March 2011 Update


Hi all,

We are well and truly settled in now and enjoying the weekly routine. We have some holidays coming up and are very much looking forward to getting out of the city. We have a few trips planned including:
– A day trip to a Safari with a Renee, Tom and TJ (a Chinese family)
– An overnight trip to a traditional Chinese village, where we will have the opportunity to stay with a local Chinese family in a Ming Dynasty houtong.
– (later in April) we will fly south to meet with Pam and enjoy a Yangtze river cruise together before returning to BJ to give Pam another royal tour.

I’m actually flying to Luoyang (Henan Provence) to visit an orphanage tonight for 2 nights. We are going as a group of women and will be providing emotional support and encouragement for the women who work there (as well as interacting with the kids). We have a wonderful opportunity to bless these women and fill them up so that they can continue doing the amazing work that they do.

Ayi is wonderful and we really hope that she understands just how much we LOVE her. I want to steal her full-time but she works for another family in the mornings and is obviously happy with the current situation. But as of August we will NEED a full-time Ayi (assuming I get a job) and our Ayi knows that. We are getting a (Chinese) friend to find us an Ayi from her home town. Our Ayi saved our butts big time last night because we left both sets of keys inside when we went for dinner and then Ayi left and locked up thus locking our keys inside…ARGH! It took us 1.5 hours to get onto Ayi and then she rode over on her bike to give us the keys. We took Z to a friend’s house whilst we waited.

Speaking of jobs, I still have no job lined up for August but I’m letting God deal with it. I’ve put in 2 applications for year 5/6 positions, one at WAB and the other at Dulwich. Both are fantastic International schools very close to us. Of course I would prefer a job at BSB with Nat but at the moment all the teachers are staying or they only have grade 1 or lower (which would probably kill me full-time).

I’m calling myself a ‘desperate house-wife of Shunyi’ lately, but I’m managing to keep myself busy. If I’m not supply teaching then I’m usually at the coffee shop studying Chinese (I can now order my coffee completely in Chinese). Also I meet with Renee, my Chinese friend, once a week and we do a language swap. I do the grocery shopping, explore our area even more and catch up on my TV shows . I spent a lot of time earlier this month organising Z’s birthday party which was a HUGE success.

For Z’s party we hired the party room at the clubhouse which was 300rmb per hour or 1000rmb for a package which included unlimited time in the room as well as 1000rmb worth of food and drinks from the restaurant (we took advantage of the package). The party room is just down the fall from the indoor play area which was a great way to keep the kids entertained. I ordered 40+ donuts from the New York style donut shop and piled them up to create a pyramid cake. I stuck a ‘2’ candle on top and Z was mesmerised by it for most of the afternoon. By the time it came to actually sing happy birthday and eat the cake he was beside himself with joy. He now refers to donuts as ‘birfday cake’. He scored BIG TIME in the present department which are all packed away in the cupboard – he can get them slowly otherwise it would have been a HUGE influx of new toys and he wouldn’t appreciate them. I would also have nowhere to put them all – thus a trip to IKEA (or the local markets) is in order soon.

Zander is officially a big boy! He turned 2 and gave up the bottle, where is my baby?!?!?! I was dreading him giving up the bottle but it was actually rather easy. I scared myself about having an inconsolable child with many sleepless nights…but he just took it in his stride. He actually put it in the bin himself and when he asked for it later that night I reminded him that he had put it in the bin and that Ayi had emptied the bin already. He seemed to think about what I’d just said and then kind of said ‘okay’. Next stop on the toddler express train to adulthood – toilet training!!!

The weather is warming up and most days are between 10 and 20 degrees, although it is still very cold in the mornings (around 1-4 degrees). Zander’s birthday weekend the temps got up to 19 degrees and I found myself riding around with just 2 light layers (no thick coat). It was lovely, similar to a typical Winter’s day in Brisbane. Chinese people are “not allowed” to take their thermals off yet, not until after next weekends’ festival (Tomb Sweeping). My Aussie friend over here abides but these ridiculous rules and I often remind her that she is Aussie and doesn’t need to do what the government tells her.

We have settled in at CCC (Capital Community Church) for now and will be going there every Sunday morning. The service starts at 10am and we are able to ride our bikes there. It takes about 15-20 mins and we just happen to pass a great coffee shop on the way and occasionally I stop for a morning pick-me-up. Z’s not 100% settled in children’s church yet but last Sunday his friend (Hannah from school) was there and he was much happier.

I don’t have much else to say but will journal some of my experiences this weekend and try to send out another update next week.

The year in review

It’s been such a long time since I’ve posted anything but considering the post I made in March I’m really not that surprised. Zander is taking up a lot of my spare time which is the way it should be.

The last twelve months have been a bit of a rollercoaster ride:

  • My wife had a baby – Zander James Brown.
  • I completed my Graduate Diploma of Education – Secondary.
  • I was offered a job in Malaysia.
  • My wife was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
  • I turned down the job in Malaysia.
  • I was offered a job at Kelvin Grove State College and accepted it.
  • I was offered a job at Unisys over the holidays (fantastic since I don’t get holiday pay).
  • My wife found a new house for us in the city closer to the hospital and Kelvin Grove.

The best thing that happened this year was definitely Zander closely followed by graduating. The worst thing was Sheree being diagnosed with cancer. I was really scary when we knew it was cancer but didn’t know what type of cancer it was or if it was even treatable. When we finally found out it was Hodgkin’s lymphoma we were actually relieved because Hodgkin’s lymphoma has an 80%+ cure rate which is much better than some of the alternatives.

Sheree has been having chemotherapy for almost two months now and the side effects haven’t been that bad. The worst side effects have actually been from another drug she is given after the chemotherapy which makes her bones ache.

I’m going to try to post more frequently this year but we’ll see what happens.

The new way to order food in Chinese Restaurants

China Menu

China Menu

One of the most challenging things that I had to deal with when we moved to Beijing in 2006 was ordering food from chinese restaurants that didn’t have English menus (most of them). Over time it became easier (you memorize a few favorite dishes) but it was always slightly annoying.

Well technology keeps on progressing and a new application has been released on the iPhone that should make ordering Chinese food easier. If you are planning to visit China for a holiday or have decided to line in China but can’t speak Chinese then China Menu is an App worth considering. Unlike phrases books this China Menu helps you customize your order (you want cold beer, not warm beer). It also has a section that help you to understand Chinese customs and tells you how to deal with some of the more interesting ones.

That being said it doesn’t have the killer feature that I would love to see which is being able to take a photo of the menu and being told what it is ^_^

Discloser: I worked with the primary developer of this App when I was living in China. That being said it’s still a great idea and I’m looking forward to using it when I go back to China.