Can't Sleep

>> Tuesday, May 25, 2010

I can't sleep tonight.

But, then again, I haven't been able to get to sleep for the past few nights. It's pretty bad. I keep thinking of all the moving related stuff.

I feel so sad and so happy at the same time. I keep thinking of things I am excited about. And then I remember the things I will miss terribly.

What I really want to do is take my mental landscape of Beijing and roll it up like a scroll and pack it in my suitcase. Then, when I get to Minnesota, I want to unroll it again. And then I want to have my family move in and then the Target and Walmart pop through the scroll. And then one by one all the new people I add in my life can set up shop in this perfect blend of China and the U.S.

I want to keep the vegetable markets and street food and people sweeping with willow brushes tied together for brooms. I want to find bargains at the Zoo market. I want explosive fireworks for Chinese New Year and world-class tennis for $30 a day. I want to hold Ezzie during sacrament meeting and lead the primary kids in the primary program in November. I want to get to know the Morrises and the Hoskinses. I want to hang out with Ashley and find a really good tailor. I want to eat dinner with the Lewises. I want to learn to make jewelry and finally get that set of Tahitians I've been eying. I want to be able to look at the mountains and see graves and think of my babies. How can I leave this place?! The list goes on, but I'll spare you the details.

But then I think of all the wonderful things I'm looking forward to. The temple! Seeing family again. A bathtub. The convenience of a car. Being able to talk to Sam's teachers. Being able to read signs. Controlling my own heat in my own home. No one peeing or pooping or spitting on the street. No more taxi drivers trying to tack on extra miles. Hot running water in the kitchen. A dishwasher. My very own washer that really gets clothes clean AND my dryer. Clean air. Water than you can drink from the tap. Again, the list goes on.

I get the feeling that moving back to the U.S. will be just as difficult as moving to China. Only this time the loss will be greater because we may never come back to China. We always knew we'd move back to the U.S.

I've been reading a book called Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds. It talks about children who have spent a significant amount of time outside their primary culture. It's wonderful to see the benefits and so helpful to know some things we can do to make the difficulties easier. It's a good read for anyone who has spent time in any cross-cultural situation.

I hope I can make it through these next few months with at least a bit of my heart and sanity intact. My heart aches to leave and aches because we're leaving.

No wonder I can't sleep.


Shopping at San Yuan Li

>> Thursday, May 13, 2010

I love shopping at San Yuan Li. It has the freshest veggies and fruits in all of Beijing. Plus it has a great selection. Rumor has it that most of the fancy restaurants get there produce from here. I believe it. I can always find fresh basil and other herbs.

I also love it because even though it has lots of foreign ingredients, it has a distinctly Chinese feel. It's in an old building with vendors occupying small spaces. They jam as much as they can in their few square feet. You never know what you'll find.

I always come in on the side of the building because there are always the same beggars in front. But that's another post. Entering from the side means that I hit the veggie stands first. Here are some of the scenes that greet me.

This is a woman in her vegetable stall. Can you see the herbs in the plastic at the top of the stall? I use the basil to make pizza and pesto. The produce is top quality.
Below, a closeup of the goodness.

The vendors are all lined up side by side in their stalls.

And, just in case you're in the market for seaweed, here's a stand just for you!

And here's a stand for mushrooms. China has amazing mushrooms!

I come to the meat next. Not my favorite part. It smells like raw meat and, as you can see, there's a fairly reasonable explanation: it's everywhere.

And, with the intent of full disclosure, I have to admit that I am a raw meat germophobe! I have never liked it, but I deal with it. When I was pregnant with Sam, it would make me sick. I would go grocery shopping and every time I passed the meat aisle, I would have to exit to throw up. Ick. Matt ended up going shopping with me. He would get the meat and I would get the veggies. I loved it cooked, but couldn't stand it raw.

So, now I come to China and I have to buy meat in these open air markets. Even in the big chain stores like Carrefour and Walmart, people pick through the raw meat with their bare hands. It has taken me a long time to get over that. I'm still not really o.k. with it, but I try. Because San Yuan Li is a little far from my house, I usually get my meat from an open air market closer to where I live. Before I go, I make sure to have an extra bag, exact change, and hand sanitizer. I buy the meat with exact change, put it in my new bag (preferably without touching the slimy bag they put the meat in) and then sanitize. I take it home and wash the meat and freeze it and bleach the kitchen like crazy. Hanying thinks I'm nuts, and maybe I am. But raw meat is not for me.

It is, however, for these people.

I must admit that they have good seafood at San Yuan Li. I have schlepped their salmon all the way across the city (over an hour) on the subway and in taxis just so I could have it. It's pretty good, even if I find the buying part of the process repulsive.

And, speaking of repulsive:

Pigs ear, tongue, entrails, heart, feet, and other unidentified mushy stuff.

But did I mention the good seafood? Like lobster?!

And, if truth be told, here is the real reason I shop at Sanyuanli market:

cheese and dairy products

non-Chinese spices


oh, and a little more cheese.


Mother's Day

>> Sunday, May 9, 2010

My Mom came to Beijing for Sam's baptism in 2008. In honor of her and her great trek, I've included a few pictures. The Temple of Heaven

Hanging out with the bird guys

The Bird's Nest in Beijing

A stone lion at the 17 arch bridge at the Summer Palace

Peking Duck for Thanksgiving dinner

Today is Mother's Day. Most Mother's Days find me in the congregation either fuming at the speakers for misogyny, grieving for lost children, or guiltily trying to think about anything but my failings as a mother. No kidding.

Three years ago, I had just lost twins at 15 weeks of pregnancy. Six months earlier I had lost another baby. These were hard-fought-for babies. Their loss brought unbelievable grief. The branch president looked at me and talked about those moms who couldn't have children. I had held it together o.k. until then, but that did me in. I tried to stifle my sobs until the end of sacrament meeting. I almost made it. I'm sure the people in back of me could see my heaving chest and just after the meeting ended I collapsed into a ball of tears. What a day!

The last year wasn't any better but at least I made it through sacrament meeting.

And can I just say that most Mother's Day talks are full of "should"s and "shouldn't"s? Even if the speaker is talking about their own mother, I can feel myself comparing my mothering skills to hers. It's always a FAIL.

I've actually tried to work out in my mind what kind of Mother's Day talk I would give, if ever asked. Probably talk about the divine nature of motherhood. Look at some scriptural examples of motherhood, try to talk about real mothers, just not glorify or try to put a rosy spin in it. Truthfully, I can't come up with anything different than what other people say--and I don't like those talks. That's probably why they don't ask me!

So, this morning I woke up fully knowing that it's Mother's Day. And, you know what? I didn't feel grief, or guilt, or frustration. I went to church and enjoyed (wait, did I say enjoyed?!) the talks even with a few "should"s and "shouldn't"s. I came home and remember that my family was going to give me gifts and got genuinely excited about it. I took a welcome nap and enjoyed a foot massage. All in all, it's been a great day. My first Mother's Day I've ever enjoyed. What a sweet time.

I also have to say that no Mother's Day would be complete without acknowledging my own mom. Here are some things I love about her:

1. She is a go-getter. If there's something that needs to be done, she'll figure a way to get it done. She figured out that with six kids, a little medical knowledge would be helpful. So, she started to read medical books. She could totally keep up with the doctors and has maybe even saved a life or two with her knowledge.
2. She's a reader. She taught me the magic of books. I remember our trips to the Ogden library. We would go and I remember having free reign of the place. She didn't limit us to the kids' section, either. We looked at all the books all over the library. We got to bring home as many books as we wanted. And then we got to do it all over again.
3. She is whip-smart. She knows so much stuff about the world we live in. And she has great taste in music and art and anything cultural. It's because of her that I love travel and the arts
4. She's a great Grandma for Sam. She goes out of her way to email Sam and keep in touch with him. He loves it when she shows him a new animal or sends him a book. He also has her sense of humor. He finds her a pure delight.

Maybe it's a product of age, this happy Mother's Day, but I hope it stays. I guess I don't expect perfection any more. I do some things really well and I still have a lot to learn. But being a Mom isn't about being perfect. It's about being me. I figure I can do that pretty well by now!

Hope all you moms have a great day!

Love you, Mom!


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