Asia, North America · 648 Days · 259 Moments · August 2015

Danielle and Clint's Adventures in China

23 May 2017

Dinner with Thomas and Lucy Glad we finally got to entertain these two. They have been great friends at work. Shenzhen was smiling at us with gorgeous clear weather.

30 April 2017

Danielle booked us a room at the Haishe Holiday hotel. It's new and beautiful. We introduced Deb to Korean food on the boardwalk while discussing what place we would each be if we were a place, while watching hundreds of tiny figures, wading through the tide land hunting for mussels & crabs.
Da Peng Fortress We gambled on hopping a cab from Nanshan out to Da Peng on a holiday weekend. After hailing a willing cab in perfect weather we preceded encouraged. Maps said it would be under 2 hours. Over 4 hours of sitting in traffic and ¥300 later we arrived to a throng of Chinese holiday makers. At first the fortress seemed like a packed dismal tourist trap, but once we got our bearings and did some exploring we found a few vacant back allies of our own and discovered some lovely little stone courtyards. Eventually we stopped for tea at a beautiful little secret garden and sipped white tea and nibbled peppered plums & broad beans shaded from the bustle and golden afternoon sun. It turned into a perfect afternoon.

28 April 2017

We took Deb around SZ, HK, then back to SZ to celebrate Danielle's birthday early.

3 April 2017

Temple near Ho Chi Minh's mausoleum.

2 April 2017

The entire square around the lake was blocked off for pedestrians, and there were thousands of people shopping and chilling in the cool night air. Every 30M there was a circle of people playing hackey sack, jumping rope, playing mancala, or watching street performances. We took a brilliant red bridge to an illuminated island temple in the middle of the lake. Few people were there and it was a magical scene in a store gazebo lined with bansai trees in ornate runs on a platform hovering over the lake overlooking the lights off the square on the other side. We just sat and enjoyed the cool lake breeze blowing over our faces and rustling the curtains of willow trees...
Cirque performance at the old Opera House. The opera house was beautiful and perfectly restored, decked out with a marble grand staircase and chandeliers. Very French. It felt like it just opened in 1900. The performance was acrobatically stunning and used a really simple organic design--only bamboo, candles and cloth were used. The troupe assembled and reconfigured 10 different acrobatic sets on the fly using giant bamboo poles and lashing. It was a treat to be able to hear all of the traditional instruments we'd seen earlier that day at the Ethnology museum in action.
Vietnamese Etymology Museum There are 59 distinct ethnic groups in Vietnam, in 5 major families. The Austronesian group is the majority. What an incredible variety of cultures! The museum does a great job in explaining the what and why for all of the major groups, and has replica villages and houses in the back! It's wonderful to take off your shoes and step on the soft creaky yet study bamboo floors, feel the cool inside air and smell the thatch of the roof.
Tin Street and other scenes from The Old Quarter
Sticky rice with corn (unexpectedly served cold) and fried eggs in sauce (also unexpectedly cold).

1 April 2017

Drinks and a spectacular view over Hanoi from The Rooftop
The Hanoi Hilton Old colonial prison repurposed to hold American pilots-most famously John McCain during the Vietnam war. It was fascinating to see the Vietnamese take on the War of American Intervention, and a Shawshank Redemption style escape through a horrifyingly tiny sewer tunnel.
Vietnamese History Museum ... Was closed for lunch but the grounds were beautiful.
Around the old quarter.
Heading for the old quarter.

25 March 2017

In the evening we headed over to the Supertree Grove in Marina Bay park. Sooooo cool. One of the SciFi-esque trees had a restaurant/bar at the top so we went up to have a drink and enjoy the sunset.
We lucked out and the Singapore National Gallery had an amazing exhibit on Art and Empire which was FREE. We had a great stroll around the exhibit and afterwards hit up the gift shop (Danielle has a weakness for museum gift shops).
Next stop was a fascinating exhibit at the Asian Civilizations Museum which had a very interesting exhibit on a ship wreck from the Tang Dynasty. While we were visiting it started to pour rain, so we holed up for a bit and ate some tasty desserts :)
Took Clint on a surprise weekend trip to Singapore!!! First stop: the Arab Quarter

18 March 2017

Enjoying a cool clear night on the roof of A1, just watching the people go by...

12 March 2017

The best working Sunday in memory. A few hours of uninterrupted concentration in the office, then a gorgeous cool spring night. Happened upon a little pizza place and had a slice of decent pizza and a beer in the night air. So peaceful!

11 March 2017

Nanhai E-Cool We've been meaning to check this out for 2 years... and we finally did! There are several designated "creative" districts in SZ. Definitely feels like a fake creative district that's gradually evolving into its intended pretence. There are some neat little hipster coffee sops and trinket shops, and some really interesting yet inaccessible offices for architects and designers. Wish we'd cine here as a quick escape from school earlier on!

17 February 2017

Had a great time at girls night Friday! We tried a new Mediterranean place called Doors in Seaworld. The prices were a little higher than usual, but the portion sizes were HUGE!! Look at that "chocolate bomb" dessert (hand for scale). Something I love about Shenzhen is that because it's such an international city, it has so many culinary options. You never feel limited in what you can eat, which is awesome.

11 February 2017

Evening stop: Ice and Snow World. This was also located on Sun Island, so we thought to ourselves, we walked to the first, we can walk to this too! Not so...we discovered too late. Ended up walking for about 10 kilometers, for almost 90 minutes, in sub freezing temperatures. The prize was worth it, though, as we got to see a wealth of icy architecture that you were able to climb up, slide down, and altogether was incredible. It's crazy to be here one week after being at the Philippines for Chinese New Year. Talk about a climatic shift!
First stop: Sun Island snow sculptures. We had to walk across the frozen Songhua river to get to the island, which was a really cool experience. You would kind of forget you were on a river, and then you would hit a patch of ice and remember that everything underneath you was technically water. On Sun Island, everything was sculpted from huge amounts of snow. One of our favorites: Santa Claus in a train with dragons pulling him :P
Decided to do a last minute short weekend trip to Harbin, China, home of one of the largest international ice and snow festivals in the world.

13 January 2017

Teachers blowing off stream on Friday night with a little Whatchamadrawit and a lot of wine.

2 January 2017

I woke up at 0400 jetlagged on our first day back & went for a run. Shenzhen welcomed me back with a beautiful sunrise & a farmer's market.

31 December 2016

We got a Korean Hello Kitty plane back to Hong Kong, then a first class ferry to SZ.

9 December 2016

Christmastime in Shenzhen! The pre k kids all had matching costumes, but couldn't remember any if their sings or choreography... Those teachers are sooo patient.

8 December 2016

Last dinner with Jan and lenka before they returned to Slovakia. Perfect cool fall night at Baia. Great conversation about life in Prague, future plans, & Jan's interesting past.

28 November 2016

The entire kindergarten class dressed up as Pikachu...

26 November 2016

Thanksgiving celebration! Ascend bussed us to Huizhou (beach resort town where the new boarding school will be built) for a fusion of belated thanksgiving and early Chinese New year company party. After a confusing walk and a nice Cantonese lunch we checked in. La Meriden is suuuper nice. We got a beautiful corner room with curtains that open automatically to the sea view when you pop in your room card. They sure know how to treat a guy/gal. We will miss this tradition. For now, basking in a little luxury before dinner and inevitable shenanigans.

24 November 2016

Thanksgiving dinner, BISZ style!
The Recruiting team asked to take some pictures "for the party this weekend." That is all the context that I have.

23 November 2016

View from the library on a beautiful rainy fall day.

21 November 2016

Pizza Elves!

19 November 2016

Brenda's birthday party at Poncho's! They flew in the Makinaria Orquesta band from Colombia to celebrate their one year anniversary. Halfway through the show the cops came in, hailed them all upstairs for questioning, then hauled them out! Rumor has it they were playing the gig on tourist visas, and a neighbor irritated by the noise tipped of the cops. Poncho's got slapped with a huge fine. Hope they can recover!

18 November 2016

Danielle got all of our friends out to Baia for Mushroom Madness burgers and a delicious mango cheesecake from Cupcake House (in a flamboyant pink cooler) to celebrate my birthday. I got the best one!

13 November 2016

Return to Shenzhen Garden Park, my favorite spot in Shenzhen.

3 November 2016

Went to tour the new boarding school in Guangzhou. Its massive. It looks like there's no way it will be ready on time. The crews basically camp on site, and work in 2 shifts though. At the end we stepped into the kitchen middle of the barracks where an ayi made an awesome home cooked meal. Then the project manager Sun Yushan stepped up to the stove and made some eggs and peppers! Frankie and I had a fun conversation with the driver on the way back while listening to what is quite possibly the best American pop playlist that I've ever heard, and racing eachother profanities. He was in love with America, music, women, and... WWE.

27 October 2016

Halloween at BISZ! No expense was spared. There was a 30+ parent volunteer committee that took over one of our conference rooms for 2 weeks, and eventually walled if my office with a haunted house. At the end we stayed to chaperone a movie night for the kids. Exhausting but fun!

26 October 2016

A beautiful fall morning.

14 October 2016

Trip to Guangzhou We took the bullet train to Guangzhou to file paperwork to change names on Danielle's passport. Our friends needed the same errands so we went together. Boarding the train was exciting but noxious smell in the car. Our taxi driver to the consulate gave us his opinions on GZ architecture, American gun policy, and more! The consulate (expat DMV) was beautiful, and got us out in under 2 hours. I dragged everybody through several malls looking for lunch. We hopped the subway to our Air BnB, which was a fiasco to find, but nice and amusingly Mediterranean themed on arrival. We slept, and ventured out for groceries.

25 September 2016

Amazing lunch at Michelin rated Indian buffet in the Venetian. We posted up there for a few hours of good conversation and almost overstayed... luckily there was a free shuttle from the hotel to the ferry port. Nicely arranged, Macau. A few more long lines and a bumpy sail home to begin a new week, truly refreshed.
Winding scenic bus trip across the island, past the casinos & prisons to the black sand beach! A creeper followed Christine the whole way, fascinated by the fact that she looked Chinese but wasn't Chinese. Took both me and Joseph standing right on him to scare him off.

24 September 2016

Canada annihilated Italy at the international fireworks competition. We watched from a lawn buy Macau tower, then squeezed our way into the shoulder to shoulder crowd on the waterfront. The boat serving as the pyro platform was *right there*. Incredible volume of fireworks... well worth the trip!
The alleys between old town and the casinos are packed with unlikely yet nonetheless immaculately presented niche shops including one with dried ramen noodles from all over the world. Obviously there's a hot water dispenser by the register. Everything was already decked out for Halloween, which coordinated well with all of the small incense altars at each shop, which have kind if a tombstone thing going on.
Running around old Macau We spent a big chunk of the morning cruising the border from Zhuhai (mainland) to Macau (SAR) in huge lines. Once in, we dropped our packs at clean little Peñsao Lotus (bunk beds!) and immediately found solid street eats send the further: an amazing French bakery, Portuguese sandwich shop and egg tart bakery. On to the cobblestone alleys of old town and hanging out at the charming square around the ruins of old St. Paul's cathedral.
Dinner in Zhuhai - We were all slightly more starved than exhausted after our trip, so we headed down to find dinner. We Goldilocksed our way to a nice outdoor cage and enjoyed some fantastic Chinese barbecue. A couple of local guys having a rollicking good time next to us came over 6 different times to toast us. Then they demanded our jewellery ...and started doing magic tricks. Then they wanted pictures. Lots of pictures. At all angles. Turns out they were partners in the restaurant, and wanted some photos of foreigners their for marketing game. They kept on toasting us to friendship between America & China (here you kill your entire drink at each toast), and between each other. Looking for a song we had in common, we landed on Happy Birthday. (It was noones birthday.) What a warm moment of Tsingdao Diplomacy.

23 September 2016

Night ferry to Macau & a sweet 22F Air BnB

18 September 2016

Ran into our friends Trisha and Yan on our flight home :)
Last day on the island is just as beautiful as the first. We're definitely sad to be leaving this place in a few hours.

16 September 2016

It seems like we're getting nothing but gorgeous weather this weekend and I am 100% ok with that :P It's been so nice to have some time to relax and unplug from work for a bit.

15 September 2016

A beautiful evening with a full moon to top off a lovely day.
First break if the year! For Mid Autumn Festival break we have headed to the island of Hainan to enjoy some awesome beach time at Holiday Inn Resort Yalong Bay.

14 September 2016

Clint enjoys a couple of early birthday presents from Deb.

12 September 2016

Yay!!! Package of love from Debra has finally arrived :D

9 September 2016

My Human Geography word wall may be getting a little out of hand :P

7 September 2016

Had fun today in class with a cup challenge to build collaborative skills in the kids. Have a great group of students this year :)

27 August 2016

Weekend birthday celebrating our friend Christine turning 28. Had a great time playing games (throwback game of the night: Jenga!), eating delicious shrimp, and talking.

15 August 2016

First day of school!!!

13 August 2016

Fun girls day out with my friend Victoria. So happy to have made such great friends here :)

6 August 2016

Game night! Victoria had new and old teachers over for pizza and game night. We played cards against humanity, werewolf, and historical mustaches. Much laughter ensued.

2 August 2016

Back in Shenzhen! Just in time for a typhoon to hit :P Oh well, training had to be cancelled giving us one last day of sleeping in and staying in pajamas all day before the real work begins.

19 July 2016

The final hurrah of our China summer adventure: Beijing Opera! We got to see several different acts, all of which were very interesting and involved everything from high octave singing/speaking to acrobatics. A wonderful end to a great trip!
Our last day in Beijing with Steve and Charlotte! We visited the Lama Temple and the Temple of Heaven. To be honest, it was not the nicest day for adventuring as it was positively pouring rain. We toughed it out for a few hours, but eventually retreated back to Love Bites (our super tasty restaurant from yesterday) to spend some time relaxing and enjoying each other's company.

18 July 2016

Started the day off with waffles (Beijing has the best western food in China I think), then headed out for a long and historical adventure to the Forbidden City. I looked up some additional information about the Qing dynasty and Empress Dowager Cixi on our subway ride over, which was really interesting and fun to share as a pseudo tour guide during the day. We finished off with an incredibly decadent tea at Love Bites.

17 July 2016

Today we went to the Great Wall of China. It was, sincerely, an all day affair. It took us 2 hours to get out to Jinshanling, but it was totally worth it! When I visited the Great Wall (a different section) seven years ago it was swarming with people. I was worried that on a Sunday, no matter where we were, we were going to run into the same thing. Instead, it almost felt like we had the place to ourselves! Clint researched the different sections we could go to and decided this one was the best--I couldn't agree more. We also had the most fantastic weather for it. On the drive out we were amazed at just how far Beijing's smog extended, but upon arriving at the Wall we almost had exclusively blue skies and cool breezes. We've all been surprised at how cool Beijing has been, probably 80 degrees F at the worst.

16 July 2016

Second museum stop: National Museum. Getting here was nuts! Because it's Saturday, the crowd around the subway at tiananmen was crazy. There were so many people and foot traffic was strictly controlled to certain paths. It probably took us close to an hour to get across the street and into the museum! At the National Museum we got to take a look at "Ancient China", a huge exhibit which spread from the Paleolithic 2 million years ago to the last dynasty of China, the Qing dynasty, which came to an end in 1911. We spent several hours wondering through this exhibit. The most common item seems to be wine vessels (frankly, who blamed them there?). Charlotte got a little separated from us, but is a smart traveler, and quickly found help from the staff of the museum.
Today was a day of museums! We started off by heading to Dongcheng district and visiting the National Art Museum of China. As China is celebrating its 50th Communist anniversary, there was an entire exhibition devoted to communist art and history. Political propaganda to be sure, but it was interesting to peruse and it was really intriguing to discuss propaganda in other nations' art and museums. A separate exhibit on the upper floors was of a Mexican photographer. A stark contrast to the communist art and an interesting showcase to see as Texans in Beijing (especially for Charlotte).

15 July 2016

Finished our day off back at Nanluoguxiang Hutong (or as we've lovingly nicknamed it, Hipster Hutong). We really lucked out on our hotel as its right in the middle of a really neat side of town, which is letting us try out lots of restaurants and shops. Tonight we ate at Peking Youth Hostel on the roof terrace, overlooking the hustle and bustle on the hutong (alleyway) below. Not a bad way to end the day.
After the Summer Palace, we headed to the Beijing Botanical Garden, which turned out to be a favorite outing for many! Beautiful gardens, interesting statues and art, and the most amazing vegetarian restaurant in the middle of the gardens. We were very lucky on the last point as some of us were super hungry after our very active morning.
Went to the Summer Palace this morning after breakfast. There were a lot of stairs, but the architecture was interesting and bright. Interestingly, after Tibet, some of the things we saw, such as Buddhist temples and imagery, seemed like poor imitations. It's hard to compete with monasteries that are over a thousand years old when so many things in Beijing are less than 100 (many things were originally older but were destroyed and had to be rebuilt). It's crazy to me how so many of the monuments we cherish and visit today (Summer Palace, Angkor Wat, etc) were built by leaders that we're spending carelessly and not doing right by their people. For instance, Empress Cixi wasted the navy budget on rebuilding sections of the summer palace for her 60th birthday. We value today the ruins of poor leadership decisions from the past.
Got breakfast from what looks like the most popular steam bun shop in town. We got red bean buns and these triangle ones with a molasses type filling. Enjoyed them on the stairs of the nearby Nanluoguxiang alley.

14 July 2016

We're staying in a super cute little hutong hotel in Beijing. It's in an interesting hipster kind of neighborhood. We ate at a place called Punk Rock Noodles tonight which had eastern and western food that was super tasty.
Last morning in Lhasa. We got to see the sun rise as we drove to the airport for our flight to Beijing.

13 July 2016

Tibetan music videos - The music sounds 2/3 Bollywood and 1/3 traditional Chinese. The video is pleasantly modest - just modern recordings of traditional dance on everyday city settings, out on the mountains, or in the village. Even the pop star types are pretty subdued. Nice little soundtrack for a long drive back to Lhasa through the mountains.
Tashi Lhunpo monastery in Shigatse. This was our final monastery before heading back to Lhasa. Tashi Lhunpo is one of the six largest monasteries of the Gelugpa School of Tibetan Buddhism. It was founded in 1447 by the first Dalai Lama and has the worlds largest gold-gilded bronze statue of the future Buddha, Maitreya. It's so strange to think about how we'll be going from cold, and not too crowded Tibet to hot and packed Beijing tomorrow morning.

12 July 2016

Ridiculous! A big truck had tipped over beside a village we walked through. A party of three guys, two girls decided by unspoken majority vote to watch the efforts to right the truck for the next HALF HOUR. It then was the topic of conversation several times over the next couple of hours.
Easy half day of trekking to Friendship highway this morning. No more roughing it--we're staying in a hotel tonight! Tomorrow we head back to Lhasa.
Abandoned Shoes The Tibetan countryside is littered with abandoned shoes! By the road, middle of a remote cow pasture, even becoming part of the sedimentary rock in the stream beds. Not many other clothes, equipment etc. disproportionately shoes...

11 July 2016

After zipping up the tent for the night we heard the buzz of insect wings. Probably a fly trapped under the rain fly. Hopefully not a hornet. A few minutes later another buzz on the other side. Then it became clear that there was not a motorcycle approaching in the distance, but in fact a swarm of flying insects all over the valley.
Campsite day 2! We had a little bit of wet feet this morning from all the rain last night, so we tried to erect the tents a little better this time. We're short on stakes so we've been using rocks to hold things in place :P Tomorrow's our last day of trekking and we're staying in a hotel in Shigatse before we head back to Lhasa. The "hotel" we stayed at prior to camping had ironically removed all the shower heads and attachments from the bathrooms. You could see where they used to be, but someone had obviously deemed them superfluous. So needless to say, with that experience + camping, everyone is looking forward to a nice shower.
We both fell asleep and woke up to intense rain. It was amazing in our tents overnight to have the lightning literally light up the entire tent. Around 9 it started to die down, so we broke camp and headed out. We trekked across the mountains to Ngor Monastery next! After trying yesterday's trek and hearing that this one was more demanding, Steve and Charlotte decided to sit today's out. The hike was super intense with lots of steep climbs and slippery descents. But the views along the way were outstanding. After going up and down what felt like 10 mountains, we came over the final peak and saw the red paint of Ngor Monastery in the distance. It was so beautiful next to the sky and mountains. And it was a bit of a relief to know our destination was finally near :P

10 July 2016

Our campsite! The tents are...a little tiny and cows are a little extra curious, but you can't complain about the view! Or the crowds because there aren't any :P Our campsite is actually on the edge of a tiny village. The local kids were very curious when we showed up and watched with great interest as we put up the tents. The sun up here is crazy extreme! It came out in the afternoon and with just a couple of minutes putting up our tents without sunscreen or coverage Clint got burned :(
Did some trekking today! It is definitely more intense at higher elevations than it is at lower ones. Everyone was out of breath to some extent and frequent breaks were a must. The weather was rainy overnight and we still had some clouds into the morning, but it feels like no matter the weather or direction you look, it's beautiful. We're camping tonight, so fingers crossed the rain won't return!

9 July 2016

In Gyantse, we visited the famous Pelkor Monastery and Gyantse Kumbum.
A long day of driving and seeing some beautiful sights! We drove from Lhasa to Gyantse, about 250 km. On the way, we passed through the Gampala pass (4790m), and saw the stunning Karola Glacier (my first glacier sighting!). We also had a glimpse of Yamdrok-tso (4400m). This Lake is the third largest lake in Tibet and is surrounded by many mountains. In the distance was Holy Mount Nyenchen Khangsar, (7191m) the highest mountain near Lhasa, but we were unable to see it because of the clouds. We headed westward along the lake and drove towards Gyantse. Gyantse was historically Tibet's third largest city (after Lhasa and Shigatse).

8 July 2016

In Lhasa we've eaten several meals at the delicious Dolma's discovered by Clint. In the afternoon, we headed to Sera Monastery. It was a pretty cool place to walk around, but the most interesting event was the monks having a "debate" in which the standing one would ask the seated one a question and clap once loudly if they got it right and do a backhanded clap if they got it wrong.
This morning we went to Drepung Monastery, about 30 minutes outside of where we are staying in Lhasa. This monastery was built in 1416 and over ten thousand monks resided there before Liberation, making it the largest monastery in Tibet. Large prayer wheels line the steps leading up to the monastery. Inside of the wheels are scrolls, scripture in fact, and as people pass them they spin the wheels and pray. Our conversations about Buddhism with our guide Tenzen (pictured in the last photo) have become more and more philosophical as we visit these different places. Are all people reincarnated or just Buddhists? Can you be reincarnated into the past? If the Dalai Lama is all knowing, why does he need teachers?

7 July 2016

After Johkang, we headed to Potala Palace. Potala Palace used to be the winter palace of the Dalai Lama. In Potala palace, we explored a grand myriad chapel, its audience halls, the jeweled and Golden burial chortens (stupa Tombs) of past Dalai Lamas, and a tremendous number of Buddhist frescoes, thangkas, combinations of mandala, and figures of the Buddha. No pictures are allowed inside because of government regulations, so all we have is from the outside, but it was just as stunning inside as it was outside. The climb was pretty substantial at this elevation, we have to traverse 340 steps up the front to get into the palace and then after exploring the inside, we descended down the back of the palace. We were all ready for a rest after our visit and fell asleep early at about 8 pm!
Started the day off with a visit to Johkang Temple, the spiritual center of Tibetan Buddhism, which attracts pilgrims from all over the Tibetan Area. Johkang was built during Songtsen Gonpo's reign by Princess Wencheng of the Tang dynasty in 647 A.D. We also explored the circular pilgrim route, Barkhor, while visiting Johkang Temple. Buddhists travel clockwise around the temple praying and prostrating as they go. You smell the juniper incense and hear the spoken mantras everywhere you go.

6 July 2016

Had a very busy day! Picked up Steve and Charlotte from the airport and headed back to our Airbnb at about 2 am. Then got up at 5:45 to take Deb to the airport to return to San Antonio. Went back to apartment and then a couple hours later Steve, Charlotte, Clint, and I were all headed back to the airport to take a flight to Lhasa. Lhasa is beautiful, although pretty heavily commercialized. We only had the chance to explore a little bit tonight, but it's very high energy around the city. We are staying at Yak Hotel in the Old City (where the interesting palaces and monasteries are in/close to). It's a dorm room with a shared bathroom, so it's definitely a different experience for some of our party :P

5 July 2016

Took the Fast Train from Chengdu South station to Leshan to see the world's largest Buddha! It was a hike to get to, but was enormous. In Buddhism there are three different types of Buddha statues: past Buddha, present Buddha, and future Buddha. This one is of the future Buddha. It's interesting, as well, because it is rather old and survived the destruction that a lot of other Chinese cultural relics suffered. This Buddha was built during the Tang Dynasty in the 8th century. On the way to catch the train back to Chengdu we had a very funny experience. It was pouring rain and it was tricky to get from where our taxi dropped us off and the train station was. One woman heard me speaking Chinese and I guess decided that that was enough to trust me because she asked if she could leave her belongings with us and run back to the taxi lot. We said sure, but it turns out one of her belongings was her son! She said to him, "I am your mother, this is my sister (me), you stay with sister, ok?"
Last day with Deb :'( We first visited the well known Giant Panda Breeding Research Base a little outside of Chengdu. Crews and researchers help pandas breed and care for the young in a safe environment. Pandas usually have 1-2 babies at a time. In the wild, if a panda has two then the mother will choose one baby to take care of and let the other one die. In the research center they're able to ensure the survival of both offspring. It's obvious that they have been much more successful here than we have in the states as they have 70+ pandas.

4 July 2016

Had a fun day back in Chengdu. First we rode the subway (Deb's first Chinese subway!) across town to buy train tickets for going to Leshan tomorrow. That was an experience in and of itself, taking about an hour with crazy lines. Next we headed to Wenshu Monastery, one of the most important Zen Buddhist monasteries in Chengdu. It was originally constructed during the Sui Dynasty, but has been destroyed and rebuilt many times since. We thoroughly enjoyed strolling around and then had a vegetarian buffet lunch on site. In the evening we headed to Kuanzhai "ancient street" where there was lots of food and trinkets for sale. There we caught a Sichuan Opera (changing masks dance) as well as seeing a tea pouring act, an impressive balancing act that involved sticks and a feather, and a rather comical (accidentally) shadow puppet show.

3 July 2016

Cooking class!! We took a Tibetan cooking class on our way out of Jiuzhaigou (never waste a minute of time, right??) as we had a later flight back to Chengdu. We each chose our own dish to cook and then enjoyed the splendors for lunch. Clint cooked Mama's potatoes, Deb cooked a mushroom dish over Chinese cabbage, and I cooked a mixed vegetable dish with barley and special nuts that only grow at high altitude. Another family's two sons, Greg and Chris, joined us and both cooked yak dishes. Deb said Yak tastes a lot like Bison (I can't comment on either :P).
Our last morning with Ah Ma at Zhuo Ma's Hostel. We will definitely miss the homemade food, faint smell of woodsmoke, and just peacefulness of place. The hospitality from Ah Ma and Gege has been outstanding.

2 July 2016

We went to beautiful Shenxianchi (Fairy Pool) on Sunday. It was much smaller than the Jiuzhaigou park but also had much fewer people. Large calcium deposits have thin layers of water trickling over them in a truly spectacular way. It was a 1.5 hour drive one way, over some pretty impressive terrain, but was very much worth it.
After a late morning, Gege speed us up to the fairy pools. The drive was beautiful and we passed several herds of yak and Tibetan tents down in the valley. The gesture if the park is a vast, gentle cascade of limestone with a thin sheet of water gently rippling down over the surface, which is gradually building it up like stalacmites in a cave. In some places there are pulsing waves almost like a tide. The cascade is fed by blue calcium dammed lakes higher up in the valley.

1 July 2016

Gege has a way of dropping our repeating English with startling volume and timing. Catch phrase: "ooookay!" It's never clear whether he's messing with you or learning. He drives us through the hairpin mountain roads at speed passing cars, waving at townsfolk, blasting Mandopop. Danielle taught him how to play Spot It. We try to call out in Mandarin, he tries in English. Really fun. He's a natural.
Tibetan medicine Deb hurt her ankle on the trail. Nothing we tried helped, so we decided to ask Ama for help. She did not disappoint, whipping out a basin, a clutch of unidentifiable herbs, and a huge kettle of boiling water off the wood stove. We convinced Deb to power through the pain by pointing out that Chinese medicine is 60% tough love, 20% boiling water, and10% dried organisms.
Mountain Reef When wood falls into the calcium rich water at Jiuzgiagou it starts to grow algae. That all eventually calcifies, building up and rounding off the forms of the branches. In the blue water it looks astonishingly like coral in the Caribbean... in the mountains of China.
Jiuzhaigou Day 2 Vastly more crowded in a weekend. We started by taking the bus up the hill then walking down, but ended hill just walking up again. Hired through more beautiful pools & waterfalls (including one that had run dry!), finally stopping for lunch in the forest. At the end if the day we were stopped short of our goal of Swan Lake by the closing of the park.
Breakfast at Zhouma's: 1. Yak butter tea (w/ barley flour) 2. Double sided fried egg 3. Fresh baked barley bread with yak butter & homemade honey. 4. Aero pressed coffee w/ Yangshuo honeycomb All enjoyed in Ama's parlour next to the wood burning stove. Prefect way to start the (10 mile) day!

30 June 2016

Jiuzhaigou Day 1 Gege whipped us into the park early after saying farewell to the young Mandarin students. We breezed through the ticket line, passed all of the suckers waiting for the bus, and stayed trekking the boardwalk fit path. It was a beautiful ascent through dense dark forest alongside a churning blue steam, then up through a mountain meadow. From there it was crystal blue lake, stunning corona of falls, rushing rapids, repeat all the way up the canyon. This may well be the most beautiful place on earth, combining the striking sapphire waters of the tropical ocean with the crisp, clean, cool of the mountains.

29 June 2016

Oh my god, I'm in love with our new place in Jiuzhaigou! We're staying at Zhuo Ma's guesthouse just outside the park and it couldn't be more beautiful and peaceful. Bold, colorful prayer flags were seen dotting the mountainside on our drive in from the airport. Even the fly in was a dramatic sea of mountains, one of which we landed on!! Zhuo Ma is away so Ah Ma is taking care of us. We started our stay with a welcoming cup of tea meant to sooth the stomach and head from any discomfort caused by the elevation (3200 meters). We then wandered around the village for a bit before returning and having an excellent dinner of potatoes, pickled cabbage, and sautéed lettuce with rice. We got to watch Ah Ma harvest everything from their garden and I have a feeling food is all really locally sourced here. Everything feels so bright and happy. I can't wait to explore the park tomorrow.

28 June 2016

Because of our delayed flight, we only got one day in Chengdu before heading to Jiuzhaigou. We made the best of it, though, and after our hot pot lunch we visited Wuhou Shrine. Wuhou Shrine is dedicated to Liu Bei (emperor during the brief Shu dynasty) and Zhuge Liang, his primary advisor. There were also a many other statues of Liu Bei's court and those that aided him in his defense of the country, including Zhang Fei. After Wuhou Shrine we wandered along Jinli pedestrian street. This was actually the coolest walking street I've seen so far as the landscaping was done so nicely. The layout did turn out to be a bit of a maze, though, and we wandered for a good 30 minutes before finding out way back out. Lastly, we visited Baihuatan Park. This park was beautiful with different sections such as a bamboo forest, ancient banyan tree, and magnificent potted plants that were almost more art than garden. We ended the night with some much needed family time, wine, and conversation :)
Finally got everything sorted and made our new flight to Chengdu at 10am today. We celebrated by going out for Hot Pot lunch. An exciting (and spicy) first for Deb in which a spicy broth is heated in the middle of the table and you order things to boil in it. We got an assortment of mushrooms, seaweed, two kinds of tofu, a green noodle of some kind, and radish. It was super tasty.

27 June 2016

When we missed our flight the gate attendants sprang to action to help us. They offered us a free room, transportation, and meals. Not bad! A confusing bus ride later we ended up at another super dingy resort of last resort. The staff was unhappy to see foreigners without boarding passes, but was quickly distracted by a shouting argument with some stranded local travelers. The traveler angrily threw her key card on the front desk, berated the clerk, then retrieved the card to repeat the gesture. Then did it again! Heading to our rooms, the wallpaper was wallpapered with black mold and peeling off the walls. A confused delivery boy brought us an unexpected order of sketchy pork bone takeout (complimentary dinner). We left immediately to explore Guilin.
We walked along the river and passed Elephant Rock and the pagodas. Guilin has a pretty downtown, featuring sprawling tree lined promenade along the river that are flattered by sunset and twilight. We passed through a rich and vibrant food market on the way to Deb's first Indian dinner!
Incredible construction near Guilin airport... wonder why this place is growing so fast.
When we tried to check in for our flight from Guilin to Chengdu the gate clerks were shocked... that flight doesn't exist! Apparently it was cancelled weeks ago and nobody notified us. Oops. Extra day in Guilin. Of course, Danielle had plans ready to go 😁
This device silences the seatbelt warning in your car by activating the buckle sensor. Safety first!

26 June 2016

We took a long tail "bamboo" raft on a loop down the Li river. The impressive cliffs on its banks are featured on the ¥20 and a famous brand of cigarettes. At one point our pilot offered to pull us over to play on the river stone banks... for an extra ¥200. When we disembarked, there was an old lady with a yoke of cormorants! They have amazing sparkling blue & green eyes.
Healthy breakfast at an awesome Yoga Cafe called Mood Food.

25 June 2016

Dinner sunset and shopping along West street. Yes, that is iced yogurt served to adults in baby bottles.
Long cycle to Moon hill, with a quick water stop at a great open air roadside cafe. Looong hike up Moon hill. We almost lost Deb, if not for the tender encouragement that only a team of young Canadian linguists can provide. Some cute if not very aggressive Ayis sold us cold water at the top. We stopped for mango smoothies at Chinese La Fogata, then took a long super scenic ride back along the river. In town, we got lost in getting lost. You know at the circus where a bear wearing a hat rides a tiny bicycle around? My bike situation was like that act, if produced by Lance Armstrong and Satan. We were sooo glad to see our hostel. Whatever I said about LiQ was misinformed-out it's the most refreshing liquid on the planet.

24 June 2016

We fought off car sickness on a winding 3 hr bus from Dazhai to Yangshuo, walked through a serene park between the Karsts, hauled a cab and bumped to the pleasantly hipster Sudder Street guesthouse on the edge of town. We enjoyed the view, got Deb a little tipsy on her first Chinese beer, then hopped a taxi into town for the amazing Impressions water show. Along the way we made friends with Ben (fraud detective) and Ronda (museum curator) from Sydney.
World's longest cable car up to a glass catwalk at Tianmen. The line was insane. There is a huge building just to hold it. Really good people watching-since its so popular, it draws all kinds. Once you finally get there, the cable car sweeps you over the city rooftops and over a vast canyon up to a massive mountain. After another massive line, we donned our booties and made our way over a glass catwalk with a stunning view of the canyon.

23 June 2016

Tried to catch a good sunrise at scenic spot #3: Golden Buddha Peak. Unfortunately all these beautiful pesky terraces keep getting in the way. Invited our new friend Stine along on the hike to the peak. Had a great time until we were headed home and took a sliiiigggghhhht wrong turn and had to back track uphill about 30 minutes. Whoops. It's super easy to get turned around up here, but the isolation is part of what makes it so neat.
Met a woman from Denmark today named Stine. She came along with us to scenic spot number 2: Dajie Thousand Layer Terraces. Pro from our hike: we learned a lot about the Denmark education and political system which was super cool. Con from our hike: the sun was surprisingly intense (especially compared to Zhangjiajie) and almost everyone got some level of sunburn :(
Sunrise over the rice paddies at Music of Heaven, Dazhai!

22 June 2016

After hustling out of Tianmen we made our flight to Guilin. A really nice driver picked us up and taught us some Mandarin a we drive. We crossed some beautiful Wisconsin grade farm country then bumped over chug holes, around hairpins, and through grateful little villages along a beautiful stream into the mountains. From there we made a STEEP hike up the stone step switchbacks asserting the paddies trying to find our hostel. Deb kicked a snake in the face! Once we finally found it and got settled, Danielle and I savored a legit western hostel dinner overlooking the paddies. Everyone slept REAL well.

21 June 2016

Gentleman's farm across the river. This little old guy has it figured out. Every evening around sunset he'd step out onto the patio of his newly immaculate retro styled plantation house onto his patio and check on the healthy plants in his tiered garden. In the morning we'd watch his flock of chickens make the trek down the cobbled path past the banana trees to forage around the old stone barn and the rice fields below.
Deb's first Chinese ice cream! We got it on our way back down from Huangshizhai in the cable car house. The cones were made right in front of us and it was super delicious! We also got our first peak at a truly blue sky! It felt so wonderful after days of shades of gray.
Hiked up Huangshizhai (Yellow Stone Village) today. It was beautiful, but super intense. We hiked over 200 flights of stairs (that's 2000+ individual stairs). The view from the top was amazing, though, and made it all worth it. We could see out in all kinds of directions and there were so many amazing sandstone towers and caves to admire. We walked around the top of the mountain (which, it turns out, didn't seem to be a village at all). Many fewer people seem to come here than some of the other sites at Zhangjiajie and we were practically the only ones on the trail up. It was super peaceful after so many days of crowds.

20 June 2016

After Baofeng Lake we headed to Golden Whip Stream where we walked along the river. There were tons of monkeys all over (probably because of all the tourists and guides that feed them despite the signs). One actually jumped on yo Clint's back to try to grab what he thought was food!! Clint totally freaked and whipped around so it was a temporary assault. In one of the pictures you can see him pointing accusingly at his assailant :P
Baofeng Lake Long hike through the canyons to a beautiful lake that you can take a hokey medieval electric boat through. Singers popped out of little barges along the route to serenade us. It was beautiful in the rain and mist.

19 June 2016

Tonight we went and saw the neatest show called Charming Hunan. There was singing and dancing and even acrobatics! For an unbelievably low price we got stellar seats right at the front. A very memorable performance.
We had the most fantastic time at Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon today! It was a steep climb down, with hundreds of stairs below us and a glass bridge above us (closed currently). It was a wet day which only added to a sense of peril during our descent. Just when it seemed like the stairs would never end, we hit an expected stop in the middle of the forest: a giant slide! You bought a ticket, got basically a pillowcase with strings to tie around your legs and waste, and then proceeded to slide down a series of tunnels that led down the way. It was so much fun!! At the bottom we were greeted by a beautiful, huge waterfall and a river with steep rock walls on either side. We walked along the peaceful trail until we hit a boat that we took to get out. The whole thing felt like something out of a story.

18 June 2016

We hiked through Zhangjiajie this morning on a tip from the innkeeper. You take an incredible cable car ride right through a pass in the sandstone peaks. From there, the park bus system's maniac drivers whip you through hairpin turns and misty alpine scenery to the next hub of stunning views of the sandstone spires, hundreds some even a thousand meters tall. They were created by sandstone building up, then iron being deposited atop that, masking the underlying sandstone from the downward forces of erosion. It is popular for newlyweds to tie red ribbons and padlocks to the railings as a testament of love. You may have noticed--the dragon fight scene from Avatar was inspired by this place.
Had an absolutely amazing time today at Zhangjiajie National Park with Deb and Clint. We saw Tianzi mountain (天子山)and the Avatar/Hallelujah mountains (袁家界山). Our original plan was to relax today and do the mountains tomorrow, but it may be rainy so we flipped the plan around a bit. Glad I have such flexible travelers with me :) We took the cable car up the mountain and then explored for several hours before heading back to our guesthouse. Some top features: the stunning sandstone outcrops, the nature bridge (天生桥) which is allegedly the largest of its kind, a lock wall where couples write their names on a lock and then hang it along the wall the stretches along the mountain, and the lack of humidity! The weather here is absolutely wonderful compared to what we've gotten used to in SZ. More adventuring up tomorrow.
Danielle booked a great little hostel called Long Quan in Zhangjiajie. The in keepers brother waited at the airport for hours, and after a whipping bucking hairpin ride into the mountains, delivered us to a tidy lodge and our triple with a huge balcony over the river. We slept like baby kings on our new foam mattresses, listening to the river rush by below through the open windows.
Long Quan Inn! Prefect little hostel in Wulingyuan right on the edge of Zhangjiajei. There was a great yoga deck overlooking mountains and paddies off our third floor triple. At night you can leave the windows open for mountain air and the sound of the flowing river. Our tireless innkeeper Wendy was an angle of arranging day trips, picking veggies from the on site garden, and browsing the troops. Her Ayi and Gege fixed tea and deliciously simple homestyle breakfasts and dinners in the old skool China open air kitchen, and even carried it up to the balcony for us! The beds and linens were fantastic, and well provisioned with outlets.

17 June 2016

The great China adventure begins!! Deb is here and we're at the Shenzhen airport fixing to head to our first stop: Zhangjiajie 张家界 :)

15 June 2016

Last day of school hot pot celebration at Yifang's apartment. Good food and even better company. Gonna miss these people. Until August BASIS fam!

14 June 2016

Celebration of the last day of teaching! Tomorrow is our final school day which is mostly made up of different awards ceremonies. Tonight we went out to Bubba's in Seaworld to celebrate completing our first year as the first international BASIS school.

10 June 2016

Last Friday of school! Went out with friends for food and drinks to celebrate.

9 June 2016

Some of my cutie pies from project week so far. Victoria and I have teamed up to do a Seussical Adventure!

7 June 2016

Japanese dinner with our volleyball friends! This place popped up practically overnight on the busiest street that runs through Shekou. This happens surprisingly often. One day you'll go to a business, the next day it's gone, one day you'll walk by one place, the next day it's somewhere totally different :P It was delicious.

4 June 2016

Had a great night celebrating our friend Erica's impending nuptials. We started off at Pancho's Mexican restaurant. Then most people went their separate ways while I continued on with Trisha, Erica, Jenn, and Kate to the Office (a bar, not work :P), then dancing at Club Arriz, then searching for a salsa club (that we never did find), and finally ending the night at KTV karaoke. We finally headed home at 3am!! That's the latest I've stayed out my whole time in China. It was such a blast though :) It almost made up for how miserable I felt the next day!

3 June 2016

Drinks at Bombays to end the loooong workweek.

30 May 2016

1st-3rd grade musical called Squirm at school! It was super cute :)

27 May 2016

Went out with friends to the Seaworld and went to the top of the boat restaurant there. We happened to accidentally time it with the water show. We had the best view on the house for it!

20 May 2016

Continuing birthday month with a weekend in Hong Kong!! Clint planned a fantastic trip to our neighboring city including a visit to the science museum, history museum, a super fancy tea place for lunch, a movie!!! (he hates the theater so it's an extra act of love), a visit to the Ladies Market Street, and a stop at my favorite cosmetic shop Lush :D

17 May 2016

Happy birthday to me! Second birthday celebrated in Asia (first one was in Bali back in 2011), but first time while living abroad. Got lots of cards from my kiddos and lots of extra spoiling (including an ice cream cake!!) from my husband. With the first weekend of May in Nanjing and last weekend in Kuala Lumpur I'm really making it into kind of a month of celebrations :P

14 May 2016

Got away for the weekend with my girls Brenda and Victoria. Victoria's mom lives and works in Kuala Lumpur so we all went for a quick girls trip. Brenda and I went hiking on Bukit Tabur and visited Batu Caves on Saturday. So humid!!! We were both soaked by the end. But the view at both places was totally worth it! Would love to go back again some time.

2 May 2016

Our last day in Nanjing! We woke up to a cloudy day, grabbed breakfast, and then were caught in a massive downpour. We took the metro to the Nanjing Massacre Memorial where Clint ended up having to purchase an outrageously priced umbrella and we lined up outside with 100s of other tourists--almost all Chinese. Inside was an intense scene and we ended up having a long conversation afterwards over lunch. In the afternoon we headed over to the Nanjing Museum. Honestly after three days of intense walking we were both pretty spent, and there was lots of sitting to accompany our art, crafts, and history appreciation. The museum is actually pretty funny, as it's set up similar to an enormous museum gift shop. No really. Almost every exhibit you go in you can buy similar art right there. We must admit we caved to this and ended up purchasing two paper cuts (from the gentleman pictured).

1 May 2016

Got massages to end our second day in Nanjing. Massages are different in China: sometimes a foot massage is really your whole body, sometimes it's just your feet and legs. Sometimes a whole body massage is everything, sometimes they skip your feet! This time we got whole body massages and were really looking forward to the leg/foot part after two big walking days. 60 minutes later we discovered that feet weren't part of the deal 😭 So we got a second massage (hey, we're on vacation) for just our feet and legs. During the foot massage we ended up having a delightful conversation in Chinese with the masseuse ladies. Usually it went pretty well but we had one hilarious dialogue that didn't in which they mistakenly thought for a moment that we either hated Obama or just black people in general. Lol, talk about an enormous misunderstanding 😜 We definitely cleared that one up but there was lots of "what?? No!!!" and laughter along the way.
Went to Swallow Rock and and Xuanwu Lake park today after Yuejiang Tower. A little too crowded for our taste, but it was really awesome to be right next to the Yangtze River, 长江 Chang Jiang in Chinese (the longest river in Asia and third longest in the world, the Chinese name actually literally means long river). 长江很厉害!
Went to Yuejiang Tower in the morning. It was absolutely fantastic. Surrounding the temple, located on 狮子山, is an impressive wall that dates back to the Ming dynasty. The Tower itself was actually designed during the same time, but the building itself did not come to fruition until 2001 with the largest donation ever from a wealthy Chinese businessman. The architecture, art, and view were spectacular.

30 April 2016

The "confucius temple" is just a huge shopping complex. It was packed shoulder to shoulder NIOSA style. We stopped into a food market hoping to find some xiaochi ("small foods") which looked awesome and authentic. We tried stinky tofu, spicy crawfish, and Japanese seafood fritters. After dinner, we couldn't leave that crowd fast enough. There was a 500 person line to take a lap in a dragon boat, and thousands more milling around and shopping.... crazy! We decided to walk home, and broke some personal records on our step counter apps.
The gardens at the Ming Tombs are incredibly beautiful, serene, and charming. We sat and strolled through them for a long time. There was almost no one there around sunset, which was a welcome relief from the throngs all over the rest of the park.
The Ming Tombs are a huge mall of monuments also inside Zhongshan park to emperors from the 15th-17th centuries. We got lost coming down the mountain and backtracked for several miles before starting down the shaded, manicured boulevards lined with huge stone statutes that lead through the gates of the complex. The scale of the construction is incredible, which I just learned is not an edifice of nouveau riche modern China, but goes back millennia.
Sun Yat Sen's Tomb (Zhongshan Ling 中山陵) We hiked along a beautiful tree lined boulevard all the way through Zhongshan park, then up the massive stairway to the top to Sun's tomb. The scale of all of it is incredible. We had a beautiful sunny day. Everyone wanted to take selfies with us. Then, back down the stairs to climb up the back of the mountain on unreasonably slick stone stairs to see the peak then descend through the other sites in the park.
Best breakfast we've had in China at a mom n pop across from Purple Mountain metro stop (which has an awesome space themed station for it's "culture metro" 🍜😍 | 🎭 🚇

25 April 2016

Rolled handmade ice cream on a tropical night at Taiwan Gourmet Street. They put condensed milk on a frozen plate, chop in fruit, tape & float out onto another ice grill, flash freeze it, then scrape up little rolls. Delicious.

24 April 2016

Wait... which morning are we having? 2 hours later we were sunbathing with banana daquiris on the roof... 🍌🍹🌞

23 April 2016

We wandered Nanhai looking for a karate shop that Danielle was hunting. It didn't exist. After ignoring their hawkers for months, we reversed, snatched a flyer, and went to check out another gym. It turned out too be more of an active construction site in a notably sketchy building. Their project manager was a madman... No lights or drywall, crew bunks in the middle of the whole mess. But themarketing team had matching polos and a sign-up sheet, detail woodwork & machines had all been placed weeks before, and the pool was sparking. After 10 minutes of misunderstanding repeating, and retranslating, they asked us to write our number down so they could call us when it was ready....

16 April 2016

When you are accustomed to, yet do not have a backyard.... We pitched our Ikea beach camp on the roof trying to get some sun. Not bad!

11 April 2016

So street QVC is a common street and market phenomenon here--and tonight we finally jumped in. Usually it's a young hustler with a loud branded polo, hip speaker, flossing table and some crazy props doing his best Billy Mays. Our man here was blending unrecognizable fruits, hot soymilk, banging on the plastic carafe with a hammer, and PLUNGING THE RUNNING BLENDER INTO A TUB OF WATER with his hands. He really wanted me to touch it add water lashed out if the motor. No thanks. We managed to make some legit all natural PB without burning out up... can't wait for Pina Coladas on a hot afternoon!

9 April 2016

Headed to Ikea... fun but absurd.

7 April 2016

You can buy Star Wars gold jewelry here.

5 April 2016

Stopped to check out new vegan restaurant right by work. They beckoned us in and sat us at an enormous 12 seat table ... just to order, then ushered us upstairs. Amazing food, nice looking place. Probably made us horribly sick. Avoid? Or continue, knowing our immune systems can handle their sanitation issues?

4 April 2016

THIS is how you green wash your city.

3 April 2016

The day started off really foggy, but then it cleared off and was beautiful. A great day of relaxing and reading next to the beach :)
There is *literally* a fog horn going off on the distance.

2 April 2016

Weekend getaway to Daimeisha! 💸🚍 🚖 🌴🍹🌅🏩😍😍😍

26 March 2016

LOVELY day after a long rainy week of rain. We crawled out to an Italian lunch at Oggi (great location right on the water front) a stroll down the seawall & boardwalk, import grocery shopping, and a meander through the park.

18 March 2016

KTV w/ Laowai We went to KTV, for the first time with our western friends. All of the bros bailed, so it turned out to be girls night + Clint, which was fine. Aside from me, the group was entirely elementary & music teachers--fearless karaoke dream team!

11 March 2016

2nd Anniversary Dinner at 360 in the Shangri La Hotel in Futian. Per tradition, it was uncomfortably cold on our anniversary, but the last cold one yet! After work, we bucked an hour across town with the angriest bus driver in Shenzhen, shoved our way through the cavernous, polished, but bafflingly unpowered turnstile door, and swooshed up a swanky gold elevator to the 31st floor. 360 boasts fantastic views of Shenzhen, and swank retro interior of red velvet chairs, white leather paneling, and illuminated marble tables. We savored martinis & good European seafood, discussed childhood, family, future travel plans, and laughed at the on the nose presentation of Danielle's truffled mushroom soup. On the way out we picked up Shenzhen craziest taxi driver who floored it, whipping us across lanes, shouting smalltalk, halting abruptly for a roadside piss. A couple of u-turns later and we were home safe, and immediately asleep. Not bad!

5 March 2016

A good night studying and planning in our tiny ApartmentOne. Lilting SinoPop karaoke, delicious garlic food smells and aromas of tropical flowers take turns drifting through the open fifth floor windows on a cool evening breeze.

4 March 2016

Fun dinner with the lovely and talented Crys Mitchell at the lovely and talented The Vegetarian Restaurant in The Sea World. Spring nights here are amazing.
A friend actually found this.
We were hauling ass to work when Danielle suddenly doubled back... dig dirt out of a very public flower bed at a mall with a piece off broken glass, and pour it into a sandwich bag (she had stashed for this explicit purpose) to the horror & befuddlement of several Chinese commuters and her husband.

27 February 2016

Mangrove Park is a huge bayside boardwalk and manicured topical park. Shenzhen International Garden Expo is a vast hybrid public park / botanical garden full of beautiful but poorly maintained fountains, sculptures, and dozens of walled gardens representing styles from all over China. Really beautiful place- hard to find your way out of.

24 February 2016

2016 Winter Wonderland Lantern Festival Many of the teachers had cool pictures of this... but we weren't sure what it was when Trisha invited us. We grabbed cheap soup then a scenic kuaididi along the bay-- parkways neatly & thoroughly lined with red lanterns. The entrance to OCT was stunning--a giant UFO alighted on a vast park of synced fountains. We curved along the river through a giant tunnel of lights and lanterns. Off to the left a swashbuckling amusement park show of fireballs, lasers, & holograms projected in a 3 story spray of water raged on quietly. Through the main gate, a wall of flashing LEDs and animations tricked onto the first parts of lame kids characters. That opened to a huge stage of clowns spinning plates. We passed to a giant floating scene with every imaginable totem of CNY. We followed the snaking galleries of tunnels of lanterns and themed exhibits; Journey West, Hanuman, under the sea, flowers, cannons.... The scale and creativity were simply amazing.

22 February 2016

Happy Lantern Festival! Shenzhen is a war zone of continuous residential fireworks displays tonight. It seems like people are setting them off from public courtyards amongst the high rises. It seems crazy and definitely something that wouldn't be possible in America, especially given the thick air pollution today. I've yet to look up what the holiday is about exactly... heard it compared to Chinese Valentine's day (2/22--get it?) but people seem to spend it with their families... Earlier I thought we wouldn't be able to sleep, but now it's a little lonely that the action has died down our faded off to livelier pockets of the city.
English class was so much fun today. After a baffling article about the multi-party war in Syria, we lightened up into a scenario based on shopping after teaching the teachers words like discount, off brand, tacky etc and had them shop for "clothes" (pieces of plastic) at the "stores" (desks)in the "mall" "classroom" stringing together as many of the words as they could. They were so cute pretending, and also reading a Maya Angelou poem about seductive feminine swagger.

21 February 2016

Evergreen Resort We strolled up a beautiful manicured knoll, then climbed a maze of switchback and bridges down through a Jurassic rainforest valley full of birds, fish, and impressively detailed concrete dinosaurs. Then up a pagoda laden granite mountain path, then briefly into the brush for a panoramic view of the port. This place is a delightfully weird hybrid of public park, botanical garden, zoo, and amusement park, complete with fishing ponds, a ropes course, tofu factory, tea house, and of course fake dinosaurs and live animals. Very Shenzhen.

14 February 2016

Shenzhen Central Park After a lazy morning of reading, groceries and breakfast we decided that we needed to focus the tourist zeal of our Tokyo trip into our (lately workaday) Shenzhen life. We picked the flower market as a destination and experimented with all-Chinese Baidu maps as our guide and headed off to the 113... to the wrong place-just some back alley flower stand. Oops! After more confusion, we decided to walk. Though sketchy at first, the pedestrian route got us close to a green spot oh the map and we decided to cut through. We took a few paths and found a greenway, strikingly similar to San Antonio's mission reach. We cut through an adjacent park, which turned out to be SZ Central Park. It was gorgeous, & huge. There are several lakes w/ observation pagodas, bridges, sculptures, and in classic China style, endless landscaping & flower beds. From there we hit the flower market, full of cut flowers, nursery plants, and every kind of pet imaginable.

6 February 2016

Just finished my first 100% Chinese (no English, no pinyin book) and not gonna lie, pretty proud of myself. It was a murder mystery about a pair of twins. It's from a company called Chinese Breeze that makes "graded readers", so each story only has a limited number of unique characters that are repeated so you build confidence with a small number instead of learning a whole bunch of new characters at once. It's a great idea, really, for reading a book in any foreign language. It was nice to have it be a more grown up story, too, instead of having to resort to little children's books (much as I love them!) for reading.

3 February 2016

What a small world! We met our friend Ping while traveling in Thailand. It turns out she moved to Zhuhai (which is just a ferry ride away from Shenzhen) and was visiting Shenzhen with a friend. She texted me and we ended up getting dinner together at a vegetarian restaurant in Sea World. It's interesting how some people that you meet when traveling end up being lasting friends and some end up being just a single moment in your life. One really fun thing about dinner was that Ping and her friend speak almost no English! It really ended up being a 3 hour, almost 100% Chinese conversation. It was challenging, but so fun! And it doesn't hurt my brain as much as it used to to communicate just in Chinese :P Maybe I'll end up getting a good grip on this beautiful language after all :)

30 January 2016

Chinese New Year celebration at school! It was super fun with calligraphy, dumplings, sugar sculptures, a delicious dinner, and both a Sichuan mask dance and martial arts performance. Talk about spoiled! It was so great to see how excited our Chinese coworkers were about sharing everything. It's really like Christmas so them. Clint commented that with the feelings in the air, it's kind of like second Christmas: the feeling of excitement, the masses of people leaving town, the lights and decorations everywhere. I'm really happy we've gotten to experience a small slice of this.
Chinese New Year's party at the school! They set up activities for us including dough sculpture, paper cutting, calligraphy, beard candy, and dumpling making. Then we transitioned to tables for a hot pot feast, lots of wine, and a raffle. They gave away some Apple gadgets, but more amusingly 2-3 dozen car air purifiers. Virtually nobody has a car, and the purifiers only have car plugs. Our favorite custodian won an iPhone which was cool to see. We brought Dezhen, who seemed quite happy to get a Chinese banquet in his fist day back.

29 January 2016

Mexican night number two! Back at Victoria and Anthony's. Super delicious food (some cooked by my amazingly talented laogong) and fun times hanging with peeps. Yifang even brought some homemade yogurt, which made for a delicious treat at the end of the meal.
It's Chinese New Year time here in Shenzhen and it's been fascinating to learn/experience some of the customs that go with it. At school we put up a "wishing tree" and students write down their wishes and tape them to the tree. Everything from I wish to grow taller to I wish for a sister to I wish for good grades :P It was super cute. As I was taking pictures of the tree some of my custodian friends came up to take pictures too and they wanted some with us together in them. I'd really like to hang out with them sometime outside of work, but they don't speak any English and I'm afraid my Chinese listening skills aren't good enough yet. Perhaps that's just a silly self-imposed limitation though. 新年快乐!

24 January 2016

I spent the last few cold rainy weekend trying to learn Chinese cooking. This was my only success--pockets of eggs, dried shrimp, and garlic chives. Danielle calls them Chinese calzones. They are delicious.

22 January 2016

Went to a restaurant called Chili Party with our friend Peter from work tonight. They have really delicious Sichuan cuisine, like this big bowl of peppers we got that has tofu, eggplant, mushrooms, and cabbage mixed in. The Sichuan pepper is super different than peppers back home. It's still spicy, but actually has a numbing effect, so your lips feel tingly after eating things that have been cooked with them. I can't wait to try Sichuan food in Chengdu this summer when we travel around China! On a different note, a "winter vortex" has hit southern China. Our Chinese friend posted something on our school wechat group the other day that had all these curse words about winter coming. She was mortified when she found out what it actually said :P But everyone is kind of freaking out over how cold it is (the low will get all the way down to the forties!) and buying space heaters and refusing to go out. It's kind of silly...but we're totally buying into it too. Space heater: bought.

14 January 2016

All of our BASIS Shenzhen family together for picture time! In a hilarious turn of events, our individual pictures ended up looking really ridiculous. It seems that they only know how to photoshop for Chinese faces here, as all the white people ended up looking horribly sunburned in their photos!

12 January 2016

Dinner down the alley next to RenRen (local grocery store). The area appears to be called "Taiwan Gourmet Street". Food we had tonight was okay (soup first and then some kind of stinky tofu with cabbage), but there's so many options here and it's so close to our apartment that we already have plans to return. They also have some enticing looking ice cream options...:D

11 January 2016

Meanwhile, walking home from work. #keepshenzhenweird or something

10 January 2016

Sunday morning walk resulted in finding a tiny car and TWO outdoor markets (they do exist here!). I love that it feels like there's always new places to explore here. Missing home, though, after being spoiled with several weeks back in SA :(

7 January 2016

Class picture day!

3 January 2016

First meal back in Shenzhen with the longest noodle ever at our favorite Korean restaurant.

7 December 2015

Christmas shopping at Coastal City mall! We hit up the Japanese 10 kuai store for stocking stuffers, and a preview of Japan, which kicked off the nostalgia. The American consumer environment triggers childhood Christmas excitement reflexes prematurely. Here I began to worry that in the absence of queues, Christmas cheer would pass me by. Not so - a chilly night and a glitzy mall with terrible Christmas muzak engaged the childhood excitement. I bailed on Forever 21 and discovered the bounty of Uniqlo. We passed the creative market unimpressed, then enjoyed some delicious Thai tofu, and Danielle double fisting hot teas before a looong walk home.

4 December 2015