Our First Chinese New Year

We have been lucky enough this year to celebrate bringing in the New Year in both our American traditional way and experience the Chinese way.

We had a great time visiting the family; eating a yummy steak dinner with Grandma’s famous rolls, and staying up late playing games with our cousins until midnight when we could go outside and see the fireworks show the city put on.  It’s just too bad I forgot my purse back in China because I didn’t have my camera, my wallet, or my drivers license the whole time I was in the States.  A picture would have been good to insert right here but the only picture I have from our trip home is us sitting on Santa’s lap.  ~Go figure.

    

It took us 30 hours to get back to China but it was worth it just to see the family for the Holidays.  Our luggage didn’t make it back with us but we found it on our doorstep the next day.  The kids go back to school for a week or so and then they are out again for a whole week for the Chinese New Year celebration.  We decided to celebrate New Years Eve in the heart of the city at the Shangri-la.  We had a great room and we ordered room service and watched fireworks all night long.

I’m so glad we did this because it turned out to be an experience I’m sure we will always remember.  The fireworks started somewhere around 7 pm and we finally went to bed around 2 am and they were still going.

Anyone can buy fireworks here on any street corner.  This is what the firework booths look like.  Check out the sizes.

 We bought a box and let them off in our own neighborhood.  All I can say is that they are LOUD and not one of my pictures of the fireworks turned out very good.

Happy Year of the Dragon 2012


How to do a Mall Scavenger Hunt in a foreign country

I never thought this day would come but it’s official my oldest child is now a teenager.  Happy Birthday Mckaela!  She wants to celebrate her birthday the same way all teenage girls do by shopping with her friends at the mall.  I told her she can invite as many girls as will fit in the car since transportation is a big deal in a big city like Chengdu.

Here they are standing in front of Mckaela’s favorite restaurant in the mall.

First stop is the nail salon…

Now their nails are done they are ready for the Scavenger Hunt.  I had fun coming up with things to hunt for in the mall.  I know teenagers like to take pictures so I knew I needed to give them the opportunity to take a bunch of pictures.  They had a list of things to search and find like a red shoe and a wedding dress…

 

They also had to look for a good looking boy to take a picture with…

He’s a little young don’t you think?

They also had to take some glamour shots.  Here’s the dresses the girls picked out…

 

(BTW Trish…Olivia really wants you to buy this dress for her.)

The girls had no problems finding everything on the list.  They even found something the same to try on.

I found in the end that doing a scavenger hunt in a foreign country is no different than doing one back home.

Mckaela’s restaurant even made a yummy chocolate cake and these fun girls all sang “Happy Birthday” to her in Chinese, Swedish, and English.

I think this is a birthday Mckaela will always remember.


A Weekend in Xian

Xian is home of the famous Terracotta Soldiers and a short flight from Chengdu.  (if you don’t mind riding a bus from the airport terminal to get on the airplane way off in left field and then sitting on the tarmac for another hour)

A stinky taxi cab ride to the Shangri-la only to find out it’s the wrong location and then another stinky taxi cab ride and we finally make it to the other Shangri-la that must be the knock-off brand of the hotel chain because this Shangri-la isn’t in a great location and we had quite a few problems but here we are and we are more than ready to see these Terracotta Warriors.

This is my interpretation of the most famous tourist site in Xian.  The first emperor in Chinese history, Emperor QinShihuang spent almost forty years having these Terracotta warriors built because it was believed that the artifacts in one’s Tomb would follow one to the afterlife and this army would protect him there. (even though they are made of clay)  Well in 1974 (the year I was born) some local farmers discovered these sculptures while digging for a well.  The kneeling archer was the only warrior still intact…

The site now has three pits and a musuem open to the public. Pit 1 is the largest pit with over 6000 life-size warriors and horses though only about 2000 have been restored and are on display, the others still lie fractured in the pit.

Pit 2 has over a thousand warriors.  The reason they don’t have any heads is because the emperior died before that mold was done so the workers weren’t required to finish the job.  (I’m not sure how they are going to protect him in the afterlife without their heads?)

Pit 3 has seventy two high ranking warriors and horses and is therefore believed to be the army headquarters.  The kneeling archer, the standing archer, the cavalryman and his horse, the mid ranking officer, and the general can all be purchased as a souvenier in about any size you want.

Day 2

There is an ancient city wall in Xian that is said to be the oldest and best preserved wall in existance.  I was reading in my hotel guide that you can ride 5 bikes side by side on the wall easily so I thought we should put this theory to the test.

 

On our bicycles built for two we traveled 8.5 miles around the wall together as a family.  How fun is that?  The views were great and we even heard music playing along most of the wall.

 

As cool as these places are that we get to see we continue to struggle with the culture in China.  I haul my own toilet paper, food, and hand sanitizer with us everywhere we go.  Pizza Hut, McDonalds, and KFC are the only western options for food most of the time and there are very few local restaurants we like.  Last time we tried a local chinese restaurant Ethan claimed we were all turning Chinese on him.  (He doesn’t like any of the Chinese food)  I think this struggle we have is extremely hard to tackle while on vacation since we run out of Mom’s snacks the first day.  In Xian we tried to have a pizza delivered to the hotel one night and ended up overpaying for a cold pizza, a taxi cab ride to deliver the pizza, and everyone is still hungry.  We tried the KFC but we could only choke down the fries and a soda.  We also tried eating at the McDonalds and I can safely say I don’t care if I ever eat at a McDonalds again in my life.


The mouse that almost got away

WARNING: This post is rated PG-13 

Last night Olivia got out of bed to get a drink of water.  When she opened her bedroom door there was a mouse waiting in the hall.  She quickly shuts the door and screams. I run down the stairs to see what’s wrong.  Surprisingly, I’m not shocked to see a mouse.  I mean it’s not the first mouse I’ve seen and I’m sure it won’t be the last one either.

The barricade is set up and I’m standing my ground behind it while Greg is trying to usher the mouse out into the garage with a mop.  It’s almost free but takes a turn back to the girls bedroom door and steps in the glue trap instead.

 

This is where the PG-13 rating comes into play….with the kids watching daddy putting the trapped mouse into a garbage bag, the mouse squeals the worst squeal you can imagine unless your fortunate enough to hear Ethan’s interpretation of the squeal noise.  He’s rather good at imitating the mouse now that he’s been traumatized by the day’s events.

Now let’s back up a few hours before this incident.  We come home from a fun day hiking the Mini Great Wall near the ancient city of Laodai to a horrible smell in the house.  I’m just sure there is a dead rat in the house but not sure where to look for it.  The smell is coming from the kitchen but our friends are on their way over for dinner so I only have time to open some windows and light some candles.  Unable to stand the smell anymore Greg pulls out the fridge and I take off the floorboards under the cabinets and HELLO…dead mouse!

Everyone evacuates the house and lucky for me the Security Guards show up a few minutes later to remove the mouse.

Now if we back up to just a few weeks ago, I had to have the Gas Company install a new gas line into the house for the gas stove. All because a rat had chewed through the gas pipe into the house and I had a gas leak resulting from it.  Now with a new gas line and the pipes closed into the house, where are these creatures coming from?  I’m told the best thing to do is get a cat but I’m seriously willing to live with the occasional mouse than with a cat in the house.  What does that say about me?


Riding Elephants in Thailand

A National Holiday is upon us again and the kids are out of school for a whole week so Thailand here we come….

We can fly directly to Bangkok from Chengdu and then it’s just another short flight to Phuket where we want to ride elephants and play at the beach.

We stayed at the Ramada Resort in Khao Lak.  I liked that they picked us up from the airport and provided us with a wet towel service and cold water bottles.  Once we got to the resort they gave us freshly squeezed Orange Juice ~Yummy!

Our breakfast was included everyday and right on the ocean too…

Every night we tried a new restaurant for dinner and thought they were all good.  There was also a guy selling Thai pancakes filled with banana, nutella, fresh coconut or pineapple.  Whatever you wanted in your pancake for $1 ea.  We had to have one of those everyday too.

We all agreed that the most memorable experience in Thailand is riding on elephants.

There are around 4,000 elephants to be found in Thailand and it’s said that elephants bring good luck.  Riding an elephant might bring us some luck but I think it’s more likely we will be lucky to not fall off…

elephant

I did think it was fun to ride on an elephant through the rainforest.  You can see up close how they harvest rubber trees in this region and then take a swim at the waterfall.

The kids liked feeding the elephants and Greg and I liked the fresh pineapple and coke they gave us after the ride.

 

The kids are still talking about riding the elephants but as I’m writing this they are reminding me of the leech’s we pulled off Greg and Olivia in the rainforest and our visit to the memorial for the Tsunami in 2004.

The kids were also excited to ride so many different forms of transportation while in Thailand…

We rode the skytrain to get from the airport to the hotel in Bangkok.  We also used the skytrain to get to the market, shopping centers, and then we took a tuk tuk to the pier.

 

 

The river cruise was an interesting way to see Bangkok too.

   

We didn’t see many boats at the floating market today but we only needed one to pick souveniers from…

 

It was nice to get out of China for a week even if it was Thailands wet season and believe me we saw plenty of rain there but we still went home with sunburns and a smile on our faces.


A Chinese Opera

I’ve heard that everyone should see a chinese opera at least once in their life.  I’ve also been told it’s a unique experience and very different.  So here we are celebrating my birthday at the Sichuan Opera House in the Shufengyayun Operatic Circle of the Chengdu Culture Park.

We asked our driver if he has ever seen the Chinese Opera and he says “No I think it is pure torture to go and listen to the terrible noise.  Even if someone paid for me to go to the Opera, I still would not go.”  Then he tells us he will not be far away from the Opera House if we decide to leave early he could always save us from the Opera.  We laugh about it and walk into the Opera House.

Here’s the cool thing about the Opera House.  You can see the performers getting ready for the show.

I liked seeing all the cool costumes.  It gets you really excited to see the show.

 

They also provide you with tea and peanuts and someone will ask if you want a massage while you are waiting for the show to start.  I’ve also never before seen a teapot quite like the one the servers had.  The spout on that thing was a good 3 feet long so they could reach all the teapots from the isle.  It almost looked more like a fishing pole than a teapot.

I even thought it was a nice touch that they have these cool little robes you can borrow if you are cold.

Then the show started and we heard a lot of noise. Just as our driver predicted it was a terrible noise.  I wish I had on camera the look on Greg’s face because it was priceless but it was actually hard to take any pictures from this point on.  A little singing, drama opera in the local Sichuan Dialect, playing chinese music instruments, a nice silhouette show, and our favorite, the changing of the masks. They were so fast they could literally change their mask in one second.
Not sure I would want to see it all again but it  was a fun birthday memory!


Ordering McDonalds in China

Ordering at McDonalds in China

How hard can that be?

We stopped at McDonalds on our way home from swimming and soccer yesterday because the kids wanted a Happy Meal.  Greg said that ordering a meal at McDonald’s is the hardest thing he has done in China.  I tell him, “they have a menu with pictures on it. How hard can it be?”  He says, “I don’t know.  Just watch and you’ll see.” So I leave the kids in the car with McKaela and we take our driver into McDonald’s with us and I’m thinking with the three adults, one being a fluent Mandarin-sichuanese speaker, that we should be able to get three happy meals without any problems.

Here is the menu.  I point to the chicken nuggets and the Happy Meal box and use my fingers to show them I want three of them.  They bring me three hamburgers instead.  This takes some patience and time to figure out but we finally get the order right.

Now I’m curious how Greg is going to get his Big Mac he orders “plain”.  The word “Mei” pronounced “may” in Mandarin means “No” and the word “Meiyou” pronounced “mayo” means “do not have” so Greg says “meiyou” meaning he doesn’t want anything on the hamburger but instead gets nothing but mayo on his hamburger.

With the help of our driver and a lot more patience we finally make it out of McDonalds with our empty calories.  Lesson learned….we tell the kids our next Chinese lesson is to learn how to order chicken nuggets in Chinese.