21 August 2007

More creations

Julia liked how the last dino came out on the blog so much that she quickly made two others and insisted I take the picture and put them on the blog. So here are a one horned triceratops, which is an actual dinosaur but I can't remember the name, and a stegosaurus. She loves to make "hands" and feet with claws or toes. She also told me that these two are sitting down and talking.
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This morning's creation -- a flying dinosaur. I took the picture before it was squashed up to become a rather large pig and several smaller animals to ride on the pig's back.

I am working on a writing about Urkupina, the festival that Ches and I went to in Bolivia when I was down there. Just not finished yet.
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First China Story

Yesterday, Julia very casually started a story. She has been saying "once upon a time" frequently and then talking to her animals or her clay creations. It is funny that she picked up that phrase because I don't think that many of her story books start with that. Anyway, she started "once upon a time a little girl Julia . . . " And I continued with the start of a China story about a little girl Julia called Bai Bai who was born in China very far away. She lived with lots of kids and had friends named Miao Miao and Na Na. But she didn't have a mommy and daddy. I told her that far away there was a mommy and daddy called Suzanne and David who wanted a little girl so much. There was also an older sister called Cheshire who wanted a little sister. And one day, this mommy and daddy and older sister saw a picture of a little girl and they loved her. They went to China and brought her home and called her Julia Bai Bai.

That seemed to be enough for her right now. We have not pushed her story on her and Julia has not asked. She loves the video that Cheshire compiled, but doesn't ask about it when she watches. It is as if close to this first anniversary, there is a new sense of who and where she is.

This child is such a teacher!

20 August 2007

Monday evening

Julia and I spent the day at home today, alone and inside. I cleaned and played with dinosaurs, Julia played with all her little animals and dinosaurs and the computer and clay. We had breakfast and lunch together and ended the day with a bath. It was a good day.

Julia has been incredible the last two days. She has been loving and ready to give hugs and kisses. She missed me and she is willing to show it. She was a bit angry with me on Sunday, but even that feels like it should. She did not ignore me as she used to do when I came back from Chicago. She behaved that way when David was traveling back and forth to Madison. I brough back a few gifts for her and her favorite was a few more plastic animals -- a llama, a duck billed dino, an ape, and a gazelle. This kid is going to know her animals.

I was feeling a bit off on Sunday and at the beginning of today, but it was the only problem I had related to my trip. A day of queasy stomach is nothing compared to what we've felt during our trips. I feel very lucky.

Julia is working on her words. We have been correction some of her mispronounciations and she is willing to try to correct herself. I think she is really ready for some good ESL training.

19 August 2007

Coming Home

Coming home was a 24 hour adventure. Planes from Cochabamba to La Paz to Santa Cruz to Miami to Chicago. Then the shuttle to the parking lot and a drive home. I started on Friday at about noon and pulled into the driveway in Madison Crayon House at 3 on Saturday.

The day had a bit of a tough start. Cheshire had a stomach ache which put her in a pensive mood. Ches, Jason, and I took a bus to downtown Cochabamba to visit her college and say goodbye to her colleagues. The Catholic College of Cochabamba is a pretty school. Two and three story buildings with open air hallways around a very green garden with benches and tables.

Before and after going to the college, we saw a Cochabamba parade of children and the military. It was Flag day and each kindergarden and primary school was out in their uniforms to parade the flag. Very cute to see all of the uniforms. This was a parade to be in more than to watch. Watchers tended to be parents with cameras and younger sibs. The most interesting military display that we saw was a stationwagon with a 10 foot helicopter purched on top. And there were bands! Bolivia should have the best marching bands in the world!! Many, many, many bands. Mostly brass and drums with a sprinkling of clarinets and those walking zilophones. Some of the bands were high school bands and some were old men. The kids sounding a lot better than most of the old man bands.

We went home to a Beysa´s lunch made speical for us. Cheshire said that she likes to cook and her food was lighter than most of the Bolivian food we've have. She made a rice and corn soup which Julia would have loved. It was more tasty than congee but the same idea. Then we had spegitte and potatoes and a meat stew. It was very good and I really enjoyed it.

My plane from Cochabamba to La Paz was more than an hour late but I had a 5 hour layover in La Paz so it was just shorted by a little bit and I got to spend another hour with Ches and Jason. When I got off the plane in La Paz, I was confused as to where I was at the airport because of construction. I needed help with my two bags and I couldn´t see where the AA terminal was. A taxi dispatcher told me it was 5 Bs (about 85 cents) to get to the terminal, and I climbed in a cab thinking that it had to be a very short ride. The cabbie drove me out of the airport and onto the road to go into the city. I tried in my non-existant Spanish to tell him that I wanted to go the the airport terminal for AA but he didn´t understand. I tried to ask about some other airport because the ride was getting very long. He didn´t understand. Finally, I fished out my Lonely Planet book, found the phrase section (which is very sparce) and cobbled together some phrases to find out where we were going. He was taking me to the AA office in the middle of La Paz. I told him no, and to take me to the airport terminal. I made several attempts before he understood, and we wound up going through the center of the city (where we stayed back in 2002) to turn around. I must say that once I cleared up where we were going, I could sit back and enjoy the trip. I had wanted to go back into the city but didn´t want to carry my bags with me. This tour was great. When we got back to the airport (some 50 minutes later), we had to argue about price. Of course, he didn´t want the 5 Bs that I had been quotted, but I was not going to give him the 100 Bs that he wanted. I told him that I would give him 50 Bs, and tried to say that I did not want to go into town. He argued and threw up his hands at me but he finally took the 50 Bs. He was not happy and I wished that I could have apologized to him. Still, I thought it might be close to what he would have charged a Bolivian. And I practiced being a tough broad.

I had two very slight brushes with Bolivian security. In Cochabamba, they made me take my tooth paste and tooth brush out of my carry on because the plastic bag that they were in was too big. In La Paz, I left my new jacket in the internet shop before I went through security and even though I had at least an hour before my flight was to be called, security would not let me go back out. There was no reason but that it was the rule. I argued in my Spanglish until two other travelers befriended me. This too did not seem to make a difference but one of the guards took pity. I think it was because I told them that the jacket was new. They let me go back out but the female guard who was lower on the chain of command was a bit pissed with me when I came back.

Other than these little things, the trip back was eventless which was just perfect.

And one more thing -- Price of Coke Lite. In the little store across from Cheshire's apartment -- 3Bs for 20 oz. In the main part of the airport -- 6 Bs for the same 20 oz. In the waiting room after I went through security -- 10 Bs.

Jason and Cheshire

Just a few shots of Cheshire enjoying Cochabamba with Jason.
This is the view to the side of their apartment house. Mountains, mountains, some with snow on top.
Yes, they are pretty cute.

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13 August 2007

Monday in La Paz

Yes, South America. This is my solo trip of the summer to visit Cheshire. The flights down last night were fantastic - on time and not too crowded and friendly and easy. This is such an unusual experience on an airline these days. If travel was like this, we`d all be happier.

Cheshire looks great and we fell into our banter. I felt immediately at home in La Paz but that was only because Cheshire could do all the translating.. Oh, how I should learn Spanish. I would like to spend more time here but Spanish is mandatory.

Sweet Bolivian hotel-inn for the night with cold showers and heavy blankets, but more tv channels than we have at home.

I only have a few days here, so I am very glad that I know a little bit about the lay of the land. I might try to go around La Paz myself on Friday during my return. I have a 5 hours layover.

It is hard not having Julia and David with me, but it is also nice to have Cheshire to myself and not worry about a little one´s behavior.

10 August 2007

New Orleans Pictures 2

Julia wanted to take a picture that made the butterfly wings on the ground look like her wings. So this was the best that I could do.

Julia rides a flamingo on a very hot afternoon.

Daddy and Julia investigate an octopus at Marti Gras World.
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Not like this!

Interesting interchange with Julia yesterday at the NO zoo. Certainly it was hot, hot , hot. I have no idea the temperature and humidity but it rivaled Nanchang last year and HaNoi years before. Julia and I walked around a relatively deserted zoo staring at panting animals and panting back at them. We saw a bear in a bathtub getting some relief and two elephants having their lunch pool side at the suggestion of their feeder. The alligators looked too comfortable and the snakes were perfectly at home. Julia and I tried to stay in the shade but at time we had no recourse but to march directly into the sun. After we had walked for a very long time and launched ourselves into the sun when Julia stopped and shouted, "hot, go away. Hot, stop." I tried to move her along and humor. I laughed and said that it was this hot in China last year where she lived. Julia answered back, "Not like this."

Last night, Lexis/Nexus threw a dinner/party at this huge barn used to build and store Marti Gras floats. It was like a backstage party for a play with many, many sets – maybe like Radio City Music Hall in its heyday. And all sorts of things too – from Shrek and Stitch to Greek gods, Moses, Marilyn Monroe, JFK and MLK, Jr. And more. Julia loved it and we took pictures with some of the figures. I loved it too. I have never been interested in going to Marti Gras but seeing that place . . . . We ate a wonderful salad and some chowder, a corn salad and a jambalaya. Julia collected necklaces throughout the night, and as we left, people donated theirs to her collection. She is a bling-bling queen.

New Orleans is another very interesting town. Maybe it is dying and we are seeing it in its death throws; maybe it is a phoenix and is preparing for rebirth. Certainly, its future is not clear. I wonder at the optimism of people who try to make living there. I am sadden that the national government has done so little to insure survival. So much is for rent, for sale, or in need of great renovation. Or all three. Some of the renovation is going on, but so much looks closed and closed for a long time. And we spent most of our time in and around the French Quarter, that part of time that is said to have "come back." We were offered a tour of city’s devastated neighborhoods, but I did not think it was appropriate to take Julia on a tour like that. Hearing what others had to say about the tour, it was the right decision. And I must say that for a day or so, I admit that I resented being somewhere that was such a wreck and paying as if it was complete. But if one more full price ticket at the half-empty zoo helps in some very small way for the city to come back to itself, then I am happy to pay. It is a different city from those I’ve seen here, closer to a place that was occupied by Europeans long enough for Europe to rub off. It is French, like HaNoi is French; it is Spanish like the lower district of La Paz is Spanish. New Orleans has a distinct culture that even the most casual visitor like ourselves can see. It is ours to preserve or lose.

This month is such a traveling month for us – I leave for Bolivia on Sunday. Julia and I have spent all our time together this summer. She is my shadow, reluctant in the roll at times, but I feel our relationship deepen. I know I will miss her as I have missed her when her babysitter, Sarah, has her for a few hours. I know she will miss me as well. I hope that the week goes well for David and Julia. I hope that Julia expects me to come home and will be happy when I do.

07 August 2007

Hot days in New Orleans

Time for our annual summer journey to the hottest place we can imagine! Last year, Nanchang, this year New Orleans. David, Julia and I are at a clerks’ "convention," meeting really because there are only as many clerks of state supreme courts as there are states, plus some court administrators and families. We went to Key West two years ago, and last year David went alone because we were traveling for Julia the next week. David goes to meetings during the days and we play, and then we all meet up for great dinners.

It is really hot and humid here. Can it be more humid than Indy? This is VietNam humid. And the sun is intense. It feels much better walking in the shade. Julia is not much for this kind of heat – And she being the kid from on of the four furnaces of China. She has definitely adapted well to air conditioning and cooler climes.

Julia and I spent part of yesterday at the kids’ museum. Not nearly as up to date as the Indy museum but lots of good manipulatives. Julia loved making giant bubbles and Japanese sand gardens, and playing in a kid sized grocery store (she filled her basket with some of the same stuff I shop for every week – gosh, the kid is watching) and with a giant kaleidoscope.

With the help of some locals, we found a great place for breakfast. Julia had the best pancakes I’ve tasted in years. They were kind of like a rough flour Bisquick type of hot cake with some spice I couldn’t place. Julia ate three of them and then finished a bowl of rice (the restaurant was getting ready for lunch and Julia saw the rice and mommy begged for it) and some of my eggs. For supper, we had a shrimp etoufe (no, I can’t spell it). It was quite spicy and served with rice. Julia thought it was delicious. She also loved the chocolate covered strawberries.

Today, we walked around part of the French Quarter, visiting a church, eating New Orleans’ fried dough, and buying a few souvenirs. With that as our busy morning, we went back to the hotel room for a bit of a rest before visiting the Aquarium with David in tow. Lots of sharks of all different sizes to look at! Fish, turtles, snakes, a white alligator, and sea horses. Many of the exhibits had small models of the bones of the animal that we were looking at. Julia loved these little skeletons. I have to teach her more about bones so we can talk about similarities.

Julia is enjoying this trip. She did have a tantrum in the airport – with a 3 hour delay she may have been channeling what we all felt – but it was no where near as bad as at the beginning of the year. She loves flying and staying at a new hotel. I am tempted to comment that she must view her experiences traveling which are mostly her trip home in a positive light, but who knows. I do know that she does not act scared or anxious about our traveling which I am very happy about.

The hotel room also is a good place for down time for her. She plays with her little animals – dinosaurs, pandas, and a little statue of liberty – or watches a video. She seems to be able to be out and taking in new stuff for about 3 hours at a time before she gets overstimulated. On another note – David and I have to be careful about putting her between us when we go out for dinner. Although she rarely takes food from our plates for her own, she has done it a few times when we are sitting on large banquet tables. People tend to be gracious and excusing but I’d rather we not put temptation in her way.

Things to do and see in New Orleans

Giant bubble makers at the kids' museum!

Banana plants in Jackson Square in the French Quarter.

The giant jaw bones of a prehistoric shark.

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A day of Travel.

Sitting on our luggage while the monorail takes us to the plane.

Yes, there are dinosaur bones at O'Hare airport. Why? Who knows, but for a dino-loving kid

Will our plane ever, ever come?
Nothing like room service after a long day of travel.

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01 August 2007

A very few pictures from the FTIA picnic

Julia loved this spinning wonder. I can't even watch it without my anti-sickness wrist bands.

Three of the girls in this picture, were still in China this time last year. The other two have been home for a few years. Who is who?

Julia practicing very good behavior as she patiently waits her turn on the big slide. Anyone read about "waiting on line Thursday" in the NY Times?

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Julia sad of this picture -- "Julia sitting down." And she so rarely sits down! This is the end of a long, fun-filled day.

Splashing in Wisconsin

The days in Madison have been really, really hot, and we are spending lots of our days at the community pool which is pretty close to our house.

At the shallow end of the pool, there are jets of water for kids to play in and Julia makes good use of these.

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I haven't noticed how much Julia is changing from a very little girl to a school kid, but I see her look much more mature in this picture.