Saturday, June 26, 2010

Streamlining Life

By He Said

Upon our families return from China, one of the first questions that is usually asked is “how are you adjusting to being back home?”  This is frankly a difficult question to answer.

Growing up I always felt that big city living was not for me.  Seeing as I grew up in Carson City (far Far FAR from being a big city) and then spending my college years and second half of my life in Reno, Nevada I can honestly say that I have never really LIVED in a big city. Until now.

I think living in Beijing, a city of 6,483 square miles and 22 million people, in an apartment with my entire family for three months (while having a regular job) qualifies as having experienced city living.

And guess what?  I loved it and I disliked it and I liked it and I hated it.

How can that be you ask? 

For starters, I found that I really enjoyed not driving a car for three months.  There were very few occasions that I wished I had a car.  Public transportation met my every need.  Now I understand that the cost of living variation made this public transportation much more cost effective, but it was the convenience of it that I truly enjoyed.  I even learned to appreciate the bus system (not the Double Decker bus mind you because I needed Alice’s “Drink Me” shrinking potion to comfortably fit on the top deck).  Don’t get me wrong.  I understand there are things I would need or want a car to do living here in the states, but for day to day living, not having to use a car was actually in itself a convenience.

Food.  It was everywhere and once I figured out how to get Susanne to order everything for me, it was convenient. It was an adventure to try new foods from street vendors and be able to choose from 15 different food sources all on the same street.  Food variety within walking distance or by public transportation was really cool.  I am sure having McDonalds, KFC (click the link and enjoy) and groceries delivered by bicycle messenger added a little romance to it, but hey, when they refuse a tip, what’s not to like.


Green grass and expansive parks.  They had them, but they were so rare and far away that even the public transportation didn’t make them easy to visit.  With two small children this had a huge suck factor.  There was no grass, no place for kids to run and play anywhere near our apartment.

Apartment living.  I can live in an apartment.  I have done it here in town.  As long as you can take a short walk and find a place to play Frisbee or simply chase each other around it is livable.  The apartment situation in Beijing was not kid friendly.  Living on the 10th floor where the only place for the kids to play is the walkway around the center “space” of the apartment building was not cool. A 10 story high empty space surrounded by a walkway on each floor – (where one small leap over the guardrail meant certain death). Every time my kids ran out the front door my stomach was in a pit.  This is one of those things I am glad to be done with. Here are the kids looking up to the apartments above (where we lived).


So I learned that there are certain things about city living that I like and others that I do not.  I learned that if there was a way for me to live near a big city and still have the ability to live near the mountains or a place where parks were plentiful, or even better yet near the ocean as I have always wanted to, then that would be the ideal situation for me.  What is my ultimate fantasy?  Seattle area, Bainbridge Island, Issaquah or similar area. A big city with the outdoors and ocean/sound right in the backyard.  This is nothing new.  This is something I have wanted for over 20 years now.

This is what I want for myself and my family.  To sweeten the deal, that is what my wife would like as well.

Beijing taught me that ultimately Reno is not the place for me. I want more.  I want to live out my dreams, see more, experience more.  It was my extended family that convinced me to take the opportunity to move to Beijing for three months.  They of course had no way of knowing that it would also show me the world is full of so many opportunities and that I should try explore and experience those as well.

My father was an explorer at heart.  He had dreams of buying a motor home and traveling the USA.  He wanted to see all that America had to offer.  He worked long and hard.  Always planning to do everything he wanted to do AFTER the kids had graduated college, after he retired.  He got cancer. He had a stroke.  He had to quit working and he died before he ever got to do the things he wanted to do.  This will not happen to me.  I want to be able to do things in the now.

So we put our house on the market today.  Yes, we can banter the pros and cons and talk about weather and rain and the bad real estate market, but ultimately what I want is a change.  This is not a change that is happening today, tomorrow or even this year.  But it is change that WE ultimately want and we will be prepared when it comes.  When adventure calls I want to be able to move quickly and swiftly.  I don’t want to say “oh, that would be great to sail around the world on your expedition.  What? My family can come and there will be schooling on board and snorkeling with turtles and dolphins! Oh, I have this house and I need to sell it first, sorry, I can’t go” (this is an extreme example, there are no plans to go on an expedition, but if you know of one feel free to message me!) or when Susanne says “OMG Greg, its Bill Gates on the phone. He wants you to come work for the foundation, says he found you using BING and you MUST come work for him!” (ok, I told you this was about DREAMS!).

I do not want to be caught behind the eight ball when adventure comes calling or there is an opportunity for change. Even better, if we are prepared for adventure there is nothing stopping us from looking for some rather than waiting for it to find us!

So we have put our house on the market.  We are purging and selling our stuff.  We are streamlining and preparing. When we sell the house we will find an apartment and save some money.

Simply put we are preparing for some unknown change that has yet to come. We are streamlining our life.  I hope you all will support us and come along for the ride.

P.S. If you want to pay me to “adventure” and blog about it you can DM me on twitter @gmoyle.

P.S.S. If you do ever move to Beijing or have an extended stay, be sure to use Beijing Home Delivery and tell them Susanne and Greg sent you.  They won’t know who we are, but it might be fun to listen to them pretend to remember us.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Help Me Return This To Its Rightful Owner

Posted by He Said
Back in my college days, I was taking a photography class, one of many as it was my major (obviously English was NOT!).  During one semester our entire class went down for a week to Tonopah Nevada.  If you have never been there, well, you haven’t missed much.  I can say that we visited the “famous” Mitzpah Hotel, stayed in a shell of a home in the desert which is now owned and refurbished by some Richie Rich who put his heli-pad out there and we visited several underground nuclear test sites.  If I ever get lung cancer it’s because I laid in the dirt that actually was registering on the Geiger counter.  Boy did Peter Goin point out what a stupid move that was.
I had a great time and while most of my fellow photographers took landscape and abandoned building/mining/rock painting photos I hauled around a blow up sex doll I named Helga.  She really got around.  That’s right.  My photo series was called Helga Does Tonopah.  Just a taste for you.
6-15-2010 9;48;31 PM
Ok.  Now that we got the dirty doll out of the way.
While in Tonopah a group of us found it fascinating to enter our fair share of abandoned homes. Don’t think we were alone in this.  These places were a popular hangout for the teenagers of Tonopah, and several in our group were photographing these kids in their “natural” habitat.  On one occasion I thought we were all going to die in a fire because the kids had a “campfire” burning on the second floor.  Not in a fireplace mind you, BUT ON THE WOOD FLOOR!  The ashes could be seen burning through and falling to the first floor.  Ah, to be young again.
So let me get to the point of this blog.
One of the small homes that we poked around in had a small pile of rubbish pushed up into the corner.  I, being the scavenger that I am, always poked and prodded looking for “treasures”.  In this particular house I found one, a small photograph of a girl. This Daguerreotype is framed in metal and in typical folding frame of the time.  Only one side exists as the other broke off at the hinge.  Here is the image of the little girl.  You will notice that her face and gold necklace have been hand painted.
Normally this sort of photo would be untraceable.  But it is what is behind the photo that gives me some clues as to the family. It reads (to the best of my translation ability). 
Jane Hollow Howard Chambers
Jane Hollow born Oct 19 –1858
Jane Hollar Howard Chambers
Jane Hollar born Oct 19 1858
Mother of Edith Gertrude Cain O’Rourke born Jan 2 - 1878
Here is a photograph of the writing that was hidden behind the photo for all these years.  If you have any suggestions as to corrections to my translation, please, let me know.
Please, share this blog with your friends, Facebook, twitter and other friends and help me return this photo to descendants of this family.

Em does her own makeup

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Power of the Dollar (Store)

Posted by She Said

Emily’s first day of preschool was awesome! She was self-confident and ready to go. Here’s proof:


Her second day? I got a call about 2 hours into her day to let me know that she “just wasn’t herself.” Translation: she was lying on a rug and wanted to be left alone. The culprit? A 102° fever for two days. OK, I need to get this straight. THREE months of me begging her to get off of the subway floors in China and her not complying didn’t get her sick, but ONE day in preschool does?

Her third and fourth days? All of her previous self-confidence was channeled into her spookishly strong little body to fight us taking her to school. She decided one day of school was enough for her. Thank you very much. Been there, done that.

Me: <holding up an outfit> Em, let’s get dressed for school.

Emily: <taking on a fighting stance> Oh, you go ahead and try. My Kung Fu is stronger than yours.

And to be honest, she was right. It took both Greg and me to get her dressed and keep her dressed. She is seriously freakishly strong.

As she screamed going out the door, Greg flashed me this look that said, “I can’t believe I am stuck with the job of dropping her off at school. YOU. OWE. ME.” And the bite marks on his shoulder were proof that him having that job was SO the right choice for me.

Last night as Greg was threatening divorce if I didn’t take her to school in the morning, I had a moment of absolute brilliance.

Me: Emily, if you go to school all three times this week without fighting us, I will take you to the dollar store and you can pick out ANYTHING you want.

Emily: <starting to cry> But I don’t WANT to go to school.

Me: Well, you are going. And you can fight us if you want, OR you can be good about it and get to go to the <dramatic pause> Dollar Store <said with some serious flare and excitement>.

This morning there was a gigantic welling of tears in her eyes, and she gave me extra hugs and kisses as Greg drove her off to school. The lesson learned? The mighty Dollar Store is stronger than her Kung Fu.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

When Sarcasm Goes Bad. Very, Very Bad.

Posted by She Said

Emily, who is now a whopping four years old, has two favorite words. “I” and “know”. She loves to say them every chance she gets.

Me: Emily, it is time to brush your teeth.

Emily: I know!


Me: Emily, please go wash your hands before dinner.

Emily: I know!


Me: Emily, did you know that the full version of the Reimann Hypothesis is still not proven to this day?

Emily: I know!

Yeah, her knowing everything has prompted Greg and me to follow up her “I know” with a “Yes, because you know EVERYTHING, Emily.”

Apparently, four is not the age where sarcasm works. I know this because of the following conversation I had with her in the car yesterday:

Me: Emily, you have school again tomorrow. Are you excited?

Emily: I know! I know everything, remember!?

Me: Ah. OK. <realizing maybe we need to have a talk about the joy of learning new things WE DIDN’T ALREADY KNOW> Emily, you know what? It is fun to learn and discover new things!

Emily: But I know everything!

Me: What’s two squared?

Emily: <long pause> One… Two… Three… Four…

Me: <long pause waiting for her to keep counting> <Dammit! Why didn’t I ask her what 18 squared was!!!???> Um…. <sigh>   OK. What is the name of our country’s first president?

Emily: I don’t know.

Me: See, you don’t know everything. And it is ok! It’s ok!

Emily: But I know everything, Mommy!

Me: Then who was our country’s first president?

Emily: <bursting into tears> Buuuut, I <sob, sob> know everything.

Me: Would you like to…

Emily: <sob>

Me: Emily, would you like to know his name?

Emily: <sob>

Me: It’s ok to not know everything, Emily. Just look at your Daddy. He’s ok and happy.

Emily: <sob>

So, lesson learned. Sarcasm and four year olds are not a good match.