Nothing like trying to write one message for all your friends. I actually wrote one in Dutch, and then later one in English. Funny how they became quite different messages. The English version is below:
It is time for an update, as finally we’ve all arrived in China. If it was sort of quiet from our end for a while, it was because of an extended holiday in the Netherlands. We saw our families, celebrated soccer, got over a soccer depression, and tried to show Simon and Thomas as much of Holland as humanly possible. (For the Dutchies, this included Apenheul, Madurodam, Efteling, and sailing).
For the last two weeks, Paul had already been back in Beijng, and last Friday Simon, Thomas and I joined him. Needless to say, Paul picked us up at the airport, and within 15 minutes we were at our house in the Beijing Riviera neighborhood (http://www.beijingriviera.net/). As it is, our new home is close to the airport and about 25 minutes from Paul’s work in the business district of Beijing. (Our address is at the bottom of this mail). My friend calls this place "la la land", which is kind of true because you are definitely a bit removed from the real world. You can call it expat compound or villa complex, and I tend to prefer the latter. It is actually a small little neighborhood with quiet streets, a bunch of tiny playgrounds, lots of sports fields, and a main center with pool, tiny store, restaurants, and also a salon I believe (haven't been there yet!).
This week we’re actually staying in a furnished apartment in this Riviera complex, until our new house (a rental) is ready for us to move in. Timing is good because we're still waiting for our sea container from Washington to arrive, and so don't have to live in an empty house. We did, however, really have to run out to buy some glasses - and Paul ended up buying them at IKEA, of all places. Travel half around the world and still get the glasses you bought back in D.C. :-) (If this makes you think we'll shop in familiar stores for three years, rest assured that while I was still in Holland, Paul already ventured out to some funky Chinese warehouses to buy furniture).
The boys will be going to the WAB school, www.wab.edu, the Western Academy of Beijing. The school is very close, but they’ll go with a school bus anyway, as the traffic is too busy to go by bike and it is just too far to walk. We might re-evaluate this in a while, but it also seems fun to go with the bus and make some new friends who do the same commute. On Friday we have a “new family” orientation and lunch at the school, so Simon and Thomas can then see their school for the first time. Classes will start next Monday, August 16.
What else to say? Yesterday we left our little expat compound, uh- I mean, neighborhood, to see some sights in Beijing. We went to the Temple of Heaven, where - beside it being a UN World Heritage site, you also have a lovely park where a man was doing some Tai Chi, groups of people were singing, and others were playing Chinese Chess or twirling with a ribbon (seriously!). Oh, and the other thing they did a lot was taking pictures of Simon and Thomas. At least every 5 minutes someone came up, asking to be in the picture with them. And we saw lots of other people just snap pictures from a distance. After a while, Simon and Thomas got the hang of it, so when a stranger walked up to them holding a camera, they would just put an arm around each other and smile a cheesy smile. We might grow tired of this, but for one day it was kind of fun to be the rare specimen in the zoo!
Today was actually my first day as an expat housewife – not sure how long this will last, but here we are for now — and I (I swear this is true) indeed easily filled my day with tidying up the apartment, going to a playground, and hanging out at the pool. I even met some other women in the neighborhood and talked about possible tennis and swimming classes :-). If I don’t pay attention, it’s going to be hard to fit in time to do some work. (Paul was rolling his eyes when I said this). I promise... after the kids' school starts and I have picked the colors of the curtains for the house.... I'll start looking. :-)
Finally, some contact information and blog notes: I have been posting some notes on a blog for a while. I hadn't told many people about it so far, as it was just a warm-up exercise to see if I could get beyond posting one message on a blog, but it is really there and you can see it at: http://annecdotes-china.blogspot.com. (I actually had to find a way to access it myself again as this google blog was blocked here) :-) The blog is still a little devoid of pictures, but that's only till the photo downloader arrives in the sea container some time later this month. If I find some time between my tennis classes, I'll try to post a message or picture.
Good bye for now, please note our addresses and phone numbers below. Don't hesitate to chat or call on Skype, that's what we do! (We're 12 hours ahead of the U.S. and 6 of The Netherlands). I hope everything is going well in your world. Till more news, till soon, with love,
Paul, Anne, Simon & Thomas