Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas Mom

For Christmas this year Joel and I were supposed to have our first Christmas away together in Shanghai.  We decorated for Christmas, set up our tree, bought presents for each other and then the 23rd of december, during a skype chat with my dad,  he told us that he wanted to surprise my mom by bringing us home for Christmas.  So within 12 hours we bought plane tickets, packed our bags and boarded a plane to the US.  We will just have to have another Christmas waiting for us when we return to Shanghai!
When we got here we surprised my mom by walking into the restaurant that she was eating in with friends.  She was so stunned that she didn't speak for several minutes.  We definitely caused a scene with everyone yelling, so excited!  So even though that was a great surprise for her we have one more...

This year for Christmas we our sponsoring a Healing Home baby in my mom's name.  It is a little boy named Jian Na.  My dad is going to pay for his cleft pallet surgery and then sponsor him monthly to pay for his after-care and housing.  I will send updates via my blog whenever I can and to top it all off, my mom gets to give him an English name!

Merry Christmas mom, when you come to Shanghai in March you can meet this little cutie in person!

Jian Na, one of the newest additions to Healing Home.
If anyone would like more info on the Healing Home, helping out, sponsoring a child or even just sending a small donation please click here to visit their website.  Every little bit helps!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Play time at Healing Home

Last post I showed a few pics from our time at Healing Home, the cleft pallet orphanage here.  I go once a week with a few ladies and we have a class for the older children (older being about a year old) and then stay and play with the babies.  We are teaching the children English, Chinese and sign-language.  It is a lot of fun, we sign and songs and play little instruments.  Really we just love being able to spend time with the children and see the smile on their faces.  The younger ones have mostly not had their surgeries yet as you can see from the pictures.  The amazing thing is that the older ones who have healed from their surgery you can barely tell that anything was wrong in the first place.  Healing home will pay for the children's surgeries through donations and their after care until they are adopted.  The children are mostly sponsored so someone is sending them money once a month to pay their expenses.  It is a really great place for the children, they are well taken care of and seem really happy.  If you want more info on what they do at Healing home you can visit their website by clicking the link below.

Healing Home

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Cleaning up the Healing Home

One of my weekly activities here in Shanghai is working at the orphanage for children with cleft palettes.  The American Women's Club of Shanghai decided to help out for a day and clean up their yard and organize inside to prepare the house for winter.  We planted some new plants that will stand the cold weather, organized the clothes so warm sweaters were easily accessed and disinfected all the toys in the play room.  It felt good to help out and it was a great way to get to know more people within the expat community.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Shanghai Chili cook-off

On a beautiful Saturday in Shanghai we headed over to the old World Expo site close to our house to attend the annual Shanghai Chili Cook-off.  It felt like a regular Colorado festival that Joel I were used to attending, lots of people, beer and booths serving amazing chili.  We had a blast going down the line and sampling all the different chills.  Some were so good, others not so good.  Our favorite ended up winning second place.  Can't wait to go to the restaurant and try it again!

Here is a view of the event, it was a beautiful day out.  It didn't even feel like we were in China!

Kristin and Tim enjoying the beer at the festival!

Us girls before we had too much chili!

Joel with Kristin and Tim enjoying the sunshine.

Kristin waiting in line for a sample.

Joel looks right at home!

The girls sampling the chili, most of the samples were so good!

Joel trying to beat a little boy at the football toss.

John had to give it a try also!

They were both winners!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Shanghai Boat Cruise

After all of our fun activities back in the states it was time to return to Shanghai.  After 20 hours of travel, one sort of nights sleep and zero unpacking we had an event with the American Women's Club for a 70's theme dinner boat cruise.  Joel and I sucked up our jet-lag and put on our dancing shoes, and boy was it worth it.
Joel and I didn't have time to put together costumes but some people really went all out.  There were a few full spandex body suits, one Elvis and lots of bright colors and patterns.  The night started with a glass of champagne to watch the view of the lights while our boat disembarked.  Joel and I had never been on the river before and the view was spectacular.  Seeing both sides of the river at once, all lit up was so beautiful.  On one side of the river is what they call the Bund, where historic old buildings from the 1800 and 1900's stand unchanged.  Directly across from it, on the other side is like looking into the future.  Strange, towering buildings lit up in technicolor dominate the Pudong side skyline.  It was really great to see both sides at once, and on a clear night where the moon was visible as well.
We had dinner inside on the boat, which was nothing exciting, a mixture of Chinese and Western, neither of which were good.  And then back out onto the viewing deck for dancing the rest of the night to tunes from the 70's.  In true Chinese fashion, we did blow the fuse a few times but the power would be back up and running in just a few minutes.  It was a great night, laughing dancing and friends on a beautiful night in Shanghai.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Annie got married!

One of the main reasons that I came home for a month when I did was not only to catch up with friends and family but to be a bridesmaid in one of my sorority sister's weddings.  I knew that even though I was moving to China right after she asked me to be a bridesmaid that I would never miss it for anything.
The wedding festivities started the day we got back from the cabin,  with a lingerie shower for Anne and then bachelorette and bachelor parties (separate of course!) for the bride and groom.  The boys got a little more wild than the girls did but we had wine and then went dancing and it was a lot of fun.  All the girls had cards with activities that they had to talk someone at the club into, someone being a guy and the activities all had something to do with Anne.  For example, one card said... dance with a bald guy.  My card said that I had to talk someone into giving Anne their sock.  It was really funny.  When we were at dinner, someone's card said to find someone to sing to Anne, so a man serenaded her in front of the restaurant!  It was so great!
The next day was the rehearsal and the rehearsal dinner which was hosted at a famous Colorado restaurant called the Fort.  It is built as an old fort and is complete with a teepee and an old settler walking around with a shot gun.  We had quail and salmon for dinner, complete with gun powder and burbon shots.  Everyone gave speeches and honored the couple.
The next day was the wedding.  We spent the morning getting ready at the hotel and just relaxing.  The ceremony was beautiful, it was outside overlooking the mountains just outside Denver, Colorado.  The weather was perfect.  The reception was fun too, we got to catch up with a bunch of my old college friends.  It was fun to see how everyone had grown up, until the dancing started! ; )  The dancing was so much fun and we were sad when the night came to a close.  It was a fantastic wedding for a fantastic couple.  Congrats Anne and Trent!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

One last night at the cabin

Friday night of our visit home Joel and I were able to escape with our friends Kevin and Melissa for one last anderliss (what we call each other) night at the cabin before we had to leave CO again.  Kevin was able to leave work early so he came and picked Joel and I up and we went to Coors factory for the "short tour" (skipping the tour for the free beer).  After our three free beers we picked up the dogs and Melissa and hit the road.  We decided to just relax for the night at the family cabin.  We played games (of course I taught everyone mahjong!), drank beer and just caught up.  We stayed up waaayyy too late, as usual, but had a great time.
The next morning when we woke up my Colorado dream had come true.  It was a blizzard in October.  I was so excited, Joel and I took the dogs for a long hike to enjoy it.  It was really hard leaving the mountains with the beautiful snow and great company but we had to head down to enjoy the beginning of some wedding activities for my good friend Anne!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Visiting with family...

The week following our cabin weekend Joel and I spent some time at my parents house in Denver catching up with friends and family.  We had lots of fun dinners with friends and family.  Joel's mom flew into town and we were able to spend time with her.  Joel was able to play golf twice!  Once with his mom and once with his dad which he was very excited about.  We ate at our favorite restaurant, Sushi Den, with Joel's dad and a few friends.  Saw our old house and reminisced about our time there.
Although a lot felt the same after being gone for 6 months a lot had changed.  We were able to visit a friends new house that she just bought and heard some wonderful news from a friend about a baby on the way (woohoo!).  Here are a few pics from our week of catching up!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The mountains are calling and I must go...

If you had asked me 9 months ago when I was packing my bags (and 20 pairs of jeans) to move across the world to China what I would miss most, I would have said a few things.  My list would have been; family and friends, my fur babies and Mexican food.  Never would I have ever said, the mountains, clean air and nature because they were always things that I took for granted that everyone had and could enjoy.  It wasn't a privilege it was just a fact of life that any weekend we had available Joel and I could escape and be in the woods in an hour.  Crazy that now it is one of the things that I miss the most.  So when I was home I took advantage of the fact that I could be outside all day and at the family cabin in an hour.
When Joel arrived in the states I had already been there for almost 3 weeks.  It was so exciting to see him (that may be the longest we have ever been apart).  It was even more exciting because we had missed our 3 year anniversary together.  So when he arrived I picked him up at the airport late at night and we drove straight to the cabin to meet my parents.  Another really exciting thing was that my brother and his girlfriend Lizzy were able to meet Joel on his connection in LA and get the same flight in to Denver to spend the weekend with us.

It was such a fun weekend that really flew by.  We hit the outlets for some shopping, explored Dillon CO and my parents took us to an amazing dinner to celebrate Joel and my anniversary and to celebrate Colin and Liz being in town.   I also was able to teach everyone Mahjong! It was a great weekend that went way too fast.  

Spending time with my fur baby by the fire.

My dad on a hike to the lake! 
Lizzy and Colin hiking to the lake.

Dinner at Ski Tip Lodge.

Showing off the beautiful food!
A little blurry, but Joel and I with his anniversary gift!

Anniversary night!

Teaching everyone to play mahjong.


Saturday, November 12, 2011


After the girl's trip to Santa Fe my mom and I made the long road trip to Oklahoma to visit family... through Texas with a stop at Sonic and we were there!  The first night we had dinner with the whole fam at my Aunt and Uncle's house, including both my cousins who were in from college.  It was good timing to get to see everyone and hang out.  Most of our time spent in Oklahoma was shopping and eating and just catching up.
My mom and I went with my grandparents to their weekly dinner group, which was age 80 and up.  It was really fun, cocktail hour and then dinner at this old Oklahoma restaurant where they specialize in everything fried, especially the catfish.  One of my grandparents friends ordered the Chicken Fried Steak and it was enough for a family of 5 (see the pics!).  I had regular chicken fingers and they were so good, but also enough to feed a small country.
While we were there it was also my Aunt's birthday so we got a bunch of friends and family together for a dinner to celebrate.  Like I said, lots of eating and catching up on this trip. : )
Our last night in Ok my mom and her friend Laynie and I headed to Norman, where the University of Oklahoma is located, to visit my cousin Sarah who is in school there.  She is in the same sorority that my grandmother, my mom and I were all in.  (Go Kappa!).  It was so fun to get to shop and hang out and have dinner in Norman.  We went to the Mont which has been there forever for some swirls (margs mixed with sangria) and their famous queso, which is worth the trip to OK alone!
Before we knew it, it was time to say goodbye and we were off.  Back on the road for the long trip home to Colorado.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Santa Fe trip with the girls...

My first weekend back in the USA was a road trip down to Santa Fe with some of the girls and my mom.  We had a blast, eating and drinking and wandering around Santa Fe.
My mom and I headed down a few nights early to get the house ready and so I could relax and get over my jet lag, which was really not fun this time.  By the time the girls got to the house though I was feeling good so we headed out on the town.  We went to the La Fonda for dinner and drinks (margaritas!) and then out to hit the bars of Santa Fe!  Santa Fe  doesn't not have a huge night life and things definitely close down early there.  The bar Del Charros that we went to closed at 12, so the waiter told us of a bar that everyone likes to go to that was open until 2am.  Well we never found that bar so we ended up walking around for a while and then decided to head back to the house.  We did find an open bar close to the house that we decided to stop for a drink in before actually going home.  The next morning was the quote of the weekend.  When we were skyping with Joel he asked us if we were all hung over, and I told him "we would be if we could have found the bar that we were trying to go to!".  Lol, so maybe it is for the best that we never found it.
The next day we hit the farmer's market so I could get some chili powder to bring back to China with me.  Then we did a little shopping and went to the Shed for dinner.  The shed is my favorite restaurant in Santa Fe, they have the best red chili!  We went back to the house after that and just hung out and talked and went to bed a little early.
The last day that the girl's were there we went out for breakfast, a must in Santa Fe (huevos rancheros!) and then the girl's hit the road back to Denver.  My mom and I stayed one more night and then hit the road to Oklahoma, but more about that in another post!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

I haven't forgotten about you!

I know I haven't been posting much but I am finally settled back into life here in Shanghai.  I have also started organizing my pics from the US and a few events I have already attended since being back.  I thought I would post a little teaser of my trip home... and don't worry, there is much to come!

This pic is from my first night home, a rainy night and a walk on the golf course with my dad.  Check out my sweet outfit!

Watch for lots more posts soon!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Kristin's Bridal shower

I threw a bridal shower for a friend of mine in Shanghai, the same one who bought a Chee Pow for her wedding. She is back in the the states to get married and doesn't have enough time while she is there to have a bridal shower so we decided that we needed to throw her one before she left!  It was travel themed so we served boxed lunches like you would get on a plane and decorated with maps and paper airplanes.  It was a really fun event.  We played a bridal shower game where the groom was emailed questions to answer about Kristin and she had to guess what his answers were.  She was blindfolded and if she missed a question she had to grab a piece of clothing from the bag and put it on.  She did miss a few and looked hilarious after trying to dress herself blindfolded.  It was great being able to celebrate before she left!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Leather Anniversary!

Today is my three year anniversary with my amazing husband!  Did you know that traditionally couples give each other leather gifts to celebrate 3 years?  Funny, huh?  Anyway, I just wanted to say happy anniversary, i love you Joel!

Monday, September 12, 2011

I'm a comin' home...

My next blog will be from the good old US of A!  I am heading to the airport in 3 hours to fly home for a month long visit.  Can't wait to see everybody!  I will have my old number if you need to get a hold of me.

I think maybe I will just stick with my airplane ticket, not too comfy to ship myself .
Plus my hair doesn't fit!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Duke vs China Basketball

The night we got back from Anji we stopped for pizza on the way home and if you bought 2 pizzas you got 2 free tickets to the Duke vs China basketball game (and an extra ticket for every pizza after you bought 2).  Tim was going to be out of town so we bought 3 pizzas so that Joel and Kristin and I could go.  It was really fun!  Mostly foreigners surprisingly, but still a good turn out.  And Duke won!  Yay!  The arena was just like any you would see in the states with the exception that the concession stand did not have nachos.  ; )

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Joel's Birthday

For Joel's birthday last weekend we decided to lay low.  He requested that I make my famous meatball subs (famous to him) and that we just hang out and watch movies.  So on his birthday, I got up with him and had a special breakfast treat, a donut and a bacon croissant and gave him a special snack for later at work (a pretzel bread from our favorite bakery).  We went out with a bunch of people from Joel's office for his birthday lunch and Joel treated everyone to pizza.  It is tradition to treat people on your birthday which I think it really funny.  I baked a cake and took it in for everyone to enjoy at the office just before everyone left for the day.  All of the Chinese were really excited to have a traditional American birthday cake and took thousands of photos of the cake and me cutting the cake and Joel and I with the cake , phew.  The only bad part about the day was me trying to get the cake to the office.  We live right on the river and Joel's office is directly across from us also on the river so we just take the ferry back and forth.  So at 4:15 I left the house carrying a huge cake plate, a large knife (which I hid in my purse) and plates and headed toward the ferry.  The cake plate was really heavy and it was hot outside.  When I got to the ferry it was closed because the river had risen too high and flooded the dock.  Great.  Did I mention it was really hot and the icing on the cake was starting to melt off?  So I waited to see if the ferry would start again, all the while drawing a crowd of curious chinese who were wondering why I was carrying a cake.  So needless to say I gave up and grabbed a cab (which takes twice as long) and of course the ferry started going again.  Ahh, the joys of living in the big city and not having a car to throw things in and to get around.  So, after the fun at the office Joel and I headed back where he got to open all his presents.  I got him a badminton set, a movie watching date kit and a few other fun things.  We had our meatball subs and just watched movies and hung out all night.  The next day we went to the park with some friends and spent the whole day playing badminton and hanging out in the sun.  It was a beautiful day in Shanghai!  Over all I think Joel had a pretty good b-day.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

A visit from a brit

Our friend Tim had a friend from London come to Shanghai for work a few weeks ago and he was able to spend some time hanging out with all of us.  We had a few dinners together, one night at the bars and a fun filled day of exploring Shanghai.  Martin had some free time from working and told Tim that he would love to experience a Shanghai Tai Tai day (tai tai is wife).  So he was lucky to catch us on a day when we were planning on (gasp!)  shopping!  So we did drag him shopping but luckily in was in Yuyuan gardens which is a must see in Shanghai anyway.  We didn't put him through the torture too long before we decided to stop for a bottle of wine (he had to get the whole experience) and to teach him the art of Mahjong.  We had bought a travel set so it was small enough to spread out on our table at happy hour.  He caught on very quickly and we then moved on to one of my favorite bars in Shanghai to meet Joel who was getting off work.  It is my favorite bar because of the view.  It is amazing.  Since Martin had mastered mahjong we got the set back out at the bar and played a few more games with Joel before heading to dinner to meet Tim.
Playing mahjong, check out the view!

Kristin helping Martin with strategy.

The group.

The view.

More view.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Bride to be and her Chee Pow

A friend of mine here Kristin who went with us to Anji, is heading back to the states in two weeks to get married!  Being here has proved to be little difficult with planning and getting everything ready.  But she did have the great idea to incorporate their new home into a few of the details, like wearing a traditional Chinese dress for her rehearsal dinner!  Such a cute and great idea, plus it looks great on her!  We went to the fabric market where they fully custom make the dress and fit it perfectly to her.  It took about 3 fittings but it is perfect!

The fancy dressing room.

Almost done, a few more changes!
Finished product, beautiful!!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Anji- the bamboo forest

Last weekend we took a trip with our friends Kristin and Tim to Anji.  Anji is in the bamboo forest where the movie Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon was filmed.  It was so great to get to real nature and be able to relax.  We went with a travel group,, so everything was taken care of for us.  Transportation, lodging, food and guided hikes were all included plus a BBQ party.  It was so great to not have to find our way around and have someone else worry about everything.
Anji was about a 3 1/2 hr drive from Shanghai and we were with everyone who was going for the weekend on the bus.  There were ten of us total which the guide said was a small number.  We stayed in small bungalows that were actually pretty nice.  Joel and I were given a 3 person one at first but we had to move the second day to a 2 person room.  It was fine because to compensate they brought us a cooler full of beer and our new room also had a mahjong table.
The first day we had breakfast prepared for us and then we set out on a long hike.  We had to take the bus to the top of the mountain and then we went down the first and up and over another mountain.  It had rained the day before so the trail was slick but the views and the scenery were awesome.  Bamboo is so beautiful.  The hike lasted about 3+ hours and by the end it was pouring rain.  At least it was warm so we were't freezing from being soaked.  I don't even think the pics do the hike justice.  It was so beautiful, probably more so since we hadn't been to real nature like that in months.  At the end of our hike the bus was supposed to pick us up but something was miscommunicated so our guide paid a local to drive us back in groups.  The local kept his gasoline for his small van on the floor in front of the back seat, covered with plastic wrap.  I think we were all high by the time we arrived back, at least we made it in one piece!
After cleaning up and drying off we had lunch prepared for us, traditional Chinese that was really good.  We decided that once we were finished with lunch we would relax and have some beers and play mahjong.  That night was a big BBQ party that the company threw for us so we just hung out until then.
The BBQ was really good.  We hadn't had grilled food, hamburgers brats and fries since coming to China so it was a little taste of home in the bamboo forest.  There was a younger single German guy on our trip who is in China studying Chinese.  He made friends with a few of the workers at the resort and they challenged him to a drinking contest.  For the Chinese this meant beer.  For a German this meant Vodka.  Let's just say it did not end well.  All parties involved were sick that night and at breakfast the next day.  It was really funny to watch.  After the party was over we went back to our room for some cards and then to bed.
Day 2 started again with breakfast and then we set out on a hike.  Kristin and Tim didn't join us for the hike so Joel and I went with the rest of our group alone.  It wasn't quite as challenging of a hike as the day before but still really beautiful scenery.  We made some new friends and chatted with everyone the whole hike.  After the hike was lunch and then home.  Way too quick of a weekend but a good time to recharge and get a break from city life.

Friday, August 19, 2011


Our trip to Beijing a few weeks ago came during the hottest time of the year but was more than worth it to get to spend some time with friends there.  We took the high speed train (which Joel was super excited about) to Beijing and it took about 5 hours.  It really wasn't bad.  Joel and I had dinner in the dinner car and it was ok.  In my head head I had visions of classy white linens and waiters and menus but really it was just a counter where you could order some noodles and sit at a table.  Lol.  Oh well.  The ride went really fast, we watched a movie on the Ipad, read a little and then we were there!
After checking into our hotel (we were surprised with an upgrade to a suite as big as our apartment!) we went to the regency lounge for a cocktail and a snack to wait for our friends Jerry and Suzie for dinner.  We went to a really good chinese restaurant and let Jerry and Suzie order for us.  Everything was really good.  We had this one chicken dish that was cooked in a salt crust that you had to break open with a wooden stick.  The waitress let Joel and I try and we did get quite a bit of attention but it was fun.
The next day Joel and I took a walk in the area around our hotel and didn't last too long because the pollution was so bad.  We did find a nice park to walk in but then headed back to the hotel for lunch.  The night before we had ordered a duck (you have to do it in advance) from a famous restaurant in Beijing that is know for their Peking duck called Made in China.  It was so delicious.  We tried several other of their famous dishes and from where we were sitting we could watch all the cooks work.  It was a great meal.  Later that day Jerry and Suzie came and picked us up and we headed up to conquer the Great Wall of China.  We arrived after they had closed, but this is China, so Jerry just gave the guard some cash and we were in!  Even though it was 5pm by the time we got there it was still crazy hot.  We did climb but all of us had to take several breaks and were drenched in sweat by the time we got to the top.  It was cool to be able to check it off my list, but the pollution in Beijing was so bad that it wasn't as awe-inspiring as I thought it would be.  Maybe if we could have seen more than 10 yards in front of us it would have been better.  We also had a mung bean popsicle for the first time to cool off after our walk, it was weirdly good and addicting.   After we were done we had the pleasure of being invited to dinner by Jerry's mom and we spent the evening in her house.  It was good to have a home cooked meal with a really great family.  The dinner was so good and Joel and I felt like we were at home.  Made us a little home sick but was a nice change from the fast paced city life we are used to.
Our last day in Beijing We got up early for breakfast at the hotel and then went to see Tiananmen square and the Forbidden City with Jerry and Suzie.  It was huge and really cool to see even though it was soooo hot!!  We, of course, were some of the very few non-Asians there so we were sort of a spectacle, had to have our picture taken but we are starting to get used to it.  For lunch to cool off we went to an amazing Vietnamese restaurant and had some cold beers.  The restaurant had old rickshaws (I think that is what they are called) as chairs and also had a roof top where you could see a lake and old shopping street.  It was a great area to walk around in and have lunch and then do a little bit of souvenir shopping.
After our fun day we unfortunately had to say goodbye and get back on the high speed train to Shanghai.  

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Grape Picking

A friend of ours from kickball was nice enough to organize a bus and tour of a local family grape farm.  Thirty of us boarded a bus and took the hour long ride from the city to the Chinese farmland.  When we arrived the family who owned the farm served us a home cooked lunch.  They also let us try their home-made wine that was unlike any wine we had tried before.  A mix between brandy and port I think would be the closest way I can describe it.  Let's just say that none of us had a second helping of it, except our friend Paul who we talked into taking a shot of it.  After lunch some people played ping pong while others explored a bit.  Once our lunch was digested was headed out to the vines to pick some grapes!  It was over 100 degrees so we didn't last too long in the sun, but everyone got their fill of grapes that is for sure.  Joel and I came home with extras for friends plus we now have a freezer full.  Yum.  They are delish!  After we all had our fill of the farm we loaded back on the bus and made a stop at the small old canal town near by.  We explored some of the shops and Joel and I bought tickets to go to the top of the ancient pagoda.  It was really cool inside and a great view from the top!  We got back on the bus and headed back to Shanghai, Joel and I napping the whole way!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The UAE (finally!)

I know I have been saying that I would show the pics and tell about the middle east for a while now but my social schedule as a Shanghai Tai Tai (house wife) has been very hectic!  Lol, but here I am, finally sitting down to share with you our trip to Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
This trip was right after I went to the UK with my mom (you can read about it here and here if you missed it!)  We flew from London to the middle east with a layover in Frankfurt.  Not too bad of a flight.  After several 14 hour and 12 hour flights since moving abroad, 7 hours is a drop in the hat!
We arrived in the middle east around dinner time, which was perfect because we were meeting my hubby (who I hadn't seen in 2 wks!)  and some of the people from his office for dinner and drinks.  This was a working trip for my dad and Joel so my mom and I were pretty much on our own during the days, and for one night when the guys travels overnight to Kuwait City.
So our first day my mom and I were very fortunate to run into another mother and daughter traveling together.  We were waiting behind them at the concierge desk to see if we could plan a few trips.  She was discussing the big bus map with the concierge (which you all know by now is my favorite!)  and my mom and I sort of butted in.  It worked out for the best because we decided that it would be fun for the four of us to see the city together and hire a private car so we could see the sights that we wanted to see.  So we met up after lunch and headed out.
We saw pretty much everything there is to see in Abu Dhabi that day.  We went to the cultural center, which is for tourists obviously but it was still interesting.  We also went to the Big Mosque, which is new but boasts the largest carpet in the world.  Let me tell you, it was huge!  The entire mosque was really awe inspiring.  We did however have to wear full burkas to pay our respects to the religion (and to be let in), which was a weird experience having lived my whole life being able to wear whatever I wanted (except the one time in 7th grade I got in trouble by my mom for wearing a tube top to school).  Totally worth wearing the burka though because the Mosque was not something I would have wanted miss seeing!  We also stopped at the giant mall for a starbucks, and finished off the day with a little shopping.

The next day our new friends left so my mom and I were on our own.  We hired a private car to take us around for the day again, this time in an SUV incase the shopping got out of hand (which it did and my mom had to ship an entire suitcase full of stuff home) to drive us to Dubai.  Dubai was only about an hour drive and it was actually very interesting scenery, even though it was really just sand.  Once in Dubai we got the driving tour, saw the world's tallest building a few small mosques and then stopped for some shopping at the gold and spice markets.  While we did not buy any gold, we did buy some spices and we also bought some amazing embroidered pillow cases and my mom bought a beautiful hand embroidered scarf.  It was some very amazing shopping.

The next day was our last day and my mom and spent it just chilling on the beach.  We  just swam and read and hung out.  Our last night in Abu Dhabi we went on a desert safari with the guys and people from Joel's work.  It was a blast.  The night started with four-wheeling on the sand dunes (which was slightly terrifying) with a stop at the camel farm, to our dinner location where they had camels for us to ride, sand boarding, dune buggies to drive, a lady doing henna tattoos, hookah to smoke, belly dancing and of course food and drinks for us.  It was a really fun night to be out under the stars (not something you see in Shanghai) and to experience new things.  I of course got a henna tattoo and Joel of course rode the dune buggies, which after the guides warned us they were dangerous and that they didn't have insurance to cover accidents, Joel still managed to go flying off his.  But all in all it was a really fun night.  The next day Joel and I headed back to the 'Hai to rest while my parents went to Hong Kong and then came to spend a week with us in the city.  But more on that in another post!

Click here to see a video of our trip!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Chinese Junk Store

For those of you who know me in real life (which let's be honest, I think is most of you) you know that I love junk store, garage sales, thrift stores and any other place where I can explore and find "junk" for my house or to fix up.  In China they don't have any thrift stores and they don't do garage sales but after almost 5 months of living here I finally found a real junk store.  Even better than the ones I have found in the states because here it was rows and rows of crap but they will fix it up for you and paint it if you want included in the price.  I luckily have found a few friends who share my love of junk so we headed out to explore the store.  Getting there was quite the feat.  We had to call and ask for directions twice (I say we but I don't speak Chinese so really it was Jacqueline's driver who talked to them for us) but we finally found it.  After exploring for about an hour we ended up with a thousand mosquito bites and covered in dust but it was totally worth it.  We brought home a few small items but we will definitely head back to buy some furniture in the future.  I found several items that I really liked and something tells me they will still be there when I go back. : )

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Guest Blogger-Nicole in Australia

One of the places high on my list to visit has always been Australia.  Now that we are a little closer I think I may have to finally make the trip down there.  Hopefully this blog of Nicole's travels to Australia will inspire you to plan a trip as well!  Enjoy!

Hello all! Since Jenny is on the theme of world-traveling guest bloggers, I asked her if I could blog about my experience in Australia. My boyfriend Chris and I travelled around Australia for almost two weeks and had a great time. Our first stop, after a long flight was to Sydney. In order to catch our flight from Brisbane to Sydney we had about an hour and a half to clear customs, pick up checked luggage, go through the baggage check part of customs, drop off the checked luggage, and take a bus from the international terminal to the domestic terminal. We made it with about five minutes to spare. It was very stressful. While in Sydney, we took a boat tour of the harbour which included views of the Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House. We also saw some very large houses that were pretty amazing. The next two days that we were in Sydney were extremely rainy, not just a drizzle, but a downpour. We heard later that this was the most rainfall in 60 years. We tried our best to find indoor activities. We went to Wildlife World and the Sydney Aquarium where we saw a 5-meter saltwater crocodile, the world’s most poisonous snake and spider, koalas, kangaroos, and a bunch of other cool animals. We also went to two breweries and a bar that is said to be the oldest in Sydney (The Hero of Waterloo has tunnels that connect to the wharf area. When sailors didn't want to return home, the captains would get them drunk and drag them back to the ship.) At one of the breweries, we got to see some teams doing a scavenger hunt with a pirate as the director of the scavenger hunt. Watching people dance and sing around a bar at 11 am is pretty entertaining, especially when they bribe you with chocolate to give them a high score on their dance. We wanted to see as much of the city as possible, despite the rain. We walked through the botanic gardens, the area by the government house, and along Mrs. Macquarie's Road. She was the wife of the first governor and she would walk around this area everyday. This walk went out between two bays. Thankfully there were some sandstone "cliffs" that we could hide under. From there we walked to Woolloomooloo to get meat pies at a place called Harry's Cafe de Wheels. I guess it is a pretty famous place because they pictures of celebrities eating there, including KFC’s Colonel Sanders.
Our next stop was Melbourne (Pronounced Melbin as they don’t prounoune their r’s in the middle of words, but add them to words that end with ‘a’. For example, if you name is Fiona, you would say Fioner). We found a brewery that was suggested to us by a local and learned a lot about the breweries and taphouses in the area. The bartender gave us a book that he had on hand about beer in Australia. The other bartender was from Albuquerque. We used the book for the rest of the trip to help us find breweries and taphouses. As we walked around the city we found the football stadium. They had merchandise for the North Melbourne Kangaroos for sale so we bought a hoodie and a t-shirt. The lady told us to enjoy the game, which we had no idea was going on. We decided to experience the Australian-rules football game for ourselves. We found a place to sit and then asked the people sitting by us the explain the rules. It is kind of like our football with elements of soccer and volleyball thrown in. Without asking about the rules, the game really made no sense. The North Melbourne Kangaroos beat the Brisbane Lions with a score like 122 to 73, or something like that. It was actually very fun to watch. The buildings here are a mix of new modern skyscrapers and buildings that look like they belong in Venice or Rome. We did a side trip to Phillip Island to visit a Koala conservation center and watch the Penguin Parade. Little Penguins go out to fish in the ocean and then return after sunset to find their homes. After sunset, they start waddling up the beach and then calling for their mates. It is very cute. But, they don’t allow pictures or video.
Our next stop was Ayer's Rock, in the Northern Territory or the Outback.  Ayer's Rock is a small resort village with about five hotels, a shopping center with a grocery store and a few restaurants and restaurants at each of the hotels. We saw some local wildlife...with eight legs. I took a picture of one, but we found another that was bigger. We watched the sunrise at Ayer’s rock (or Uluru, which is its Aboriginal name). The rock looks different colors at different times of the day or after it rains, ranging from oranges and reds, to purples, and even black). We went to another area of rocks called the Olgas (Kata Tjuta) and did a short hike. It is an absolutely beautiful area.
Our last stop was Cairns (pronounced Cannes). We found the local brewery (so that Chris could material for his beer blog, and it was their trivia night. We came in second, which is good because the sports round was mostly about rugby and Aussie rules football and we had no clue what any of the answers were. We did win a bonus question and got a six pack of their pilsner. We took a side trip to Kuranda, an area that is mostly rainforest so we walked along the short jungle walk trail. They also had a lot of tourist shopping stuff and market area. We did get to enjoy meat pies for lunch, which reminds Chris of his semester he spent in New Zealand. They have a bat rehab center for bats that have been injured or abandoned. They had huge fruit bats and some very tiny bats as well. They lady gave us a lot of info about the bats and it was a cool experience. We took the scenic railway back, but the moving train just made me sleepy and I took a nap.
We were able to snorkel twice in the Great Barrier Reef. Our first snorkel trip was to Green Island. The boat ride going there was miserable and so many people were getting sick. Luckily Chris and I did not get sick, just a little uncomfortable. When we got there we tried one side of the island to snorkel, but the water was too shallow. So we went to the other side which was better, but we didn't get to see a whole lot. We did a glass bottom boat tour and again didn't see much. The boat ride back was better and we briefly saw a humpback whale. Our second reef trip was to the outer reefs and you snorkel off the boat instead of the beach. It was amazing. We saw so many fish, a couple sea turtles, a white-tipped reef shark and a nice display by a humpback whale on the trip back. I am sure that I missed a lot of the details of our trip. It was great to experience the culture in Australia. 
Sydney Opera House 
Harry's Cafe De Wheels - Meat Pies

Ayer's Rock

Port Douglas -Near Cairns

Thursday, August 4, 2011

A typhoon is coming...

Not just any typhoon, a level five super typhoon.  It is a little scary, all though we are a ways in land so we should be fine.  Just wanted to let everyone know that we have prepared a little (extra water, food, beer and a trip to the movie lady) so we should be set for this weekend.  The last few days we have been getting bits and pieces of the edge of it and it has been intense!  I have never seen sideways rain until now.  The lightening was hitting buildings and the thunder was shaking our windows.  Poor murph (a friends dog) was terrified and had to be cocooned in his kennel.  But so far each day when it has hit it only lasts about an hour.  Hopefully it will be the same when we get the full impact on Saturday.

The first day that it hit, I got home from bible study right as the rain started.  I called Joel because he had come home for lunch and I had missed him.  When I called him the wind was starting to pick up a bit and the lightening was getting really intense.  It turns out that right as he had gotten on the ferry to get back to work the lightening had started and the ferry couldn't go anywhere.  So Joel was just sitting on a Chinese ferry with no emergency exits (I have checked)  in a lightening and rain storm.  So I told him to get off the ferry and get his butt home.  Seriously it is about a 4 minute walk from the ferry to our back door and this is what showed up at my door...

I guess an umbrella doesn't help when the rain is coming in sideways.  Lol.
I will keep everyone posted!

Visit from a friend!

We recently got to catch up with a friend from home who is a pilot and flys to China a lot.  It was great to hear about everyone at home and share a beer in China!  We took Steve to a place called Boxing Cat Brewery where the expats like to hang out for some good bar food and home brewed beer.  The food is great, the beer is decent but it is just a great place to hang out and catch up.  After drinks the boys tried to sneak into a absolute vodka party but they weren't on the list.  Sorry Steve, we aren't that cool!

I thought this looked like Penelope!