Mei you….

Mei you is pronounced “may yo” and in Chinese it means “do not have any.” This was one of the first terms we learned because at every meal the waitress tells you “Mei you” for at least one item you have ordered. I love a vegetable that I ate when I first got here at a restaurant I have frequented the most. After a couple of months whenever I order the vegetable they would tell me “Mei you.” Well, this past February the vegetable was back so of course I realize now it is a seasonal vegetable. Great, I love to eat veggies in season, but then take it off your menu or put a little sticker over it! I have eaten at this restaurant at least every six weeks if not more and just for fun I order it everytime! Of course yesterday the waitress said “Mei you!”

I was thinking of this word “Mei you” and thought of all of the things that New Hampshire…”does not have.” I could never do justice to this topic because the list is too long, so here are just a few things that New Hampshire doesn’t have!

In New Hampshire we do not have split pants. I may have mentioned these pants before. They are worn on almost all babies and toddlers who are not yet potty trained. They are pants with a slit from the front to the back so when the child needs “to go” they just sit down where they are standing and “go.” If they are still just a baby then they are held every so often in the squatting position. This can be done in a mall, on a plane, on the sidewalk, in a restaurant, you name it we have seen it everywhere!
In New Hampshire we use diapers, spilt pants “Mei you.”

In New Hampshire it is illegal to have three or four people on a motorcycle. In China not so much! On a daily basis I am counting the people on motorcycles. I am always blown away when a man is driving with a helmet on and the woman is in the back with helpmet on and a child is squished in between, no helmet!
Multiple people on motorcycle in NH “Mei you.” The other thing that I may at this point consider an art is “side saddle.” I am not a fan of motorcycles because they do not provide enough protection between me and the pavement they ride on, but hundreds of women are clearly quite ok with them. They ride side saddle everyday on the way to and from work. They are dressed in their office girl clothes, nylons and heals sitting side saddle on the cell phone not even hanging onto the driver. I’m not sure if this is an amazing talent or a form of live art, but they certainly have it down to a science 😉

Grocery stores underground. We have been in grocery stores all over this country and I would say 90% of them are underground. You take a slanted moving flat escalator like the moving walkways in airports, but they are slanted so you go underground. I still haven’t heard the exact reason, but I am thinking cheaper rent and less cost for AC. The temps are in the high nineties for the next week so my guess is it can’t hurt to have these stores underground.

Cbest one of our grocery store.

Cbest one of our grocery store.

Hawking, spitting and blowing your nose onto the ground in all public areas…”Mei you in NH.”

Constructions cranes numbering into the hundreds from any given turn of your head…Mei you.

New Hampsire doesnt have brain, frog, gizzard, blood, tripe, dog, kangaroo, turtle, chicken feet, pig noses, chicken comb and the list goes on and on the menu, all of these items “Mei you.”

Street food…now take the above mentioned foods and put them into a make shift moving kitchen and park them anywhere on a street. Put the above mentioned on a stick and you have street food! Unless it is a country fair or a lobster festival, street food in NH “Mei you.”

Stray dogs, or family dogs just running around stray. Something that has become part of the scenery here is the amount of stray dogs. They are everywhere, everyday, crossing catwalks, riding escalators, crossing streets, mating in the streets, relaxing in the parks, dogs are almost as numerous as the the people.
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Pollution….Nuff said…we miss the NH blue sky!

Markets…I like TJ Maxx as much as the next person, but that doesn’t come close to the fun of the markets here. Depending on the city some are better than others, but bartering your way through a unique tunnel of one “business” after another with the most unique treasures is a lot of fun. My new favorite markets are in Xi’an. You start in one alley of unique and strange street food only to turn a corner into a skinny hallway with one shop after another numbering into the hundreds. Each one packed with more product than the last. The colors, sounds and smells fill you with sensory overload, but with each stall it is ever more the challenge to get what you want for the price you want. In Xi’an you could start as low as a third and hope you end up at at least 50% below the asking price. You decide on your bottom line and then stick to it! In your best Chinese you tell them you are Chongqing Ren (Chongqing people) and let them know you get their game, you are not a rich foreigner only here for two weeks. I love when I am totally fine to walk away and they chase me down the street not daring to let the business slip away or even better when they seem totally ticked off, but give in. Bartering is a part of life here. Both Will and Ella have gotten confident and really good at it.

One of the shops in the Muslim Markets in Xi'an.

One of the shops in the Muslim Markets in Xi’an.

Porsche, Lamborghini, Aston Martin, Maserati, Ferrari, and every other high end car you can imagine. New Hampshire has them, but they are not parked one after the other in my neighborhood. Luckily NH doesn’t have the attitudes of the people driving these cars either!
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The driving behaviors of this country are insane and luckily NH doesn’t have any of these behaviors either. If we approach a stop sign and one car is already at the stop, my driver will drive right around them and keep going. If we are entering the school gate and there is a car in front of us turning into the school as well, my driver will go around them. If we are on a four lane road my driver will make a 5th. If someone from this country came to NH and drove as they drive here they wouldn’t last three miles without getting pulled over. Someone told me once that they are following road rules, but the only one that is consistent is that they stop at a red light. There isn’t any maneuver that is off limits! Police do not pull cars over to issue any traffic violations so maybe that is why they have created their own way to drive. Luckily I guess they use their horns defensively, so they are always honking and warning hello that they are cutting each other off! It is truly hard to describe what it is like in traffic here because in all of the places we have travelled, this country is unique all unto itself!

Right now, the Houghton Family is “Mei You” in NH, but as of June 28 we will be “Mei You” in China! Thanks for all of the experiences CQ, you really are no like city in the world!

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Perspective….

On a daily basis we see the poorest of poor and the richest of rich. Last week I saw a news show talking about the “Bling Dynasty” in China. China now has 1.5 million millionaires and is about to surpass all other countries for their total of billionaires. This country is experiencing people with new money and lots of it, but on any given turn in this city you are in an extremely poor neighborhood, or walking down the sidewalk with the people who live in those neighborhoods. Millions of migrant workers are in the city trying desperately to make money for their families in the countryside. CQ isn’t like most American towns and cities where the poor neighborhoods may tend to be in the same area, (I can hear friends talking about what side of the tracks they lived on growing up) the poor live up against the Gucci store and live in tents in the grassy area behind the Hilton. Beyond the cities filled with the high end stores lives thousands of village people trying to figure out how to make money. Over 60% of the people in this country live on one dollar a day or less. There isn’t a person in America who only has $365 dollars a year. So when we first moved here and I joined the CQ International Woman’s Group I was happy to learn that they sponsored milk programs in poor village schools. This year the CQIWG had a new president take the reins and there has been a shift to actually sponsor students. The program launched this year as a pilot, but the (expat) community came forward and sponsored over 80 students from two schools. There were two previous trips to village schools earlier this year, but both times I was working so I was happy to be able to go on the last school visit this year. I decided it was important to take Will and Ella out of school so they could see first hand who we were sponsoring and why. It took about two hours to arrive at the school. Starting from when we exited off the highway the kids’ understanding of where we were headed was growing. We were in the middle of nowhere. We have traveled all over this country and we have certainly been in different areas identical to this one, but we were always passing through, not looking for our final destination. We had obtained information in advance about our student, number 28, Au Jian Chen. He was a 7 year old boy who lived very far from the school. His parents were both uneducated, and they were in CQ city trying to make a living (who knows how often this little boy sees his mom and dad). Au Jian and his six year old sister were being raised by their sickly grandparents. Au Jian is one of the millions of kids in this country with the same story. As we drove though the countryside we pass landslides where half of the road has been washed away,

My friend Rachel drove to the school with the kids and myself and during this stretch of road and we were both thankful to have our driver, Xie Bo. We were both repeating Kuai dian, quickly quickly!

My friend Rachel drove to the school with the kids and myself and during this stretch of road we were both thankful to my driver Xie Bo. We were both repeating Kuai dian, quickly quickly!


we passed though decrepit areas where homes looked uninhabitable and local towns that were filled with mostly scooters or large truck traffic. The only high end cars were the seven cars we were all in (embarrassing) that became quite a spectacle. We were sponsoring two schools so at a fork in the road we stopped to make sure we had the right amount of gift bags going to the two schools and to confirm everyone was in the right cars headed to the school their sponsored student was in. Here are a few pics from our stopping point and traffic jam we caused!
This guy never woke up with the seven out of place cars parked in front of him!

This guy never woke up with the seven out of place cars parked in front of him!

The older people here have stories to tell.  I would love to talk to them all! This guy cut his way around the cars and kept on going.

The older people here have stories to tell. I would love to talk to them all! This guy cut his way around the cars and kept on going.


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We arrived at the school to be greeted by the most beautiful and at first scared little faces. This school had over 200 students. The principal identified 30 of the poorest. I can’t imagine what the criteria was for this decision. The first group that was brought out were the 30 kids who were being sponsored. After the red envelopes were handed out and the gift bags given, the rest of the kids were allowed to come and hang out with us.image They were just gorgeous. Kids are kids no matter what culture, background or wealth. They were goofy and silly. This was the first time ever they had ever seen a “wai gou ren” or Westerner. Once the ice was broken they crowded around us. A couple little girls kept getting close to Ella to accidentally bump into her or push a friend into her. They wanted to touch her. They wanted to ask us questions or listen to us try to talk Chinese. They wanted attention! What 6 to 12 year old doesn’t!! When Ella got overwhelmed at one point she got into the car and an entire line of kids stepped up on a ledge and stared into the car until she got out again.image
Our principal’s wife got a group to sing and play and the smiles were contagious! The teachers were so excited to talk to us, but we were in awe of them. Some of them commute long distances to teach these kids. Their hearts are in the right place! These kids have a tough life and these teachers were wonderful. The visit could have been two different groups meeting for the first time at any Londonderry school, except it was a world away, but the interactions were the same, curiosity, excitement, interest, and fun. I’m sure the major difference would be how the two groups felt once they separated again. We imagine the dinner conversation that night with these kids and their families. It was an exciting day for all of them even if they were not on the sponsored list.

Bringing lunch.

Bringing lunch.

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We of course had a very long talk over dinner that night. Our kids (from their own mouths) said how they have nothing to complain about. They talked about observations such as the kids being dirty or the conditions of the school. They also saw how happy the kids seemed and how they seemed like normal kids. We had a long talk about what really makes a person happy and friends and family do not cost any money! Sadly, the child we sponsored wasn’t in school that day. We learned that it takes him four hours to go one way to school. One of the things we brought to give Au Jian was the bike Will had outgrown. We can only hope that he gets it and it somehow helps him get to school. My heart was broken, but I’m so happy that the CQIWG have had great success with the the start of this program and I hope next year they are able to sponsor even more students. I will leave money to sponsor number 28 next year and hope the little boy we were unable to meet is as happy as his classmates.
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A scary two days…

On Thursday morning we were all getting ready for work and school when I heard Will yell my name. I came down the stairs to find him swaying in the hallway, as he was about to hit the floor I grabbed him screaming for Chip. When we got Will on his bed we found him drained of color except a tinge of blue. As one would imagine all hell was now breaking loose. Chip was in his face saying his name, I screamed for Ella to get a cell phone because my gut reaction was to call 911. Major difference between home and here…in Londonderry if you dial 911 someone will be at your house within minutes. When you dial an emergency number here…no one is coming. We have friends that called the emergency number for a lady who had fallen down the stairs at a market and the person that answered said the two (2 what, in a city of over ten million!?) ambulances were busy and it would be over an hour before someone could get there, it ended up being over two hours. So, if you have a life threatening medical emergency here, chances are you die. Ford had many expat families here and CQ is considered a “hardship” placement, this being one of the reasons!
When Will came around he had no idea what had just happen, his first sentence was bizarre and unrelated and Chip and I could barely calm our hearts down enough to function! Poor Ella had delivered the phone and disappeared downstairs until we all came down. I texted a friend she came and got Ella to take her to school and then what did we do? We waited. We don’t have a car in the driveway, we don’t have car keys hanging on a hook that says “keys” as you walk through the front door, we had to wait for our driver to come. Then of course after he comes, we don’t pile in and go to the closest hospital, less than a minute down the road, we have to travel 45 minutes into the city to the Global Doctor. If you have ever had a scary event involving your child you know what is happening. I’m shaking unable to take my eyes off Will, Chip and I are not taking because we don’t want to say anything in front of the kids that expresses how concerned we are and every minute feels like an eternity. I call Dr. Dennis enroute and he was of course waiting for us with the door open when we arrived at his office on the 7th floor of the office building.
He immediately starts his questioning, exam and battery of tests to check for brain function, heart issues and more. Will has an EKG which is normal and the only issue at this point is his pulse which was very high the whole time. We come home to rest and wait for the blood results. Will was exhausted and without an appetite so we spent the day on the couch together watching movies as I text with many concerned and thoughtful moms. When something happens to any child here the expat community rallies together with prayers, help with your children, and of course, concern for their own. You can’t help but think “what if this happened to my child?” By 5pm we found out that most of the blood tests were in and all were normal. We first thought dehydration, but that was ruled out when the results came in, as well as everything else the doctor tested for. We also wondered if his shower was too hot, but a US doctor said three hours later his heart would not still be racing and he would have felt better quicker.
On Friday morning the doctor was in touch and he had scheduled Will for an MRI and an EEG. We would meet at the doctor’s office and take nurses with us to help us through the process as well as to translate. We were doing one test at Hospital #4 and one at Hospital #1. I have had friends tell me about their adventures inside CQ hospitals, but this would would be our first time. Luckily we were not going to the CQ children’s hospital with the thousands of sick kids. A friend was in line for an exray there and there were many children in line in front of her getting hip X-rays. They put one bare bum after another on the exray table without a single thought for clean and hygienic conditions! The hospitals provided special treatment as far as I could tell for foreigners because we were wisked in and out in both hospitals. In China when you want to see a doctor or get a procedure done you go wait in a line when the hospital opens. The better the doctor the earlier you get up to go wait in line. The only way to describe this is when people camp out to get tickets to a major concert or to get the next apple devise! I will never complain again about being called ten minutes late for a doctors appointment I was lucky to have scheduled.
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My guess on this one is watch your wait and don't drink too much!

My guess on this one is watch your weight and don’t drink too much!


The floor of the elevator.

The floor of the elevator.

The wall behind the man doing the MRI. And the bucket catching the air conditioner drips.

The wall behind the man doing the MRI. And the bucket catching the air conditioner drips.

Will's MRI. They kicked me out after I took this pic, oops!

Will’s MRI. They kicked me out after I took this pic, oops!


The hole in the sock of the man taking the MRI, oh and I guess the MRI cables!!!

The hole in the sock of the man taking the MRI, oh and I guess the MRI wires!!!


Archaic EEG, oh and storage!

Archaic EEG, oh and the office storage!


I had never seen this machine/test before, hoping to never see it again.

I had never seen this machine/test before, hoping to never see it again.

So shortly before all of the tests Will seemed to be back to his normal self, he was hungry for lunch and he seemed to have more energy. Sadly Friday was Chip’s birthday and none of us were too up for celebrating. I was so happy we had the big party the weekend before! Will was invited to a birthday party Friday night and it was his last chance to see one of his closest friends before he left on Saturday. We decided to let him go and we went out to dinner for Chip’s birthday right outside the community where the party was being held. We were hoping to hear from the doctor around 5:30 and a little after six I was getting frustrated. Soon after I expressed my frustration seven emails came from the doctor sharing the test results, scans and the good news that everything was normal. There isn’t any medical reason for why Will fainted. Although it is frustrating that we don’t have an exact answer, we couldn’t have asked for a better birthday present for Chip that everything was fine. I knew in my heart that everything was ok, but the news opened up my flood gates and the relief was overwhelming. Of course we will keep a close eye on him and of course we will follow up with his US doctor, but it was a relief to know there weren’t any major issues. So many families have sick kids and I always wonder how they handle it. In the less than 48 hours while we awaited results I was a complete mess, and that would be the same whether I was here or in the US! Will says fainting is definitely not on his top list of things to do and we are all hoping that this was the one and only time we have to deal with it! I think Will will get over this before I do, he is already sick of me asking if he is ok and checking on him. Hug your kids a little tighter, life can get crazy at times, I’m just so glad our last few days of crazy are over.

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.