Back to China

Okay, it's been a while, but I still have lots more pictures and stories!
This is one picture that deserves it's own blog-
This is a "boat" made completely of Marble, that "floats" at the Summer Palace in Beijing. The most hated Leader of all time in China, "The Dragon Lady" had it built. She became leader in the mid 1700's after poisoning her husband, (who was the current Emperor) her son, who was to become emperor, and then her Nephew who was next in line. Anyway, and ancient Chinese proverb said that the people of China are like the water, and a boat is like their Emperor/Empress... the water can hold up a boat and help it move forward, but the water can also sink a boat and ruin in. Just like the people will love and support a good leader, but hate and overthrow a bad one. So, the Dragon Lady who taxed the people terribly and didn't care at all for China, only her own comfort and riches, had this boat built at her RIDICULOUSLY OPULENT summer palace. It is a boat made completely out of marble, and sits on a marble base, and can never be sunk. She did this to show the people that no matter how hated she was, the people would never be able to do anything about it! SERIOUSLY...THE NERVE!!!!

Overhead and Humorous

Me on the way out the door : "Bye Daddy, Bye Jaxon"
Jaxon: "Bye mom! Remember, don't hit! Oh, and don't bop!"
(then his little head peaks around the corner)
"Just try to be nice, okay?"

TV commercial
Older gentleman on the phone: "Sir, my computer won't work."
Computer guy: "Okay, let's start with the basics. Is it plugged in?"
older Guy: "Plugged into what?"
computer guy: "The wall..."
Older guy: "This computer didn't COME with a wall!"

(that is SO my dad!!!)

At the temple today-

Old lady and SUPER old lady
Old lady: "what year were you born?"
SUPER old: "1911"
Old lady: "My brother was born in 1911, but he died last year."
Super old: "DARN IT! It's MY TURN! But no...I just linger, and linger, and linger..."

Pay It Forward!

So, here's how this game works-the first 3 people to leave a comment on this post will receive, at some point during the year, a handmade gift from me. What it will be and when it will arrive is a total surprise! The catch is that you must participate as well. Before you leave your comment, write up a pay it forward post on your blog to keep the fun going (or be lazy and copy and paste like I did). Then come back, let me know you're going to play and sit back and anticipate the arrival of your gift! Well isn't this fun?
PS-I'm not terribly skilled...but I am a good baker, and have been known to take a few pictures here and there....Ooohhhh This is FUN!


We arrived in Beijin in the evening and met our guide- Kerry. The first thing we noticed is that Beijin is NOT a lot like the other areas we had been too. China put a lot of work and effort into making Beijin modern and hospitable for the olympics.

We got to the hotel, and let me say, it is the nicest hotel I have EVER stayed in...this is not a joke, it was beautiful, and guess what? It was a real bargain- $37 US dollars a night!

They served a complimentary breakfast each morning in their ULTRA modern and swanky restaurant- also the best breakfast, buffet or otherwise, I have ever had. They had every breakfast food you could think of, American, French, Chinese or otherwise! So lots of delicious choices..and since we were never sure just what lunch or dinner would bring- we ate for the "just in case" scenario!!!

We were on our own this first day in Beijin- meaning no guide, but none was really necessary. We were going to the pearl market and the silk market, two places my parents were very familiar with, and they were the best guides possible. I guess I was so excited with the ridiculously low prices and large quantities of goods, that I didn't take any pictures, honestly, NO pictures of the pearl or silk market? What a tragedy, because believe you me, that was SOME FUN STUFF!
My dad is the bargain master, and enjoys a good round of good hearted shouting with a chinese merchant more than you can imagine! Every stall was the same, offer a price, counter offer, both parties act offended at the terribly low/high price, walk away/turn way, and then get yelled at, grabbed, and dragged back, only to go through the same exact thing at least 5 more times before deciding on a "fair price" the funny thing is, after a few tries, I could tell you what we were going to get something for before the bargaining began, and it would have been a lot easier and less noisy for both parties to just start and end there...but that's not the game!
We did the silk market in the morning, and then went to a traditional Chinese lunch- at PIZZA HUT--HAHA! In the states I hate pizza hut, but in China, it was delicious! This is where I got tissue stuck in my zipper, but that story has already been told. Amber did say, "You know Ashley. You are the only person that this could happen to,...and these types of things happen to you ALL THE TIME!" On one hand, she's right, strange things happen to me a lot, but on the other hand, I think it's just that I'm really not embarrassed by silly stuff like that, and when it happens, I get a good laugh, and let other people get a good laugh as well!
That afternoon we went to the pearl market, and WOW! I got some GORGEOUS pearls for shockingly low really...shocking! I also wanted to buy a large quantity of "designer" purses, and the lady we were bargaining with realized how many we were looking for, (it was all the girls and my dad, and our last stop of the night) so she dragged us out of the market, and to her "Warehouse" (translation: really beat down and seedy apartment complex across the street) so no other vendors would try to get us to buy from them, and also becuase she had a lot better selection there! It was really fun, and...looking back...slightly dangerous!
We then had Sizzler for dinner...another restaurant I wouldn't probably hit in the states, but SO appreciated in China- the best salad bar, with fresh fruits and veggies, something we had really been missing..YUMMY!!!

Here we are on the subway on the way to the market- lots of people tried to speak their limited English to us after finding out we were American. One older guy sitting next to my mom pointed to my mom and said
"Mama?" and then pointed to Amber and I. She said yes, and he started giggling, and so did the lady next to him.
We just smiled, not in on the joke, and then I'm pretty sure he made fun of our eyes-
He said, "Mama, girls- SAME EYES! SAME EYES!" and then used his thumb and first finger to open his eyes as wide as possible, and then laughed hysterically at us. He would occassionally repeat "Same eyes..." and get a chuckle. So...I guess they think our big American eyes are just peculiar as we find some of their features- we thought it was just as funny as the old guy did when we understood we were being laughed at, and we laughed right along with him!
One last goodie...this is at our Chinese massage...YIKES! look at those pastey legs. And I forgot to mention, it was ABSOLUTELY FREEZING in there. We were all shivering so much that they brought us bags of HOT HOT HOT rocks to put on our stomachs and feet. Then those burned us, but hey--beggars can't be choosers.

Here's hoping!

Okay, who would love to take an awesome photo class? PICK ME!
Who would LOVE LOVE to take that class for free? PLEASE PICK ME!
Holly Brimhall and Amanda Andrews are offering another one of their awesome photo classes, and I really want to win a spot! Head over to either of their sites (linked above) if you too would like to take an awesome photo class. Just please try not to win the free spot, I kind of have it reserved! :o)

A far cry...

A far cry from that lovely revolving toilet seat in the Korean Airport!!

here is a picture of the average Chinese toilet. It would seem that after you master the squatting, that they are not that bad...but just imagine what you are stepping in...I have still have not worn the shoes that I wore in China...I just can't bring myself to do it...

This is my second post about China today, so continue reading about the Terracota warriors!

More Xi'an- slowely but surely!

Here are some pictures from Xi'an at the TerraCota Warriors. It was absolutely AMAZING! By far, my favorite thing that we saw, and no pictures or explanation could possibly do it justice, but here goes---

The TerraCota warriors were built in about 246 BC, to protect the first Emperor of China "Qin" in the after life. It is estimated that these pits contain 8000 soldiers, 130 chariots, and 650 horses, the majority of which are still unearthed.
So, Emperor Qin had all of these life size warriors etc. built to protect him in the afterlife, and each was modeled after a real warrior and painted in a lifelike way. Then they were buried around the site of his tomb, in a protective war formation. 40 Years ago this site was discovered, and work has commenced ever since. One of the most interesting things I learned is that when the soldiers were first unearthed, their paint was still largely in tact, but within 40 minutes of exposure to the outside air, all the paint disappeared! They have left large sections unearthed, and are trying to solve the problem of the disapearing paint so that some of the warriors can remain colorful. Also interesting to note, history says that emperor Qin was buried in his huge palacial tomb with MASSIVE ammounts of gold, jewelry, and with rivers of murcury flowing around him. This tomb remains unopened, because the site does show HUGE quantities of mercury underground, and if opened, it is estimated that it could poison the entire surrounding area! All of his 100 childless concubines were buried alive with him when he died, to keep him company in the afterlife... YIKES!
On the way-

With mom and dad at the entrance-

Come on- everyone needs a few cheesy tourist pictures!!

This is Pit 1- the largest of the 3- it contains mostly soldiers...the first line of defense.

Pit 2-Cavalry, infantry, and war chariots-

Pit 3- Command post with high ranking officials and more chariots

This is a picture of the warriors right after they were unearthed, before they lost all of their color.

After the warriors we were going to go to a traditional dumping lunch. All of us were a little worried (not liking dumplings too much) so on the way out there were several food vendors. One was selling steamed sweet potatoes. Now, in the U.S. I'm pretty sure I would NOT buy a sweet potato from a street vendor and think it was a real treat, but they smelled delicious, were not fried, and the price was right! We all got one and really, they were SO GOOD!!! I got mine first, and it was a not quite as hot as I would have liked (it had been sitting on top, and not in the steam pit in her cart) so I asked our guide to ask for a "hotter" one for me. She looked at me very strangely- and here is our conversation-
Me- Could you ask for one that is a little hotter?
Cynthia- Hotter?
M- Yes, hotter.
C- Hotter??
M- Yes, hotter please!
C- spoke in Chinese to the vendor, and both were obviously confused.
C- They don't have any hotter.
M- What about from the steam pit? Wouldn't those be hotter?
C- No, they wouldn't be hotter...
(there was extreme heat and steam coming from the pit, so obviously they would have been hotter!!!)
I just said okay, and ate the warm one I had.
Cynthia came over and said, "Can I ask you a question? Why did you want one that was hotter? In our country, we like them as SOFT as possible!"
AH-HAH!!! That was the problem...she thought I was saying "HARDER" and obviously, a steaming sweet potato from the pit would have been Softer, so anyway...when in China...
Yes, these are Sweet potatoes and NOT hot dogs!

First day in Xi'an-

After our day and a half in Tianjin, we woke up early and flew to Xi'an, an ancient city that is home to the Terra Cota warriors. When we got there we met our guide and immediately went to the City Wall.
It reminded me of, "Samuel the Lamanite high on the city Wall..." Now I get it! This wall was built thousands of years ago, as Xi'an used to be the capital of all of China. I thought the fog made for some really cool shots.

This is Amber flying a really cool kite on the wall. We bought several and have already flown them at home, and they still work great! We did have a bit of an accident with one of them, and now it is in a knotted heap (I'm sure Dave would like me to insert here, that the "incident" was totally my fault) but the others-fantastic!
My Dad was always saying, "China is so Modern, and China is so Ancient!" I thought this was a great picture to represent that-the ancient flag on the ancient city wall, with big buildings in the background!

This picture was taken from the parking lot, which in ancient times was the area where troops would gather and assemble before marching to battle.

After that we went to a traditional Chinese lunch (one of several) and it was pretty tasty! Our young waitress (the one that stands by our table the whole time, anticipating every need!) was kind and smiley and asked, "You. Speak. Chinese?" Probably the only 3 words of English she knew. I imediately said, "Peo Leung" (beautiful) because Aside from Nie Hao, it was the only Chinese I knew. Well, I'm pretty sure she thought I was calling her beautiful because she kept saying thank you in Chinese, and from then on, served me every dish first! It was pretty funny. Next we went to a fun flea market, where a guy tried to scam Amber and pull the old switch'a'roo on a watch she was buying.
Next, since it was Amber's birthday, she requested that all the girls get massages (since "mattress" in Chinese must mean "Concrete Slab") and our backs were a little sore. Let me tell you, a Chinese Massage is nothing like an American massage. We had to put on scrub type shorts and t-shirts (dang it, I can't find the picture) and there was a lot of hitting, slapping, and karate chopping going on. No, there was not a fight, that is just what the people did who were massaging us- OUCH, OUCH, OUCH!! In their defense, my backache was pretty much gone, but I will stick to my Western Massages from now on!
Next post- The Terra Cota Warriors!

Where did my baby go? PART II

No seriously, who is this big kid?

Afternoon in Tainjin- Accused of being Italian!

That first afternoon we went to Ancient Market Street. It is much nicer, and also much more touristy...I wouldn't say the prices were A LOT higher, but it was definately "traditional" Chinese souveniers and such.
We had to take 2 taxis wherever we went, so this time it was My Mom, Amber, and I. We got quite the taxi driver. Usually they ignore you all together, but this guy chattered on in Chinese and smiled a lot, even after it was apparent we didn't speak any Chinese! We began a little comunication mostly through hand signals, and had a hilarious conversation. First he pointing to my mom, then Amber and I and said, "Mama! Mama!' and we said, "YES!" Then he kept pointing to my mom and saying "Peo Liung" (butchered phonetic spelling) and smiling! He would touch his face, point to my mom's face, and say it over and over. I knew he was complimenting her, and we found out later it meant, "Beautiful" and he's right!

Then we tried to learn his name. We all pointed to my mom and said, "Paula." and he would point to my mom and say, "Paula." Then "Amber", and he repeated, then "Ashley" and he repeated, then the three of us pointed to him and waited, and he burst into hysterical giggles. We tried this 3 or 4 times before we gave up on learning his name.

The funniest part of the ride to me was the last "conversation" we had with him. I am pretty sure he had already established that my mom was our mom, but he mustered up all his English and first pointed to my mom and said, "Uh-mer-ee-can!" then to Amber and said, "Uh-mer-ee-can" then to me and said, "Eee-tuh-lee" (Italy) We all laughed and said No, American, but he laughed and said "No, Eee-tuh-lee!"
We shopped and had a great time throughout the afternoon!

The Entrance-

The walkways-

In front of the Ancient monster. This is half Dragon, and half something else I can't remember. This monster is the reason they light fireworks throughout spring festival. Legend says that this monster will sneak in and hurt/kill/take your children during the year if you don't light a lot of loud fireworks to scare him off during the festival....and Yes! It was DANG cold while we were there!

Part 2- First morning in Tianjin

This is the city where my parents live- Tianjin. The first morning we got up and I got to run to the market with my dad on the back of his 3-wheeler motorbike. QUITE the adventure! (Let's just say Chinese Shocks are a little shocking...) I even got to switch and drive him home after we got on campus. I had a better appreciation for how well my dad was actually driving, and only nearly bounced him out about 4 times.

Yes, that is smog! Also, all of those buildings are apartments, and they are EVERYWHERE. No wonder they can fit a billion people there!

First we all went to Dah- Hu- Tang a large street market-

Here is a view of whats left of a large batch of firecrackers. Pretty much 24 hours a day you would hear these, or the huge boom of large ones in the sky. It was Spring Festival (which is the 15 days after Chinese New Year) and it brings you and your family Good luck and your children safety for the next year to set off as many as possible!

A view of one of the many aisles of Dah-Hu-Tang- sorry about the random guy...

Everywhere there were vendors selling a large assortment of strange foods, and I really wish I would have taken more pictures. But one of the most interesting were these little eggs-

Doesn't this look delicious??? And CLEAN??? (check out the front side of the cart...)

This is a close up view of what the eggs looks like when they are done cooking-

While in China, I did buy quite a few "Knock off" items...but you gotta watch out...Case in Point-

Where's my baby?

He's gone.

This is what I have now...for me I guess it's equal parts exciting and heartbreaking.
Oh motherhood, you're a hard one.
REALLY excited...

See ya later!

We were just going to get a nice white toddler bed for Jaxon so it would continue to match his room, but he saw this fireman bed -which he FELL IN LOVE WITH, at his friend Tate's house, WHO HE IDOLIZES, and it was pretty much a done deal. Tate actually grew out of it and we were able to strike a sweet deal with his mom and dad (THANKS GUYS!)

We turned the lock around on Jaxon's door, and locked it from the outside. (I'm still worried to death about him getting out, wandering the house, and getting hurt without me knowing) We told him if we heard him out of bed and playing in his room, he would lose his "big boy bed" privilege and be back in his crib. We also bought a timer and hooked his little lamp to it. We set it to turn on at 6:45. We told Jaxon that when, AND ONLY WHEN, the light went on, he could call for us. Before that, to stay and play in his cool bed. Sure enough, right on the dot, he was not only calling, but knocking loudly on his door. It was SO least the first time!

First Stop- Korean Airport

Our first stop was actually Los Angeles, but then we flew 13.5 hours to Korea. We had a 3 hour layover there, but did not have to go through any customs or claim and recheck luggage. So we decided to be couragous and try some Exotic food and then play a few mean games of ROOK. We mostly ordered from pictures, as the descriptions, while in English, were hardly discernable! The food here is always displayed so nicely...I mean, this is AIRPORT FOOD for pete sake!

Here is my SIL Tricia with our two beverages...Korean Sprite and the only fruit drink they had- Fresh strawberry juice- YUM!!!

This is spicy shrimp spring rolls (emphasis on the SPICY!!!!) with broth, pickled something that we all sniffed and no one tasted, and dipping sauce sort of like soy sauce. All pretty tasty.

These are pork dumplings which weren't too terrible, especially after we tried Chinese Dumpings...YUCK! The problem with these dumpings is that in China/Korea the soft bread is a delicacy, but it was a little too mushy for us!

This is noodles in broth with fried/mushy bread. It was really good. Also some veggie spring rolls, also not to bad, but I just can't handle the seaweed wrapper... hiding behind the big bowl is KimChee...pickled cabbage and the #1 specialty in Korea. It STUNK and I refused to try it, but my sister goaded me into taking a lick- just as gross as I expected!

Our favorite thing about the Korean Airport- the toilet! You push the red button on the side and the whole toilet seat rotates and refreshes with new plastic covering! WOW!

On our two hour flight from Korea to Tianjin they served some interesting Korean food-

This is the spicy red bean paste to squeeze onto the meal

Here is the meal itself-

Fish eggs-

Some sort of holey pickled vegetable

I don't know how I missed taking pictures of the fishy stuff...some sort of tentacle things! (you can see in the picture it kind of looks like mushrooms!)
needless to say, we only took pictures of the food, and did not eat any! Thank goodness for FiberOne bars and beef jerkey!

First of many...

The "City Wall" in Xi'an- over 9 miles long. It was really foggy which made for a really cool shot!

At the great wall- we hiked the steep side (more to come) to get a better photo opp!

I knew it, Dang it!

Even though I only got 2 hours of sleep during yesterday's marathon of 23 hours of travel, I knew my days and nights would be mixed up. I was dead tired but still took 2 tylonol PM to keep me asleep....well well it is 2am, and who is on the computer? ME? I just took another tylonol, but it hasn't kicked it yet. Also, Dave is burning with fever. Good thing I got home when I did! Hello real life.

A few rules to live China

#1- always carry tissue! The Chinese in general to not believe in using western toilets (and when they have no choice- they will stand ON THE SEAT and squat from there!!!), nor do they believe in using toilet paper--BE PREPARED!

#2- Do not hold said tissue in your hand while zipping/unzipping your zipper. I did this and got tissue stuck. No amount of pulling, pushing, jumping up and down or heaving by me or my 3 sisters made any progress. ENTER- SAINTLY PIZZA HUT WORKER. She quickly saw my dilemma when I was standing in the bathroom with my zipper down and 3 different people trying to help me pull it up. She quickly jumped in the mix and yanked, tried picking it out with her extra long pinky finger nail (don't ask me why they grow it that way...I don't get it either!), and dripped some water from the sink into my pants. When that didn't work she motioned for me to wait just a minute (as if I was going to go anywhere at that point) and she came back with a toothpick. She finally picked the toilet paper out and zipped my zipper up all by herself ( I think she would have buttoned my pants too if I would have let her..) and she was the first person I bowed to in China! I was saying "Thank you! Thank you!" over and over again!

3. DO NOT sit in the first row at the Grand Chinese Acrobatics show! While we were at the show, (more to come on this because dispite the story I am about to tell, it was UNBELIEVABLE!) During the show, one of the acrobats standing on the seat of her bicycle (while it was moving of course) lost control and her bike flew into the first row of seats- totally clobbering a little kid! We were in the 3rd row, and quickly realized, THOSE were the best seats in the house!

4. DO NOT talk to anyone in the market unless you are prepared to stop. They will grab your arm, shirt, neck...Heck, I think my hair was grabbed at home point. All while screaming (not a joke- SCREAMING) in your face "HEY LADY! I GIVE YOU BEST DEAL! YOU FIRST SALE OF DAY! DAT IS GOOD LUCK! WHAT YOU WANT? NAME YOUR PRICE!" My dad had to pry a few fingers off of me and steer me away while fending off grabbing hands.

We are having a great time, and are sad to see our time coming to an end. I am really excited to see my boys again though!

Nie Hau From China

Hello! Here we are in China, and we have adjusted pretty well. With traveling all night and half the day, it messes you all up anyways, so it wasn't a big deal. Today we went to a huge outdoor market, and haggled a lot over prices (well, we found things we wanted, and my dad haggled over prices) it's funny, because the difference in price was usually a dollar or less, but dad is ALL ABOUT a good deal. I got a couple hats, some cold weather boots, and some jeans. The jeans experience was pretty funny- so that is the story I will tell today.
We went to the Jeans booth because even with my "long johns" under my jeans, I was pretty cold, so we bought another warmer, fluffier pair. Well, I didn't think that both pairs of long johns would fit under my regular jeans, so my dad said we should go to "his jeans lady" and get new ones. We got to the jeans stall, and at the same time I was explaining about the jeans, we wanted to know where the restroom was. So at the same time I was trying to explain that I didn't want a pair of jeans that fit, but a bigger pair, my sisters were trying to ask where the bathroom was. Neither explanation was going very well, so my sisters drew a picture. Finally the lady started laughing, and motioned that she understood. She thought I needed bigger jeans because I had split mine while trying to use a squater toilet! Slightly embarrassing!
Anyway, she kept bringing me jeans that fit great, NOT understanding that I needed them bigger. She kept thinking I wanted them Stretchier. So finally I had one pair on, and motioned that I wanted ANOTHER pair, to put on OVER the pair I was already wearing. She thought I was nuts, but she brought me a bigger pair. Finally I said I would take the bigger ones, but not the smaller ones, and she was really confused. Right after that, as we were leaving the market, we saw two women screaming hysterically and sort of wrestling with each other. One had a brick in her hand and was screaming, crying, and trying to get away from the other one motioning that she was going to throw it. The other was screaming and trying to stop her. We got out of the way, becuase none of us wanted to get hit by a rogue brick!
I did end up using the "squater toilet" which is pretty standard here...for my first try, it wasn't too shabby....good news, and bad news. The good news is that I didn't get anything on me! The bad news is that I don't think I got much in the hole in the ground either!