Sunday, April 03, 2011


Ahhh Friends.  Thanks so much for keeping up with the Joneses over the past several years.  You may have noticed extreme sporadicism (new word - 5 points) since the birth of this blog but it has been fun as a way to communicate our never boring lives in China.  For the moment we are retiring the blog but you will still be able to keep up with us at Jerry's new blog:  

There we'll be discussing family and business and life in general and would love it if you joined us.

We will leave "Keeping Up With the Joneses" up for now and most likely transfer some of our favorite posts to the new site.  Maybe we'll even get back to it someday but for those of you perched like a puppy at the dinner table waiting for the next scrap to fall (you know who you are), 1.  please get a hobby and 2. come join us at "The Culture Blend."

Loving you all!

PS - If you are the one millionth person to join The Culture Blend you might receive an all expense paid trip to visit us in sunny China!

cue music:  Michael W. Smith "Friends are friends forever . . . "

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Thousand Words: Day Fifteen

School Days

Rachel has been to FIVE schools in FOUR cities over THREE years in TWO countries. Today . . . she became a "GRADER." Grade ONE.

Since Rachel was three she has spoken of the "Graders." In her eyes they are a mysterious and wonderful, untouchable group. They are the "cool people," the "big kids" the ones who ride in the back of the bus and get homework. Until today they have been just a dream that she thought she would never attain. Finally though, after Chinese pre-pre K, International pre K, Chinese K, American K and International K she has arrived. Look out first Grade!

She attends a wonderful International school with students from all over the world. The staff are brilliant people who do so much more than educate. They not only teach but genuinely nurture the students in their learning, their life and their faith. We are especially thankful that Rachel gets to spend her days with people just like her. Children who live in a foreign culture grow up with a unique set of challenges and opportunities. We are thrilled that Rachel gets to experience all of that with a wonderful community of children who don't know where "home" is.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Thousand Words: Day Fourteen


Our daughter Rachel was born in the Province of Gansu where more than 1100 people were killed in a landslide this week and more than 600 remain missing.

Gansu has a special place in our hearts. We had never heard of it before we got Rachel's 3 month old picture in the mail telling us that we had been matched with her forever. Though the horrible landslide this week was in a completely different area of the Province we can't help but think of her birth parents and extended family. When we adopted Rachel we had the opportunity to visit a countryside village that was similar to her birthplace and probably similar to the town that was hit by the mudslide. The people were warm and engaging and amazingly hospitable. Some jumped right in and played games with us, offered us food and grabbed our babies. Others watched tentatively from a distance which is fair since it's not everyday in the Gansu countryside that a bus with ten foreign families carrying Chinese babies shows up. We were strange and they were gracious. Beautiful, wonderful people.

Thousand Words: Day Thirteen

Health Care

We have found the answer to the health care debate.  Move to China.

Almost time for the big 1st Grade so Rachel went in for her physical today.  We were a little shocked when we heard the price.  FIVE TIMES the price of a regular trip to the doctor.  Can you believe it?  100 Yuan!!  That's roughly fourteen dollars and seventy cents.  A regular visit is 20 ($2.95).  That's not a copay, that's the fee.  So there's your answer to the ongoing, never ending, absolutely painful, whining, complaining, campaigning and heated arguments over options that are public, private and everything in between.  The money you would save on premiums, copays, tax increases and fuel to and from the doctors office would pay for your one way ticket to China in no time. 

We are really thankful to have a large Chinese hospital close to our home that includes an international clinic with English speaking nurses and doctors.  The standard is different and sometimes the cultural challenges require and extra dose of patience but we generally feel . . . pretty ok about the diagnosis and the treatment.  There is also a great doctor at the Korean clinic.  He doesn't speak English but he draws brilliant pictures that describe the problem and the solution quite well.

Born to be a mother
Testing the eyes in the back of Rachel's head.  Ok there's a mirror on the 
opposite wall but it makes a funny picture.

Judah has been diagnosed with mild asthma and 
has had bronchitis four times since we returned to China 
in February.  Breathing treatments seem to help a little bit 
but Judah's not so crazy about them.

Thousand Words: Day Twelve


Something really interesting happens when people of one language try to learn another.  They make mistakes.

There is a theory that says a person must make one million mistakes to speak a language fluently.  I proved the theory wrong last week when I hit one million and one. When I first arrived in China I tried to tell the girl at Pizza Hut that I wanted my order to go (Wo yao da bao).  She looked at me funny when I said "Wo yao dao gao" or "I want to pray."  I recently told my landlord that I needed to go because my plane was leaving in two weeks.  I routinely call taxi drivers a dead chickens and I once called the front desk of my hotel to ask for a blanket and promptly received a coffee cup.  This list goes on and on for three years.  Being one of the chief language fumblers you might think that I would know better than to laugh at other people who make mistakes as well.  However, I now laugh even harder.  What has changed is my haughty arrogance when I laugh.  I've surrendered all rights to look down on anyone because they fumble my language. We are one, them and me.  Card carrying members of a club whose only rule is that you mess up . . . daily . . . a lot.  I'm thinking of running for club President.

Translations from Chinese to English often get fumbled and the results can be quite humorous.  There are a number of factors from honest mistakes and difficult grammar to knockoff brand names and cheap electronic translators but it's always good for a chuckle.  So start by taking a humbling dose of "how's my Chinese?"  Then enjoy these pictures.

"Be Careful" Signs often prove difficult to translate.  We've also seen "Bump Your Head Carefully" and "Carefully fall into River" 

I always thought Mario was Italian
You might want to click this one to make it bigger but as it turns out Mario and Luigi (of Nintendo fame) were just alias's for some of Iraq's most wanted terrorists.  

:)  Withholding comment

Thousand Words: Day Eleven

Riding in Style

There is more than one way to get from point A to point B in China.
Although I rarely get the chance I much prefer driving in China than in the States.  There is much less road rage in China and much more reason for it.  The absence of personal space here shows up all over the place but it is never more exciting than on the road.  What we would call "cutting people off" is not only tolerated it is expected and sometimes hesitating can be more dangerous than not.  What we would call "speeding" is much less of an issue here.  Not less of an occurrence, just less of an issue.  And what we would call "lines on the road" also exist in China but primarily for decoration.  Sometimes tensions rise a bit and occasionally a taxi driver will lose his temper but the general rule is honk and move on.  No harm no foul.  

Most drivers have been driving less than five years and a very low percentage have been driving more than ten.  However, the growing middle class loves their new cars and traffic seems to increase daily.  There are a lot of ways to get around.  Some more interesting than others.

Breakfast on Wheels
This is a mobile, propane fueled traveling skillet hooked to a bicycle.  
Delicious egg wrap tortilla type things with meat, veggies and hot spices inside
are on sale on the street corner for cheap.  Mobility for street vendors is key.  
They can relocate to higher traffic areas at different points during the day and 
can also make a quick getaway if they are hassled by authorities for operating 
without a license.  

Old Style
This is a very rare site in the cities that we have lived in however on 
a few occasions we have seen a horse, a donkey or even a cow.  

My favorite vehicle in China
This was our family car when we lived in Shenyang.  It made the entire
city so much more accessible and was far cheaper than taxis.  Technically
classified as an electric bicycle, you don't need a license to drive.  However
you are supposed to stay on the sidewalks and bike paths when you're 
driving on major roads.  Carrying the 80 pound battery in to charge every
night was the only down side (apart from safety concerns of course).

Riding in Style
Cheaper (and slower) than regular taxis, in some places you can find a 
glorified version of the traditional Chinese rickshaws.  The availability of 
these kinds of vehicles varies greatly from city to city and even 
neighborhood to neighborhood.

Just for contrast
Stretch limos, Cadillacs and Hummers are around as well.  I'd take a 
scooter over this any day.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Thousand Words: Day Ten

Fountain of Youth
"The world is yours, as well as ours, but in the last analysis, it is yours. You young people, full of vigor and vitality, are in the bloom of life, like the sun at eight or nine in the morning. Our hope is placed on you."
-Chairman Mao Zedong
There is a fountain near our home that reminds me what it's like to be young.  Children are playing there constantly.  Some are in bathing suits, obviously coming for the sole purpose of getting wet.  Others happen to be walking by and the opportunity to splash outweighs the thought of walking home wet so in they go.  Some strip down to their tighty whiteys and some just get naked and go for it.  All of them laugh and and run and jump and act like children should in the presence of water.  It's good to be young.  

Here are some shots of our two favorite kids enjoying the experience.

Thousand Words: Day Nine

Beautiful Faces

Be honest.  How many of you have ever said something like "all Chinese people look the same?"

Now be honest again.  How many Chinese friends do you have?  Don't count them unless you know their name (without looking at their nametag) AND they know yours.  Don't worry this is not another guilt trip or an effort to shame you into being more globally minded.  Living in China has however, given us the opportunity to get the inside scoop on real live Chinese people.  What I'm about to share is sensitive and may not be suitable for everyone.  Are you ready?  Are you sitting down? Chinese people are  . . . people.

It's true.  You can check Wikipedia.  

We have absolutely fallen in love with so many of our new friends.  We have learned that you can't apply a lone characteristic to an entire nation full of people whether it be how they look, how they act, how they think or what their agenda is.  People are vastly and beautifully different and yet somehow all the same.  

So here are some pictures to bust the myth once and for all.  Chinese people do NOT all look the same and if you look closely you might get just a taste of their unique personalities too.  We've been having fun doing this 30 day photo journey.  We're snapping lots of new pictures and reminiscing over the old ones.  These are from our first year in China and feature some of my favorite and funnest students.  And friends.

Thousand Words: Day Eight

Snap, Crackle Boom!

There is nothing more breathtakingly intense, mind numbingly loud or outrageously dangerous than 1.4 BILLION people playing with tightly packed gun powder at the exact same moment.

Chinese New Year is a holiday that engages the senses.  It is deeply rich in traditions that have evolved and adapted over thousands of years. Dumplings with money inside, bright red underwear, red lanterns, red envelopes (also with money inside), holiday songs and delicious food (Google it) all mark the season.  Families that have been scattered around the nation by a new hope for better jobs and better lives go home for the holidays in droves.  Aunts, Uncles, Cousins (referred to as brothers and sisters) fill apartments far to small to hold them all.  Children running rampant, holiday feasts, games, music . . . it is loud and exciting, thoroughly enjoyable chaos.  Then, at midnight, on the lunar New Year . . . China explodes.

Fireworks, on Chinese New Year, are impossible to explain.  It's actually two weeks of virtually non-stop, day and night booms but midnight it like nothing I have ever experienced.  There are some laws about fireworks but I really can't imagine what they are.  Thousands of people in each community bring out box after box filled with numerous cardboard cannons.  The sky lights up, the air reeks of gunpowder, the whole city shakes and the noise is deafening.  I love it.

Here are some pics we've gotten over the past three Chinese New Years.

Gunpowder and fireworks were invented in China and it remains the largest 
manufacturer and exporter of fireworks in the world.  Which makes sense 
since they are the largest manufacturer and exporter of everything else 
in the world too.
Every neighborhood has a stand like this one where you can load up on 
everything from spinners and sparklers to boxes the size of your washing
machine.  Fireworks are big business in China.
Big show leaves a big mess but by 9 am the next morning all that is left 
are a few burn marks on the concrete.