A very brave bloggy girlfriend of mine (no, sorry, won't link to her because not everyone who reads my blog LIKES BLOGS) recently wrote about how she's been at post for a while now and whether or not she's happy there. She answered yes. And no. And maybe. And how things at post are WAY different than what she and her husband had expected before they got there. Not different *bad*, just... different.
It got me to thinking. About expectations pre-arrival and realities post-arrival.
Pre-arrival, James had many high hopes for his first overseas assignment. Somehow, he had envisioned that he would be using his trained-for-a-long-time-language skills (2/2 in Mandarin, baby!) Every. Single. Day, and that he would be sharpening them to utter Mandarin perfection, leaving post with a higher language score upon departure, just from the sheer awesome immersion language-y experience of it all.
Neither of those has happened, nor will they.
He also dreamed of our family traveling around frequently on breaks or weekends (actually, I'm not specifically sure when exactly he planned on traveling) around China or Asia or the EAP area or... something. You know: travel. Seeing stuff. That was another one of his major goals. Another thing that he specifically looked forward to.
Which hasn't happened, either. Nor will it.
It's hard when your children are older and you don't want to pull them out of AP classes in order to go look at some random something somewhere. Or when they're always either sick or injured, as is the case with our two sons. So the traveling thing hasn't really happened. Oh, sure, we have DS friends on Facebook who literally seem to be jetting off to Lord only knows where every freaking weekend (hate you people! You know who you are!!), but that's... not what's been going on with us.
It's just... reality. It's not bad, it's just...life. It's different than what we expected.
The other weekend, even though one of our sons was ill (of course) and the other was injured (of course), James and I left the house via taxi to go to a local tourist-y place that we had not visited yet. Because, let's face it: the boys wouldn't have wanted to have gone with us even if they had been feeling 100% fantabulous, that's why.
It's spring! A smallish tree across the street from the Consulate burst out in bloom recently:
The flowers only lasted for a few days at the most. But they were pretty. And in a city filled with 15 million people, you sorta hafta grab the beauty when the grabbin's good. You know?
On the way to the touristy spot, we passed an excellent reminder of why we don't own a car/drive here:
I snapped that above photo from the back of our cab, and it made the cab driver reallllllllly nervous.
What you're looking at in that picture is a tiny portion of a HUGE, rowdy crowd that had gathered literally in the middle of the street after an electric scooter and a car collided. People were yelling at each other in Mandarin, police officers were at the scene yelling at the yelling people, injured folks were there, as well, and as we drove by I was all Oh hell no, I am SO GLAD we don't own a car. Because when wrecks happen here, from what I understand money changes hands before people depart the scene. So the crowd gets involved in who did what wrong and whose fault it was, advocating for this and that for one person or another. Can you even IMAGINE?
We got to the touristy spot and found the solution to one of life's MYSTERIES:
Namely: Who the HELL has been selling teenaged and young adult Chinese girls eyeglass frames WITHOUT ANY GLASS OR LENSES WHATSOEVER INSIDE THEM and convinced said girls that wearing empty, plastic eyeglass frames on their faces was a good fashion choice?!
That street vendor, for one.
Craziest thing I have ever seen, I kid you not, and it's all over the place here... girls will wear those empty eyeglass frames on their faces. Out in public. Like those colorful, plastic, COMPLETELY EMPTY eyeglass frames are some kind of face bling or something.
We went into the touristy spot, and I'll say this: it was quite lovely. Which is why it had to be touristy. Just saying. No offense, Chengdu. But there were no green or yellow spat-out-phlegm-globs on the sidewalks or baby/toddler poo on the sidewalks (or baby/toddler puddles of urine on the sidewalks), and the stores all looked something like this on the outside:
The stores sold touristy sorts of things, such as Mao bags:
And t-shirts that were, um, ODD:
And there was food EVERYWHERE.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: Chengdu, China has the best food of any post anywhere on this planet. Kid you not. Don't even approach me to try to challenge me on this. YOU ARE WRONG.
I loved the buildings. So much character! Touristy character, of course, but HEY, I'LL TAKE IT:
And just in case you were wondering, HELLS YEAH Chengdu has Starbucks. It has them all the heck over the place. There's even one within a one minute walk of the Consulate.
This one was very.... touristy and pretty:
It even had the Chinese name for Starbucks on a separate sign that lined up with its English Starbucks name, allowing me to get a shot of both of the signs at once:
Which is fun, but probably only for those of us who tortured ourselves in Mandarin and thus care about these sorts of geeky language things.
All in all, it was nice to get out and about a little, even if everything we saw WAS just touristy, and even if we stayed within downtown Chengdu the whole entire time, basically just minutes away from where we live or where James works or where our kids go to school, etc. Not so much... travel. And not so much as a family. And we didn't even use our wicked Mandarin skillz (kidding! A 2/2 gets you pretty much nowhere here!) at all.
So... yeah. Differences in expectations pre-arrival-at-post and realities post-arrival-at-post.
Interesting to ponder, especially since we've just passed our six month mark here in Chengdu. Meaning that our assignment is now officially more than a quarter over. And did I mention that we bid this summer/fall?