Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Pregnancy Milestones

I’m terrible at keeping records or tracking progress, especially with this pregnancy. We’ve only taken three “belly photos” at 14, 17, 19 & 20 weeks. Oops. That’s ok. I’m not really that person who documents everything anyways. There are, however, a few “milestones” I would like to keep track of. When trying to think of a way to track them, I thought “why not use the blog?” Yeah, why not? So, there you have it. Instead of having information scattered between apps on my phone that I’ll never look at - let’s put it all in one place! 

Milestones so far…
1) “Morning sickness” is over. Thank the Lord! It wasn’t until after week 16 that I was able to eat most foods again (and some still make me sick), but for the most part I would say I’m almost back to my normal self. I definitely don’t eat as much as I did pre-pregnancy, but I eat enough to stay full and snack more often…so I probably do eat just as much (just not during meals). Sometimes at nighttime I still feel nauseous if I eat a big dinner, but I haven’t “tossed my cookies” in several weeks and I would say that’s a very good sign! Also, taxis and buses (my main modes of transportation) have an instant effect on me - as soon as I step on the bus or enter a taxi I feel nauseous. Bummer. 

2) Cravings. These come and go. One day I want chocolate cake, the next day I don’t - I guess that’s why they’re called cravings! My latest craving has been corn tortillas. Wow, I want them so bad. I actually found some online from a store in Shanghai which ships to Nanjing. Going to be ordering those this weekend. I’m also craving candy - which I normally never want. Swedish fish would be my first choice, but since those are not to be found anywhere I have settled for fruit snacks and some sour gummy worms I randomly found. Crisis averted. I don’t want chicken. Beef anything sounds good (so weird). Lately I’ve been wanting Indian food, we might have gone to our favorite place twice this past weekend. Totally worth it. 

3) Sleeping is getting hard to do. I really like to sleep on my stomach, but my growing belly is making that increasingly difficult. Between that and getting up twice a night to use the bathroom, I’m not sleeping as much as I would like. I’ve heard others say it is God’s way of preparing us women for a newborn…He just thinks of everything! ;-)

4) I can feel the baby move! Yes, last week on Monday, I had just taken a nap and was lying in bed checking email when I felt this weird “flutter” in my abdomen. I’m 100% positive it was the baby. Since then, I have felt the baby move throughout the day (usually when I’m sitting still or lying down). Only once did I have my hand on my belly and felt a kick from the outside as well. Being able to feel the baby move has really changed my attitude towards this pregnancy. Instead of focusing on all the ways I feel crummy, I am now filled with wonder at this life inside me. So amazing! 

5) Speaking of the belly, I can no longer wear belts. Yes, this belly is growing! Though I’m not fully in maternity clothes yet, belts are a no-go. Yesterday I had to finally bust out the rubber band trick on my skinny jeans. And for those of you “dying” to see a belly photo, I included one for you. It’s my awkward-is-she-preggo-or-fat belly. I can’t wait until I actually look pregnant with a round belly and can secure a seat on the subway or bus! One of the perks of being pregnant in China. 

6) Tingling feet. I think this is a pregnancy thing. At least I hope it is, because if not I might be losing my mind. Sometimes I get these painful itches on my toes or the bottom of my foot (like a sticker is stuck in my foot) and other times my foot feels like it is tingling, but it isn’t constant, more like a cell phone on vibrate is ringing next to it. In fact, the first time I felt my foot tingling like this I went looking for my cell phone on the floor. Yup, it was that convincing. 

So there you have it - a few big milestones! This week is half-way through (whoo-hoo) and tomorrow we have our next ultrasound which will hopefully tell us if Peanut is, as the Chinese say, a Prince or a Princess. We are also hoping to finally have some good pictures of this little one to share. 

Now, please excuse me while I get back to my Nutella and pretzels...

Monday, March 17, 2014

Cultural Encounters

This week, I met a friend at Starbucks to catch up and spend some time together. I love Starbucks. It's the same everywhere! Anyways, halfway through our conversation we were interrupted by an interesting cultural encounter. After living in China for over a year, I have become somewhat accustomed to some cultural differences (not all, but some I don't really notice anymore), however, this one instance really pointed out some of the major cultural differences between the West (especially the US) and China.

A middle aged man came up to our table and interrupted us to ask if my friend (who is Chinese) could translate for him. As I glanced over my shoulder at his table, it appeared he was sitting with his son, wife and a young woman who appeared to be European or American. My friend agreed to help and I waited for a few minutes while she went over to help explain a few things. When she returned, she told me that the man and his wife were hiring the American to tutor their son in English. As a thank you, they wanted to take her out to dinner but she refused the offer saying that receiving payment for her services as a tutor was enough of a thank you. I suggested that my friend advise the American to take them up on their offer, but before my friend could return to their table, they all got up and left.

The American walked briskly to the door to leave, but then noticed that the Chinese man had approached our table and was talking to my friend again. He was asking my friend if she would like to tutor his son (so obviously it didn't work out with the American). The American quickly approached me (I thought she was upset he was asking my friend to tutor his son), this is the conversation that followed.

American Woman: "Is he asking her out too?"
Me: "I'm sorry, what? No, he's asking her to tutor his son."
AW: "Oh, good. He was totally hitting on me! He kept saying I was beautiful and then asked me out to dinner!"
Me: "Treating someone to dinner as a thank you is very customary in China, I don't think he was hitting on you."
AW: "Well, he wanted me to go to dinner with just him! He just wanted a date out of it."
Me: "Uh...are you sure? My friend told me the whole family was to take you out to dinner."
AW: "Oh...That wasn't what was communicated."

After the gentleman left, my friend cleared up the encounter with the American. The family was indeed all going to dinner, and paying a compliment by saying "you are beautiful" is considered a nice gesture in China. We talked with her for awhile, and then she thanked us and left. My friend and I had a good laugh after that.

In summary, here are some the major cultural differences I noticed that presented themselves in the situation:

1) Appropriate compliments. In China, a married man telling a young, unmarried woman that she is beautiful is not inappropriate. In America? Yes, it would be. But in China it is an attempt to be nice and make the other person feel good. It is also appropriate for women to tell men they are handsome, even if their wife is sitting right next to them. I don't think about this cultural difference very much, but it's a big one. Especially seeing how offended the American was. 

2) Building relationships. The family was hiring the American to tutor their son. It is customary for someone to treat another to a meal as a thank you and even a precursor to doing business together. In China, relationships are very important. The tutor being hired saw this as a business deal, no personal relationship needed. To Chinese, even in business you build the personal relationship. Many large business contracts are agreed upon over dinner and after some drinking. In America, the appropriateness of dining together for business varies on the situation, but is mostly done after the business transaction. In China, it is done mostly before the business transaction. Big difference. The family felt that treating the American to dinner was the proper response to her agreement to tutor their son, she obviously disagreed.

3) Giving face. I don't really understand the concept of “face” very well, but I think it applies here. "Face" is a concept we don't have in America, however it is a social norm in China. By the family inviting the tutor to dinner, they were "giving face" to her by demonstrating they thought she was important enough to treat to a meal. Her refusal actually caused them to "lose face". By refusing their offer, she was saying she didn't think them worthy enough to treat her (or something like that). Face is very important in China, and though foreigners can get away with a lot in this area, it is still good to note this is a major cultural difference. Americans especially don’t consider this in most social situations, we think if you have a proper excuse, turning someone down is ok (and even polite). To a Chinese, any refusal can be interpreted as a loss of “face”, no matter the excuse. 

This encounter reminded me again of how different a culture I live in. I'm assuming that the American tutor was a newbie to China by her reactions, however, I'm no veteran. It was a good reminder to me that I still need to be a learner of the culture and ask for clarification before jumping to conclusions when encountering strange circumstances. 

Have you encountered any "cultural differences" before? How did you handle them?

Friday, March 7, 2014

The limits of online shopping

Image courtesy of
I never realized that online shopping has its limits. I guess because usually when I buy stuff online, I have already decided or know exactly what I'm looking for and I buy that particular item online because it will get me a better price. Well, as a first time mommy trying to buy baby stuff online that I have never really taken the time to check out in a store, uh, it's harder than I thought. Why am I online shopping? Well, I live in China and many of the products that I think I want either aren't in China or are two to three times the price of the States. So, with friends coming to visit next month, I've been trying to buy stuff online to have brought over that we know we will need when the baby comes. In between moments of shopping bliss and complete frustration, I have realized that online shopping has its limits. 

Take for example online reviews. You can only rely on them so much! And then, which ones do you believe? The five star account telling you that it is the best product ever? Or the one star review saying that it broke within the first week of use? Being able to see the product in person would help to confirm a good or bad review. Especially for someone like me who doesn't like to do a lot of research. Reading review after review is tiring and overwhelming, not my favorite. 

Maternity clothes is another thing that is hard to buy online, especially when you've never gone shopping in person for them! Fortunately, I had a few friends here who had some maternity clothes that I could try on and see what sizes from which brands did or did not work for me. But, seriously, buying maternity clothes online when you don't know your size - not ideal. 

Some things you just need to see in person, like a diaper bag. At least for me, being able to touch and play around with and put things in a bag in person is way more helpful than reading a bazillion online reviews and looking at pictures and videos. And yes, they have helpful videos for diaper bags. But honestly, I just want to pick it out in person! 

Don't get me wrong, I am incredibly thankful for online shopping. I just also wish that it had a feature where I could step through my computer screen and try out the product. Although, even if that  feature was available, it probably wouldn't be recommended for pregnant women. :-)