Friday, September 30, 2011

The Legend of Zelda: Beijing Adventure

Ladies and Gentlemen, we are that much closer to rescuing the Princess Zelda and defeating the evil Ganon.  No, we haven’t reassembled the eight fragments of the Triforce of Wisdom and we haven't acquired the Silver Arrow.  
We bought bikes!
When you arrive in a new city, across an ocean, in a new country with a drastically different culture, it’s a little like playing The Legend of Zelda for the first time.  You can look at a map of the terrain ahead of time, which helps a little, but it gives you no sense of what it’s like on the ground.  (You just don’t know, for example, which old woman will give you the potion you need, or, in this case, which potion won’t put you on the toilet for the next 24 hours.)
Shannon and I, in our first week or so, felt like we only knew a tiny portion of the greater landscape, like we were on some sort of training level, acquiring the basic skills.  This is where you get water, this is how you pay for it.  This might be an okay breakfast food, these crackers taste like fish.  
Staying in a dorm on a gated school campus let us learn those things at our own pace and we could venture out into level 1 whenever we chose but even the training level was a challenge with jetlagged toddlers, one of whose favorite new pastimes was "wunning away!" “Level 1: The Street,” being the first level, ought to have been a little easier than it was, but we chose to play the timed version, arriving just 32 hours before Shannon started her school duties.  Nevertheless, we survived all the dangers of Level 1: spitting men, unregulated traffic, gawkers, toddler coddlers, and the sneakiest of them all, silent scooters.  Even our toddler sidekicks are getting savvy.  Kaleia hails “Kaxis” like she's been doing it since before she could ride a bicycle--oh wait, she can't ride a bicycle...
Once we finally found an apartment and moved across the city (to Chaoyang District), Shannon said she felt like she was having to redo the first level every time she took the subway back to Haidian.  I felt like my mental game map of the Beijing Adventure was oddly pocketed.  My personal Beijing map would show three nodes (Tsinghua International School, Wudaokou’s main drag, and the Ocean Express apartments in Sanyuanqiao), each with odd little tendrils showing where I had walked, and all connected by long subway lines or bus rides.  Everything else on the very large map was totally blacked out (like the dungeons in Zelda).  
We have now been in Beijing for 50+ days and our mental game maps have grown, with each node acquiring more tendrils and more territory.  We know some great restaurants. We have some new friends.  But we still don't know what the old man meant when he said “Eastmost Penninsula is the secret.” 
In fact, we don't understand 95% of what anyone says to us but the game and our skills are certainly expanding.  And we have bikes!

Sure, I may have mistakenly bought a woman’s bike and sure, our terrible two-ster may have had a few meltdowns in the bike store but it felt good to breeze through the summery air of Beijing streets.  I’m pretty sure there’s no bicycle in The Legend of Zelda item list; Link didn’t know what he was missing out on.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Little Things: "Why are you hitting yourself?"

Somehow common childhood torture techniques --- er, I mean games --- seem to cross generations and continents. I hear of people that have experienced the same ones I did: "mimic everything the other person says", "I'm not touching you," and "Why are you hitting yourself?" Most of these games are really only fun for the person in control. I remember fighting very hard to keep my own hands from hitting myself in the face.

As I walk to the subway each morning I pass groups of elderly Chinese during their morning exercise, and the question echos in my head, Why are you hitting yourself?  I'm still not in control of the hitting, but I watch with wonder as arms and legs are slapped repeatedly. Is there some health benefit I am unaware of?

Usually, the body parts are slapped gently with their open palm. Apparently, sometimes other instruments are needed. One woman swings a pouch of (I assume) marbles one-handed, gently flagellating her back as she walks around the courtyard.

Another woman strolling by, and deep in conversation with a friend, meticulously taps her skull with a tiny metal hammer.  A hammer??

I want to yell at her:

Why are you hitting yourself?!

The Three Little Pigs

The Rush Theatre Presents...

Three Little Pigs
Directed and Produced by Magnolia Rush

 ~ Starring ~
Magnolia Rush as The Eldest Pig
Brian Rush as The Middle Pig
Kaleia Rush as The Youngest Pig
Shannon Rush as the Big Bad Wolf

Cinematography ~ Brian Rush
Casting ~ Magnolia Rush

Running Time: 3:19

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Sponge Bob Split Pants!, or, Potty Training in China

Earlier this summer, one of the most insane periods of our lives, Kaleia initiated potty training. Running late for a flight or as my brother's wedding ceremony was starting, Kaleia, with aggravating cuteness, would say "n'go potty." I would use every stall tactic and distraction I could think of. "Let's look over here!  Do you see any babies? You don't need to use the potty, you have a diaper on," I heard myself say. Oh no, what I am saying?!  I am going to miss a window of potty training opportunity, she is going to get used to having a diaper and be the only kid in elementary school still not potty trained!

But I couldn't bring myself to start. Every 10 days or so we were relocating, often to hotels where accidents on the floor might be more than annoying, they could get expensive, and I didn't have any of my home-base cleaning supplies. If I get her potty trained now, she'll just revert back to diapers anyway due to the transition to a new country...

Upon arriving in Beijing, Kaleia's campaign to use the potty intensified. Newly reunited with my parenting partner, Brian and I decided to start obliging her, but definitely still keep her in diapers. We were still living in temporary housing and had so many pressing basic needs to attend to. 

A favorite movie in our household right now is Monsters, Inc. There is a scene where the little girl Boo sits on the potty for what seems like a long time to Sully, the big blue monster. Boo happily sings as he asks "are you done yet?" We went through weeks of this. Each time waiting for nothing to happen. 

Then, shortly after we moved into our new apartment and she unpacked her new panties, Kaleia had success. 

At home she's doing pretty well. Out in China is another story. I find myself reverting back to my old ways. "Let's put these plastic pants on over your panties just in case you have an accident" or in case Mama can't find a bathroom to take you to that doesn't totally gross her out. 

Most of the public restrooms are "squatters." This is a clean one. I won't subject you to the rest. Holding a toddler up over one of these is not easy. 

Which is maybe why Chinese parents don't bother.  With split pants you can go ANYWHERE. 
Who lives in a pineapple under the pee?

Words of the Week: Um more, Tiss-a-nugg and Luhyoo

Um more (phrase/request): a request for something to be done an additional time

Tiss-a-nugg (phrase/request): signs of affection involving touching lips to and wrapping ones arms around another

Luhyoo (phrase): a phrase said to express deep feelings to someone special to you

"Um more tiss-an-ugg. Luhyoo." Kaleia at bedtime, over and over 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Word of the Week: Coccyx

Coccyx (noun):
1) a small triangular bone forming the lower extremity of the spinal column in humans, consisting of four ankylosed rudimentary vertebrae

2) a pair of thin, tapered sticks, often of wood or ivory, held in one hand between the thumb and fingers and chiefly used in China, Japan and other Asian countries for lifting food into the mouth

Our "coccyx" skills are improving.
Kaleia using "Coccyx" week 1 in Beijing
Kaleia using "coccyx" week 6 in Beijing
 Magnolia, at week 6, will eat only with "coccyx." 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Maggie Cam: Haircut

Chinese barber poles have checkers not spirals, and they're everywhere! 
Brian suggested he might commit to another Beardification Process, if he didn't get a haircut soon.
So we made it a priority. 

Kaleia reading style magazines.

Self Portrait

Close Up

This photo is mine.  Maggie didn't capture the end result. Not bad for under $5 and not knowing the language, don't you think? Maybe sometime he'll try the old men under the bridge that give haircuts for free.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Little Things: Augmented Horticulture

It's not the prevalence of plastic plants that gets me. It's how often they are mixed in with real ones, outside, when the real ones seem to be doing their job just fine.  I hope someone can explain this to me one day.

Naming Animals, Literally

"Float through the jungles of the world and see how many animals you can name."

These are the instructions in Magnolia's bedtime book of choice, Fun Finger Mazes. Maggie is a good listener.  She drags her finger through the "water" maze and proclaims, "The hippopotamus is Shilong... The Elephant is Haozhong... The monkeys are Teresa and Sharni."

What's next Fun Finger Mazes, what's next?  Bring it on.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Little Things: Squiggly Straws and Pop Can Pull Tabs

There are plenty of big differences between Beijing and Bellingham.  These are some of The Little Things, the things you probably won't find in any travel guide.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Words of the Week: Guhwrinka and Doo-bicy

Guhwrinka (verb): to take water or another substance into the mouth and swallow it

Doo-bicy (adjective): containing, to an extensive extent, spice that causing pain in your mouth

When in China, lots of the food is doo-bicy so you might need a guhwrinka wah-der, but make sure you don't get it from the tap. 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Maggie Cam: Lama Temple

On an unusually fussy day for Magnolia, while we were attending to the labyrinthine bureaucracy that is expat life in China, a new colleague offered her digital camera to Magnolia to amuse her. Maggie loved it almost as much as we did. The strategy has continued to be a valuable parenting tool. An unexpected bonus is the unique perspective her shots give on our adventure. Sure, there are many out of focus but in the midst of the dozens of shots of her legs, there are some real gems. So it is with great pleasure that we announce our newest regular feature: Maggie Cam.

Our first edition is our trip to the Lama Temple

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Word of the Week: Penne-tayo

Penne-tayo (noun): an arrangement of the hair in a long lock drawn tightly against the back of the head and cinched so as to hang loosely.
"I want to have a penne-tayo!" - Kaleia

Monday, September 5, 2011

Nĭ Hăo!

Sometime a few weeks ago.S: Brian, do you realize we haven’t had a blog post since April 27th?!
B: I know. Life has been a little crazy.
Screams heard from the other room.
M: Moooommmm, Kaleia is pulling my hair...

S: Okay where were we?
B: Blog. Do you want to write a post tonight?
S: Sure, but where do we start? At the beginning with what started all this craziness? Or with the current insanity?
B: Maybe a little of both, tell the now while it’s fresh and fill in a few holes while we’re at it. Let’s just brainstorm for now.
S: ...
B: Shan? Are you asleep?

Another night.
B: We're in China!
S: Yeah, there is so much I want to write about!
B: I know.  I feel like people don’t even really know Kaleia. We have this little character to unleash on the world!
S: Maybe we should kick off our grand re-opening with this video:

B: Perfect. Now, to figure out how to get a VPN so we can post it...