Day two of school seems to be going well. The kids were excited to get on the bus and go, which is always the best sign. They have had some kind of uniform fiasco and many kids do not have the right sizes, so they are optional for the first two weeks now. This was tremendous news to Jacob, but eli insisted on wearing his today. He looked incredibly adorable and I got some good pics before he boarded the bus, but Becky ended up with the camera in her purse so I don’t have them uploaded. Will post tomorrow.

Today is actually eli’s birthday. We forgot to le the teacher know and didn’t really know hw they handle such things. I popped into the school when I took Anna in and saw Eli on the playground with his little buddies, about half chinese. They were all wearing their insane little dulwich college sunhats. Adorable. The Brits are nuts. So much energy being spent this week on uniforms, shoes, PE “kits” etc. They said they would do a little ceremony and the teacher apologized profusely for not having compiled her birthday list yet. She said I could bring a treat in. Best I could scrounge up in the 90- minutes
anna was in school was some Chinese chips Ahoy from the little overpriced store in the Riviera clubhouse.

Their schools are right by the Riviera, where we will be living when our house is ready. Two days ago when we went over for orientation we went to see our house. Both it and the Riviera were nicer than I remembered, which is a nice and welcome imbalance. There is more work than I thought being done to the house. It is all painted and it looks great. Very colorful. We more or less replicated the color scheme from our house at home, with some exceptions, including a bright blue den. It looks nice. Can’t wait to move in. Living out of suitcases and in a 3 BR apartment with a kitchenette is getting old. It was actually kind of a relief at first because we went through such hell moving out of our house. Living in a hotel type situation was welcome. Because setting up a house takes as much energy as breaking one down, or almost as much anyhow. But it’s been a week and I am ready to settle down.

And speaking of moving out of our house, our tenant continues to prove herself to be an obsessive compulsive lunatic. Can one of our Maplewood friends please contact Colton Coreschi and offer him 20 bucks to let the air out of their tires. He can feel free to subcontract the job. These people are mentally ill. Apparently, they had an army of cleaners in there the other day and are trying to force us to reclean the carpets. Those of you saw the place know how deranged this is. I can not understand how someone with such insane standards could choose to rent. They can buy their own fuckin house and pit brand spanking new carpet ion if they so choose. Very odd. As long as they pay on time, I guess I shouldn’t care because we have maintained our end of the contract and tell them to shove it up their euro asses, but it’s hard to separate yourself so much from the house. I hate the idea of these creeps in there, so I mostly don’t think about it. I am trying not to take it out on the many Scandinavians I meet here. Apparently, the Riviera is a Danish hotbed actually. Make mine a cheese and raspberry please.

Several of you have raised the point of how amazing it is that our idis have fallen in to life here so easily and yes I am proud of them. Very much so. They are an inspiration to me, actually. I am also proud of us because after all t e parenting books and workshops and worries and Ronnie Stern meetings and conversations with eachother and others and people doubting Jacob and worrying about him, what better test is there of your kids’ adaptive abilities than to throw them into china and a new school and see how they do? And they are doing great.

Of course, I also keep thinking of what Amy Cohen told me about the first three stages of expat life. Stage one is euphoria more or less and stage two is a crash when everything starts seeming evil and stupid and broken down. I figure that will come sooner or later. I actually went to a coffee for new arrivals at the Riviera. Me and a bunch of wide hipped ladies from round the world. Actually, there was one other male “trailing spouse” (god I hate that term), a nice guy from seattle whose wife is here from Boeing. I spoke with him and a few others who have all been here 4-5 weeks and they all had tales of woe. Stuff hasn’t arrived, things don’t work, medical forms lost, visas delayed, etc. We have either had it really good or are about to run into a bunch of walls. Or both.

I also ran into theo Yardley there, our neighbor-to-be and wife of NY times reporter Jim Yardley. She told me it is really important to show my face often around the house so the workers know I am around. I went over there with her and did so. She is really nice and speaks decent Chinese so she did the talking and I trailed around. The boss wasn’t there. Maybe my appearance did some good, but it mostly just made me feel meek and helpless, having her do all my speaking.

Yesterday, I hung out all day with this guy Joe, a lifelong Beijing resident and slam fanatic who saw on Slam Online that I was moving here and emailed me through the mag. He was really into showing me around and it was a pleasure. He is 20 and a sophomore-to-be at Claremont College in LA> He si going back there on Thursday unfortunately, because he was a great guide. He came with me to buy a bike at the Giant store near the kids’ school. I got a nice hybrid bike, helmet and kryptonite type lock for about $140. They are supposed to deliver it at 5 today. Then his driver took us downtown. We went to the West side, where Beijing University is, and not much tourist stuff. He took me to this great traditional Noodle place. People were eating fried locusts and pork hoofs, but we stuck with the trad. Noodles and they were really simple and delicious. They brought out a huge plate of thick noodles, with 5-6 little dishes on the tray they then dumped it all in… sprouts, peas, a small dish of oily pork/chili paste, some other stuff. You mix it all up and gobble it down. Delicious and apparently classic traditional Beijing fare. We also had these fried eggplant puffs, tea, and a 40 oz. beer. Total bill was $4.50.

But then other things are really expensive. Like we brought our laundry in to be done at the little store at the compound and there as some miscommunication and they dry cleaned most of it. It cost $50 and we got Jacob and eli’s little Lands end shorts back on dry clean hangers.

I just had a nice little lunch at the small chinese restaurant at the compound. Steamed broccoli with soy/sesame sauce, rice and delicious spicy tofu with those cheesy, leaf mushrooms. They have great tofu here but it would be hard for real veggies because they always throw some meat in for seasoning. This had little slices of pork and the string beans are covered in ground meat of some sort. Before the winkelBecks visit, we have to learn how to say “No meat, please.:”

Talk to you soon.

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