Thanksgiving in China.

Before living in America I didn’t truly understand the concept of Thanksgiving.  And then after my first Thanksgiving dinner with ‘Nana Sally’ and family in 2010,  I understood why so many Americans treat this as their favorite holiday. It’s a time for gathering family and friends without the hype decorations and presents of Christmas to simply eat together and be grateful/thankful.
Why am I talking about Thanksgiving in China?  Well, there are quite a number of American expatriates so I decided to have a Thanksgiving brunch …but I actually ended up inviting a Canadian/Belgian couple and an Italian/British couple and kids!  We ate sweet potato and millet cakes, broad bean and dill dip, spiced roasted cauliflower, green salad and pumpkin pie!
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I also wanted to share a story with you that our friend Hendrik recounted at last-year’s Thanksgiving luncheon in Santa Barbara which is a reminder to reflect on what we might want to achieve with our lives:

The Greek Fisherman

 “A corporate executive, on holiday in a small, Greek seacoast village, was strolling by the docks and taking in the local color. He complimented one fisherman on the quality of his catch. “How long did it take you to get all those fish?” he wondered.“Not very long,” answered the Greek. “An hour or two.”“Then why didn’t you stay out longer to catch more?”

Shrugging, the Greek explained that his catch was sufficient to meet his needs, and those of his family.

The executive asked, “But what do you do with the rest of your time?”

I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, and take a nap with my wife. In the evening, I watch the sunset on the beach, then go to the village to see my friends, dance a little, play the bouzouki, and sing songs. I have a full life.”

The executive said, “I have an MBA from Harvard. I can help you. You should start by fishing longer every day. You’ll catch extra fish that you can sell. With the revenue, you can buy a bigger boat. With the extra money the larger boat will bring you, you can buy a second boat and a third one, and so on, until you have an entire fleet of trawlers. Instead of selling your fish to a middleman, you can then negotiate directly with the processing plants and maybe even open your own plant.

You can ship fish to markets all around the world. In time, you can then move to New York City to direct your huge enterprise.” “How long would that take?” asked the Greek.

“Twenty, perhaps twenty-five years,” replied the executive.

“And after that?”

“When your business gets really big, you can sell stock and make millions!” exclaimed the executive with excitement.

“Millions? Really? And after that?”

“After that you’ll be able to retire, live in a small village near the coast, sleep late, play with your grandchildren, catch a few fish, take a nap with your wife, and spend your evenings watching the sunset on the beach and then singing, dancing, and playing the bouzouki with your friends.”

HA 🙂

And while I’m on the topic of being thankful, I’m sooo very grateful for Huntun (wonton) soup.  YUM.

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The ‘c’s’ of parenting.

I haven’t read a parenting article for a long time, but with my son showing particularly difficult (‘challenging’) behavior at the moment, I was reflecting on ways to…..well… stop him from doing it!  I’m missing my support from 3 fabulous educators back in California: Juliette, Salome and Lia.  It’s also tricky being Australian, married to a French man but having brought up our children in the UK, the US and now China because all of these cultures approach childrearing differently.  It’s also tough not having grandparents, aunties and uncles, cousins, childhood friends around to help keep things in perspective and to offer advice.

Before coming across this fabulous quote: – ‘as long as a child knows that they are loved, you’re doing a good job as a parent‘ – I was slightly more obsessed than I am now about doing the ‘right’ thing when it came to parenting.  I really liked the following ‘C’ concepts which I gathered together over the past 5 years in my quest to know what the ‘right’ thing to do actually was.

Unfortunately I usually forget to implement these ‘C’s’ when faced with a full blown tantrum:

co-operation v/s obedience – the goal being bringing up responsible little adults and not sneaky little children who are only obedient in our presence.

connection before correction – its best to not try to talk about the child’s undesirable behavior with him/her before connecting with the child through hugs, calm voice, deep breathing, waiting until later…. what ever it takes to be heard!

calm, consistent, caring 

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I’ve been Interested to see how Chinese parents interact with their children – or more often their child, given that many parents are governed by the One-Child policy.  This policy is not actually applied to everyone.  For example, those in non-urban areas and those couples who both come from one-child homes are allowed to have more than one child.  The thing is, even when given the option to have more than one child, it appears that most couples now choose to have only one child.

Children seem to be very much free to do as they wish until they reach school-age at which point they have strict rules to follow and lots of homework.  This was evident at the local playground this week-end where for all of the preschoolers NOT taking turns to go down the slide was the norm.  I’ve also heard that the concept of sharing is a difficult one for many children from Chinese single-child families to apply.

Encouraging independence doesn’t seem to be a priority and my Chinese teacher was surprised (slightly horrified?) to see me letting the children use knives to cut vegetables up for dinner.  She then went on to describe some people she knew who had reached college-age and who didn’t  know how to cut their own fingernails.

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Shanghighs‘: still discovering new foods.  This time jujube (chinese dates).

Shanglows‘:  The children’s school is facing a major crisis.  Apparently the Financial Director has changed and is implementing a very strict adherence to the Chinese education system to the demise of the French section and over-all staff morale.  I’m busy looking yet again at schooling options 😦

Shangunusual‘: As my son was having his hair cut the hairdresser commented on a small rash that has recently appeared at the corner of Antoine’s mouth.  A Google Translation later she explained that this was due to “Temper being a big big in the body” (she’s not wrong there!) and when I asked how to treat it she said  (I think!) to apply condensed steam onto it twice a day.
 
Here are a few more well dressed canine taking a stroll.
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How much?

IMG_1938 I thought I’d share with you the Chinese currency for those of you who are planning a visit!

Well its called Ren Min Bi/RMB (People’s Money) or CNY or ‘yuan’ or ‘kuai’  Currently $1US is equivalent to about 6 rmb

1 Yuan (which exists in both note and coin form) = 10 jiao which is also known as ‘mao’ – just to confuse things.

1 Jiao = 10 fen (but there are no actual ‘fen’ coins in circulation any more).

When shopping for food, rather than price the fruit and vegetables by  1 kg, it’s by 500gm (or ‘Jin’) or by 50gm (‘Liang’) for lighter items such as tea.

Added to the confusion, the local Shangalese  don’t distinguish between the ‘sh’ or ‘s’ sounds when speaking  (so it’s easy to confuse ‘si’ (4) and ‘shi’ (10) – unless of course you can hear the difference between the tones on the vowel sound:  down for ‘4’ and up for ‘ten’).  And so I’m really grateful for the commonly used hand signs for numbers:

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…. except of course there are even some variations with these!

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This Thursday was Halloween. Our time spent living in the USA gave us appreciation of this celebration – It’s always fun to dress up!

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Shanghighs‘: My first experience of acupuncture.  This was fabulous, even after I’d been hooked-up to the power supply!

A pot luck dinner with other students and graduates of the health course that I am taking.

A trip down to the Huangpu River where we rode bikes and came across this fabulous temporary art installation.

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Shanglows‘: Realizing that my memory does not appear to be what it used to be, especially when it comes to retaining Mandarin vocabulary!

IMG_2018Shangunusuals‘: Dog with shoes – actually this is not THAT unusual as I’ve seen it a number of times in Shanghai.