Chinese Art Class

This past week we enrolled Asia in a daily Art Class downstairs. Its literally in our apartment building on the first floor! She attends 2-4 times per week, for an hour session with 10-16 other kids (mostly 6-7 years old). We are so excited that she is interested in going - and its been fun to see what they create with their class each day.

The first day she drew a Chinese girl floating in a pond with three geese (see above). The 2nd day she used a black marker to draw 3 dragonflies with big buggy eyes(below)! And now she is working on a colorful Lion in the circus! The class is always very studious & well-behaved when I pick her up, engrossed in their artistic creations. The teacher walks around helping each student with their copy-work and giving assistance when needed. Each class session is focused on copying a drawing that is chosen by the teacher. The teacher sometimes uses her fingernail to make a line for the kids to copy, which (I guess) helps them learn fine motor skills. Even the colors are pre-determined!!

Still, I am loving her unique renditions of the copied original.
This method of teaching has been quite contrary to how I would "teach art" but I am choosing to look at the positives: she is being exposed to Chinese, interacting with other kids - and overall excited to attend. I have had many neat conversations with her as we debrief the class each day. AND I make sure to encourage her creativity in every other aspect of her day!!

Here's her pink Circus Lion - a masterpiece in progress! I think she was roaring too.


We switched our visa's!!

As of today, March 23rd, 2009 - we are official registered business owners of an Ice Cream Company in NW China! All our paperwork is accounted for - and we have been given the stamp of approval!! We are amazed, thrilled and in shock too! I guess even though we have worked hard for this outcome, we were a bit amazed at how "easily" it came about. Within 10 weeks we were approved! The waiting and suspense is over! Thank you China!!

Now we can move forward with all the rest of the details:
  • getting bar codes for our packaging
  • getting safety/quality seals for our packaging
  • creating the final package design
  • locating & pricing the cartons for printing
  • finding an office (separate from production site)
  • purchasing final machinery/freezers
  • hiring & training employees
....just to mention a few of the things that will consume our energies in the coming weeks! The process of learning how to start a business from scratch has been educational & stressful, especially while speaking a foreign language and navigating all sorts of confusing laws that are new to us. But we are excited to offer high-quality ice cream with all natural ingredients....even if it is high in calories! I hope we can swoon the masses!


IKEA expands to our city!!

I had heard rumors...
Now we have proof!!
The infamous Swedish home furnishings store has opened a small 2-room display site, where you can view a selection of products, and order from a catalog for delivery. The prices are not cheap - and delivery adds an extra 15%!! Yikes! We walked thru the displays, feeling nostalgic and amazed at such nice products available in our city. It is always changing and modernizing...even in the short 3 years we have been here. No food court with Swedish meatballs yet.

This sign above is a bit deceiving - the entry into the Store on the far right does not span this entire building. Its teeny-tiny inside. About 1/6th of that building, truthfully. This new location is so new - that it's not even on their website!

After our IKEA discovery, we walked thru the open markets and found some pomegranate juice to share. Here is a stall that sells rugs of all colors, shapes & sizes. That is a HUGE 5 star hotel in the background.


Oishi Potato Chips

OISHI means "delicious" in Japanese - which is where these chips came from! This is the main brand of Potato Chips that we can find out here, and Oishi has a full line of packaged snacks. They have EVERY flavor imaginable, except ones that are familiar to us Californians.

We tried the 8 Treasures Flavor (a famous soup), but have yet to sample the following:
Lobster in Salt & Pepper
Scallops in Black Bean Sauce
Braised Pork
Wasabi Flavor
Curry Beef
Stir Fried Shrimps with Shallots
Roasted Goose

They sound more like entrees than Potato Chips. The girls really love the "Pea Snacks" which boast of Zero grams Trans Fat, and contain real peas! For a packaged snack - this is pretty good for our area of the globe!


Eden wants to learn too!

Most mornings, Asia and I sit and read together for her homeschooling curriculum. She is learning from so many rich books, and growing in incredible ways. Eden has been asking to "do school" too, so I started introducing different letters & sounds, as well as Art into her day. I had no idea she would be ready to write letters! They look so studious side-by-side.
Eden traced an entire sheet of E's - with such precision and care.
She was so proud of herself!


it got cold again....

We eagerly await signs of Spring - but instead we've been given tons of fresh white powdery snow!! Right behind our apartment building is a big parking lot for long distance Buses, and also a Driver's Training School Course - which translates to "large area to run around and play in the snow." When it snows here, almost instantly there are masses of people who come outside with their shovels & ice-picks, to clear away the "mess" so that vehicles can use the roads. Also, by 1-2 days later - all the white has turned to black, with the coal soot & mud. It goes without saying that we LOVE to find UNshoveled areas of snow so that the kids can play!! These open spaces are few when you live in a large city of 4 million. We quickly bundled up and enjoyed a few hours making snowballs, snow-angels & digging forts in the snow, with some neat little friends too.

Asia is quite skilled in snow-angel designs.
Eden really enjoyed digging and making herself a fort in the snow. She didn't mind being cold at all, which is a huge change from last year! I think she is finally beginning to enjoy the cold weather!
While we were playing, daddy came home from class and joined us outside. Our snowball tossing began to attract a crowd, and 4-5 boys walking home from school joined in the fun. Justin threw the first snowball, and they timidly joined in. Five little boys against Justin & Raj was quite humorous.
Everyone was laughing hysterically! I think the boys were so excited to have a snowball fight with 2 foreign men, as it was probably a strange sight. In the end, Justin got tackled and they were all covered in snow. It was a friendly battle of course!
Here's all the boys post snowball-fight. Such JOY!!
The girls "kept warm" in their forts.
(there's the shoveled parking lot behind them)
Spring is around the corner?? Not holding my breath!


the Peoples' Square

The weather warmed up briefly last weekend - and we decided to get outside together and get some exercise & fresh* air. We took a bus to the People's Square (just 5 stops from our street) and walked around the square: people watching, climbing and simply enjoying the 38 degree weather! As much as we love getting outside - the girls aren't fond of all the layers of clothing. It's an effort to get out the door but worth it!

The square is quite large, taking up an entire block - with a tall monument in the middle, surrounded by cement pathways, planter boxes & people everywhere! The ice skating "rink" is gone now, but is replaced by children flying kites with their grandparents, ride-along toys of all sorts, a massive Jumbo Screen blaring Chinese advertisements, people offering to take your picture, kids feeding pigeons, and older men playing cards with loud shouts. The best part is seeing children bundled up in adorable outfits, puffy jackets and rosy red cheeks. This is the place to be.

The girls spied the little Kiddie Ride off to the side, and for 75 cents (5 kuai) they got to take a spin in a colorful spaceship. A highlight for them!


how to properly sip tea

Wait patiently for your tea to be poured. Smiling big helps.
Cup the teacup with your hands and bring to mouth. Be careful...it can be hot!
I love sipping tea!!


back to school

This week - Justin started his fourth semester of Mandarin! Here he is on the way out the door, dressed warm - with earmuffs too. He's even taking out the garbage on his way, at 6:45 in the morning! Here's our front door...leading out into the hallway.

He takes the bus (45 minutes one way + walking) and studies or listens to podcasts while he commutes across town. The past few trips - he's had to stand up, since all the seats were taken. He has 2 great teachers - and only about 5-7 other students studying alongside him. This is the Zhong Ji Ban (中级班 = intermediate class). His spoken Chinese is quite good, since he's been working on starting the business & speaking with people often. He hasn't studied the characters as much, so there is always room for improvement! We are so glad to be studying at XAU again, and we have really appreciated all the help from our Waiban (外办 = foreign students office).


little friend at the door

This morning I heard some pounding at the door, followed by a few doorbell rings...followed by more pounding. Whoever is at the door must really want in. I open the door to find little gege (哥哥 big brother) wanting to come in to play.

We have never met little gege 哥哥 before, but he ducks under my arm and barges right in. I try to converse with him a bit (to make sure his family knows where he is) and then he is off to explore the house. Every nook and cranny. Every toy. Every non-toy (I had to remove him from playing on Justin's laptop). He didn't enjoy listening to me and he didn't take "no" for an answer. I got the impression that he gets what he wants in his home. The girls played well with him, but I was a bit flustered as I raced about making sure things didn't get broken or flushed down the toilet. He definitely kept me on my toes!

It was really fun to make a new friend and for the girls to interact despite language chasms. They all played with hand motions, creative demonstrations, and slowly pronounced English. ~Very fun to observe! He went home before lunch, and I sighed in relief. He was more challenging than having three kids.

Later in the afternoon there was another knock (ahem, pounding) - and again little gege decides he is back to play again (he barges in without waiting). This time I politely asked him to come another time, since it was Syd's naptime, and the girls' QT. I don't think I am ready for constant visitations, yet! We plan to have him over again tho, and we have a reason to visit - since he left his metal toy gun. Only brave Sydney would touch it.