6:10 in the morning and I wake up to the sound of my phone. I will go for a little run in my gated community, a little protected oasis amidst the packed streets containing houses, a park with a little pond, a little playground with fitness trainers for elderly people and of course Tai-chi suited clearings. If the smoke is too thick I might just turn over and sleep again. After all, I live in my own little flat shared with a Chinese cook and the philipine nanny.
I take breakfast at around seven with my two host kids, Ailin (6) and Alex (3). Breakfast contains rice, either in direct form or as watery soup. There is a kind of bread looking rather like our dumplings and a broad variety of vegetables to choose from. Food is shared by everybody so you can enjoy the whole variety. However, although eating with chopsticks might not be so difficult, getting the food onto your plate is so I usually use a spoon and keep practicing on my own plate.
After the children go to school I stroll through the city or go to my Au-pair center. Studying Chinese language makes you feel like a child again, practicing pronunciation and writing from the very beginning. Ailin laughs at my first characters, but being here every word is really useful and helps me understand a little more. About 4 o’clock I start teaching. It is certainly different every day as it depends totally on the kid’s mood and energy. They keep surprising me with new words they just learned or by paying special attention to a new book, but on some days they are so full of energy that the only choice is running games.
The family gathers again around 7, which is basically the same as breakfast. The family consists of mother Lin, three children, nanny and cook and the two grandparents. During daytime, you would find grandpa watching some Chinese kung-Fu series, probably giving me a version of the Chinese past you would not find in a trustable history book. Grandma loves to show around pictures of her family members, so I quickly show her mine. Then it’s sleeping time for the Theo children and study and reading time for me.
Last Thursday was the moon festival, with not only meant yummy dumplings for breakfast and sweet moon cake at the family dinner, but a whole day spent at Chaoyang park. This mixture of zoo, amusement park and relaxation zone hosts everything you may wish for on a holiday out – taking a boat ride in communist -styled cars, catching fish out of a plastic pool, ice-cream vendors and roller coasters. Sadly, there were water pistols too, which meant I got pretty wet that day.
On Saturday my host brother Luke had his 100 birthday- 100 days, that is. Reason enough for a big family gathering at a fancy restaurant. The water to the meal was, of course, warm like tea, something I could really get used to. I was actually not prepared for such a large assembly as getting into the car without knowing my destination has grown into a habit of mine. I was busy watching the family conversations and rituals around me, from holding the baby to ‘ganbei’ calls. But the banquet ended as quickly as it had started only three hours after we had arrived. That gave us enough time for another game of ‘hit my bottom’ and ‘Halli Galli’ with Ailin, Alex and their cousin Coco.
Speaking about the weather, you have probably seen the mask on my last post so sometimes it can get really bad but yesterday we had blue sky visiting the Jingshan park. It’s the highest spot in Beijing and it is marvelous if you can see all the different faces of Beijing, the old halls of the forbidden city, the parks and the skyscrapers. You get a glimpse of what the city has to offer and you know there is a lot more your eye can’t catch.
Write you soon,