Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Hey! That's My Kid!

You know pictures of your kids are on the internet, but what you don’t know is that those photos are used world wide without your permission. I found a photo of my son being used in Shanghai. Read this post and then immediately change all of your Picasa, iCloud, Facebook, etc. settings to private, and then accept that you have done all you can do. Nothing is private.

The wee one loves face painting. She will stand in any length of line, patient and sweet. No tantrums, no fuss. This is her thing. It was no different at a recent Consulate event. She stood in line, watching the other children for quite a long time. An enclosed area, I was socializing and introducing myself to our new community. She patiently waited.

I walked over, patted her on the head, and told her how sweet and patient she was being, blah, blah, blah. Then I did what all parents do, shifted my attention to the poster of designs. Looked again. Familiar eyes were looking out of the bottom photo. No, I am seeing things. It can’t be. Could it? I looked again. Yes, it really was my little man. 2 years ago, 3 years ago, 4 years ago! Yes, 4 years ago almost exactly. Happy memory mixed with concern, fear, and confusion at seeing unexpected familiarity. I bombed the volleyball game to show Spencer. I pulled Ted out of the bounce house. I ran excitedly up to all my new colleagues. "Look at this!" I yelled with hysterical laughter. "It is Ted!" And I proceeded to tell the story from four years ago.

Early October of 2010 the family went to visit friends in Kansas City. On a day not unlike the day of the picnic, with perfect fall weather and smells, we went to a fair. Ted road a pony and a tractor. He shot corn cannons from a stage. Ted had on his lion shirt and became a lion with the help of a blond woman in her mid-thirties.

Teddy four years ago in Kansas City. The face painter has never done a lion, so we had to  describe what we wanted. She asked if she could take a picture of his finished face. 
At the picnic others told similar stories. One said that she found her in-laws' Christmas photo was being used as an ad in a Chinese store. China is notorious for knock-offs, but is that what was going on here? I don’t think so. If I were the face painter, I would pull random photos off the internet as well. Pictures are important to define the artist’s skill level and limit seat time. Is this wrong?  

It is the lack of control over personal information and likeness that bothers me. This tie to a world away and four years in the past is disconcerting. Would it be less jarring if I was still living in Kansas City? How about New England? At least there would be a chance that the face painter was the same person or contracted with the same company. Not a Chinese woman in her late forties speaking not a word of English, on the other side of the world.

Ted at the picnic in Shanghai. He asked for the same design.

About two years ago I stopped writing about the kids and started to write more about various locations and me. My social security number is everywhere along with my private information, so sharing my neurotic adventures does not compromise my privacy. That is not so with my little ones. It is not right for me to make their personalities and personal traits available for anyone to read. The lack of stories and pictures of the kids are the most common complaints I get about the blog. Sorry, but childish antics will not return. Thank you, dear readers, for not complaining about the topics and shitty writing. 

Should I post the photos here? These pictures are public now, so why not. Some people at the picnic didn’t believe me and said that the boy looked similar, but probably wasn’t Ted. A mother knows her own child, even when a lion. I am not crazy, or at least not on this one. Same shirt, same face. Lower right corner, that’s my boy.

Look at the lower right corner of this style sheet from the picnic. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A Little Consistency Goes a Long Way- Gymnastics in Shanghai

I took the wee one to gymnastics. We had used and loved the same company in DC and New England. I found a franchize here and though it would offer familiarity. One month into Shanghai and we both needed a regular routine, not just the start of one, but one that made us feel like we are home.

The adventure started in the taxi, as it always does. I wrote the directions in English, pinyin, and in characters. Explained everything to the guard at the compound gate and then he hailed the taxi. Getting in we thought that we may or may not end up at the right place.

With only a few circles and a little confusion we found the gym inside a mall. This location was a little different as all are, but all the same colors and branding. The people did speak some English- good start. I hoped she would jump in, but history suggested she will need a couple of sessions to adjust.

There are four coaches in the room, already better odds than DC. Everything was in Chinese, but one coach always sat next to her translating the directions into English. Within 10 minutes she left the corner and started running with the supportive coach and the other kids. 5 minutes later and she was confidently on her own.

She did really well modeling the coaches, because initially she couldn't understand the Chinese directions. I was amazed at how quickly she stopped watching the coaches for cues and followed the directions by sound. Maybe continuity is the key for this life.

I watched the whole time. Her confidence soared as she danced and hammed for the coaches. I looked at my phone to answer a text and when I looked up she was in tears, blood and tears. She had fallen. Damn it! So much for positive associations. 

Cleaned up she headed back to the mats. No more dancing and laughing, but she did okay. I am so proud of her for walking into a room of strangers, strangers speaking a foreign language, and bravely participating, even excelling.

We ended our adventure on toilets. A restaurant with toilets for chairs, urinals on the walls, and everything on the menu looking and sounding like a euphemism for things done in the bathroom. Eating chocolate ice cream out of a miniature porcelain throne, we enjoyed the beginning of an excellent Sunday routine.

Post Script: As you may have noticed these blogs are out of order. Many are half written, or written, but awaiting edit time. This was one such post. Gymnastics was in September. She refused to return. I wondered why, but she only said that she didn't like it and wanted to change to ballet. After enrolling her in ballet, she admitted two things. The change was due to her new best friend in school, who was also enrolled in ballet. The other, she was afraid she would fall again. The fall was just minutes before the end of the session and she didn't quite recover. She is actually quite good. I hope this isn't the end of gymnastics.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Hashing in Country Number Three (Updated)

In an effort to find something enjoyable in Shanghai, I again pursued the H3. I miss Lesotho. There are a lot of features to miss, but mostly I miss the expat community. They usually found themselves at one time or regularly hiking with the local chapter of the Hash House Harriers. We attended most every weekend.

This one runs a little differently. I found myself in the circle on the second hike reminding both of my children that "what is said on the hash, stays at the hash." The double entendres are singularly risqué. And oh boy, the vocabulary is more than earmuffs can handle. It is a good thing that the kind soul corresponding with me via email pointed me towards the most family friendly chapter of the six in town. Note to self: I have to remember to fine my son at the next meeting for interrupting dinner with, "time to grease the beer ayi!"(translation: time for the beer bitches or booze master to take a drink)

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

You Need It. We Got It, Right Here in Shanghai

There are markets and stores everywhere in Shanghai. Very little needs to be brought in from the States. There are plenty of things I want to bring in from the states. Grocery stores have so much food, only problem is that I do not recognize the pictures or the words.

There is a wet market across the street from our neighborhood. It looked a little scary the first time we went by. Looked scary to me, ted wanted to go right in. Someone had warned me that it wasn’t a place I should go, so we avoided it for a while. Someone else later told me that it has some of the best produce in the city. Not sure who to believe, but the market is an experience. They sell produce, textiles, and even one sign proclaims “Foreign Children”. When Josie’s Elsa dress ripped we found someone there to replace the torn portion for 20RMB. It was perfect!

There is a Costco-like Metro. I haven’t been there yet, but I have a peanut butter supplier who gets me giant jars of Skippy there. One day I will go myself and it will be awesome!

Our social sponsors took us to Carrefour  our first Saturday in Shanghai and BAM! The store blew our minds.  A French grocery store, they have fabulous bread and pastries, or at least to those of us desperate for such things.  Like Walmart, but Wamart with two floors. This place has everything you could want, imagine, and not even imagine. Hours later we left the store exhausted, overwhelmed, and dehydrated.

They have a pretty good rotating hard alcohol selection and mini kegs of beer. We had a little dinner party to test out our purchase, our table here is smaller than in Maseru, and the keg lasted all night. Maybe I should not compare the number of attendees, but their thirst. We would have needed two in Maseru, maybe three.  They have it all in Carrefour. Prices are a bit steep on fancy stuff like coffee.

They carry lots of stationery,