Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Beautiful Pearl

Sorry to have gone so long without a post. I finished the semester and crashed for a week or so of much needed rest and relaxation. I will be leaving Saturday night for two weeks in Singapore and Hong Kong where a professor and I will be presenting a research paper at an academic conference and doing more research. I will see some friends along the way. The next time I post will be well into 2011. Here's wishing everyone a safe, happy, and prosperous new year!

While Yuni was away in Florida, and before he had sent me cash or figured out how to feed the ATM, I needed to find ways to get money for groceries. One of my friends from church had a daughter who was 45 days older than the twins. My friend is not Chinese, but in the interests of protecting the innocent, I am transliterating the girl’s name into Chinese—珍娜, and then retranslating it back as ‘Pearl’. My friend is a nurse, and she worked three or four days a week. Her older child was in school, and little Pearl needed child care. Our home was the perfect place.

And so I adopted my first of many foster daughters. Pearl would come very early in the morning on the days that her mother worked. Some days she was in her pajamas, and she would go into the girls’ room and wriggle into the bed with them. (They had a bunk bed with a full-sized bed on the bottom and a twin bed on top.) Three small three-year old girls fit quite easily on the full-sized bottom bunk. Pearl’s clothes and things were all in a back pack that her mom would drop off at the doorway as she dashed off to work.

Since the girls were sleeping, I would go into my computer to do translation work. Eventually, there would be sounds of giggling from the girls’ room. A door would creak; someone would dash out and grab Pearl’s pack. Then the door would slam, and they would be inside getting dressed. That would be my signal to get them breakfast. The five of us all sat around the kitchen table eating, talking, and laughing.

After breakfast the girls would play in the yard or in the toy room. If my translation schedule was not too heavy, we would take a field trip on the bus. Some days we went into Seattle to the aquarium or just to take a ferry ride. Other days we went to the doll museum in Bellevue or to the downtown park. I had gotten lots of strange looks with my three little girls all of an age, and now I was zipping around with four. The strange looks multiplied, but that was okay. We had lots of fun. We would come back by 3 in the afternoon because at 3:30 my ESL tutoring students would arrive.

When I had an ESL student, the girls were finally allowed to turn on the TV. Our house was blocked by hills, and as I was earning enough between babysitting and tutoring and translating, we got basic cable to mesmerize the giggling beasts. When Pearl was around, they watched a lot of Disney movies. When she wasn’t, they watched a lot of Animal Planet. They also did tumbling on the old couch in the TV room, build forts out of blocks and legos, and dressed up in costumes from a box of clothes my dad’s wife had given them. I usually tutored from 3:30 to 5:30 every afternoon. When my last student was gone, I rushed to make dinner.

Pearl’s mother worked 13 hour shifts; her father frequently traveled for his business. Many times Pearl stayed for dinner with us. After Yuni’s time in Miami, he would frequently arrive home while I was tutoring my last student. The girls would let him into the TV room through the sliding door, and he would play with them until dinner was ready. After the student left, he would take them into the back yard to play ball or build things. Because the table where I did tutoring overlooked the backyard, we found it necessary to keep my kids out of the yard so my students could focus on their work.

After dinner, Yuni was in charge of the remote. He and the girls and Fei watched TV, while I cleaned the kitchen and did my things. Sometimes I had other students to tutor, and at other times I had more translation work to do. Pearl usually left by 8; my kids went to bed around 8:30, and I would read to them until 9. If I had a translation job involving people in Asia, I would get on the phone and computer and work until midnight or 1 am. The next morning it would start all over again around 5:30 or 6. At that point in my life, I was reasonably healthy, and I was having a lot of fun. I thoroughly enjoyed all four of my daughters. The translation and tutoring gave me just enough adult contact to make being a housewife really fun.