For Dad

Happy Birthday dearest Dad! I know that having your very own blog post on “humor me” is one of your wildest dreams–I mean, I have like 4 followers. It’s a big deal.

Anyhow, your dream has come true, and these are a few of the many reasons why I love you:

The first one is obvious–because you’re my dad and I’m pretty sure you’re the best there is.

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You’ve always loved me—even through my 12-year awkward/disproportionate phase. (That’s a face only a father could love.)  Mom, why didn’t you tell me that my lunchbox was not cool and shouldn’t be modeled as a purse?

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We’re the same kind of weird, and I can usually count on you to get my lame sense of humor.

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You taught me that just because something’s broken doesn’t mean it’s unusable. Case and point: your glasses.

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You telled me there aint nuthin’ more important then gettin’ them there smarts. (Thanks for sacrificing your sanity and sleep to tutor me daily so I didn’t end up stuck in high school math forever.)

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You embrace the inner you (even if it is totally weird and it embarrasses Blake).

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You encourage your kids to explore (even if Blake isn’t too keen about the idea). Hmm… I’m sensing a negative Blake theme.

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No one can rock the socks and Tevas look quite like you Dad. Don’t worry—fashion will eventually catch up with you. (Hopefully after I’m dead.)

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You make farming cool—and look what you do to improve the looks of things around Powell! It would be a barren wasteland without your contribution.

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No father-in-law has ever been more loved.

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You are very confident in your ideas—even if they make you look like a goob (as if I’m one to talk). I distinctly remember you proudly wearing your water-soaked bandana that you boasted kept your head “cool as a cucumber.”

For the record: No, we are not part of Warren Jeff’s following. We were just embarking on a mock pioneer trek… which probably sounds equally strange.

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You have a great sense of humor and are loved by all (which is why you aren’t going to kill me for posting half of the above photos).

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Happy Birthday cowboy!

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The Park

Lately the weather in Nanjing has been rivaling Arizona’s winter weather, which means more time outside for me! My favorite place to land is the park.  There is a big age gap in the park’s occupants since half of them are under the age of 3 and the other half are over the age of 70 (everyone else is working). This makes the situation all the more ideal for me since my favorite people are the ones born after 2009—they are always the nicest and wear awesome hats.

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People in cities get stressed and defensive, but even more so in Chinese cities. Everyone’s in a rush. If you avoid being run over in the chaotic streets, you get bombarded with people trying to sell you stuff.  If you escape that obstacle with your money in tact, you will get cut in line to board the bus where you will be squished like a sardine regardless of the fact that the bus is scraping the street from the the weight of too many people. In said bus, your giant personal space bubble will burst in a thousand pieces when your head ends up in someone’s armpit and people squish you from all sides making it difficult to remove your head from it’s tight smelly spot.  Contrast that with the spacious park where friendly grandparents wave their grandchildren’s chubby arms at you and call you nanny.  I’ll take the park thank you very much.

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What gets me every time are the babies’ adorable little cheeks that poke out of their pants.

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Most Chinese babies wear pants that have a giant split in the bottom. Apparently split-bottom pants are helpful when training your kids to do their business on command. It’s kind of a reverse approach to the American philosophy where we slap a diaper on our kid, let him fill it at his leisure, then realize it needs changing once the room reeks of poop. However, Chinese people take a far more aggressive approach by telling their kids when they want them to go to the bathroom.

Here’s how it works: the Chinese babies wear the split-bottom pants so the parents can, in a split-second decision, decide to cradle their kid in a squatting position over a toilet, the curb, or a tiny garbage can on the bus (I’ve seen it firsthand). Somehow, the babies are trained to go to the bathroom when stuck in this awkward position. Then the parents give them a good shake (to shake off anything that might drip) and carry on.

The Chinese expect a lot out of their children and I guess it starts early in life. Props to them—they bypass the financial stress of diapers, the arguments about whose turn it is to change them, and the overall gross factor.  Basically, China’s 5,000 year-old culture schools America’s in the potty-training department.

I’ve been dying to get a photo of a funny little baby bummy poking out the back of a big puff of clothing, but couldn’t figure out how to do it without looking obvious. Solution: take your cute pet rabbit to the park, and snap some incognito photos while the little tykes are playing with your bunny. Actually…. that sounds really creepy, but if your intentions are good and you only plan to plaster the photo to your online blog, then it’s ok. Never mind. Just don’t let your kids play with other people’s pets, especially if they have a camera.

Some parents shove a diaper in the pant’s opening. It usually looks like an afterthought, so I’m not sure if its purpose is to block wind chill or to provide some layer of protection incase the baby decides to go whenever and has a blow-out. Regardless, this baby is stylin’.

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Aside from cute Chinese babies, my park is full of dancing groups, Chinese opera-style karaoke singers (all old ladies who will make your ears bleed), old men playing traditional instruments, a guy whose bird can speak better Chinese than me, and people who write fleeting but beautiful calligraphy on the sidewalk with water and a big brush.

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A word of advise to anyone who plans on visiting a large Chinese city: if you want to gimps Chinese culture, visit a park… and come see me.

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ImageFeasting at our favorite Thai restaurant. The owner tried to recruit Britton and Chris to help promote his restaurant. They ended up not taking the opportunity, but we got a LOT of good Thai food out of discussing the possibility.

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Little Mo… before he got big and started eating everything in sight.

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This guy is obviously coconuts about coconuts.

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Balloons for sale.

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Lucy, my favorite English student with her rabbit, Toe. Bought and named after she met Mo. 🙂

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Bunny sitting. Somehow I got suckered into nursing Toe and the school’s other rabbit back to health after they were first bough (all new bunnies here seem to be on the verge of death). They call me the bunny whisperer. Not really, but they should.

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This one takes the cake. This man sits outside Chris’ school and plays the erhu horribly, but you would never guess it by the photo–doesn’t he look like a passionate, natural born erhu player?

2012: Goodbye from Shanghai

A last-minute turn of events drove us to Shanghai for New Year’s Eve. What a great place to bid adieu to 2012 and usher in 2013.

This was my first opportunity to spend some substantial time in Shanghai, and I throughly enjoyed myself. If I were a tourist briefly visiting China, I don’t think Shanghai would have been particularly appealing, but due to my unique circumstances (a foreigner living in China), it was wonderful. I felt right at home enjoying the lack of Chinese culture while recharging my batteries.

The hilights of the trip included: shopping, eating (AMAZING food), city cleanliness, a plethora of English-speakers/foreigners, and broad beautiful sidewalks without random potholes, trees, bike racks, and mopeds placed dangerously in the walking path. Like I said, this probably wouldn’t be too appealing to someone looking for true Chinese culture, but I was looking for the opposite.

One of Shanghai’s few but impressive attractions is it’s remarkable skyline–best viewed from The Bund. The river divides Shanghai’s eclectic mix of futuristic architecture from the historic European buildings. We spent a fair amount of time enjoying this view since the New Years Eve festivities take place there every year.

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By the time midnight rolled around, The Bund was packed with tens of thousands of people. We fortunately got there early and lucked out with a prime spot right on the water. Slowly the space behind us disappeared while the pressure of people pushing on our backs increased as it filled with people. By the end we were squished shoulder-to-shoulder and became part of the giant mass.

Borrowed photo from someone else who borrowed it so I don’t have a source.

The New Year’s Eve kick-off included a laser show (which proved to be a big disappointment) and fireworks on the water. While I’m sure the firework show was really impressive for people not down-wind of it, we got bulldozed by a giant black cloud that probably caused some respiratory damage and definitely caused some temporary blindness.

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The forming of the toxic doomsday cloud. Perhaps the world was ending after all?

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In the thick of it.

In the end it didn’t really matter. We were in Shanghai celebrating the opening of 2013 with thousands of comrades for what will be one of the most memorable New Year’s celebrations of our lives.

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Sending wishes into the new year.

IMG_3131 The Shanghai skyline speckled with wishes. Look closely and you can see dozens.