Sunday, April 27, 2008

Yunnan Wild Animals Park

The original plan was to head to the park after church services and lunch. However, after lunch, a sudden cold front moved in, so we needed to make a detour back to the apartment to gather up jackets. So we got a later start than we wanted.

The park was a bit of a disappointment, as it was more like the zoo, but at least some of the animals were in more of a natural setting than as seen in the Kunming Zoo. The grounds were well kept, with many pines and wonderful views of the mountains. And the kids always love to see any kind of animal, so the day wasn't a total dud!

We saw little foxes...

and big cats.

E. likes elephants because they begin with "E", just like her!

We ended the afternoon at our favorite "it's a dive, but so delicious" dumpling place. We're waiting on our fourth order to come to the table!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

A taste of Thailand and other (a)musings

The Saturday that was...

In the morning, E.'s two good friends Shon Shon and Li Li stopped by to play:

In the afternoon, we headed downtown to the Thailand Festival. Here's G. taking a sip of something Thai:

"I like this cocnout. Try some!"

What's a festival without t-shirts for sale?

Afterwards, C. tries out some dance moves with the Dico's crowd:

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Can you guess

what's inside this envelope??

Our itinerary home! Two months from today (June 24) we'll be boarding in Kunming for Seoul, Korea. From Seoul, it's on to Chicago, then Detroit. With the wonders of time zones and the international dateline, we leave June 24 and arrive June 24, even though it's a 22 hour trip. Looks like we'll be asking ourselves "What day is it?" and "What time is it?" for a few days following!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Asked and Answered

Normally I would reply to a question via the comment section. However, being in China, one can't access their own blog or comments... it's that pesky concept of free speech again! ( secret how it's possible ;) So if anyone has a question, please feel free to ask and I will post a reply to the best of my ability.

USA commented: "Why so many rules to swim? I can understand the cap due to problems with hair in the filters, not the other one."

A.'s answer: The heck if I know! It's yet another mystery of China. Yes, the cap rule makes sense. I also think in today's world, having a swim cap is ingrained culturally. It would seem bizarre to a Chinese person not to wear a swim cap in a pool. Although the cap rule is enforced, it is not worn properly! What's the point if it's sitting loosly on a head with hair hanging down/out??!!

The "spandex/lycra" rule? Who knows? It must have something to do with a loose fit. We tried to explain that the guys' suits were perfectly acceptable swim gear. As you can see, we didn't get very far with that reasoning! But every male in the pool was wearing a spandex-type suit. The funny thing though, the "lifeguards/monitors" did not wear such a thing. They wore the brightly patterned, long (to the knee or mid calf), loose fitting nylon pants seen on college age males around here. (Not sure if it's a popular style in the US.) The old double standard exists eveywhere.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

A Sunday Swim

Our friends from the kindergarten, the Yue Jiang family with Yie laoshi and her son Peter invited us for a swim today at a nearby indoor pool. A perfect andidote for a hot afternoon.

Part of the group before heading into the pool. Use of swim caps are strictly enforced in Chinese pools. Shortly after this photo was taken, G. and C. were denied admittance to the pool. Apparently, their trunks weren't the "regulation close-fit spandex type" needed. We reluctantly forked over the equivalent of five dollars (!!) for two suits at the in-house store and now have the right swim apparel for any pool in China.

Xue Xi coaxing E. to take the plunge.

Three wet monkeys enjoying the water:

"Peace, Momma!"

The view from poolside:

Saturday, April 19, 2008

World Horticulture Expo Garden cont.

Admiring an exhibit in the bonsai garden:

Many brides have their pictures taken in public gardens, months before the actual wedding date.

There are about thirty world gardens on display. We only saw a handful, including this one, of course. The USA exhibit was quite a hike away and we were almost at meltdown stage. Well, we do know what a Michigan garden looks like!

A proud Chileno standing in "his" garden:

C. at the end of the day taking a break in the little shade that can be found. Notice how he is sitting - the Chinese squat. One sees people sitting like this everywhere - eating lunch, waiting for the bus, talking on the phone, etc. C. does this every chance he gets and seems very comfortable with it. Man, it looks like it would hurt after a (very short) while!

World Horticultural Expo Garden

In April 1999, Kunming hosted this world event and the massive gardens are still very impressive nine years later. The place is huge and is difficult to see most of it during a day's visit, let alone only having a few hours with kids in tow. We didn't get to see nearly enough and this would be a great place to visit again.

Here's the proof that we were actually there!

The sign said that this creation is the Expo's "mascot" Ling Ling. A continuous flow of water kept the flowers from wilting.

Shortly after we arrived, there was a parade of floats, dancers and a band.

This is not the prettiest picture, but we've never seen young palm trees in bloom. Never knew!

A favorite son of China, Confucious, at the entrance to the herb garden.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Our definition of insanity

is to spend hours in bookstores browsing through books that we will never be able to read! This semester, our morning coffee dates are on Mondays. Usually afterwards, we'll stop in one of the many university area bookstores because, well, just because they're there. The bookstores do carry a small section of books in English, mainly English language textbooks and some translated classic literature (which the patent has long expired). One time, I saw a very thin edition of Gone With the Wind. After a closer inspection, this volume had chapters missing and those that were included were in a condensed version! Geez, reading GWTW in that form would certanly lose that magical feeling of a literary masterpiece!

Here's Mr. Foreigner looking as literate as one can in this five story building:

And Mrs. Foreigner about to flip through a book on tea, we think?

Ah, so many books, so little ....

The Good Life

I have most afternoons free this semeser. So I've been busy doing various activities throughout the week.

On Wednesday and Thursday afternoons, G. tutors student Guo Rong. Gotta love all that hair the kid has!

Meanwhile, this Thursday, my friend Chris and I went for a facial and a massage. Here's Chris in a very relaxed state:

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Weekend Wrap up

We kept pretty close to home this weeend due to C. having minor tummy troubles. Also the weather changed from very comfortable Spring temps to a scorching Summer heat all week long. A day at a park in the hot sun didn't sound inviting at all.

E. and I did some shopping Saturday and her knowledge of Mandarin came in handy. We were at the checkout and the clerk said something - all I knew it had to do with the denominations. (Many times they ask for the one yuan as to not wanting to give them out. However, one yuans are needed for the bus and I don't like to be short.But that wouldn't apply to this particular situation.) So the clerk repeated her request and I was just going to feign ignorance (ok - no pretending, the ignorance is real) and move on. But E. piped up and said "Momma, the lady wants you to give her 10 yuan so she can give you 50 back". Exactly. The bill was about 60 yuan and I handed her a 100 bill. So instead of getting back two twentys, I got a fifty instead, which is prefered anyway. Way to go E.!

A favorite lunch of ours is steamed pork dumplings, with rice and two or three vegetable dishes. Here's G. and E. enjoying the ambiance at the Hong Dou Yuan restaurant.

After, we stopped for drinks at Chapter One, the restaurant/bar that sponsors G.'s soccer team. The kids just got a new magazine to look at so we enjoyed our beers with minimal interruption. Despite the heat, C. insisted on wearing heavy clothes today. Some battles are not worth fighting.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Asked and Answered

Canton's own super mom/nurse Jeni W. wanted to know how the kids got inside the bubble float. (Btw, thanks for calling it a bubble, much more of an apt term than "ball".)

Here's E. getting out. When a child gets in, the operator turns on a vacuum, pumps up the bubble a bit, wiggles the child(ren) in, inflates it completely, then zips up. It's on a tether and pushed in the water.

Then the kids can bounce and roll:

Hhmmm...bring one home?? I can just see G. and M. in YOUR yard with a vacuum, kiddie pool and a giant bubble. And don't forget to add four (or more) excitable under 7s! Bring on another pitcher of margaritas...

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Da Guan Park continued

Because admission is charged (about one dollar per adult), this park is not jammed pack on a Sunday like (free) Green Lake. That made it a very enjoyable, relaxing afternoon.

A gorgeous double carousel:

"Look! I can touch this beak!"

E. is sitting at "earth". The head images behind represent the continents:

The kids have wanted to try this floating ball ever since we first saw it at Green Lake. They had a blast!

"Whack-a-Mole" - the giant version:

Da Guan Park

Today's excursion found us at the northern most tip of the vast DianChi Lake. Da Guan Park is the former royal grounds of some Emperor of some Dynasty (like those meticulous notes?!) Here are the highlights of the day:

Our family name in bright colors:

The park was large enough to have that "not in the city anymore" feeling:

A great day for a picnic. It was short sleeve temps today:

Modern sculptures were seen throughout:

Father and son enjoying the cool lake breezes:

Friday, April 4, 2008

QingMing (Tomb Sweeping) Festival

The Chinese schedule of holidays has changed this year. Previously, there were two week long holidays (October 1 National Day and May 1 Labor Day), one two week holiday (Chinese New Year) and several holidays that were observed, but no scheduled time off. Starting this year, the government slashed the October 1 and May 1 holidays to one/two day events and added days off for some of the more popular folk holidays so that traditions can be maintained. Now there is a three/four day weekend almost every month (similar to the US holiday system). Tomb Sweeping day was observed today by families honoring their departed members by burning fake money and paper "clothes" (to send to the afterlife) and by cleaning the cemetary plots. It's a time for family to get together and share memories. Not too many people are buried in China anymore. There's hardly any room for the living, let alone room for burial.

At the bus stop waiting to board to go tomb sweeping - not!

Here's a big no-no in the U.S. Oh, the bad, bad habits we have formed!

After the stop at Carrefour, we enjoyed ice cream, coffee and the playscape at our favorite Dico's:

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Birthday Girl

It's our lil' Laynee-Lou's big day! Elena Michelle Priscilla is officially five years old! You are a wonderful daughter, sister, granddaughter, goddaughter, niece, cousin and friend! E. also shares a birthday with her godfather cousin Cody and my good friend Mary Jo. Happy birthday to all the April first babies!

Off to school decked out in her new treasured Pokemon vest:

With girlfriends ready to dive into that cake:

Make a wish!

Sharing presents with her brother: