Monday, January 31, 2011

Saturday in Suzhou

Well, it's official...we are settling into a routine. Saturday began with a walk over to Casa Zoe for breakfast and coffee. Then we went over to Euro Foods and Summit market (they're places that have western grocery items for a nice chunk 'a change!) and did a bit of shopping. We then headed over to the nail place to make an appointment for a manicure on Monday. We then stopped off at Starbucks for a coffee. Back to the apartment for a bit, and then Mr. Shen picked us up to go look at vehicles at the car dealerships (what is it about men and automobiles??) then we stopped at a shopping area to look for some dishes, a bigger purse for me...I have to carry way too much when venturing out...(have I discussed the toilet paper situation?)
We ate dinner at home, which consisted of left over Indian food from earlier in the week. We discussed heading over to the Blue marlin to listen to the band and indulge in a nitecap. It got a bit colder, so we decided to stay in and watch a movie. Mark had to work the next day (Sunday) because of the Chinese New Year so they can have a few extra days off together. Weird it is...but it's the Chinese way! He is off work from Feb 2nd through the 8th. Then...he has to work 10 days in a row!! It's nuts I tell you!
The Chinese New Year is A HUGE HOLIDAY over here. Think of it as Christmas and Thanksgiving rolled into one. Lots of eating, drinking , and spending time with family. Travelling at this time of year over here is NUTS!! We are staying put and just doing some local things. I'll take pics and keep you posted.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Busy, busy end of the week!

I've been a bit busy with all my social activities and school work. I'll tell you, I could not work and keep up this kind of social calendar!
Thursday I walked over to the Courtyard Marriott for a lunch that the EAS ladies had. it was delicious! I was pleasantly surprised at all the offerings. It was a buffet, and had everything on it from a salad bar, Chinese and Western offerings-- including steak! For those of you who don't know...I love vegetables but I am a "Meatatarian" What can I say, I'm a Midwestern gal who grew up with a Father who was a "meat and potatoes" man. BRING ON THE BEEF! We also had a desert bar and coffee and tea. It was quite the spread.
I thoroughly enjoyed my dining companions as well. I have been trying to meet others so I sat with folks I had not met. It was wonderful! I sat with two women from Finland and another lady from the U.K. The lady from the U.K. lives in my apartment complex. They were discussing the needlework get together planned for the following morning and encouraged me to come. I declined saying... I don't knit and people find it pretty difficult to teach left handers. One of the women from Finland (Raya) spoke up and said "Oh, it's fun, please come we need more people like you there!" She said it was a nice time having tea and coffee and socializing. More on that later...
Val(the lady from the U.K) and I walked back over to the complex together and made plans to meet up in the AM for the walk over to Pam's for the needlework session. So we said our goodbyes and went our separate ways. Mark called to say that we were having dinner with some of the guys from work (including his boss)at La Cosa Vostra. YUMMY! That is the Italian place...and believe me it did not disappoint! I sat next to one of Mark's colleagues from Japan who asked if I spoke any which my reply was..."only Syianara" He and I had a quick chuckle about that. Dinner was fabulous...that could be one of my favorite spots in Suzhou for Western cuisine that's for sure!
The morning was very rainy and cold. Mark suggested that he send Mr. Shen (our driver) back for Val and I so we could ride over instead of walking in the cold rain. I was happy about that. So, Mr. Shen picked Val and I up at 09:45 and off we went to Pam's apartment. He dropped us off and the game plan was for him to wait and then take us home or wherever. The needlework social was a lot of fun. I am really beginning to establish some friends here :) Well, around noon, we decided to go have lunch. We went to a local Chinese restaurant....(I had my reservations about this!)But, when in Rome...right? So, we went to a Schezuan place. Now, I don't do Chinese at home so I was a bit apprehensive. Well, I have discovered I like A LOT of the Chinese vegetables and I'm pretty adventurous to try things. The other thing was eating with chopsticks. I am getting better everyday! Lunch was good and pretty cheap! 27 RMB ($4.15) There were 7 of us and there was plenty of food. At lunch, everyone discussed going to a local market that sold fabric and sewing and needle craft items. I said I could take 3 others in the car. I called Mr. Shen only to discover he was at the local Government office picking up Mark's residency permit. No worries....we hop in cabs and head over. Traffic was a bit slow...but we made it there in about 20 minutes.
We had a look around and some of the ladies bought fabric and other needle work notions. So, we decide to catch a cab back....NOT SO EASY!:( We tried for about 20 minutes to get a cab) and decide this is not working and one of the ladies has ridden the bus a few times and she knows the bus # of the one we need. We are right near the bus stop (a very busy bus stop...with many, many buses picking up and letting off). We hop on for 3 RMB (46 cents!) I had to laugh because my wonderful husband has told me on many occasions that Mr. Shen will take me and pick me up wherever I need to go...really?? Why am I on a bus being stared at like an alien life form then? It was an experience and not a bad one really...the bus was warm and clean, and you just get used to the people staring! We made it back in about 15 minutes. The saga continues....
Pam gets off the bus a stop before us and Val and I get off about two blocks from the apartment complex. The rain has stopped so it's not a bad walk. We bid each other good bye and head to our apartments. I get to my apartment entrance door, and it's locked! I look over and there is a calling panel that has not been there since Mark moved in in December. It was just a bunch of wires hanging out with nothing attached. Oh, and usually people just leave the doors wide open, NOT TODAY! So now, it's 3:15 in the afternoon it's cold I have to go to the bathroom, and I am now locked out of my apartment! Great! So, I stand there for a few minutes trying to will someone to come out of my luck! I then ring my apartment thinking maybe the cleaning lady is still there and she will let me in (there is a camera)...still no luck. I then see a button to call building management. No one answers...lovely! I am really annoyed now. I grab my phone thinking...I'm going to call Mark and share this wonderful experience I am having and ask him why exactly did I move 7800 miles from home? phone is dead! Yep...didn't charge it and now the battery is totally dead! While I am contemplating my dilemma and having a serious case of the "poor me's", I think how the heck am I going to get.....oh I think I have an idea!! I remember Mark showing me the Ebike entrance to the garage and there are stairs there as well. So, I walk around to there..down the stairs and.... yes, success! I take the elevator up to my floor, walk into the apartment and Mrs. Song is here! Really? I guess she didn't know how to work the intercom/calling system...who knows...I can't ask her because I don't speak Chinese and she doesn't speak English. <<>>Welcome to China!!! I run to the bathroom (!) and think... is it too early for a cocktail??

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Wednesday, January 26th

Well, it's been a few days....but that is because I am experiencing "technical difficulties" with the proxy server..and a few other things. We had to have someone come and look at the television in the bedroom because it was listing all channels known to man along with the "few" we get. It was annoying and taking forever to get to the channels we had.
So two nice non- english speaking men came to take a look. One of them pushes a button on the back of the satellite box...and works! Must have been a reset button..must remember that for future reference.
Also my cell phone decided to stop working and announced by a pop-up that said "Maximum applications reached" every time I tried to use it. Really? So, I tell Mr. Shen our driver and ask him.."do I need to put more money on the account?" he says and takes the phone from me. He comes back a little later with it...all fixed. What happened? He just laughs and says "I dunno, me push buttons and now works!" Gotta love a driver that is my go-to guy and fixes stuff. Plus, he gets me to places safely on these very scary roads! :)
I went to the EAS outing today to the Silk factory and a canal ride. Lunch was included:
All this is on a large lazy susan in the middle of the table. Pay special attention to the fish (head still on)..and the shrimp...(eyes staring back at you) It was interesting..I do not do seafood anyway..and there was other very tasty things to choose from. It was great fun..ladies from all over the globe. I'm getting to meet many fascinating people and that is the best part of moving here....okay, not the best part. The best part is actually being with my husband every day! More later....I gotta get some school work done!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The week-end far

Friday was spent doing some homework and playing "sign language" with the cleaning lady....(okay I know, stop rolling your eyes)Mark says we have to have someone twice a week, or I keep someone from having a job. So, I relent and have this very nice Chinese woman named Mrs. Song come in and clean. Well, I have to "hide" the laundry because she does it and then doesn't use the dryer and hangs everything out on the clothes hanger on the patio (it's enclosed). In frigid temperatures, can you say "frozen knickers?" So, I don't have her do the laundry. She also came with a receipt and speaking Chinese..I figured out it had to do with Mark's dress shirts that get taken to the cleaners. I had to call him, and in turn he had to put someone on the phone to speak with her in Chinese. Lots of smiling and shaking of heads after she was done on the phone. What happened? Heck if I know, but after she left about a half hour later, a nice young man came with the dress shirts..all clean and in their cellophane wrapping...mission accomplished!
Mark had to go to Shanghai for a business I was on my own for the evening. I just had some leftover chicken and vegetables from dinner earlier in the week. I was settling in to watch American Idol..(we get it the next day) on a Phillipines channel. I then got a call from CC to see if I wanted to play poker this evening. I thought....hmmm why not? So, I hopped in a cab with my address card and went off to a local bar to meet up with the poker players. I had a great time...Mark called to ask what I was up to around 11:00pm, he was a bit surprised and I do believe happy that I ventured out and made an evening out of it. I do think he was feeling a bit bad about having work obligations in the last two evenings. So, he swung by on his way back from Shanghai and picked me up to go home back to the apartment.
Saturday started out with our walk to Casa Zoe's for breakfast. It's a cute Tex-Mex place that has unlimited refills on coffee and they do a really good breakfast. It's about a 12-15 minute walk and the weather was decent so it was a great way to start the day. We then came back and I continued to practice my Ebike skills in the garage. I just want to feel comfortable before I venture out on the streets. Well, we ended up lost in the garage! After heading up a ramp to see where we might be, we discovered we were on the other side of the other phase of the complex! That is one HUGE underground garage!!! We then drove the bike around the complex to near our building. Practice will continue...and hopefully when the weather gets a bit warmer, I will be biking around Suzhou!
My husband took me out to a fabulous Italian restaurant called La Casa Vostra. Excellent indeed. I enjoyed my pasta dish and my glass of vino. It is quite obvious my husband is very well known here and the staff welcome him warmly. I understand why he likes it here, the food is outstanding and the service impeccable. We then went to a DVD store to buy a few movies because as Chinese New Year approaches, he has informed many things will be closed and it's not just a one day holiday here. Mark is off work Feb 2-8th. A lot of travelling goes on this time of year. We are staying put. He is planning something for our 10th wedding anniversary in March. Unfortunately, he will not share any details except to say I need my passport...Hmmm.
We ended our evening at a place called The Blue Marlin that is a bar geared toward the westerners who are here. They have a band and we enjoyed a nitecap before heading home back to the apartment. It was a wonderful date nite with my fabulous husband. Today, he has already made me breakfast, then this afternoon, we are headed to Shanghai for a bit of shopping and then to meet his boss for dinner. I'll fill you in later on that. Time to get in the shower and get goin'!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Outing cancelled.... :(

I should be on the EAS outing with the ladies...but alas the weather has made other plans. The international schools are closed due to the weather (snowing and dropping temperatures)and it makes for some hazardous road conditions when the city does not have salt trucks for these inclement conditions. This was the picture yesterday..

It's a bit heavier now...but not much. Being the midwestern Michigan gal I am, I am amused at how this little bit of snow and cold can cause so much havoc!
I met more new friends yesterday, because this gambling girl found out where they play local poker! Didn't take me long, huh? I had a great time and will probably make this a regular weekly outing. I am acclimating, so that is good. I am with my husband and that is...well... priceless! :)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Practice makes perfect...

So the picture below is me on my Ebike, which in all reality is a electric motorcycle.My husband bought it for me for Christmas and thought it would be fun and an easy way for me to get around the city. It's a blast...I haven't ventured out in the streets yet, I have been practicing in the underground garage. I don't want to go out there with all the crazy cab and bus drivers who would rather run over you than stop!
I am enjoying my class this term. It's dealing with ethics and morality and it is very enlightening and the instructor is great! A far cry from last term where the instructor made it her mission to ruin GPA's! Do I sound bitter?? Well, I am .. just a bit. My GPA is now 3.9 thanks to her! I digress....
It is actually snowing here in Suzhou. It is quite an oddity for that, my husband has accused me of bringing the Michigan weather along with me since it's been unseasonably cold here and now snow! It's not sticking to pavement,but the trees and rooftops are a nice white!
I am heading out tomorrow with the EAS ladies for a tour of a silk factory, a boat ride on one of the many canals here, and lunch. It should be a nice day.Let's just hope the weather is better tomorrow...

Biker Chick!

Friday, January 14, 2011

A "Real" Western Housewife in Suzhou!

 I walked over to the other (one of many) apartment complex to meet up with two ladies to walk over to the luncheon being held for the Expat women in Suzhou. We went to a new a new Italian place called Mamma Mia's. The food was mediocre, but the company was great. I met women from all over the world, Britain, Denmark,Singapore, and other Americans. I also met another poker player! She gave me info about poker games that are played at one of the local bar/restaurants. I was extremely happy about that! :) I do believe her and I will be "poker buddies"!
 While walking over one of the ladies asked if I would like to go and get a foot massage after lunch. Sounded like a great idea to off we went after lunch. It was FABULOUS!! It was very Zen-like...dark with candles and water features, a destination for relaxation that's for sure! Not only do they massage your feet...they do your shoulders, arms, hands, and legs! It was phenomenal. As I sat in the big comfy chair, relaxing while being pampered, I realized how incredibly lucky I am to not only have this once in a lifetime experience of living in China, I was actually starting to see what life in Suzhou is like for a lot of western women who are "trailing" spouses for their husbands job. Maybe I should contact BRAVO tv about doing a spinoff of their housewife series "Real Western Housewives of Suzhou". It would be interesting and I am sure comical at times to say the least!
 We then walked around and C showed me a lot of stores and places to get things and that was incredibly helpful. It was a lovely day, the sun was out and the wind had died down so it was a very pleasant afternoon for walking the city. It ended by my husband calling and we met up with him at Starbucks (they REALLY are everywhere!) to have coffee and a nice chat. It was a very nice day.I do believe I am going to like living here....  

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

I am here!

Yes...we have made it to China and I survived my first day! I had a bit of a stress when my blowdryer plug didn't want to fit into the I didn't get to dry my hair and my fuzzball, curly hair went out anyway. I mean seriously, I am going to stress about my hair? There are bigger problems in this world so Michele put on her "big girl panties" and dealt with it!(Come to find did work...I just couldn't figure it out, but of course the wonderful husband could.)
 I went to the EAS  (Expatriate Association of Suzhou) newcomers coffee on Tuesday morning. I met a few ladies who live close by, and we made plans to have lunch on Thursday at a new pizzeria that opened not too far away. So, I am off to being my social self! :)
 On a total downer...someone hacked my Facebook account, so I am trying to get that all straightened out. It totally stinks...because that was my sure way of keeping up with all my family and friends on daily basis. So, I wait to hear from Facebook security on what else I need to do.
 Mark went right back to work on Tuesday, but he did manage to get away to come to the coffee gathering and get me a phone so I don't feel so isolated without communication. What a guy I married! I sure was thinking smart when I said "yes" to spending my life with him...cuz what a life he has given me!!! I have been able to Skype my family and talk with my sister, Mom and son. That helps knowing they are just a video call away. So this AM I am going to get the closets in order for clothes and make room in the bathroom for all the products that it takes to make me gorgeous!'s a lot!
 As soon as I figure out how to post pics...they will be part of the daily musing...I hope. Time to start the day...   

Friday, January 7, 2011

Starting to freak out....just a bit!

So, I'm trying to finish up the rest of the packing since the moving company will be here in the AM. I'm having a little okay, A LOT of anxiety about making sure I have everything that I will need over the next six months. It's also finally hitting me that I am leaving my family for 6 months before I see them again.
 I am looking forward to spending time with my husband and meeting new friends, exploring a different country and all of its ancient history and culture. It's just really starting to sink in...I am leaving and I need to concentrate on the positive and the wonderful adventure that is about to unfold!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Keep swimming...keep swimming...

Yes, I feel like Dora. Just keep moving and everything, somehow will get done. I just don't want to forget anything and have the anxiety of not being able to get that something in China. Let's face it, being a plus size girl over in that petite world poses some issues. It's not like if I need to replace a bra, that I can run to the local clothing store and replace it. I need to stick to my list and just double and triple check to make sure I am organized and ready.
 My new class has started and it already feels like it will be a much better experience than my last one. It focuses on ethics and I know it will be very helpful and enlightening. I am looking forward to it. Being able to concentrate on school and not having a job to go to, sure is nice. I am very blessed for this whole opportunity and I will try to keep that thought in the forefront of my mind as I continue with this once in a lifetime experience.  

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Getting ready....

The original date for our departure was supposed to be tomorrow (YIKES!) but, with the holidays and a mishap with Mark's work visa, we have been delayed by a week. Our date to leave is now January 9th. I have mixed feelings about this. I keep thinking of more things that I need to get to pack for the shipment over to China, and it also increases my anxiety over this whole new adventure. On the plus side, it gives me more time to spend with my family, and see a few more friends before I go.
Being the strong, independent woman I am, I am still trying to wrap my head around the fact that I am currently not working, not bringing in any income, and solely supported by my husband. This brings up many different emotions and feelings. While I am grateful that we are able to do this, and I can concentrate on school without the demands of a daily job to go to, it still makes me have a feeling of vulnerability that I am not at all used to. I got a paper route at twelve years old and have worked ever since! To stop working after thirty-four years is kinda scary!! Thank goodness for my ever supportive husband who does understand my quirky feelings of vulnerability and my feelings of not contributing monetarily to our income. He's a peach, that's for sure!
So the countdown begins....