Tuesday, July 31, 2007

This is it...

our last night in our home for a while. Tomorrow, August 1, early evening we head for an airport hotel to stay 2 nights. I'll return Thursday to drop off the carseats and collect the remaining luggage, do the final shut down of the condo, drive back to the airport, turn in the rental car and join G. C. and E. for our final night in the U.S. Then, on August 3, we have a morning flight to Chicago, connect to Shanghai and arrive August 4 in the mid-afternoon.

This part of moving overseas always gets to me - excited that a new world of adventures lie ahead, combined with a shadow of doubt (fear) whispering "What am I doing???" But I look back on the Brazil days (20 years ago!) and can't imagine my life without that experience. There is a group of us that still communicate regularly and share a special bond. That is where I decided to go into language teaching. Having a teaching degree in English as Second Language (ESL) and Spanish opened so many doors for me. Then there's the Chile experience. Meeting and marrying G. (the most wonderful man), returning to the US with him, then adopting C. and E. from Guatemala. Not being Mom to the best kids in the world?? To think I would have missed all that if I had decided not to go (i.e. chickened out) to Chile! Now, the next chapter. Questions that will soon have (some) answers. I'm glad this family has the traveler's spirit. Onward...


Monday, July 30, 2007

I hate packing.

I absolutely dread the thought and for me it's always the worst thing about traveling. I can't even stand packing for a short overnight trip. It also doesn't help that just 2 short months ago we packed up and unpacked the contents of a house. Ugghh. So here I am, with a few precious hours remaining, going crazy trying to pack for a FAMILY OF FOUR, for a WHOLE YEAR to a PLACE I'VE NEVER BEEN TO. I wouldn't be so frazzled (oh, yes I would be) if it just me going solo (as before). If I mess up in the process, then I make do and/or suffer the consequences. But when 3 other people are counting on me to get it right... wow!

What do we need? What don't we need? It's not like I'll be returning before a season change and no one is visiting us THAT soon! We're going to keep to a limit of 4 large suitcases and 4 carry-ons (the airline limit). The kids each have their own small backpack, G. has one and is also responsible for the computer, and I have a large tote and am in charge of the travel documents, money and related paperwork. We divided the contents in 4 categories más o menos: 1) winter clothing, household items; 2) school stuff, kids' DVDs, etc. 3) assorted clothes, etc. from all of us and 4) all the necessary clothes and items we need for the 3 week orientation in (extremely hot) Shanghai. The goal in Shanghai is to live out of one suitcase and ignore the other three.

Since the packing process has begun full speed, E. gets weepy. She was the same way when we were packing up the house. After the move, she cried for about 3 weeks and continually asked to "go home". So I suspect she'll have a rough transition again. And of course, the remaining three of us will be a bit shell-shocked, too.

OK, time to get moving again...


Thursday, July 26, 2007

Leave a comment, please...

or we'll think no one is interested in reading this blog! It's set up to receive anonymous comments, meaning that you do not need a blogger/google ID. Just click to "anonymous", write your wonderful comments and love letters to us, add your name if you'd like us to know who you are, then click on "publish comments". It'll show up as "anonymous said..." Thanks and let's hear from you!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Why Jackson?

That is the question posed to me more than the "why China?" one, which really surprizes me. Jackson is a town of 35,000 or so, located about 20 miles west of Ann Arbor. Several years ago, when I was in the beginning stages of planning for my 2006 retirement , I knew we would sell our house and move to a condo so that I could have a U.S. "base". The original plan was to return to Chile. But as you can see, we're taking a bit of a detour on that route!

The basic requirements for a condo were 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, laundry room, access to the outside, a garage and to be less expensive than the currrent house. We began to visit communities and condo complexes. It really was a process of elimination. We wanted out of Wayne County. We didn't want to go north or east. That left us south and west. To the south was Monroe. Nice - we liked the idea of being this close to Ohio - but couldn't find a condo that met our criteria. That left west. Ypsilanti was too urban, Ann Arbor way too expensive, the villages of Milan and Tecumseh too small, Chelsea (almost!), Dexter and Grass Lake were difficult in finding a 3 bedroom reasonably priced condo...(is this sounding like Goldilocks?), so we kept heading west on I-94 to Jackson and found what we were looking for, and the bonus - it's brand new! And we couldn't be happier!! Although it has only been 2 months, we love living in Jackson. Nice people, no trafffic, no long wait in lines and everything we need is nearby. We have deer, turkeys and rabibits (and also the average human variety) for neighbors in a peaceful and pretty surrounding. Everyday we marvel on how our new home is a perfect fit for us. We live in a big enough town that's not too small, it's close to larger cities (Lansing/Ann Arbor), and it's an hour from the airport and minutes from parks, lakes and nature.

We moved in late May and since then the kids have been to several progams at the library, took swimming lessons and attended a "camp". The "camp" for pre-schoolers was sponsored by a Wesleyan church located at our corner - I saw the sign outside and signed them up! It was unbelievable! The program ran for three 2 hour blocks and a final 2 hour festival. For $15 (!!!), each child particpated in nine (very nice) craft actviites and three outdoor actvities (like an obstactle course), had their picture taken and were given two t-shirts. Each session began and ended with three "Jesus Loves Me" type songs and a Bible story. (I was expecting way more religion.) The final night festival included the songs, a display of all the projects, popcorn and snowcones and those huge inflatable bounce/slide things. The kids loved it and I was so impressed with the quality of everything. (I don't think we Catholics could pull off something like that!)

So that's a few of our experiences so far. We're just sorry that we won't have more time this summer to explore and enjoy. But it's very satisfying and reassuring to know that we'll be returning home to a very nice and welcoming place.

Friday, July 20, 2007

First Try at Posting Photos!!

This is a test. Let's see how we are doing - Gustavo took the pictures and I'm figuring out how this all works. The first two pictures are of the kids at "camp". The last one shows the two darlings this morning being a bit creative with some of the camp craft remnants. More about the camp experience in the next post. I see I need to work on my photo editing skills...


Friday, July 13, 2007

Why China?

This is one of the most asked questions I get and it's equally difficult to answer. I've had a fascination with Asia for many years. I love the history, art, pottery, textiles and the caligraphy. I was very intrigued by Japan at one time and almost traveled there several times. I did tutor English to a Japanese family about 15 years ago. Also, I took a 10 week Japanese course - "Konichi wa. Ogenki deska?" - "Hello. How are you?" - There you have it - that's what I remember for my time and $100! And way back in high school, we had to research a country and I picked India!

But China??? Maybe it's still the Asia appeal. Maybe it's because of several adoptive parent friends who have beautiful girls from China and they just light up when speaking of their daughters' homeland? Maybe it's because a country of 1 billion+ people seems so fascinating? Maybe it's because one can't listen to the news or read the newspaper and not be affected by something in China? Maybe it's because I want my kids to learn Mandarin and have the advantages of having a third language when they need to compete as adults (with some of the same 1 billion+ people) in the job market? Maybe it's because obtaining an English teaching job is readily available? So, in the end, it's a combination of all of the above.

The number one reason is for the kids. Being language teachers, Gustavo and I can't pass up this opportunity to give the kids a true immersion language/culture experience. They are at the perfect ages of 4 and 5, young enough to grasp the intracies of the language, but not too old as to already feel self-conscious (research says the self-conscious feeling/performance anxiety can happen as young as 7 years old). However, if for some reason, they can't adjust to the surroundings and language, we'll leave China after a year (which is our minimum commitment). I'm really hoping for a 3 to 5 year stay. The kids' (and ours, too, to some extent) language skills should then be well formed. We would then provide maintenance Chinese language instruction when we return to the US or Chile. So I guess we'll see....

Though Gustavo and I don't really need any more teaching experience to add to our résumes, our time in China may possibly open a few doors in employment opportunities for us when we return. That would be a nice bonus! But a main goal is to simply enjoy and take advantage of the many offerings of this marvelous opportunity before us.

Say "cheeeeeezze"...

Well, I finally decided which camera to buy and finally bought it. It's a Kodak Easyshare C763. It promises to be easy (main requirement for me) and it was on sale. You will soon see some photos on this blog.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Lucky or Unlucky 7/7/07??

The day started out crazy, trying to get everyone ready and out the door so we could leave by 10 am for a trip to Chicagoland. We were headed to Naperville on Saturday to attend a cousin's daughter's high school graduation party. We'll spend the night and head home on Sunday. I was really looking forward to the trip - it had been a long time since I was on a road trip and I was especially eager to see my cousins (these are the cousins I went 12 years of elem/hs with) and finally have them meet Carlos and Elena. We decided to rent a car because our car has a lot of miles on it (we're just hanging on to it until we leave ) and the a/c recently went out - temps were to be in the 90's. So we needed dependable wheels with air. All was well. We stopped at McD's - the kids don't like the food, they like the toy. So we buy more Happy than Meal! Soon it was around 2 pm, about 45 minutes from our hotel, where we'd register, quickly change, then head to the pool party. Perfect day for a swim - sunny and hot.

We were at the I-294/I-80 split - the three lanes of 294 were crusin' and the 2 lanes of I-80 were at a standstill. We were traveling the far right lane of I-294, getting ready for the toll road ahead. All of a sudden, a car from the I-80 lanes swings into our lane, hits a car, which then hits us. We spin around and slam into another car, which then bounces into one more car. Five cars hit. I'm screaming, Gustavo is shaking (he's driving) and the kids are silent. I turn around and Elena is sitting there dazed and Carlos is covered in glass from the shattered window next to him. Thankfully, he dozed off a few minutes before and his eyes were closed when we were hit. The only door that was working was on my side. So we got out safely, cleaned the glass from Carlos (it even got into his underwear!) and then the IL State Police came, etc. No one was hurt and no ambulances were called. By 5:30 pm we were back on the road with a police report, shaken confidence and a replacement car. Carlos said as we headed back on I-294 - "I think those cars learned their lesson - no more crashes". We made it to the pool party and were able to spend some time with my cousins who I probably won't see for quite a while.

Our hotel was comfortable, we had a huge breakfast and were on the road by 10 am CT and home around 3:30 ET. The efffect of Saturday's events really didn't hit me until Sunday night, as I lay awake, my mind racing, thinking of the calls to the insurance company to be made in the morning, etc. We were unlucky that we were involved in a car accident, but extremely lucky no one was hurt and we were togther. As I kissed my three angels goodnight, my thoughts were jolted back to just how in a split second our world could have ended. And how much too often I take for granted the premise of "there's always tomorrow". Maybe this was a test to see how this family handles the unexpected and the unexplained - two things I'm sure that we'll face in China over and over.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Preparing for a Big Change

We've been mentally and physically preparing for our life in China for over a year. It was in Spring 2006 that we decided to go with the Colorado China Council to place us as teachers somewhere in China. It was the best decision! Alice at CCC is an amazing woman - for 30 years she has been working/living/placing English teachers in universities throughout China. She responds to every endless email with patience and joy. Her knowledge of the country and its' people is mind-boggling. What a terrific resource! The paperwork seems endless, but we finally got word in May 2007 about our placement. Kunming is in Yunnán Province in southwest China - near Vietnam. There will be much more about Kunming in future posts. I'll be teaching English at Kunming University Science and Technology (KMUST), Gustavo hopefully will be able to tutor/teach English or Spanish and Carlos and Elena will be attending Chinese Kindergarten.
Physical preparation has been in the form of downsizing. We had 3 big yard sales, several calls to Purple Heart, give-aways to anyone who'll take, and weekly throw-outs galore. Gone are ALL the baby items, boxes of books and teaching materials (that was hard), lawn and garden gizmos and many more nameless, forgotten STUFF. And we still have stuff.... And now we need to decide which "important stuff" to take with us!



¡¡¡ HOLA A TODOS !!! Este es nuestro primer webblogs, esperamos que sea muy entretenido, informativo, interesante y lleno de ricas experiencias que deseamos compartir con cada uno de Ustedes. Bueno el origen del nombre del blogs es GACE es por las iniciales de nuestro grupo familiar : Gustavo, Ann, Carlos y Elena (G.A.C.E. IN CHINA) en español es (G.A.C.E. EN CHINA). Estaremos escribiendo en Inglés y en Español. Esperamos que ustedes comenten también sus impresiones o preguntas sobre nuestros comentarios y asi estaremos en una franca y real comunicación, puedes escribir en Inglés o Español. Adiós por ahora y ¡¡¡VIVA CHILE!!!


Wednesday, July 4, 2007


This is our first try at the world of blogging, so please bear with us. I - meaning Ann - will be doing most of the narration, but Gustavo and the kids will also contribute. The looks of this blog may change as I explore options. I'll try to keep the confusion to a minimum. To remember the blog's name, think G(ustavo), A(nn), C(arlos) and E(lena) and our location - in China. Pictures are coming! I promise! Just got to buy a camera and learn how to use it - lol! Actually, Elena will most likely figure it out and show me what to do. We are looking forward to our adventure and are excited to be sharing it with family and friends. Please post a comment. We want to hear from you.