Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Coming Home

Sorry my last few days are as one post. The Chinese government decided to add blogspot to the long list of websites you can’t go on. So here is the end of my adventures in China….

My last day in Shanghai was definitely a memorable one. Kristen and I spent the morning and early afternoon in Yu Yuan and walked some of the back streets and soaked in Old Shanghai; the smell of the street food, the laundry hanging, the kids laughing and playing, and the groups of people playing mahjong. This was my last everything… my last time riding the subway, last time seeing the pearl tower, having my picture taken by strangers, crossing crazy traffic, riding a taxi, bargaining, attempting to use my Chinese, etc .

Later I headed to the fabric market to pick up my things, my favorite is the zebra dress I had made – it sounds crazy but it’s simple, a long dress that’s pretty casual and difficult to explain haha. I then hopped in a taxi and headed home. I went upstairs to try and pack, my bags could only be 50lbs each and the cost of a third bag or to ship was way more than I was willing to spend. I am still befuddled at how I managed to pack everything and make it home with only two bags. I packed and then took a half hour nap and was woken up by my phone ringing, it was ms. Evelyn. I answered and she was asking what I was wearing out to dinner tonight. We talked for about ten minutes then I asked her where she was and she told me she was home. Haha then she asked me what time I would be home and I told her I was in my room haha. We talked for another five minutes then got ready for a night out. Oh goodness I am going to miss our text and phone calls while being in the same house hahaha, and of course all of our conversations on the couch or at the table.

I decided to wear my zebra dress and headed with the boys to go pick up mr. Gary and meet ms. Evelyn, Christina, Eric, Wai Yi, and Friedburt for dinner. We finally arrived and after ordering the waiter brought a live fish in a bowl to our table. It flopped around and almost came out of the bowl; he quickly took it away and came back 20 minutes later with it on a plate…. The fish was cooked and the ENTIRE fish was on the table, eyes included, staring at you mouth open as though he was screaming. Needless to say I didn’t eat any of him. We had a few other dishes, pig’s tendon, Shanghai noodles, pork, beef, etc. We then headed out for a terrific desert at this hole in the wall chocolate place I ate at a couple of weeks ago. We had a delicious Stress-Free Chocolate Cake and a bottle of chardonnay for mr. Gary’s birthday and of course my departureJ. The boys fell asleep at the restaurant and we had to drag them to the car haha. We got home around 1:30 and I finished packing.

I stayed up the entire night; I do that before any flight I take. It is not because I am anxious or excited, it’s just something I always have and always will do. I packed and repacked just to make sure my bags were perfect and met the requirements, and I watched some movies and TV series I had bought. Some of my friends were online so I got to talk to them which was awesome too! Around 4am I had a craving for coffee so I went downstairs and made a pot and enjoyed sipping my coffee on the couch with Harry. Around 8am I took Harry for a walk and came back upstairs to find ms. Evelyn crying, she ran towards me and gave me a hug telling me she was going to miss me. My response was that we still had 5 hours together and I couldn’t start crying now haha. We laughed and sat at the table talking for awhile until mr. Gary joined us. The three of us had a wonderful conversation and then before I knew it, it was time to go!

Kristen came with us to eat at East West, my final Chinese meal with my Chinese family! I said goodbye to mr. Gary and Bryan, all three of us crying!! I got in the car and my driver took Andrew, Kristen, ms. Evelyn, and I to the airport. We arrived and stood in line for what seemed like hours, I thought I was going to run out of time despite the fact I got there 2 hours early. We came up to the desk and were told my flight was delayed 3 ½ hours. This was frustrating and relieving all at the same time, the lady had to change my connecting flight and so all worked out I guess. I was turning around when somebody called my name. It was Peter, the man who I talked to in Chicago when I was flying to Shanghai! I talked to him and his wife and they were on the same flight as me going to Shanghai. Peter’s wife headed home to Boston two weeks ago and he was now flying back on the same flight as me! This was kind of a relief, especially since I had a long time to sit in the airport. I said a tearful goodbye to Andrew, Kristen, and ms. Evelyn, and made my way through security. Got a drink and found a spot with free wireless and then talked to Peter for awhile.

Our flight boarded and the flight was long, I slept off and on and had a couple of meals. I arrived in Chicago and Peter, who was ten seats in front of me, waited for me so we could go through customs together. Our flight landed late and so Peter and I thought we were going to miss our connecting flights. We grabbed out luggage and made our way quickly through more security and to the other side of the airport taking shuttles and going through more security then split up and wished each other luck. I made my way to my gate and finally arrived with 10 minutes till I had to board. I grabbed some Smoothie King while calling my parents and texting to let people know I had landed. I touched up my makeup a bit- I don’t know why I cared how I looked… sometimes I don’t get what makes women do crazy things like this but I still do them haha!! I boarded and promptly fell fast asleep before we even took off and I woke up right as we were preparing for landing. I grabbed my bags and made my way off the plane and headed down the hall; the lights were low and all the stores were closed. I walked down the stairs and my mom was standing there ready to give me a big hug! Dad was over and had already gotten my luggage and came and gave me a hug. We made our way to the car and had a chatty ride home, attempting to catch up on the past month. I unpacked a bit when I got home and showed my parents some of the stuff I had bought, and then I carried everything upstairs and fell fast asleep.

Our plane had eyes.

15 minutes after flopping around on our table.

We joked this was the only place you could find Jesus in China - a billboard for the World Expo heehee
Creepy add in the metro...

I’ve been home a couple of days now and am still trying to get used to it all. I switched back to the time zone pretty much right away – no jetlag. I have had a bit of an English overload and the lack of people is a bit weird. I love the really blue skies and the fact I can drive again. As much as I love being home I feel like part of me is still in China with my new friends and the family I fell in love with.

Thank you for all your thoughts and prayers, I had such a great experience in China and I hope that you were able to capture a small taste of all that I did.

Zai Jain, Goodnight,

Thursday, May 14, 2009

And so it Began...

Ate a wonderful homemade scone for breakfast this morning along with a delicious cup of coffee. I’ve been taking my vitamins lately and I seem to have more energy and I think I am officially almost better haha. I hopped in the car with ms. Evelyn and I headed for the fabric market once again. A few final touchups are being done and I am picking them up tomorrow. I was walking out and well… haha I ran across a cute zebra fabric I loved... well… I am getting another dress made. But I got yet another great deal on it; I love how cheap everything is here!! It will be ready tomorrow as well so after Yu Yuan I will pick them up.

Ms. Evelyn and I went out to lunch at Element Fresh and had wonderful food and smoothies. We picked up Kristen afterwards and headed to a grocery store to buy a few things before heading to the subway. On the way we discovered it was my driver’s birthday! We had to sing him happy birthday with a few cha-cha-chas added in haha. I think he turned red out of embarrassment for us! Hahaa He dropped Kristen and I off at the subway and took ms. Evelyn home. A week ago I saw this green purse I loved but decided not to buy…. Well I can’t find it anymore. I bought a couple of things, some wallets, and two tea sets. I got some great deals!! I was a bit frustrated that I couldn’t find this purse and after a couple of hours I was worn out. I decided to go into one last store… I walked in and didn’t see anything I liked, the lady came and said which brand?? By then I was like whatever… she said Coach? D&G? Prada? I was like sure let me see. I was thinking she would pull out her suitcase or take me into the hidden room. Well she opened a bookshelf and took me into another room and locked the door behind me. She pushed me into a corner and opened another two doors! She told me to follow her, and I did haha. There were so many purses…. I can’t even describe it to you! I picked my two favorites and she said 1800 RMB each but that she would give me a deal and it would only cost 2500 RMB. After going back and forth for about 10 minutes, and to the point I thought she was never going to let me out, I got both purses for 300 RMB. I was so happy haha! Success AND I love the bags I got more than the green one from earlier this week.

Kristen and I went back to her house and hung out for a bit and had some amazing sweet and sour chicken that Lee made. We hopped on our bikes and headed to a cheap DVD friend of hers. With our amazing biking in China skills we definitely must have some Asian in our blood haha! I bought a ton of DVDs, including a complete collection of Disney movies! Haha call me crazy but some of those classics are amazing! I also bought the first 4 seasons of The Office for my brother, Josh. I also bought about 15 other movies. We rode our bikes home and I walked back to my compound with all my things.

So earlier today I had the start of my goodbyes. Lee was my first, she is such a sweet woman and there is something about her that whenever around her you feel instantly at home. She gave me a sweet letter and a teddy bear wearing a China t-shirt. Oh and I can’t forget the Chinese Halls! I have been sick and couldn’t find my halls or halls here but she found them! I am going to miss her, but she has a house in Tennessee so I will be making a trip there sometime in the future to visit her when she is in the US! I shed a few tears especially knowing this was just the beginning. I will be home in two days and I feel like I just got here. I have a busy day tomorrow, Yu Yuan with Kristen, the fabric market and then dinner or going to Shift to say goodbye to people. Night.

I'm going to miss my Chinese phone and those who text me on it!


Wednesday, May 13, 2009


The sunrise in Jin Qiao today was at 4:30…. God seriously must be laughing right now. I couldn’t sleep tonight, that brain of mine doesn’t know when to shut off apparently. Just when I’m finally settling down – around 4am- I am about to drift off into sleep and BAM the sun shoots up. Mind you I do have curtains but I can’t fall asleep now.

Well I went shopping today and now the people know my name and know what I want haha. I went into one and they were all excited I was back, is this bad sign haha. They took me back into the back room and pulled out a suitcase full of the good stuff haha. Suddenly one of them switched the lights of and they were all whispering in Chinese, I could only understand a bit of it and they were trying to hide the bags. I understood enough to know that the police were coming and that we had to be quiet. Luckily the police passed by and we didn’t have any issues! I spent the afternoon and part of the evening buying bags and being rushed into backrooms. I’ve become a pro at bargaining and can get them down about 75% from their original price. They all know now that I want it cheap but good stuff and that I know what I want haha.

I took the subway to Lujiazui to go to Super Brand Mall. I am not a big mall person or even a big shopper – despite my last few posts haha- but I can appreciate this 10 story mall filled with every store and every item imaginable. I was heading out exit two when this little hunched over, creepy looking, 4 foot man, looked like he was making a b-line for me! This was the first time I have felt a bit nervous while living here. We managed to get lost in the crowd and up the stairs and outside so it was all good haha. I was walking down the streets and realized how much I am going to miss it here… living here has taught me so much and I hate to leave. I must say I am excited to see my friends and family but I am also wondering how life in America will be after I’ve adjusted to living here. Well back to my mall experience… I had seen a dress I liked earlier this week but didn’t have time to try it on so I went to try it on and ended up not liking it haha. So I made my way back to the subway hopped on and headed home.

We had a simple Chinese dinner and I had a cup of tea. Bryan practiced his trumpet and is actually pretty good! I lay on the couch for awhile listening to ms. Evelyn play the piano and sing, while I caught up on e-mail. Mr. Gary and I discussed how I was going to get all my stuff back to the US haha. For an international flight to pay for a 3rd bag is $200! How ridiculous! I am going to ship some of my stuff back which will still be expensive but will be cheaper than $200 and the chance of it being searched is slimmer.

Today I am going to the fabric market again to pick up my dresses that were getting fixed and to pick up the shorts I got made. Hopefully all will fit well and look good. Kristen and I are going to a movie place to buy movies tonight, and I think I’ll get a massage as well. Maybe some more shopping to go along with all of that, though on Friday Kristen and I are going to Yu Yuan so maybe I will wait till then.

I will be needing a few extra cups of coffee this morning. oh goodness! I will be home in 3 days!


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Start of Shopping

Oh how wonderful it felt to be in my own bed last night with the AC on. I was up late trying to catch up on my blog but when I finally fell asleep I slept like a baby haha. After waking up, enjoying a cup of coffee, and getting ready I headed downstairs to meet my driver. He took me to pick up Kristen and we headed to the bank, Starbucks, and the visa place so Kristen could extend her travel visa. The air was heavy with humidity and the sky was a light grey as we drove to Puxi to meet Ms. Evelyn. We went to the Blue Frog for lunch and then went to her cousin’s jewelry shop and purchased a few items. Shopped around and bought a few things. I got some great deals and some awesome sunglasses! Off to the fabric market after that…

I was a bit nervous about my green dress – One of the first one’s I had made that had to be fixed. I tried it on and the straps were crooked and there were some other issues. I wasn’t happy and the guy was being so rude! He and ms. Evelyn got in a bit of a yelling argument because he didn’t want to fix his poor work. His boss came over reluctantly after ms. Evelyn told him multiple times that he needed to get involved. We finally got our point across and hopefully the dress will be how it is supposed to be on Thursday. Off to the next stall, I was feeling a bit discouraged haha. This one needed a few minor adjustments but otherwise is good; it will be ready Thursday as well so I guess I’m happy haha. I decided to get some shorts made as well; I love how cheap everything is here!! They will be ready Thursday as well so hopefully that will all work out well.

We grabbed a drink and a snack and our driver took us home. Tomorrow is another day of shopping and so that will be fun. I started packing tonight…. I can’t believe I will be coming home in a couple of days. I still have so much to do!!! I must head to bed. Goodnight!


Monday, May 11, 2009

A Smiling Face

I guess she decided last minute to spend the night at a friend’s house, so I had the apartment to myself last night. I woke up and got all my things together and called Lily to see where she was at and ask if I should wait or go ahead and get a taxi. She said she would be home in 20 minutes so I decided to wait so I could thank her one last time and say goodbye.

I got into the taxi and headed to the airport, my ticket was all in Chinese and I had no clue where to go! I had to ask a couple of people before I figured out where to go. I got my ticket and checked my back, then was asked to open my bag so they could go through it… ugh. They thought a pair of tennis shoes and a bottle of shampoo and conditioner look suspicious apparently. Oh well minor bump in the road. I headed in the direction of my gate and sat in one of the few available seats for about 10 minutes till we could board. We took a short bus out to the plane and boarded the flight. I was exhausted, didn’t get much sleep at all this weekend, it took about half an hour to finally take off then I attempted to sleep. I was unsuccessful and before I knew it lunch was being served. It was noodles, shrimp, bread, and fruit –what a meal for coach!! The last twenty minutes of the flight the guy sitting next to me became quiet chatty. He spoke English and was very nice, he didn’t seem to understand why I was in Shanghai and why I only visited Beijing for two days but he wanted to talk a lot. Next thing I knew we had landed and we were getting off and headed for baggage claim.

I must say I felt comforted knowing that my driver would be waiting for me on the other side, a familiar face, somebody I knew haha. I grabbed my bag and walked through and there he was a big smile on his face and he was waving haha. He came and took my bag from me and we walked to the car. It’s about a 45 minute drive home and I took a nice nap in the back. We arrived home and I was greeted by a very happy Harry and then ms. Evelyn. I told ms. Evelyn all about my weekend then attempted to take another nap, I’m still feeling under the weather. A slew of text messages kept me awake and so I decided to go sit in the massage chair and catch up on e-mail. Bryan, Ms. Evelyn, and I found ourselves in a candy fight haha, don’t know how it started but I became the target and had no shield and they had an entire desk as cover. Oh goodness haha! We had a wonderful steak dinner – my favorite! – and though I planned on going to bed early that obviously did not work out. I’m finally caught up on my blog and am headed to bed.

Tomorrow I am going out to lunch with Kristen and ms. Evelyn in Puxi. We are going shopping afterwards then to the fabric market to pick up a couple dresses we had made and I am going to get some shorts made. Night.


The Great Wall of China

Sunday:My room was brighter than usual this morning and my alarm had not yet gone off. I grabbed my phone to check the time and see why the alarm didn’t go off only to realize my phone had died! I ran out of the room in a panic, thinking I had over slept and that I might have missed valuable time at the wall. I went to go look at the clock and saw Lily – a sign that it was before 7:30am, because that is when she leaves for classes on Sunday. I was so relieved to find out I still had an hour to get ready for the day haha. Lily left for class and I ate breakfast and waited for Teresa to come. She ran the buzzer and I answered the phone in Chinese…. It totally threw her off and she was really confused haha, I hadn’t told her I knew any Chinese. I headed downstairs and out the door, we had a driver today and he had the longest fingernails!

It took about an hour to get to the Great Wall of China. The mountains formed, and then there she was, beautiful, huge, and picturesque. We drove around until we got to the Badaling section of the wall. Teresa and I got out and made our way to the entrance of the wall, I was speechless. You can see pictures, you can hear about the wall, but being there in person is something totally indescribable! Excitement filled me with each step closer to the wall; I decided to go up the left side first. We started the climb and it was not easy, the steps are not straight, the paths are not even, but the view…. The view is just wow haha…. And the thought about the whole wall being built without machines is crazy! To think men in heavy armor rode horses up and down this wall. How with blood, sweat and a few tears I’m sure ;) they carried cannons, ammunition, food, and more, up these stairs and these walls. Just imagine how difficult it would be to climb any of these mountains to begin with, and then add the difficulties of building a giant wall on it! Ok thank you for being patient through my musings haha I am done for now.

I walked the entire Badaling section open to tourists. The left side was tough but fun and I was ready to conquer the rest of the section. The wall isn’t connected in tiny circles so if you go in one direction to get back and go the other way you have to turn around and walk all the way back. Coming back towards the right side I was taking a video of the wall and some very good looking Australian college boys asked if I wanted them to take my picture for me, they promised not to run off with my camera haha. Hmmm how could I resist haha! I know which country I am visiting next!

Some parts of the wall you literally had to hold on with both hands just so you don’t fall. Some of the steps were up 90 degrees; some hills literally should have been slides. I was tempted to sit on my butt and go down a couple of them but I had seen a few kids peeing so I passed on that one haaha. Even on the Great Wall I had people asking to take their picture with me or sneaking shots. Teresa found this quiet amusing, I took a few shots with people and other times just said no haha. In the end I don’t know how many miles we walked, I think somewhere around 10 miles, but not positive. I was sore, burnt, and exhausted! Teresa said she has been to the wall over a hundred times and this was only her second time doing the whole Badaling section! It took as about 4 or 5 hours total, so not too bad but we were beat!

Next was the Ming Tombs… we went down the long pathway with the stone animals, creatures, and soldiers. It was so beautiful, right as I took my third picture at the tombs my camera died! I guess taking over 450 pictures at the wall and about 4 videos was too much for my camera to handle. I was tired and not feeling well so I did a quick run through of the tomb. It was so interesting how this was the only tomb allowed to be opened, and how much time and effort is put into building these tombs. It was five or six stories underground and had walls and floors of marble. The only tomb to be excavated is the Wanli Emperor’s; it’s called the Ding Ling Tomb, or the Tomb of Stability. By excavating the tomb it revealed not only an intact tomb with the bodies of the emperor and his two empresses along with silk, and other expensive items but it filled a gap in the minds of scientists and scholars about what the tombs contained. After a quick tour we headed back to Lily’s house where I was going to pack my things for my flight tomorrow. Teresa and her roommate, Cindy, were picking me up around 7 to take me out to dinner.

We got back and I showered and started packing. I couldn’t find some of my clothes. Lily’s i-ee has been going through my bags and taking out laundry and washing it… some of which I hadn’t worn yet. I told her I was going home on Monday and would do my laundry then and not to take it but she kept taking it. This frustrated me a bit; I have a big bubble as most of you know, and this definitely burst it. What took me to complete humiliation was when I came home later that night and found a pair of my underwear hanging in the window with some of my other clothes!!! I was mortified haha, not only had she gone through my bags AGAIN, but she had taken out clothes, some of which were clean, and washed and hung them in the window!!! AFTER I told her not to hahahaha! Oh my goodness, I laugh at it now but I was just speechless, I guess she was just trying to be a good i-ee? Oh well, part of the whole experience I guess haha.

Well Teresa and Cindy picked me up and we went for Peking Duck. It was very good, some of the side dishes I didn’t ask what they were and am a little nervous to know what they were. One of the dishes was soup and in my bowl was the ducks neck and what appeared to be some organs. It was an experience, another thing to add to the crazy food list haha.

I have a flight tomorrow morning which should be interesting. Coming here my driver showed me where to go and helped me check in. I am taking a taxi there and will have to figure the rest out on my own. I have enjoyed my stay with Lily, I wish I had more time to get to know her but I’m sure we will meet again sometime.


Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Start of the Touring!

Well this weekend has been a whirlwind; I apologize for not posting sooner.

Saturday: Well though I difficulty sleeping last night I did finally fall asleep around 3am. After getting ready and grabbing a bite to eat I headed downstairs to meet my tour guide, Teresa.

First we headed out to the Temple of Heaven. Teresa filled me in on all the facts on worshiping heaven and all the signs of luck. We passed people doing aerobics on the lawn, and groups of people playing games. One man tried to teach me how to throw these sticks back and forth in the air – I think I scared them because I would get them going then lose one and try and catch it, aka people had to watch out haha. I’m no flaming baton thrower like my mom’s business partner, ms. Elizabeth!

Next was Tiananmen Square, the security was very heavy due to the protest/massacre in 1989. There is a building where somebody famous is buried in a crystal tomb. I’m can’t recall his name but people stand in line for hours every day to give him an offering of money. Tiananmen Square is basically what its name is, it’s a large plaza named after the Gate of Heavenly Peace, and it’s just a big open area. We also visited Dashila, a really old walking street; it’s being renovated so a lot of the shops are no longer there right now. A trolley runs through it that you can ride so you can see it all and look at the existing shops.

After that we headed to the Forbidden City, its huge! I learned how the more animals/creatures on the corner of each of the building’s roofs stood for the importance of the building or the residents. These animals/creatures are sort of gods and represent different things. The Forbidden City is the imperial palace and has close to a thousand buildings which consist of close to nine-thousand rooms. Nine is considered to be the highest number, and one of China’s many lucky numbers haha. On all the gates there are nine knobs by nine knobs and people believe if you rub them when you pass you will have good luck.

We had a quick lunch at a local restaurant and headed on our way to the Summer Palace.

The Summer Palace is beautiful, a vast lake, trees, rocks, flowers. It currently holds the world’s longest corridor, having a total length of 782 meters and having over 14,000 hand-painted pictures. The corridor was build so the mother of the emperor could go on a walk without worry of the weather. We then climbed up a small mountain and went to the Buddhist Temple. As you know I believe in God, not Buddha, so this was a bit uncomfortable for me. One wall of the temple was covered in little Buddha statues; inside one Buddha sat on either side of the big one. I went in and right back out, but I snuck a picture on the way in/out – don’t think you are allowed to do that. We walked back down and headed home. I am still trying to process all that I saw, it all happened so quickly!


P.S. The Great Wall and Ming Tombs coming soon :)