Our Home Away From Home . . .

Well, the Ochsner family has been home over a month now.  We had some posts we still wanted to write even though our time in China is over.  I had always wanted to share with our readers where we lived and a peek into our daily life.  This post is to give you a glimpse and help remind me someday of our “home away from home”!

Here is our apartment building.  We lived on the seventh floor (you can’t see our windows from this viewpoint . . . our porch was on the other side of the building).  We were told that buildings with six floors or less are not built with elevators.  We were thankful in this case we lived on the seventh floor (no noise from neighbors above us) and it had a working elevator!  We will always remember stepping onto the elevators with other building tenants and them automatically pushing number seven.  I guess word got around that we were their new neighbors. :o)  Most other tenants were associated with the university as faculty or in administration.

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We were thankful for a partially furnished, spacious (for Beijing standards) apartment for our months living on campus.  We had four bedrooms and two bathrooms.  The apartment came with our living room furniture (including couch and two chairs, TV, TV stand, and coffee table), dining room table with four chairs (we had to buy four more), a refrigerator, a large bed for Tyson and I (not a king, but bigger than a queen), a full size bed for the girls’ room, a wardrobe in the master bedroom, and some cabinets we used for storage in the boys’ room.

This is the master bedroom which had sliding doors that led into an enclosed porch and had an adjoining master bathroom.

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This is the girls’ bedroom.  The desk originally was in our master bedroom until Audrey started to need it to do her school during the fall.  The girls had the fun experience of sharing a bed . . . which was beneficial when the nights got cold, but also could be annoying when you woke up and your sister was in your space!

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This was the boys’ room.  We had to purchase the bunk beds and crib for our stay and were thankful friends could use them after we left.  They had a spacious room, but also was the hottest room during the summer and the coldest room in the winter!

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This was Scarlett’s bedroom.  It was quite small, but offered her a place of her own to retreat to when she had had enough of our family!

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The kitchen had a small sink and two burners.  A couple months into our stay, a new friend loaned us her small oven (more like a glorified toaster oven) that we kept in the living room (next to the refrigerator).  We boiled water constantly in the electric pot to wash fruit, brush teeth with, and drink.  How thankful we have been to just go to the tap water here in the States and drink the water!  We also lived without a dishwasher and microwave (which I use daily here in our home in the States!).  The machine on the wall is our hot water heater (which supplied the hot water for all of the apartment).

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Here is the little porch off the master bedroom that served as the “drying room” for our clothes and the kids’ play room (mostly housing the K’nex my parents brought over).  I was thankful for this little extra space for them to use to play in, but didn’t like the mold that liked to grow on the walls!

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Of all the appliances we lived without, the clothes dryer was the most difficult not to have for me.  A family of seven (eight with Scarlett) generates a lot of dirty clothing.  The drying racks we bought would either be on the enclosed porch (on sunny days) to dry the clothes or placed in front of the machine below (which was our A/C unit in the summer and electric heater in the winter).  It’s one thing to not dry your shirts, but when you have to air dry socks, underwear, jeans, and towels . . . it becomes kind of a nuisance!  Since coming home to the US, I have yet to complain about doing the laundry!

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I’m so thankful for the accommodations that were provided for us in our time living in China.  Through our living experience there, I realized how many conveniences I take for granted here in the States!  I hope this has given you a glimpse of “our home away from home” and how we lived for five months!

Thanks for reading!

–Stephanie

Hebei #1 – Music Town and NYCPM

The next adventure we took-not counting the multiple, tedious, trips around Beijing to get our visas renewed-was to Hengshui (pronounced Hungshway), a “small” city in the province Hebei. The Hebei province sort of “spoons” Beijing so the train ride was only about four hours. The catch was that we took a traditional train there, not the high-speed train we would normally take. This train was dirtier, less private, and much louder then the high-speed trains are, but it was a short ride so we survived. Now like I said, we were told that Hengshui was a “small” city so we were not quite sure what kind of accommodations to expect. When our host Professor Lei checked us in to our hotel we were quite reassured that this trip would not be a Yangling hotel repeat (whose accommodations were a little less then…erm..modern? Sanitary?). This hotel was even equipped with a phone by every toilet so you can even do your business while doing your business! (PS: this small town has a population of approximately 4,340,373…yeah, so small..) Continue reading “Hebei #1 – Music Town and NYCPM”

Beijing Botanical Garden

Our “90 Day Mark” in China would soon be upon us.  What makes this particular day so significant?  In case you don’t know, you have to have a visa to enter China.  The type of visa you are given determines how long you can stay in the country.  Our particular visa type gave us 90 days in country.  After 90 days, we would have to either leave China or apply for an extension.  We were told this extension wouldn’t be a problem and could be handled once we were in China.  Well, this deadline snuck up on us and to make a long story short . . . we spent some significant time at the police station for not registering with the police when we arrived in Beijing and would have had to pay a hefty fee had some university officials not come to our rescue.  This is also important because we found out that because Scarlett wasn’t officially part of our family (although after living three months with this crew . . . we were definitely family!), they would not be renewing her visa and she would be heading home several weeks earlier than we had planned.  Although Scarlett had planned to return to the States in late October anyway, her new departure day was instead now only a week away.

One attraction that Scarlett had wanted to visit since arriving in Beijing was the Botanical Garden.  She had talked about going several times, but she had not made it there yet.  With her new departure date coming at us quickly, we decided we’d better get this destination checked off her list.

Unfortunately, because we were now into the month of October, the Botanical Garden didn’t have as many plants blooming as I’m sure it had the couple months previously.  We still enjoyed several hours hiking around the grounds.  The weather was beautiful that day . . . not too hot or cold.  Since we went on a Wednesday, Tyson didn’t accompany us on this adventure.

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Because it was still the week of the “National Holiday” here in China, there were plenty of other people taking in the scenery of the garden.  Fortunately, the garden is spread out over many, many acres, so it didn’t feel terribly crowded once we were inside the gates.

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We took several pictures along the way.  Of course, stopping to take pictures with our crew tends to draw a crowd . . . so you can’t stay in one place too long!  Here is a beautiful pagoda that the kids enjoyed running up to see.

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By far the most favorite part of the visit was toward the back of the park.  We had walked along for quite a while on a path and came to this small creek that was running adjacent to the path we were on.  A couple of kids were trying to create dams in the creek.  Of course, my kids were anxious to also get their hands wet and play in the stream.  This kind of activity was exactly what my kids had been missing back home in Oklahoma!  While the older kids devised how to make dams to stop the water, Abel enjoyed throwing rocks into stream.  It was great to see the kids enjoying nature with more of a “hands on” approach like we are used to living on our acreage.  We, of course, were the subject of several pictures as people walked by.  A couple young girls nervously tried to practice their English with me while standing there.  After an hour or so, we needed to head back to the entrance so we could catch a bus home before rush hour hit.  Of course, before leaving we had to have a snack!

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All we had to do now was get home.  Well, this proved to be our most crowded bus ride yet (and we’ve had some crowded situations before)!  I will never forget how full the bus was and how long it seemed to get home that afternoon.  I think it will be a while before the Ochsner Family complains about riding in the van to get around Stillwater.  All I will have to do is remind the kids of that experience and hopefully it will induce some major thankfulness!

–Stephanie

 

Two Special Visitors!

IMG_6786.JPGHey guys, guess who came to China for a visit? That’s right, Grams and Papa Haas! After 2 or 3 months with out seeing anyone from back home they were a sight for sore eyes. (Plus who doesn’t love a visit from Grams and Papa!?) On September 20th, they arrived (having survived their own 15 hour plane ride) with two huge suitcases full of goodies that we had requested from good ole US of A. Here is a picture of most of what came out of the suitcases full of loot they brought with them:

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It’s funny how some of the most common place items were received with so much excitement after being without them for three months! The kids have been playing non-stop with the Knexs they brought too. It’s like we get Christmas twice this year! We had so many fun adventures with them through out their stay and went to many of the iconic sites. Stay tuned to hear of our great adventures!

-Audrey

The Xi’an Dumpling Gang

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After the long bullet train ride to Xi’an we were tired, hungry, and needing to stretch our legs. We checked into our hotel for a short rest and then adventured out to find food.
While visiting us in Beijing, Nana recommended to us a dumpling place in Xi’an, so we set that as our targeted destination. After navigating our way across the street, around construction, dodging eager taxi drivers who were quite positive we needed a ride, and up and down multiple flights of stairs, we finally found the restaurant. (We just knew it was the right one when we saw the golden dumpling. I mean, it has a golden dumpling, it’s got to be good.) Continue reading “The Xi’an Dumpling Gang”

Jiaozi: A Documentary

Hey everyone! A post about the Terracotta warriors is in the works, but today I wanted to share this post from a few weeks ago that I never got posted. While this isn’t our dumpling feast from Xi’an, this dinner definitely was a feast! Read down below to find out more! Thanks for checking in! Audrey

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In lieu of a blog post, we decided to make a video this week! Use this link and surf your way over to check it out.

For the past month, we have had a dinner party for the students we are getting to know during the weekend. We have eaten some foods you would find in America (pizza, pancakes, and this week, spaghetti), but last week the students offered to teach us how to make jiaozi (pronounced “jow-zu”), which are steamed dumplings. They provided all of the ingredients and the know-how to make the meal possible. Our dumplings were filled with pork and cabbage, and were oh so delicious! We ended up making about two hundred dumplings. Needless to say we still have some stuck in the freezer! We had so much fun learning to make jiaozi, and an even better time eating them!

-Audrey

 

Nobody Panic!

Hello everyone!
I just wanted to write you all a short note to apologize for the absence of new posts (and also to assured you that we did not fall off the face of the Earth, nor get abducted by aliens.).In the past few weeks we have started school, so that has put a lot on my plate trying to figure out how my online classes work, and just getting back in the groove of school. Because of this we really haven’t had many new adventures to report or much time to write about old ones. Also, the past few days we have be traveling and having adventures in new parts of China, so I have not been able to post because our days are filled with discovering things. Anyways, keep checking back, because new blog posts are in the the works. If you always want to be on top of new posts, I would recommend subscribing to the blog. You can find a forum to do that near the bottom of the side bar. If you subscribe, it will keep you up to date on new posts by emailing you when they are published. We are now off to catch a train!
Talk to you all soon!
Audrey