Thursday, October 28, 2010

Are we bad parents?

Therese and i have been struggling with a dilemma recently. It was bad for a while, then got better maybe, and then it crushed our will to live for the past week. But today i feel great. Here's what happened.

This post isn't about Beijing life, per se. It's about cat ownership, which is also cool. We've got two cats, Muse and Maze. Most cat parents will tell you they go crazy at 4 am because, you know, they are crepuscular. (slight pause for those googling the definition.)

Therese and i are both light sleepers, her more so than me, but life is a drag when you aren't sleeping much. Parenthood, amiright? Maze is a total asshole at 4 in the morning, here is a list of the ways she sucks:
  • scratching on the door to come in/get out.
  • scratching on the dresser or bed when we leave the door open.
  • jumping on the furniture/knocking crap off.
  • batting that crap around the room.
  • mewing for no reason.
  • cleaning her nether regions inches from my face.
Muse has been mostly good as long as we've had her, but i think she's picking up bad habits now. So we've been running experiments on how to control or sway this behavior and have finally had some success.

We decided to try giving the cats free reign of the house, it sucks. Moving on.

A while back i tried keeping a water bottle by the bed, then when she scratched, i'd burst forth and drench her in a powerful stream of water. Sometimes i would even corner and soak her. Returning to bed, it would buy us approximately 5 minutes before she returned to scratch again.

RESULT: Failure, but kinda fun. Does that make me a bad parent?

While giving them full access to bedroom, we found we could get peaceful nappy time until about 4 am, at which time the freakshow begins. I purposely set my threshold extremely low. If i'm woken up one time, i lock her in the bathroom.

RESULT: Failure. Unfortunately, she doesn't like that and i feel guilty. Plus, we can still here her clawing at the door and mewing. If we close our bedroom door, then Muse wants to get in or out. I think this ultimately makes me a good parent.

This clever idea came from Joe. Basically, Maze is the main problem, not Muse, so i wanted to devise a way to keep only Maze out. Fortunately, Maze is fat and lazy. I closed the door on a baking tray filled with water and blocked the door from behind so it couldn't open. That left just enough room for us to squeeze out the open door, but would require a cat to walk through water to get in. Muse figured it out and made the leap, but Maze could not.

RESULT: Hilarious Failure. Sometime in the night, Maze tried the jump and plunged into the water. I heard it, picked her up and discarded her from the room, thinking she would not try that again. She didn't, but she just scratched on the door all night instead.

Therese and i were actually at the very end of our ropes, but she found another idea online and we gave it a go last night. You close the door, leave a vacuum cleaner out side the door, but plug it in near your bed. When they scratch on the door, plug it in.

RESULT: AWESOME. Right on cue, the cat(s) started messing with the door. Therese wasted no time and set off the vacuum bomb at the door, followed by CHAOTIC SOUNDS OF FEAR AND SCRAMBLING. I think they tried one or two more times, each time with horrifying, vacuum-induced, terror-kitty results. We slept.

So i pose a question: If we use the one thing they are terrified of beyond comprehension to scare them into leaving us alone, are we bad parents? Probably, but at least we're well-rested.


UPDATE: Night two of the Vacuum Test was a restful success. Began evening with several vacuum blasts before lights out. Cats appear respectful and wary of vacuum. Zero scratching all night. Night three data forthcoming.

Friday, October 22, 2010

What are the odds?

It's no secret that Chinese apartment buildings are total crap. They are built for quick turnaround and short-sighted profit, using cheap supplies and, obviously, very cheap labor. The corporate apartment i lived in when i first arrived was high end, and the kitchen cabinets fell sending a microwave crashing to the floor. The plumbing also failed frequently and it was infested with cockroaches, but it all looked very nice. It was all smoke and mirrors.

We now live in Sun City, another very nice complex, relatively speaking. It's composed of four buildings, built in two phases, one year apart. Thus, buildings 1 and 2 are a year older than 3 and 4l. We looked at a dozen places in phase one and they were terrible; peeling wall paper, broken bathrooms, water damage everywhere, one didn't even have electricity. Building 3 and 4 were so much nicer, it didn't seem possible they were only separated by a year.

Mind you, the oldest building in Sun City is only seven years old.

I'm betting yesterday is the exact day the warranty on our apartment ran out. Within a few days, 80% of all our water-based appliances failed. The water hoses on the toilet and the shower broke, the kitchen sink faucet wouldn't give us hot water, and the laundry drain overflowed it's contents into the living room. Again. Only the bathroom faucet escaped the mutiny.

True, the laundry machine is an appliance, unrelated to the construction of the apartment, but still: What are the odds?


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Zhangbi Aneient Castlr

If you ever find yourself in Pingyao, make sure you take the half day and visit Zhangbi Aneient Castlr, about 45 minutes south in Jie Xiu. Jie Xiu itself is a craphole, with terrrrible pollution and lots of coal mining. Don't bother. Zhangbi, however, is fascinating! And for as cool as it is, there are relatively few tourists. As a bonus, the english-speaking guide was included in the modest ticket price of $9. We rented a private car to take us there for a few hours, then directly to Taiyuan for our return flight to Beijing.

Some history- Zhangbi is roughly 1500 years old, built between 420-589. Some aneient artifacts date back 6500 years. It is a fortified castlr designed to withstand an invasion. It is a fully functioning town as well and, inhabited by 2,000 people, both now and centuries ago. It's got some cool temples and aneient architecture as well, but most amazing are the caves.

Over ten kilometers of tunnels under the city have been discovered, 50 meters at their deepest point. The purpose, we were told, was to evacuate the entire city in case of invasion, giving the attackers a huge disadvantage if they were to follow. The tunnels were filled with trap doors, small nooks, and killing rooms. Passageways crossed over each other often, affording places to thrust a sword up or down at a passerby. Awesome!

Continuing on my road to stardom in China, we stumbled upon a movie set. They were making some kind of history documentary, presumably about Zhangbi itself.

I wandered on in and made myself right at home, flashing a freaky set of kev-eyes for this photo.

That's about it. I'm now caught up to things that happened two weeks ago. In current news, Super Typhoon Megi is preparing to devour Hong Kong this coming weekend, just in time for our frisbee tournament. In Hong Kong. This should be interesting.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Pingyao (200th Post Spectacular!)

The National Day holiday has come to an end, and while there was no tank parade, it did culminate with the Redneck Hootenanny. Again, China shuffled our schedules around, giving many of us the pleasure of working weekends in exchange for a consecutive 7 days off. Chinese holidays are normally a dreaded time to travel, but therese, alicia, and i decided to brave it and check out Pingyao in Shanxi province for three days.

Pingyao is famous for its old, walled city center built in the 1300's. More recently it became very wealthy when it became China's main financial center for a couple decades in the 1900's. Money flooded the small city of 500,000 and the old town got a boost of life and class. It's also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and very popular among Chinese. We knew it would be madness to travel during the holiday, but we decided to brave it anyway.

We took an overnight train and arrived around 10am, tired but in good spirits. The first day, we wandered a lot, with no real destination. Since the whole city is walled, you can't really get lost, and the four main roads (North, South, East, and West Streets) make navigation quite easy. Crowds tend to congregate in the exact middle of the city where the four roads intersect. We tried to stay away from there. We discovered countless well-preserved hutongs, courtyards, and shops, as well as good food and relaxing cafe's. We were blessed with perfect weather and good company.

Being the animal lovers that we all are, we often stopped to play and love. I think therese is happiest when she has a puppy.

We stopped for foot massages and even helped them correct their English Translations. These became Foot Reflexology and Lodging Available.

Also, haha! Chinese people love to sleep! Yay!

On day 2 we walked the wall, which affords another perspective of the city, sprawling with narrow alleys and bustling with life.

Wildly good looking foreingers that we are, therese and i garnered much attention. Tourists snapped photos such as this one, with captions that would one day read "Real Live Foreigners in Pingyao!"

At some point, i was even approached by a TV reporter. They don't often see foreigners in Pingyao, and even fewer that can speak Chinese. He wanted to record a spot to promote Pingyao, and i obliged. I said something like, "I enjoy Pingyao. The lodging is interesting and comfortable. The food is inexpensive and delicious. You can walk on the wall of the old city. I'm very satisfied with Pingyao!" ---Wǒ xǐhuan Píng Yáo. Jiǔdiàn yǒu yìsi yǒu shūfu. Cāntīng de jiàgé hěn piányi, hěn hào chī. Nǐ kěyǐ zǒu zài jiù chéngqiáng. Wǒ dui Píng Yáo hěn mǎnyì.---

I'm probably famous in Shanxi by now.


Saturday, October 9, 2010

Cleatus and Trixie Get Hitched

Ken's birthday was a week ago, but we got together and threw him a redneck party on saturday. It was one of the best random costume parties in Beijing so far. Everyone got into character, spoke in a southern accent, and used plenty of white trash slang. Please read the remainder of this post in a southern accent... think Forrest Gump.

Howdy Folks! This here's a story about me, Cleatus. As you can see, i'm a handsome man, but none too bright. I ain't never won no awards fer thinkin and my momma never did send me for no book learnin. My wheels still turning, but the hamsters dead.

Sure, maybe my dental hygiene is about as advanced as an outhouse, and my breath smells about as bad... but, errr, hmmm. Forgot what i was sayin.

Anywho, this here's my girl, Trixie. She's a right purdy thing, cuter than a sack o' puppies.

Well, as y'all can see from that there photograph, i done gone and knocked her up. We's both dumber than a box of rocks. But that's fine, we's gonna get married! Well, butter my butt and call me a biscuit, Imma gonna havta plan a wedding! Imma gonna be busier than a cat covering doo-doo on a marble floor.

First we took us some purdy engagement pictures.

Then we call up our friends and Trixie gets her best girls over to be her bridesmaids. That there is Destinina and Leigh with my purdy fiance. That's french.

Destinina's handy in the kitchen too. She whipped up a fine batch of grits for the wedding party.

We went down to the gettin place and got some drinks. Our friends got together lickety split and we done got tore up.

Trixie is with child, so i only let her drink the nice tequila and smoke filtered cigarettes. I's gonna be a good baby daddy. I keep telling Trixie if she keeps getting drunk and fallin down, our baby's gonna come out uglier than a lard bucket full of armpits. She ain't just dumb, she also stupid. But i still loves her.

We's gonna have ourselves a honeymoon. Imma take my baby girl and our baby to the monster truck show, then we gonna go to Put Put.