Monday, November 29, 2010

Baby Update

It's amazing how fast they grow.  Juliana has only been out in the world for a little over two months, and she's already gained mad skills.  Every week, she is doing something new.  For example, in the past couple of weeks she has been perfecting the hand-to-mouth action.  She hasn't quite mastered stuffing the entire hand in her mouth, but she sure works hard at it.  In recent weeks she has also learned to:
- Make little bubbles on her lips
- Make the cutest little cooing sounds
- Track well with her eyes - (she will follow me all around the room)
- Hold up her head
- Laughing (well, it's still a little more like a cough/squeal, but the intention is clear)
- Display her emotions with new volume...which is much cuter when she's laughing than when she's screaming-mad
- Sleep in her crib occasionally
- Spit up like crazy (Is this a skill?  Because she sure seems like an expert.)

Most of the time she is a very happy baby, which is nice.  She loves to 'talk' to us and so far has been content with meeting a ton of new people.  In the right mood, she enjoys looking at books and will really follow along with the pictures as I read.  She still loves to be held about 22hrs a day, but now we can also put her down on a blanket on our nice warm floors and she enjoys kicking around.  She is definitely a night owl and usually won't go to sleep before 11 or midnight, but she has been doing better with sleeping for 3 or even 4 hours at a time.  Except for the times when she wakes up every 1.5 hours.  And she has been doing better with falling back asleep after nighttime feedings.  Except for the times when she wants a 3am playtime.  There are some days when I think she is working herself onto a semblance of a schedule, but the next day she usually seems out to prove me wrong.  I have already discovered that babies like to keep you on your toes, making sure you never know what to expect.

This weekend we will travel to Beijing for Juliana's 2 month checkup.  It's really a pain to have to go so far, but a few of the immunizations she needs can only be gotten at an international clinic.  So with all the travel and lots of shots, it's looking to be a long weekend.

That's all of the baby update for now.  I'll just leave you with a few more photos to remind you how cute she is. :)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

When central heat becomes central leak

Nov. 17, 2010

by Kevin

Generally “heat day” is a highly-anticipated day in China. At least for those of us living north of the “heat line” an imaginary line (following the Huai River and the Qinling Mountains) that divides Northern China from Southern China and thus divides the country into “buildings with central heat” and “buildings where people freeze for several months unless they can afford to buy some other form of heating.” Some Southerners have even begun to clamor for central heat.

Thankfully, we live just north of the heat line. Ruth spent two years south of the heat line when she was in Yangzhou. I think she was colder than me most of the winter even though the ice was always frozen in Tonghua by early November at the latest and didn't thaw till March at the latest. Why? I had central heating. She just had a small AC/heat unit, space heaters and blankets. They were so inefficient that doctors in Yangzhou sometimes told people to just keep their windows open all winter. Nevermind the frostbite.

Anyway, as November 15 approached, our apartments were getting chilly. The baby's been bundled up in extra layers basically since her arrival in late October. The flipping of the switch that would send heat through the pipes in our floors (a wonderful innovation in a country that rarely uses insulation in it's concrete-walled buildings) eagerly anticipated.

But by the time we went to sleep that night, we hadn't heard the tell-tale trickles of water that indicated the onset of heat.

Then, the next day, again no heat. We began to worry – after all, the heat has ALWAYS been turned on Nov. 15, no matter how hot or cold it is outside. Thankfully, our fears were assuaged when I awoke to warm floors and set off for 8 a.m. class on the morning of the 17th.

Throughout class, we heard the slithering sounds of water filling pipes, as well as loud clanking. Undoubtedly workers had to fix something, I figured. The shivering students, bundled up in their coats, smiled.

When I went to office hours at 10, my smile quickly faded. The side-effect of water trickling through the pipes was a leak from the radiator in the foreign teacher office/library. At this point, a growing puddle had formed near the desks and computer at one end of the room. So I got on the phone to the foreign affairs officials. They told me that there was some flooding on the second floor, but a worker would be coming soon. Office time came and went with no help. About four hours later, when Ruth was in the office, the workers arrived and proceeded to inspect the radiator and remove it from the wall.

Naturally, they didn't drain the water out first, so filthy, rusty, grimy coffee-grind looking water splattered onto the wall and poured across the entire floor. Thankfully China doesn't do carpet. They tried to shut off the incoming water, but a steady leak continued to drip onto the floor. They put a small basin underneath it, but it was full within a few minutes, so they opened the window and began bailing it out. Just before Ruth's office time ended, the workers left. The drip continued. They made no indication of whether or not they would return, so I wrapped up the baby and headed for the office so I could pass her off to Ruth and wait for them to return.

Again, I told the school about the situation. They assured me that the workers would return. I got to work cleaning the floor. Some of you may remember a post earlier this summer about the flooding of the basement in Georgia this summer. If I was superstitious, I'd think it had followed me. But in the process, I'd become quite adept at getting water off the floor. The mop didn't help much because it didn't absorb enough water. Instead, I grabbed brooms and began sweeping into the hallway. The workers returned, grabbed the radiator and carried it off. Again, with no indication of whether or not they would return. “The entire floor is wet. Do you know if the workers will return?”

The response: “They left to repair the radiator. After it is repaired they will return again.”

“When will that be?” I wondered.

“They will call me,” she replied.

Why did I even bother asking?

Soon, a trio of concerned students arrived and offered to help. Before I could turn them down, they had mops and brooms in hand and went to work. Unfortunately, by this time, my 4 p.m. class was about to start. Kelly had just finished teaching her third class of the day and was exhausted, but she hurriedly went back to her apartment, changed her clothes and returned to bail water for a couple hours. Again, I told the school officials. Naturally, the worker responsible for unlocking the door to a computer classroom didn't show up until 20 minutes late. It was just one of those days.

Since our school was going to be hosting a banquet at 6, again, I pestered the school officials. “Will they be back to fix it in time for the banquet? I have to go to teach, but now Kelly and some students are trying to clear the water so it doesn't damage the furniture or the books.”

“I am coming,” she replied. Finally.

I had to go teach my class. Naturally, since nothing was going right, the worker who is responsible for unlocking the door to my multimedia classroom didn't show up, so we waited in the hallway for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, Kelly and some students bailed water and cleared the floor.

After class, I went to check on the progress. The workers had just arrived. Our banquet was supposed to begin now (Sherri, our PA was in town and the school always throws us a banquet when she comes), but we waited while the workers attempted to install the repaired radiator. The drips continued until the workers realized that they might need to install a washer onto the pipe. I can't help but wonder if this would have solved the problem in the first place, but I tried to keep my mouth shut.

Flustered, we headed off to our banquet.

On the plus side: now we have so much heat that we can see Juliana's hands and have to crack the windows to keep from sweating.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Chinese Grannies

On pleasant days, Chinese grannies congregate on the benches outside our apartment complex, chatting and sunning themselves (if it counts as sunning when you are wearing 2 layers of long underwear).  Today as we headed out for a walk, our path took us right through the center of the group.  I was wearing Juliana in my Moby wrap, so it took them a minute to notice her.  Once they did, they eagerly swarmed in.

They touched her cheeks, plucked at her clothes, tugged curiously on the wrap, removed her pacifier, and pulled up her hat to examine the foreign baby's hair.  They smiled and exclaimed and talked excitedly about this strange little foreign baby.

And they criticized.  "Tai leng le!" (Too cold!)  The baby could probably be so layered she looked like a ball and they would still say she wasn't wearing enough layers.  When they heard she was only a month and a half old, they exclaimed, horrified, "Tai shao le!" (Too small!).  In Chinese tradition, babies don't go out until they are three months old.  They expressed their concern that the baby should not be curled up in the wrap.  They said a bunch of other stuff we didn't understand, but tongue clicking and head shaking seem to be universal signs of disapproval.

Sometimes it's hard to receive continual criticism, but I have to remember that giving advice and being critical is a cultural way of showing you care about others.  You could say that criticism is a Chinese love language.  And the grannies weren't mean about it - they smiled despite their disapproval.  We smiled, accepting the criticism, and continued on our walk.  It's hard to argue with a billion people and thousands of years of tradition.  Some battles you're just never going to win.  So we smile and nod and keep being the crazy foreigners that we are.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Swimming Babies

Yesterday we learned about a new phenomenon: swimming babies!  Well, apparently it's not new, but it's the first I had heard of it.  In China, babies who are newborn to a few years old can compete in swimming contests.  Our student said that her niece (3 months old) recently won a baby swimming contest held by the local hospital.
A little inner-tube is put in around the baby's neck and they flail around.  The idea is a little weird, but I bet the babies like it!  Want to see more?  Click here.  We're off to buy an inner-tube for Juliana.  If she starts practicing at bath time, I bet she can be the next champion.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Juliana meets the Masses

by Ruth
Juliana had her first student debute today. I had four different classes of students I taught for the past two years, and I promised to introduce the baby to them. It worked out well because two of the groups had a class together in the early afternoon, and the other two had class in the same room during the late afternoon period. So we headed over to the classroom building in the break between classes.

I told them beforehand that I would bring the baby around, to stay in their places instead of all crowding up at once, but that didn't actually happen of course. We walked into the room and were immediately mobbed by excited students.
Can you find the foreigner?

They all marvelled at her white skin and were especially enamored by her little nose. One commented on her double-lidded eyelids (a lot of Chinese don't have the eyelid crease and think it is more beautiful to have one). They tentatively reached out a finger to touch her cheek (what does a foreigner baby feel like anyway?) and then quickly drew away like she might break.

Juliana slept peacefull through it all. A couple of students asked, "Why are her eyes closed? Can she open her eyes?" I explained that she was sleeping, and yes, she did sleep a lot but sometimes she opens her eyes too. I'm guessing these are the students who haven't spent much time around babies.

They all thought she was cute and lovely. Naturally.