During the National Day holiday, Tina, Nolan, and I headed to the American embassy in Guangzhou to register my son as an American citizen and apply for his passport.  I had heard many stories about document confusion, delays, mistrust, etc., but I wasn't going to worry until I knew exactly what was what.

I referred to the Guangzhou Embassy website for information on what documents were necessary.  According to the site, they needed my passport, my wife's Chinese ID, our marriage certificate, Nolan's original birth certificate with an English translation, two passport photos, and a couple of forms printed from the website affirming that I had lived in the US for more than 5 years, and that I was Nolan's father.  We also brought our wedding photos, family photos, and Nolan's hospital records.

Despite what people had told Tina, these documents were all that were necessary.  Everything that the website said was true, and the whole process took about an hour.  The consular official was very polite, and she interviewed Tina and me separately for a few minutes, just to verify that we were indeed a family.  I had to pay about 1,400 RMB, and that was that.  It was a big relief to get this important step finished, and like most things in life, it wasn't as difficult as people said it would be.  I will have to go back to pick up the passport once it's ready, but it's nice to know that my son is now a full-fledged American :-)
Well it's been six months since this blog went into hibernation, but we're back in business now.  Here's a quick summary of what's been happening lately.

-Nolan turned one year old on July 24th.  We had a big party with several neighbors and friends, and it was especially cool since my mother came from the USA for a visit.  It was the first time that she had seen Nolan and Tina in person, and we had a blast while she was here.  My father passed away last year so he never got to see his grandson face to face, but I'm glad that my mother was able to make the trip.

-Tina celebrated her 30th birthday on August 2nd.  I arranged a little surprise party with some of her friends, which was something she had never had before.  For a lot of Chinese people, turning 30 is the equivalent of becoming middle-aged, so Tina was lamenting the grinding gears of time a bit.  But since she already has the husband, the baby, and the house which are all required of Chinese girls by the time they turn 30, she wasn't feeling too bad.  Plus she still looks like a dream, and people always tell her that she's got to be in her mid-20s.  By the way, she's a year and a half older than me, and you know what they say about hot, horny older womenGiggity!

-Life is slow and quiet at our new home, but it's nice.  It's a few kilometers outside of the city, which means that everything is much cheaper but it's kinda boring, with small town people, small town manners, small town life.  I'm the only foreigner around so I'm a bit of a local celebrity (which we have been able to use to our advantage in creating a small English school at our home during the summer) but I spent three years in Jiangxi province before I came to Xiamen so I'm used to the Chinese countryside.  There are a lot of things that I wish were different, but I appreciate what I have.

-Tina and I got tattooed together last week.  She got a little "Z" on her ankle for Nolan, whose middle name is "Z" (I know, cool huh?).  I got a large design filling up the empty space on my left elbow region.  It took two sessions for a total of six hours.  It was not fun at all.  I've decided that in the future, I'm going to get tattooed once a year, and with this new tattoo out of the way, I don't really have any desire to get anything new, so I think I'll just devote my tattoo energy to improving the ones I already have (and some need a lot of touching up).  I'll post the photos of Tina's and my tattoos once they've healed.

-I've been doing lots of research on cathedrals, particularly the Gothic style of architecture.  I've always loved cathedrals, but now I'm taking a serious look at the design, the styles, the symbolism, and it's utterly fascinating.  There is a commanding grandeur in this structures that I find lacking in Chinese construction, and the more I learn, the more I yearn to explore them in real life.  I'm even reading The Hunchback of Notre-Dame right now.

So that's the deal for now.  I'll be heading back to work in a couple of weeks, and it's been great having the whole summer to spend at home with the family, particularly Nolan as he navigating these formative days.  I feel bad for a lot of parents, particularly fathers, whose jobs take them away from home for so long.  It's nice to have personal space sometimes, but I wouldn't want to miss first steps or first words for anything.  The Bible says that children are a gift from God, and it's true.
It's been fun but I'm going to hang up the gloves on this blog, at least for the foreseeable future.  I'm very busy these days with teaching, family, and home so I don't have too much time to post new entries, and honestly, I don't really have that much to say anymore.  I'll just say that life is good and getting better, and I'm enjoying my new home with my wife and son and chihuahua.  I've got some plans for the future that will hopefully work out but life is always twisting and turning, and it can still be fun even when it doesn't work out the way you plan it.  Just smile and roll with it; don't waste time worrying, just do your best and deal with things when they happen.  That's my idea, anyway.  So adios amigos, and always remember to turn on the lights when you're taking a leak- it's just easier that way.
This week I got a tattoo of Nolan's English and Chinese names (for free :-).  For his English name, I designed an anagram, which is a word that can still be read upside-down.  It was pretty simple, since Nolan's name is almost symmetrical (the only difference being the "o" and "a" which were easy to convert).  The tattoo completely encircles my left forearm and on the back below my elbow is his Chinese name is swoopy Chinese script.

It was nice to sit in the tattoo chair again after a nearly year-long break, though I'm sure this will be my last for a while.  I got the tattoo for free because I interviewed the tattoo artist for an English-language Xiamen magazine and he offered to give me the tattoo free of charge, which I feebly protested but eventually gave in :-).  Seriously, this dude is excellent, and I've been tattooed by more than a dozen artists in China and the States.  If you're ever in Xiamen and looking to get inked, go to his website for more info.
Mom, Dad, and baby are doing great.
My wife will give birth to our baby in late August, and it's been an interesting seven months so far.  A few minor scares here and there, but for the most part, it's been pretty smooth.  That's easy for me to say,though, since I'm not the one with constant back pain and swollen feet :-).  I've tried to be very sensitive and attentive to her and I can tell that I've made her feel very secure and even beautiful during this fragile time.

One thing that I am continually thankful for about my wife is her emotional balance.  Yeah she's a girl and all girls get emotional now and then, but compared to girls I've dated before, my wife has a very good handle on her emotions.  Of course, pregnancy brings the hormone onslaught and it's easy for an even-keeled woman to go all loopy, but I've fortunately been spared any tempestuous outbursts of mama-bear fury :-).

Yet one emotional battalion that takes a serious hit during pregnancy, especially for beauty-conscious Chinese girls, is confidence.  Of course I've always told my wife she's beautiful, and before she was pregnant, she believed it, but as the kilograms start to add up, now she needs much more reassurance, especially with my job as a university teacher surrounded by slender (and very hormonal) students.  In China, husband's infidelity is unfortunately a cultural fixture, and my wife tells me that several of her friend's husbands strayed while they were pregnant.  My wife doesn't expect that I would follow the same path, but at the same time, she's a girl, and girls' minds are a whirlwind of doubts and worries.  Actually, to be honest, my wife is still pretty freakin' hot compared to the other pregnant ladies waddling around, and any man who cheats on his wife while she's at her most vulnerable, such as during pregnancy, must be the most wretched scum alive.  But even still, I continually remind my wife that she's still beautiful and still the apple of my eye as I massage her swollen feet, and I know she believes me.