Happy Chinese New Year!

Today 1.3 billion people will celebrate Chinese New Year and that is just in China not to mention everyone else all over the world. It marks the beginning of the Year of the Dragon. Everyone is excited for what the Year of the Dragon will bring to them. China basked in festivities on Sunday as red lanterns and firecrackers ushered in the Year of the Dragon, a legendary animal of the Chinese zodiac considered the sign of divine bless with fortune and dynamism. Chinese people use 12 animal signs in a mathematical cycle for their zodiac system, each for a year. The previous Year of the Dragon was 2000, which ushered in the new millennium. (China Daily)

Legend has it that in ancient times, Buddha  asked all the animals to meet him on Chinese New Year. Twelve came, and Buddha  named a year after each one. He announced that the people born in each animal’s  year would have some of that animal’s personality. Those born in dragon years  are innovative, brave, and passionate. I was born in the year of the Boar, no pig comments please 🙂 The kids and I just looked up the Shēngxiào (Chinese: 生肖, english: Chinese Zodiac ),  and found out that we have a pig, two monkeys and a dragon…hmm, interesting family! Will is now very excited to head to China knowing he is a Dragon!

Chinese New Year lasts for roughly 40 days. It starts 15 days prior to the New Year and ends 25 days after. Families gather together to enjoy a meal full of foods that are considered lucky, children also receive red envelops filled with money. Chinese New Year is the longest and most important celebration in the Chinese calendar, 253 million people are moving around China this week. I have been following another American mom and the pictures on her blog are amazing, with people everywhere.  I couldn’t be happier that we will not be arriving for two more weeks!  I will let you know what this week is like next year!

So when we arrive, things should be starting to wrap up, or calming down. Our departure date was purposely planned. Chip’s Chongqing office is closed this week, most people actually worked this past weekend so they could take this entire week off. The kid’s schools is closed this week, actually everything in China is closed this week.

This is such an exciting year for China and in 14 days the Houghton Family will be part of it! We have been saying our goodbyes (or see you in 16 months) and of course that brings with it waves of emotion. We had a wonderful weekend with a Houghton family sleep over and the Patriot’s game with my brother’s family. It is sad to know that we won’t see our neices and nephews for 16 months as the kids will do so much growing and changing. When was the last time you left someone’s house, knowing you wouldn’t see them again for 16 months?!  Email and Skype will be our new hobbies!

I do feel that we are all ready to go. We have been discussing this for so long and we are now patiently waiting for it to happen.  Of course I will need every one of the next 14 days to get though the list of appointments, finish packing and helping move my mom in. We still have some visits and a party we are looking forward to and then of course the long flight will begin!

The Dragon is mightiest sign of the zodiac calendar, and much of Asia is expecting a stellar 2012 and so are the Houghtons!!!!!!

How does this all happen?

So many friends keep asking me how in  the world you move your family of four to China. Well….this is not a simple process. We first traveled to China in December. We met with Chip’s company Monday, toured the schools Tuesday, viewed several homes Wednesday and had lovely tour guides for Thursday and Friday to see parts of the city. After we returned and everything was finalized we starting finding out how this all happens. One of the major factors is purchasing items we use here that may not be available in China, may not be to the same standard, or may be very expensive. We will shop at a western grocery store, but we have already been told for example that a bag of goldfish  or a box of macaroni and cheese are $6 each. We have also been recommended to bring our own sunscreen, vitamins, motrins, Tylenol, tampons, razors, deodorant, toothpaste, bug spray, and the list goes on. All of this is ok of course, but keep in mind we are buying everything for 16 months!!

This is my diningroom table and this doesn’t show it all!

That said we also have several companies involved with this process. We have a company working on Visa’s for all of us. We have a property management company, a shipping company state side and a different one in China, we are working with a company for our cultural training (16 hours, two consecutive 8 hour days), another company for our language training, the real estate company for our home in China, the travel company trying to book our flights and secure our temporary housing and on top of all that we are packing to leave, packing our house for my mom to move in and selling our car.

The packing is a little stressful. We are allowed two shipments if necessary. The first one though needs to all fit in a crate that will actually go through scanners. This shipment will not arrive for 3 to 4 weeks, hence the need for temporary housing. So, we are planning to take all of our kitchen wares (pots, pans, dishes, utencils), bedding for four beds, all of our towels, clothes for all seasons, shoes for everyone for all seasons (we were told to buy ALL of our shoes here, my size 9 is tough to get in China), all of the extra products, kids toys, some holiday decorations, some workout gear, some things that remind us of home, some scrapbooking supplies, and more. We are trying to decide if we will just bring two scooters and helmets or pack four bikes in the second shipment. An additional shipment can be done by sea and takes 2 to 3 months to arrive. I meet with the person from the shipping company Monday. They will come in advance to assess what we are bringing and then they are booked to come back and pack it all February 6th.

If you looked at my calendar we have a million appointments. Of course we are also getting in all of our physicals, dentist appointments, and haircuts. We have all already finished with our vaccinations, but Chip and I will get a last one in China. We will go to a western doctor while in Chongqing if we need one. He sounds great and several people we met already use him.

None of this is a complaint. So far the process is going quite smoothly and as expected.

Keep in mind if you were considering visiting us, this process would not be the same!!!

再見 [再见


“Good Bye” in Chinese

So Good Bye for now, Liz



As I rang in the New Year last night with some great friends,  I couldn’t help notice I felt differently this year.  With all that 2012 means to me, my mind was racing. While we were enjoying our take out Chinese Food (how did this become such a popular thing to do on New Year’s Eve?) our friend said that each night at their house they talk about their rose, thorn and blooms. The rose is the favorite thing that happened to them on that day, the thorn is the worst and the bloom is what they are looking forward to tomorrow. We loved this idea and we are going to use it at our family dinners from this point forward! He suggested that we go around the table and everyone share their rose and thorn from 2011 and their bloom for 2012.  It was fun to hear what everyone had to say and then it was Will’s turn. Quite thoughtfully he said that his “rose” was winning the state championships in Cross Country, his “thorn” was moving to China and his “bloom” was China. Then he looked at me. I told him he had  great thoughts and I completely understood where he was coming from. Ella had asked to go last because she needed to think about it and her thorn and blooms were the same as Will’s, I was not surprised and nor did it feel like she copied, they aren’t able to grasp yet how life changing and special this adventure is going to be. Maybe none of us can, yet.

When I looked back over the past year it was hard to find a thorn. I am so grateful for that. We all have our health, we are part of a wonderful larger family. Chip and I have a great marriage and Will and Ella are two wonderful kids. We are able to donate to help others. We try to live a healthy life and surround it with positive people.  Of course over the past year there were thorns, but they now seem so little that they seem silly to mention. So I guess when I looked back I saw a lot of roses.

All four of us expressed that our “bloom” was definitely China. So, something that is so exciting and life changing can also be a “thorn” in our side, right? Our friends that were here are so excited for us and they hope that a possible visit to China can be a “bloom” for their 2012. They asked us about our bucket list of all of the places we plan to travel, we had the World and Chongqing maps out. They asked about the schools and the area we will live. It was exciting to share all of the info with them and it makes it become more real to talk about it.

I know all of us will miss our friends and family terribly. We will not be saying goodbye when we leave, we will be saying see you later. We will be in touch throughout the entire time we are gone with those that matter.

The next 38 days are going to be so busy. We have so much to do!!! I know it will all get done and hopefully done well, but either way count down has begun. We are all on board for this ride.

From the bottom of my heart, HAPPY 2012 to all of my friends and family and I can’t wait to hear about the adventures life takes you on!

xoxo, Liz