our sweet little niece!

Can we just share a beautiful picture of the newest McNabb clan member? This is Jordana Katherine McNabb, our 5 1/2 month old niece! She has the most beautiful blue eyes and precious smile. She recently won a costume contest in Lexington - hands down!! We love this little sweetpea, and can't wait to hug her for real. We are big fans.

shopping for five!!

Shopping excursions in this part of the world are always an adventure!! Whether it be the fresh fruit & veggie markets, the smelly meat stalls, or large, sprawling department stores - you never know what you are getting yourself into!! We are very grateful for all the venues (big & small) that we can shop at, though it is quite different to everyday shopping in California.

Today, I wanted to give you a taste of our biggest supermarket - CARREFOUR! It is a French-based retailer, one of the largest hypermarkets in the world!! Here in China it is phonetically pronounced "Jia-luh-foo" (家乐福), literally meaning = jia (home) le (happiness) fu (prosperity). It first opened here in 1995 - and now has over 250 stores across this nation, and has played a major role in bringing about a retail revolution!

In our city - there are 3 of these gigantic superstores!! The store on our side of town is massive!! You enter thru the main door only to find your way to the escalator entrance after wandering thru an indoor mall....then once you find the actual store, you check in your bag/purse - and grab a cart!! I guess you can equate it to a crowded WalMart, within a frenzy of Chinese patrons rushing around completely unaware of the push-n-shove to find the newest product of convenience.

I typically shop here (once a month!) to stock up on kitchen & cleaning supplies, packaged snacks and Mamy Poko diapers! If I am shopping solo, it can be fun to wander the aisles to find cheap deals on paper plates, Chinese spices, special beverages or dried sweet potato. If I am accompanied by one or two of the girls, we tend to speed with my list - politely avoiding too much attention. Many of my fellow shoppers enjoy coming here because its a "one-stop-shop" complete with electronics, appliances, clothing, books, and fresh groceries too. Carrefour is a very modern outlet - and quite clean too. In the food section (which I purposely avoid) you can find tanks of live fish, eels, bullfrogs & turtles, along with a cacophony of smells - pork sausages, marinated meats, entire lamb carcasses, and whole ducks hanging by the neck. All this is out in the open - not refrigerated. And sometimes I will even hear a familiar tune of "Hotel California"....which is always nice.

The check-out stand is a riot as you inch yourself into a "line" making sure no one sneaks in front of you. There isn't much ettiquette, unless you consider standing your ground and taking every inch you can get. I have grown used to it, and hope that my manners haven't suffered. Maybe next time you see me in an American supermarket you will laugh as I speedily race down the aisles, barely avoiding head-on collisions or navigating tight spaces with ease (and scaring everyone around me)?? This is what is takes to survive, when shopping for five.


heaps of thanks

This week I became especially grateful for 2 things that I'd love to share with you.

#1) A Canadian woman here began a small Library for children & parents in our city. She has collected books, magazines, videos, games, flash cards, and much more -- and organized it all in her tiny office in her apartment. Its free to "check out" anything, and she has even included the pocket in the back of each book, with a card for kids to fill out. We went this week and checked out 7 exciting library books. This is one thing I have deeply missed being in a foreign land, as we truly loved visiting the library last winter in CA. I have often thought of creating something similar here for the foreign community, but it takes such a huge collection that we do not have. Anyhow - if people would be interested in donating any used books to this cause, please let me know. Finding quality reading material in this country can be challenging. Media Mail is relatively cheap to send globally.

#2) A family from Wisconsin has been opening their home twice a month (for awhile now) to have a "Kid's Club" for ages 4-11. Now that Asia is old enough, she was invited to attend! We have gone for 1 month now, and she LOVES it. You wouldn't know, since she is quite reserved and quiet in a group setting, but deep inside she loves watching (and sometimes participating) in the lively games, the story-time & crafts...and just being around kids that speak her native tongue. Last night she came home to share all the details with Eden, and we just were amazed to see all that she is taking in, and able to teach it to others! That is a wonderful gift.

I am so grateful for the way these people think of others, and make life more rich for our family. I am challenged to creatively think of ways I can do things like this for others too.


Q&A - some daily challenges?

Sent from Lynn, of Atlanta/Santa Cruz - "I was wondering what some of the challenges are for you guys?"

hmmm....let's make a small list.
  • Weather - it can be challenging at times - hard to get outside when there is ice on the ground, bundling up 3 kids, finding transportation, walking in the snow OR when its 100+ degrees with no air conditioning, yet still wearing modest clothing without sweating bullets.
  • Air Quality/Pollution - especially during the winter - the Coal Plants heat the city, but billow out clouds of coal dust and fumes that literally blanket the city in soot. That can't be too great on our lungs....but a deeper root to that challenge is:
  • Health - catching bugs & illnesses that come with unsanitary conditions, foods, water that we aren't used to...plus all the environmental hazards, germs and coal smoke in our city.
  • Celebrity Attention - with three blond little girls, its impossible to go anywhere without a swarm of attention. It wouldn't be so challenging if the girls didn't mind it. For them, its very hard to be touched, laughed at and crowded. Its especially hard when people try to pick them up despite their screams...and then laugh at screaming kids. :( This is hard on us as parents wanting to protect & encourage our kids. We are contemplating a further post on this in the future. :)
  • Language Barriers - this is becoming less & less an issue as time goes on, but its still an ongoing challenge, as we seek to know others and mutually share the depths of life.
  • Being away from Family & friends - missing births, weddings, funerals. *Sometimes we think our families in CA/KY have more challenges than we do, as they sacrifice heaps as we live cross-culturally.
This post would not be complete without a few of the rewards:
  • A Rich Perspective on the world, people, culture, and our purpose in it all. Being exposed to great need, poverty, simplicity, and less modern hype.
  • Your family becomes much bigger than your nationality or heritage.
  • You become a learner in every aspect of the word. This helps keep you humble and desperate, keeping the pride at a minimum. :) ...and you learn to be flexible, easy going, appreciative & patient pretty quick.
  • But please know....the rewards are endless!! ...many that won't be seen for "years" to come!


parties galore...

What a weekend of parties & feasting! We had so much fun visiting friends' homes to share meals & fellowship. Here are a few shots of us visiting with local friends over the Eid holiday. Uyghur's call Eid - ROSA! We aren't sure of the exact translation, but its the same Eid that is celebrated across the globe in Islamic culture. It is very common to go from one home to another, with full spreads of food, snacks & sweets at each home. It was amazing, and the hospitality was incredible. We weren't allowed to visit, until the men had returned from the Mosque, which marks the beginning of the celebrations!
This is a typical Uyghur family home, complete with carpets on the wall, lacey curtains, white doilies on the furniture, low tables and platters of food! The mound of noodles/bread you see on the table is a common Uyghur treat called "Sangzi" and the kids love it! I have never seen so much piled that high though! We didn't eat that much either!!

Here is one of my fave pictures - A'pa with five little American girls! She has worked for us for 7 months now, and this other family for over 4 years! She is a sweet gift to our families, and the kids adore her! Anyhow, happy Rosa-Eid!!


the apple of my eye

Urumqi (despite its remote location) is pretty well known for having good fruit. This apple is probably the biggest one I have ever seen, weighing in at 1 pound, costing roughly 45 cents. When Asia saw it she exclaimed, "Look at that MASSIVE apple!" I bought it to show Ali and the girls, and it took all five of us to eat it. It was full of juicy sweetness and quite tasty.

On another exciting note, my best friend Nathan will be a father very soon...please be thinking of their little family! We can't wait to meet the apple of their eye too!

p.s. Sophia Esther was born in Minnesota on October 12th at 7:30pm, weighing 9lb 4oz with dark hair & eyes, to Nathan & Elle Doan!! Yippee!!


Rama-reflections - week 4

Oct 13th 2007 - Eid al-Fitr "Breaking of the Fast"
When the new moon is seen in the sky, this marks the end of the Ramadan month of fasting, and a time to celebrate and thank Allah for his help with this extended fast & ability to exercise self-control. This is the first day of the 10th month in the Islamic lunar calendar (Shawwal). Food is donated to the poor (zakat) and everyone is ready to celebrate this much-anticipated day!! *I know Justin is looking forward to breaking his personal fast, and eating lunches with us again!*

Typically, the men rise early to visit their mosque for a special prayer time, with everyone wearing their finest attire. After the prayers & a special sermon, Muslims rise and greet each other with "Eid Mubarak" which means "Holiday blessings!" Women also rise early to begin preparing their menu of delicious foods for their many visitors. Throughout the day, people visit each others' homes, sharing delicious meals. It is a very joyous time to come together with loved ones. Children are often rewarded with gifts, money & sweets. Homes are adorned with lights & decorations - making the day very festive.

If the family is able - they will buy a lamb for the feasting, and make many traditional dishes to commemorate the celebration. Just as Thanksgiving is known for turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce & pumpkin pie, so Eid is known for these famous dishes: Murgh mussallam, Mrouziya, Nawab biriyani, Beef stew, Tabouli, Biryani, Mutton korma, Sheer Korma, Seviyan, Lemon pepper steak, fig
& lemon chicken, lentil soup, meatballs, fig cakes,

We were invited to share in the celebration with a neighbor & friend. I (Ali) hope to taste and learn how to prepare some of these cultural dishes too. I hear they are all very tasty! We will let you know how our celebration goes. I posted a new Lamb recipe, if you are brave and want to try it! See our recipe site.



On Saturday morning I got up early to join a buddy on a man-hike in the mountains. I packed some light snacks, and even my new flint! I had no idea it would be so cold, or I would have busted out my long-johns! We took a taxi, then a horse-cart, and then hiked around the slopes - in the snow! This past week has been exceptionally cold, so the higher elevations got some whiteness. It was amazing. There were icicles all over the trees & rocks, and a blanket of white on the ground.

We hiked to this waterfall, and eventually up and behind it - onto the mountain top. It was much warmer at the peak, and out of the shade. It turned out to be a beautiful hike and good bonding time with a friend (and a reminder that winter is coming soon here)!!


hi fans....

today is my 10-month birthday! yippee for me! I am getting so big and I can't wait to run around with my big sisters and WALK! I love to play with the magnets on the fridge, gnaw on apple slices, wave "bye-bye" and clap. I love to ride in the backpack up high on daddy's back, and sing. I can say some new words like: dada, ouch, ball, duck & mama. I love to giggle, smile and laugh....especially while bouncing on the bed. Who doesn't like to bounce on the bed? I have lived in China for over 8 months now, and I like it! I really like all the dark eyes staring at me, and sometimes I don't mind if they hold me either. I guess I am pretty easy going & flexible. When are you going to come visit me tho?


Rama-reflections - week 3

Tuesday October 9th 2007 - the Night of Power & Peace

As we enter the last 10 days of Ramadan (ends 10.13.07) Muslims across the globe will prepare to observe Lailat al-Qadr, the "Night of Power." This special event marks the night (over 1400 years ago) when Muhammad supposedly received his first revelations from Allah. Muslims regard this as the most important event in history, and the Qur'an says that this night is "greater in value than a thousand months" (97:1-5) and that on this night the angels descend to earth. Many will exert themselves more in these last 10 days than any other time. Muslims will stay up all night in prayer, devotion & recitation of the Qur'an as they seek forgiveness for all previous wrongdoings. It is a special way to gain righteousness by dedicating yourself to Allah during this sacred time.

Specific things to do for Qadr (adapted from this site):
  • Take a vacation for Allah - rather than a vacation from our job, take a vacation to spend with Allah, worshiping him and thanking him. This will also help with staying awake during extra Ibadah or I'tikaf*.
  • Do *I'tikaf - a form of worship, by spending extended secluded time (3+days) in a Mosque - with the intention to worship thru extra prayers, study or recitation of the Qu'ran. This time helps you to not be distracted or preoccupied by life, but to stay focused.
  • Offer special Dua's (supplications, recited prayers) in Arabic.
  • Recite the Qu'ran - choose any special Surah, or practice any from memory.
  • Reflect on the Qu'ran - think deeply about the meaning, and how it affects you personally.
  • Get your sins wiped away - stand during prayer, longer prayers, with deep meaning. Careful reflection, concentration and recitation is very important.
  • Make a personal Dua list - things that you want to ask Allah for.
  • Evaluate yourself - all the good/bad you have done.
  • Make long, sincere & deep Dua's (prayers) - the best time is during the last part of the night, even waking before breakfast and pleading Allah for anything & everything you want.
  • Memorize a different Dua every night, with the general meaning too.
  • Have Iftar with your family - the meal that breaks your fast at sundown each day, with sweet dates.
  • Take your family to Tarawih - meaning "standing at night." This is a voluntary time of prayer, where you must stand while long portions of the Qu'ran are recited.
  • Attend the Dua after the completion of the Qu'ran recitation - after the Qu'ran has been read completely thru, the Imam may choose to recite extra Dua's.
  • Finish reading a book on the Prophet - to increase your love for him and Islam. Maybe it will inspire you.
  • Plan for the next year - almost like making a resolution for the year ahead.
  • Make a checklist for each night - to help you avoid wasting time in unproductive chats.
We hope this has been insightful, and that you may read something informative that can help you understand the heart behind this post. We are learning lots about the differences in culture and beliefs in this distant land. Many of our friends observe these practices, some with great devotion, and many without real understanding or passion - but either way, it is good to be aware of their background and build a bridge to common ground. :)