Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Back from vacation...

The best seat Air China offers
We just got back from spending a week in Indonesia and Singapore.  After enduring this January,  Beijing's coldest and most polluted on record, it felt like stepping into one of Julian's Mickey Mouse Clubhouse cartoons.  We all got sun burns and heat rashes and bug bites, our wet bathing suits got moldy instead of ever drying, but all the direct sunlight was a welcome shock to the systems.  Here are some photos off my phone.  More to come from the camera later...

Sunday, January 20, 2013


The other night as I was putting Julian to sleep, I told him that sometimes when I feel anxious I like to imagine I'm in my favorite place, somewhere guaranteed to make me feel happy and relaxed no matter what.  Mine is -- obviously -- Riley's Beach in Cotuit.  I asked Julian where his favorite happy place is, and after a second, he said, "Fundazzle."

When I lived in Boston, my friend Whitney and I thought about opening up an indoor playground cafe, and while that project remains in the brainstorming phase, Beijing already has several of them.  The best we've found so far is called Fundazzle.  It's in what looks like a former warehouse and has a huge two-story jungle gym with slides going down into an olympic pool-sized ball pit.  There's also a sand box, climbing wall and an inflatable pool filled with goldfish you can pay a little extra to catch with a net.  So basically a four-year-old's happy place.

Julian so Fundazzled he can't stand still

Julian, Vera and I went on Saturday. We got there. I looked at my watched, looked at Julian, looked back at my watch, and two and a half hours had passed.  Julian spent most of it sprinting around while Vera got attention from some of the Chinese parents.  A lot of them had questions about her hair: what color would it be?  Would it be as blonde as Julian's or more like mine?  Is it possible it might change color?  I didn't really know how to answer but later realized they were curious probably because 99.9% of Chinese people are born with black hair, grow up with black hair and then get old and dye their hair black.
Vera and her mystery hair
The best part by far was when Julian asked for water and a snack.  I was nursing Vera so couldn't go get anything, so I gave him cash, told him how to ask for what he wanted in Mandarin and watched him go.  I'm not sure how he did it -- English, Mandarin, Russian, sign language -- but he managed to return with something to eat and drink and my change.  Never mind the snack he ended up with was a vile-looking supersized bag of prawn crackers.  Just seeing his confidence grow made me proud.  Maybe Fundazzle is becoming my favorite happy place too, in Beijing at least.

The germ pit.  I mean ball pit.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Pollution is gross

I knew before moving to China that the air pollution here would be gross, but this past weekend it was off the charts. Literally.  Philip and I left the house Saturday evening to go to a dinner party, and I tried hard to imagine the spooky white smog was closer to Sherlock Holmes' London than post-apocalyptic third world mega city.

As we were preparing for our move, I tried to wrap my head around what it would mean to live in a city where the pollution would require us on some days not to leave the house.  Back home, I was worried about parabens in my moisturizer and what chemicals they use in my dry cleaning.  Here, toxic levels of micro-chemicals--and possibly lead--are all but guaranteed to be in the air we breathe here daily.

Indoor time!
And its obviously not my but my kids' lungs I feel guilty about.  I've tried asking other parents here how they feel about raising their families in Beijing, and I've found it's kind of like asking a smoker how he feels about his lungs: most respond, eyes down, kind of sheepishly that the evidence is inconclusive, and anecdotally at least, once they leave China, the coughs go away, all those little lung cells regenerate, and everyone seems fine.

This past weekend we dealt with it mainly by staying indoors (with Julian and Vera's little faces basically pressed up against our air filters.)  We are lucky to have a pool in our building and some nice restaurants just downstairs, so there wasn't a need to go very far.  But it's something I know I'll continue to angst over as long as we live here.

Friday, January 11, 2013

GrandMich and Bapa

My parents headed back to Boston today after spending three weeks with us in China, and we are missing them already.  They were total superstars for coming so far to see us and bringing a little bit of the Back Bay to Beijing.  First of all, they packed one of each cold medicine CVS sells.  And of course my dad brought a couple of his (literally) world-famous rum cakes.  Then, for both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, my mom made Gourmet centerfold recipes downloaded to her iPad.  Philip was worried she'd be a little lost without a Whole Foods, but at the butcher shop she got right behind the counter and pointed out on the half of a dead cow lying on the cutting board exactly which ribs she wanted to take home.  By week two here, she had plugged her ipod into speakers in the kitchen so she and my dad could listen to the Beatles while they buttered up a chicken to roast.  There's really nothing nicer to come home to.

Cooking class at the Hutong leaning how to make Lamb stew with red Chinese dates (the photo I wanted to post of her seasoning meat in our kitchen was censored since she was in her pajamas.)

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

the Great Wall

Julian and I walking on the Great Wall

GrandMich, wearing two coats, and Julian, in every sweater we packed for China

Notice we're the only tourists up there...

Warming up with hot chocolate at The Schoolhouse

My wise daughter who stayed warm inside by the fire

Happy 2013 and welcome to the Boston to Beijing blog where you'll hear about the latest from our life in China.

Here are some from our trip to Mutianyu with my parents this past weekend.  The weather was way below freezing, so we spent most of it by the fire at our hotel eating wonton soup and drinking hot chocolate.  People always tell me that being from Boston I should be used to the cold, but just to put in it in perspective, Boston was about 40 degrees warmer than Beijing on Sunday.  Still, my mother, Julian and I made it up to the Great Wall for a short walk and look around.  I'll post our pictures as soon as I can get them off her camera.  Stay tuned...