Our First Week in China

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It's hard to believe we've only been in a China for a little over a week. In many ways we're settling in to a rhythm and starting to feel more comfortable here.

On Monday, the boys started school. It was a little traumatic at first (especially since they dropped Michael (8) into the middle of a Chinese language class that was too advanced for him -- he was totally lost) but by the time they came home the first afternoon, they were relaxed and had enjoyed school. Since then they've started taking the bus to and from school and have some friends (Andrew  (11) came back with a bunch of phone numbers and is already texting away.)

I had two days of training to learn how I can successfully manage Chinese employees as an expat. While this sounds a bit ironic since I'm Chinese, it was pretty useful to understand the market conditions and recent Chinese history that affects the labor market as well as more on Chinese culture that affects employee expectations. As usual, one of the more valuable parts of the class was meeting senior managers from other teams -- some people I knew and a lot that were new to me. Anyway, after that I had two days of real work in the office finally. It's nice to finally be here working.

The other expat wives (affectionately known as tai tais after the Chinese word for wife) have been very welcoming and helpful to Michelle, taking her to different markets and restaurants during the day. In fact we've been very pleasantly surprised how great the expat community has been. We've met so many nice people who have been very generous and helpful. It seems like a very nice community.

Last weekend we also explored around town a bit. We checked out Ritan Park near our apartment; this was formerly used by the Emperor as a place to sacrifice animals to the Sun God, but now it's a nice park to walk around and has a small amusement park for kids. It's also near the embassy district; I think the Russian Embassy must be nearby since there were a lot of Russian shops and restaurants nearby.

Andrew and Michael shooting rifles at an amusement park.
The boys demonstrating their revolutionary zeal at Ritan Park.


Sign at Ritan Park pointing to animal Sacrifice altar and mini golf course.
It's not often you find animal sacrifice near a golf course this explicitly. Maybe it would help my game.

We also visited the 798 Art Zone. This is an artist enclave housed in a former military electronics factory area (Factory 798, hence the name). The old factory structures have been remodeled as hip galleries and restaurants. I'm not sure how much real art happens here, but there were some very cool galleries and exhibitions. I'd love to go back here to explore some more.

Andrew and Michael jumping in front of 798 Art Zone sign 
Michael and Andrew jumping for joy at 798.


Andrew next to a statue of workers holding up 100 RMB notes.
Andrew helps the workers prop up the Chinese Renminbi.

While I think things have been going very well so far, there have been some challenges no doubt. It's been super dry and cold (below freezing and windy). This is always hard but especially so given the overly warm apartment (which has been more like 80 degrees F if we're not managing it well). While we bought a bunch of humidifiers, they can't keep up since we have to keep the windows open to keep from dying of heat exhaustion inside. It's been hard to get a great night's sleep since the air is so dry. I hope my body just starts to adjust or something.

We've also had to figure out a bunch of household things. The first time we tried to cook a meal, we couldn't get the stove to light; it turns out the gas meter was out of money. In China I guess you pay first by charging the gas meter from a pre-paid card; once we knew this, we called the apartment manager to charge the meter and everything was OK, but there was a some consternation leading up to this (Is the gas on? Do they add the smell to the gas so you can tell if it's on or are we about to die? etc.) Our washer only has Chinese labels too so Michelle had to find an English copy of the manual and make a key. Anyway, small things, but they all add up to things taking longer than expected. Part of the fun of the new adventure I guess.

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Kathleen Reply

I've not detected any "gas" odor when the flame has gone out in our Chinese kitchen - you need to be careful. Check your other utilities if they are paid in advance too (all of ours are). We've run out of gas in the middle of cooking pasta twice! And the washing machine is a major power hog.

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