My son Huilin loves Space, Rockets, and everything having to do with Space and Rockets. He’s logged many hours on my lap playing Kerbal Space Program. He’s been to Cape Canaveral and toured the Kennedy Space Center. He’s been to Washington, D.C. and toured the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum. In short, he’s addicted.
So it was only natural that this past Christmas waiting under the tree, having been carefully acquired from the finest Chinese suppliers by an ever-thoughtful Santa Claus, was a model rocket kit.
Fishing is part of being a Heath. I had a rod in my hands as soon as I could ask for one. But where we live in China the natural environmental condition is very poor. There are artificial fishing ponds, but sitting for hours in the sun hoping for a bite is no way to introduce a child to fishing. There will be plenty of opportunity to disappoint yourself when you’re older!
So these few years I had not made any great effort to take Huilin fishing. Eventually, however, he began to express an interest and so I asked my cousin-in-law Dandan to take us out when he had time. Dandan is a few years younger than me and an accomplished fisherman in the northeast Chinese style. The fish one typically catches here would be better classified as “bait” in America – they are truly that small.
In late June, when Spider was only three weeks old, I took advantage of a beautiful morning to drag the entire group – wife, M-I-L, son, and puppy – to the nearby Xiangyang Temple for some fresh air.
Xiangyang Temple （向阳寺）, literally “Sun-facing Temple”, overlooks the southwestern reaches of Qipanshan lake. You can see the temple and surrounding area for yourself via Google Earth if you input the following coordinates in GE’s search bar:
41°55’52.75″ N, 123°38’41.75″ E
According to the temple’s own history, it was built around 500 years ago. I declare that unlikely on the grounds that this part of China was very sparsely populated during the time claimed. Things didn’t start really happening around here until the Manchus declared Shenyang their capital in the 1600s. Furthermore, whatever structures may have existed by the 20th century were almost certainly destroyed during the Cultural Revolution as part of the “Four Olds” campaign by the Red Guards and other associated geniuses. That all the buildings on the grounds look brand-spanking new (and probably are) does not in any way detract from the experience, however! The architecture is still lovely.
With summer here, Huilin takes great delight in having his baths on the floor in the middle of the living room. This also allows mom and dad to tagteam bathe him from either side of the tub, rather than cram shoulder-to-shoulder as we do when he’s on the bathroom counter.
Huilin celebrated his first birthday today! The first year flew past much too quickly for his father, but I think his mommy is already counting down the days until he leaves for college… we shan’t criticize her though, she has been home with him almost every day since he arrived. Superbaby can wear anyone out!
To commemorate this occasion, here are 13 photos of HMH. Each photo was taken on or very nearly on a monthly interval. It’s fascinating how much his face has changed as he’s grown older!
One year of Shenyang weather features Winter facing off against Summer, with a smattering of Spring and Autumn lasting about two weeks each. On Thursday all the peach trees around town started blooming. Spring had arrived! And about a week later it’ll be Summer! Quick! Better get outside and enjoy it right now!
So this afternoon Huilin’s maternal grandfather (“Laoye” in Chinese) came over and we went to the park!
As my son marks 7 months outside the womb, it seems like a good time to look back over his first half year earthside.
When Huilin was born Ma Li and I were not fully prepared. We had the bare essentials, but we fell far short of the idyllic young couple that furnishes an entire baby room from floor to ceiling. However, our redemption, and the reason for our relatively painless transition into parenthood, was in being fully aware of just how unprepared we were. There was no hubris, no denial, just lots and lots of … shopping!
The one area of our preparations in which I personally fell shortest, and was also completely blindsided by, was muscles – specifically that extensive array of tiny muscles which fan across your shoulders, lower neck, and upper back. Huilin was only 3.5kg when he was born, but the constant lifting, bending, and leaning associated with manipulating a newborn quickly left my entire upper back in knots. The first few weeks were really quite painful, but by the end of the first month my back and shoulders had caught up with his weight, and from there I resolved to really start diligently exercising again to ensure I’d always be able to not only heft my little monster, but swing him about with ease.
Liverpool Dave is the oldest friend I have in China. By oldest, of course, I mean longest relationship… though he is getting up in years (you reading this, pal?) – haha.
I met Dave only a few weeks after I arrived back in Autumn 2007. We were both on staff at the same university. We discovered mutual appreciation for football, good beer, and games… and that was that.
Since then he’s been my most dependable, steadfast friend here. He even served in my wedding!
Each year at Yuletide, Dave and I do a themed gift exchange. The theme is usually “things our wives won’t let us buy for ourselves, so we’ll give them to each other” like wargames and such, but for 2010 it was hometown team jerseys. Dave got me a lovely Newcastle United kit (“Liverpool” Dave moved to Newcastle when he was still a young lass) and I got him the always badass black Tampa Bay Lightning sweater.
Dave was back in England visiting relatives when Huilin was born, and finally had a chance to stop by to see the Heathspawn a few days ago.
But Dave wasn’t finished! During his swing through home he visited the Newcastle United shop and picked up a full kit for little Huilin, customized with his name and number – 2 being the day of May on which he was born.
As a student, my lack of real income always prevented me from indulging in computational excess.
As an adult male, I have ample income for such frivolity, however I also have a wife. The outcome is the same.
Even so, occasionally I do get the opportunity to purchase this or that bit of Turing perfection; and like any good geek I head straight to newegg.
Moving to China, I was heartbroken that I would no longer be able to give newegg all my money. They don’t ship to China.
Why don’t they ship to China? Because they have their own special Chinese version!
newegg in China is called “xin dan”, which literally translates to “new egg”
Anyways, there are two quirky things about Xindan:
they don’t sell the really bleeding edge hardware that’s readily available on the U.S. site
they let you pay COD
The first quirk doesn’t bother me because my wife won’t let me buy I can’t afford bleeding edge hardware. I suppose they figure there isn’t much market for it? Too many Chinese wives in China? Average Chinese income too low?