Monday, September 1, 2014

en route to China

It is difficult to know where to begin.

In some ways it seems like we have been in China for a month, things have been whizzing by like nobody's business.

We have done so many things in a few short days it's tough to figure out how to chronicle it all...and to find time to download pictures!  So I will begin with the story of our journey to this place...and I'll have to go back and pick up the pieces of the stories that happened pre-China later when things settle down a bit.  I want to start with what's happening here and now as soon as I can take a breath.

A few things to note on initial observations:

--We have a great, old-fashioned home we were able to rent right across the street from the kids' school
--The floors are super slippery...slippery enough I'm surprised no one has been seriously injured yet!
--It is gorgeous green here, the bugs are extremely loud, and we have had a lot of rain that makes things smell luscious.
--Lucy has been the best traveler known to man.  I am so grateful for her sudden ultra-maturity I can hardly stand it.  Crossing my fingers that it holds.
--Our LDS "branch" (smaller than a "ward") is teeny-tiny.  There has only been one other youth in the whole branch until this week when our kids (and two other younger boys) showed up.  Everyone got released from their callings a while ago since so many people moved away over the summer so they have just called new "presidents" to every organization (Young Women, Relief Society, Young Men, Sunday School, etc.) in the last week.
--There are some amazingly nice people of whom took me shopping today so I can feel more confident that I will actually be able to feed my family (the kids were a little worried for a couple days...).
--I went on the metro by myself today :)
--Our children are much more brave than I ever could have imagined.  It almost makes me tear up to think about.  They marched right into that new school on their own today...completely different culture, not knowing anyone else, knowing it was going to be pretty tough academically, still a little jet-lagged, and came out having learned more than they could have ever bargained for in one single day.  As Dave and I walked back home from watching them walk in after sending them off with our love and not letting on that we were nervous for them, we both shook our heads in admiration.  That is hard stuff.  And they did it.  Max and Elle also went to seminary at 5:30 this morning.  No one complained.  No one wept or wailed and threw a fit.

Maybe it's because they had each other.  Maybe it's just because they are valiant souls.  All I can say is that they are my heroes and I'm so proud of them. We have talked and talked and talked about it all afternoon and evening, so interesting to hear all about all the details.

So much more about all that as soon as I can get to it, but for now, here's how we got here:

When you take a family of seven to live overseas for five months for part humid-hot-drenching summer and part frigid winter where it is hard to find food you are familiar and the plugs aren't the same and you don't know what, exactly, your sleeping arrangements will be, it's a little tricky to know what to pack.

But man alive we sure worked hard at it!

The airlines sure have cinched up their allowable baggage these days.  Each of us could bring one 50-lb. bag and one small carry-on and one backpack.  So man alive, I will tell you we were going to get every thing we could in those allowable bags.

Our friends let us borrow their cool bag weigher and it was worth it's weight in gold.

I wish I had a close-up, but you just hold it on the handles like Grace is below and it tells you how much each bag weighs.

We moved shampoo from one to another and peanut butter or books all around until we got the perfect fit (which took forever and also made for interesting unpacking...).

We ended up with a few extra...not so cost effective, but we were wanted to be sure we'd have enough to get us through.  

Max wanted to be sure that his skateboard made it first and foremost.
He was pretty impressed that we were able to get all that in.

Two days before we left we sold our suburban so thank heavens for amazing friends who have things like this trailer to get all our gear to the airport (not that the suburban could have handled this load...)

We were greeted at the airport by Dave's parents who had just barely flown in the hour before from their adventure in Ghana for the last ten weeks (see their adventures over HERE).  How grateful we were that it just so happened our flights had an hour or so gap in between them.  We were so happy we got to give them big hugs before we took off and get a little bit of a run-down on their big international adventure before we took off on ours.  They had an extraordinary adventure they are so grateful for.

As we were saying hello to them and goodbye to good friends Mike and Denny (who brought us to the airport), Dave was weighing our bags and trying to sweet-talk the lady into letting us check them all the way to Shanghai (we had a layover in Chicago overnight).

We were pretty much on the money on those bags' weights:

If there was any extra weight available in any of them, we shifted things out of carry-ons to get rid of it all on the flight.

And finally we were ready to go.
These girls and I were so excited:
These guys were out the second they hit the seats:
...and this girl had some great reading material to keep her busy (her friends gave her a box of the sweetest notes from a whole slew of them before we we are so grateful for good friends!)
Dave was a couple rows behind us separated by some Romanians who wanted to sit together (yes, I was excited about the Romanians but they weren't so excited about me...)

At one point the girls were going hog-wild taking pictures like crazy out of the window at the beautiful clouds.  Made me smile.

That night we stayed in Chicago:

We went to Genos East to have some real Chicago pizza before we fell into bed completely exhausted (there wasn't much sleep happening the last few days before that!).

We had a good laugh at the mirror in our hotel room:
Not really made for people of our stature.

This is one of my favorite views as we traipsed back to the airport in the morning:
(THANKFULLY without our bags they had agreed to keep overnight and check through to Shanghai.)

Ready to go for reals:
These girls knew which pants would be comfy for that 15-hour flight.

We all waved goodbye to America for a few months.
And settled in to let the adventure begin.

Friday, August 29, 2014

We are here.

We are here.

My kids keep looking at me and saying, "Mom, we're in China!" with wonder in their eyes.

We arrived all safe and sound with all sixteen of our bags after some pretty crazy fiascos getting them packed and weighed and situated.

Dave's business partner picked us up at the airport with an extra van for all the luggage (he's the best).  He had the place we're staying all set for us and today we got all unpacked and situated.  

We went and visited the kids' school today so they could get their bearings straight before the first day on Monday.  

They were all smiles, every one of them which made me so happy.  Grace got a little worried when she realized she would be in a different section from everyone (middle school) but Elle jumped in and buoyed her right up.  They have some great attitudes and I'm so proud of them because I will tell you, secretly inside I am scared to death for them!  This is gonna be tough...much higher academic standards and not a single other Caucasian student.  But we're going to do it all as a family...Dave and I will be able to help a lot in the evenings and man alive, we're all going to learn a lot!  The administration took great care of us today and we even happened to get to meet the assistant teacher in Lucy's class who is darling.  

We had our first trip to the grocery store and the kids were mesmerized by everything, especially the meat section, even though it was lacking the pig's heads like I remember last time we were here.  They were all pretty amazed at the fish swimming around, one that jumped and splashed them.

We have already had the most quality family time I can imagine, so many good talks and so many new things we're all noticing and discussing, and we've only been here a day.  We are in for the experience of a lifetime.  No doubt about it, it's going to be hard.  But it's going to be awesome.

It's 8:30 right now and I've been working my tail off keeping my family awake 'til 8.  We are all laughing at this jet lag stuff which Lucy seems to be doing the very best at.  We started reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory on the way home from the airport and she will hardly set that thing down now.  But now they're all tucked safely in bed and I guess I better go join them.

The internet is going to take a while to work out the tweaks but for now, there's the news.  

There's this family who live close to us back in the desert who have lived here in China for I think a year now.  The mom and I have been in touch about a few things as we prepared to come, and she sent me this video her daughter made from one of their trips (she's Elle's age and so very talented!). Makes me so excited to go here as soon as we can figure out timing!

Here you go:

guilin favorites from brooke taylor on Vimeo.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

a few of my favorites from Elle's photoshoots (and a couple of Grace's too!)

Grace caught the vision and did a few shoots for her friends too.

This wasn't a real "photo shoot" and one of her friends took it, but I thought it was cute.

More later...

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