Saying Farewell

Obviously, I left this place hanging a little. I put off writing this for months. Not really sure why. I think it was because I didn’t really want to admit that it was time to say goodbye. That our time here was REALLY “over”. China was home my home away from home. Always different, always strange, but home, nonetheless. I am one of those who wants to bury my head in the sand anytime change is coming and that is what I did during this move. I took it as it came, little step by little step got me back to the US. I purposely never took time to think about what was really happening.

Sometimes it feels like it was all a dream. And sometimes it feels like I’m just waiting out an extended vacation before I get on a plane and fly back to China. But I’m not. At least not for a very long time. That chapter has closed for now.

And it’s time for a new chapter. Ready or not. Lots of times in the last few months, I have felt the “not”.

I do not plan to abandon this blog. There are many stories and photos and reflections that did not make it here when they happened. It all happened so fast.

And yet, I think the thing I have struggled with the most is the pace of life back here in America. Everyone has so much to do! And you are expected to accomplish 10 things in a day. Grocery store, bank, post office, lunch with friends, shopping, cooking, and laundry. In China, it’s an accomplishment to check off one, and a rockin’ awesome day to knock out two! But all those things that should be so easy, are somehow so overwhelming.

Grocery stores are huge, and everything is wrapped in plastic, or metal, or cardboard. (yuk!) And it’s hard to explain to someone who has always done it this way why it’s now hard for me. I did it for years. It’s “normal”, right? Nothing changed here. (Except the prices! Holy cow, inflation!)

Nothing changed but me.

Room service ordeal

The night we arrived in Vietnam we stayed in a hotel. We were all starving so we decided to order room service. I was voted to call and order. Kensley wanted bolognese. It’s pronounced boe-la-nese. She read it as it was spelled. We all got a kick out of that.

I called to order and the guy answered. First, he could hardly speak English. Second, I had called the local operator, not the hotel room service. I told him I wanted to order room service and he said, “We busy. Call back fifteen minutes.” My reply was, “can I not tell you my order?” I thought he said yes, but apparently he had said something else. I started ordering our food and he was mumbling something in the back ground to someone. We turned the menu over and there was the right number for room service. Needless to say the operator knew what we were eating for supper that night.

Halong Bay

Day two in Vietnam we headed for the junk (the boat). It was a three hour ride there so we had a lot of time to see the scenery. Literally what we saw was rice paddy after rice paddy. There are rice paddies every way you turn.

On the way we also saw a funeral ceremony. It was a big group of people marching down the street. Some played Instruments. Some carried a float with a fruit bowl and incense. And some others carried the casket. One group of people had a burgundy robes and another group all had white head bands on. That was an experience, getting to compare funerals back home to that one.

We finally arrived at the boat and it was amazing. The view, the food, the company, and the staff were all great.

The first night fashionista and I went squid fishing. That was fun. We fished off if the lower deck after supper. I caught one squid and two jellyfish.

We met a lot of people too. We met a couple from Texas, we met another couple from Tennessee, a family from San Francisco, two friends from Norway, and a couple from Australia. One couple even knew one of Left Brain’s Clemson professors. Meeting and talking to people like that you realize how small the world really is.

I did not want to leave the cruise. It was great. I learned knew tricks, how to make spring rolls, how not to fall out of a kayak, I met knew people, walked in the vietnamese rainforest, went squid fishing, and got to see how others live.

It’s amazing how much you can learn and experience in just three days.

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Most epic zoo experience

Day three in Beijing was interesting. We were still sore from walking the wall so we decided it would be a slow day. We stopped by the store on the way to the zoo to go to the ATM. Apparently the machine ate CFER’s card. Then fashionista couldn’t find her subway card. After an hour or so of searching we found fashionistas subway card in…wait for it…her jacket pocket. CFER’s card is still in the machine…

After that ordeal we headed to the zoo. Within five minutes of being at the zoo I made a new friend. An ol snub nosed monkey. We went to his enclosure and I decided to tap the glass and smile at the monkey. Fashionista, being the animal lover she is, knew not to smile at the monkeys because they take it as a sign of attack. She was trying to say “Pare don’t smile at the monkeys!”, but before she could get it out, the monkeys attacked the glass where I was standing.
My first instinct: scream. Everyone stared, as if we don’t get stared at enough.

CFER, Mother Mary, and fashionista all said it was the story of the day. I’m just thankful to still have my face.

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Day one and two in Beijing

We rode the overnight train to Beijing. We arrived in Beijing early and headed for our hotel. We ate breakfast and then went to the pearl market. After lunch we headed to the silk market. Shopping all day had me out of it. CFER gave me some money and said,”wheres your wallet? put this in different places.” I proceeded to put the money in different parts of my wallet. We all got a kick out of my blonde moment.

That night we took little carts to go get supper. Mother Mary and I piled in and got going. Our driver was insane. First he about ran over an old women, and then stopped to fuss with her. Next he scraped the side of a trash can. Then he drove right into the middle of the busy road almost running into a car or moped or hitting someone several times. I’m very thankful to be alive.

Day two was our journey to the Great Wall. We got up early and headed that way. We took a cable car up to the wall. We walked and climbed all day long. My legs have never been so tired. We all agreed if we walked the wall two or three times a week we would have amazing legs. To get down from the wall we tobogganed. That was fun. I don’t think I’ve ever been as tired as I was after the wall, but it was such an AMAZING experience.

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What to do in Shenyang – Archery

Talk about a Sunday Funday. Last Sunday we had a pretty exciting day. We finally got to go arching! (A term we’ve coined in our household as the verb of archery.)

Shenyang archery

We started the day off with French Toast. YUM! Then we all got ready to go out. We walked to the bank and then caught a taxi ride to the Honeycomb restaurant. By the time we got done eating, it was snowing outside.

It’s kinda hard to find a taxi outside of Honeycomb. Especially when it’s snowing. So we ended up walking to the subway and after a few stops and 20 minutes of walking, we finally got to the archery place.

Shenyang archery

At first using the bow and arrow was pretty tough, considering this was the first time for me. But after a few tries I think CCD and I finally got the hang of it. I scored a 71 on one set. (That’s pretty good for me). We’ll definitely go back. I’d say we had a pretty productive day.

Archery in Shenyang

archery

Archery in China

Firing a bow in Shenyang

CFER here: If you’d like to try out archery in Shenyang, we like to go to Victory Archery Club. Just South of the RT Mart on Nanjing Nan Street. It costs 60 yuan for 3 sets of 12 arrows.

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Chinese New Year

It’s Chinese New Year! Year of the snake.

Their New Years here is like Christmas in America. It’s a big deal.

They shoot fireworks all day long for two weeks straight. When I say all day I mean ALL DAY. I was woke up this morning to the boom of fireworks and I’ve listened to them all day. What the point is in shooting fireworks during the day, I still haven’t figured that one out. China fireworks are not like fireworks in America. They’re bigger, louder, and you can shoot them anywhere. Literally anywhere.

We spent our Chinese New Years Saturday watching movies, playing Mah Jong, and I snuck in a little bit of sociology (I’m such a good student).

Tonight I suppose we will be up watching fireworks. They’re too loud for anyone to sleep. Maybe we can track down some ear plugs.

HAPPY CHINESE NEW YEARS EVERYONE!

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-15F say what?! Days in Harbin

This weekend we went to Harbin to go see the Ice Festival and ice sculptures. Talk about cold, it was around -15 degrees F. I am so thankful for hand warmers. They are my hero.

We left the house for the train station at the butt crack of dawn (6:30 am). It was my first train ride and the train was really nice. I like it a lot better than riding an airplane.

After three hours on the train, we finally made it to Harbin! Harbin is such a gorgeous city. When we first got there, we walked down a shopping street.

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Then after looking at all the stores, we tried looking for a bathroom. Literally took us an hour just to find one. After we finally found one, it was time to go to the ice festival!

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Also look what I found… USA flag!!

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How cute is this? Angry birds! People were dressed up in pig and bird costumes. They were also playing a racing game. I’m guessing the birds against the pigs. It was pretty funny because not only were they racing to be in first, but they were running on ice.

We didn’t just look at ice sculptures, we also went snow tubing, sliding on slides made of ice, and dancing. Surprisingly none of us busted our butts. I was proud. But I’m pretty sure we all came close to falling at least twice.

After having fun looking at all the ice sculptures, we left to go to the hotel. We were all so tired, freezing, and hungry. Pretty sure more hungry than anything. We ordered in but literally had to call 4 places because everyone was closed. Finally we called KFC and they came to the rescue.

The next day, after checking out of the hotel, we had to get coffee before we did anything else. We went to a cute little café and had breakfast. After we ate, we went to look at the snow sculptures.

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I also made my own snow sculpture :-)

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We got to eat in this building made of snow and surprisingly it wasn’t cold inside. It was a nice place to warm up. At the end of the day we started to leave for the train station to head home. It’s crazy how we did so much in the span of just two days. It definitely feels like we were there for more. So we said our good byes and left for good ol’ Shenyang.

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I would also like to send a big shout out to my Pappy for sponsoring us on this trip! It was probably one of the most fun vacations ever. Thanks a lot!!

A weekend in Harbin

This weekend we went to Harbin to the Snow and Ice Festival.

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Saturday morning we got up bright and early to head to the train station. Once on the train, Fashionista and I decided we like traveling on trains much better than planes. We slept for most of the ride, but I did stay awake long enough to see some of the countryside. Despite the few small country villages, the country side is bare ice land. We saw several people walking, to other villages I assume, through the snow and ice. I don’t know how they do that. It’s customary to them I suppose.

When we got to the Harbin station, our driver for the weekend met us. He was very nice and helpful. We drove to the hotel, checked in, and put on a few extra layers of clothing. My attire for the entire weekend was: four layers of pants, four layers of shirts, scarf and hats, three pairs of gloves, and three pairs of thick socks. I was warm, but I couldn’t put my arms down.

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Saturday night we went to eat, then we walked the streets until it got dark so that we could go to the ice festival. Harbin is such a nice place, it’s pretty and looks clean. I loved it there.

When it got dark we went to the ice festival. It was a MAD HOUSE in the ticket room. They were bringing in people by the bus load. Trying to get in we couldn’t get through to get to the ticket booth. On top of that, a group of probably fifty were pushing through and knocking us everywhere. Kristin managed to get through; Laura, Fashionista, and I were still trying to get through. Finally, I just stuck my arm out to clothes line someone so that we could get through. My plan was successful.

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I can’t even begin to describe the ice park. It was AMAZING. Everything made of complete ice. There were slides on most of the ice buildings, so of course we slid down them. After a little bit of wandering around we found the snow tubing area. When we got to the top I told the worker to spin me. He spun me alright. He grabbed both of my feet and slung me down the hill, by the time I got to the bottom I was dizzy. We wandered around for a little longer and took plenty of pictures. It was awesome. We also made a new friend, a Chinese gut wanted to take a picture with us so, of course, we did.

We went back to the hotel around nine. Planning on ordering in supper. Of course the first three of the four restaurants would deliver. We were starting to get worried that we weren’t going to get supper. If you know Fashionista and I you know this was a big kadoo. We have to eat. Finally we got KFC to deliver and we were all happy. After we ate we went to bed. The beds were like sleeping on cinder blocks with sheets, but we were so tired we didn’t care.

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We got up Sunday morning and went to find some breakfast and coffee. After breakfast we layered up and headed to the snow sculpture park. The sculptures were INCREDIBLE. Those are some talented, warm blooded people, to be able to be out in the cold and sculpt those things. It was unbelievable, the size and detail of them. We walked around, climbed on stuff and took lots of pictures. We also saw our friend that we met at the ice park! He recognized us and we waved and went on about our business. Frozen hair, snot-cicles, and red cheeks we left to go to the train station.

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We got to the station, got some snacks, and got in line to get on the train. Guess who we saw in line! Our friend! Crazy right? We boarded and that puts me here now, riding back to shenyang, listening to my iPod and the woman behind me snoring, writing my blog.

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