Wednesday, December 24, 2014

So Many Christmas Joys!

Yes!  It was an exciting Christmas Eve for me as I completed defrosting and cleaning out the downstairs freezer.  So many joys awaited me after years of ice piling up.  Granted- it actually was a rush to get it all organized and deiced and cleaned out with a strong disinfectant. Check!  That's off my list and that's a gift indeed!

Running around doing this and that.  Finding many reasons to be thankful to God for protection and family and good friends and love and so much more!  The older you get, sometimes the more appreciative you get!

Later on in the Christmas Eve evening, we did our traditional family gathering at my aunts with that whole side of the family.  Food, lots of it!  Laughing, lots of that!  Singing, some would say, unfortunately a lot if this:). Not bad - it's tradition and its just what we do to celebrate the holidays!

Merry Christmas!  Enjoy family, a day off, good times, nice weather - whatever you want to be thankful for this holiday!  

And I'm sharing my Christmas flowers with you!!!!  
Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Better Late Than Never?????

I'm a procrastinator!  I admit it and - as such -it's taken me a month to take care of things and send some Christmas packages out!  But - I pulled it together today and literally pulled it together!  One box, FROM China.  One box TO Thailand.  One box TO India!  Hold on friends - Christmas is coming!!!!!

And as an aside - I walked into the post office and saw this guy working at the window and I thought how I've seen him steady for the past probably 15 years at this post office.  And then I got up to his window and he said "I haven't seen you in a while!"  And I had to laugh at small town America!:)

Monday, December 15, 2014


It's my last trip of 2014!  I never know where the last one will be - I can already tell you where the first of 2015 will be!  I'm going out of 2014 with a cold wintry Minneapolis trip and coming into 2015 with a, hopefully, sunny and warm San Francisco trip!  You never know though, the weather has been crazy so those two might just be reversed?  Well see!

The weekend was spent catching up on some life, baking cookies for all my wonderfully amazing co workers in the office who, quite honestly, I couldn't do by job without and, even more honestly, I wouldn't want to do my job without them because they're so super amazing.  I don't think many people can say they really enjoy the people they work with quite as much as I enjoy my peeps!  

And then a Saturday night trip downtown to see Porgy And Bess, which I know the music but have never seen the actual play/operetta and I found it quite interesting and intriguing.  The ending was truly odd though - it was one of those endings that you're looking around and thinking "oh wait, so it's done?!"  And indeed it was done!:)

Ill be back on Thursday on a, blech, 5:45 a.m. Flight to rejoin all kinds of office meetings back on the home front.  Friday is just finally catch up - and then the week is done!  

But right now, I need to finish Monday so....

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Ah - The Mountain Folk!

I thought I was a fairly nice person, I thought I liked nice people.  It took CO to show me that I'm not only a horrible and mean person, but I think I actually like indifferent and not nice people! 

I was greeted late Tuesday night at the hotel by this front desk girl who was so sweet my teeth hurt!  I can't define her overly perky and lilting voice and the smiling and bright eyed countenance that she welcomed  me with.  But I can tell you it really annoyed me!  And it wasn't just a brief greeting - it was a long and carried out inquisition as to how I was doing and how my day went and if I was enjoying the holidays and so many other things before I had to interrupt her interrogation with the question "can I check in?" And then the eyes lit up and her voice raised a note and she responded "of course!".   I went back out to the car and when I came back in - she greeted me again like she'd never seen me before!

And then all throughout the next day, I'd go to look at something or pay for something and I was bombarded by these chipper extraordinarily happy people that I would cringe away from and all but snap at.  And the last time it happened in the afternoon - I felt that wave of guilt and the realization that I thought I was a nice person but I'm a stay in your own space person who doesn't like it when other people are out of their space and into your space friendly.  Walk by me and say hi - please do not walk by me and stop and start a conversation... Too much.  And with that I've concluded that I'm not a nice person because there's a point I wish bad things on those truly nice people.  See how bad I am?  Yuck.  Maybe that's something that I need to pray about and work on - I guess it wouldn't be that I'd change and become that but maybe that I can handle those sticky sweet people with grace, not cynicism.  Oh there are so many things I need to work on.... But baby step:)

I actually had to decide which friend du trip du jour I was going to pay a visit to in the Denver area.  One friend that is from here actually lives in India.  She's from Fort Collins outside of Denver and I actually worked in Fort Collins so as I drove around I thought "Oh - that's where Laura and I..." Or "I remember that from my last visit..." And then I got a little sad - but then I got a little inspired and decided to send her fam a Fort Collins Christmas package and so I started picking up CO candy and coffee and magazines.  And now I'm excited!  If she can't come to Fort Collins for the holidays then Ill send Fort Collins to her!:)

I stayed Tuesday evening in Fort Collins area and came back to Denver on Wesnesday after work and got to, not only meet up with, but see her hospital, go to her Bible study and stay at her place - my awesome friend Patti!  I met Patti when I worked with her at northwestern in Chicago.  And then her daughter moved to CO the beginning of 2014 and so Patti followed not long after and now she's managing a dept in a hospital in Wheat Ridge.  It was so awesome to see her and even cooler to get a mid week pick me up by meeting with a bunch of new friends/family in her Bible study group - and after the day I had on Wednesday I needed it!

And now it's with total sadness that I board a plane and leave the sun and the mountains of Colorado!  And never having had time to climb said mountain or run a trail or even enjoy the sun because I've been inside all day.  Sigh.  Bye mountains!  Bye outdoorsy people!  Bye friends!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Tears Of Laughter And Of Joy!

I was just meandering back through my blog posts as I was looking for a cookie recipe that I had put up a blue moon ago - turns out it was December of 2011 - time flies!  I couldn't remember whether it was 2013 or 2012 so I was going back through my Decembers and I remembered that two Decembers ago in 2012, I was just shy of my points to keep me at 1K status with United so I decided to pay my dear dear friend, Rachel, a quick Christmas visit in Thailand.  Oh the joy of Thailand in December!  90-100 degrees during the day - yes, it was hot, but oh - it was welcome!

On perusing down memory lane, I came upon one of my fave pictures!  I love Asian cultures that love English words - they use them, but they don't really make sense!  Unfortunately, this one made kind of sick sense - and thats why I love Rachel - because she loved this shirt!  Ah, its nice to be friends with someone who has a warped sense of humor just like you do! :)

What is the usefulness of antlers?
They are used for stabbing other animals that attack them.

And as I was suffering from a little bout of laughter, I got this email response from my Decatur customer who I was confirming with for tomorrow.  And now I can just end the day happy....

I'll be thrilled to see you. I will be here from around 7:30 until whenever

She'll be thrilled - sniff sniff - to see me!  And theres nothing wrong, theres nothing she's going to yell at me about - she just will be plain old happy to see me.  I love you C Schumard! :)

Hope and pray everyone is having just as wonderful a day as I am!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Say Cheese!.... And Corn....

The great thing about the holidays is that, usually, I am just wrapping things up with work and not proactively going out there and getting more.  WHICH - that usually means that I don't have to travel as much.  And this week, my traveling is keeping me home based which makes me feel semi normal (no comments please :).

Things have been slightly difficult as of late for me as, the normal just going out and selling, has now been raised a bar and its all out, gloves off battle with my competition (which will go unnamed as one of my traitor family members now works for them - grrr....).  I know they're lying about claims they make, but now, I have to sit down and read through oodles of legal documents that blah blah blah and I have to decipher what they say and make sure that I have a good argument to put to my customers and to-be customers.  ISO, FDA, ANSI/AAMI - why can't these people just speak plain and ordinary English.  Ah!  But - this week has been spent mind-numbingly reading through 100s of pages of these documents and procuring more because those documents have referred and led to other documents.

Yesterday was a day that my brain got a little clearing, but my back and rear got exceptionally tired.  I was in the car for a little over three hours going to Platteville, WI.  And then a delightful three hours back.  The nice thing about Platteville is that it is the section of Wisconsin where, once you get through all that open and undeveloped dairyland, there are some great rock cliffs and interesting scenery.  And to top off a nice drive in the country, my first three hours resulted in an extremely nice customer visit.  I actually got to help a customer who is wanting to purchase my product but is having a problem sourcing it through their distributor.  I actually have someone who is desperately searching for my product! :)  Such a wonderful feeling.

Friday I have to go down to Decatur, IL (aka -- CORN.... actually, technically, SOYBEANS!) to again visit an extremely nice customer who very much likes me.  You don't know how much it means when you get "thank you for your help!" and emails sent to administration that say "I love working with Alison because she's always there to help us".  Its like a breath of proverbial fresh air.  It makes me enjoy my job and during those horrible days when people are breathing down my neck and I feel like I'm going to crack, I remember the customers who actually appreciate me - and I breathe a sigh of "ah, there are people who like me and my product :)"

Insert for the day - remember when you graduated from college and a year or so after, there was that rash of friends and others you went to school with who entered into wedded bliss.  Invitations, rumors and newsletters that announced, so and so are getting married!

I've discovered that when you work with youth group for enough years, you go through that rash again, but now they're your friend/youth groupers.  I have no thoughts on it except that, the wallet gets a little thinner and, unless they were thick with people at church, you're stuck sitting at dinners and receptions by your lonesome and meeting a lot of new people.

Admittedly, its a different time and people don't tend to get married as young as they used to?  Its just kind of an observation.  I had a rash with the ones just out of college (which was maybe three) and the rest have gone on and gotten masters or started careers and then have wisely chosen to tie the knot.  And so comes Amanda.... there were several who I had in youth group and we just got to be friends rather than "youth group leader/youth" and we continued out of youth group and through college and now after.  Now - my friend, Amanda, is going off and getting married.  And I'm extremely excited for her and proud of her!   Save the date! :)

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Are All Cowboys This Hot?!

This has been a hard week for me...
Yes, work has been difficult....
But being surrounded by all these hats and boots has been so tempting - and then I saw this hottie and I'm head over heels and ready to move to Amarillo!

And such is a fine example of sarcasm:)
Can you believe the facial hair on this guy?!  And you can see underneath he was probably a really good looking guy!  I blame the woman who didn't say "Hank - shave that face or no more smoochin, dad nab it!"

As mentioned - work was not great.  We were once again foiled by my competitor - but we're not giving up and neither is my customer.  I've been scared of the director and all others at this site, but theyre being won over and I'm being as open and honest as possible so I'm  gaining their undying loyalty -I hope and pray!:)

By Friday afternoon we knew we couldn't do anything more so we had a meeting with Materials and then I treated my installer to fee admission at the American Quarter Horse Museum:). I know - now everyone wants to work with me!  
They actually have horses so he was semi interested.  I learned a very little bit and, as always, was impressed by the muscle tone on those horses!  It's unbelievable!  I wish I could get that muscle definition - but I wouldn't want to herd cows or wrangle of rope or whatever else you have to do as a Quarter Horse.  So never mind... 

And now it's Saturday and I'm on my way home via Denver...

And I'm hopefully returning to a little "warm" weather for a few days!  Back to the land of snow boots and knit hats!  No cowboy boots or ten gallon hats here!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Way Out Yonder

On my way to Amarillo, TX - passing through Denver.  And so begins a different world.

Denver is an airport full of cowboy boots and huge hats - little boys clad with western wear headed to "steer ridin" competitions in "Junction Springs".  Old men in plaid with worn out ball caps sitting behind you chatting in sauntering tones about stabbing things in the neck and the taste of certain meats as opposed to others....
Excuse me while I put my headphones on.

And so two delightful days in Amarillo commence.  Not much different down there except for that the only meat you really eat is cow ... And if you can eat 72 oz of it in one sitting - you get the meat and a t-shirt for free!
Hold me back!

We land and immediately outside the gate we're presented with a large JW table with two big haired ladies holding a sign that says "Is Satan Real?"

My bags come out on the luggage belt surrounded by rifle cases while various men in camouflage strap their backpacks on and grab their gear and discuss heading out for the hunting championships.


Friday, November 14, 2014

Going Home Again

Thank goodness this flight isn't as long what I had on Tuesday!  And I've definitely been warmer even though its been colder - heat on demand really warms even a cold country up!

Didn't get everything I had expected to done on this trip.  Disappointing but I suppose that's life.  I'm learning to pick my battles and be willing and ok to lose some!  Ah - sweet resignation!

Got back to the airport early enough to grab something to eat.  Julie had been taking about how when they fly out if Minneapolis they have to grab her beloved chick fil a one last time before returning to a sad, cold, chick fil a-less country.  Decided I was going to head that way just in her memory - well, she's still with us so it was not "in her memory".   It was a little hike and I passed a Pei Wei and a couple other places that looked good, but I continued on because I was missing the Julie's.... And then I got there and got my chick fil a and it just made me feel close to them so....
Julie - I ate my chicken sandwich just for you!  But don't tell Eli:)

Thursday, November 13, 2014

I Can't Do Math...

But at least I can read:)

Are we in China?!

And is it sad that when the bag guy brought my plane side checked bag up - his comment to me as he looked at and handed me my bag was .... "A lot of travel...."  As in - get a life!

It's snowy and cold - but it's sunny here in the cities!

Deicing Season Is Upon Us!

I got back in from China Tuesday night.  Worked at home and caught up on laundry and life on Wednesday.  And now I'm back on a plane headed to Minneapolis on Thursday.

There was some light Chicago snow this morning so as they were closing the doors - that horrid word was spoken.  "We will be waiting as we deice the plane".  Wah!!!! Not already!  I'm not ready for another winter.

But I'm resigned that it will happen.  I need to steel myself and just buckle in and wait it out until next spring.  At least we have the holidays to look forward to - and then many more months of winter....

Consider voting for me?  Christmas - February 2015!  Makes it so much more tolerable when you've got that festive holiday to look forward to!  

Wednesday, November 12, 2014


It's hour three of my 13 hour flight from Beijing and I'm already getting contemplative and introspective.

I've been sitting here - actually laying here as I have three empty seats to stretch out in - God is so good even to give us little things like 3 empty seats:). I've been laying here thinking about the "greenhouse of faith" that I'm leaving behind.  I've been thinking about the difference between growing your faith and giving your faith and I've come to the conclusion that - there is no difference.  

It seems that we, as Christians, always feel like we have to be so intentional with our faith - always giving, always doing, always reaching out.  However, when I consider what faith is and what active, growing faith is... It's imploding!  

Imploding is a word I use often in my line of work.  So let me explain my thought process via example.

In a hospital CS, most departments will have a machine called an ultrasonic.  An ultrasonic is a kind of bath of water, usually about 12-15 gallons.  You take a set of dirty instruments and immerse it down into this bath, push the "on" button and its starts sending out high frequency waves through this bath of water which subsequently creates these tiny little bubbles that start churning out through the water and land on the dirty surgical instruments and then IMPLODE!  This is the most amazing way to clean!  When you blow a bubble and it EXPLODES, it merely pops and makes a big noise and just spatters everywhere being nothing more than a nuisance rather than something amazing.  But the amazing act of IMPLOSION is that when those tiny bubbles hit the instrument and a chunk of debris, the bubbles implode and creates this amazing vacuum that just sucks everything in with it on the way out.

Imploding faith is this faith that is so deep and so spontaneous that it goes out in everyday life and just implodes because its so full of God.  And when it does so, instead of just making noise and mess -it actually just spontaneously draws in the mess and the yuck and when faith pulls mess and yuck in, it hands it to God who makes more amazing implosions.

Faith is the thing scripture calls unseen but it is seen because we experience it daily and when we experience those small bursts of faith, it can't help but affect others.

What I think God has taught me these past weeks is -don't worry about giving your faith - it's not yours to give anyways... Be more concerned with growing your faith because through growing it you can help but start living it and by living it, it just naturally implodes it and then God can take those people that your implosions pull in and God can touch a heart and can cause an implosion there.

I've been imploded on these past few weeks.  It's an amazing experience and it makes me want to go home and start looking to God more to grow my faith so that my sharing comes through those same natural implosions that I've witnessed in China. 

Thank you for your imploding faith - Zach, Julie, Phyllis, Garry, Elaine, JJ - and others that I indirectly/directly experienced through being involved in a conversation or witnessing your faith in action while you were showing hospitality.  Thanks to the implosions that you created with Zach and Julie!  

This post is dedicated to all those great greenhouse Christians that I've left behind who are working through their faith - keep on working and doing great things for God through that working through!  We'll be praying for you!

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Long And Short Of It

Im sitting at the airport getting ready to leave China.  And as I sit, I'm considering some things...

Things Ill Miss
-Seeing the sun (which I actually SAW more these past two weeks than Ill probably see at home starting Chicagi winter!)
-Pretzel rolls from Jenny's
-Red bean scones.... My last one at the airport:(

-Cheap name brand shoes, purses and clothes from little shops that try to act like they're not there.
-Feeling like I'm some kind of movie star when I go out and random people point and take my picture because I look different (and to my friends and family - no smart comments about my looking "different"..:) 
-Chinese Starbucks chats with my friend:)!  This should actually be number one!
-Appreciating the ability - no - expectation to have and exhibit emotions when you're driving or being pushed around in a line or on a train
-The danger of just crossing a street
-Feeling this amazing community of growing, thriving, stumbling, breathing, hurting, loving, forgiving, messing up and trying it again believers that I sometimes wonder if Ill ever feel in the states because this atmosphere creates this greenhouse of faith that spills out the windows and doors and affects others in a way you can't help but notice.  I'm especially sad about leaving these people!  Zach and Julie being prime example number one!

-Crowded subway trains with people leaning on your back and stepping on your toes and shoving in the minute the doors open 
-Playing "I'm it" when standing at a checkout and fighting for your place in line!
-People who are unaware of the concept of a schedule or time
-Breathing chunky, black air
-Not seeing the sun because of the black, chunky air 
-Squatty potties
-Throwing your used toilet paper in a trash can instead of said toilet 
-Trying to figure out how much money you're getting every time you go to an ATM
-Spotty speedy Internet
-Feeling like you're in a game of Frogger when you're in a car
-Not being the one having fun playing Frogger while you're in a car - you just can't get as angry or frustrated if you're not behind the wheel!:)
-An entire country that doesn't have the ability to even comprehend basic good manners and the act of thinking of someone else that you may not even know.
-Ordering a coffee from Starbucks and just having to keep it to the pictures and the actual list of drinks - no special orders like 3 pumps or 3 shots or hazelnut latte.  Just point and say the words they know
-Exceedingly dirty cars you accidentally brush up against and get the dirt from 1000 factories on you
-Putting things in your mouth that you literally don't know where they've been- all while a group of eager Chinese watch you with great expectation
-Doing laundry and not having a dryer:)



Goodnight China!

Its my last day here in China.  I'm sad.  I'm not feeling like I'm actually leaving tomorrow.  When I was getting ready to come here I was thinking - two and half weeks is SO long.  And now that its over - it wasn't long at all - I think it just started yesterday.  I seriously feel like I really haven't been here that long - or maybe it feels like I've been here so long that its just life here and now I have to go back to my own real reality.  

There was a mistake with something that we bought yesterday at the Pearl Market and we were going to leave it, but then we found that the woman actually forgot to put something in the bag that we had bought.  So, we decided another trip down was due but we decided to get up early so we could be back by noon.
We left around 8:30, got to the shop and got what we needed (and yet again some more :(.... Grabbed Starbucks and chilled for a short short while, and then got back on the train for the 40 minute ride back home.  

The next stop we made was one other shop that we didn't have enough cash at on Saturday.  They have all this woodwork stuff and so there were a few things I wanted for Christmas.  We popped back in there - and once again, walked away with more that what was expected.  But on the plus side for both of us - Christmas is done! :)

Because we were close to Jenny's, we went over for some guacamole and chips and Starbucks again - and a nice long chat about this and that.  And then over to Jenny's just to get a few things for the evening and for my plane ride home.  Since I don't eat plane food, I usually try to grab something before I get on the flight.  However, in the Beijing airport, theres really not a lot thats palatable to tie on a flight and have a sane stomach the whole way.  So I'm just going to bring some stuff with me. 

And the primary thing I had requested to get, because she did this last time for me and it was the most amazing thing!  Julie had cut up a pomelo for me and I brought it on the flight and ate the whole thing!  I had to have it again - and its seriously one of my favorite fruits and not as good or easy to get in the states so - I had to have one last Chinese pomelo!

Quick insert as its been intriguing me this whole trip... I caught this on the way over to another shop this evening.  They have a car brand here called "Great Wall" and this is the symbol.  I don't know why it intrigued me - just did....

Julie had asked what I wanted as my "last meal" here and so the first thing that popped into my head was - DUMPLINGS!  They're so amazing.  Theres a restaurant around the corner that they go to and they have seriously good dumplings.  There are ones that are kind of boiled and ones that are fried.  All delicious!  It made me happy - it made me sad..... No more dumplings for a while...

Last wine and dumplings with Zach and Julie.... I think I'll definitely miss the Zach and Julie part WAY more than the dumplings or the wine!

And then I headed upstairs to pack.  All of my stuff including Christmas presents (so no one look to hard....) and I'm taking stuff back for Julie so she came up and kept me company as she packed up all the different gifts that she wants me to bring back to family in the states.

And now I'm pretty much all packed, I'm checked in and all my bags accepted and checked off on so I'm feeling good and ready.  And now I'm just doing one last evening post.

Last goodnight for a while China!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Brief But Funny/Picturesque Day

We went back shopping today.... I was actually quite controlled so - yay me! :)  I had planned on getting a few pairs of shoes this weekend and I was a very good shopper and got the ones I wanted plus a few Christmas presents and then said "no" to the Burberry bag that was calling my name.  I have to have something to come back for right?!

The day flew by and we just basically shopped and were transported so - its a picture post....
Oh, I should add that Julie brought attention to the announcement that is playing when you get on the escalator at the train station at The Pearl Market.  Its an Asian woman speaking English and so she basically says something about being careful getting on and please hold the "hand rural"  At least thats what it sounds like - I know its supposed to be rail but - she didn't quite make it on that one!

Pictures follow....

Theres a "Mind the gap" in every language except American English?  Why don't they warn us on our trains?

In case Melissa is watching my posts.... this one is for you.... If you had an iPhone I would have gotten for you!

And this one - I couldn't pass it up!  I was waiting for Julie outside of the toy shop and a woman brought her baby out and put him over the grate and - potty training in action....  The whistle - the hole in the pants... Its all here and I was very happy she didn't just have him go on the sidewalk or the street!  But I caught the action shot I've always wanted!

And before we left the Pearl Market, we stopped at Starbucks (again - we decided to do a tall on the way into shopping and a tall on the way out - only we ended up grande-ing it after all the exhausting shopping!).  While I got coffees, I sent Julie over to grab seats at a community style table.  There were two men sitting on the other side and when I finally got the coffees and came over, they had started a conversation with Julie.  
Their story is they're from a provence in China - north or south, can't remember - but they had come to Beijing for 11 days because the son (in red) is in high school and is interviewing with several American private high schools to go to the states for a year for school.  He's 14!  Ah!  I can't imagine sending your child away for that long at that age.  
He spoke very good English and his dad was actually impressive as well - he understood pretty much everything we said, and he was halfway good at speaking but ended up just having his son translate on several things (like a Chinese eggplant recipe that he gave to Julie :).
They were telling us about only having one child and that they would be fined if they had any other children - so he was the only one.  They talked about different areas of China to go to and the dad's job.  We talked about Virginia and Chicago and Massachusetts.  They were really sweet.  The dad was just so cute - you could tell he was dressed up in his proverbial Sunday best and he was just SO proud of his son and you could tell he has such high hopes for him.  
As we sat there and talked, we finished out coffees and the dad whispered to the boy and they did some back and forth and then the son said that his father and he wanted to buy us a tea or a coffee.  Julie was like "no" - and they were insistent... And so we ended up letting us get something even though I think we were a little coffee-d out.  But how can you say no to such absolutely happy and kind faces!  You could tell they were just so happy to meet nice people in the "big city" - and on top of that to meet Americans who would speak English to them for such a long time.
I think they were one of the highlights of the day!

This evening was spent eating dinner at an Anderson friend's (I like them too though so I'll call them my friends as well :) house and then we went back for a movie - "Edge of Tomorrow" with Tom Cruise.  It was like "Groundhog Day", but no Bill Murray and the laughs were very short-lived.  It was sci-fi "Groundhog Day" and it was actually pretty good.  I think it might be because it had the same producer or director or something as "The Bourne" series and if you know me you know I love those movies.  
Would I watch this one again - probably.  Would I recommend it - probably.

And thats my day in a nutshell...
And a movie review for those of you who care....

Saturday Has Come And Gone

Day 2 of foot massages.  From here on out - its as much and as often as I can get them!  Its unbelievable how long I've been in China and I've just not gone done to the little spa place to do foot massages like every night!  But here I am, last night being the second one.  I know I've talked about the intense and angry Russian massages I've gotten, but its nothing on the Chinese foot massage!  They're not angry, but I think they're out to prove how strong they are - they take the skin off you just by massaging!  But it feels amazing - lasts for an hour - and is pretty much dirty cheap.  SO - when in China.....!

Saturday was this day that just flitted by with a lot of "nothing" but exciting nothing that left me wondering at the end of the day - where did the time go?

Jasper is in a soccer - excuse me - football league and so he had this fall game thing today that was being held at the international school.  It was an absolutely beautiful do - sun was out, not freezing, absolutely pleasant so, there was no issue with going and standing in the sunshine watching a bunch of cute kids kicking around a soccer ball!

The international school was absolutely amazing.  It felt like we were in the states with the whole design and the feel of the building and the the huge fields for soccer and football and running tracks.  As I was told - "we" (as in all of you who are American) paid for the building.  Embassy and military kids can attend - I would be starting a rumor if I said for absolutely free as I'm not really sure.  But then, outside of them, if you want to attend the school its apparently extremely expensive - expensive as in BMW new car expensive to go.  Not sure how I'm feeling about that considering if my friends were in the states, whether they were military or embassy or not, their kids would be attending public school for free.  Now - any way you slice it, they're having to pay to educate their kids.  I did let Julie know that I would talk to "my people" when I get back home.... I just have to find out who those people are.... :)

In fact, I had been telling Julie that I've always thought that I'm going to run for President based on two MAJOR issues that I think everyone would at some level get on board with...
1 - The US highway system would turn into the Baltimore Turnpike which is there is one set of roads for cars and then other set is for trucks - if you're a normal person... no more driving with a semi on your back or trying to push you over or just not looking as they merge over.  DONE!  TWO ROADS FOR EVERYONE!

2 - Spread the holidays out.  I'm moving Christmas!  We start into winter and then we have wonderful Thanksgiving and not even a month later we have warm and happy Christmas and then a week later we have not one, but two festive days in New Years Eve and New Years Day!  And then after that - its just bleak winter for like 4 more months with no great holidays but silly ones like Valentines Day that so many of us sad and lonely people never get to celebrate anyways (very biased if you ask me).  I say - lets do Thanksgiving, then the New Years holidays and then we'll just cancel silly Cupid and move Christmas to like mid or end of February so then it breaks up our horrid and depressingly dark months with something good to anticipate!  Everyone I've put this idea to liked it!  It could be an American thing!

And the newest thing I'm adding to my campaign platform, is for all those internationals out there... Thanks to Julie's suggestion!
3 - All Americans, no matter where you live, no matter who you are - if there is an American based school and if you pay taxes to the US.... you get free eduction!  Seriously - give us a break!  Actually - give THEM a break!  This one's for you Zach and Julie - hopefully I make it in before your kids are completely finished with school!

There were different ages of kids that played and so they were divided up throughout the day into those groups.  They did some warm up practices to begin with..... Look how adorable that little blonde headed soccer champion is! :)....  He looks like a little seal, he's so talented!

They then proceeded to be divided up into further groups and then 4 teams in each group.  They then played their little hearts out!

While all the adults stood on the sidelines cheering -and talking.  The sun was so enjoyable, you could do anything and find it pleasant!

Run Jasper Run!  By the way - don't cheer for that orange team... they were not very good sports.  They called my Jasper and his friends "suckers" - even though they're Asian and they way they used the word, I don't think they really know what it means....

And the award ceremony - those things are dog gone heavy!  I know its not real gold, but it sure felt like it!

Its "football" because its run by the British - but we all know what its really called! :)

And after the game, we went over to where Jenny's is and Julie and I got to enjoy some amazing Indian food - because when in China.... 

Puppies for sale outside of Jenny's... They're "sooo cute!" to quote Jasper
And as soon as we got home, we went to dinner... ugh - so full still from Indian, but Hot Pot is an adventure not to be missed!  Especially when shared with 6 children and 5 adults!  Hot Pot is kind of like The Melting Pot - but Asian.  You put in meat and veggies and all but theres a sauce bar where you go up and mix the sauces that you want that you put all the hot pot stuff in.

And no hot pot adventure would be complete without "Noodle Guy"!

A good evening was had by all - especially the quick and hungry ones!

And foot massage for Alison followed meal so - an especially good evening was had by me!!!!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Try Not To Be Incontent

For those of you who are panicking that I wasn't able to return to Beijing - I did so - YAY!  I've spent all day today (Friday) basically recovering from that and from the unfortunate even that you'll discover at the end of my post.  And I've been helping Julie doing some baking and cooking as they were having their small group over tonight.  I've discovered she's a majorly better cook than myself as the dessert I made for the group to help her - was not a help and turned out scary :(  I've learned I shouldn't quit my day job...

The other night (and I told Julie this was going on the blog!:) we were watching a movie and when it finished, she was rather contemplative and started talking, making the initial statement "Why is it that we're so incontent" and then the rest of what she said was "blah blah" until I finally couldn't resist and asked "what was that word you used?" But the best was when she identified the word and said "isn't that a word?"  LOL - so now its my new go-to word!  I'm trying not to be incontent!  Not to be confused with incontinent!  Good word...bad word!

So my day of trying not to be incontent started at 6:30 a.m. Thursday when I got up.... Got picked up a little before 8.  Went to the Beijing train station and was led around blindly by one of the guys from the company who speaks NO English.  And I walk fast, but this guy was speedy Chinese Gonzales!  I couldn't keep up with him - and it doesn't help that the goofy Chinese floor tiles are kept EXCEPTIONALLY shiny and ergo slippery and the shoes I was wearing - I was pretty sure I was gonna wipe out.  Thankfully I kept up with him - I felt like it was one of those movies where the little kid is following their parent around and they can barely keep up.  But, if he was trying to lose me he didn't.  And we made it to the ticket line where we were pushed and shoved and knocked around as ALL of Beijing is trying to escape the city for their 6 day holiday thanks to APEC!

About 15 minutes after we got there, the rest of the team (Icy, Tom and Leo) joined us and we had time to get a sad coffee until Tom informed me that there was a Starbucks down the hall.  I told them I'd be back and I didn't even wait for a response - I just took off :)!  And I was so happy that I got a venti latte (unfortunately no other country besides Italy seems to do breves...) and made it to the train with a big smile on my face - ready to face the day in which I had no clue what was in store for me.

We took the high speed (aka Bullet train) and it was pretty crowded but the seats were pretty spacious, although not completely comfortable.  I did some reading along the way and Icy actually had a conference call with my company about some of our shipping details that I have not clue about.

Leaving the Beijing station
Passing fields outside of Beijing

Bao ding dong?  My favorite station EVER! :)

Pulling into the station - bullet trains lined up

We got into Handong about 12:30 pm and I was told "ok now, we go have a little lunch with head nurse.  She has meetings and so we go to hospital later".  I always hate it when they use the words "later" or "in a little while" because you have no clue what they mean by that.  It could be 10 minutes, it could be 2 hours.  And I think by working with them I've determined that I don't like not knowing what the plan is.  Ok, I will admit that most of my life is consumed with not liking when I don't know the plan.  Just give me a general idea and time frame and I'm happy to tag along,  l like to have an expectation.  And its really really hard when you feel the need to work like that in China because they tell you NOTHING except what you need at that minute.

Jumped in a taxi and went over to a pretty nice hotel where we met the head nurse in one of the little private dining rooms they have so often in Chinese restaurants.  She ordered all these dishes from their region which, thank goodness, were basically vegetable based - even though the vegetables were things like "lotus root" and "juju fruit".  But its from the earth and so I'm happy with it.  There were a few dishes that had some strange meats in them.  Oh - one of the dishes was this kind of jerky, freeze dried patty of meat and fat and cartilage and other little bits of something and I'm not sure, but I'm pretty sure it was horse.  I choked that down with some water - score.  And then the piece de resistance was the soup.  Its a soup that they served up to us out of this big pot.  And in China, when you take drinks or eat some stuff from what they've served you, they just fill it back up again.  So the key is to just not eat anymore if you don't want anymore.  Anyways - this soup thing, you could tell there was cabbage and some stuff in it and there was definitely meat.  I ate the first bowl down, the meat was disgusting as it had the skin and the fat still on it.  The second bowl she filled, I started to eat a little and then came on these wads of veins or arteries or some big bundle of grossness that was ripped out and boiled up.  I couldn't even do it so, it was time for me to put my chopsticks down and back off from the bowl.  And the kicker of the soup was, they kept on trying to get me to eat it and then they said "this is wedding soup!  It is soup that brings good luck and makes you happy!"  It did not make me happy! :(  Lunch done!

BTW - Thanks Rach for the awesome picture of Chinese eating culture!  This is a MUST see!!!! :)

The head nurse was extremely extremely nice and welcoming and so excited that I came.  Very hospitable - and did not speak a word of English except "goodbye".  She felt really bad that she had this meeting to go to and she wouldn't be getting done until "later".  I felt it was going to be a long day... And it was already 2pm.

She went her way and we got another cab and went over by the hospital, but directly across from the hospital was this really nice park that they decided we were going to stroll around in.  It had the old city walls and the palace in it so we would get to visit that "a little later" :)  I'm loving using these phrases because this is exactly what I was being told.

The park was actually really beautiful.  Honestly, Handong was a pretty beautiful city and this park was meticulous and clean and happy.  It put me in a much better place in my head and I think it helped turned my ook into something a little more positive.  In hindsight, it definitely fueled me through the rest of the day - well, until I really got to the end of my rope but that didn't come until a little later.

I did like working with this group before, but I actually really enjoyed just hanging out with them.  They were funny and extremely kind and our conversations, when we weren't talking work came pretty easily.

The old city walls and palace

Icy was trying to read what he was reading, I think its like old people graffiti that fades...
She did say he has beautiful writing

I'm sure they've touched up this paint, but the colors and detail were absolutely gorgeous!

Pagoda tree and "wishes" tied on ribbons around the tree

The tall white building in the distance is the new #1 hospital that we worked at.  Since its built in the old district and across from the old city walls, its not allowed to be taller than than the old palace so it could only be eight floors.  Which is still a pretty tall palace!

Icy - Alison :)

And this is what you get from hanging out with Asian people at tourist attractions.... They want to take pictures of you - and the person taking pictures fancies himself a photographer so it was "stand there" "come here" "come here" "step over here"....
Which resulted in about 40 pictures taken from slightly different angles in slightly different poses....

This is actually a different picture than the one above - but I was supposed to come forward three steps to get a different angle?  Not sure if it worked?

Looking down from where the king would have stood to talk to his "peeps" :)

Tom, Leo and Icy (yes, these are not their actual names, but they're their English names)
I love this picture of a grandpa and his little granddaughter... I couldn't figure out if he was trying got get her to jump through the hoop though?

Looking down on the park

I was reading on the train and so Icy was telling me that no one in China reads.  She said they all play games on their phones or sleep.  So when we were walking through the park and saw this guy - I had to point it out and we all had a good laugh - and Tom said "he only has books because he not afford phone".  :)

This park was so full of older people - and heres another one of those "dancin old people" groups!  I love it!  They had this whole choreographed thing and they worked on it the whole time and then would take little breaks where they did stretches and drank water.  So intensely awesome!  I seriously am gonna start one of these groups when I get old in America!  It will be revolutionary!!!!

And here's the best - if you look to your far right, theres a little woman in a brown sweater.  She must have forgotten her drums and ribbons that day, but she had the routine down.  So she's banging on her imaginary drum and waving her imaginary ribbons and I thinking - weirdo - and then I thought - you know what, you go girl!  Be loud and proud and don't care if people think you're crazy because at least you're old and out there moving it!!!  I'm actually the crazy one standing there laughing at you when I haven't even done anything remotely "exercisey" in the last 2 days!  I should join in with my imaginary dance wear!

And then - I love that the playgrounds in China - they aren't playgrounds for children - they're for old people.  They all come and just converse and do exercises and all play around on the equipment.

And this is my all time favorite picture!  First Icy and I were laughing and actually very impressed at this old gymnast guy who was swinging like he was Mitch Gaylord - Seriously, he was on this thing for a long time - never touched the ground  Icy kept on saying "so strong!"  So, after we laughed and then were impressed by all that, we started laughing about the fact that there were 3 women gathered around him.  I couldn't figure out who his wife was but maybe he was a widower and all these single old ladies were all after strong guy not on the bars!  And then after I took the picture, I noticed the scowl on the woman's face in the very front - and I think I've determined that that might just be his wife.  She's so sick of everyone oohing and ahing over her amazing husband but she feels like she has to stand there and make sure no one snatches him up.  So she stands there duty bound, and scowling.  Poor woman...  Ok - that my guess story.

We finally did go over to the hospital around 4:30 or 5 pm.  And continued to sit there and wait for the head nurse who would come "in a little while".  We sat around and talked about Beijing and APEC and pollution meters and all kinds of things.  And finally the head nurse came and brought two of her fellow directors from other local hospitals with her.  We all donned up and then went back for her to proudly give me a tour of her whole department.  It was amazing!  It was amazing because - I'm not saying that American standards are the best, but they definitely have a lot of positive things that made a department better if you follow them.  Its really up and coming standard wise.  These are not the standards of China.  However, this head nurse was definitely working at making her department up and coming.  It was quite impressive that she was coming up with standards for her department and she didn't really know our AAMI guidelines.  She was so proud of the department and every time I would act impressed with something or laud her for a creative approach to something, she would just beam and smile.  Oh - I should add, that this whole time, on top of these other two ladies, there was an entourage of like 4 people who were circling us and just taking pictures.  I felt like I was famous or something, but I'm quite sure the don't really see westerners that much this far from Beijing.  It was quite unnerving as I was trying to listen or comment or look at something as there were flashes and snaps happening continuously.  I finally gave up trying to stay on my best "photo behavior" and just acted normally so - who knows what kinds of pictures are going to wind up in the Handong Hospital #1 newsletter this coming month.... :)

Tom with his messy English was even laughing at the two last words.... I won't spoil the surprise for you...

You've got to love a country where they even have to put these signs in a hospital!  I am honestly so sick of the sounds of people pulling up all their phlegm and spitting it out.  Ack!  Welcome to China!

We got to the dirty side, where my product is being used.  We had a great tour there and then they started asking questions.  And BOY do the Chinese ask some questions.  They ask really ridiculous questions and they can't take an answer but just keep on asking the same question a million different ways unless they get an answer they want.  Another point of my personality that I'm finding is that I am extremely defensive and they tend to word things very personally so it felt like my immediate response was to want to go off - but I had to swallow and just pray, God help me be patient.  And when they kept on lambasting my product, I'd start off nice and then after the same question 10 times later, I was really really trying to be nice and keep my patience.  I don't think I did.  I felt my answers and they weren't very diplomatic :(  They just don't take "let me check and I'll get back to you" as an answer.

The head nurse of Handong #1 Hospital - the "dirty" department that was 100 times cleaner than most US dirty depts!

And the epitome of a great question that the Chinese ask.  One of our enzyme detergents is green and the regular detergent is like clear or straw colored.  The question was "why is one product yellow and one green?"  which the answer is, so you could tell the two products apart when you look at them.  "But why is it yellow?"  Diplomatic answer... "But why did you chose the color yellow?" Diplomatic answer "But why did you make this product yellow instead of another color?".  Can you see how a slow spiral would start happening here :)  I admit - I do not have the responses of a loving and kind person and I don't like that at all.   I've definitely got to figure out how to respond to these people when they ask these questions and I'm feeling the frustration I am.  Its good to have things to work on, right?

Around 7:30 pm I finally decided I should be asking what the plan is considering that we had a 2 hour train ride back to Beijing.  When the question was translated to the rep, he said that we probably wouldn't get back to Beijing until around 11 pm.  AHH!  Its just the fact that I was NOT prepared for that.  If they had told me at the start, you'll be back very late, I could have mentally prepared and I could have gotten keys for the apartment, etc.  But as it was - I was not mentally prepared and no keys meant I was now ready to snap and Julie was going to have to sit up and wait for me so she could open the door.  I let them know that I needed to get back - that I wasn't prepared to be out this late and so the rep rushed off to see what tickets he could buy.

Thank goodness, there was a train earlier than 9pm so he got the tickets for 8:15 but that meant we had to literally run/speed to the train station.  The nurses were so sad because they had thought we would all sit and have dinner together so they had sent one of the CS guys out to buy McDonalds :)  They were so very sweet and thoughtful and just so nice.  It made me feel bad I was in such an ooky place.  They packed up our stuff and sent us off to the station.

Its not an illusion!!!!  Its my ride HOME!

I don't think I've ever been so happy to see a train!
It was the most beautiful thing I think I've seen!

We got on the train, which was almost empty because no one was going IN to Beijing.  We took our seats and just decompressed for a few minutes.  And then one of the guys started giving everyone their McDonalds... It sounds so weird - I don't eat McDonalds so I feel like I'm such a bad person for eating it! :)  They had gotten us fries, which were now very cold. and then these grilled chicken sandwiches.  Sounds safe right?  Especially since I've been eating donkey and horse and duck feet.  I thought - what could go wrong with McDonalds.  The first bad turn was the bite that revealed that there was a layer of straight up jello-y skin and fat sitting on top of the chicken.  Then there was some spice that kind of burned a little.  So I tried to get the skin off and got most of it down because I actually was a little hungry.  I got most of the fries down.  And then I started feeling a little yucky.  I tried going to the washroom (which good news, was not just a hole in the floor like other countries trains!).  Came back and was still feeling yucky and now I'm starting to do that sweating thing.  I found a mint and thought if I put that in, it did seem to help a little so, thank goodness I had a roll with me and I just kept on with them in my mouth.

The speed of the bullet train - can we go any faster????
And so there I sat wanting to puke, but bravely sucking on mints and letting Icy tell me about her lactating problems and giving birth and I sat there just smiling and nodding and thinking "don't lose it in her lap...."

I'm happy to say, we made it back to Beijing.  I kept my chicken in.  I bonded with Icy.  I had a car waiting for me and I was actually home by 11:30 p.m.  It was a very LOOOONNNNG day, but I did it!

So happy to see "my" room!  Even happier to see "my" bed!

And then the wonderful completion of my day - that wasn't even in the actual adventuresome day.  About 3 a.m. the chicken came back up to visit me - it was the best feeling ever to get it out - and thank goodness, I'll never have to worry about eating that again because we don't have skin coated, fatty chicken grilled sandwiches at McDonalds at home - even if I did eat there.

The day that kept on giving...

And by the way - Kim has been trying to get my to pay attention to this Enneagram thing and with all the stuff Zach and Julie have been going through she's been talking about the enneagram and let me borrow a book of hers but told me I needed to take the test quick first so I knew basically what I was.  If you take a look at this website - if you happen to care about knowing more about your personality and how you deal with things and how you SHOULD deal with things -- theres a free test that will take about 5 or 10 minutes and its pretty easy.  And I have to admit, once taking it, I'm amazed at how much I totally agree with what it says.  SO - if you happen to have some free time after reading this blog post and watching Rachel's shared YouTube video and if you have't taken the enneagram test... check it out!