Some thoughts after 1 month

It is May 26, 2010.  We have been in Shenyang for a little more than a month.  In that time, we lived in a hotel for about 3 weeks, and moved to our apartment last weekend.  Our shipment has yet to arrive from the US.  As of Saturday, it was in Dalian, China, about 4 hours south of here.  The Michelin contact says it is going through customs now, and we should receive it next week.  Our cats are in transit from North Carolina.  Actually, they are on their flight from Amsterdam to Hong Kong right now thanks to Pet Relocation and KLM.  So for the last 10 days, I have been doing a major cleaning of the apartment, watching hulu and studying my Chinese.  The cleaning is going alright, though I’m bored with that and wish my Dustbusters folks were here.  The Chinese is going alright too, and my teacher thinks I’m doing well so far.  Or maybe she is just being nice.

I have some pictures to process before I post our latest excursion, so this post is just some ponderings and experiences, in no particular order. 

… Top Ten Responses.  When we told people we were moving to China, there tended to be a lot of the same questions, and we got to the point where we could say the answers before the interrogation began. 

  •      Yes, China.
  •      No, we’ve never been there.
  •      He will be working on a new plant construction project for Michelin.
  •      I don’t know what I’m going to do with my time.
  •      Shenyang. It is in the northeast, close to the Mongolian, Siberian and North Korean borders.
  •      4 years.
  •      No, we don’t speak Chinese (yet).
  •      We will live in a furnished apartment.
  •      We can take 1100 pounds of our stuff in a shipment.
  •      Yes, we plan to take the cats.

…  Services.  In preparing for this move, and in doing research, I began using this phrase a lot – There has to be someone who does this.  For example, when we lived in France, our amazing friend, Donna, was kind enough to check our po box and mail things to us periodically.  This time, I kept thinking there has to be a service like this for businesses, expatriates, world travelers, drug dealers, etc.  And so there is.  We use a mail service and are able to maintain a US address in Miami.  (insert your own drug dealer joke here)  And unlike the last time we lived overseas, you are now required to keep a US address in order to maintain US bank accounts. So we’ll be keeping the service throughout our time here.  Friends and family members might send mail to us in Miami, or they might send it directly to China.  Purdue will send it to China.  We are still determining what mail goes to which address.  When we receive a piece of mail in Miami, the company takes a photo of it and sends us an email.  When we log on to our account, we can look at the photos and also find out how much the piece weighs. We discard it or keep it.  And when we save up enough for 1 pound, we tell them what to send and where, and off it goes in a DHL envelope.  We pay for 1 pound regardless, so we save up.  The envelopes take about 4 days to reach us, and they deliver to the door.  The last envelope included my Fine Cooking magazine and some final notices from utilities and banks following the house closing.  There were ribs on the cover of FC, so I think you know what I looked at first. 

… Another “there has to be someone who does this” moment happened last week when I googled “using email to send letters”.  My Mom doesn’t have nor will she get email, so she looks forward to what arrives in her mailbox everyday.  I haven’t quite figured out the postal system in China and was wanted to send her a letter.  Turns out there are online services where you can submit a letter electronically, then they will print it and mail it for you.  It costed $1.10 for 2 pages.  Then I also submitted pictures to and had them mailed directly to her.  So despite her lack of email or desire for it, she is still benefiting from the internet in other ways.  And I’ll have a little less guilt during the next phone call.

… Wrong numbers.  It is an amusing annoyance to me getting wrong number calls in China.  You see, they don’t have voice mail here.  I know it sounds crazy. We didn’t really believe the cultural consultant when she told us this two months ago, then we arrived and found it to be true.  No voice mail, no answering machines.  They answer their cell phones anytime.  They text.  So in the US, when someone calls the wrong number and you answer, you say hello and you both realize that it’s wrong. Click.  Or they get your voice mail and realize it is the wrong number.  Click.  Here, if you don’t recognize the number and let it go, they get ringing and more ringing, and they keep calling back.  One person called me 8 times on Saturday, until I answered the phone and said “hello, are you calling for Julie?”  Click.  (This also helps end the telemarketing calls quickly.)  On Sunday, they called me 4 times, until I texted them in English.  They still call me once a day, and unfortunately, this morning it was at 6:15.  I’m not sure why they don’t have or use voice mail in China.  I’m sure it is something about how they value relationships and that answering a call will help build a relationship much faster than voice mail.  It may also be that they do not have the same sense of order nor interuption as Westerners do. (see below about waiting in line)  Please understand this is not a criticism, just something different about their culture.  I told my Chinese teacher about the wrong numbers and told her that, this morning, I had asked them, “Ni shuo Yingu?” (do you speak English?).  She thought it was amusing that I would use wrong numbers to practice my Chinese.

… Sterilizing with ozone.  We have an extra contraption in our kitchen, a sterilizer.  It is about the size of a large microwave and is mounted between cabinets above the sink.  You need this because there are bacteria in the water.  It is not safe for drinking, and despite washing the dishes, you still need to sterilize them in some way.  You can use a bleach or vinegar mixture, or use the heat sterilizer in the dish washer.  Since I don’t really care for our dishwasher, and it took me a few days to buy bleach and vinegar, I got used to using the sterilizer.  It has a dish rack, so you wash items and then put them in the sterilizer, turn it on for 45-90 minutes, and it generates ozone to kill bacteria.  It makes a low buzzing sound, and you get used to it.  I realized that you could also wash fruits and vegetables and put them in this machine.  That helps.  I found that they make ozone machines with tubing also.  I’m going to look for one of those.  You put fruits or vegetables in a bowl of water, insert the end of the tube, and the machine generates ozone that travels through the tube and makes bubbles in the water.  Fascinating.

…  Waiting in line.  The Chinese gather, or congregate; they don’t wait in line.  Store employees or customer service reps will serve multiple people at a time. Waiting for the elevator is a free for all.  A restaurant buffet is like watching ants attack spilled soda on a sidewalk.  And the traffic, oh my, the traffic, and the honking!  From our apartment, we look down at a 6 lane street that often has 8-9 lanes of cars.  Taxi drivers turn left from the far right lane, and will use opposing lanes of traffic to go around slower cars.  The traffic could be many paragraphs all by itself; let’s get back to lines.  There aren’t any, or many.  I believe the only reason people wait in line at the grocery store checkout is because you are funneled toward the cash register.  Recently, we went to an event of the European Chamber with other Michelin folks, and it was chaos.  It was one of those events, like a Taste of Shenyang, where there tables around the room providing information and sample food and wine.  Nice, huh?  In principle.  Imagine 100 Westerners, or NAFs as I say, non-Asian faces, a term I came up with because Western doesn’t describe those from down under.  Imagine these Westerners getting in line for the pasta station; waiting patiently to choose which pasta, which toppings, which sauce, mmmmm.  Imagine another 100 people who don’t have the same concept of waiting in line. Suddenly, the pasta station becomes this crazy place with pushing and hovering and personal space invasion.  For those who know me, you know that order and structure are paramount to my sanity.  Make fun if you will; I own it.  The driving and traffic don’t bother me so much, probably because I am not the one driving.  But lines and order, hmmm … our stint in this country will either calm those tendencies in me, or I’ll end up on some sort of OCD medication soon enough because of a freak-out in the grocery store. (insert your own Julie/control issues joke here.  @#*%&@#* – there might  be children reading)

That’s all for now.  Thanks for reading.

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I started this blog in 2010 as we prepared to move to Shenyang China. Since coming back to the US in 2015, my writing has been less consistent. Trying to find a voice here...