Spring in the ‘Ning

Kunlun Bridge for Nama Mama

This year, spring in Xining was a fragrant natural masterpiece with pink and white blossoms at every turn. Purple lilacs made the air smell like perfume. The weather has been getting very nice and sometime even hot. Our family has had many opportunities to get out and enjoy nature, which has been lovely.

We’ve taken a few trips to the hometown recently, during holidays and weekends, to help out, to visit our tailor and to enjoy the countryside. I find myself appreciating being back in Qinghai. It’s seasons, scenery, and diversity really make me feel warm even the weather is chilly.

Blossoms for Nama Mama
I’ve made a new foreign friend “K” from England. She gets me out of the house once a week and we go exploring around the city. I pride myself on knowing this city pretty well, but last week we found a traditional Chinese Guild Hall I had never even heard of before! It was beautiful and wonderful! I will definitely be visiting it again.

Though my FB may make it look like I am always on the go, I actually spend most of my time at home with PY. Recently I have been sorting and packing everything up for our next move (Yes…we will be moving once again…)

We have a plan to rent a larger apartment this time, and hopefully do something useful with it. It will be in a more central area of the city which will be much easier to get to places and meet friends.

Roof Tiles for Nama MamaThis summer is going to be busy. I’m sure I’ll have quite a lot more to say in my next post!

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Losar (Tibetan New Year) 2019

Nama Mama (1)Happy New Year Again! After the resolution making and counting down that happens just before January 1st, we get to experience another New Year here, the one that jives with the Chinese lunar calendar. This Tibetan New year was probably the best I’ve ever experienced, and there are a few reasons for that:

1. I went to the village with a different attitude, reminding myself that the best course of action was to not make any plans or have any expectations, just go with the flow.

2. We borrowed a car, which allowed us to come and go as we pleased, and it was much more convenient, especially with an infant.

3. This year Bawu (Grandpa) turned 80 years old, so it was extra festive in the family house

Nama Mama

It seems that every year I have the opportunity to experience different things. Some years I attended the bonfires, others I have seen the play that is put on. Sometimes I participate in the tsampa cleansing ritural (rubbing roasted barley flour mixed with butter, cheese and water on our arms and face to take away the bad stuff). I’ve been able to see the drum dancing, and watch the creation of the orge-like tsampa creature that later gets tossed into the river.

This year I was able do some different activities. It is customary for households who have a member that turns 70, 80, or 90 years old in that year to give money to the village children. On one of the mornings, children wear their best Tibetan clothing and go around to all the households with these elderly folks to collect money (usually ten yuan for each kid).

Previously I had not been told about this custom, and this year I was able to participate on behalf of baby PY. With our babies and KL in tow, I followed a niece from the village from house to house and collected money for the baby and encouraged Autumn to do the same. What an interesting tradition!

Nama Mama

While I didn’t see the drum dancing this year, I did have the very special opportunity to follow the dancers up to the incense offering place at the foot of the mountain. Usually women are not allowed to take part in this activity, so I felt very privileged to have the chance to observe it. It is only because I am a foreigner that it was ok.

Nama Mama (1)
Since we had a car, we took some side trips on our way back home. We went to visit a monk friend, went to a big stupa (pictured above), and went to Rebgong and Gomer village. It makes me think that having our own car would not be that bad after all!

Nama Mama (2)
On the last day of the 15 day New Year Holiday, we went to Kumbum Monastery. We went to see the amazing butter sculptures, and to visit another monk friend. It was another nice day, we avoided the crowds by staying on the upper roads and could watch the pilgrims and tourists in their colorful clothes below. When it was time to see the butter sculptures we were escorted down and got a great view that we could enjoy for as long as we wanted. We were so fortunate to have such a great opportunity!
Nama Mama (2)
Can you believe that all of that is made out of butter? And that is only a portion of the two displays of butter sculptures!

Nama Mama (3) So like I said before, this Losar was the best I’ve celebrated so far. I’m so glad that I have the opportunity to share it with you!

Year in Review

Year In Review Post Guangdong Pickles Nama Mama

It’s that time of year again already, time to recap the 12 months in a short blog post. Many life altering things happened in 2018, most notably the birth of our second child “PY” in November. But let’s go back to the beginning first. In January of this year I was in Guangdong. I was excited because soon my family would be coming to live with me soon. I was busy making preparations with the help of local friends (and attending a local friend’s wedding!). Finally K and KL arrived, and we set about making a new tropical life together.

Guangdong Flower Market Nama Mama

We stayed in Guangdong for Chinese New Year, and went to a local flower market. Flowers and fruits are a big part of New Year celebrations in Guangdong so it was special to be able to experience this unique regional culture. People decorate with tall orange bushes surrounded by potted flowers. These could be seen all around. Too bad the oranges are inedible!

Winter was colder than I imagined, and there were days we struggled to stay warm enough. There is no indoor heating there and all buildings are designed to keep in the cold. Thankfully the cold days were few and it soon started to warm up again.

We enrolled KL in a kindergarten that was a bit of a walk from the place we lived. Every day we had to cross a main expressway to take her to school. Overall it was good to get some exercise every day, and KL enjoyed her kindergarten and continued to learn standard Mandarin despite being in the heart of Canton.

Panyu Trip March Nama Mama

Though our main purpose for being there was to save money, we did get out and travel a bit, not wanting to miss our limited opportunities to explore this tropical Asian place. Sometimes we went into the city for milk tea and exploring on Saturdays. Other times we visited the famous Buddhist monastery or the beautiful local parks filled with traditional Chinese architecture. We even traveled a little further and visited some reconstructed “old towns” and spent a holiday with a local family in Panyu. We learned a lot and enjoyed exploring and family time.

My SZ Friends Nama Mama

When it was time to leave Guangdong, I looked back on my time there, and though my bimonthly visa runs were tiring and strenuous, had I not needed to do them, I never would have met two of my very best friends. I now can’t imagine my life without C and C, and I miss them so much now that I’m far away. Thank goodness for technology and WeChat. At least we have that!

Aunt Cindys Quilt Nama Mama

In early spring, K and I found out that I was expecting. This news was quite the surprise and forced us to change our plans. We decided that it would be better for us to move back to Qinghai so that we could be close to K’s family, and to be back in familiar territory when it came to hospital checks and available help. That required me to change my visa type, and that required me to return to America. So that’s what I did. So in the summer of 2018, I went back to America, alone, and waddled around the Midwest, securing my family visa, visiting and staying with friends, enjoying family, and meeting an online friend for the first time who I’d grown very close to over the last two years previous.

This visit to the US was different from previous visits. I wasn’t able to bring KL this time so I was there flying solo. It made the trips to secure my visa much easier not having her there and I experienced some new things on this visit such as taking trains. I had the chance to do some wonderful things this time like see The Lion King musical with my sister and visiting lighthouses and blueberry farms.

All too soon it was time to leave my American family and reunite with my Asian one. After a long and tiring journey I made it back to Xining and promptly began my recovery from jet-lag.

nama mama

Upon my return, I found out that there is a raspberry farm right here in Qinghai! We went there after I recovered and found that not only were there rows of raspberry bushes for picking, but also many beautiful flowers, paths, tents, and a restaurant making special foods! After picking our two boxes, we shared a giant bowl of noodle soup for lunch. We also enjoyed the local specialty of 8 treasures tea. I plan to go to this farm every year!

nama mama baby i
And of course, the most momentous occasion of 2018 is the birth of our second daughter “PY.”  It was an extended hospital and labor experience, one that I don’t wish to repeat (I think we’re done now haha) but all the waiting and pain were worth it. She weighed in at 6.6 pounds. I was induced at 38 weeks because it seemed that she wasn’t growing properly. We’re so glad everything turned out alright. Now our life has changed again in a big way.

I spent the rest of the year at home, trying to get enough sleep. I had another “modified sitting month” (as I like to call it), staying inside and at times being cared for by family members.

So another crazy year has come and gone. Here’s to hoping 2019 is smooth, peaceful, and cooperative!

Fall and Friends

WWAM Bam Photo 2

It’s my favorite time of year, and I am glad to be back in a place where leaves change color and gourds grow (can you believe it? For the first time in Asia I found and purchased gourds!). We’ve had some opportunities to enjoy the changing of seasons in this chilly place as well as spend some quality time with family and good friends.

Monastery in Ledu Nama Mama.jpgThe week-long October National Holiday was just the right combination of traveling, staying at home, and spending time with family. At my urging,  we took a trip to a town I’ve never visited in Qinghai and went to a Tibetan Buddhist Monastery there. It was a very nice time with loud joyful singing in the mini bus, interesting conversations with monks, and my personal favorite, the paintings on the walls of the temples that went back hundreds and hundreds of years. (No photos though!) I’m always energized and rejuvenated by travel to interesting places so it really put a spring in my step.

We also spent some meaningful time with several of K’s family members. They came to Xining to enjoy brother and sister in law’s new apartment that they recently finished decorating and furnishing. The plan is to have his parents live there during the cold winters, and that plan has already been put into action. It will definitely be a big change for them. One nice thing is that our apartment is only a 10 minute walk away, so we can keep each other company and KL can stay with them when it is time for second baby to come.

WWAM Bam Photo 1 A niece of K’s got married a couple of weeks ago and KL and I had the opportunity to attend the wedding. I still haven’t ever attended a traditional Tibetan village wedding but this one that took place in the county town, was a bit more traditional than most “city style” weddings (of which I’ve attended many).

It was held in a beautiful hotel. Men and Women+Children sat at separate tables. How close to the front you sat depended on how close your relationship was to the bride or groom. The bride has many aunts, and we all sat together and ate happily at one of the raised side tables while we watched colorfully dressed children (including my own) run around all afternoon.

Tibetan Wedding Bride and Groom Nama Mama

Things have again settled themselves into a routine. The weather is very cold in the mornings and evenings. KL enjoys her kindergarten and is always happy to go in the mornings. K is settling into his job and makes good use of his free time, measuring, cutting and building things out of wood.

I’m busy at home working for our blanket business. Now that it’s getting colder, its the perfect time to order our custom Tibetan robe-inspired blankets.

I’m also taking the chance to meet up with my friends here. Soon I will be stuck in my apartment with a newborn, so I know how important it is to get out and be social now! And of course I have been nesting, collecting more baby clothes and items, and trying to get things finished so that I won’t have to worry about them after next month. I’ve been seeing the foreign doctor this time too, a very different pregnancy experience from last time. A much better experience than last time.

Very soon we will be welcoming a new member to our family. KL insists that it is a girl, and is very happy to have a younger sister to play with. Recently she has been telling me how she is a big sister and she will be a big help after the baby comes. I really hope so!

A Taste of Home on the Tibetan Plateau

Tibetan Tent in a garden 18 Nama Mama

Welp, I’ve been back in Qinghai for a bit over a month. Part of that time was spent in a state of fatigue and jetlag after an impressively tiring trip back across the globe. Part of it was spent settling into our new rental apartment (where I spent much of my time washing clothes and bedding from one of our storages). Part of it was spent traveling around the province trying to get my residence permit (which we were finally able to do, at the very last minute and after some worry).

But it wasn’t all just a daze of buses and laundry, we find a nice kindergarten for KL, (probably the closest one to our home that she’s ever attended), we met up with some friends, made a trip to the hometown, and perhaps most exciting, we heard about a Raspberry Farm in the next prefecture over. Can you believe it? An honest to goodness raspberry picking paradise! Of course we had to head over there as soon as possible. It did not disappoint!

Raspberries 18 Nama Mama
I was taken back to my childhood, putting more berries into my stomach than the pails and everything! And it wasn’t just an orchard, there were also fields of flowers, Tibetan style tents, and special foods. We enjoyed a big bowl of pulled noodles and delicious cups of 8 treasures tea. This is definitely a place we will visit yearly as long as it’s open. We even thought about starting our own farm in K’s hometown. Turns out local people are not so keen on this fruit. Mostly foreigners take advantage of this treasure.

Eight Treasures Tea 18 Nama Mama

Now that I have my residence permit, KL is settled into school, and K has his job, we can finally really relax and settle into a routine until baby #2 comes into our lives. K has been getting crafty in his free time, he’s built us a beautiful bookshelf (without a plan or photo!) and a small work table. Next he plans to make a crib. It is so inspiring to have such a creative and resourceful handyman in the house.

Our lives are going to change dramatically again soon, and I’m trying to ready myself for an infant. I’m getting as much uninterrupted sleep and time with good friends in before it’s time to be a perpetually tired hermit. Now it’s the October Holiday in China, when most people get a full week off. I’m hoping we will go somewhere nearby for a day or two, as it may be our last chance to do so for quite some time.

Stateside Interlude

Lake Huron Sunset 2018

I’ve been back in America for a little over a month. I was forced to return to my homeland to attempt to change my visa type to the only one that could possibly make sense in our current situation: The Visiting Family Visa. Good news! It was issued to me without any fuss. Well, no fuss at the consulate anyway. This trip I had to spend almost a week near Chicago, relying on the kindness of friends and navigating some of America’s great train systems in order to affordably make everything come together.

After everything was finished with my visa, I headed east to be reunited with my family. Being back with family is always a relief. Finally I can be with people who have known me most of their lives, and communication is not a problem at all.

Michigan Pine Cone 2018

I wasn’t able to bring KL with me this time, and that was a big disappointment for everyone. I am very sorry that it didn’t work out that she could come (with my pregnancy and how things worked out time-wise in China, it didn’t work out to bring her), but it has been easier for me here being without her, especially when I was navigating cities and trains. I’m hoping that next time we visit, all four of us can come and enjoy a nice holiday.

Blueberries 2018

During my time with family and friends, I’ve gotten to do a lot of wonderful things (frankly, I am continuously spoiled). Summer is an excellent time to be in Michigan. Here are some of the things I’ve had a chance to do since I’ve been home:

*visiting relatives
*eating hamburgers
*browsing library booksales
*seeing ‘The Lion King’ musical!
*thrift store shopping
*blueberry picking
*visiting lighthouses
*eating Michigan ice cream
*gardening
*driving
*watching Netflix
*getting online work done
*enjoying so many foods and snacks I seldom get to eat

Nature's Eye 2018

All too soon my long and strenuous journey back to China will begin. It is always hard to say goodbye to friends and family here and seems to get harder each time I visit.

But my small family is waiting for me, and missing me. Everything has been set up for our move back to Xining. K has a job, we have a nice rental apartment (with half of our storage stuff also there, just waiting for me to go through it when I get back (my poor poor husband!)), and our blanket business, just waiting to kick into high gear upon my return. I’m excited to see what we can do when I get back.

For now I will enjoy my last few remaining days with pot lucks and card games.

Big News!

New Old ArchitecturePlease excuse the long absence of updates. Recently I have not had as much energy as I usually do, and you will soon know the reason why! But now it is time to update this blog again, so here I go!

Summer has again arrived in Guangdong, providing copious amounts of rain from typhoons, lots of cloudy days, and increasingly hot weather. Like I told K it would, the smaller bedroom with the good A/C has become my favorite room in our apartment. (He for some reason prefers to sit in the living room with a slightly broken fan aimed in his direction, I am not sure why.)

Big changes are coming yet again because of some big news!

Pregnancy Announcement

That’s right! I am pregnant! K and I are both happy about the news, though it does change our life trajectory once again. At the end of this school term we will be returning to Qinghai, in order to be close to his family and to be able to focus on our blanket business.  Never have I been more motivated to do my best in a creative endeavor.

One thing I find interesting about the big news is that while I have been bursting to share the news since the moment I knew, K has yet to say anything to his family. When I asked him why, he said that Tibetans don’t generally share news with people if it will not change anything about their daily lives.  Tibetans also do not generally share pregnancy news anyway because anything could happen. It’s interesting; in my culture I would be scolded for keeping something this exciting to myself, and in his culture he would be scolded for sharing!

Sweet Potato Gao

Since my time in Guangdong is now limited, I’m trying to soak up all the good and beautiful things about it before I have to leave. These include tangible things like beautiful tropical flowers and beautifully recreated traditional buildings, and intangible things like convenience and autonomy. When I think back to my year here, I always feel grateful for B. If it was not for her, I would not have been able to heal, lose weight, or find some joy in my profession in China.

Well, as I finish my cold bubble milk tea, I’ll also finish this post. Once I am living in reliable wifi, my updates should not be so few and far between! Also there will be a lot more action on all things Blanket business! Stay tuned!

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