Saturday, October 29, 2011

Halloween

Halloween time in Shanghai, in typical Chinese fashion, is celebrated by taking the one day holiday and stretching it over as many days as possible.  This year, it will span the long weekend.  The fun started last night, Friday night.  Josephine's costume is a headless horseman, without the horse.  Quinn, unfortunately had to have surgery to remove a tooth way up in the roof of her mouth so she didn't need a costume to generate any horror.  We thus didn't participate in the first day of trick or treating at the Shanghai Racket Club.  On the bright side, the surgery was a success and she just has a big hole in the roof of her mouth now.

So today was the big International fair at school, and because of the season it doubled as a halloween fair.  There were nearly 4,000 people at the school with all kinds of tents, games, vendors and tons of great food.  Bridget and I had awesome Indian Chicken, and Philly Cheese steaks made by one of the local chinese joints - go figure.

After the fair, we came home and Quinn and Femka got into their costumes - Quinn is Kesha and Femka is a gangsta.  Out we went with the headless Josephine to Rancho Santa Fe for Trick or Treating.  Rancho Santa Fe is this surreal compound of these beautiful narrow tree lines streets with Southwestern style Large single family homes.  I guess word got out that Saturday night (Tonight) the good trick or treating is at Rancho so the place was severely packed with Kids.  It is a large neighborhood so you could easily lose yourself running around searching for candy and we did.  The Kesha look is something I would ONLY let my daughter wear outside of the house on Halloween.  Good God, look at what she is wearing!

Bridget and I joined up with Eric and Mirjam (Femka's Folks) and walked with the three girls around Rancho.  Jose was receiving plenty of stares because, well, she had no head.  She also couldn't see very well and would fall down every other house.  Then while on her hands and knees she would feel all around to find her pumpkin basket that had her candy.  Is was comical for a while until she realized it was comical and hammed it all for all it was worth.

We ended the night with coffee at the Laauwen's.  Mirjam's folks are in town for a few months visiting from Holland.  We have had a few meals with them since they've been here and it is nice to visit with them.  They had just spent 4 days in Hangzhou - where bridget and I are going for 2 nights tomorrow so that was nice.  We will be traveling by train.  It is really an interesting story how this one unfolded so I'll have to share that next time.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Bridget rings bell at passing motorist

Whenever we are biking, there are always plenty of motorcycles and motor bicycles to share the road with. Plenty of them, along with the cars, like to honk their horn as they are passing you - not really to tell you to get out of the way, more so just to let you know that they are coming and you should beware.  Well this results in tons of horn honking.  Bridget decided she is going to take a stand and so whenever a motorcyclist, or a truck comes zooming by and blares their horn, she rings the bell on her bike. 

Wizard of Oz

Our boys played well enough to make it to the finals this evening against Brent - a school in Manila.  It will be streamed live and the video archived here:  http://58.102.100.99/APAC/index.htm.

the way these tournys work is for all twelve teams to gather for a long 4 day event.  We are broken into two divisions (Asia and Pacific) of 6 teams each and play round robin to determine seating.  Then a bracket tournament is devised and played out with hopefully the best from each division playing for the final.

Our team captain, Tom, had a very unfortunate death in his family last night and showed up ready to play this morning in the Semi-Final game.  The boys played like never before and really demolished the ISB team 3 - 0  that we had lost to twice before.

Our head coach has a real laid back attitude and his philosophy is really to let the boys play and direct themselves.  As a result they take a real ownership in the game.  It is a very different philosophy of coaching than what I've seen in team sports - mostly basketball and football where the coach is often in the kids face yelling and screaming to get them fired up.  Coach Veitch, instead, is smiling in the huddle and very calmly cracks a joke and asks them questions, leading them to discover the intended message on their own.  He does this even at 23-23 in the heat of a set when we've committed a few errors and need to shape up.

Me, I keep stats and support his mission.  I've got an XL program that a former student here (volley ball fan) created himself and it makes it easy to track.  Since our big win this morning, A couple of coaches have approached me wanting to know wheat I do and how my stats program works.  It's actually quite comical that they're asking me!

We had a very poor set the 3rd game of the tourny.  John gathered the kids in and calmly told them that they had played poorly and made way too many errors.  They looked down and listened and he said, "Mr. Matuschek has been studying the stats to that game and said they are the worst stats he has ever seen...in any math class he's ever taught!"  Said with a grin, the kids laugh and rebound quite efficiently.


So we head out in about 15 minutes here to take on the Brent school from Manila...gotta go!



...and now it is 5 hours later and the Brent School from Manila showed us a thing or two.  These guys could jump, hit and they had a more sophisticated offense.  Cheers to them and we leave with a 2nd place trophy.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Exciting weekend:

This weekend is not only the performance of The Wizard of Oz at the high school but also the APAC (Asia Pacific Athletic Conference) Championship tournaments for Volleyball - Girls at our school and boys  in Seoul.

Bridget has been working with the Oz cast since early September and as with most shows it all came together at the end.  Josephine accompanied Bridget to most of the dress rehearsal's this week.  As with other musicals she's seen her mother work in the past, Josephine can recite any of the main characters  Two sold-out performances, one last night and one tonight.

Unfortunately, I'm with the boys in Korea and only got to see a dress rehearsal last weekend.

The APAC tourny involves 12 schools from China, Korea, Hong Kong, Philippines, Viet Nam, and Japan.  The host school provides housing for the athletes so while I'm away, Bridget, Quinn, and Josephine are hosting 2 girls from a Beijing School.  We went to a local fabric market last weekend to buy material to have sheets sewn for the futon for our guests.  That's another story.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

My View on China - By Josephine Matuschek. A poem written before we landed in China.

CHINA

China China so far away
China China where I will stay
Fortune Cookies, beans, and rice
Boy this country is so nice
Panda Bears and Tigers wow
A little rain and some snow
The great wall is so cool
It makes you want to jump in a pool
History burned alot of books
Earthquakes Earthquakes really shook.
Confucious said, "To learn and use is a joy"
Most things are made there, even a toy
So like I said this country so great
You should really visit there and have a date
China China really pretty
it has a bunch of beautiful cities.
China China toys of fun
Not once has there been a gun

Quinn's Take 1

I remember when Mom and Dad first told us that we might be moving somewhere overseas, I obviously never imagined that now, today, life would feel so normal here. In fact, sometimes I even forget that I am in China, except for the constantly smoggy days. Exactly two and a half months since we got here, and it still seems like we have been here two weeks. School started, and at first I was feeling pretty lost because the schedule at the school took some getting used to, and I did not know many people. Slowly, things started to get easier, and my classes did as well. Now, at the end of the first quarter, my grades are five A’s, one B-, and one C.
The week break that our family just got back from was spent biking to the Watertown Zhou Zhuang, a small town next to a lake, which branched out into small streams that wove through the village. Long gondolas, which carried mainly tourists, came through the town often, and stone bridges went over the water. Restaurants in the city were mainly Chinese cuisine, all selling about exactly the same thing, but were two American cafĂ©’s and many snack shops. We stayed for three nights in to different hotels. On the third day, we rode to a different water town, but did not get the same feel as in Zhou Zhuang. Zhou Zhuang felt real, and was exciting with all the many types of people. Most of the people in the village stared at us, the foreign Americans, and many of the tourists took pictures of us, and with us. At first, it was embarrassing, but then Josephine and I started to have some fun with it. We were happy, and sad to leave, but on the trip home, Josephine and I mastered the art of riding our bikes with NO hands, hahahaaa. Luckily, no injuries, we got home safely. It just felt so good to be home.
On the last day of the break, I bought a bed from my friend, and also got a free desk and chair from her as well, so I was able to redo my room. Then, last night, our down comforters that Oma had sent arrived! All four of us had a very comfortable and warm sleep last night. J

Friday, October 14, 2011

Bridget's Eyes-Matuschek bike Trip

We had a really nice time traveling back in time, 1000 years. We went to Zhouzhuang water town, half present day and half preserved "Ancient Town". It is self proclaimed "the #1 water town" and not sure it deserves the distinction, but it was classic. 
We took off Wednesday morning 7:30 ish, Josephine had some nerves (her stomach was fluttering). "I have never been on a biking trip, this is my first one!" Said with a ton of enthusiasm. She and Quinn were exceptional on the road. They made it 50 km the first day into Zhouzhuang with Josephine leading us the entire way. She wanted to get there so badly by the end she kept hollering back "we can do it", "let's go!!!!", or "Come on Matuscheks!" Or once in a while a large WAHOOOOOO! 

Being on the road is a bit different than being close to the safety of our little compound. There are no rules, bikes mopeds motorcycles go every which way they want. Picture construction on a four lane highway, the bike lane is blocked as we enter onto the congested road and a woman is toodling toward us into the approaching traffic, no room so we just sit. The road was pretty flat and very much under construction almost the entire route. Riding wasn't bad once we developed the strategy that I am Josephine's shield from the rather large, flat front,  blue trucks, letting out piercing belches when they passed us. It is true everyone uses their horns, more than necessary here. To reduce the stress and surprise of the thousands of speeding motorized vehicles speeding by us, honking, Quinn and I have taken to ringing our bells right back at them. It remains funny and is necessary to keeping my sanity! Perhaps they don't hear us, sometimes they turn around disgruntled but always smile when they see us smiling and waving to them.

The rest of the trip was spent between two hotels, the entirely chinese family homestead- everything cooked and washed river side?? and the peaceful zen like 4 star experience for the last two nights. We were immersed in chinese culture. Eating wontons for breakfast in the cleanest little chinese kitchen, and happily finding an "american" type cafe for dinner. The owners remarked to us, after three meals there, "Have you eaten ANY chinese yet?" He was happy to have us, as by then the town emptied out after the national holiday and no one remained to eat his food. We had had some chinese, but when you see a bunch of belly up fish in the fish tanks it doesn't make you want to order a bunch. 

This town was mostly set up for tourists, little shops with pecking chickens(ask the girls) and chinese candies, ink stamps and bicycles, both of which Jos purchased. QUinn really liked the fig breads, a specialty there, no idea the chinese name, but they were flat, covered in sesame seeds and spread thin inside with what we discovered was fig. I was glad that my kids were eating at all. It was especially hard for Jos to eat wonton (basically chicken noodle soup) for breakfast, when the sign said Western breakfast served- no dice. Quinn by the end wanted a big ol Mexican meal. 

I have to say, the nature of people is no different even though they are entirely different in their customs. Every connection we made, was from our smiling and being welcoming to the shop owners. We would get large smiles and a chinese conversation, mostly pantomimed on our part. We made friends with an old weaver, who enjoyed smiling at Jos and the man next door to her who was entirely impressed that Jos traveled to and from Shanghai and then made the side trip trip to Tongli (another 30 km round trip). he kept telling other shop keepers about our trips. Saturday as we were leaving town, we parked our bikes and started loading up to leave, (BTW-we bought a pannier (on Rob's bike) and basket for me.). As we wnet in and out of the hotel, friends started gathering, trying out our bikes and lifting them up and trying to understand how my 1979 style bike worked (back pedal brakes). One came over and the conversation centered on how we would get home. I said Josephine is faster than me with my big heavy bike. Jos piped in quai quai de, meaning fast and the whole group laughed. They continue to think she is the world. She left there feeling like everyone loved us. At a cake maker in Tongli, the woman kept touching her face, saying so beautiful, then beautiful eyes, beautiful skin. White skin is desired here and blue eyes don't exist, so Quinn is always getting her picture taken with man woman and child! By the end of a trip like this, we all start feeling like "please stop staring at us"! Generally we don't mind, but when we need comfort and our home, it's the staring and the honking that most gets to me and I think I can speak for the kids too. Now, we are glad to be home and surrounded by some things we know. BTW- Jos thought maybe we were biking home to CO!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Went to Hong Kong

I did fly to Hong Kong with the Volley ball team.  It was a bit hard to wrap my mind around this concept. Instead of throwing the kids on a bus and driving an hour to Boulder for competition, or even overnight to Glenwood Springs for a xc race in Aspen, we MET the kids at the airport, dressed in uniform we (7 coaches and 48 kids) flew to Hong Kong.  Coaches stayed at a hotel downtown and the kids each stay with a host family of a kid from the Hong Kong school.

Now although I went to Hong Kong, I mostly saw the school and my hotel room. Speaking of, my hotel room was way up on the 35th floor and was about 8 feet by 8 feet square.  My ankles hung over the side of the bed.  There was no room for anything in this room at all.   It had a killer view, though.  I definitely want to go back with Bridget when there is more time to explore the city.  We played 6 vball matches in 3 days.



Nonetheless, Hong Kong is quite a city.  Quite different from Shanghai.

Bike Trip Pictures

Big news, Josephine learned to ride a bike with no hands.
...and so did Quinn...


The biggest difference is that in the US, when a car honks at you, it means "get out of the way!"  Here, when a car honks it means, "Hi, I see you.  Just keep going like you're going.  I'll swerve way around you.  I may go over into the oncoming traffic, but you just stay where you are.  Don't change what you're doing."

It sounds crazy, but it's true.  So you hear these horns blasting at you but you just keep riding and everything is cool.

Dig the load on this dudes bike:
After he passed, I turned back to see more folk.  There was the dude at the handlebars.  The dude on top.  Then a gaggle of kids tucked in the leaves and branches hanging on the back.

For the most part there was a good size bike lane to ride on as seen above.  Bridget and I took turns leading the ride and following behind.  No joke, Josephine was the power horse.  She got some wild hair and decided she wanted to ride fast.  No lack of energy there. 

They fish alot and they eat alot of fish.  In fact, everywhere we've gone around this town, Shanghai and all, people fish ALL over the place.  Not quite sure what they're pulling out of the waters, but they also eat alot of fish.

The common cafe has a few fish tanks as you walk in.  Like 10.  Josephine walked into the first cafe in Zhouzhuang and said, "Cool, a pet store."  We were looking at the lunch specials in various tanks.  

The first hotel (Inn?) we stayed at the elder parents cooked us dinner.  Pig Hip and Whitefish.  The fish was incredible but boney as all get out.  So tender and full of taste but each bite was a journey in pickin-bones out of the mouth. 




Monday, October 10, 2011

Went Dancing tonight

There is a real nice park near us, Zhudi Park.  It has a large circular

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Going on a bike trip

We leave today for the 50 km bike trip to Zhouzhang.  We'll stay three nights there and explore the various water towns by bike and foot, then return on Saturday.  I'll update upon return.