in an attempt to simplify....

We just read a neat blog that spurred a small attempt to simplify and downsize our apartment and extra "stuff" that tends to grow no matter where you live. Even after being here a year, we somehow managed to collect extra things we don't really need. On Sunday morning we cleaned out drawers and shelves and cupboards....mostly clothes & toys & extras, seeking to give away ALL the random clutter that doesn't need to be in our home (and pass it along to others who might want new *treasures*). It feels great to simplify, downsize....such a fresh feeling: freedom!! I tend to be overly-attached to sentimental items, and want the girls to have special items from their childhood, or sweet outfits they were given as wee ones. All that to say....it was a wonderful start....

Then, Sunday afternoon rolls around -- and for some reason still unknown (its now Mon night) the gas in our entire block was shut off. We thought we ran out of money on our gas meter, or maybe the pilot light was blown out. Nope. The gas is just off. Its been about 48 hours since then....no hot water, no gas stove....which makes it hard to shower or cook, esp for three rambunctious girlies in the summer! Hmmm....Someone answering my plea for simplicity?? Humorous....? And on Saturday we realized we had run low on cash (yuan). We were down to our last 17 yuan ($2.23), still waiting for the Chinese Bank to figure out the communication problem with our Bank in the States. It was funny to us, tho I am sure many people are truly in this predicament. It became a challenge - to see how little we could spend, and what would be the necessities. Bus fares, filtered water, fresh fruit & veggies, and noodles - only the basics! I think that is why I was laughing today, as we were forced to be resourceful to make it until the banks would let us withdraw some yuan. So, in my cry for simplicity I was given an even deeper tangible lesson. Thanks for the new perspective.... :)

p.s. Not to worry: Justin made it to the bank this afternoon with 7 kuai to spare (almost $1) and was able to withdraw! We are still waiting for our gas to come back on. We all need showers!


rare moments

its raining outside! ....in the middle of the desert, in the middle of summer!! AND all four of my family members are taking naps (some snoring!) while I sip hot cocoa, with whipped cream...and read! This MOMENT is so rare, I would dare to call it a miracle: A rare & cherished moment to soak in the quiet stillness, to be filled afresh with joy, vision and trust. I hope you have moments like these too.


crossing the street 101

Does anyone remember playing this game?? FROGGER is very similar to crossing the street here in China. You take one lane at a time, and dodge cars, trucks, buses, etc….avoiding being squashed before reaching the safety of your beloved lily-pad. Anyhow, we wanted to share a few tips we have learned while crossing the streets in our land.
  • Always be aware of your surroundings in all directions – peripheral vision is key! Cars do NOT stop for pedestrians, and they will honk like crazy to get you out of their way. Always be on the defensive, and be sure of your movements. Second guessing your steps can be dangerous.
  • Cross with other locals, and follow their lead. Move with them, as they know the ways of the road. Stick with the seasoned locals.
  • Don’t cross just because you have a green light. Signals are merely suggestions, and you need to be aware of cars coming in every direction. Even within a “crosswalk” you have to navigate thru bicyclists, drivers, pedestrians and people running a red light.
  • If you have to, cross one lane at a time: hanging out in the center of the road is acceptable and normal. You will need to get used to being close to oncoming cars/buses, and avoid vehicles with confidence. Always know where you are headed, and don’t change at the last second. Nervous or hesitant pedestrians are unpredictable, which makes drivers unable to guess their direction. Drivers will attempt to avoid people, and speed up/slow down according to the open road in front of them…
  • You are not safe just because you are on the sidewalk. Cars & taxis can drive anywhere. We hold our kids hands wherever we go, and they are getting good at staying close!

In the end, get used to lots of honking, a new awareness of your surroundings, and taking each step with confidence. You’ll do fine, and maybe get a higher score on Frogger next time too. Here's a bonus: a free remake of the old game, that you can download and play at home...


our best hypothesis

In my heart, I have been asking for Asia to be healed, or even some amazing prognosis that reveals to us that she does NOT have a Gluten intolerance - to me that would be a healing too!! At this point we are still unsure, tho this GF diet seems to have lessened her tummy cramping for the first time in over a year. This feels like one big experiment, with Celiac Disease being our best hypothesis for her ailments. Because of our uncertainty, we are going to have further testing so we can confidently know her lifelong needs, and possible diet restrictions. Thanks to everyone who has sent encouragement, advice, gifts, shared experiences, and supported us through this. It has been so valuable.

We are hoping to go to Beijing again in the upcoming months so Asia can have this diagnostic blood test. Other types of testing are not available here, so we will take this one step at a time, with the blood test first!! Our insurance WILL cover the testing, travel and hotel - so that is a HUGE plus. But before we go - Asia needs to go back on GLUTEN so that her blood test will show up with gluten in her system. To me, its scary - but a necessary evil to prove her heath issues OR show her healed & mended! We need to find out HOW LONG she needs to be on Gluten before we can book the tickets for her & Justin's trip (only the two of them this time), unless it will be over a week of testing & waiting, then we might all go. Anyhow, that is the latest. I hope my hopes aren't up, but deep down I kinda feel like she is healed. We shall see....soon. Maybe she never had it in the first place. Either way, a healthy daughter is the cry of my heart. Thank you for your encouragement, it means the world to us.
heaps of love to you all, A


Married for Love

We had another reminder today that we are living amongst a very different culture. It has probably been a few centuries since the term "marry for love" has been much a part of daily conversation in America, but it is still a hot topic here in Western China, where some marriages are still arranged or at least "helped along" by family members (particularly among Uyghurs). Every college-age girl here seems to dream of one day "marrying for love," yet the pressure from family to marry before one gets "too old" can be incredibly strong. A good friend of ours mentioned today that she will soon be married, perhaps within a month. Never hearing of her boyfriend, we were a bit shocked and wanted to know who the lucky guy was. She told us she had not chosen him yet. Her mother, father, sisters and brother have all come here to the city to visit her and help her find a man. Almost thirty years old and not married in Uyghur culture is cause for family intervention. She told us today with bit of a tired disgust, "Ah, I am too old now to marry for love." They seem to have arranged with her five marriage prospects with whom she is to spend a little bit of time (a date or two) and then decide whom to spend the rest of her life with. She is no country girl either, with a Masters degree and a University teacher. Still, the pressure to marry is so strong that she is left a bit unsure of what to do. The embarrassment and even shame of not being married has driven many people here (mostly women) into some very bad marriages. It certainly reveals something about the different values people hold to out here. We love our friend and are encouraging her to keep her standards high and that she is indeed, not too old to "marry for love."

- Justin
p.s. this picture is not of our friend, but of a Uyghur woman in her wedding attire.


the McNabb clan recently...

all five of us...taken after five or six attempts of smiles....

everyone looking in different directions, but sitting somewhat still! Asia is now 4, Eden is 2, and Sydney is 7 months and crawling!


Asia and I made ice cream (bingqilin = 冰其林) today! ....but before that.....we went to a new open Market, complete with veggies, fruits, fish, meat, spices, nuts and many other goodies. We asked around, and finally found what I had been searching for -- a big bag of rock salt!! I also found some corn kernels to make popcorn (yumihua = 玉米花), and some of the first grapes (putao = 葡萄) of the season. It was fun to take her with me and teach her about the market. Each stall features some assortment of goods, stored in boxes, crates or sacks. They are shaded by canvas or plastic to provide some relief from the heat, while the shopkeepers nap on the ground or cots. It reminds me of the flea market, but more third world. :) Asia got heaps of attention as we meandered through each aisle of the Market, which isn't her favorite aspect. Lots of people reached out to touch her blonde hair, or make comments about her white skin and blue eyes. We have a new game -- to see if we can get them to smile at us. Its not as easy as you'd imagine!

The ice cream was the motivation she needed to find what we were seeking, and get back home!! It only took about 10 minutes to make, and its gluten free! Here's a picture of her enjoying the delectable dessert. YUM!

p.s. We finished another semester of Mandarin!!