When I started this blog my goal was to write about our experience living abroad. It was meant to be a link for family and friends to stay up to date with what we were doing and stay connected to our lives. What happened next was completely unexpected. My posts were getting hundreds of hits, from over 50 countries! I would never have been bold enough to think people in Sri Lanka, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Hungary or Peru would ever be interested in something I had to write about. I know people in Guatamala, United Arab Emirates, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Denmark and France so these countries were less of a surprise and thank you for reading! The top three countries were the United States with thousands of hits, Mexico and Canada. I know some of my following started in Mexico by the woman who actually became my son’s English teacher at the private school he attended in CQ. Our initial journey started eight months before she arrived in CQ and when she searched for more information about the city and international school my blog came up. Later I learned that another teacher who joined the school was also reading before she came. It was nice to hear that my blog was actually helping people before they travelled the long trek across the world! I will never know how people in the Republic of Korea, Serbia, Lebanon, Brazil, Argentina, New Zealand, Germany, Barbados, Macoa, American Somoa, and the Russian Federation stumbled upon my blog, but I’m happy they did! It is mind blowing to me that the journal I decided to write has had 10,000 hits! Of course some of those hits are from wonderful family and friends who were dedicated to staying connected and truly interested in what our family was doing including the good, the bad and yes, some ugly! It’s funny because just as you tend to forget the pain of childbirth, it is hard for me to recall the difficulties we had living abroad. We miss it everyday and we have thousands of wonderful memories! Please know that each and every blog reader is part of this experience. The more you read, the more I was motivated to write!

THANK YOU FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART! Your support was felt from thousands of miles away!

More blogs to come… We left two years ago on February 8th! It’s time for a recap!!


A look back…

I was looking at some of my blog stats and the following was the most popular blog post of our 18 months away. It’s fun to look back to see how comfortable the city was for us when we left.

We knew that Chongqing was still a very Chinese city compared to Beijing or Shanghai before we moved here and that there were not as many Westerners. What I have found very interesting is that I have not seen a single Westerner anywhere except a possible business man in the hotel restaurant. We have been told that there are over 200,000 westerners in Shanghai with about 25,000 Americans. We just found out that there is less than 5000 westerners in Chongqing. With a provincial population of ~ 33 million I guess it is easy to understand why we haven’t seen anyone who looks like us. This is not a bad thing, just an observation.

Yesterday when we went to the mall area we were facinated by the Chinese children. Everyone stares at us! You actually get used to this quickly. I either do not make eye contact, or when I do I either smile or say Ni Hao. The children though not only stare, they react quite excessively. One little girl went nuts when she saw Ella. She was pulling excessively on her mom, pointing and speaking excitedly to her mom. One little boy came running out of a store screaming over his shoulder for his mother to come. He stood in the entry of the store watching excitedly as we walked by. When we were in the grocery store two preteen girls kept pulling each other to walk past Will. That was actually quite cute and something I am sure preteen girls in Londonderry would do as well!

I am so thankful that no one has approached the kids to take a picture with them. We had been warned that this could happen and that we may have to say “no thank you” and walk away. Many people have made comments about the kids, but no one has touched them or tried to take their pictures. I think the kids would be ok if this happened now, I just didn’t want it to happen right off. I actually made them both wear a hat the first day we went out for a walk. Ella has been more emotional about this adventure and I didn’t want to freak her out if I could help it!

The area around the hotel is not the most desirable. There are lovely areas in the city, but I am not sure they are in walking distance. We did take a walk today to get out and get the kids moving and it was facinating. Will didn’t seem to like the walk, he seemed a little freaked out. One of the comments he made when we got back to our room was that a lot of people here smoke. I did smell smoke several times, but taking in the sights left more of an impression. There were several people selling things on the street and on the cat walk areas we needed to use to cross the busy streets. They sell the an array of products. Some people were selling elaboaratly cut fruit, some were selling belts, movies (I am assuming pirated) there were some foods that looked fried and I have no idea what they were. We will probably not take this walk very often, but it directly connects to the reason why we wanted to make this move. Our kiddos whether they like aspects of this adventure or not are seeing how people live in another part of the world. It was funny, the entire time we took this walk Ella was talking non stop like a comedian. She kept saying “this place is too much like Londonderry, why didn’t you move us some place that was more unique.” Everything we past she would say, “Oh come on, I have seen that in Londonderry before, or we have that same thing on Owl Road.” We were actually all amused by her chatter and I am hoping this wasn’t her coping mechanism, but an actual learning experience!

One of the other things that has been interesting to talk to the kids about is the language barrier. I think there is a new fasination for them about language in general. We have spent a lot of time talking about languages, English, Mandarin and others. They keep saying that they wish they knew what we sound like when Chinese people listen to us. They have actually become more intersted in learning Mandarin because they are seeing the reaction of the people as we respectfully try to use their language. As I am typing this Will and Ella are watching a Chinese cartoon. They are usually searching for words that they may actually know. I cannot imagine Westerners coming and not at least trying to learn the language. Chip and I start our language training this week. I am nervous to start formal training, but I am dying to be able to communicate.  I guess the kids start their language training this week too as Mandarin is a class they will take everyday.

I must say overall in the only three full days that we have been here we have already taken in many aspects of the city. Living in the hotel has probably been a good idea because we are not stressing over where (or what)we are going to eat or how to work the washing manchine. We are spoiled with a lot of quality  family time to be able to digest this together!

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.

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!

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!