Another day out with Nick….

I have always had my Chinese lessons every Tuesday with Nick. At some point we switched from time in the text books to more field trips. We still try to speak Chinese, but we also use a lot of English. Chip and I have decided that we will both take the national Chinese test on June 16. There are several levels of the test you can take, but I plan to take level one and Chip will take level two. It would be nice to prove to ourselves what we have learned over the last 17 months and who knows, maybe we will receive a nice certificate! Something else for the scrapbooks!
Anyway this past Tuesday I asked Nick to take me to Artist Street and to the Chongqing Institute of the Arts. There is now another campus for the art institute, but this is the original one and it is still being used.
The art institute is in a different part of the city, an area I hadn’t been to before and neither had my driver Xie Bo. When we got close to the area we wanted to be in we missed a turn. Nick realized we missed it, but just to be sure Xie Bo pulled over immediately and decided to ask a passerby if we were supposed to take the right. The gentleman answered Xie Bo and then decided to jump in the front seat. He said he was headed in the same direction and he would take a ride. Now it was 94 degrees out and Chongqing is a hilly city and we were headed up the hill, but this would NEVER happen in America! The person would have been forced out, 911 would have been called and the I’m sure there would be some yelling! The sweaty man didn’t think a thing of it. I think Xie Bo was waiting to see if I wanted to kick the guy out and Nick was trying to figure out how the door was unlocked and the man was able to open it! We backed up turned right and at the light at the top of the hill the guy got out and went on his way, not even a thank you! Our extra passenger image
After we all got over being stunned and had a good laugh we arrived at the institutes campus. Sadly the museum was closed as everyone on campus was busy getting ready for a new gallery opening this Saturday. In America when you show up at a place that is closed, you leave. Not here. You basically can wander anywhere you ever want to go, no questions asked…so we did. We toured around campus in and out of buildings that were used as classrooms and artist studios. There were several building being prepared for the art show, but they still had four days to set up and there wasn’t much to see yet.

Student or professor dorms.

Student or professor dorms.


Not your average gym pants!

Not your average gym pants!


Bang bang men have been working hard here for years.

Bang bang men have been working hard here for years.


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I rubbed the nose for good luck....like so many before me!

I rubbed the nose for good luck….like so many before me!

Like so many things here...

Like so many things here…

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We walked through one area of the campus that was filled with artists’ studios. Each building had one long hallway and door after door led to small studios. The rooms were interesting. Some were sculpture artists, different kinds of painters, photography, etc. Most were messy, some had the artist in them working, some were locked and one was even being cleaned by an Ayi trying to scrape clay off the floor.

These were the artist's studios. There were actually Chinese characters on the buildings telling people how to act that were now faded memories of when Mao was leader.

These were the artist’s studios. There were actually Chinese characters on the buildings telling people how to act that were now faded memories of when Mao was leader.


Not a great picture, but a peek at one of the studios.

Not a great picture, but a peek at one of the studios.


The bang bang men bringing in desks for the students to set up some of their art on.

The bang bang men bringing in desks for the students to set up some of their art on.


After wandering around campus we headed out to Artist Street. This is a small stretch of a street with many shops. The buildings, small for CQ, are only ten to 12 stories high, but all of them are artistically painted. The entire street looked like a gang of graffiti painters had the best night of their life! imageimageimage
I had hopes of wandering in and out of student galleries and maybe buying a piece of artwork, but things were quiet and not everything was opened. We did walk through one building that looked ready to be condemned that advertised an art show was taking place, but the glass doors to the artwork were locked with what looked like a chain link bike lock.
This was the electrical box in the building, outside one of the galleries. Hopefully their work gets out before the fire!

This was the electrical box in the building, outside one of the galleries. Hopefully their work gets out before the fire!


Nick asked if I wanted to eat some local food, but after I looked around I decided to maybe venture somewhere safer for lunch. We were a little disappointed that everything was closed so we headed to Jiangbei to one of my favorite restaurants. Here is my truck picture I took on the way back!!! image

This weekend brought to you by OIC moments…

This weekend was packed with fun parties and activities! As I write this it is only Sunday morning at 7:30am maybe I should wait until tonight to write this because I’m sure there will be additional OIC observations to add!
We started off our Friday evening with a gathering to honor several families that will leave in te next few weeks! I’ve been trying to keep my iPhone in hand to try and capture all of the OIC moments as we head into out last five weeks here. I’ve decided I’ve been doing a pretty good job as we now have thousands of pictures taken in the last 16 months! Anyway, this is the truck we passed on the way to our friend’s house. I’m always amused at the many overstuffed trucks on the road and this is just one of them! I probably take at least one picture a week of a truck that wouldn’t make it a mile back home because of the load and the contents it carries! Who knows what is in these barrels, but I’m glad we passed it before any decided to break free!

There is room for more barrels!

There is room for more barrels!


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We were invited to take the kids for a quick swim at a friend’s house before the party. We do not know many people with pools, but this one is lovely complete with a larger than life nude statue that her children adorned with a trendy leaf bikini! I commented how great it was for my friend to have a pool. She of course commented on the benefit for the kids, but in CQ having a pool is not all that it is cracked up to be! There aren’t any rules in China about pool fences. So of course this family requested from the landlord for a fence to be installed. He didn’t have any intentions of putting up a fence and after some investigations it was basically explained to our friends like this…if someone is crazy enough to wander into your yard and then drown in your pool, it is their fault! My friend came home one day to find an older woman and a baby relaxing by her pool. This woman was crazy enough to wander into the yard, but not crazy enough to drown!
When we walked through the finished basement and out to the pool I saw for the first time a unique aspect of my friend’s home. Not only is the pool literally attached to the house, it also provides a unique way for you to keep an eye on your kids! imageimage
On Saturday there was an art show at the school. The art show was very well done and featured art not only created by students, but staff and adults in the community. Some friends of mine take an art class and their paintings were beautiful! The day was supposed to have bouncy houses and more, but the rain cancelled some of the outdoor activities. Luckily we have a huge gymnasium and the rain did not keep the horses away! When we arrived there were two horses just outside the gym door giving short rides to a line of kids. Chip and I commented on this, but kept walking and didn’t pay too much attention until the horse was later brought inside the gym. It entered through the doors, walked the perimeter of the second floor, down two flights of stairs and joined the crowd that was attentively listening to see if they had won a lucky draw!

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As the host continued loudly on the microphone calling out winners I quietly prayed that the horse would not get spooked and cause any problems for the few hundred people gathered around! The horse was well mannered and not many thought it seemed odd that the horse was part of the crowd, but when the horse pooped on the floor and the owner picked up the poop with his bare hands and put it in his cardboard noodle bowl, ya, that drew some attention!
Alas the Houghton’s name was called and we too were winners in the Lucky Draw! We won a very expensive Whisky and a master’s class for two at a Whisky tasting event! OIC, at every school event alcohol is served and there are always local liquor sponsors as part of the celebrations! At last year’s tenth anniversary gala you were directed around the campus before you arrived at the party by posters advertising the vodka company that was the big sponsor! Chip and I were shocked, but no one else seemed to think a thing about it! Anyways, we don’t drink Whisky, but I’m sure we can find some takers for our bottle before we leave!
We ended Saturday with a big party at the Pauliner Restaurant at the Kempinski Hotel for my neighbor and Chip’s birthday! Chip and our friend Deya share the same birthday, May 31st, but because people will already be leaving starting June 1st we decided to celebrate early! A fun night was had by all!

Chip and Deya turning 29 again!

Chip and Deya turning 29 again!

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Ha, and to think I wrote this whole blog about just Friday and Saturday! I forgot about the fire at my neighbor’s house on Thursday night! Oh OIC!!!

Why this week?

From the first day we arrived on this very foreign soil we have all noticed, talked about and have been astounded at how fast time disappears before your eyes. The days, weeks and months have flown by…until this week! This week dragged! Tuesday felt like Wednesday, Thursday felt like it should be Friday and oddly enough we all noticed the shift. Life seems to have slowed to the speed of the internet in CQ! We are not sure what is different. There hasn’t been any change in our daily routine this week, Chip hasn’t been away or worked extremely late and we are not anxiously awaiting weekend plans. We are however in a strange in between place. In six weeks we will be completely packed and boarding a plane to leave CQ and after a last vacation we will arrive home in seven weeks. I think that the intensity of a huge life change is looming and although we are not discussing it everyday we know it is very present. Chip is of course stressed with all there is to do at work and now there is little time to get it all done. Will has expressed this week that he likes his friends and school better here. He has established some great friendships and he has thrived in the smaller school environment. Ella is and has always been split down the middle. She cannot wait to see her old friends, but understands it will be sad to say goodbye to her good friends here. I think I’m trying to grasp how to do this entire move in reverse. I need to get rid of things that we won’t be taking home, throw things out, donate things and make some last purchases. I am also working and saying goodbye to all of my teacher friends and students and that adds another layer. When you first start this “I’m moving to China” process, you certainly don’t have a moment to think about when it all ends! People keep asking if we are excited. The physical feeling of excitement isn’t here yet, I’m sure it will be six weeks from now, but as of yet that “excitement” has not invaded our very being. On a daily basis right now I think the physical feelings and emotions are more bittersweet. The expat world is so transient, but now we are the ones saying goodbye and going home. Our experience will have totaled 17 months from beginning to end. In comparison to most, it will have been very brief. Some friends are incredibly jealous we are leaving and wish their time to return to normal was this summer as well. Lots of our friends have signed contracts until 2015 and that has been the discussion as of late. Over the next several weeks we will attend parties so people can say goodbye for the summer and of course in our case we will say goodbye to many forever. I have an all new appreciation for Facebook as I have established genuine friendships and will forever want to hear how everyone is doing, where they end up next, how their kids are and of course what is happening in CQ from those who remain.
Some friends are already saying that we can’t leave, what are they going to do next year without us and so on. This is so thoughtful for them to say as well as difficult to hear. Everyone leaves at some point. I feel bad when friends say these lovely things, but I also can’t help that we are leaving. Our time is coming to an end. Of course I’m very excited about many things to come, but I guess maybe time is slowing down so we can take in all there is left to experience.

Operation Hat Trick

http://www.operationhattrick.com/releases/051013_OHT_Goes_to_the_Great_Wall
Click on the link to see pictures!

May 10, 2013
OPERATION HAT TRICK GOES TO THE WALL IN CHINA

Durham, New Hampshire (May 2013)- Operation Hat Trick is going worldwide. In Dec of 2012 Chip Houghton, a University of Maine alum and resident of Londonderry, NH took his family to the Great Wall of China and wore both Maine and UNH OHT hats.

According to Houghton, “I heard about OHT from my family back in NH and reached out to Dot Sheehan, OHT’s Founder, to see where I could get a Maine OHT hat. At the time, they were still on order but Dot said she’d make sure Maine was aware that I wanted one. I talked to the folks at Maine and they were terrific about sending me one when they arrived”.

Houghton, who is on a 2 year Human Resources project assignment with Liberty Mutual in China, has his family with him. “It was critical to my wife and me to have our children learn about different cultures so when this opportunity came up we knew we wanted to move there and experience the full flavor of the country. The kids have learned Mandarin and are continuing to go to Chinese writing lessons. In fact we’ve found a Chinese language school back in NH where they will resume their study of Chinese when we return in July,” says Houghton.

Dot Sheehan reports, “Chip emailed asking me how he could get a Maine OHT hat. Naturally, I gave him a hard time about not asking for a UNH hat too. He agreed that he needed to buy both and said that his son, Will, would be wearing the UNH hat. Houghton agreed to send photos of the Great Wall and the hats when the family visited in Dec of 2012. I just received them and I am thrilled that both UNH and Maine have achieved international status. It is amazing for the program to be able to tell the story worldwide.”

The Houghton family will be home in July. As Chip Houghton says, “This is a life changing experience for me and my family and we were proud to be able to represent UNH and Maine is such a meaningful way. OHT is doing great things for veterans and I hope to do a fundraiser for the organization when I return home.”

OHT hats are available at http://www.unhwildcats.com and at the University of Maine bookstore. More information about OHT can be found at http://www.operationhattrick.com where donations can now be given on line.

The local men…

Cupping, a local therapy to relieve your body of illness.

Cupping, a local therapy to relieve your body of illness.

Sunday lunch...surrounded by a local market.

Sunday lunch…surrounded by a local market.

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So handsome!

So handsome!

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This guy is actually on my phone trying to give directions to drop off a friend to join our group! So helpful!

This guy is actually on my phone trying to give directions to drop off a friend to join our group! So helpful!

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The local lives…

The following pictures were all taken on one street!
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Flower Market..

Flower Market..

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Bang Bang man taking a break.

Bang Bang man taking a break.

Local street dentist.

Local street dentist.

 Buns!

Buns!

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local delights!

local delights!

Fruit vendor.

Fruit vendor.

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Mother’s Day…

A couple of weeks ago we heard about a walk that was sponsored by a local relocation company. It was called the Chongqing 5 Star to No Star and Back Again Walk. The premise…There is no city quite as diverse as Chongqing (especially the Jiefangbei Peninsula). On this two hour walk through the cliffs of Chongqing you will see where Chongqing is going, but also where it has come from over the last thirty years. The walk route: Intercontinental Hotel, Liberation Monument, Flower Street, WWII Bomb Shelters, Old City Wall, 1905 French Hospital, RenAiTang, Flying Tigers Landing Strip, ShiBaTi(18 steps) and then back to the Intercontinental for a Mother’s Day lunch. It sounded great to me so we signed up!

As I woke up this morning to Chip and Ella making me breakfast it was hard not to think about what a lucky mother I am. The hardest part of today was not having my son home. He is in Hong Kong with the school basketball team and doesn’t return until tomorrow night. Anyway, it doesn’t matter where we are to realize I have two fabulous kids and an incredibly supportive husband who makes being a mom in this family a little easier! After breakfast and some wonderful homemade cards and gifts we headed into the city.

As always, whenever we drive in the car I am always looking out the window. In just over 7 weeks my view from the car window will be a little less exciting so I don’t want to miss a thing and no drive ever disappoints! Our ride to the city this morning held true to form. There was a near accident, street markets and for some reason the traffic was slow so that always makes for more to look at! My window was down so the motorcyclist got a better view when he looked in my window when he slowly passed our car.  The blue sky was amazing today so that always improves a drive!

Over 50 Westerners met at the hotel at 10:00 and headed out to what we later found out was a walking route that someone had sort of made up during their daily runs. One of the employees of the relocation company created what should be a documented tourist walk to really give you a feel for local life in CQ! There are 1.3 billion people who live in China and where we walked today gave us a view of what is considered normal for most.  There are over 20 cities here with 20+ million people living in them, but the percentage of wealthy people is microscopic compared to the poor. Of the 1.3 billion people, 60% of them live on one American dollar a day or less. That is $365 per year. There isn’t an American from sea to shining sea who lives on $365 a year. So as you can imagine it was going to be an interesting walk.

Chip doesn’t have the opportunity to wander around the local neighborhoods and markets because he is working, but after the walk was complete I realized there were very few streets I had been on as well.

Once we were home later today I uploaded the several hundred pictures I took and realized pictures do not do anything in this city justice. I think in order to truly understand this city you need to be standing here behind the camera, in the hustle and bustle, with the smells, with the decrepit buildings to your left and the Tiffany’s store to your right. You need to stop and take a picture with the person bumping your arm as you focus and the dogs passing by at your feet. You have to experience the feeling of sadness for what you see through the lens, but realize you are sad because you are applying your own background; a background that these people don’t understand and probably don’t dream of because they don’t know enough about it. I am going to try to post a series of pictures of today (if the Internet will let me). My guess is it will make you feel a little differently on this Mother’s Day as you view them from the comfort of your own home on your computer. Chip and I watched two documentaries this week. One called Happy and the other The Human Experience. Both great shows, both worth watching. They both left me thinking and I guess that is what today did as well!

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY to all of the great mothers out there! Have a wonderful day!