One thing I remember about those first months in Seoul is how tired I was. All the stimulation of city life, the new smells and the constant push and pull of bodies, plus the fatigue from listening and speaking Korean all day long made me exhausted by 8pm every night.
The last month (has it been a month? geez) here has been like that. Been catching up on some rest. (Hear that, Ma? I really DO know how to sleep even when you don't remind me every day.)
But writing/blogging is a habit and once you fall out of it it is difficult to start up again. I owe some posts over at my other blogs but I figured I should write some updates.
Things have gone surprisingly smoothly... until this week. First our air conditioning broke, and fixing it has been less than straightforward, involving several different sets of repair personnel, negotiating with the real estate company and landlord about how the payments will be made, and relying on KC's fudao (tutor) to do a lot of translating. Going back and forth between Chinese, English, and Korean (with the real estate company) is taxing on my poor brain. It kind of short circuits. Luckily the heat has dropped off somewhat in the last week or so. Before that it was almost 100 (F) every day.
The big drama right now is with receiving our shipment of 745k of books, clothes, etc. It's been really hard to get a straight answer about where the stuff is and why it is not arriving. We were told that because of the Olympics it might take up to 2 months to arrive, so we weren't impatient, but suddenly the other day we got a phone call that because we had some candles and one bottle of children's paint (put in accidentally) in the shipment it had to be taken around the country and couldn't enter Shanghai, or something like that. They clearly inspected the boxes very carefully. Anyway, luckily the fudao was with me when they called because I didn't understand what was going on. They were asking us to come and pick the stuff up, but we understood that it would be delivered to us. Then they told us they would reimburse us for the cost of having a company pick it up but that we would have to arrange it. It was good to listen to her negotiate with them, to try to learn the style of negotiation. She argued that since we're foreigners we don't know anybody, we also don't know the details of where and when the shipment will arrive, and it doesn't make any sense that they should ask us to arrange it if they are going to pay for it anyway. They argued that they are not a Shanghai company, that we just have to ask the neighborhood people for a good company, etc. etc. Back and forth like that. The fudao said she didn't know how much to believe was true or whether they were trying to get more money. Anyway, we called the Korean company to pull some strings and get things moving, and they somehow got the company on this end to arrange shipment. I was expecting it yesterday. I waited all day. Then they called in the morning to say, "When are you going to pick it up?" So we went around again. Then they said, "Oh, ok, this company will deliver it, but I don't know when, will call you in 30 minutes." But didn't call. So we called them back. She said she called but we didn't answer. (bullshit) She gave us the number of a different company who would deliver it. We call them. They said they've had the stuff for DAYS. (WHAT? The other company said it just arrived. Who to believe?) They said, how about 10:00pm? We said, how about tomorrow morning? A price negotiation followed.
OK, so now I'm expecting it today, and the driver calls to say he couldn't cross the large road behind our apartment without a permit so he has to turn back. WHAT? Shouldn't they have thought about that ahead of time? They blame us for not telling them, we blame them, shouldn't they know these things, how would we know? We call Korea again, they advise us to get the stuff ASAP no matter what and we can work out being reimbursed later. So now they're supposed to deliver at 10pm tonight (you can enter the city without a permit at night) but they're going to charge double. Whatever. I just want my stuff now. We've been living with only 2 bowls for a month. Rice and soup have to go in the same bowl.
Max has been in preschool for about 2 weeks and is doing great. His teacher has sent me several detailed updates by email which I love; the updates were really thoughtful and observant. He's asked me a lot of interesting questions. He asked, "Are we Chinese now?" He's been inviting his teacher and friends over for brownies and sleepovers (we have an oven so we've made several batches of brownies, much to Max's delight). He asked me who is taking care of our apartment in Korea. He asked when we are going back to Korea.
Max has been doing an interesting thing lately. He will make up some nonsense phrase (like "moomamooma") and tell me it is Chinese for something (like "come over here"). He tells me this very authoritatively and seriously, makes me repeat it, and instructs me to study it. My Chinese is not great but it is good enough to know that he is not really speaking Chinese. I think it is a sign that he's engaged in listening to the language and interested in being able to speak it even if he cannot yet. It is also very very funny.
That's enough updates for now... need to call the moving company again. More on Aiden later.