Before I start making fun of our entire family for our obvious lack of Mandarin Chinese skillz, I want to first hit on something that is actually IMPORTANT.
A couple days ago, I talked about State Department employee money issues and decisions. I got a comment from the lovely Tuk & Tam folks, asking about the reimbursement of closing costs for pre-employment houses.
It is our understanding, though we are not at all experts, that State only offers closing-cost assistance to new State employees who were previous federal employees. Translation: if you were already a federal employee before State hired you, you may qualify for having your pre-employment house's closing costs reimbursed. Other than that, there's nada. I'm sorry. :( And that would only be triggered if/once you are assigned to a permanent domestic assignment that is more than 50 miles away from where you resided when you were hired. Again... sorry. :(
Now, it's time for me to make fun of myself and my family.
Back when we went to the Washington DC Zoo, we bought Zachary (the 11 year old) a stuffed panda bear. He has a fascination with panda bears now, as they are not just seriously cute, but are also very much associated with our next post (Chengdu, China, fall of 2011)(Shenyanigans).
At the time of the zoo visit, we had yet to meet with our Chinese tutor (LOVE HER LOVE HER LOVE HER), and so, when the zoo began to rhapsodize about their panda bears, they used the Chinese name for "panda bear," which sounded exactly, to our ears, like:
You know, like this guy:
So, of course, the stuffed panda's name instantly became ShamWow.
ShamWow is totally awesome:
He even dances!
(True story: yesterday at Chinese class, our tutor began teaching my boys how to say things like, "The panda is dancing," and, "I love the panda's face," and, "The panda is MINE," in Mandarin...a great way to keep the boys' attention!)
We've now met with our Chinese instructor twice (LOVE HER LOVE HER LOVE HER), and our ears are starting to be able to pick out the different tones in the Chinese word for "panda," which is xiongmao. It's not *exactly* pronounced like ShamWow... it's pretty close, mind you... but it's more like:
(Or something like that.)
And get this! In Chinese, which one is the "shoe"?
Is THIS the "shoe?"
Nope! This is:
In other news, our two boys got together with TulipGirl's four boys and jaunted around Washington DC this past week.
We traveled deep into the heart of downtown Washington DC. We hit both the Air & Space Museum AND the Botanical Gardens in the same afternoon.
I didn't get a whole lot of pictures at the Air & Space Museum because I was too busy gabbing my fool head off with Mrs. Tulip Girl. But I did, at least, get a shot of The Spirit of St. Louis:
And I got to hear all about the flight from Zachary, my 11 year old, who talked about how Charles Lindbergh had a hard time staying awake the whole flight across the ocean (because it took so long), and how he had no windows to look out of, really, so it was a really hard flight, and how he landed in a country that didn't speak English and so that was hard for him too... etc... (if any of that is wrong, just please don't tell me. I'm busy being happy that my kid knew what the plane was).
But once we headed to the Botanical Gardens (my absolutely FAVORITE PLACE in Washington DC), my camera had more work to do.
We passed these lovely flowers on our walk from the Air & Space Museum to the Botanical Gardens:
And then, once inside the Botanical Gardens, it was... NIRVANA.
Flowers everywhere! Beauty everywhere! I could just... LIVE in that place.
Okay, I think I know the name of the following flower. It's... Bougainvillea, right?
And these next two... I think they're Orchids, right?
The Orchid above is an interesting little thing. It gets bees to pollinate it by looking like a bee, itself. So bees come over to investigate (okay, it's a little more involved than that. It looks like a GIRL BEE and the BOY BEES come over to, um, investigate) and the flower basically tricks the boy bees into pollinating it.
Tricksy little flower.
There are breathtaking waterfalls at the Botanical Gardens. This one is in the main area:
And these next two are in other rooms: