KennedysOnline

Archive for August, 2006

Home Sweet Home

Per request, we are dedicating this post to those of you curious to see our home beyond the pingtai laden with drying laundry. One note — I WILL be painting the living area walls some fabulous shade of butternut or terra cotta (just as soon as I figure out how to buy paint and supplies), so please don’t worry that I’ve suddenly become enamoured with white walls – I haven’t. Sara

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These are all pictures of our main living area. A few comments – the pillows and red chair slipcover were made by an amazing local seamstress – odd looking shelving unit is actually the tops of two wardrobes stacked with a board on top, covered by an old curtain I brought from home. We store the kids books & games here. Dining table and chairs are recent purchases (everything else was provided) – again, very inexpensive. Tapestries and art prints came in the suitcases from home!

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These pictures are from the kids rooms. The duvets in the boy’s room and the lavender gingham curtains in the girl’s room were made by the same wonderful seamstress who did the other pieces.

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A few kitchen pictures. The curtain rod was very generously installed by a local maintenance person (we have to have help as the walls are either plaster over concrete or tile over concrete) – unfortunately, he affixed it so well that the rod can’t come off the brackets. So, I wasn’t able to use the curtains I brought from home – what you see here is actually two very cheap sheers draped over the pole and held with rubber bands. Ah!

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Finally, the view coming and going from our front door. We’d love to show you around in person. Come visit!

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Call me Mr. Kang

[Note: As some of you may recall, this public website will largely be dedicated to updates on our family and life in China. Eventually, our newsletter will provide greater detail on my work. The following are my first impressions of the job.]

The job. My job is perhaps every marketer’s dream and nightmare. I get to lead the organization on a complete re-branding project and establish a formal, central marketing function. The challenge is the sheer complexity of the organization. We have various constituents in the U.S., China and multiple points in between. We market both internal and external to the company. We have a virtual plethora of diverse projects. There are many ‘etceteras’ here. It is clear that I cannot do this assignment alone…

Mr. Yidi Kang. Every foreigner like myself is given a Chinese name to use on their business card (English on one side, Chinese on the other). “Kennedy” when ‘China-lized’ sounds like “Kang Yi Di”. What is really humbling is the meaning. Family names (Kang for me) don’t carry a meaning. First names do. “Yi” means “the Truth”. “Di” means “lead, steer, induct”. I will let you put it together, but I find it well beyond what I am capable of on my own. An excellent reminder.

[An odd side note, my very best friend when I was little was named Dan Kang. His family was Korean-American (yay Mia & Korea!) and owned an incredible restaurant in St. Louis called the Peking Inn (I think). Dan and I were quite geeky. I miss him.]

As it appears on my card (translation = Dan Kennedy, National Marketing Director):

— Dan

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“Bowls of noodles bigger than your head” or “Street bread makes a yummy gift”

As Sara spent the day in Beijing with several others from the team, I had Super Daddy Duty.

Dan tired. So here are just a few scenes from the day.

— Dan

We decided to go the the Chinese version of Nothing But Noodles/The Noodle Company (really describes most eating places here). This was actually owned and operated by a Muslim family. Not only was the food good, but more importantly, they had pictures on the wall that I could point to and tell them how many I wanted! Zach complimented my Chinese.

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Noah was invited to his first birthday party here. He choose to give Olivia, the b-day girl, flowers (lovingly bundled with a zip-tie by dad), a hand-made card (no Hallmark stores here!) and yummy bread from a street vendor in a bag. Me and the other kids hit the playground.

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Language Learning

We are to begin our formal language study in a few weeks. As part of a pilot program, we will not have traditional classroom time or textbooks. The plan is to meet in groups of four (two non Chinese speakers and two locals) three hours a week at first. We will do everyday activities with them, listening closely but not speaking. The program’s philosophy is comprehension first, then speaking – in other words, participate in everyday activities with our language ‘nurturers’, thereby understanding context, tone, typical speech patterns, etc. Our teachers will not be trained in language acquisition, nor are they Family. Just regular local folks who will include us in their lives, celebrations, holidays, shopping, doctor’s visits, etc. We are excited about the opportunity to see inside a local family, learn language and perhaps even share our lives with them. On this note, please keep a local officer of the law in your thoughts. He has applied to be a language nurturer for our group.
Additionally, Shi Ayi (our ‘house-helper’) has personally taken on the task of bringing me up to speed in the kitchen. To date, I can name all the major meats – which makes a great deal more sense in Mandarin — you simply name the animal then say ‘meat’. For example, pork is zhu rou (pig meat), beef is nui rou (cow meat), chicken is ji rou (chicken meat). I’m also fairly good with apples (pingguo), jaozi (dumplings),baozi (stuffed steamed buns), various rice dishes (mi fan) and bottled water (ping shui).

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Shi Ayi – Dedicated to my language acquisition!

Other important phrases we’ve mastered when shopping: je ge (this one) and ne ge (that one), numbers – both orally and with a nifty one handed signing system popular in loud markets, duai (meaning correct, usually used in a long stream of duai, duai, duai if it took particularly long to be understood) and the all important duoshou qian (how much). Others we often use: women shi Meiguoren, women bu mingbai ni shou shenme and wo hui shou yi diar Putonghua (we are American, we don’t understand what you are saying and I only speak a little Mandarin).

In closing, we are thrilled to be learning this fantastic, expressive language. The folks here try very hard to understand our attempts — and our efforts to learn are met with enthusiasm. I only wish that I had been half as gracious to newcomers in the US when I had the opportunity. Sara

PS On a completely different note — over dinner, Zach was describing the distance needed in a particular computer game. Without even noticing, he gave the distance in meters, not feet. Kids are so adaptable!

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The Commute

“You haven’t lived until you have almost been killed on the streets of China.”

Like most Chinese, I ride my bike to work. [Side note: my bike is a Chinese-brand ‘mountain’ bike with a very uncool basket, kid seat and, wait for it… bell. Say “ting ting” several times over for the full effect.]

So on either side of six flights of steps I ride 15 minutes to and fro the office. I have lost 85 pounds.

And yes, its crazy. The streets of China are a chaotic salad bowl of bicycles, people, vendors, motorcycles, scooters, cars, trucks, potholes, fruit, newsstand, and more bicycles.

In the next couple of days, I will try to provide an update on work. It is both exciting and over-whelming…

[Note to my mother: I am just kidding about almost being killed. There are many other activities that I’m sure are much more dangerous than my morning commute.]

Dan

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Scarce Resources

In a land of 1.3 billionish people, you’ve got to expect that some things will be in short supply. Amazingly, this is rarely the case – or at least for the things we want to buy. The government at every level has accomplished a near miracle of supply and demand balance – especially impressive when you consider the country has less than half the arable land of the US. Having said that, a few things are in extremely short supply – topping my list today: SWINGS! I have never seen a park yet in this land with more than two swings. A long queue (Chinese style) forms around, behind and in front of the lucky child who managed to get on the swing, thus reducing their ability to move, increasing their frustration and ensuring bodily injury to at least one waiting child. Nevertheless, we Kennedy gals had a great morning in the beautiful sunshine. Attached are a few pics from our morning. Sara

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Hannah and Mia made their own fun when the swings weren’t available

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The swing queue

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The beautifully painted roof line of the park’s seating area – very common architecture and decor for this area of China

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One average weekend – no matter where you live…

Making chocolate chip cookies.

Movie night.

A picnic.

Haircuts.

Maybe not so different than your weekend?

Cooks in the Kitchen

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Snuggled up for a big night of Auto-B-Good!

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Picnic with new friends from the company and school

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Our first shot at getting our haircut in China. Each haircut took over 30 minutes! (not quite used to cutting foreigners hair!). Note: pics are from camera phone and a bit blurry.

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— Dan

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16 Things That Are Different In China – Home Edition

Culture shock is not just a function of major changes like language, time zone, and food, but also hits in a thousand small differences. Tonight, I shall attempt to demonstrate a handful of them.  Of note, all of these can simply be found inside our apartment.  The differences become staggering when you actually step outside…

  • Money. China is largely a cash society (we have not used a credit card since the Chicago airport Starbucks…). This impressive pile of cash is actually worth about $22.78…

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  • Outlets. Not only is it 220 volts vs 110 in the US, but wall receptors are somewhat menacing.

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  • Hot water. Brewed quite locally. This tank hangs on the wall next to the shower. Not exactly inside of Sara’s decorating motif, but very effective. In fact, the scalding temperatures it produces has me down to about 8 fingers…

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  • House slippers. It takes a real man to wear ‘house slippers’. I, and my boys, are such men. There is an abundance of dirt here. At the front door, shoes come off and slippers come on.

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  • Refrigerators. Very small by American standards. You won’t fit a pot roast in these. Partially due to space, and partially based on how people shop. Most people go to the market (often vendors on the street selling out of the back of a ‘modified’ bycyle) everyday. Not big on preservatives (but I do crave them…).

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  • Laundry. Again, key word is small. This machine is the biggest they sell. Dryers are quite scarce. So we hang-dry all of our clothes. However this has lead to a much more open relationship between all of us (insert “hanging out your dirty laundry joke here”, dedicated to Mr. Steve Johnson).

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  • Fruits & Veggies. Wash behind your cucumbers. Everything fresh has to get washed in this acid-like liquid. Yummy!

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  • Water. Can’t drink the water. This water cooler sits in our kitchen. We use it for drinking, washing fruits/veggies, brushing teeth, etc. Also crazy is the delivery system. We were running low, so we called for replacements. Within 7 minutes the delivery guy had lugged two big jugs up 6 flights of stairs. Tell me that wouldn’t make you thirsty!DSC00282.JPG
    • Light switches. On outside of room going in (sometimes ). Down is on, up is off (sometimes).

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    • Dishwashing. You are looking at our dishwashing machine. Another notch in our Real Men belt.

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    • Air Conditioning. No central air as far as the eye can see. We have three of these units in our apartment (two even work!).
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    • Oven/stove. Must light burners and oven by hand. Talk to dad a lot. Also, no temperature gauge for oven. The dial is just labeled 1 through 8. Anybody know how long to bake cookies on #4?

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    • Heat. Don’t need it yet, but it wouldn’t matter. It is completely controlled by the government. Turns on November 15th and turns off March 15.

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    • Closets. Not in this country. All bedrooms have these massive wardrobes. I seem to have developed a uncontrollable craving for Turkish Delights…

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    • Eating utensils. East meets west.

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    • Everything is in Chinese. So I am ending on a painfully obvious note, but this applies to EVERYTHING. The DVD player we bought not only has the directions only in Chinese, but the remote control as well! I have pushed a lot of buttons and even seen error messages in Chinese (I think!).

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    [Note: Things in China are different everywhere you go. Please only take these observations as a snapshot of one Chinese (not expat) apartment complex in one urban city.]

    Dan

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First Day of School, First Day of Work

Big day for all the Kennedys – especially the Kennedy men. Today was Zach’s first day of 2nd grade, Noah’s first day of kindergarten and my (Dan’s) first day of work!
At 7:30 this morning, the bus arrived (LDi has a separate bus just for LDi kids that picks up right from our apartment complex). What is great is that my office is a 5 minute walk from their school! So all THREE of us loaded up in the bus for our Big First Day.

The Kennedy Men on The Bus & in front the International School.

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Signs in the school for parent meetings today. A great peek at what it means to be an international school! I choose the English session…

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DK in his new cube, Chinese style. Also got title today, “National Marketing Director” – the pay is the same… 🙂

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— Dan

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Loving Zhonguo

We’ve been in country two weeks. While we await the onslaught of Culture Shock (according to our training, it takes about 3 months for the honeymoon to wear off), I thought it might be nice to share some of our observations about our host country.

1. Sometimes, the service here is shockingly quick. For example, our trash is collected once an hour, every day, seven days a week. Granted, the collectors are highly interested in foreign trash …. nevertheless, we are very impressed. Similarly, it took SEVEN minutes for our water to be delivered from the time we placed our order … three industrial size water thermoses up six flights of stairs.

2. Service here is also quite cheap. I visited a local seamstress (very local – picture a folding chair with a work cart on the side of the road) to have a zipper repaired on a sofa cushion cover. She tore out the offending zipper, found a perfect match, realigned and stitched it back up in less than 10 minutes. The cost? 2 kuai, which in US terms is 24 cents. On a side note, I met a wonderful young local gal at this “shop” – we hope to get together to exchange languages. Please think of us as we get to know one another.

3. Taxi drivers in urban China are the craziest, bravest people I’ve ever met. For the sake of our parents I won’t describe an average jaunt through town, suffice it to say, we spend half our time amazed and the other half talking to dad. The kids (even Zach) think its great, and always fight over who gets to sit in the front seat (on a lap, of course) for the best view of the action.

4. Our family can draw a crowd really fast. Thankfully, the Chinese are a friendly and engaging people. They love children and show kind (sometimes intense) interest in our mixed lot. I’ve already learned the words for adopt, Korean and “yes, we have FOUR children”.

5. Having studied China’s recent history a bit, I am amazed to see not only the industrial progress, but also the healing that has happened in this country in the last twenty years. Many people over the age of 40 have experienced unimaginable difficulties in their lives, yet they smile and press on toward the good of the country. It is an admirable quality.

6. The roses here are BEAUTIFUL! This city is known as the city of roses for good reason. Sometimes they grow in the most unlikely places … beneath a busy, polluted interstate exchange for example … but they are a delight to the eye. When we were still in the States, we were encouraged to seek places of dad’s glory. We felt discouraged about the possibilities for this in our city — what a wonderful surprise to see magnificent roses stubbornly flourishing here!

Finally, I am most struck by the song we enjoyed this Sunday. “He knows my name/He knows my every thought/He sees each tear that falls/And hears me when I call.” As I look around each day, I am reminded over and over that each soul here is immeasurably precious. The dirt, the smells, the rusting metal piles, the poverty are just a backdrop. The reality of dad’s gift 2,000 years ago is just as true for each person here as it is for those of us so incredibly privileged to worship in our Sunday best in the richest, freest nation the world has ever known.

We are so thankful to be here. Our host country has been very gracious to us. Please continue to think of us often. Sara

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