Saturday, April 23, 2011

Metal-mouth at 34

It's been over 20 years since I last had braces.  I went into the orthodontists office on Friday to get a new retainer made and came out with 3 metal brackets affixed to my front teeth.  Fun. 

Luckily, we're only here two more months and I've been assured they will take them off before I leave. 

I have what most dentists call "interesting" teeth ... I am missing 10 of my adult teeth and still have 3-4 baby teeth .  The adult teeth were just never there.  Most people would be excited to find out that they don't have wisdom teeth, but I could have actually used mine had they been around. 

As a result of my interesting teeth, I have a bridge that likes to cause problems ... it cracked while I was in Tonga, was replaced in the US only to fall out a month later.  Recently, I noticed that some of my teeth were putting pressure on it and had the that idea an updated retainer would fix the glitch.  Not so. 

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Crying over spilled (or curdled) milk

Don't you just hate it when you have a vision of how you think things should turn out and then one thing goes awry sending everything else on a wayward path? 

Many days, when things aren’t going how I envisioned, I find myself shutting down and failing to see how miniscule (and ultimately unimportant) my plan was.  Usually, my optimistic husband finds himself working very hard to buoy my spirits and within a short period of time I am completely embarrassed by my immature behavior.  I realize that I am in fact acting like a child having a tantrum.  What’s worse is that I believe that God has plans for me … I get even more embarrassed by thinking about how He must see me, having an internal tantrum when perhaps He’s protecting me from something or trying to teach me a valuable life lesson or just teaching me something about myself.  I am s-l-o-w-l-y coming to realize that even at my worst, He still sees me as His beloved child.

I had a vision yesterday… I was going to make Maui pancakes (I know … this is a pretty small vision).  We'd stopped at our fruit stand the day before and bought my favorite combination of fruit (pineapple, strawberries and bananas).  Afterwards, I suddenly envisioned the unbelievably delicious pancakes that I had eaten near a beautiful bay in Maui six years ago.  It is strange to me that although I’ve thought about those pancakes and the gorgeous setting many times, I’ve never tried to re-create them.

Yesterday was the day.  Jason rode his bike to the market and got some whipping cream while I made the batter, chopped nuts and cut up pineapple and bananas.  As I remember them, the “real” ones (from The Gazebo at Napili Bay in Maui) are pancakes with macadamia nuts in them topped generously with a concoction of whipped cream, pineapple and bananas.  I was substituting with walnuts, but thought I could get close to a decent recreation.

We don’t have any kind of electric mixer and I have whipped cream by hand with a whisk twice while we’ve been here – it is not an easy task.  For some reason today I wondered if it could be shaken in a container instead and I set Jason onto that task.  Everything was coming along perfectly… but when we pulled the shaken cream back out of the fridge to mix in the pineapple and bananas, Jason says ‘huh, it seems more watery.’ I look at it and it had curdled!  I had no idea how that happened or why?

Normally, this would be my giving-up stage … thankfully there were pancakes still on the stove that needed flipping which gave me a moment to figure out a different vision.  Walnut pancakes topped with bananas and cinnamon sugar (minus the embarrassment of a meltdown).  Not what I envisioned, but still delicious :).

… after a bit research, it seems we let our cream get too warm and may have over-shaken it – better luck next time I hope!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Snapshots of Xi'an & Beijing

We had a very quick trip to Xi'an and Beijing, spending less than two days in each location; but, we were able to squeeze in the important sites before my parents headed back to the U.S.

After a bit of an adventure getting to our hostel in Xi'an our first night, we traveled by public bus the next morning to take in the incredible Terracotta Warriors!  I am fascinated by the young man, Emperor Qin, who at 13 years old commissioned the beginnings of this project. 
Afterwards, we wandered down the Muslim snack street and onto the city wall (two of my favorite places in Xi'an).

In Beijing, one of the most special sites for me was seeing a Peace Corps friend, Soraya and meeting her husband, Yun.  Soraya had already been in Tonga two years when we arrived and signed on for a third.  I was fortunate to be neighbors with her for a short time during my stay in Tonga and it was a great pleasure to reconnect with her -- in China of all places.
We also managed to see the majority of the must-see places in/around Beijing; starting with the Temple of Heaven Park.

... and the Forbidden City
... and of course no trip to Beijing is complete without a trip to walk on the Great Wall!!!

And then, all there was time for was a treat at the airport before they were on their way.

Before leaving Shanghai ...

... we took my parents on a quick trip to the zoo -- with Spring finally seeming to arrive, the trees were beautifully arrayed in blossoms and new leaves.  Afterwards, while my mom & I shopped, the boys went for a bike ride on Shanghai's crazy streets -- and survived! We ended their time here by going up the Shanghai World Financial Center to the highest observation deck in the world ... whew!   And then I was on-duty as a tour guide, taking them to Xi'an and Beijing while Jason continued to work at the dorm.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Playing with babies

While my Mom was in Shanghai we got to visit Shanghai Healing Home.  I volunteer at SHH occassionally and have mentioned to her more than once how the place impressed me -- it is the incredible project of a woman who saw a need and took action.  This action led her to open a small orphanage primarily for babies with cleft palates.  These orphans have an alarming mortality rate within the regular system due to their difficulty eating.  SHH has lower caregiver-to-baby ratios which gives them a chance to get healthy enough to begin the series of surgeries required to repair their lips/palates. 

We had a fun morning playing with these cuties ... when holding them it is heart breaking to realize that without the help of SHH they might have only become another sad statistic. 

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Walking around West Lake

My parents headed home on Thursday and I'm working on getting caught up on life and on photos from their time here.  It still seems hard to believe that they were actually here - even though they stayed for two weeks, it went by SO SO fast!  Now I can re-live their visit through a few photos - love the memories together!

While in Shanghai, we decided to take a day trip to Hangzhou to walk around the famous West Lake.  This trip used to take nearly 3 hours by train, but can now take as little as 45 minutes due to the new high speed trains that are running.  Hangzhou is a small town by China standards with a population of around 7 million.

The station was just a bit crowded!

Hangzhou has a cute old town area with plenty of shopping.

West Lake at sunset.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Tom & Pam in Asia

That's right!  My parents are here for a visit!  They surprised us last summer by mentioning that they were thinking about visiting us here - it was a surprise since they'd told us before they would not be coming to China to see us.  We were thrilled at the prospect and have been looking forward to their visit since they bought their tickets a few months ago.

China is an interesting place and they have had many laughs so far.  Something that has completely puzzled me is how people in Shanghai are treating them ... it is very, very unusual.  People are going out of their way to be kind to them.  You just don't see this type of behavior in Shanghai.  After telling one of our students about this, including how a woman chased after us on her bike to share her food with my parents, he flat out said he did not believe it.  I wouldn't either, except I'm seeing it with my own eyes. 

On the Bund


Waiting for the lights to come on at the Bund.

Making new friends.

Enjoying some "xi-gua" (west melon) - it is SO SO good here!