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Couple prepares to spend at least two years in China

December 29, 2003|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

Becky Blair's Eastern Elementary School art students offered to write her husband letters asking him not to take their teacher to China with him in January.

As much as it hurt to say goodbye, Blair is moving with her husband, Greg, to Shanghai for at least two years as he takes a new position as a supplier quality development manager with Volvo Powertrain Mack Division.

Some of Blair's students are having a hard time with the move. One day, she asked a student to give up his seat for a girl, telling him that it's a gesture gentlemen make, that it's something her husband would do for her.

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Blair said the boy replied, "Well, if he's so much of a gentleman, why is he taking you all the way to China?"

Becky Blair, 46, who has taught art for more than 20 years in and out of the county, said she was flattered by the boy's concern, but Greg Blair, 43, joked that he would keep his distance from her affectionate students.

"I don't think it's a very good idea for me to go near Eastern Elementary School," he said and chuckled.

Chuckles aside, Becky Blair said the decision to move across the world - a 24-hour flight and a 13-hour time difference - was a difficult one for her.

She'll miss her friends, local restaurants, her students and the comfort of their north-end home, which they had to sell.

They also have to sell their cars and already have sold most of their furniture. They'll only be able to take items that would fit in the trunk of a Jeep Cherokee and already Becky Blair's 25-year stash of art supplies has taken up most of the luggage space.

Becky Blair, who owns her own jewelry business, Inspiraled, makes wire-wrapped pendants and ethnically inspired beaded pieces, and plans to take classes in Chinese calligraphy, tai chi, Feng Shui, cooking and watercolors while in Shanghai.

The cultural experience, she said, is "going to affect the way I make jewelry, the way I paint."

The couple found a nearly 3,000-square-foot villa in the Hongkou area in the Changning district of Shanghai, which they said has enough space to accommodate friends who've said they will visit in the spring.

They'll have a driver, too, Greg Blair said, because car insurance is so high in Shanghai and the traffic in China's largest city is worse than that in New York City.

Becky Blair said when they visited China recently to find a home, they found the people were very friendly and willing to help. The people also appreciated the Blairs' efforts to speak their language, she said.

"It's really hard when you can't communicate," she said.

She recalled a trip to a market where a man who had a cooler of oysters handed her a pearl out of one of them.

On another occasion, when Becky Blair picked up a dish of candies she thought would make nice souvenirs for friends, her guide explained to her that the candies were in fact dried goose livers, goose wings and goose hearts.

She put the delicacies down and started looking elsewhere.

The weather will be a minor adjustment, they said. Since Shanghai sits on the same latitude as New Orleans, they said, the climate is more humid.

"I want to soak up as much of the culture as possible," she said.

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