Monday, March 19, 2012

Goals- learning to crochet

There is something magical about taking a chunk of time (in our case, two years) out of your regular life and doing something completely different. I think part of the magic comes because there is a definite end, a finish line if you will. It makes it easy to begin thoughts with, "By the time we move home I would like to have..."

For the most part, mine were simple 
(and I purposely set the bar pretty low):
"By the time I move home I would like to be able to have a simple conversation in Mandarin." Working on this every single day!

"By the time I move home I would like to be able to cook a few Chinese dishes." Still looking for a weekly cooking class in English.

"By the time I move home I would like to have learned a new hobby like knitting or crocheting." Check! Now I just need to practice more!
This weekend I had the opportunity to learn some basic crochet stitches. I really loved it! I spent all weekend practicing until I ran out of yarn. This tiny hat (even too tiny for a baby) was one of my results. Do not give me credit for this...the only reason it turned into a hat was because I really struggled with a square or rectangle. So, going in circles makes a hat! Even if it is for a little leprechaun (fitting since it was St Patrick's day) it still was fun and I can't wait to get some more yarn and try some more! 

Hooray for goals!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Love Is In The Air

I recently made a statement publicly that surprised a lot of people. That statement was, "I love living in Beijing!" I cannot say, yet, that I love Beijing, but I can definitely say that I love living here! 

What is the difference you might ask? Well, I love the experiences we are having while we are living here. On a daily basis I think, "that is so cool". Don't get me wrong, I will be coming back the US. I am an American and I love being an American! I just realized that time is short here and I better embrace every minute! I still get homesick. I still miss American luxuries and food. Life here can be complex. So below I am making my current love list that I can refer back to when I momentarily forget why I love living here.

  • I love being able to go to the gym for over two hours every single day! I never had time to do that back home. 

  • I love the fact that I don't have to clean my house! We live in a serviced apartment and ayis come everyday to clean, make beds, change towels etc. Just to keep me humble I still do the dishes and the laundry.

  • I love that our money goes farther here and that we are able to save money monthly.

  • I love being able to go out to lunch with my hubby every week since he walks to work, instead of having a horrendous California commute!

  • I love that our life is simplified. We only have what we use.

  • I love living a stone's throw from so much history and one of the wonders of the world! I will never, ever get tired of seeing The Great Wall.

  • I love the psychological change to "this is temporary so sieze the day" from "life is mundane, repetitive and dull".

  • I love that I don't have to cook four nights a week. It is much more expensive to cook (plus it is a challenge in our small kitchen) than to eat out.

  • I love the spiritual growth I have felt! Even though we previously thought we would be isolated from "regular operations of the church", we have had tremendous opportunities for our testimonies to grow.

  • I love that my children are getting a top notch education! If there were any reason to stay, this one would be it!

  • I love having opportunities to serve where it is truly needed. I know there are valid needs in America too, and I hope to seek those out when I get back.  I have loved giving my time to help the orphans on a weekly basis.

  • I love meeting the variety of people we encounter. Every expat here has a story of where they came from, how they got here, why they are here and where they are going. It is a constant changing society and it is cool.

  • I love knowing that I am overcoming something that was difficult for me to grasp; the move, the culture, the language.

  • I love the travel opportunities it allows us. We hope to visit many parts of China, Indonesia, Tibet (the boys), Thailand, South Korea, Singapore, Dubai and Australia by the time we come back in the summer of 2013. For a non-traveler like myself I think that will be pretty good. 

  • I love living in a big city! The hustle and bustle, the public transportation, the tall buildings. Being able to walk across the street to pick up last minute dinner ingredients.  

  • I love that my family is here with me and that we are making memories that will last forever! Even the most mundane tasks become this video below!

    Monday, March 12, 2012

    Oreo Craze!

    Apparently China is the testing place for new Oreo flavors! This is what the Oreo aisle at my chinese grocery store looks like. Yesterday I saw a billboard advertising Oreo's with cake batter filling, which is what prompted this post. There is an entirely different section in the aisle, equally as big, for Oreo wafer cookie bars.
     You can see quite an assortment of different flavors, sometimes two at a time! 
     From left to right: orange & mango, blueberry & strawberry, green tea (oh no, don't even think there is any mint here anywhere!), vanilla, strawberry...
    ...and if you were worried about the classics...there is chocolate filling and regular. I have not seen double stuff yet, although I have seen coconut filling before.
    You may see Chip's Ahoy right next door to the Oreo's. Well, they also have different flavors. We love the chocolate chip and orange chip (seen above).

    Monday, March 5, 2012

    Rickshaw Madness!

    One of my very favorite things to do in Beijing is riding in a rickshaw! It is not like the olden days where men are running while carrying you. Nowadays the surrey-like seat is attached to a bicycle that has a motor on it. 

    If you look closely in the picture below you will see three red canopies, those are our rickshaw buddies. This is right outside our apartment building and they arrive around noon and stay until the wee hours of the morning. Rickshaws can be known to be a rip-off but we have made two pengyous (friends) who give us a good rate. We only take rickshaws when we want to go to dinner out of walking distance. This is because taxis are hard to come by at the dinner hour. 
    Last night was one of those nights, I wanted to introduce the fam to The Saddle. Hubby was going to meet us there by bus so we looked for one of our rickshaw friends, neither was there. Darn! Two gentlemen were there instead, one younger with a nice smile and the other who was high strung and smoking a cigarette. When we approached,  the older guy began pushing the young one out of the way to talk to us. He was very aggressive and I knew I wouldn't do business with him, so I focused on telling the younger guy where we were going and negotiating our price.  We agreed on a fair price, while the older dude (notice how I've gone from gentleman to guy to dude?) ranted and raved! We ignored him and hopped into the bench seat. The younger guy just kept smiling with his calm demeanor while the older jerk began kicking the bike we were attached to! He then tried pushing over our carriage...while we were in it! Our driver quickly rode away and we were in shock!

    D remembers this wacky man from a while back. D was passing by him while walking home from the busstop and he grabbed D's water bottle out of the pocket of his backpack! When D turned around the guy tossed it back to him in a crazy kinda way. A grudge has been held since then, by D, and now it is stronger after the crazy guy's antics last night.

    I was sure to give our pleasant fellow a little extra, just because we felt bad about what he might run into with the crazy guy later. Usually riding in a rickshaw is adventurous because they go anywhere they want, through HUGE intersections, in bike lanes, on sidewalks, down one way streets in reverse, etc. I always hold on tight, but enjoy the ride. Needless to say, last nights drama was above and beyond our usual experience. Just another experience that we would never have back home.

    Thursday, March 1, 2012

    I Left My Heart in Hong Kong

    I had the great opportunity to spend three days in Hong Kong for the Associated Sisters In Asia Women's Conference. Needless to say, it was amazing!
    On the ferry going to and from Kowloon and Hong Kong island.
     I had been to Hong Kong before with my family and remember it making quite a first impression on me. You can check out this post to see our first trip there back in May of 2008. Wow, time flies!

    This time I felt I could pinpoint why I felt so endeared to this city. It reminds me so much of San Francisco. If the entire city of San Francisco was china town it would be just like Hong Kong. The similarities are endless with the bay, hills and tall buildings. I want everyone I know to go and see the magic of Hong Kong!
    A typical market in Hong Kong.
     I flew from Beijing to Hong Kong on my own with no problem at all, except getting ripped off by my Beijing taxi driver. My roommate and friend had gone a day ahead of me. We met up and she took me to high tea at the swanky Conrad hotel. Quite a treat!
    Our afternoon high tea at the Conrad hotel.
     Later it was time to head to the church building to register and listen to a few speakers.  While living in Beijing, because it is in the PRC and Hong Kong is not, we do not see church buildings or anything related. I was ecstatic to see a beautiful building with our church name in both English and Chinese on the outside. There is also a large interactive video screen outside where people can walk up, touch the screen and learn about our beliefs
    The church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints building.

     Upon walking into the church building you see this painting below. Look closely, it is not your typical painting. The children are real Chinese children who posed for the artist and the landscape is China. This painting truly touched my heart.
     The talks and lessons I heard in the three days of conference were amazing. Below is the speaker and topic of what I listened to.
    Sister Gong- "Be That Blessing in Someone Else's Life"
    Elder Gong- "Ye Are A Temple of God"- he is very intelligent and most of what he said went over my head.
    Sister Perkins- "Reading the Book of Mormon changed my testimony into a burning testimony".
    Elder Perkins- "Covenants in the temple help us to build Christlike attributes". This was a spiritual, practical, organized talk that is so applicable. I loved it!
    Heidi Gailey-"Fundamentals In Communication"- I sure did learn a lot in this talk!
    Lori Hedquist- "Under Construction: Building your own Personal Temple"- Practical ways we can sustain our spirituality as mothers, wives and expats in China.
    Michelle Lowry- "Spiritual Lessons The Marathon Has Taught Me"- To see my full write-up of this parable about running and spirituality click here
    Melissa Bradford- "The Temple: Template of our Faith and Blueprint of the Living Gospel"- an amazing story of her spiritual journey after the tragic, unexpected death of her eighteen year old son.
    Laurie Hoer- "YoubanFa: You Can Do Hard Things"- Amazing talk about saying you can when you think you can't. I needed this!
    Sister Watson- "Appreciating our Coventants"- amazing quotes from apostles and prophets.
    Elder Watson- "He Imparteth His Word by Angels to Men, Women and Children"- Sweet, sweet man!
    Of course one of the highlights was to actually be able to go to the Hong Kong temple! Beforehand we had some time to walk around a nearby mall...and to my surprise they had a See's Candy store! This means home! Tears of joy filled my eyes...really! Until I saw how expensive the boxes were, twice as much as the US! But the woman was so sweet and she gave me six samples. Love her!
    Oh the joy!
     It was then time to serve in the temple with some very special ladies! I really missed hubby at this point, but it was an amazing experience that I will cherish. If you have questions about our temples, click here
    The Hong Kong temple.

    Chinese and English!

    It's beauty at night.
    The last day, three of us took the mid-levels travelator (an escalator that goes up a mountain) to eat lunch. We had yummy Mexican food and dessert at a French bakery. We then took the ferry to Kowloon and walked around the Kowloon park. It is so lush.
     Spring is coming!
    There are many things I love about Hong Kong, including the weather! While we were freezing in Beijing, Hong Kong was nice and mild. I can't wait to go back!