It’s Just That Simple 简朴的生活

There's a whole lot of money that you gave me
I'd gladly empty my pockets right now
You'd parlay all that by triple
It's just that simple

Five years ago, we packed our bags and said, "Adios California” and set up house in crazy, smelly, spilling-over-with-people Beijing. We said, “We’ll give it a year!” The year came and went, and we said, “We’ll give it a year!” Now five years have come and gone. And guess what? We are still saying, “We’ll give it year!”

So you may want to know, why in the world, do we stay? It's not because life in Beijing is a breeze. There are plenty of things about living here that are plain annoying. For instance, listening to my neighbor hacking up loogies in the hallway makes my stomach churn. Other annoying things include strangers touching Dumpling without warning, the inexplicable amount of dust and dirt everywhere, air-dried-stiff-as-a-board laundry (no clothes dryers here!), extreme weather (hot and muggy, freezing and dry, sandstorms), and bad air days.

Life here, though, has a major advantage. Life is simple.

What is so simple:
  1. Stress-free work: birdMAN works Monday through Friday 8 am - 4 pm at an international high school. With the exception of a class trip and a few nights overseeing study hall, he reliably comes home by 4:30 pm. No overtime and he enjoys extended winter and summer holidays. An almost stress-free job and me having no job keeps our stress levels to practically zero. While our household income may be much lower compared to a typical US household, it is enough that we can keep our fridge stocked with cheese and butter, regularly drink beer and eat cheeseburgers at Great Leap, order pizza whenever we don’t feel like cooking, and set aside some money for a rainy day.
  2. Transportation: birdMAN rides his bike to work everyday. Prior to Dumpling, we rode our bikes everywhere, but now I am a pedestrian. Instead of two cars (like what would be required to live in California) to maintain and wash and the required insurance, we pay less than a dollar per subway ride and probably spend less than $20 per year on bike maintenance.
  3. House: We a rent a one bedroom 80 sq m (860 sq ft) apartment for 6,000 RMB (900 USD) per month. Water and electricity are cheap. We have no garage and very limited storage space. Since I disdain clutter, we simply don’t buy a lot of stuff. Forget fancy kitchen gadgets like mixers or food processors. There is no more room in the cupboard. 
  4. Shopping: As far as clothes and shoes go, there’s not much I want to buy in China. The malls are full of expensive and ugly polyester clothes. Taobao and Jingdong have made internet shopping commonplace, but I find navigating the Chinese and gambling on the questionable quality of stuff tiresome. We just get our shopping fixes done in the US where we a.) understand item descriptions and reviews, b.) can return anything that’s unsatisfactory and/or ill-fitting, and c.) buy expensive stuff on sale. I save a lot of time here by simply not shopping.
Ok, you might say, That’s nice and dandy, but really, Why? Isn’t California so nice? Don’t you want your Dumpling to grow up with her grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins? And don’t even get me started on the Beijing smog!

Yes, that does sound nice. But we do have compelling reasons to stay. We have made a home here. We have friends here. We have students. Simply put, we aren’t quite ready to give up what we have worked so hard for the last five years just yet. It's just that simple.

So for now, we will say, “We’ll give it another year!”

Chinese Word of the Blog: 简朴的生活 Jiǎnpú de shēnghuó
English Translation: simple life

P.S. We would also like to thank Great Leap Brewing for making Beijing life a bit sweeter. See us at GLB through the years.

Year 1: September 2012. The weather is fine!
Year 1: February 2013. It's freezing.
Year 1: April 2013. An exceptionally long winter.
Year 2. May 2014. It's a friendly affair.
Year 2. June 2014. Cheeseburgers + Beer = Happy
Year 3. August 2014. Another hot summer.
Year 3. September 2014
Year 3. October 2014
Year 3. November 2014. It's Movember!
Year 3. June 2015. Xialian joins in on the fun.
Year 4. March 2016. One of my last beers before getting pregnant.
Year 5. January 2017. Dumpling is the same size as a pint of beer.

Year 5. February 2017. Just the three of us.
Year 5. March 2017. We make it into a family affair.
Starting Year 6 off with a bang! August 2017


California Sun 暑假

Well I'm going out west where I belong
Where the days are short and the nights are long

-The Ramones

Well, that’s a wrap! Another great summer in the land of our birth: sunny and hot California. Seven weeks of good eating, family time, and of course, California sun.

To soak up that California sun, we packed up Dumpling and all her accouterments for her very first plane ride for her very first trip to the land of her citizenship. The summer of 2017 hereafter shall be known as summer of firsts for Dumpling: first plane ride, first time to the ocean, first time to Lake Tahoe, first filet mignon, first time meeting an adoring handful of aunties and uncles and a rambunctious bunch of cousins.

This filet mignon is soooo good

Unfortunately, Dumpling didn’t make it to one of California’s hotspots, Disneyland; but who needs Disneyland when there’s Moomoo and Aunty Sunny’s houses? The toys were beyond imagination! Toys that beep, sing, vibrate, glow, roll, collapse, expand, float, and elevate. Soft toys. Hard toys. Animal toys. Food toys. You name it, California’s got it.

That is some toy!
But even better than the toys were the cousins. I must say, the cousins know how to put on a show. While Milan jumped around like a silly kangaroo, Capri shared all her favorite toys. Caden was like a gentle protective big brother, while Zephram’s got zany moves. Keiko and Kenji were all smiles and brought out a selection of stuffed toys. Four-year old Enzo put his nose right up to Dumpling’s, and said with impressive diction, “You’re impressive!” Dumpling couldn’t contain herself waving her hands and giggling with excitement.

Vacation came to an end too soon and we got out of California’s hot sun and into Beijing’s muggy one. Dumpling still hasn’t adjusted to the fourteen hour time change. Every morning Dumpling is ready to party at 4 am and go down for the night at 7 am. In addition to the time change, she's adjusting to only having her two boring parents around. I think she is seriously missing California and all its fun-ness. Well, even a baby must learn the hard truth: we can’t be on vacation all the time!

Time to get into a routine. birdMAN goes back to work in a few weeks and I have got lots of child-rearing and homemaking to do.

California sun, we’ll catch you later!

P.S. Many thanks to our generous friends and family that fed us, held and adored our baby, and showered her with gifts. We love you!

Chinese Word of the Blog: 暑假 Shǔjià
English Translation: summer vacation

My parents' house gets lot of California sun
Thank you Capri for the toy
Cuties Kalea and Caleb pop by for a visit
As you can see, Dumpling is absolutely thrilled to meet Oliver
Elliot entertaining as always
My Meimei loves food just as much as I do
Can I please have a lick?
Syche in the house!
A trip to Santa Cruz is just we needed!
 These Georgians miss the west coast
Happy to catch up with longtime friends and meet their new ones
There are so many avocados here
Look at all these one quarter Chinese kids
Moomoo's house serves up a fancy ladies lunch
All Moomoo's grandkids are under one roof. Poor Roman is outnumbered by the girls.
Dumpling meets her great grandma. They like each other.
Aunty Coco is the best aunty in the world!
These well-behaved children can't wait for turkey dinner (in July!)
Cousin Capri is a good mama
Capri -- too sweet for words
Lake Tahoe: Nice day to lug around a heavyweight
Food: A good reason to go to California
The tradition lives on! Milan and I make peanut butter blossom cookies
We got purdy for family pics
First time in Donner Lake
The ladies plus Roman
Dumpling's first hot dog
Donner Lake
Does this picture show what these cousins future relationship will be like?
Dumpling takes center stage
Aunty Tami meets our little princess
And here is our favorite doula!
Getting some Keiko love.
Cheese plate. 'Nuff said.
The best toys are free

Sometimes we go out...especially if it involves beer
All that fun-ness is exhausting