Sunday, June 22, 2008

Zaijian China!

The journey is the reward - Chinese proverb. Thanks for the memories! China will always have a special place in our hearts.

Enjoying a final cup of delicious Yunnan coffee at Salvador's this morning:

This is it. After nearly eleven months (10 months in Kunming, three weeks plus in Shanghai), we are saying our last goodbyes and will be leaving for the airport in a few hours. We depart Kunming around midnight, get into Seoul about 5am, leave for Chicago at 11am, arrive Chicago 11 am the same day, then arrive Detroit at 4pm. Whew!

Thanks for coming along this crazy ride with us. We enjoyed the company. But please check back. Once we're home and have the internet up and running, I'll be posting some final thoughts. Off to pick up the kids from school and prepare for take off...

Still Stuffed on Sunday

Our final dinner in Kunming was very fitting - Yunnan's specialty - Over the Bridge Noodles at a very popular Bridge Nooodle restaurant.

Here's all the "fixings" that one puts in the broth to cook:

Aileen made sure the right ingredient entered the broth in the correct order:

That stack of little plates and bowls ended up in the big bowls. Delicious and a good deal - total cost for three huge bowls - under $9:

And a bonus - entertainment!

That mural tells the story of the origin of Over the Bridge Noodles:

Stuffed on Saturday...

That's the feeling we have had the last two days. Seems all we have done is eat!

Here we are having lunch on Saturday with friends from the Kindergarten. We also attended a dinner Saturday night for the foreign teachers at KMUST. No photos. We went to thank the directors of the international office for all their help throughout the year. Since the other five (single) foreign teachers are on the other two campuses, we have only seen them at the welcome and holiday dinners this year. Thus, we don't know them! So it was basically a dinner with "strangers"!

Lunch on Sunday with our New Zealand friends Lew and Chris:

This is James and Aileen whom we had dinner with on Sunday. (See next post.) Back in September, it was these two kind souls who helped us through the maze of the Chinese hospital system to obtain the kids' school physicals.

Here's a video of the Saturday lunch gang wishing Li Laoshi a very happy birthday: (Hope it works!) I've been really wanting and trying to get a video of the kids speaking Chinese, but everytime they see the camera, they clam up - arrggh...!

Lookin' Spiffy

I'd like to say we all got haircuts so we'll look neat and trim when we see family and friends soon. But the real motivation, of course, was the low cost of a haircut.

E. loves to have her hair washed:

Snip, snip...

Buzz, buzz...

My nail lady since September - Li Xin:

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Too Cute!!

C. brought home school pictures yesterday. Since we can't read anything that is posted in the school, we had no idea a picture day took place. Surprise! At least he was wearing a decent looking shirt that day! E. didn't come home with photos, so we suspect it was only for C.'s age group - the "graduates".

The Kindergardener demonstrating a common Chinese pose:

With teacher and assistants; with best friend (bodyguard?!) Wa Li Hau:

With special subject teachers, directors and forty-nine (!) classmates. Can't spot him? Look on the right side for the short brown skinned boy in the brown shirt. Both C. and E. are small, even by Chinese standards. Their U.S. classmates will be head and shoulders above them come this Fall.

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Final Week

Seven days and we're air bound! So far some of our week will look like this:
  • lunch and dinner with various friends
  • haircuts for all; manicure and pedicure for one :)
  • sorting through the kids' clothes (90% will be given to the kindergarten to have on hand for "accidents" - E. has come home with her share of interesting outfits - or it's so stained it needs to be tossed
  • sorting through the kids' toys - things like broken crayons and almost done coloring books will be thrown out, but the building blocks, soccer balls, etc. will be left near the tracks for those families that have so little
  • last minute shopping - some which will be replacement toys for those above. Little things that will surprise and entertain on the long, long flight home
  • and of course, all the final details of ending my university duties.
G. has been ready to jump on a plane (any plane) for a couple of months now. People wise, (soccer teams, tutoring, friends) he likes China. He's just tired of dealing with the "camping" lifestyle (I can relate). Surprisingly, I'm really not that anxious to leave. Yes, I'm looking forward to being home again, but I also am dreading all the work that lies ahead. Doctor appointments, kids' swim lessons and bible camp, registering for school, filing taxes, buying a car, going through nearly a year's worth of mail, driving here, driving there, etc. Plus, since we just moved to a new area and I was just beginning to get a feel for where things are, I have to start all over! But then, I only need to think of the all that I'm looking forward to...

There are some things that I'll miss. Such as, don't feel like cooking? Well, let's just walk down to the dining hall for a bite to eat. I've gotten quite used to that and I like it. However, I do miss having an oven. First real meal I'm serving - baked chicken!

So onward to our last hurrah...!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Between the raindrops,

we managed to get out of the apartment today. Today was one of those rainy days where it rains hard for an hour, stops for thirty minutes, then rains for another hour. The cycle finally broke with the sun coming out around three o'clock. The original plan for today was to make a trip to LuFeng, home to World Dinosaur Valley, about 60km from Kunming. That is an all-day event. Given the weather and that the kids are fighting a summer cold (low energy), we nixed that idea.

C. enjoying some down time-playing yahtzee-while the rest of us were true to form: E. drew, G. watched soccer and A. read.

Mommy and Papi had a yearning for coffee, so we boarded the #98 to McD's:

This might be all that we see of World Dinosaur Valley-this promotional display near McD's-given that we have one final weekend in China. (Photo taken a few weeks ago.)

P.S. A Happy Father's Day to all the wonderful Dads!! I just realized (and it's late evening here) that today is Father's Day. I think I need to return to the land of mass marketing and commercialism of everything so that I have a clue!

Friday, June 13, 2008

You know you have a six year old in the house

when the Tooth Fairy visits! Earlier this week, C. woke up to a crisp 10 yuan bill under his pillow. Looks like he's happy with the trade. And the next trade is that yuan for ice cream!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Class dismissed!

Another school year down! This was the final week of classes. At least it was for my department. There seems not to be a central calendar, as departments and schools have their own end dates. Some do not finish until mid July.

I had a great group of students and it was nice having the same sections since September. Next week final exams are given. All that remains to be done is the exam grading, posting final grades and writing course evaluations. During the second semester I saw five groups of students-three sections of third year students (Survey of English-Speaking Countries) and two sections of second year students (Writing). As you can see from the photos, "English Major" is certainly more of a "girl thing"!

Survey class - Section 1:

Writing class - Section 1:

Survey class - Section 2:

Survey class - Section 3:

Writing class - Section 2:

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Yunnan Nationalities Museum

On Sunday we took the long ride out to the western edge of the city to a museum that is connected to the outdoor Nationalities Village that we visited a couple of weeks ago. It was an impressive space filled with many displays and (too) much information. We stayed as long as the kids' attention spans allowed. Here are some scenes from the day:

The best part - lunch! We love our noodles!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Dragon Boat Festival and Olympic Torch Relay

The Dragon Boat Festival (Duan Wei Jie) is on the 5th day of the 5th month of the lunar calendar and was officially celebrated June 8. Since this is one of the restored traditional folk holidays, schools and government offices were closed Monday June 9. The origin of the festival has several versions. One of its origins revolve around the use of dragon images in the warring of evil spirits (the 5th month and the 5th day is considered unlucky). Dragon boat racing is the main activity. The much more popular activity is the eating of zongzi - glutinous rice wrapped in bamboo leaves. Another purpose of the festival is to honor the poet Qu Yuan. It's also considered a patriotic festival emphasizing loyalty and commitment to the community. We didn't do any boat racing, but we did enjoy some zongzi.

The rice was sweet and tasted good:

The Olympic Torch relay came through Kunming today. It was originally scheduled for June 5 but was delayed because of the country's three day period of mourning for the earthquake victims last month. So the relay just happened to fall on a holiday. The relay itself was from about 6am to 9am and the route came fairly close to us. But, we had no desire to fight the crowds just to see a torch go by, so we remained happly snug in our beds.

The city was alive this weekend with guys like these two selling flags:

Preparations along the downtown portion of the relay route:

Sunday, June 8, 2008

I just knew there had to be

a Catholic community in Kunming because of the size of the city, its French heritage and that Catholicism is a recognized religion. Many Chinese cities have Catholic cathedrals. Thanks to a fellow blogger and living-in-China friend, I was able to locate Sacred Heart Church. I passed it many times without noticing it throughout the year on Beijing Lu (the equivalent of Woodward Avenue)!! Now with only two weeks remaining in Kunming, I finally was able to attend Mass! G., C. and E. couldn't get it together to be ready for the (only) 9:00 service, so I went solo.

I love the distinctive Ming Era style:

Those thirteen English words on the bottom of the sign was the only English found:

My vantage point before the start of Mass. I took the photos shown here in a hurry. This Caucasian face was creating quite a stir just by being there and I certainly didn't want any additional attention!

The choir led by two old nuns, three postulants and an out of tune piano:

A closer look at the outside:

Of course, everything was in Chinese, but that made little difference. I do wish I could've understood the sermon though. It was wonderful to experience all the standard familiarities of the Mass again through the five senses:
  • sight: statues, priest vestments, altar, etc.
  • hearing: the order of the mass, hymms (the words "hallelujah" and "amen" are universal)
  • touch: the hardness of the pews, softness of the kneelers, and the coolness of the holy water
  • taste: Communion host
  • smell: the burning of incense
The service began with the nuns and choir members filing in. The priest (in his forties) and four adult servers then entered from the side. When it was time for the sign of peace, everyone held their hands in prayer form and bowed to each other. No words were exchanged. The church was packed. (Why am I surprised? - this is China!) I would guess there were about 400-500 attending. Almost everyone went to communion and the priest had no lay assistants. At the end of Mass, the priest exited during the final hymm to the side entrance, then appeared seconds later without his vestments to greet the congregation outside. He was wearing khaki pants, a golf shirt and sipping a coke! The service ended at 10:30 (that extremely long communion line). It was so nice to be in a Catholic Church again. The local (bland) Fellowship service is ok and the kids like the Sunday school. But on a Sunday, I much rather be with fellow Catholics (even though I don't have the language skills) than with the English speaking hand-waving evangelical crowd!

We're having a busy few days. Today, we went to the Yunnan Nationalities Musem and it was a holiday - the Dragonboat Festival. Tomorrow, the Olympic torch relay comes to Kunming. Also the final week of classes start. And for the past few weeks, I've been invloved with the CCTV English speaking contest. More posts to follow.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Packing Up and Shipping Out

The sorting process for the upcoming packing has begun. Yesterday (Thursday) I hauled a very heavy suitcase of magazines, books, playing cards, puzzles and assorted odds and ends to one of my classes to see if I could give some of it away, instead of just dumping it. I thought I would be left with three-fourths of it. Surprise! All the stuff had new owners in less than three minutes! I was very pleased that it was just me and an empty suitcase heading back down four flights of stairs, a walk across campus, then another four flights of stairs up to the apartment.

The university gives us a 1000 RMB shipping allowance and the use of a van and driver to the international post office. And we lucked out! The cost of shipping a little more than 40 kilos was just over the thousand yuan mark.

One brings the boxes to the post office opened. The postal employee looks through everything, repacks it (!), then seals it up with tape. Next it's weighed and put on a machine to be strapped.

"G'bye Stuff! Here's hoping we meet up again sometime in August!"

Sunday, June 1, 2008

A Day in the Life - Afternoon

Naturally, lunch is next. One great thing about making native country friends is the opportunity to be introduced to places and food that we wouldn't be able to try on our own. Here's the gang at a "certified food with no pollutants" restaurant. The Chinese equivalent of organic? I guess we've been eating polluted food all along! Next to G. is Terry (he helped us with Children's Hospital and has rudimentary English), then Wang Mei and Fu Chao.

The first part of our meal. Soup and rice came later.

G. couldn't get enough of this. It's some kind of Chinese Medicine soup. It was delicious - and hopefully had some health benefits, too.

Girlfriends enjoying lunch. Conversing with E. is Shan Shan. They are inseparable at school.

Walking home after a fine meal and wonderful company:

Although it was more like six hours, it was wonderful to experience part of a typical Chinese family Sunday.

A Day in the Life - Morning

Friends invited us to spend the day with them. I love it when we get the opportunity to peek into the lives of "the everyday Chinese".

While the Western and Chinese Christians are in church services Sunday mornings, others are busy with physical activities. This is in the university woods.

We stopped to play a game of table tennis. Most of the housing complexes have community rooms and grounds for physical activites. Many of the wealthier ones have playgrounds, tennis courts, pools and soccer fields. Since we are in university housing, residents can also use the university sport facilities. There are very few public parks, and those have limited exercise equipment. They are mostly used for a place to sit.

Then on to the university fieldhouse for badminton.

The kids enjoying a late morning treat: from left: Shan Shan, E., C., Jing Jing, Wei Wei