Sunday, November 1, 2009

Thanks for your patience everyone. I would post more often but we are usually blocked from blogs. Sometimes--like right now--we have a short window of time during which we can access our blog.

We are doing well. It is the first of November and today the temp was 3 celsius. Unfortunately "central heating" here means there is a central steam plant in the city which will begin sending heat to all the homes on November 15. Until then we wear lots of sweaters/coats inside. We do have a small air conditioner upstairs which can be turned to heat, so the living room at least is warm. I won't be surprised if the boys end up sleeping on the upstairs sofas until the 15th. The bedrooms downstairs are positively frigid!

We are feeling really settled in. We know where to shop and how to bargain for the best price. We know the only place to get chicken breasts, the only place to get butter, and the only place to get Hershey's syrup. We know what restaurants to go to and what (and how) to order. We can get just about anyplace in a taxi. If you know me, you know how funny it is to see me hailing a taxi!!

Alaina starts school tomorrow, at a Chinese kindergarten (kindergarten being the name for schools enrolling children 2-6 years old.) I am told that she will pick up Chinese very quickly. I hope so, because no one at the school speaks English!

The boys all really like their school. They are learning Mandarin for one hour every day. Darryl is taking private language lessons. I'm trying to learn the language by talking to our Chinese-only driver and our Chinese-only Ayi.

We are returning to the US for a visit on December 19. I am really looking forward to my annual peppermint mocha at Starbuck's. Hope we get to see you all.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

A few thoughts on living in a cash-based society

I know you're all wanting to hear of our adventures, but allow me to wax philosophical for just a moment.

China's economy is strictly cash-based. You can use your credit card at the finer hotels, and we even discovered that IKEA will take our debit card, but we don't shop at those places (at least not much, although we did have to buy two IKEA beds when we first got here.) And the Chinese people certainly don't shop there (much).

We have had to really re-learn how to use money. Every two weeks, when we get our paycheck, we go to the atm and use our debit card to take out all the cash we will need for two weeks. Keep in mind that $100 US is about 700 quai. We have to pay everything with this cash: utilities (more on that later); groceries, our Ayi, haircuts, clothes, light bulbs, printer cartridges, you name it. It has really forced us to look at each and every purchase and to make sure we are budgeting well. The bottom line is, if you don't have the cash, you can't buy it!

Here's how you pay your utility bill: you come home one day and there is a bill taped to your front door. You ask your driver what it says and where to go to pay it. Let's say it's the water bill. You go down to the water company with your bill and your cash. You stand in line and when you get to the front the guy gives you a box full of bills. You find the one that matches yours (again, with your driver's help, since you can't read Chinese!) You take that bill and your original bill and go stand in another line, and when you get to the front of that one the person looks at your two bills, makes sure they match, and stamps them with his official stamp. Now you take your two stamped bills to a third line, where you finally pay and get another official stamp saying that you have paid. Now you can file the bill you found in the box and take your stamped bill as a receipt.

As I have been learning to live with cash and to really budget I have been thinking about the mess the US economy is in. I'm no economist, but I really think that if Americans were forced to live on only the money they actually have in their pockets we wouldn't be in this situation. The Chinese economy has not had the same problems the US has (although, I admit, most Chinese were poor to begin with. The average salary is 1500 quai/month, roughly $215 US). The people here carry little or no debt simply because it isn't available to them. Even large companies only buy what they actually have the money for. Didn't we get into this economic disaster by spending money we didn't have? Wouldn't it make sense to stop the madness?

I know the economists would say that if people stop borrowing our economy would crash, but I have to say I simply don't believe it. Oh, sure, there would be a period of adjustment, and quite a few banks might fail (is this really a bad thing?) but I don't think it would be long before the US would be very, very stable monetarily speaking. Oh, and especially if our government would take this idea to heart. Can you imagine the president: "Sorry, but we can't build that expensive unnecessary fighter plane right now. We will save up for it and let you know when we have the cash."

I know that I don't ever want to go back to spending money I don't actually have or playing "bank roulette" (you've done it too; admit it! "It's Wednesday and the check will be deposited on Friday so if we go out to dinner and write a check for it I'm sure it won't go through before the money is available...."). It is so freeing to only spend money I have, and we're all learning how fun it can be to save up for something you really want. It's so exciting when you actually get to go down and buy that special thing you've been saving for!!

I know I won't convince everyone, but maybe you folks reading this would be willing to give it a try. Make a promise to yourself you will only spend what you have in cash. See how exciting it is. Then pass it on! Who knows, maybe we'll start a grass-roots economic movement that could literally change the world.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Hello hello hello! Or I should probably say Ni hao! We have been in China now for seven weeks. So sorry we have not been able to keep you all posted; we were unable to access this site until yesterday.

So anyway we are doing great!! Got here late on the 14th of July and have been settling in. Darryl is hard at work; the kids are in school, and I (Mindy) am keeping busy teaching Alaina at home and making friends and learning Chinese. It is a very hard language, but any language is learnable if you are forced to speak it to survive. Fortunately we do have some people around us who speak English and who help us when it's really necessary.

Darryl and I celebrated our 19th anniversary on Aug. 17 by going out to a business dinner with his staff and some visiting colleagues. Not very romantic, I admit, but fun. On the 28th I celebrated my 42nd birthday (43rd in China; they count you one year old when you are born.) Our Ayi (part-time housekeeper/cook) made an elaborate and delicious dinner, and some friends came over to play cards. I got to spend the day with my friend Heidi too. Over all a very nice birthday (sheng ri in Mandarin).

We have spent some time exploring the areas around where we live. It is a beautiful city. The area we live in is called Kaifaqu. We are right on the yellow sea, and we have several ocean beaches, one very near our apartment. We've walked down a couple of times and explored. There is also a big hill behind us with a UFO-really!-that Darryl and I like to climb in the evenings when we get a chance.

The weather has been hot and humid but is finally cooling down. They tell us we are headed into autumn now, and we are grateful for the relief.

Now that we can access this site I will try to keep you posted regularly. Enjoy the photos and leave a comment if you'd like!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Almost ready to go!

Hi all and thanks for staying with us even though we haven't posted since the day we created the blog.

Well, twenty days to go and we are getting very close to being ready. Darryl has been back and forth several times and has had the opportunity to start getting our home set up and cozy. He found some guys to help him move furniture around last time so everything is at least in the right place now. We are still short two beds over there but we will buy those after we get there.

This morning the moving company came and took everything that's being shipped. It went to their warehouse where it will be stored until we are able to get all the necessary paperwork to ship. We can't do the last couple of things until we're actually in China so we will be without most of our stuff for the first 30-45 days we are living there.

We fly out of Wenatchee on the 13th of July at 11:00 a.m. We are looking forward to having breakfast with both sets of grandparents that morning, as well as Spencer, who is pretty much moved over and who will have started classes by then.

As you can see from the pictures the house is pretty empty, and the kids have been sleeping in the camper that Matt and Debbi Vaughan have loaned us for the duration. It's been strange but exciting at the same time.

We will keep you posted as we get closer to this great adventure!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Hello and welcome to the first post to the Wall Family blog! We created this site to keep friends and family informed as we prepare to move to Dalian, China on July 1. We just returned from our "fact finding mission" in Dalian, where we were able to find an apartment, get accustomed to the city's layout, and learn how and where to shop in Dalian. It's a beautiful city with lots of excitement. Darryl is being transfered there to oversee the construction and startup of the new Moses Lake Dalian Chemical Industries plant. We have made a two-year commitment to live and work there, with the option to re-evaluate at the end of two years. Mitchell, Nik, Ethan and Alaina will be moving there with us, while Spencer will stay behind to finish his AA degree at Wenatchee Valley College and then hopefully join us for the second year. As soon as I figure out this "uploading pictures" thing I will so that you can all see pics of the city and of our apartment (really a two-story townhouse). Blessings to you all, and thanks for following our journey!