Wednesday, August 24, 2011


Our first impression of Yinchuan was a good one. Of course, after being stuck in Beijing an extra day due to a delayed flight, and waiting standby with a dozen other people trying to get to Yinchuan on totally full flights, we were just happy to finally arrive! We walked out of the airport greeted by blue skies and balmy weather. The fields surrounding the city were surprisingly green for the dry climate, and we passed a magnificent lake filled with thousands of blooming waterlilies. Not exactly what you think of as desert!

Our first impression of our apartment was slightly less glowing. After we (and by that I mean Kevin) hauled all our luggage up to the sixth floor, we looked around our new home. The living room was piled full of boxes we shipped from Weinan. I tiredly surveyed the grimy floor, wondering what I would do with my little crawler, ready for some movement after all that time in planes and airports. Step one, put that questionable looking mop to use. Of course we had no cleaning supplies. Or maybe step one, figure out how to get the power turned on before nighttime. Unfortunately the place we need to go pay is only open from 5-6pm, naturally. No actually, step one: must find water!! While our house water was on (yay!), it is of course not drinkable, and we haven't drunk hardly anything all day. So step one, find water. Step two, get our exhausted baby to take a nap. Step 2.5, find some sheets. Probably should have thought to mark which box they were in...

Gradually, our apartment became more and more livable. I mopped the bedroom floor so Juliana could play on the floor, even though she still ended up with black hands and knees. We moved the boxes out of the living room and haphazardly unpacked our things. Kevin scrubbed and scrubbed the moldy fridge. I scrubbed the nasty bathroom floor. We cleaned and cleaned and cleaned. We tried to sleep in between waking up 15x a night with a jetlagged baby. Kevin got a nasty cold and then Juliana and I caught it too.

We bought a cabinet for the kitchen so we have somewhere to store things. We set up a water delivery company, internet, and cell phone plans. We put together the crib, moved some giant pieces of furniture (after taking several doors off their hinges), and made a few trips to the supermarket. And by “we” I mostly mean Kevin. Meanwhile I mopped (baby strapped onto my back – thank you Ergo!), tried to get the baby to sleep, set up the kitchen, made baby food, and chased the Juliana around saying, “No no no! Don't go there. What did you just put in your mouth? You can't touch the cords/scissors/screw/exposed outlet/dirty shoe/old trashcan/bike tire/pile of plastic bags.” It's a wonder we survive childhood.

The apartment has some definite good points. Being on the 6th floor means we get lots of light, a nice breeze, and built-in exercise. The supermarket is only a block away. Our classroom building is just a 5-10 minute walk. We can see the mountains from our kitchen window. It is fully furnished, and most of the furniture is even usable. One day we'll put up “before and after” pictures so you can see how we've fixed things up, but we're not to the “after” stage yet.

Now we have been in Yinchuan a little more than a week and things have really come together a lot. We are not completely unpacked and moved in, but we have made great progress in that direction. We have started our “foundations week” of classes, which is thankfully just an hour a day, going over tones and pronunciation to make sure we get them right. Today we talked about the six different “s” sounds in Chinese and how when a third tone is in front of another third tone it becomes a second tone, and how the fifth “neutral” tone is pronounced at a different pitch depending on which tone comes before it. The cold is certainly not helping my pronunciation, and my ears are so plugged up I can't hear things right. I really hope it gets better before next week when...

We start full time! (Dun-dun-dun). We may not have a chance to come up for air until January. Kevin will be taking classes in the morning. We will try to find someone who can watch Juliana for a few hours so I can meet with a tutor in the morning. I will have class in the afternoon, and as soon as I am done with class, Kevin will meet with a tutor. At least, that's our hope, but we don't actually know how it will all work out. So if you don't hear from us for a while, assume that we are alive (though possibly braindead) and chugging along. I think once we can get into the swing of things, it's going to be a good (if very challenging) couple of years.

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