May Day Break

Megan came back from LA late Wednesday night after being there for a week for the wedding of a good friend.  The girls and I are extremely happy mommy is back home, and it’s just in time for my one week break from school.  
 
Saturday:  I had to report to work and attend a staff appreciation banquet in the evening so Saturday didn’t quite feel like vacation yet.
Sunday:  I taught a lesson to the middle schoolers on how to be a grace giver.  If you’re angry, exclusive and/or jealous, you’ll have problems.  Megan, Rose, Grace, and I attended a going away bash for a couple of our colleagues – yummy Western treats and fun entertainment.
Monday:  I rode my bike to an electronics market with a friend of mine, and we made some computer part purchases.  In case you didn’t know, printer ink is a rip-off.  For dinner our families ate like champs at TGI Friday’s. 
Tuesday:  We rode our bikes to the People’s Park where they had a bizarre display of a robotic Ultraman and the monsters he fights.  Rose was a little fearful of these mechanical pieces of foam, but the two white tigers and monkeys were a hit.  Rose and Grace also enjoyed the airplane amusement park ride.  Grace said wee about a dozen times while we were flying up in the air.    
Wednesday:  Rose was not feeling well so we cancelled a trip to Beijing.  I took Grace on a little bike ride, and we purchased some fruit and vegetables on the street.  I had a mutton stick craving earlier in the day so for supper I brought back home a bunch of these guys.
Thursday:  Grace continues to use large quantities of tissue paper due to a runny nose.  Megan isn’t feelin’ so hot now.  Despite the illnesses the family is fighting, we go to Home Depot and purchase some goodies for the apartment.  Megan and I consume a couple bags of microwave popcorn and watch North Country after the girls go down.
Friday:  We discovered a new Chinese restaurant that we will definitely return to – close, clean, very affordable, great eats, picture menus, high chairs, and fast and friendly service.  Grace was a little scared of the soft-shelled turtles swimming in the aquarium, but who can blame her?  They are ugly critters.
Saturday:  The Wickershams visit the Tianjin Science and Technology Museum.  It can’t compete with Chicago’s Science and Technology Museum, but for only four bucks, the four of us can have an enjoyable and educational afternoon.  We eat dinner at a local Muslim restaurant with a former student of Megan’s.
Sunday:  The girls and I take a monster nap for a good chunk of the afternoon.  It’s a day of rest, and we don’t do the ten minute power nap thing.  Like yesterday, another student that Megan once taught has dinner with us.
 
My vacation was a nice break from work.  Since havin’ the girls, we realize there is much of Tianjin we have yet to explore.  I’m thankful for all the vacation time I receive, and I’m especially thankful that I can spend it with mi familia. 
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Winter Update

I’m currently on the second week of a two week break called Chun Jie (Spring Festival).  I have been spending lots of time with the fam and getting several projects done around the home.  The last three years during Chun Jie Megan and I have visited several countries in tropical Southeast Asia.  Now that we have two young girls part of the Wickersham clan though, we decided to stay in Tianjin for our vacation.  Last week for Valentine’s Day Megan and I had our first date since Rose joined the crew in mid-December.  We hunkered down at an Indian eatery called Alibaba’s.  We had a very nice lunch in a calm and quiet atmosphere which was a pleasant change.  Being the smooth guy I am, I also presented Megan with her favorite chocolate bar – Almond Joy.  This is an uncommon and pricey find in our neck of the woods.  As far as Megan’s Valentine’s gift to me, she made me a kick butt breakfast of French Toast and an omelet loaded to the max.  She also cooked up some tasty buffalo wings as an after dinner snackarama.  Later in the week we had a fellow Hoosier visit us after returning from a conference in Thailand.  Jenn stayed with us for a couple of days before visiting other TJ friends.  Major highlights of  our vacation time has also included going down the slides at the indoor TIS playground, watching Curious George at daddy’s work, bike rides to HomeWay and HomeWorld (kind of like a Super Wal-Mart), our very first dance classes designed for little ladies, putting up coat racks and pictures in our daughters’ rooms, hanging out with people less than four feet tall, candy deliveries to our mini friends, starting movies when the girls have gone down, but not having the energy to watch them entirely, a successful six month follow-up visit for Grace, finding some decent time to read for personal enrichment and enjoyment, reading lots of children’s books, and seeing cool and crazy creatures at the Tianjin Museum of Natural History.  Although Megan and I aren’t trekking exotic locations in far away lands, we wouldn’t trade our lives for the world.  Things are a little busier and a little tougher now that we are four, but it’s a thrilling adventure! 

Christmas Break

Megan, Grace, and I will be landing in Indiana next Saturday, and we will be on Midwestern soil for approximately three weeks.  We’ve been so busy lately that we haven’t had time to think of the trip a whole lot, but we really do look forward to spending time with our family and friends during this special time.  We haven’t been in the States since the summer of 2005 when we saw Tony Stewart win the All State 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  This will also be our first time as a married couple to spend Christmas in the land of Hoosiers, and with the exception of my mother-in-law, the first time for our family to meet Grace Noel.  During our stay with our parents we will be taking care of paperwork that will enable Grace to become an American citizen.  Your thoughts would be appreciated as we embark on a new step in this journey we call life.

Our Beijing Excursion

Early Monday morning Grace, Megan, and I took the 1 hour+ train ride to Megan’s former stomping ground, Beijing.  Grace had a checkup at the hospital where we were extremely happy to learn we have a very healthy girl.  According to American growth charts, Grace is at the 50th percentile in height and head circumference and at the 25th-50th percentile in weight.  Grace is carrying 8.5 kg (not quite 19 pounds), but I was thinking she was heavier due to the massiveness of her thighs.  I was a bit surprised that her head size is average as well.  I thought her melon was of the larger variety, but maybe her lack of hair threw me a curveball.  After receiving the good news from Beijing United, the three of us hunkered down at Annie’s – an Italian eatery that can’t be found in our neck of the woods.  Grace was unable to eat any Italian, but she is all about the Heinz green pea paste.  Mmm.  Instead of heading back to Tianjin after lunch, we booked a room at the Novotel for a couple nights upon my suggestion that we do this to celebrate our two year anniversary.  A shout-out goes to Zhang Jian for saving me some major dead presidents.  What did we do during our stay in the capital city?  We ate great food from both the East and the West – Singapore/Malaysia, Japan, and good ol’ America.  We hung out with some old friends from Megan’s Beijing and Nanchang days.  We went to the 2nd biggest IKEA in the world where we looked at approximately 7,000 items we don’t need.  We did find some cool picture frames and a shelving unit that will go up in Grace’s ever-changing room.  We also went shopping in some other locations where mom purchased some new clothes as part of an early birthday gift.  Grace also found some highly fashionable pink shoes despite being totally asleep.  All in all, it was a most delightful three day excursion.  Two thumbs up.  Way up.   

Our Last Days Before We Become Three

Today was a really nice day.  Due to a much needed shower, we were gifted with a gorgeous blue sky and puffy white clouds.  This is an uncommon sight due to all the smog that normally engulfs Tianjin.  With the sun coming out so quickly and blasting its rays, all the water in the streets dried up in time for my bike ride.  Sweet.  I had a great Chinese lesson in the morning.  Not exactly a regular thing for me.  Normally I walk away from class remembering that I have another 49,900+ characters to learn.  Not feelin’ sore from my workout yesterday.  Cool beans.  I’ve been able to get my lazy butt in the gym a lot lately.  I be in the zone.  My mid-afternoon nap was a very pleasant experience.  I realize that could be a thing of the past starting next week.  Read some from Ezekiel and Luke.  Need to get fed from both the Old and the New.  Our washing machine was fixed for only a few bucks.  That was quite a pleasant surprise.  We finalized our Wuhan hotel accomodations, translation services, and travel arrangements for next week.  We continue to countdown to Gotcha Day and are so thankful for all that have helped us through this process.  Went to one of the many TJ Starbucks tonight with Megan to cap off our June 7th.  Used coupons to obtain two free drinks –  an Espresso Frappuccino and a Green Tea Frappuccino.  These drinks are da diggity bomb, but they taste even better when they’re free.  A shout out goes to one of my students for the caffeine pick-me-up.  Also purchased some grub for 1/2 off due to the late hours.  Good eats.  On top of that, Megan didn’t want all of her drink so I got a bbbbonus.  Today was a really nice day. 

Summer is Almost Here

It’s the last week of school, and it has been a most excellent school year.  In fact it has been the most enjoyable year of my life.  I have a job that absolutely rocks, a community of friends where some actually like me, a beautiful and intelligent wife that points me in His direction, and soon I’ll be joining the daddy ranks.  Next month as we prepare for Grace’s arrival, I’ll be attending Chinese classes Monday through Friday for two hours a day.  It appears in two or three weeks that I’ll have to miss some classes when we fly down to Wuhan in Hubei Province.  Other summer plans include lots of reading and pumping some iron from time to time.  We have two weeks in July where we are permitted to go to Indiana, but we are uncertain how that will all work out since we will soon be a family of three.  We hope Grace will attach to us quickly, and we are thankful for His perfect timing in all of this.  Your thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

May Day Holiday

At the start of every May we have a break from work for several days.  Last year during our May Day Holiday Megan and I went to Kyoto, Japan to visit my relatives.  My mother was able to fly out of Indy to make that trip.  This year Megan, her parents, and I flew down to Guangxi Autonomous Region in southern China.  After landing in Guilin we took a taxi to Yangshuo where we were able to leisurely explore the gorgeous scenery by bike and boat – winding rivers amidst limestone pinnacles, stone houses along cobbled streets, and rows and rows of terraced rice fields.  When we weren’t admiring being out in the sticks, we were either souvenir shopping or eating at one of the host of Western-style cafes.  I ordered rat on my last night in Yangshuo, but to my disappointment, none was available.  Another day.  The cooks were able to prepare me a mixed fruit pizza though, and our vacation started off with me chomping on some nasty starfish in Beijing.  Living in China is great.