascara and blush took up very little space in my suitcase, I was really glad I brougt them.
Antiperspirant/Deodorant. I've found some versions of this in stores like Jenny Lou's or Carrefour but if you're particular about brands or if you prefer just antiperspirant or just deodorant, you're better off bringing your own with you from home. (Thanks to alert reader Robs for pointing out that I should update the list to include this one.)
- Over-the-Counter cold and flu medicines. Of course China has them but when I was awake at 3pm taking care of a sick baby it was nice to have medicines on hand that I knew and trusted. And could read the labels on.
- English-Chinese dictionary. Most of the dictionaries here are designed for Chinese people who are speaking English as a foreign language. It's hard to find a good one that has all the Chinese words written out in Roman characters (pin-yin).
- My iPod charger. I wondered if it would work in Chinese outlets. It did!
- Diapers for bigger toddlers. My son was 2-1/2 and almost potty-trained when we got here but he was still having accidents at night. We couldn't find diapers for a baby bigger than 16 pounds or so. Chinese parents potty-train their kids early!
- Swim diapers. Chinese kids don't need them - by the time they're ready to swim they're already potty-trained!

Why did I bring this?!:
- Kids' clothes. I'm glad we had clothes for the summer because it was hot when we got here, but we didn't need to fill our suitcases with winter clothes, especially boots and coats. I had stocked up on these items because I wasn't sure if I'd be able to find them in Beijing. Everything is readily available though. And for those who like sequins, Beijing has an especially wide variety of options. :)
- Kids' toys. Of course I'm glad we brought some of their special toys but we really didn't need 2 boxes full. Our apartment in Beijing is smaller than our house in California and I don't have room for all the toys we brought, not to mention the gifts people gave us when we got here.
- Shampoos, soaps, toothpaste. I've found all the products I brought with me at Jenny Lou's, and the prices were the same or cheaper than what I paid in the US. Chinese brands are also great and are easily available at the grocery store.
- Bottles of wine. They're heavy and if they had broken in our suitcases we would have been screwed. And stores like Jenny Lou's, Carrefour, and even Wal-Mart have a good supply of wines.
- All foods. We found everything we wanted at the Western grocery stores here. And China has some really good snacks and dry goods that aren't available in the US, so this is a good chance for us to enjoy what China has to offer.
- Birthday candles. China has way better birthday cake candles than anything we've dreamed of in the US. In fact some of the ones I've seen here could probably be categorized as small explosives.

Readers, if you brought something to Beijing that you didn't need or needed something you didn't bring, please leave a comment here and I will update this blog entry.

Thursday Jul 28, 2005

getting documents together for my Z-visa to work in China

In order to get my Z-visa to work in China I had to get a few documents together. It was not easy. If you're going to go through this, prepare yourself for hours of work and many repeated exercises, and maybe you'll get lucky and come away surprised at how easy it was.
The two most difficult documents I had to get were:
1. Physical Examination Form
2. Kinship Certificate

I'm by no means an expert on this process, but let me share with you what I learned from my own experience and also from the advice of others (thanks Mike, Yasmin and Debbie!)
1. Physical Examination Form

You can download this form here:

Here are some things to watch out for.
a. Photo: The form has a place for your passport-type photo. Ask the examining physician to sign the picture with some color of ink other than black. You want the signature to span your picture and the form in the background but it should not obscure your face.

b. Height/weight: The form asks for your weight and height. All the measurements should be in metrics. c. Chest X-ray: You'll have to produce an original film from your chest X-ray. The doctors' office that I visited has to keep the original on file, so in the end they took two X-rays and kept one original and gave the other to me. God knows howmanyfold I've increased by chances of getting cancer with this maneuver but anyway, I got the original films.

d. ECG: Similarly, you'll have to produce an original tape from your ECG. In my case this meant the doctors' office had to run two tests on me. They kept one original and I got the other.

e. Laboratory exam: The doctor has to run a blood test for HIV and syphilis serodiagnosis. There are different types of tests he or she can order. RPR is the one the Chinese government seems to want. As for the results of the test, you guessed it, they want the originals.

2. Kinship Certificate

My husband is a citizen of the PRC so I didn't need to prove my relationship to him. However my kids are US citizens and their visas will be dependant on mine. That's why I needed to provide a so-called kinship certificate, to prove that my kids are really mine. If you find you have to provide one of these, start off by reading the official, somewhat mind-boggling process here:
Here's how that played out for me though.

a. I got a copy of my kids' birth certificates from the county records office in the county where they were born. It had an embossed seal on it and looked really official so I took the birth certificates, a copy of my passport and copies of the kids' passport to the Chinese Consulate in San Francisco, along with this "Notarization/Authorization" form that I had filled out:

b. A very polite woman who worked at the Consulate told me that the birth certificate wasn't official enough, it needed to be notarized. That seemed like a crazy notion to me because you can't sign a birth certificate, so how would you notarize it?! Well, here's how.

c. I took the birth certificates to The Deputy for the Secretary of State of California at 455 Golden Gate Ave., Suite 14500, San Francisco, CA, 94104. The phone number is 415.557.8000. This office looked up the records and confirmed that the birth certificates were in fact authentic. They wrote a letter confirming this and then stapled it over the birth certificates. Apparently those staples are really important. You don't want them to get loose or God forbid remove them, in that case you have to start the whole process over again.

d. I photocopied both the birth certificate and also the letter of authentication from the Sec. of State. I have never in my life been so nervous about copying something - I did not want to mess up the staples. It turned out OK.

e. I took the authenticated birth certificates, the photocopies of the certificates, a copy of our passports and also my own original passport to the Chinese Consulate, where they told me I had all the documentation in order and I could come pick up my kinship certificates the following day. They might as well have told me I had won the lottery, I was so excited.

f. I returned the next day and, as promised, the kinship certificates were ready to pick up.

The grilled cheese sandwich of blogosphere


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