Lost in Translation

I had an interaction today that reminded me how living in a foreign country is not always easy.

My son needed new gym shorts, so off I went to the school uniform shop. A simple enough task, right? Ha, why would I think that? Silly me!
Walking into the uniform shop, I greeted the lady behind the counter. Our conversation went something like this:
I said, “Hi! I need a pair of extra-large gym shorts please”.
To the reply of, “Gym…? What do you mean gym?”
“You know, gym…umm…like to work out…umm…exercise…?”.
Blank look in response. I walked over to some sample gym uniforms hanging on a rack and pointed to a pair of gym pants.
“Like these but short”.
To which she repeated her question, “What do you mean gym?” In an effort to understand what I was trying to say, she went to her computer and begin a search. I have no idea what her search word was, but the result yielded a picture of jeans.
“You mean this?”, She asked while pointing to said picture of jeans. At this point, I’m sure she thought I was utterly crazy coming to a uniform shop looking for jeans.
“No, gym…er…umm…P.E.?” Ding, ding, ding! I could see her eyes widen as realization set in.
Off she went to find the shorts. When she came back, she was holding two pairs of gym pants.
“No, I need shorts. You know, short, not long.” I explained while pointing to my knees.
Off she went again. Returning empty-handed she said, “we don’t have any men’s extra-large. Our largest size is children’s 16”.
“Well, according to your chart right here,” I began while pointing to their sizing chart posted on the wall, “my son would be a men’s extra large (While he is very tall, Chinese sizes tend to run suuuuper small). If you don’t carry anything bigger than a 16, what is he supposed to wear for gym? I mean P.E.”
Again, blank look. She tap, tap, tapped at her computer, looked up and said, “maybe he could wear shorts for P.E.”
“Yes!” I replied, more than a bit exasperated. “Do you have size extra large?”, I asked thinking we were going around in some sort of vicious circle.
“Yes, we do.”, She replied with certainty. With that, she turned around to the fully stocked shelf behind her and pulled down two pairs of size extra-large gym shorts.

I left having completed my task but giggled and muttered under my breath, “what the heck just happened?”.

I wish I could say I was surprised by this interaction but things like this happen on a daily basis. Some days I wonder if I really do make any sense at all.

Here are a few more examples of things that just get lost in translation:

Hey, who are you calling a loser?
Well this is a nice shirt for Disneyland
Shanghai good-looking corporate image planning. Nice!
I can’t make this stuff up!
“waring danger”

All in all, this is just another part of our adventure living abroad. I am thankful for frustrating yet ridiculously funny things like this that happen. I hope I made you smile through my story. Sometimes it’s the ridiculousness that makes life entertaining and keeps you giggling your way through this crazy thing called life.

What a Year!

Happy new year!

We are back from our Christmas vacation and returned relatively unscathed. Of course, we did have to go out with a bang when Jack, our youngest, came down with possibly the worst illness of his life the day before we returned home. I knew when I checked on him at 3:00 that afternoon, and he was still sleeping that this one could be a doozie. It certainly didn’t disappoint. 10 hours before our flight, he was running a high fever and vomiting. Just what you want to deal with when you need to embark on a 12 1/2 hour flight, right? We didn’t know what to do. Postpone the trip back? Gather all his strength and just get him home? Finally, we decided to bite the bullet and continue on our scheduled flight. To say it felt like the longest flight in history is an understatement. I swear the plane was suspended in mid-air for at least five hours. Kidding. But we made it. Jack may have used up all the vomit bags on the plane, but he did it. We made it home, and he didn’t move from the couch for the next four days. The boys finally went back to school today, and I have reveled in a peaceful, quiet house.

Survival mode


But this post isn’t about Christmas, it’s about 2017. What a year it was! When I take a moment to look back and take in all of the blessings bestowed upon us throughout the year I am truly humbled. So let’s get to it and recap The Bunch’s adventures over the last 12 months.


Chinese New year came early in the year which means, three weeks after returning home from Christmas, we were off again. Our daughter, Autumn, came out to Shanghai to join us on an incredible journey to Siem Reap, Cambodia, then onto Halong Bay, Vietnam, and finally ending our journey in Hanoi, Vietnam. It was an excellent trip full of history, gorgeous architecture, and even a cruise. But no trip would be complete without all of us contracting some form of (what I call) the plague and one by one we all succumbed to the nasty illness. Poor Jack went in and out of a high fever and vomiting the entire Halong Bay Cruise that I doubt he remembers much of it. Hmm…there seems to be a theme with him, traveling and getting sick.



Autumn returned home but not before meeting our new puppy, THOR! (And Puppy Makes 8) What a joy. He adjusted quickly to our home and has become a very loved member of The Bunch. So February was spent with sleepless nights and living according to a puppy’s schedule.


A month filled with travel. Brett went on three work trips. My Mom came to Shanghai for a visit and to watch Jack and Thor so our third-born, Elijah and I could go to Abu Dhabi. Back in October he auditioned for a highly selective choir festival, and was chosen! Of course, I couldn’t let him go to a foreign country alone ;), so my dear friend Diane and I packed our bags and joined the school choir on a fun-filled week in Abu Dhabi. We even managed to squeeze in a day trip to Dubai. What a fun experience!



Gosh, April was actually a relatively quiet month. We spent time getting back into a routine after all our travel. I had a friend come visit for a couple of weeks, and we had a great time playing tourists around the city. We even took a tour on a Barbie bus. Brett was offered an extension from a three to a five-year work assignment in Shanghai. This resulted in a decision to sell our house back in Michigan.


What a blur! Our oldest son, Hunter came to Shanghai for the month. I said a quick hello to him and took off on a plane to Michigan to meet my mom and prepare our house to go on the market. It was a challenging job to get everything ready in 2 weeks, but we decided we didn’t need sleep and attacked it with everything we had. By the end of the month, the house was sold! Again, back to Shanghai to say a quick hello and goodbye to Hunter who had to return home.


Two weeks later, the boys and I went home (we were able to stay in our house for the summer-woo hoo). We were there for 3 days, then drove 11 hours to Virginia. I dropped them off with my in-laws for almost two weeks (they are saints), while my mom and I went on a fantastic trip to Scotland. It was incredible and so special to have time spent with just her. Read about our awesome adventure here: For the love of Scotland! Two girls take off on the trip of a lifetime. Back to Virginia and into the car to drive another 11 hours back home. This time a little less jet-lagged, but not by much.


Two more weeks working on moving things out of the house and it was time for Brett to fly from Shanghai to join us. We spent a week on the west-side of the state in South Haven and had a great time with Brett’s brother and his family. When we returned back home we had 5 days to finish moving out of the house, then we headed off to the wild west on a quick trip to Tucson, Arizona. It was Brett’s grandmother’s 100th birthday, and despite everything going on, we couldn’t miss such a huge event.


Back home for one night, slept on the floor, and moved the rest of our things out the next morning. We sobbed a tearful goodbye to our empty house (well I did anyway) and headed off to the west-side of the state again but this time to Grand Haven. After a week there we went to Seattle, Washington for two days to spend a bit more time with Brett’s brother and his family. Finally, we dragged ourselves onto the plane heading home. We spent the rest of the month recovering from our summer, starting school, and giving our poor lonely puppy lots of extra snuggles.



This month was all about getting into a new school routine, but of course, we had to throw some travel in as well. Jack and Elijah went on school trips. Jack had a four-day team building trip to Moganshan, China and Elijah had a 7-day faith-building trek through the mountains of Beijing. Really, do these kids have any idea how fortunate they are?IMG_3652


One full day after the boys returned, we boarded a plane for Nusa Lembongan, Bali. What a crazy trip, but also relaxing and rejuvenating for us all. We drove scooters, relaxed by the pool, and even went white-water rafting. Read about our trip here:Get Lost! (in Nusa Lembongan), and A Day on Bali.



Elijah joined his school’s adaptation of Pride and Prejudice in which he played Mr. Bingley. Half of November was spent with play busyness. Whew, it was a significant commitment for all of us! A couple of days after his last performance, he went on another week-long choir trip, this time to Guangzhou, China. A bit less glamorous than Abu Dhabi, but pretty great just the same.IMG_5174


In the blink of an eye, it was the end of the year, and we were headed back to Seattle, Washington to spend Christmas with some of Brett’s family. No longer having our home in which to spend the holiday concerned me but we rented a house on Bainbridge Island and enjoyed the Christmassy feel that came along with spending the holiday in the evergreen-covered Pacific Northwest.IMG_7241

If you managed to follow all of that, I give you credit. I am exhausted just recapping everything. We had a busy but exciting year filled with family, travel, and adventure. It was truly fantastic. While I hope 2018 will be a little more settled, I know it is doubtful. This crazy ex-pat life is rarely settled, but look at the memories we have made. Here’s to an adventurous, happy and healthy new year. May you be blessed!