Life as of late, has been (should I dare to say) normal. We haven’t gone on any adventurous trips or experienced any crazier-than-usual cultural situations, so I will take this opportunity to describe some of our normal life in Southern China.
Since we returned from the States back in February, we have fallen into a routine that works well for all of us. Most days, I get up around 6:30 to squeeze in a workout before the kids are allowed out of their room at 7:15 (they have been threatened with death if they leave their room before their alarm clock turns green). Recently a new gym has opened up a few minutes away which I have been very tempted to join, but unfortunately they don’t open until 9:00am (similar to most gyms in China) and they don’t have air conditioning! For now, I just stick to running outside or doing workouts in our living room. After the kids get up, Cameron cooks them breakfast while I shower and do a few chores around the house. Our helper arrives around 8:30am each day and starts hand-washing the seemingly endless stack of dishes in the sink.
Side-tracking a bit, we are in the process of doing some upgrades to the kitchen such as replacing the kitchen cabinets, installing a Western-sized oven, and putting in an under-the-counter water filtration system. As we were making plans for the kitchen re-do, a friend of mine sent me a picture of the first dishwasher I have ever seen being sold online in China. I instantly starting dreaming of a life free from hand-washing dishes, but quickly reminded myself that the plumbing and electricity in our kitchen is not set up for a dishwasher. Besides, I could no longer complain about how hard it is to live here if I had a dishwasher!
After our helper arrives, Cameron heads to the office which is a small apartment we rent that is just a few minutes from the house. The office is only $75 a month and is big enough to meet many of our work needs. It also gives him space to get work done without the distractions of home life. After Cameron leaves, I get the kids started on their chores which include very basic tasks such as getting themselves dressed and brushing their teeth, but for some reason take my kids FOREVER to do. I am pretty sure that 75% of my daily energy is spent getting them to complete their chores.
After chores, I begin homeschool with Claire. We recently took Claire out of Chinese pre-school because we saw no improvement in the issue of Claire being allowed to run around the school whenever she wanted. Last week, I looked at a two other Chinese pre-schools to see if they were viable options for next year, but I was very overwhelmed at the size of the schools and the number of students in the classes. It also was unnerving when every time we walked into a classroom, the kids would scream “Foreigner!” I decided that if I felt overwhelmed by the size and noise level of the classes, then I didn’t want to subject Claire to that. Besides, I have thoroughly enjoyed the homeschooling I have been doing with Claire. It has given me a sense of purpose and structure to my day. I also enjoy utilizing the skills and experience that I gained as a teacher in Texas!
Around 10:30 in the morning, I take the kids outside or to an indoor play place. One of the harder things about living here is that my kids can’t simply open the back door and go play in the yard. It has to be a scheduled event in our day during which I accompany them. It is especially hard in the hotter months when I sweat out any remaining energy I had. After playing outside, we go back to our house where our helper normally has lunch on the table for us. Having our helper cook lunch helps me tremendously because it beats the alternative of peanut butter and jelly or grilled cheese sandwiches every day. Since the Western-food options for lunch are too limited, our helper cooks us a couple Chinese dishes of meat, veggies, and rice each day. I love it!
After lunch, our helper cleans up and then heads out the door to her other job. I put Chloe down for a nap, and do about 30 minutes more of homeschool with Claire which usually involves something relaxing like reading or crafts. After we finish, I let Claire watch TV while I try to accomplish as much as humanly possible before Chloe wakes up. After Chloe wakes up, we do baths, read some books, and then I let them play until dinner is ready. On Wednesdays, Claire has started taking a dance class which has been a fun thing to add to our routine.
Cameron usually finishes up work by about 4:00 so he has time to go to the market, get food for dinner, and come home just in time to start dinner. After dinner, Cameron gets the kids ready for bed while I clean up the kitchen. The whole dinner process (making things from scratch, handwashing dishes) takes several hours, so we are both worn out when we collapse on the couch around 8:00. Thankfully, you can get almost any American TV show or movie online in China for free, so we enjoy having our pick of the latest TV series.
That is our normal weekday in a nutshell! It would feel like a normal routine in American if it weren’t for the cultural challenges (like our water being shut off for two days last week) that pop up frequently. However, those challenges do make for some great blogs!