Miss Gioia

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


There have been a lot of things going on behind the scenes here the last month or so. I have been so busy that I even forgot to take a picture of the mini sweater that I made for a swap last month. All I can show you is the adorable version I received in the mail which now graces our little apartment tree.

Our big news is this: after over four years in Greater China, we are now moving back to the United States. We found a place to live two weeks ago and the dog shipped out Monday. Which means there is no turning back now.

We have a busy month ahead - getting ready for the move, wrapping things up at work, saying goodbye to beloved friends. But there are fun things in store too, like a last hurrah weekend in Macao, Christmas at the Grand Hyatt and a long trip home, which includes a stop-off at our friends' wedding in Goa.

I have decided to stop blogging after this month, though. For some reason, I feel more anonymous blogging in Taiwan and China than in the United States. I just don't have the energy to face the creepy creeps who may come out of the woodwork once we land stateside. People who figure out where you live by the photos you post or the words you write about playgrounds and restaurants. I will continue to write here in December as we transition out of Taiwan, but the beginning of January will mark the official end of this endeavor.

It has been a long, fun ride. Four years as expats and three of blogging. Thanks for joining me.

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Monday, November 16, 2009


My husband bought me an international Kindle for Christmas this year. He gave it to me early, which I am so very thankful for given all of my recent traveling. Even though the Whispernet function does not work in Taiwan, I still think it is the neatest thing since sliced baozi (or something...).

On my way to Japan last week, I read a book that had been on my Amazon wishlist for a while, namely The American Dream and the Power of Wealth: Choosing Schools and Inheriting Inequality in the Land of Opportunity. I hadn't bought it yet because the book itself was US$35 plus exorbitant shipping costs to get to Taipei. But with the Kindle, it was less than 15 bucks and took two minutes to download. Fantastic.

If you are interested at all in social science research, this book is pretty fascinating reading. Heather Beth Johnson, the author, is a sociologist who tries to understand how people make sense of two conflicting ideas in American society. The first notion is of the American Dream, which is the idea that anyone can succeed in America if they just apply themselves and try hard enough. The second is the empirical reality that school choice is very often driven by social wealth transfers, not by income. This means that the kids who get to go to the good schools, the better schools or even the very best schools are kids who are part of families with inter-generational transfers. Families without wealth, even if they have high incomes, often cannot afford to buy-in to the systems of superior education in the United States. They cannot afford down payments on houses in neighborhoods with the best schools, or they are too drained by making reverse payments back to their parents and extended families to make a differential investment in schooling for their kids.

Johnson's research is interesting because she directly investigates how American parents rationalize this apparent paradox. How can the American Dream really be a valid concept if people are so obviously impacted by disparate educational systems? That they are placed in a "good" or "bad" school through no merit and/or fault of their own? Apparently we do cling to this concept of success through hard work even when confronted with the obvious evidence that much of our own success or failure was based on a foundation of unearned wealth transfers. Period. Johnson's research shows that even small transfers, like a gift of $1,000 at a high school graduation can have a profund impact on life outcomes for ourselves and our familes. Some of us got much, much more, like college educations and cars and assistance with down payments on condos. Yet when asked how we became so successful, we tend to say "I worked really hard."

The problem with this is that it damages the people who were not born into a family with wealth to transfer. We tend to think that these people are not successful through their own failings. They just didn't want it enough, or they were too lazy. Those parents who send their kids to bad schools must not care as much as we do. Johnson's research shows that parents who are sending their kids to less desireable schools actually care just as much about their children's education. They just lack the resources to buy-in to the system, even when they make a reasonable income. Sadly, they also blame themselves for the inability to get their children better access to education. Perhaps they just don't realize that those of us who can buy our kids into the good schools were ourselves beneficiaries of unearned blessings. Where is the merit in that?

Johnson advocates for completely equal schooling in America so that everyone truly can start from the same foundation. I think the change associated with that would be so radical, so contrary to our social fabric that it would never be allowed. But maybe we can start by recognizing that the idea that we all have equal chances to succeed in school, in life, is really a big fat myth.


Saturday, August 29, 2009


Chris got a new underwater camera on his trip to Hong Kong this week: the Panasonic TS1. It takes great pictures and high def videos. We had a good time at the pool today trying it out. More pictures are here.


Sunday, April 19, 2009

Big Fat Bunny

About a year ago, we were desperately searching for a back-up bunny. Unfortunately, Gioia's Tu never found its twin. But in the quest to locate a substitute (just in case), we amassed a whole bunch of bunnies. They all have names, like New Bunny, Easter Bunny, and Big Fat Bunny (pictured above). Although none came even close to being as special as Tu, several have made it into the inner circle (i.e., stuffies who are allowed to sleep with her in her crib).

Big Fat Bunny had a twin. I bought him and his brother early in the quest, naively thinking that this style might fool Baby G. Somehow I convinced myself that I might as well buy two. But he didn't work (of course not). So within a minute of introducing Big Fat Bunny to a stony kiddo, we put his twin in the present closet. Eventually, he made his way on to a new home, to live with friends of ours who had just welcomed a new baby.

Here's the funny thing. That new baby? She loved the bunny. Loved him so much that her momma started searching for a backup bunny. It's interesting how parenting is a bit of a universal experience. Big Fat Bunny is no longer sold at Pottery Barn (of course), so her mom was getting a little desperate (like we were). What could we do except ship off Big Fat Bunny to join his brother. Chris was a little sad to see him go, but as BFB wasn't in the inner circle, Gioia will not really miss him.

Crazy little world, huh?


Sunday, March 15, 2009

Park Troubles

Most of the time Gioia is a super sweet kid. However, she has been struggling lately with strangers. Franky, she is a bit rude sometimes. Today at the park, she wanted nothing to do with the other children. Screamed at them when they joined her on the slide. Refused to say hi or play.

I don't want her to grow up to be "that kid." It is hard to watch. Perhaps it is just a phase. She is a smart kiddo, though, so I think she knows what she is doing. If this behavior persists, we are going to have to start taking her home as soon as she acts up like that. Not fun for anyone, but something needs to be done.

On a related note, Chris tried to introduce the concept of "turns" on the playground toys today. It went over like a ton of bricks.

In contrast to this slightly dour post, I leave you with a shot of what you get when you ask Miss G to smile. Not quite there yet, methinks.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Stuffed Rat, Anyone?

This was definitely the weirdest thing I saw in Paris: a window display full of stuffed, dead rats. They were the real deal, assembled in macabre death scenes. Rows of rats hung from traps in a disturbingly orderly fashion. A group of rats was huddled together at the bottom of the window display, colluding to overthrow their dark masters.

It was a pest control shop with a very strange sense of humor. Although maybe this kind of advertising works in Paris. Perhaps people really hate their rats there.

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Friday, February 20, 2009


Chris came home on Wednesday after a quick business trip to Japan. I worked late Thursday night, so he got to give Baby G a bath and put her to bed. As he was putting on her diaper and PJs, she said "no sleepy."

No sleepy, huh? Well, whatcha want to do then?

"Kah Toon"

Cartoons? You aren't allowed to watch TV, Gioia. So who let you watch cartoons?


Yeah. Busted.

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Monday, February 16, 2009

Visit to the Park

Gioia, Frankie and I walked to a little park yesterday. Even though we live in downtown Taipei, we still have a great number of parks to choose from. Some are big, like the Sun Yat Sen Memorial hall on our street, and some are small neighborhood parks, like this one. The jungle gym and accessories are excellent at this particular park.

You can see from the collage above that Gioia was quite good at the rocking horse. You know the kind: a wooden horse stuck into the ground with a big bouncy spring. She rocked back and forth, almost violently. I think (hope) she was having fun. She didn't want to leave, which perhaps means that it was a good park visit. More pictures are available here.

It has been a rough couple of days. Gioia has been sick again with a little fever, a hacking cough and a constantly dripping nose. On top of that, though, she is getting quite defiant. Throwing little tantrums when she doesn't get her way. Being rude to people we interact with, like refusing to say thank you and screaming BU YAO when the guards at our apartment wave hello. I know this is normal, that toddlers can be difficult as they develop their own sense of self and identity. And I know it is a cliche for me to be exasperated. Tonight after her bath, Gioia gave me a hug and said, "Mommy, no time out." Hmmm. This is going to be tough.

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Saturday, February 14, 2009

Be Mine

A valentine from my Valentine. Surprise flowers that arrived at work. Made me feel very loved.


Sunday, January 25, 2009

I Hardly Ever Win

Hey, whaddya know? I won a prize in the Holiday Knit-a-long. A subscription to Verena Knitting Magazine. Never heard of it, but probably it is great.

I am having a bit of a lucky streak. I also won an Ipod Nano at my job's annual dinner in December. That's a lot of luck for one person in two months, me thinks.


Thursday, January 15, 2009

Re: College (again)

Chris keeps saying that there is no way he will allow Gioia to go to Georgia Tech. Because it is a crazy difficult school. Unnecessarily hard, he says. Better to go to a silly party school, like...well... (perhaps better to keep quiet on that one).

So even though Mom, Dad, Uncle Hugh, Aunt Mary Beth and Pappy all went to Tech, she is not allowed.

Even though Smart Money magazine just said GT has the #3 best payback ratio (tuition cost relative to future earning power) of all US public colleges.*

Something tells me she may not listen.

*I went to the website to see if this Smart Money article was referenced in the top GT news stories of 2008. Umm, nope. It didn't make the cut. Apparently the news that three GT alumni are going to be on the next space shuttle was more important. So while we can't win a football game to save our lives (except the UGA game - heh), apparently we GT peeps kick ass in all other aspects of human interaction.

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Monday, December 1, 2008

Much To Be Thankful For

Gioia's twelve month post-placement report is due to the China Center for Adoption Affairs very soon. We needed a picture to send of all three of us together, so we used our Thanksgiving event as an excuse to get dressed up and pose. My friend's young son took the photo. I think he did an excellent job.

We had a lovely dinner. The pecan pie was a big hit. I used this recipe out of necessity, as it was the only one I could find which did not call for processed corn syrup (which was MIA from Taipei supermarkets). But I liked the pie better than a Karo pecan pie, actually. This one just may become a holiday staple in our house.

Gioia was adorable in her brown velveteen dress and bloomers. Little girls. So much fun to dress.

November is over, which means that NaBloPoMo is finished and I no longer am trying to post everyday. Yet here I am, still posting on December 1. The exercise of posting daily was a challenge, but in truth, it wasn't as difficult as I feared. My hardest days actually came just this past week, when I had a billion things to do and my body shut down with illness. I am pleased that I made it through the month. Like anything, one becomes a better writer (blogger?) only through practice.

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Friday, November 28, 2008


Tis' the season, and all.

On the plane to Hong Kong last night, the Cathay Pacific flight attendant handed me a Change for Good envelope. It was exactly what I needed. For months I have been carrying around a stack of coins - Yuan, Sing dollars, US quarters. Too heavy to cart around, yet too difficult to remember to spend them when I am in country. So into the envelope they went. Chris hates it when I give my coins to Change for Good. He thinks I should better manage my inventory. But I think it is a win win for all. Someone takes my heavy useless coins away and gives them to someone else who can acually use them. Brilliant, I say.

Speaking of giving, we are in the midst of re-evaluating our annual giving plan. I am a big fan of Charity Navigator for this process. It is one of the most useful websites out there for determining which US organizations are good stewards of donations (here is one for UK peeps). Ever tried to see how much money Operation Smile spends to get your dollar vs on actual programs? Over 25% of income. Think that is a lot? It is.

As for Christmas giving, well... I am still not prepared. I bought some things today in the HK airport, but I still have much to do. Yikes.

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008


On Friday, Chris was sick. Sunday night/ Monday morning, the dog threw up all over the floor. Gioia had a fever Monday night. And now, I am sick.

Awful, awful.


Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Genographic Project

Image source: Wikipedia

I am in the US this week for business. Guess what I am carrying around in my backpack, in a small envelope ready to drop in the mail? Gioia's DNA samples. Yep. Kinda weird, huh?

I read about the Genographic Project a few months ago and ordered a kit right away. If you are not familiar with the project, this is an effort by the National Geographic Society and other researchers to track and catalogue the paths of our ancestors by examining our DNA. If you send in a sample, you receive an overview of the migration path of your ancestors - your specific haplogroup - over tens of thousands of years. Women can test only their matrilineal line, while men can test matrilineal or patrilineal lines (those crazy Y chromosomes). Participation in the project not only allows you to obtain personal information about your ancestors' path from Africa to wherever you landed on this green earth, but you also are contributing to the advancement of human knowledge about such things. Pretty cool, if you ask me.

My daughter was adopted from China. She does not know anything about her birthparents, her birthgrandparents. One day, that fact will be a hard one for her to bear. It is hard for me to bear some days, frankly. One of the things that drew me to this project was the opportunity to give her some connection to her ancestral past, to her genetic heritage.

So that is why I am sitting in the Dulles airport this afternoon with two little tubes of DNA. Weird, yes. But also very cool.

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Sunday, September 7, 2008

Yang Ming Shan Lunch

In July, we met up with some of our friends for a lunch at the top of Yang Ming Shan mountain, which is in the North part of Taipei. It was a very cute outdoor-type place, with excellent mountain and city views. We met up with the same friends for lunch today (Mexican this time), and they gave us a DVD with some great pictures from the previous outing.

Gioia was not walking yet on her own when we went to this lunch, but she still looks like such a big girl. The shoes she is wearing are now too small, though - further evidence that she keeps growing and growing.

Mmm... Cool mist, margaritas and friends. The only way to pass a hot summer in Taipei. More pictures here (mostly of Baby G).

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Saturday, September 6, 2008

Kids and Cameras

We went to a small party this evening at my friend's apartment. We brought our SLR, and I was haphazardly taking some photos. One of the guests at the party, the nine year-old son of another friend, picked up the camera and took some photos. He was very careful with it, and throughout the evening took some outstanding shots. We set the camera on auto, so he didn't really have to worry about aperture and f-stops and all that jazz (but we did talk about those things as he began to ask questions about settings). But still, he did a great job, especially with framing his shots. I was quite impressed. He took the two photos here, and many more good ones.

Philosophically, I support the idea of giving kids access to real art tools and real supplies. How can they get interested in art if all they have to work with is a couple of pots of cheap tempera paint and rolls of butcher paper? Now, I am not saying that every kids needs to have an SLR. That would be silly. But kids surprise you with what they can do. Really.


Thursday, September 4, 2008

Catching Up

I have been a little discombobulated lately, primarily because I took a quick little business trip to Macao this week, from Sunday to Tuesday night. I forgot my camera, which was frustrating. It was probably just as well because I never left the Venetian during my entire stay. The rooms there were quite fancy, as was the spa pedicure I sneakily arranged after my official day was done on Monday evening.

If you have been to the Vegas version, then you would recognize the Macao one for sure. But the interesting thing is that in Vegas, everyone drinks while gambling but no one smokes indoors. In Macao, everyone is sober, but the cigarette smoke is so thick it could kill a horse.

It was a good time, though. Not a bad place for a conference, really.

While I was gone, Chris took Frankie to the vet to see if a spot on his tummy was cancer. It wasn't. Thank God.

Speaking of medicine, Gioia went to the doctor today for her 15 month check-up and Japanese Encephalitis shot. Because ... WOW.* Yes, we let the nurse stick Baby G in the leg with a big ol' needle. Last time, with the MMR shot, she cried out in surprise and anger, one of those silent screams which break your heart to watch. You know the one: the scream where she squeezes her eyes super tight, opens her mouth in a noiseless yowl, and turns bright red, shaking with rage. Ya. Scary.

But this time, it was more of an indignant scream. A "what in the world" and "ow, my leg" kind of scream. Baby G is growing up. She is fierce and independent. On the way out of the hospital, she walked all by herself. We kept offering her our own hands as support, but she kept shaking her head - no. No.

* Full disclosure - I was worried about safety and efficacy, so I did a *little* research. Reassuring.

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Friday, August 8, 2008

Olympic Opening Ceremony

Is it wrong that we ordered take-away Indian food to eat while watching the Beijing Olympic opening ceremony?

So I will be the first to admit that I have been disparaging the Beijing Olympics for months now. Beijing traffic sucks, and the pollution is absolutely unbearable.* Yeah, I have been pretty down on the China Olympics lately. "Everyone will see the problems there," I said. "Just you wait."

But tonight, watching the opening ceremonies, I softened a bit. It was beautiful. Really beautiful. The tai chi, the sand painting, the choreographed oar routines. Give China enough time to throw a thousand people at a goal and they will make it work. Chinese culture does have graceful, dramatic, inspiring elements. They all came together in tonight's show.

The parade of athletes was exceptionally fun because the countries were sorted by simplified Chinese characters, not by the Roman Alphabet with which we Westerners are so familiar. It was a big surprise seeing which country came next in the line-up. Another surprise: the US team's outfits. White newsboy caps? Really?

So fun. My only regret is that Gioia is not old enough to see this.

* For the record, I have lived in Manila, so me saying the pollution is bad means it is really awful.

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Wednesday, August 6, 2008


We have been making Gioia's baby food from scratch since we brought her home in February. Which means we have made a whole lot of trips to the grocery store looking for things to grind up in the Cuisinart. I don't think I have ever bought as many vegetables in my whole life as I have in the last six months. Of course, that statement doesn't count the summer we belonged to our Chicago-area CSA and had a bunch of excellent goodies delivered once a week. But for that, I basically just wrote a big fat check in the fall and boxes stuffed with greens and vegetables arrived the following summer. So while I bought a lot of veggies then, it really wasn't *intentional* veggie buying like we do now.

The problem is, though, that there is not really a big variety of veggies to be bought round these parts. Gioia has been living on weekly staples of winter squash (in tropical Taiwan, yes), sweet potato, lotus seed, broccoli, cauliflower, edamame, tofu, beans, and peas.* The carrots here frighten me with their scary florescent orange color, so I haven't made more than one batch of those. Carrots also have a high concentration of nitrates, so probably best to avoid homemade versions anyway. Spinach is also not safe for little bitty kiddos, which has made me wary of all kinds of greens. Chinese people eat a lot of greens, so that rules out half the supermarket.

There is not much else to be had. I am sure she is sick of the same old vegetables day in and day out. I am. Where is the summer squash, the zucchini? I did find sweet corn a few weeks ago, but that was after months of hunting.

So three weeks ago I broke down and ordered a bunch of seeds on the internet. Lo and behold, they actually made it through this little island's customs department (even though the package was clearly labeled SEEDS). When I was in Chicago last week, I bought 72 little seed starting pellets, the kind that expand with water.

It is quite late in the year to be starting seeds. But there are two reasons why I am going to try. First, Taiwan is pretty temperate. Even in the winter it is still above 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Second, I am really, really bored of the blah blah blah I keep dropping in the grocery cart every week. Even if I try and fail, well, I will have tried. And perhaps I will learn something for next spring's round.

*Lest you think we are negligent, she eats other foods too, like yogurt, chicken, whole wheat noodles, fruit (apples, bananas, mangoes, pineapples) and Cheerios. Of course there also is the super baby cereal (with dried beans) from this book, which we mix with egg yolks every other day.

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Sunday, July 27, 2008

This Past Week

Our life in the past week was a bit unconventional, even by our standards. We lived in a hotel for four days (unexpectedly) because our landlord agreed to replace the AC units in the apartment - all at one time. Which produced a tremendous amount of dust, noise and mud from 25 year-old pipes. Chris called me at work on Tuesday morning (about 1 hour after all of the workers arrived) and said - "We are moving in to the Hyatt." I responded - "Whatever you say, baby." Sign us up!

At the end of the week, we moved back home to a completely filthy house. Dirt is splattered all over the walls, floors, pictures, and papers. We seriously need an industrial cleaning crew to come scrub-a-dub, but we have no idea if such a thing even exists in Taipei. I am sure our comlpetely useless maid will come on Monday, do some half-hearted sweeps with a rag, and then delcare herself finished for the day. Meawhile I am not able to clean a thing as I am scheduled to be in Orlando and Chicago this week. As I sit here, sipping my business class lounge coca cola, I am very a little guilty to be skipping town immediately after the wrecking ball descended on our little apartment. On the bright side - Chris and Gioia are now much, much cooler.

Some neat experiences from this past week:

- As we were leaving the hair salon last Saturday, my stylist noticed that Gioia's hair was a bit long. He said - oh let me trim her bangs a little. As he leaned forward with the scissors, Chris immediately snatched her away, almost instinctively. NO THANK YOU. Please don't cut my baby's hair. As he said to me later - we haven't even talked about that yet!

- Gioia is understanding more and more every day. Yesterday she crawled to the bathroom and gave me a shoe. I said - now go get the other shoe. And then she actually did.

- We were taking Frankie out to go potty this morning. As he was doing his business I said: "Frankie's poopin'." She responded with "Da bien," which is the Chinese way of saying #2. Well, yes sugar. That is correct.

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

A Modest Proposal

I'll be the first to admit that I am swimming in spam. In addition to all of the normal printer cartridge ink and astrology emails, apparently I am now on baby-related mailing lists too.

I opened my email today and saw a message entitled: "Put your baby's face on M&Ms."

Here - eat my baby. Because that is a totally normal thing to do.

Who in the world runs the marketing department at Mars, Incorporated these days?

Just so wrong.


Sunday, July 20, 2008

Sweet Corn

I have been jonesing for some sweet corn lately. It is hard to find around here though. The last time we bought some fresh corn at a farmer's market, it turned out to be feed corn - all bland and chewy. I was bitterly disappointed. For the last two weeks, I have been quite depressed about the corn situation, even thinking through places when I could grown my own.

But today as I walked home from yoga, I saw a nice lady selling corn. Tien de ma? Is it sweet? Of course, she says. Hmmmm. Which one is sweeter, the white or the yellow? Well, they are both sweet, she says. OK. Let's try again.

And what do you know, they were indeed sweet. Luscious summery sweet corn. We ate them ALL. Life is infinitely better now.

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Friday, July 4, 2008


From terminal 2 at the Taipei international airport: Want some gruel with your noodles?

From the Bintan real estate office: Want to buy some property? We are all out of real luxury homes, but we have great luxury "style" homes on offer. Interested?

From the downtown tourist trap shopping area: Hello. HELLO!? Want some food?


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

College Savings: How much is too much?

We started saving for Miss G's college education in 2005, before we moved to China. I signed up for a Upromise account, a 529 account, and a credit card* which allocated a percentage of spending back into the kitty.

So we have been regularly making deposits and that little 529 account has grown. But I wonder - how much is enough? How much is right? There is an easy way to start thinking about the answer - plenty of calculators exist to help people work through the time value of money problem.

But solving math equations is not my issue. I really am struck by the question of how much we as parents should be contributing to her education. Do we save enough to pay for all of a four year Ivy league degree in 2025? Or do we save enough for half of in-state tuition at a public school? What if she wants to do a gap year hiking in the mountains of Peru? How does that affect our estimated outlays?

Here is the thing: I opted for an in-state school over an expensive private school for undergrad. I chose free tuition and a monthly stipend over a fancy name. I also became an RA after my first year because it came with free housing. Am I worse off in life because I didn't go to Duke? Or am I better off because I chose the in-state school and paid my own way? Perhaps I am innately a practical person who works hard, someone who would have succeeded** regardless of the school?

Riddle me this - If I had had a bank account in my name ready for the spending, would that have impacted my school choice? If so, would I have been better or worse off by going a different route? Would it have impacted my character, my work ethic, my drive?

How much should we save? Not an easy thing to decide.

*Although spending to save is kind of stupid, but makes sense somehow. I guess.

**Have I even succeeded? Defining success is a whole other discussion.


Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Say What?

We had a big day today filled with lots of appointments. First, I went to the dentist and then Chris. Finally, we took Gioia for her one year appointment and MMR shot.

We were all sitting in the dentist's office at the hospital (everything medical is done at hospitals here), and I picked up a book to read to Gioia, namely "Rumples and Tumbles Go to the Country." This was a book about two toy rabbits - a pink rabbit and a blue rabbit - who wondered what color REAL rabbits were. Rumples said they were pink, and Tumbles said they were blue (or was it the other way...) Anyway, they set off on a rural adventure to discover the answer to their question. But as they were urban rabbits, they kept getting distracted by all the nature. Trees, cows who said MOOOOOOO, sheep who said BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA. All of this was quite distracting for the bunny rabbits.

So Rumples and Tumbles got a little silly. Rumples said BAAAAA, like the sheep. And Tumbles said MOOOOOOO like the cow and then made Chinese eyes.

Ummmmm. Say What? I read it twice to be sure. Yes, indeed. The book said that the little blue toy rabbit was being silly and made Chinese eyes.

This was a book on display in a very ordinary doctor's office in a Taipei hospital. A book which was printed in Hong Kong, no less. One that I picked up to read to my daughter who has very beautiful Chinese eyes (and there are nothing silly about them at all).

You know, I wasn't angry about the experience. I just skipped over the words and said, well, I won't read that sentence. But it was VERY VERY odd.

Don't you think?


Monday, April 14, 2008

Just Feed 'em More Yoo-Hoo

I have been eyeing the recent press on rising US food prices with a whole lot of interest. I am not actually in the United States at the moment, and thus cannot see the inflation first hand. But goodness, by all accounts it is a doozy.

Here is the thing, though. If you are going to write about inflation and public policy, you should at least consult an economist first. Otherwise it sounds like our local governments are being run by a bunch of morons. Well, perhaps they are, at least at the school district level.

If you don't have the patience to read the WashPost article on the rising costs of school lunches (referenced above), here is a summary. Food costs are going up, so schools are serving less nutritious food as a result. Because, of course. That is the most logical answer to a higher milk bill.* Serve more Yoo-Hoo.

Why not raise the price of lunches, you ask? Well, apparently that would be disastrous. In Alexandrea, the school district's Director of food and nutrition says that there is a "tipping point" and that even a 10 cent increase in the price of lunch could... well.. tip us. Tip us where? Into an abyss where kids do not eat? Is that the decision that an extra 10 cents** will tip us into? Eating or not eating? Never mind the fact that some school districts in DC have not raised the price of school lunches for TEN YEARS (according to the same article).

OK people, let's revisit basic microeconomics. Of course, quantity demanded falls as (real) prices rise - but the key is: by how much? Knowing almost nothing about the data, I would bet good money that demand for kids' lunches is inelastic, at least amongst people who do not qualify for the reduced lunch price program. So how is it that we are talking about - nay making public policy statements about - gut feelings around "tipping points."

Instead, how about hiring someone to do some empirical work? For a small sum of money (at least in comparison to the $3 million in increased milk fees paid by NY schools this year), someone could do some estimations of demand elasticities and calculate just how much of an increase in cost parents are willing to bear. The data already exist! You just need to crunch some numbers, Ms. Alexandria nutrition director. How about doing that before you start running to Congress for more subsidies? Or replacing seafood with chicken nuggets?

Of course some kids will consume fewer lunches (all other things constant). OF COURSE. But by how many? And what will the substitution effect be - will they start packing lunches? Who will be affected most (i.e., what segment of the population)? Find those kids and target them with better subsidies. Don't instead provide the whole population with poor quality food choices - less fruit and veggies, more refined sugars and other crap.

The article also casually mentions that the US federal government subsidizes every single school lunch. A child paying full price for lunch gets a 23 cent subsidy; kids who qualify for reduced price lunches get more. Gracious. Why? Do we need to encourage every public school parent to buy lunch at school, regardless of income? Even if the school lunch in question is becoming less and less nutritious?

This is a straightforward empirical question: what portion of rising food costs can be pushed back on to parents directly without a significant drop in number of lunches bought. Once we know the answer, then we can devise sound public policy to address the issue and re-balance the school budget. However, the solution to rising milk costs should not be, should never be, to lower the quality of food.

You - Mr./Ms. Public School District Director - should educate our kids, shape their preferences for a lifetime of eating. If the data show that increased lunch prices will result in some people not eating, then find those people, fix that specific problem. Don't instead make poor food choices for all of our kids without analysis.

Here is a crazy idea. If we are really worried about rising prices, then how about we teach the kids to grow their own food for lunch. Oh wait. That would mean sunshine, work and exercise. Yeah, that was a dumb thought.

*Let's not even talk about why milk prices are high in the first place.

**An extra 10 cents per lunch, what would that mean for the parent of a child who eats cafeteria food regularly? Assuming 5 days of lunches a week, 36 weeks a year (the average # of weeks a school in the United States is open annually), the extra burden on a parent would be US$18. Per year.

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Saturday, January 19, 2008

Passing Time

No news yet on the travel approval. We are hoping we get to pick up our daughter before Chinese New Year. Nothing came this week though. So we wait.

In the meantime, we are trying to keep busy and get everything together. Today, we bought "Taiwanese" gifts for the orphanage director and nannies. We searched again for child proofing supplies without much luck (toilet security latches still needed: 2).

On a positive note, I discovered today that the hot stone massage at the Grand Formosa Regent Hotel in Taipei is one of the best spa experiences ever. I was beginning to lose hope of ever finding a good massage place here. The whole treatment took one hour and 45 minutes. It started with a private 15 minute steam sauna, which was followed by a foot bath and massage. The actual hot stone massage (one hour) was luxurious: slow, warm and relaxing. The therapist drew me a hot bath with rose petals at the end of the session, and then presented me with a ginger tea, little sandwich, and bitty chocolate cake. Travel approval? What travel approval?

Projects are being completed. Miss G's nursery is - I think - done. The curtains have been sewn and hung, and Chris installed the blackout shade. Chris' family's Dutch embroidery piece is hanging above the crib. All that work, and she will probably wind up sleeping in our room until she gets adjusted. Har.

Off now to circle the house once more.

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Sunday, October 14, 2007

Mei You

We are all packed up and out of our Beijing place. Chris and Frankie flew off to the US of A last Wednesday, leaving me with an empty house and two suitcases. Beijing's emptyness creeped me out a bit, so I left as soon as I could. It will be two weeks before I actually land in Taipei, though. Work travels will take me to Hangzhou and Singapore first.

It is hard to be without the ones you love most. Luckily, I am here now in Shanghai and hanging out with some of my friends. It is nice to stop back into my old life of dinner parties and glasses of wine, even if only for a few days.

I do have two special friends to keep me company in Shanghai, where I am cat sitting for a friend. Finnegan climbed into one of my bags this morning as soon as I zipped it open. Thomas (not pictured) is sitting on my lap as I type.

Cats are different from dogs, that much is clear. As I was about to leave the apartment this morning, I took one last look around for the kitties, but I could only find one. I spent 30 minutes searching for the second one (mischevious Thomas) in this little three bedroom place, but I never found him. It really freaked me out, and all day I was wondering how in the world I could have lost a cat in a locked apartment in under three hours. When I came back after running errands (thinking: please be there, please be there), he was sitting on the floor watching me open the door. A dog would never have done that, would never have hidden sneakily for 30 minutes as you frantically called out his name. Sheesh.

I do appreciate the company, though. Frankie and Chris are far, far away. It is nice to have someone around to distract me from missing them. Instead of being sad about what I do not have (mei you), I should appreciate the love and company that I do have.

And now I am off to open a can of tuna....

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Sunday, September 30, 2007

A New Space

In the past two years that we have lived in China, we have rented furnished spaces. Our apartment in Shanghai was nice, with modern fixtures and Chinese furniture with clean lines. It wasn't OURS, though. We tried to make it comfortable, but it seemed more like a place to sleep and watch TV than a home.

In Beijing, we have been in a furnished townhome. Most of the furniture was definitely more country kitch than I would have liked. It was OK, but again - not really home. We did our best with slipcovers and things. But really, who picks out a couch that looks like this?

So now that we are moving again, this time to Taipei, we really need to seize the opportunity to make this new space a home. In order to do that, we started with the following must haves: close to work (preferably walkable), located in an urban environment, three or more bedrooms, and MUST allow dogs. In addition to all that, though, we were definitely looking for an unfurnished place, one where we could pick the rugs and the sofa and the drapes.

This week, the lease to our next apartment was signed, and we are set to move into our new home next month. We did not get our first choice, but the new place is probably a better bet anyway. It is much sunnier, has higher ceilings and is right in the middle of a very Taiwanese neighborhood.

I am a planner, but Chris is not. In my mind, that new apartment is a blank slate that we can start filling in, even though we are not there yet. For him, though, it is really difficult to imagine the space without being in it. So I am all "how about this rug" and "won't we need a desk for the office"? He, on the other hand, is a big "let's wait and see" advocate. So we are trying to be understanding of each other in these days before we move. He nods slowly (and bewilderingly) at each new rug and furniture item, and I try not to be too vocal about all of the plans dancing around in my head.

I am really excited about this opportunity to craft a space that is ours. With all of the changes coming - new city, new responsibilities, new daughter - at least we can nest a bit, make a home.

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Saturday, September 29, 2007


To the government of Myanmar - you are corrupt cowards and bullies.

The monks and your people have shamed you with their bravery. Step down.

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Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Just Wrong

Halfway through eating some Singapore noodles from the deli downstairs last week, I noted the odd package design.

What is that all about? Why do I have insecure white babies parading all over my noodles? And do they really sing? For goodness sakes, I just want to eat and get back to work. Now I am highly confused and disturbed by the creepy babies.

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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Back from Beyond

Phew! I am back in Beijing after nine days in the United States. Well, really eight days once the 24+ hours of trans-Pacific air travel is factored in. During the trip, I was in Chicago, Atlanta, Orlando and Boston.

I was able to take a breath and put my feet up at a true Chicago barbecue, complete with some super luscious sweet corn. Ahh, sweet corn. I saw my parents, gave a baby doll to Zane, and attended a wonderful doll workshop with the fabulous Mimi. Oh, and I worked too.

Still jetlagged and pooped, so I will save some stories for later this week.

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Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Happy July Fourth, Peeps!

So I am sitting in a Chinese business hotel in Shanghai, musing over the fact that it is a big holiday in the USofA and I am definitely not holidaying. Chris and I will have been in China for two years soon, which is a very long time to be away from your home country. It is a long time to be away from familiar things like barbeques and baseball games and fireworks. Oh wait. Scratch the fireworks.

I am not homesick at all, probably because Chris is with me to share all of crazy China. Every now and then I think things like - Why can't I buy pantyhose here? Or shoes? If I were in the States, it would be no problem.....

In all seriousness, my dad always used to say that there is nothing like living abroad to make you appreciate your home country. For all of its war-mongering, for all of its crazy embarassing people who don't know how to travel, for all of its many other issues - I am still proud to be an American.

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Sunday, May 20, 2007

Too Busy to Notice

"There was no ethnic or demographic pattern to distinguish the people who stayed to watch Bell, or the ones who gave money, from that vast majority who hurried on past, unheeding. Whites, blacks and Asians, young and old, men and women, were represented in all three groups. But the behavior of one demographic remained absolutely consistent. Every single time a child walked past, he or she tried to stop and watch. And every single time, a parent scooted the kid away."

"From Pearls Before Breakfast," The Washington Post, April 8, 2007


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Time has Come, the Walrus Said

"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"to speak of many things.
Of shoes -- and ships -- and sealing wax --
of cabbages and kings."

-Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass

I have always loved this quote. In truth, I love all that is Alice,* including the very odd and dark Jabberwocky, but this poem makes me particularly happy. It is very twisted, actually, opening with dreams and fantasy and ending with trickery and - well - death.

This week I saw a link on AT the Nursery to a great site where you can order Wonderful Graffiti: custom vinyl text for the walls of your home. Here is my favorite example from the company's website.

I began to think about what quote I could use in Miss G's nursery, and my mind kept jumping back to the Walrus and the Carpenter. The "talk of many things" quote in particular alludes both to fantasy and to imparting of knowledge. It is my childhood and her potential, all wrapped into one.

When I told Chris, however, he said no. Hell to the no, actually. Too twisted, too weird. After all, the poor oysters did not fare so well. Well, OK. Perhaps a tale of deceit is not really the best reference for above my daughter's crib. LC was most likely a pedophile too, which is not cool either. So, back to the drawing board.

Speaking of Wonderland, I found some lovely Alice illustrations this week through a reference to the Rare Book Room on Whipup. We are all pretty familiar with John Tenniel's late 19th century illustrations, such as the one shown at the top of this post and below (courtesy of Project Gutenberg). But have you seen Attwell's art nouveau illustrations from an early 20th century edition? And the gorgeous Pease illustrations, with intricate borders around every page? And this fascinating (Polish?) version....

*If you are a math geek (like me), make sure you check out the Annotated Alice.

Obligatory Project Gutenberg language: This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org

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Friday, May 4, 2007

Best Quote of the Trip

Me: So you know your daughter is probably going to grow up to be a card carrying Republican.

My friend: Or worse - She could be a liberal with bad toes.


Monday, April 30, 2007

Happy "We Kicked the Imperialist Americans Out of Our Country" Day

On April 30, 1975, the North Vietnamese sucessfully stormed Saigon and the southern forces surrendered. The Americans started evacuating the embassy a few days before. How surreal to be visiting Vietnam now, on this day in particular. I was born in August 1975, a mere four months after the handover of power in Saigon. Yet, we Americans have all been raised with the knowledge of this war, with stories of the war.

We visited the War Atrocities Museum in Ho Chi Minh city yesterday. While the museum itself was not as shocking as it could have been, the vast collection of photos on display of victims of this war - both Vietnamese and American - broke my heart.

War cannot be entered into lightly. May we never forget the lessons of the past.


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

My Story - Part 1

I opened my email this morning to a really nice request from Johnny for some details of my story. Even though I feel awkward, I am happy to answer questions - primarily because I have enjoyed reading his story so much.

I want to start with a picture. This is actually one of the family life pictures that went into our adoption dossier. It is crazy how you take a billion pictures, but somehow so very few of them seem right for the CCAA.

This was taken on a group ski trip to Austria - the very first Ski Other Countries.* It was our first international trip together, and it was a lovely, lovely time - despite the fact that we were both sick as dogs almost the whole visit. We are on the top of some castle museum in Saltzburg here. Not sure if you can tell, but we were freezing our a**es off.

When the social worker came to do our inquisition, she asked us to talk about what we did for fun. We both said: we travel. Homegirl was not satisfied with that response, though, and kept asking the question. We were confused as to why she needed a better answer. Yes, we scuba dive and ski, but to really understand us, you have to know that, between the two of us, we visited ten countries last year: Egypt, India, Cambodia, Thailand, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea, Singapore, the UAE and the United States. Besides China and the United States, Chris has lived in Canada and the United Kingdom, while I have lived in the Philippines and Bangladesh. Completing our child abuse clearances and compiling a list of all the places we have lived for the last 20 years was a nightmare.

Traveling is in my blood. I was raised in Asia as a child, and it gave me an insatiable wanderlust. Chris lived all over North America when he was young, and his dad, uncle, and grandparents were born in the Netherlands. We are peas in a pod, he and I.

The problem with all of this is that it really makes us weirdos back home. Our friends have a hard time relating to us. They either think that our stories are not interesting or (even worse) they think we are bragging when we talk about life in China or our latest trip to Angkor Watt. When we were preparing to move to Shanghai, one of Chris' friends took me aside and told me I was crazy, completely crazy to move to China. As I looked at his face, I could tell that he would never understand why we were going. Would never understand that China's growth right now is one of the most interesting phenomena on the planet. Would never understand that there is life - good fulfilling life - outside of Atlanta.

Chris and I lived in Chicago for three years before we came to China. We moved there together (but initially lived separately...), got married there, bought a house together, adopted Frankie. But we kept talking about how neat it would be to live outside of the United States again.** So I told my work that we wanted to do an international rotation - a long one, somewhere cool. Surprisingly, they agreed to send us here, first to Shanghai and now Beijing. So we packed most of our stuff into storage, shipped some clothes and a nice mattress to Shanghai and flew halfway across the world with our dog.

And that is how we came to China.

*We have organized two other SOC trips with our friends since this one: to Canada and to Argentina. All three have been riots. The next one is probably to Japan in the very near future (we hope).

**It is much, much easier to live internationally when you have someone with whom you can share the experience, vent your frustrations, laugh at the silliness. When I came back to the United States after living in Manila in 2000, I decided that I would not do it again unless I was married.


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Where are all the Bees?

Oh my Lord! Have you seen this story? Do you know the honeybees are disappearing from the United States? A full population collapse in less than a year!?

Who cares, you say? Well, farmers care. Anyone who eats food grown by farmers should too.

My gracious.


Saturday, April 14, 2007

A Road Well Traveled

A wood carving of St. George slaying the dragon, found in the Coptic quarter of old Cairo

Someone wrote to me this week saying that "The Bible clearly states that women cannot be Elders." Now, I come from a Protestant Church and tradition that believes the opposite, so I was a bit taken aback by this statement. All this week, I have been studying to see if this could possibly be true. My reading and discovery has shown me, at least, that the Bible is not clear on this issue, not clear at all.

Peter himself says that Paul, whose writings are often used as reasons to deny women positions of leadership in the Church, is difficult to understand.

His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures to their own destruction. (NIV, 2 Peter 3:16)

So what have I learned this week? Here is a sampling.

- Many people point to Paul's listing of the qualifications for Elders in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9 as evidence that God meant this office for males only. When you read the text in English, it may appear to be so, as the language appears to be male. However, we have to delve back into the original Greek to see if that was indeed so. I don't read Greek, so I am at a severe disadvantage here. But people who do read Greek note that words that are often translated as "man" in some versions of English Bibles are more appropriately translated as "people" or "anyone" in the original language. The same is true for other Greek words signifying office, as Suzanne McCarthy notes here.

Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer (footnoted as 'Traditionally bishop'), he desires a noble task. (NIV, 1 Timothy 3:1)

Some Bible editions translate the word ei tis, which is provided as "anyone" in the NIV verse above, as "man." Not so.

- When Jesus was in Bethany at Simon's house, he was anointed by a woman, Mary, with perfume. When the disciples (specifically Judas in John's accounting) rebuked Mary for this act, saying that it was wasteful, Jesus rebuked Judas saying, She is preparing me for burial.

It is important to recognize that Mary's anointing of Jesus was a priestly act. Everyone present at the anointing and first century Christians reading the accounting of the story later would have recognized it as such. If Jesus did not believe that women should perform priestly acts, then he would have rebuked Mary. Instead he rebuked the disciples. This story is so important that it is told in three out of the four Gospels, in all but Luke. (Matthew 26:6-13, Mark 14:3-9, and John 12:3-8)

-During the time of Christ's crucifixion and resurrection, the women were ever present. According to Matthew 27:55-56, they were watching from a distance, having followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs. The 12 disciples were in hiding, in fear of political persecution. Why, then, were the women not hiding even though they had also been publicly associated with Jesus? Why were they allowed to approach the tomb even though Pilate has expressly ordered it secured so that the disciples would not steal the body (Matthew 27:64)? The simple answer is that women were not considered a threat, as they were not allowed to hold leadership roles in that society and would not have been viewed as capable of doing anything consequential.

Here is the interesting part: soon after Jesus' death and resurrection the situation is quite different. When Saul (later Paul) is searching for followers of the Way, he specifically seeks out and is persecuting both men AND women (Acts 9:2). So why would Saul care to find and arrest female followers of Jesus? Because they were now free to speak and teach of him, spreading the Word alongside men. That made them equally dangerous in Saul's eyes. There was a shift in women's place in the religious community that directly resulted from Jesus' coming.

I am not a theologian, so I am not prepared to enter into scholarly debate on these issues. Going back to the original topic at hand, though, I feel that I am pretty confident in saying that the Bible does NOT clearly say that women cannot be Elders. If you are interested in this topic, I encourage you to read the work of many, many people who have thought about this from a scholarly perspective.

Here are some easily accessible writings related to this issue that I found to be particularly eloquent.

Junia: The Apostle, by Suzanne McCarthy
The Scholarly and Fundamentalist Approaches to the Bible, by Peter Kirk
Presbuteras, by Kevin Knox

I have also ordered a tremendous number of books on Amazon on the writings of Paul, women in the early Church, and other related topics. It takes a billion years for books to reach me here in Beijing (not really, but a while), so it may be some time before I can read through them. If I discover any other resources, I'll be sure to post them here.

Thanks for listening.

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Sunday, April 8, 2007

There and Back Again

Chris and I just took a quick three day trip to Singapore. I had to go for business, and airfares were so cheap that I was able to convince Chris to come along. It was a good thing because I missed him desperately while he was away in Shanghai and then Denmark for the last three weeks. We had a really nice time. Singapore was so very sunny and green and wonderful. Instead of being my normal cranky pants, I was smiley and almost giddy.

Returning to dreary, dusty Beijing would have been a bit of a let down if it weren't for all of the flowers for sale on every street corner. We bought two big pots for the back patio and a smaller one for the front door. A guy came over yesterday to fill them up with loads of color. He had to go back for more flowers, in fact. After all that work (not by me mind you), our house is starting to look a bit brighter. Notice we picked up a new camera too?

Happy Easter every bunny!

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Saturday, March 31, 2007

For my Father

To the one who gave me, amongst other things, a love of life and travel: Happy Birthday.

More pictures from our Fall 2006 trip to Angkor Watt here.

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Wednesday, January 31, 2007


Today is our wedding anniversary. Chris and I have been stumbling around all day (all month actually) in a bit of a haze going "Can you BELIEVE it has been three years?"

Earlier this month we bought a fabulous antique chinese medicine chest that we had been lusting after since we arrived in Beijing. So cool, we thought, to have a real chest from a famous store in Beijing. And it can be our anniversary present to each other. I thought I was done - off the hook - phew.

This morning, however, Chris gave me another present, which I totally did not deserve. For this year, the leather year, I received this amazing purse from Lowe. Living in China has taught me to really appreciate, no crave, well made objects. And this, my friends, is about as close to perfect as a bag can be. Perfect size, perfect weight, perfect color.

I am truly honored to be spending this life with Chris. For those of you who have not met my husband, he is an incredibly giving (ummm, yeah!), fascinatingly intelligent, modern man - even though he fights it all of the time. I am so proud of him, how he has grown (how we have grown) in China. I love my bag, I love our medicine cabinet, but what matters most is traveling this world with you.