Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Christmas 2005

Christmas was a whirlwind! We got back from our trip to Hong Kong on the afternoon of Christmas Eve. I went straight to the grocery store, while Michael started an attack on the luggage and laundry. I had made soup and froze it before our trip, so I just threw our dinner together.

Next was our annual Christmas pageant. I must say that every year gets a bit more crazy. Please remind Michael that next year it is his turn to narrate, and MY turn to film! Continuing on...The children all picked out their own costumes this year. I'm not sure if I can describe it adequately, but I'll try. Nicole was Mary. She decided to wear Mike's huge white t-shirt with a ball inside, because she was, after all, pregnant. She rode into Bethlehem on a stick horse, and continued to feed and pet it throughout the entire birth. What a woman! Let me say here that Caitlin's Cabbage Patch kid that suddenly appeared played his part to perfection. Eli was Joseph. He started out in the huge, black, grim-reaper Halloween costume, but somehow managed a costume change mid-pageant and ended up in the white Starwars wrap-around robe. Jay was our shepherd. He wore his brown Star-Wars cloak, and I must say looked his part the best, if it weren't for the life-size stuffed lion that he brought to the birth. Rachel, our Christmas Angel. Or maybe I should say Christmas fairy. She had on a white shirt and skirt, but wore green fairy wings, long green feather earrings, and some Red and Green leg warmers. I will say that the metal-cross-stitch frame she barretted in her hair was a nice touch. Last came in Caitlin, our wiseman, with a bright fleece scarf wrapped around her head. Let's just say...Vibrant? Well, it was quite the sight to behold. If only we hadn't tried to sing Joy to the World. That just pushed the senses past their thresh-hold! It's time to face the facts...WE ARE TERRIBLE SINGERS!

We barely made it through the pageant...But we had a wonderful time reading the love gift letters that we had exchanged with my family. The kids wrote Santa a note and left the oreos (after dealing with the disappointment of no time to make any cookies), and climbed into bed. Santa stayed busy for several more hours. Just before bed, I noticed my royal blue junior high Cheerleading trunks, and wondered how they got here, instead of stored. There are many things that baffle us. And you may be baffled as well, at this point, but you'll understand my reason for mentioning this at a later point.

We actually had to wake our children up! We have never had to do this before! But we had our entire church group coming over at 12:30 for church, and then Christmas Dinner. We also were so excited to talk to both of our families. So we woke the children up at 6:00am. We had a wonderful time, especially opening thoughtful gifts sent by our family in Utah. We felt so loved. We then were able to visit with our family. It was a high-light of the day. After we were finished opening the gifts, we had to say..."Merry Christmas kids! Now make it look like this never happened." We rushed to put all of our gifts on our beds, and clean up to get ready for church. I will say that by this point I was wondering what we had done, inviting everyone here. I wasn't feeling that "Christmas Spirit" at this point, I am ashamed to admit.

Just as I stepped out of the shower, people began to arrive:-). I was very quick to get ready. We had a wonderful Church service. It was just the right thing to help us focus on our Savior. Afterward, we had a wonderful dinner. Some Chinese friends, came after our service to join our dinner. Everyone brought things and we had a delicious ham. Wow was that a treat! We found one ham at Metro, and boy was it delicious! After dinner we had a white-elephant exchange. It was so much fun. There were about 40 of us, and every age enjoyed it. Nicole had helped me load a few bags since things were so crazy. Sister Yu got up, and opened her gift. First she pulled out a silly hat that Nicole had put in, and next thing I know, she is holding up my blue cheerleading trunks! I was in shock! I think she was too! Nicole had seen them sitting there and just put them in. Well, needless to say, it got quite the laugh, and Sister Yu, rewrapped them and stuck them back under the tree. Luckily, later in the game, Rachel recovered them for me. You know, since I'm sure I will be wearing them soon...

When everyone left, we couldn't stop smiling, and couldn't have imagined how our Christmas Day could have been any better, except of course being with our far-away family!

And now I have to apologize. We got a new digital video camera, which we are very excited about,and forgot to use the regular one. I know I can pull pics off of it, but am not that handy yet, so I guess you'll have to just use your imagination this time, and I promise not to do that again!

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Hong Kong Photos

The view from our window at the YMCA. This is the ferry, we caught a block from our hotel, and just a picture we took of a side-street.

Hong Kong Photos

Here we are with the Millers in front of the Budhist temple. A couple of photos at Victoria Peak. Here are all of the children in front of the temple, and a picture of the temple.

Hong Kong Photos

The photos are a little random here. The top one is for Dad. A very steep cemetery. Next is the busy Disneyland main street. There is a pic of the view from our Disney Hollywood Hotel room, and the kids with Goofy and Pluto.

Hong Kong Photos

Here we all are at the entrance to Disneyland. Next, is proof of our craziness to go swimming, and finally, our attempt at at least looking famous. There is always a photo opportunity at the Disneyland Resort!

Our Wonderful trip to Hong Kong...

Bright and early Saturday morning, December 17th, we were up and ready to go to the airport. This was the one morning our driver, Jiang, chose to be late. 45 minutes late! Wow, were we stressed! And a bit mad. We never have received an explanation, but Jiang drove like the wind, and luckily, we have lots of girls who can help fill out the millions of forms to go through customs. We made it to the Hong Kong Disney Land hotel around 1:00 pm Wow, was it beautiful!!! It was heavenly just walking around the grounds, which had a perfect view of the ocean. The children were so excited because Mickey Mouse was on everything. The carpet, the bedspreads, the artwork, everything. And everyone who worked there would smile, say hello, and tell them to have a magical day. Now, if that isn't worth hundreds of dollars a night, I don't know what is! Oh...Don't let me forget that Goofy was in the lobby every night for photos! They even gave us Mickey Mouse slippers in adult and children's sizes. It was about 55 degrees that day, but the children all insisted on swimming in the outdoor pool. I was a bit chilly, but they didn't seem to notice. Our friends, the Larsens, and the Millers had all arrived by that evening. It was so wonderful to see them. They are two families from our ward in Canton, Michigan, who are also crazy enough to come to live in Asia. Creed and John also work for Ford. The Millers live in Jakarta, Indonesia, and the Larsens, in Chongqing China. We had the best time with them. It couldn't have been more perfect! Our children aren't even all the same ages. I think between the three families, we could have a child just about every age from one to thirteen. Close, anyway. But all of the children were so happy to be with friends, and all got along perfectly! Rachel and Nicole were so happy and willing to watch the children a couple of evenings so that us adults could stay out and visit. We were so grateful!

Sunday, we had our first adventure on the Hong Kong Subway, on our trip to church. I was never sure if it was a branch, or a ward, but they welcomed our huge group with open arms, and even insisted we stay after for their Christmas Lunch. It was delicious, and really sweet of them. We even tasted some Philippine desserts. Very interesting. The church was four stories high. The space is so limited, that the buildings have to be small and high.

On Monday, we went to Disneyland. Everyone had such a good time. It isn't a large Disneyland. Actually, it's quite small. The only big ride is Space Mountain. But nobody complained. It was a great show, and we had fun even on the smaller rides. We went on Monday, and Tuesday. Tuesday afternoon got really busy. In fact, all of the fast passes were sold out by 1:30 pm. We all left around 4:00. We were glad we had gone two days so we didn't have to fight the crowds too much. I'll put in a photo to show how busy it was on Tuesday afternoon.

Wednesday was the day for shopping! Luckily, the Larsens had come to Hong Kong earlier in the year, and were great guides. That day we moved from the Disney Hotel, into town at the YMCA. I don't know how they did it, but the YMCA has a great spot of real-estate! We had a perfect view of Hong Kong across the bay. It was amazing. On Wednesday, we rode the ferry, and jumped onto the Double-decker bus. The bus took us through narrow winding streets to Stanley Market. What a great place! It has tons of little stalls selling everything! But the best things for us were the children's' clothing from Gap, Oshkosh, etc. For so cheap! That evening, us ladies hit the Lady's Market. More shopping...But this was more like the stuff we are used to here in China. The girls came with us, and we had a great time.

Thursday was our day at the Temple. Mike and Rachel were able to go early to do baptisms for the dead. It was a great experience for both of them. Because we live far from our ecclesiastical leaders, my dad helped us get permission for her to be interviewed by a member of the temple presidency. It was a wonderful day for her. The rest of us made it there, and we set up all of the children in a primary room. The Hong Kong temple sits on top of a chapel. The older children watched the young ones, so that all of us parents could attend together. It was a wonderful experience. We felt such peace there. Such a contrast from the huge, bustling city of Hong Kong. Afterward we went to a mall and bought shoes and shirts that fit Michael! He has to wear a tie to work everyday now, a change that didn't happen until after we moved here. Unfortunately, we weren't prepared for that. He was in desperate need! That night, we happened to see that the Nutcracker was playing near our hotel. Heidi took two of her boys, Laurel took Emma, and I took my girls. It was so much fun! It really helped things feel like Christmas. We got back at about 10:00pm , and Mike and Creed headed out to the Night Market. He got back at 12:30! The city never sleeps. He had found a place that sold the kind of curling iron and flat iron I use!

Friday was our last day. We went to the trolley car that took us up Victoria Peak, where we saw a beautiful view of the city. The trolley seemed to go straight up, the mountain was so steep. It is amazing the way they have built into the mountain. We then went to a Buddhist temple. My children have seen many Buddhist temples, but the trip there was neat. We got to see the antique market. That evening, we all met together at the TGI Friday restaurant. We felt right at home, because it was the same as every other TGI Fridays I've ever been too. Good food, terrible service! We all had a good laugh. Us ladies had one last rush to shop. We stopped at the Esprit outlet, where we were disappointed to find most everything in size 2 and 4 (and that sizes ran very small). We stopped in the lobby at 11:45pm for a tear-filled good-bye. We had such a wonderful time together.

Friday morning we finished packing, and went to the airport. To top off a great trip...They upgraded us to business class for the flight home! I'd say that was the end of a perfect R&R vacation! We all decided that there wasn't much rest involved, but there was drinkable water, plenty of wonderful food, comfortable good friends, people speaking English, and sizes to fit us! The girls were able to spend some Christmas money on clothes to fit them. They were happy! It was wonderful because it was like a huge Western city, with an oriental flair! A great mix of both worlds!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

A couple of fun things this week (12/13-12/16)...

This Monday, Rachel went to Beijing for a school Kid Lit Quiz competition. For those who don't know what this is, it is a literature trivia competition between teams with four people on each. It is tricky with an international crowd, because they use books from all over the world, not just the ones we read in America. She had a great time. She left on Monday morning, and then spent the evening with a girl from America, living in Beijing. They were both very amazed because they both love the show Monk. They spent part of the evening watching a couple of episodes. The next day they met at the school for the competition. They did pretty well, but unfortunately didn't win. That's ok, she said she had some really good ice-cream at the mall. I'm not sure if I believe her! (It's been so long!) She didn't get to see any tourist spots this trip, but looks forward to seeing more when we go as a family.

On Tuesday, Caitlin was in a special play put on by the older elementary students. The theme was on sharing the planet. It was a wonderful show, and very cleverly put together. Each grade was in charge of a scene. Caitlin's group did a sort of rendition of Stomp. It was very cool. She kept the whole beat going with her garbage can and lid! It was a great evening. I put in a photo of her performance.

On Friday night we went to the company work Christmas party. It was at a nice hotel in town. The Chinese employees were in charge of the party, and it turned out to be lots of fun. Mike got out of being Santa, because another employee asked if he could do it. Mike agreed right away! It was a nice evening. It was over late, and we rushed home to get to bed before leaving the next morning at 6:30 for Hong Kong. I put in a somewhat blurry pic of Santa, Jay, and other lovers of Santa.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Zhe Jing's Baptism

We all met this morning at 8:00 am for the baptism of Zhe Jing. She has been coming to church with us. She was a room-mate of one of the BYU students this last semester. She is from Singapore, and can meet with us because she is foreign. She has been taking the discussions and reading the Book of Mormon.

We all met at the swimming pool of the Crown Plaza Hotel. As you can tell from the photo, we had to wait for the swimmers to clear out. We all stood around as we had a simple service. The spirit was so strong as we listened to a short talk on baptism, and then Brother Yu baptized Zhe Jing. The Second Counselor of the China District was able to come with his wife, and they even brought a baptism dress.

Today in Sacrament Meeting, Zhe Jing was confirmed. It was a beautiful blessing. She was asked to bare her testimony later in the meeting, and her testimony was amazing! She bore witness of the truth of the Book of Mormon, not only as a spiritual guide for our lives, but it is the word of God. Her testimony was so direct. I would have never guessed she just got baptized today, her testimony is so strong.

Our family feels so blessed to see the gospel grow in our little group here in Nanjing.

He Took Me To The Ball

I don't know how I did it...But I got Mike to take me to the International Club Christmas Ball. Anyone who knows Mike well knows how much he dislikes (to put it mildly) dancing. I had a fabulous time, and I'm pretty sure Mike had a good time too. Here is how the evening went:

I spent the day taking the sisters from our group to Metro(a large grocery store that is far from town, but has more foreign products than other places) for our Enrichment activity. Then I tried to finish up some Christmas shopping for the kids. On the way home, I asked the driver to please stop if he saw a flower shop, so that I could get some flowers for me from Mike (he thought that was pretty funny). Unfortunately, there was no flower shop to be seen, but that's ok, cause Mike got me a hot water-bottle the other day for my eternal teeth chattering. That was pretty romantic, right?.

I dressed up in the Chinese-style dress I had made (I didn't make it, I had it made), and Mike in his silk brocade tie. Off we rode to the ball in our big silver pumkin (the Transit). We skipped the coctails, and arrived just in time for dinner. The name of the ball this year was It's Red, It's hot, It's happening... But the tickets didn't read right... they say It's Happening, It's hot, It's red... Am I the only one who thinks that sounds a bit odd?

It's all ok though, cause the ball was fantastic! Each course of the meal was introduced with a different theme. Course one, the women were all dressed in ancient Chinese dress and carrying lanterns, with music. The waitors, about 50 of them, all came in and served in unison. In the second course, there was a person dressed as a big tomato, with the music," you say tomato, I say tomato". They brought the third course in with patriotic Chinese music, and all dressed in military fatigues. They called that "the long red march". Finally, they all dressed as devils and brought in dessert. Dinner was quite the production!

It was so much fun to visit with many people we have met here. Everyone was so dressed up. The best part of the evening was that Mike danced with me for over two hours! He did a great job, even when we were faking "proper-dancing". He told a friend that he was dancing because "Lonnie loves to dance, and I love Lonnie." Who needs flowers after that?????

Jay's Big Ouchy

(This photo was taken one week later. It looks so much better here. OUCH!) On Tuesday, I got a call from the school nurse. Jay had injured his finger. Apparently, a large rock had fallen on his finger. Ok, it hadn't fallen, it was thrown. He moved out of the way, but couldn't quite move his pinky in time. Wow did it look sore! It was about twice it's normal size, and dark purple. The nail was very injured and is already partially off. Anyway, I was pretty sure it was ok (other than being sore), but the nurse wanted me to take him to the clinic to get it checked. The doctor wanted us to go have an x-ray...which is the reason for this story. We went to the military hospital. The nurse (who is Chinese, but trained by our Western Doctor) rode in our car with us. She took us down so many halls. We sat for a moment in a room full of people waiting, then they took us right in for the x-ray. I felt so bad going in front of all of those people. The hospital was very plain, and very cold. It didn't feel like there was any heat, at least where we were. But, they had nice equipment. The nurse had to bring her own lead apron for Jay. They didn't have any there. The doctors didn't seem very important at all. They were not given decent offices, or quarters. Inside the "x-ray diagnostic" area, there were metal desks, wooden chairs, and some of those wall light things they look at x-rays on. heat. Jay's finger isn't broken, so we are really glad about that. It was a very interesting thing to see inside the hospital. And I think we were very interesting inside the hospital, as well. So it all worked out! The most shocking thing was the bill we paid...80.00 US. And that was probably the VIP Foreigner rate. Not Bad!

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Happy Birthday Caitlin

Our Caitlin turned 10 this week! We celebrated her birthday this Wednesday, November 30th. Mike kept teasing her that we were going to celebrate it on the official day, and since she was born in Maryland, it would be Thursday here in China. She didn't think that was too funny. Caitlin always chooses such an easy birthday meal for me...Spaghetti! And instead of cake, she chose brownies. Hurray! She is growing up to be such a sweet girl. She is so helpful, and people are always commenting on this quality of hers. She was so excited to have a birthday party sleep-over on Friday night. She invited seven friends. Believe it or not, she was the only American girl! We had two Chinese girls, girls from Africa, Holland, Belgium, Italy, and Germany. Quite the world-class party, huh? Well, I had several activities planned, but after a wild game of Christmas Bingo, they started to play on their own. I wasn't about to interrupt that! They played horse all night. I mean, as in little ponies. I heard comments like," I look like Spirit, but my name is Windy", and "Guys, horses don't talk!" and "Will you brush my main???". It was so funny, and so cute. Talk about an easy party!

On Friday morning, I was able to go to a neat place called Xue Xiang Lou, with my friends Yulan and Sunny. Yulan is a member of our group, and Sunny is a friend who has come to church and activities a few times. They are Medical Students from Taiwan. We had a great morning visiting this historical sight where an emperor of the Ming Dynasty built a tower to overlook the river for military purposes. There was such a beautiful view of the Yangtze River, and Nanjing. They also treated me to a "soy bean" breakfast drink that I'm sure Kellee and Mom will just love:-)

Last Sunday afternoon we hung the decorations on our "Charlie Brown" Christmas tree that we found. We just let the kids hang any old decoration on it that they wanted to. The star...That looked great on our real trees in the previous years, looks like it will tip the tree over at any moment. Believe me, it's even smaller than it looks in this picture. I bought two sets of lights, but one set didn't work when we got it, and the other was not working within the hour. But no worries...We love our little "China" Christmas tree.

We are really looking forward to our trip to Hong Kong in two weeks. We will get to go to hang out with great friends from Michigan! We will visit Hong Kong Disneyland, and also get to attend the temple there. We are also looking forward to the shopping we have been hearing about. We hope that everyone is having a wonderful Christmas season!

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Thanksgiving Photos

Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving was a very interesting day for us. The children had school, and Mike was supposed to have work. Unluckily, Mike had to work all last Saturday, but luckily, his boss said he could have Thursday off. So Mike, Eli and I went on some errands. Jiang took us to try Chinese Noodles. They were very yummy, but it took me a while to get over my "etiquette" training enough to "slurp" them like the Chinese do. Ok, I never did get it right. But, I tried. Mike caught right on! We picked up the kids from school, and went straight to Purple Mountain. We thought it would be the perfect place to think about the blessings we have been given. It was beautiful. We were able to ride to the top on the cable cars, and then have a family prayer of Thanksgiving before riding back down. It was lots of fun, and even when Rachel and Nicole got a little embarrassing on the ride down (singing show tunes and yelling hello to everyone in different voices), we were so glad we went. I remember Lori and I being the exact same way! Sorry Mom and Dad! We had our Thanksgiving Dinner at a little Chinese restaurant where we had pineapple duck, crispy tofu, fried rice, and a couple more dishes. We weren't feeling overly adventurous that night. It was a very strange, but very Happy Thanksgiving.

On Saturday, we celebrated Thanksgiving with our church group. I was able to get 2 turkeys (a rare and special treat) and was in charge of the desserts as well, being the only one with an oven. My friend Sharon came over Friday evening, and helped me. Four huge pans of apple crisp, and six pumpkin pies. There were 7, but somehow when we got there, there were only 6! It was a mystery. We called the driver....Not in the car. We called our Ayi...Not in the fridge! It was the mystery of the missing pie! Well, when we got home, it was in the fridge. So...Either the pie was sitting somewhere else when we called, or...She didn't know what a pie was. Who knows??? It worked out well in the end, because we have pie for our dessert tonight! Everyone was very sweet and appreciative of the food, and it was fun to see how happy everyone was to have a "real" Thanksgiving. One Chinese girl gave me a bouquet of paper flowers that she had made!

At this Thanksgiving time, we are so grateful for our many blessings. We are especially grateful for our family, and good friends. We are grateful for the influence that you all are in our lives. Here, in China we are grateful for the amazing and friendly people here. We are grateful for new things to see, and do. We are grateful for a broader outlook on life. We are extremely grateful for the comforts that we enjoy, as we watch these humble people work so hard for their day to day existence. We are grateful to family and friends who stay in contact with us and make us feel cared for and loved. We are grateful for the gospel, that is the same no matter where we live. And we are grateful to have a Heavenly Father who listens to our prayers!

A couple of things that happened this week...

Rachel, Nicole, Caitlin and I went to the movie theater to see Harry Potter 4. It was really fun! We went with the young women, who were nice enough to invite everyone who wanted to go. The only disappointment was that they only had the strange sweet popcorn they always make here. We wished for our salt and butter. There were cell phones going off every couple of minutes! I thought how upset people would be at home. But it was fun to go to a movie after so long.

On Thursday I saw a huge group of people in the park ballroom dancing! It was awesome! There are always cool things going on at the parks in the mornings. Tai Chi, exercise groups, etc. I always wonder what they would do if I went and joined in!

I bought a Christmas tree this week. Of course, there are no real trees. And barely any fake trees. The one I got (the only place I know to get one) is the old kind where you bend out the branches, and they come in silver or green. It looks just like that tinsel stuff. Crazy! We will decorate it tonight.

So...My friend Yvonne Yu, brings me a newspaper today, at church. She says..."Lonnie you are famous"! And there I am in the middle of the page. I am buying the Christmas tree. Eli is standing next to me. I didn't even know they were taking my photo!

Monday, November 21, 2005

A busy week...

This last week was a busy, but good week. The busiest was the weekend. I am the enrichment activity co-ordinator (there aren't "official" callings in a group, so we are all co-ordinators). We had a sleep-over at my house on Friday night. It was lots of fun. My home is about 30 minutes from town, where most everyone else is located, so the taxi rides are expensive out this way. Some of the University students had been wanting to come and use our oven, and hang out, so we thought it would be a fun thing for the girls. Even a few married sisters came! There were 14 of us on Friday night, and another few came on Saturday morning for a Chinese cooking class put on by two of our Chinese sisters. Wow! What a feast! They made eight dishes, if I remember right. I'm going to make an attempt at one tonight. So...We'll see how it goes. The BYU group is leaving in a couple of weeks, so we will be back to our small group. It's been wonderful to have them here. The children have had a "real" Young Women's and Primary program. We have made some neat friends. The Christiansens, the BYU professor, and his wife, brought their five kids and a cousin. It has been wonderful for our children, and the other two children in our group.

On Sunday, was the Young Women sacrament meeting. Rachel gave a nice talk on Knowledge. They all sang a pretty song, as well.

This next week is Thanksgiving, and ours will be an interesting one. On Saturday, we will have a nice Thanksgiving Dinner with our church group. I mentioned before I'm the only one with the oven, so I'll be busy! Luckily, Sharon Christiansen will come over and we'll do it all together. Much more fun!

You should have seen me trying to tell my driver that I was going to Metro to buy 2 turkeys last Friday. I was picking up 2 turkeys (a rare and special treat) that I had reserved for the church group next week. I was trying to figure out how to say this in Chinese, and I had told my driver that I was picking them up. Before I knew the word for turkey, I was trying to tell him "big chicken",because that's all I knew how to say, and I was gobbling and everything. Ok, Chinese people gobble differently than American people...Just for your future reference! He must think I'm such an idiot! He miss-understood (which is easy to do cause there aren't turkeys here in China) and was asking me if I was getting a man or a woman. I was so confused, I kept asking," A man or woman turkey? I don't know if it's a man or a woman, but I think maybe a man" (do we eat male or female, or both????)and finally, when he drove up to the front, where they were selling live roosters and chickens, I understood. He thought I was buying 2 live chickens or roosters! I felt bad cause the people were so excited when they thought I was going to buy two live roosters from them! Then I had to explain to him that I was getting them inside the Metro and that they were frozen. That was a challenge in itself! It was so funny! You should have seen Wan (our Ayi) and Jiang helping me carry them in the house! They were pretty amazed! I found out today that our driver, Jiang, has never even seen what a live turkey looks like...Only the big frozen thing he carried in the house!

You've probably guessed by now that our driver doesn't speak more than about 10 English words. I'm sure it would be most entertaining to watch us try to communicate! I am most often glad about this, because if he could speak English, I don't know if I would have the motivation I need to even try to learn this crazy language!

Sunday, November 13, 2005

A Beautiful Day at Purple Mountain

This is a photo of Eli with his Dragon Kite...and then Rachel's Birthday.


This has been a good week. I decided to write down a few things that stand out in my memory...

On Monday my friend Julie and I went for a walk on Purple Mountain. It was beautiful! A man on a motor-scooter rode up next to us and asked in very broken English "I take you". (he wanted to take us somewhere and then charge us like a taxi) Well, we said, "No thanks" in our best Chinese. He ignored us. Julie had learned the word for exercise. She tried it (though, I don't think he understood through her thick Australian accent!). But, he definitely knew we weren't interested. Where, we wondered, would he fit the both of us even if we wanted a ride? Of course many Chinese families ride all together on a motor-scooter. But he wasn't your average small Chinese guy, and we definitely aren't Chinese-size women! Anyway, he followed us for fifteen minutes! He just rode along side of us while we walked to the place she wanted to show me, which was a newly built road, built around a large tree. Maybe he figured it out by then, or maybe he just went home for lunch...

I had a life altering thing happen at the end of last week...Our computer broke down! Boy was I unhappy about that! But don't worry, someone came to fix it on Tuesday morning. A man that spoke NO English, and I'm assuming read no English. Anyway, he wasn't able to fix it (surprise), but called our land management man to translate to me that he wanted to take it with him to their shop. Of course, I had no other options... Well, he hoisted the huge thing up, and I walked with him to the front gate so that they wouldn't think he was stealing our computer, expecting him to climb into a taxi. Instead, I watched him lug it to the bus-stop! Not to fear...He apparently made it back into town, cause they dropped it off to Mike's office two days later, and here I am.... They had to replace our hard-drive. The ironic thing about the whole incident is that we have Microsoft Office software on it's way here(with the help of my dad) because we didn't want to be dishonest and get the pirated version. But...There aren't any english versions other than pirated-versions of XP here(so they tell me), so they loaded one on our new hard drive! But don't worry, we'll be legal again in a month when our Office Version gets here!

Wednesday was Rachel's Birthday! Wow...I have a teenager! I think that's supposed to make me old. Well, don't tell Rachel this, but I still feel like a teenager myself at times...So who is the parent here? Surely not Mike! (he's been giving me a hard time today, so I feel no remorse for that comment:-) Anyway, she had a nice day with lots of E-cards. She wanted Hamburgers, which I did my best with. Nothing I make here seems to turn out quite right. But, luckily, we are much less picky these days. I did find some hamburger, yes, scary, but we try not to think about it too much! Mike and I took her out last night to dinner, which was really enjoyable. Then we took her to get a foot massage. It was a double success. Awesome feeling feet, and several Chinese young men who kept commenting on how beautiful she was, and were certain that she was at least 19. That's all ok, as long as her 6'5" father is next to her! Success! She is really growing up into a beautiful young woman inside and out. We are proud of her.

Thursday was the happy day we got our computer back! And...Mike was asked by his Chinese co-workers to be Santa at the work Christmas Party! HO HO HO (he really shouldn't give me a hard time right before I write on the blog)

Friday night Mike and I went out with our friends from the BYU group to a Tibetan restaurant. It was quite the place. The food was great. Our friend was able to speak Chinese, and the owner brought us each a photo of a neat landmark in his home city. While we were eating dinner, I watched a large rat crawl around outside our window. Funny how I wasn't really upset by that. I must really have come a long way! On our walk back to their apartment, we bought some of this huge granola bar cake thing. These men sell them in the street. They are Weigens, apparently from a Muslim tribe in middle-Asia. He just cut off a slab for us. It is surprisingly delicious! Every kind of nut and dried fruits with honey, from what we can tell. Yummy!

On Saturday, it was so beautiful! Apparently here in China, the government will proclaim it is winter when the weather has been down to a certain temperature for five days in a row. Normally the fall is about 35 to 40 days, and this year it is 50 and counting! So...It's still fall. It has been so nice. Saturday afternoon we wanted to enjoy what could be a last nice weekend, so we went to Purple Mountain. We went to a place where an emperor had huge stone animals carved to line the way to his tomb. It was tons of fun. The kids were able to run around, and there were so many beautiful things to see. My children left feeling like world-famous models! Every time we would stop to get a photo, there would be several people stop and take photos of us. I'm talking those big fancy cameras with the huge lenses. Some would ask, others just took. Several times, Mike had to wait cause everyone else taking photos were in his way. I told him to take pix of them taking pix. Pretty hilarious. Wow, we must be gorgeous! (or strange)

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Happy Birthday Eli

Eli is four years old! He had a fun birthday. We had a friend party for him on the afternoon of the 31st. He had a good time, but honestly, he was more interested in his gifts than the party. I guess that's about right for a four-year old. Later that night (Halloween night) Nicole, Eli, and a friend went out for an impromptu "Trick-or-treat". We hadn't arranged anything in our compound for trick-or-treating, but I guess some of the German kids did it the year before, so I think some of the school teachers were expecting it. They went around the neighborhood, mostly sticking to the foreign crowd. They came back with a most interesting cache! There were peanuts, mandarin oranges, tomato flavored suckers(yes tomato!), and some Chinese coins. There were also some interesting flavored squash or pumpkin seeds from Korean friends. I think they also got a couple of normal-type suckers and candy. They felt it was a success, so who can argue!

On Tuesday, Eli's actual birthday, Eli and I decided to have a special lunch at McDonald's, and then head to a park to fly the new dragon kite he got from his friend for his birthday. When we went to the park, there wasn't much wind, and got no-where with the kite. So we took a walk around the park. Well, soon, some of the older men started flying their kites. We went to watch. There were several people with small children trying to get Eli to play with their children (which is not unusual)so he was, of course, showing off. We decided to try our kite one more time. We were pitiful! A woman came and tried to help. Then one of the old men came to try to help. Pretty soon we had a group of about seven people trying to make our kite fly. It was hilarious. They tried and tried. In a final blaze of glory, our kite soared for an exaggerated 20 seconds. Everyone clapped! Our kite was declared unflyable, and everyone went on their way. Apparently our kite was made for decoration, not actual flying. While it was a kite failure, I counted our afternoon as an inter-cultural success! Eli, I think, was just tired of all of the attention.

That night, we had a birthday dinner of Chinese Noodles (glorified top ramen), and a special chocolate bar cake. I unwrapped our special US imported candy bars, layed them on a plate in a fancy array, stuck in four candles...And TA DA! I've never seen the family more excited about birthday cake. We split up the candy, and ate while Eli opened his presents. I'd call that a Happy Birthday. The only sad part is that Eli somehow got into his head that he was going to go to the big-kid school (the International School) now that he is four! Well, at least he still has something to look forward to...

Sunday, October 30, 2005


I didn't really come prepared for Halloween. Well...I was moving to China! They don't have Halloween in China! Unless you go to the International School. But...No worries, we downloaded pics off the internet and went to the Bu Bu Bu (fabric market) to get material, and then gave the pictures to the tailor. He did a great job! (and it cost about as much as our normal thrift-shop Halloween costumes!) Rachel was a fairy, Nicole- a Cowgirl, Caitlin a princess, Jay a Jedi Knight, and Eli...A bat. I found a black wig at the Confucius Temple(yes, there is more shopping than praying going on) and fooled a lot of people! Don't I look a bit Morticia-ish? Though tomorrow is Halloween, we've had our Halloween parties. No trick-or-treating, but some fun activities. And thanks to Amy and our Moms, the kids will still get some good old USA yummy Halloween candy! I am so excited to surprise them tomorrow night. You can't imagine how they will treasure the treats! Maybe I will make them do a trick for each one!
I did my PTA duty for the year, and helped with the school party Friday night. We also had a young women sleep-over at our house that night. I included a picture of it. I was a bit worried about pulling it all off, but we somehow made it. I was at the school all afternoon, and had been shopping all morning making sure we had all the food for the sleep-over. I had the driver taking kids back and forth from school, picking up Mike, then the young women group (4 girls and 3 leaders). After this he came and got me from school, brought me home, and we all quickly changed into our Halloween costumes. The driver took 2 shifts of people over to the party, and two shifts home. Crazy! But it all worked out! Boy was I glad for a housekeeper that day!!!!! If she hadn't been here, I may have needed therapy! Last night was the church group Halloween party. It was tons of fun! It was a chance to invite Chinese friends. There were close to 90 people there. They had a cake walk (with Chinese Muffin things), apple bobbing, and dancing. It was fun to watch the children interact and get the Chinese people to dance with them. I think everyone had a great time. We are pretty tired today!

This week Eli turns four. Tomorrow there are about five little kids and their mothers coming over for a Dinosaur party. He is pretty excited. I can't believe my baby will be four years old!

We have been staying really busy. Life is good. I try to keep the schedules straight, with all of the children doing different things after school every day. On Wednesday I was in a panic because I couldn't figure out where Jay was. He finally came home on the second bus, and after I got mad a him for not coming straight home...He said," Mom, I was at gymnastics." OOPS! That was a good mother moment!

On Wednesday Mike and I went home teaching (we are partners) to a member in our group that lives in a small city. Yes, we were told it's small cause it only has 3 million people in it! He teaches English there to be near his fiance Amanda (her English Name) She is the first Chinese citizen to be baptized in Taiwan, about three months ago. She is an amazing person. She spends over 1/2 of her monthly pay riding the bus 2 1/2 hours each way to church and back on Sunday. She leaves at 5:00 am. She is very inspiring. Unfortunately we were unable to meet with her on our visit because of the Chinese law. But she did call Tyler and make sure that he fixed us some food! We didn't have the heart to tell him we ate on the way. We were very full after that! We are very grateful to our girls, who are willing to watch the boys while we go for so long.

This turned out to be a long entry! We hope all of you have a Happy, and scary Halloween! We miss and love all of you...

Thursday, October 20, 2005

A 6th grade trip with Flat Stanley

A friend from Michigan sent Flat Stanley to our family from his school class. Flat Stanley is made out of paper (and can easily ride in an envelope anywhere in the world!). Jonny's class asked if we would let Stanley stay a while and learn about where we live. Nicole took Flat Stanley with her on her 6th grade trip. The 6th grade trip stays here in Nanjing, which was fun, because she was able to get to know our city better. The older grades go to other places. Nicole kept a diary for Flat Stanley, so I thought I would post it on our blog. Here is the diary of Nicole and Flat Stanley...

Day 1.

Me and Stanley went to a Folklore Chinese Dynasty Museum. It was fun and interesting. Then we went swimming at a really big and cool water park. Stanley couldn’t come in the water though :-)! We went to a really good restaurant called Beijing Duck. It was good and they just kept on serving more and more platters of food. Me and Stanley had fun today.

Day 2.

Today Stanley and I went on a race around Nanjing where you must go to a number of places in a short period of time with a group. You only have a small amount of money, and you can only travel by bus. We ate at the one “Western” style bakery in town…Skyways Bakery. For 1.50 each we got a good deli sandwich and a soft drink. Our group didn’t win first prize. But we did win first place for spending the least amount of money! Today Stanley and I had fun, it was hard though cause we had to walk a lot.

Day 3.
Today we ate breakfast then went to a Chinese school to teach English to pre-schoolers. It was hard, but all-in-all, pretty funny. Then we ate lunch with them and headed to a park where a specialist kite-maker taught us how to make a kite and fly it. The kite is made out of a paper-like material (not like in America) so they can glide in the air easily. Then we ate dinner at a Chinese restaurant, where, believe it or not, I got brave and tried chicken head! Today was difficult and fun.

Day 4.

Today Stanley and I went to an amusement park. It had a slide that you drive down the mountain in. Also, a cool ski lift. We had fun! Then we ate lunch at an old famous American restaurant that you wouldn’t think to find in China…KFC! It was a good lunch. Then we went to Sun Palace again (the water park). We ate dinner at a Korean restaurant. It was good food. Today was a great last day to our trip! Stanley and I had a very fun vacation with the 6th grade.


Nicole Wadley and Flat Stanley

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Zhouzhuang Photos

Here is our Eli riding a water-buffalo...which are fairly common to see around here (alive, of course). This one is in the court-yard of a very wealthy silk exporter of the time.

This other photo is us in front of the twin bridges. You can't see the other one, but one has a square arch and the other round. It is a famous spot in China.

I would love to put more photos, but it doesn't seem to want to work with more.


On our little adventure to Suzhou, we stayed over-night at a hotel, and went to Zhouzhuang the next day. This was my favorite part of our trip. It is a small town made up of canals that cross through like streets. It is about 900 years old. There are many original buidings that we were able to see, including a couple of residences. We also got to go on a gondola-type boat. The boat-lady sang old Chinese songs to us. There were really fun "tourist" shops. The boys kept us wondering how smart we were to bring them with us, but in the end, we were glad to have forged through anyway. The scary part of the day was when the tour-guide took us to a restraunt and ordered us the "local specialties". We suffered through that (and only paid for it for a few days), and then were back to our adventures. We were able to see an ancient style of Chinese opera. It was very interesting. I am excited to take our parents (and anyone else who wants to come and visit:-) to Suzhou and Zhouzhuang.

More Suzhou pics

The lunch bunch with "Waterboy", and a picture of us at the Master of Nets Garden


On Thursday, October 7,we all jumped in our Transit and traveled the 2 hours to Suzhou. Wow, what a beautiful place. I figure if our driver can still smile after being in the car with us for that long of a stretch, he must be the most patient man alive! We went to a silk museum. I think the children really enjoyed that. We were able to go to some Buddhist temples, and a pagoda. The boys kept trying to sneak up onto the little worship blocks, so we had to watch them. The people were burning candles and incense everywhere. At one of the temples, we saw the gods of all of the different animals. According to the Chinese, each year is the year of a different animal. For example, I was born in the year of the rat. Anyway, there were gods for each animal. We also saw a beautiful garden. Suzhou is famous for the ancient gardens there. They have kept them very well preserved. Suzhou has always been on the canal, which was dug from Beijing to the coast. The building of the canal began in 486 B.C. during the Wu Dynasty. It was extended during the Qi Dynasty, and later by Emperor Yangdi of Sui Dynasty during six years of furious construction from 605-610 AD. The canal is 1,795 Km (1,114 miles) long with 24 locks and some 60 bridges. I just looked this up off the internet since I'm sure you were wondering:-)
At lunch-time, we stopped at KFC (yes, we have it here) and it was so busy, that we went outside and sat on a small stone wall to eat. Soon we notice that there were crowds of people staring at us as we ate. Many people took our photo. Mike got up and took a photo of us as well. He decided that we did look pretty unusual. It was all great until a kid about three years old stood right next to us and "watered the sidewalk" (not uncommon). We lost our appetites.

A fun Chinese National Holiday Week

This week was the Chinese National Holiday. Mike, and all the kids had it off from work and school. We had such a lovely time. Our driver had the first 3 1/2 days off, so we hung out at home. We went on bike rides (which was fun because we live away from town and there are lots and lots of cool places to ride). We had people over from church, and just played and relaxed. By Wednesday, we were ready to get out! We went to ZiJin Shan (Purple Mountain) and saw the observatory. We rode ski-lifts down the mountain. It was a cloudy day, so it looked really misty. The only bad part was that Eli lost his shoe on the lift. So, after we went to a store and got some more shoes (I took Eli in with me, and the old man kept trying to give him pink Sunday shoes... I had forgotten the word for boy, but the fact that nobody minds their own business came in handy, and a lady told the old man we needed boy shoes), we went to the Presidential Palace. It was built thousands of years ago and used off and on as the capitol of China clear through the 1930's when it was the Presidential Palace. It was beautiful, full of interesting buildings and gardens. On Thursday, we took off to SuZhou and ZhouZhuang over-night. It was an amazing trip. But I'm going to split up the entry so that I can show more pics. Everywhere we went we were the center of attention. People stop and stare, and many people take photos of us. Some ask. Luckily we don't think about it all of the time, but at any given moment, if we look around...In our car, or the store, or walking down the street, or at tourist attractions...Every eye is on us. We are such a shock for the Chinese people on so many levels. First, there are not many white people. Second, we are very tall. Most of all, we have five kids. People are boggled by this. Whenever they ask if I am the mother of all five, they give me the thumbs-up sign:-)

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Rugby Tournament in Shanghai

Yesterday, we left at 6:00am and traveled the 3 hours to Shanghai. Of course, once you get to Shanghai, it takes forever to get where you are going. It is a huge city. Rachel and Nicole had gone the day before with their Rugby team. We got to see them play. It was great. The tournament was at an American School. When we went into the gate, it was like we were in a mini America! There were houses everywhere that looked just like houses you would see in Canton, Michigan! It was so surreal. The girls played great! They had so much fun. It was a beautiful day, and there were teams from International Schools all over the area. It was fun to see the girls' different styles of playing. They had two teams from our school, so we had to be two places at once sometimes. I think I should mention that it was touch-rugby, so thank heaven, no tackling! The teams are co-ed, so I wonder if that adds to the fun for the girls.
After the tournament, we wanted to go get winter coats for the family. We went to Xian Yang Market. I don't think I've ever seen so many people in my life! We went bargaining, and got North Face coats for everyone. They could be fake, but they are the best fakes we've seen. They even have gortex, and waterproof zippers.'s an exciting thing...american sizing! (I am an amazon woman here! I can bearly fit into clothes, if I can find extra extra large. And only men's shoes) Anyway, we bought 7 really nice coats for less than 150.00 We were pretty happy about that. I really could have spent more time there, but unfortunately, our driver doesn't know his way around Shanghai at all, so we spent too much time lost. Then it was time to turn around and head home. It was a long day, but worth it!

Skiing in September

Rachel and Nicole went on an indoor ski-trip with the school. I'd never heard of indoor skiing, but sounds pretty fun...especially if it's hot outside! This is what Nicole had to say about the trip...

The ski-trip was fun and exciting! On the way there it was exhausting because we went at 5:00pm and got there at 9:45pm. We left on Friday after school. The hotel is a little wack. I mean, all over, there are pictures saying "Einstein came to this hotel" and "Jefferson Stopped By". That's not accurate on account of that Jefferson was in the 1700's! It had good food though. In each room there were four students (all either girls or boys) and a teacher. In my group we got there and after dinner we went into our room. There was a room in the back for the teachers and the rest was ours. We squashed our beds together and slept all together. I picked up this gigatic towel and walked into the bathroom so I could shouwer, but the teacher said that the huge towel was my blanket! Gross!! I couldn't take a shower...I mean I wouldn't take a shower, because, UGHH, I'm not even going to mention the bathroom shower! It had brown blobs all over! (I guess she changed her mind :-) In the morning we got ready at 6:30 and ate a buffet at 7:00. I was really tired. When we were done we drove to the ski place. It was huge! It's the second biggest indoor ski lodge in the world. I decided to snowboard. when we got in the cold snowy hills, I did level one for a while. I fell a couple of times. Then I rode this thing up to the 2nd level. It a long pole with a wooden circle. I never rode one before, so it took a while to get it. While I was suffering, a man came up to me and asked if he could take a picture for and advertizement (they were doing a shoot for the brand Quicksilver where pro's came and were snowboarding for the add). I said no. He said,"please". I refused again, but he took it anyway! I was upset but to make it worse, he said"thanks, I need you for my advertisement!" UGHH! At the end I got better, but when I fall it's not only a's a historic fall. I mean these falls burn and hurt like heck! Not only that but they make me look like 100% clutz! I had a great time though, and next year...I'll go again!-Nicole
Well, unfortunately, The girls were afraid of ruining the camera inside the resort. So no pictures of inside. Here's our Nicole on the Train. Maybe next year...