Thursday, September 26, 2013

Life ain't always beautiful.....

Howdy everyone!

Well its been three weeks since I sent an update, so maybe theres more exciting stuff to talk about!  My biggest fear is people will lose interest, but the last week people are sending "wheres the update? Are you still alive? I'm bored, give me reading material!" Haha! OK OK, here we go!

This weeks theme song is "Life Ain't Always beautiful" by Gary Allan

So, since my last update, life is pretty much settled into its own routine. Work, weekends, church, etc.  My circle of friends is slowly growing.

A few weeks ago, the power company had a 'planned outage' on a Tuesday, so I took my guys to the Grape Festival, which was basically going to an agricultural area, and paying for entry into a farmers land, and you can pick your own, or they can pick them for you, and you eat grapes, play cards, visit etc. It was fun, later we had lunch at a Korean Place.  Nice day overall.
Church has been improving a lot, with the teachers all coming back, church is busy and people reach out and are very social.  I've met more people and I get invited to different groups for lunch afterwards!  The only downside is that it takes a LARGE portion of my sunday, as I leave the house at 9AM and I dont get home till 3PM or later if I eat lunch.
I have to own that I have quickly grown complacent in not taking more weekend day trips. I'm in a foreign country, I have a car, a license and GPS.  I should be taking lots more adventures.  I am saying this to own it and start doing more stuff on the weekends.  There are tons of small towns that I can drive to within an hour or two and make it back by evening to let Kody out in time.
On the Work front, its been challenging and sometimes downright incensing. Progress is slow on projects and people are unwilling to deviate from protocol, and people are thinking very two dimensionally.  ("I'm a mechanical engineer and thats all I'm going to do"), well this has to change. I had a pep talk with the troops this week, and explained that we all have to be more dynamic, more flexible.  Also I've implemented a new dress code that goes into effect soon. No more shorts and t shirts and flip flops.  We are all professionals with college degrees. No more dressing like you're going to the beach.  And its good for self esteem too. Last week I had to go to the engineering center and find out why it was taking so long.  One of the guys says that he sent an email to a colleague asking for information and never got a reply. 

"When did you email him?" 
"August 23rd"
"So you emailed this guy over a month ago and he didnt reply.  Where is his office?"
"He sits 2 rows behind me."
"So you didn't think that it would be a good idea to just go over and ask him?"
*Blank stare*
I had to remind them that we're all very busy, but when someone else is holding up the work, you need to gently remind them that they are.  But people generally are too afraid to ask a second time once the request has been made.

The house here keeps improving little by little.  I got new area rugs (plain) but it sure helps with the noise and Kody likes them too.  I bought some for the office to spruce it up some as well.
The house in Katy is almost back to snuff.  Big thanks to my Mom and Stepdad, the best neighbors in the world, Nick and Ally, my incredibly talented decorator Sharon, and my great contractor Mark.  If you want to do business with the last two folks on this list, I will heartily recommend them.
RIght now, fruits and veggies are so fresh and inexpensive.  My supper has been fruits and salad for dinner. After walking Kody in the afternoon, I put the podcast of "Americas Test Kitchen" on the ipad, and I wash and peel fruit in the kitchen.  Its very nice and makes it feel more at 'home'.    Speaking of home, I have been reflecting lots on how great it is to have email, facetime, skype and google voice.  Being able to communicate so seamlessly has been a blessing. Takes the sting of not being at home and makes it less.
Last week, we had a "mid autumn festival" where people celebrate the fall and enjoy moon cakes, as well as see friends and family.  Next week is Chinas national holiday, and I'll be off the entire week.  My aunt Joyce from Taiwan will be visiting for a few days, so I'm very excited about that.  Also my right hand man at my company is getting married, so I'll be attending the wedding.  I plan on taking Aunt Joyce to go enjoy some local food, sight see and enjoy time with her.  I've been introduced toa bunch of local restaurants now, so its been nice to be able to go there and take friends!
I know lots of you have heard me write about how inexpensive things are in CHina, but thats not always the case.  I went to the Toyota dealer last saturday to get the oil changed in my car, and was quoted almost 200 US dollars for a plain oil change.  I ended up finding a local place where I have been before and they did it for 100 US Dollars.  A regular pair of Jeans, like Lee or Levis that you can get at Walmart or Academy for 20-30 dollars, is 90-200 US dollars here.  And then you can walk down the street to the hair salon and get a haircut and shampoo for 3 dollars with no tipping.  Go figure.
Last weekend, I had to go to Korea for a day because of my visa expiring.  The Incheon airport is very western, with nice clean and welcoming feelings throuhgout. Its very "zen" feeling, warm wood, shiny stainless steel.  They have a museum of Korean history inside the airport, a cultural experience center, a day spa, all kinds of shopping, cosmetics, electronics, books, etc and TONS of restaurants.  I spent half a day there and didn't even leave the international terminal. It was fantastic!  I had a nice juicy cheeseburger and a dunkin donut!

Other than that, not much else to report.  I'm homesick as always but I'm surviving.  Jennifers husband, John, is back from Deployment and home safe, so I'm very grateful for that.  I'm excited for their visit to China.

Miss you all!

Peace and Love!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Autumn Tactics

This installments "Theme song"

Is "Autumn tactics" by Chicane

So many of you have noticed that I haven't been blogging weekly anymore.
Mostly I don't want to bore you to death with my mundane stories.  Otherwise, its been going fast.
The strange thing is, its the first of September, and the start of Autumn is here.  Leaves are falling, its upper 60s at night and  pleasantly cool and dry!
My weekends have been busier recently,  the expat guy that I bought the furniture from, Jason, has pulled me into his circle.  I have met many other expats through him, and have started to meet lots more people.  Otherwise, its just been normal, trips to Metro, grocery shopping, etc.  I went out for Italian last Saturday night, and then caught some of the A&M/Rice game, and Sunday after church, went with a large group to a northwestern Chinese place in Marina center, (also an upscale shopping place).
Last week, my clothes dryer came in!  Most people in China dont use clothes dryers, but if those of you have dried towels in the sun, you can appreciate what it feels like to use 400 grit sandpaper to dry yourself with.  I was able to get one for a great price and I'm so happy to have soft towels, sheets and socks.  The things we take for granted.
I also finally passed my driving exam!  You need 90% or higher to get it, and I had to take it three times.  Mostly because of 'lost in translation" and strange chinese driving laws.  For example, in China, when a car is rolling out of control on a hill, you must put your seat all the way back, unbuckle and get on the floorboard and hug the steering column....Or Jump out of the car if you know its going to flip over.  My favorite is for the driver to crouch into the  fetal position and holding your knees, and turning to the side in the event of a head on collision.

Work has been crazy, but its starting to slow down.  I've attached a photo of what we build in case you were curious.  The office is kind of sparse, so I've purchased some carpets and stuff to quell the echo and warm the office up some. Taobao has been great for finding these things on a budget/or at a very reasonable price.
Kody is doing good, enjoying the cooler weather and enjoying our three walks a day.  I've been buying his dog food online on Taobao, which has been great for getting stuff.  Amazon and Ebay rolled into one. 
I guess the big news is, my sister and her family are planning on coming to China over thanksgiving!  I'm very excited to hear this, and have started to find ways to get things I need to make a traditional turkey day.  This holiday will be a tough one, as its my first Thanksgiving ever, away from my Moms wonderful Thanksgiving party.
I'm looking forward to coming back over Christmas.  The worst part of being here is being away from all my friends.
Thats all I have to report.  I hope you guys are all well.

Much peace and love!