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 here...one 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.
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...)
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 left...man we are so grateful for good friends!)
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:
This is one of my favorite views as we traipsed back to the airport in the morning: