Last Day in China
Nov 16th, 2009 by Jeff

Our last stop in China was to be the (relatively speaking) small town of 2.6 million people. We had no real plans for our stay in Nanning, we just had to get there to be able to catch the train form Nanning, China into Hanoi, Viet Nam.

It was our first long bus trip and was quite interesting. Catching the bus was no problem, as our wonderful hosts from Yanshou brought us right to the station. We were told the trip would be six hours. It was a pretty nice motor coach. And, at no extra charge, we were treated to a six hour RAMBO movie fest (in English with Chinese subtitles). I think it started with Rambo 5 and was a countdown, but I don’t think I had actually seen any of the Rambo movies after the first one – back in the early eighties (and this trip just confirmed my sound reasoning on that decision – quite a bit of blood and gore with plenty of action, but very little in the way of plot or character development, no surprise there). I also found this choice of films a little ironic as we were on our way to Viet Nam. At the end of Rambo 3 (I think) we arrived in what we assumed was Nanning as, 80% of the people began to depart. The large group of non-Chinese speaking people all got up and did our best to ask the driver, “Nanning?” since there wasn’t any sign at the station telling us this was the stop. After some debate amongst ourselves, we all came to the conclusion he said yes, so we got off, retrieved our bags from the belly of the bus and marched off to the taxi stand (hoping we were in Nanning). Fortunately for us we were.

Tessa and Phoebe, the cool girls in the back of the bus!

Tessa and Phoebe, the cool girls in the back of the bus!

While we were planning on doing nothing but hanging out in Nanning, a local couchsurfer – Nancy Bushwell- had other plans for us. Nancy saw that we were traveling in China as a family and graciously invited us to stay with her on our day in Nanning. This could not have worked out better! Nancy is an English teacher at the University in Nanning, and asked if we would be willing to come and speak with her class about our travels. I’m sure you all know how shy and reserved we all are, so after about 2 seconds of thinking about it, we all said we’d love to do it.

We were able to spend about an hour with Nancy’s class the next day. The class was a group of about 30 students studying English to be translators. After we gave them a general overview on us and what we were doing, we split up and took a group of eight students for 10 minutes or so at a time. Then they could ask us anything they wanted to know, about us and our travels. There was a lot of good discussion. I talked about the interesting dichotomies we saw in China, for example the killing and dressing of a chicken dinner one block from the million dollar condo we were staying at in Shanghai and how that would never happen in the U.S. (much to their amusement). Tessa was asked if she had ever appeared on Gossip Girl because she looked so much like an actress, and the young men wanted to know if she had a boyfriend (we politely told them they were a little old for her). Phoebe showed pictures of our house and Arizona; and Kate told them, no we are not independently wealthy (although we do make quite a bit more then the average Chinese person). It really was a fun experience and I hope Nancy and her class enjoyed it as much as we did.

A few of Nancy's students with the Tessa and Phoebe

A few of Nancy's students with the Tessa and Phoebe

That evening it was off to the train station and on to Viet Nam. The train was fine, but customs wasn’t much fun. We had a wake-up call at 11:30 on the Chinese border to clear customs (about and hour and ½) then over the border to Viet Nam and another hour and 1/2 to clear our visas and to enter the country. We fell back asleep for 3 hours to arrive in Hanoi at 5:30 AM.

We pulled into the ramshackle station (not the main one) in the east side of town and were told time to get out. There were very few lights on at the station we grabbed our stuff and made our way out into the dawning day. We negotiated with the taxi drivers for a ride to our hotel. The price started at $10 US and we whittled it down to $3 (no one was running on the meter this early in the morning). We pulled up to our hotel, still shuttered for the day at about 6:00 AM and watched the Old Quarter of Hanoi come alive.

Yangshou and our friends the Tyrrells
Nov 8th, 2009 by Kate
One of a million beautiful vistas along the Li

One of a million beautiful vistas along the Li

After reuniting with Jeff and the girls in Guilin (and for the record – my tooth is still fine, and I expect that it will be the last tooth left in my head when I die of old age!) we bid farewell to our new couchsurfing friends Jonathan & Jenny and hit the road again – our last week in China! 

Our plan was to travel south along the Li River to a place called Yangshou, and meet up with a family that we met on a train seven weeks earlier on our way to Hiroshima, Japan.  The Tyrrell’s (Bass, Julie, Sheila-11 & Elsa-8) are from Ireland and have been on the road for just about a year.  They sold their house, put all their stuff in storage, and headed to Argentina for eight months – and were spending the remainder of their year of traveling throughout the Americas and Asia.  Sheila and Elsa, like Tess & Phoebe, are great sports and are up for whatever adventures their parents stick them into.  However, they were also terribly missing their friends, and when the four of them met on the train they bonded immediately.  Bass, Julie, Jeff and I also became fast friends – Bass and Julie are an awesome couple, and we could really relate to many things about them and their outlooks on life.  Although we had only spent a few hours with them in Japan, seeing them pull up in the van was like seeing old long lost friends.  I think some of that feeling might have been because we have no real friends on the road, but I think a better part of it was that travelers like us are kindred spirits, and the Tyrrell clan are just plain cool folk!

 Our trip to Yangshou was quite a riot, our friend Tom suggested that we take the Chinese river boat instead of the foreigner boat – it would save us a bunch of money and also let us mix with the locals instead of the tourists like us.  We boarded a jam-packed small bus (with no shocks) and bounced our way for a good hour through the countryside until we reached a mud trail that led down to the riverbank.  When we saw the boat I almost DIED!  We didn’t have time to question or object – the whole bus of us piled on this rusty pile of crap boat (I am being overly generous!) and took off at about 1 mile per hour down the river.  All we could do was laugh.  Jeff and I couldn’t even look at eachother without cracking up – Tessa had the look of “what the heck have you gotten us into THIS time” and Phoebe, forever the optimist, stuck her head out between the plywood planks and sang a lovely song entitled “We are on the junkiest boat on the river but at least if it sinks the shore isn’t far.” 

Literally, our "junk" - smelly, rusty and slow!

Literally, our "junk" - smelly, rusty and slow!

Phoebe, as usual, making the best out of any situation - she kept the whole boat entertained with her songs, even though no one could understand but us!

Phoebe, as usual, making the best out of any situation - she kept the whole boat entertained with her songs, even though no one could understand but us!

 We had just settled in and resigned ourselves to four hours of carbon monoxide poisoning when our little “junk” sped up along side a big river cruise boat and we were all but pushed off onto the big boat – YEAH!  The big boat seemed like the QE2 after the little boat, and the crew, unsure with what to do with us Americans that were causing a small riot of Chinese passengers trying to take our pictures, were ushered up to the small private dining room on the top deck where we spent the day with the Chinese passengers who had paid for first class passage.  We had a fabulous day cruising the river, eating, and obliging all 200 other passengers to photos with the cute American children.  

Happily on our "real" Li River cruise boat

Happily on our "real" Li River cruise boat

We finally landed in Yangshou.  When you ask any Chinese person what part of their country we shouldn’t miss, Yangshou is almost always the unanimous answer.  The area is full of these awesome limestone “karsts” that jut up out of the ground all over.  The valleys they create are filled with picturesque rivers and small farms – rice and citrus are the main crops here but every farm also has planted the staples that make up the farmer’s diets – grain, corn, potatoes, radishes and onions, garlic and some miscellaneous root veggies that are a mystery to me.

 Besides beautiful scenery, this is an adventure sports mecca.  Mountain biking, rock climbing, and caving get top billing, but there is also white water rafting, trekking, and hot air ballooning galore.  We were really ready for some R&R after our hectic month in giant Chinese cities, so our routine in Yangshou consisted of waking up as late as possible, yoga on the patio overlooking the karsts (with the resort’s puppies and the owner’s toddlers nipping at our heels), a 2-3 hour breakfast that led right into lunch, and then an adventure sport in the afternoon.  After we returned each day from our afternoon excursion, we sat around with the other hotel guest and drank beer until it was time for a 2-3 hour long dinner. 

 The kids kept themselves busy (while the parents lounged) reading, gameboying, and playing with the puppies – but mostly took off and cruised around the little village that we were staying in, called Moon Hill.  There they got to see what life is like in a rural village in southern China – people cooking their dinner on open fires in the fields, pigs and chickens in the bottom floor of a house and a family of 10 in the upstairs (with no windows or running water), water buffalo taking up the entire street (and having to climb a wall and tree to get out of their way!) and chicken and stray dogs everywhere you looked.  By the end of our week in Moon Hill village the girls knew every road and path and all the shortcuts through the citrus groves.  I really enjoyed seeing them embrace their temporary surrounding – and while they are SO different than back home – make them theirs – warts and all. 

 The Tyrrells were totally game to our leisurely schedule (Bass and Julie helped reinforce our slacking – or maybe it was us reinforcing their slacking).  Either way, our week in Yangshou/Moon Hill was great.  We had great food, great company, lots of beer and fresh squeezed orange juice, lots of laughs, only a little blood-letting (be sure to read Tessa’s post about our mountain biking/river crossing adventure), a bit of shopping, successful rock climbs, a dazzling river light show (by the guy who choreographed the opening ceremonies of the Olympics in Beijing), and even managed to get some school work in. 

Our Moon Hill Resort crew:  Derek, Tessa, Jeff, Phoebe, Kate, Elsa, Sheila, Julie, Bass, WeiWei, Derek's Dad & Mom holding William

Our Moon Hill Resort crew: Derek, Tessa, Jeff, Phoebe, Kate, Elsa, Sheila, Julie, Bass, WeiWei, Derek's Dad & Mom holding William

 We were sad to bid farewell to the Tyrrell’s, but as become our habit on the road – we never say “goodbye”, only “see you later”.  (Look out Cork, Ireland – the Wells’ may just be on the way!).

Pandas, pandas, and more…
Oct 31st, 2009 by Phoebe
At the Chengdu Panda Reserve

At the Chengdu Panda Reserve

Yesterday (editor’s note – this actually happened on Oct 17th, but we are a bit behind in posting!), Tessa, Dad and I went to see the pandas.  Since we went there we learned that there are only 1000 pandas currently existing in the wild.  Pandas are very interesting.  Did you now that if pandas have two babies typically only one will survive? Also female pandas are only fertile 2-3 days every year.

A baby panda in an incubator.  Some of the babies were even smaller than this but I couldn't really get pictures of them.

A baby panda in an incubator. Some of the babies were even smaller than this but I couldn't really get pictures of them.

 Pandas are very playful animals.  When we went to see them they were climbing and swinging.  I had so much fun.  Pandas, unlike other animals have a projection in their wrist which works as an opposing thumb.  It helps them eat their food.

Two pandas wrestling.  They were very playful and really fun to watch!

Two pandas wrestling. They were very playful and really fun to watch!

 Pandas live in the bamboo forests of China.  Pandas eat about 80 different types of Bamboo but prefer 27 types. Since people are moving into the panda’s habitat they are becoming extinct.

This panda was climbing up to poke and bother another panda. He was a trouble maker!

This panda was climbing up to poke and bother another panda. He was a trouble maker!

 The “red pandas” were also in the Chengdu Panda Reserve even though they are in the fox family not really in the panda family.  I thought that the red pandas were less playful than the real pandas.  They have a mane-like fur around their head and have striped tails. A “Red Panda” is not really a panda but they are still really cute!

"Red Panda" isn't it SO cute!

"Red Panda" isn't it SO cute!

The day before I went to the Chengdu Zoo and they had one panda there and he was laying on his back with bamboo piled up on his belly and was eating away.  He was the panda version of Homer Simpson.  We also saw a huge tiger called a Siberian Tiger and it was much much bigger than the other tigers.  We also saw an elephant that was so so big we almost didn’t believe it was a real elephant. 


I think the pandas get more room in the zoo because the Chinese people honor them more, but the tigers were in 12 x 20 foot concrete cage and they were all pacing and did not seem very happy.  I was very sad for the cats.  There were also bears.  They were very cute.  The fur around their head was like a big big puffy mane.  When they walked on their back leg they wobbled and hobbled because they had very short back legs.  The enclosure were very wide open and anyone could fall in very easily.  The walls of the enclosures had big slits in them so kids could put their feet in them and look over the low wall.  All of the bears were begging for food and many people were throwing them junk food, which is very bad for them.  The big Asian black bears could catch the food out of the air but the Sun Bears could not and the food bonked them in the head.

Our time in Guilin (and waiting for Kate and her new tooth)
Oct 30th, 2009 by Jeff

After a brief trip to the Chengdu Panda Reserve in Chengdu, and a “soft” lunch at KFC (Kate felt she had better stick with a known food choice with her newly repaired, temporary tooth, and she figured KFC’s mashed potatoes and fried chicken would work), the girls and I donned our backpacks, walked down to the corner and tried to hail a cab for the train station. We had ample time to get to the station when we left the hotel, but 20 minutes later we were still trying to find a taxi. Kate eventually stopped one, and Phoebe, Tessa and I drove off into Chinese traffic heading to the train. Fortunately, the station wasn’t too far and we managed to get there with a few minutes to spare before the mass boarding of the train began. Usually, we get there a little earlier and are able to board with the “soft seat” or “vip” pre-board. Phoebe and Tessa didn’t let the hordes of Chinese get in their way as we made their way to the platform.

The train trip – 25 ½ hours – was mostly uneventful. We were lucky enough to meet a lovely young Chinese tour guide. Jane spoke very good English and helped us with our questions regarding our departure and ensured we got off at the correct stop.

Our accommodations in China jumped up a notch or two with our arrival in Guilin. I had discovered a couchsurfer who also ran a contract manufacturing facility. Jenny; her husband Jonathan; her two children, Albert and Phoenix (ironic huh); Jenny’s parents and the nanny lived outside Guilin in a gorgeous 7 bedroom home in a gated community. Jenny had their driver meet us at the station and bring us to their house. A delicious Chinese home cooked meal prepared by Jenny’s mom was waiting on the table for us.

The day after we arrived we had a “recovery” day, as Phoebe was a little under the weather – motion sickness from the train. So the girls did homework and read. That night we were treated to Beijing Duck as our gracious hosts took us out to dinner. The next few days were spent with rather slow starts in the morning (Tessa and Phoebe into good books and me researching Yangshou and Vietnam) with site seeing in the afternoon. Tuesday we went to the Tiger and Bear Park in Guilin. There we saw over 500 tigers and probably 150 bears, all fairly well cared for in a huge reserve area. We stayed for the circus act, but decided to pass on the tiger feeding show (live bull put into a pen with 10-15 hungry tigers) as I thought this was a little more than the kids needed to see. Wednesday we explored the local shopping area ate some good pizza and sheppard’s pie at an expat restaurant and walked along the river. Thursday I was treated to a tour of our hosts business (a contract manufacturing plant) and the girls and I took a tram to the top of a local karst (a cool limestone mountain structures) at a large park. This park also has a toboggan like the one we rode at the great wall and this time Phoebe was not to be denied her own car!

Group of Tigers (waiting for the bull?)

Group of Tigers (waiting for the bull?)

Phoebe, Tessa, and Jeff at the top of karst

Phoebe, Tessa, and Jeff at the top of karst

Friday was the real day we had all been waiting for because Kate was getting back into town with her new tooth! But in order to pack in a little more site seeing (and so Kate could not say I was slacking on my duties to keep the educational tours going in her absence) we went to another large karst park in town and toured a large cave there.

Phoebe and Tessa in cave

Phoebe and Tessa in cave

From Gulin we made our way down to Yangshou on the Li River. But that exciting story will come with the next post.



My happy new tooth!
Oct 26th, 2009 by Kate

So the tooth nightmare had a happy ending…

My solo trip to Shanghai was great, it was very interesting being a single blonde woman traveling alone through the train stations, airports, subways, etc.  I didn’t garner the same attention that the girls do – when they are around people seem to be drawn to us, and by contrast, people seem to repel themselves from me, seemingly so they can stare from afar.  The Chengdu airport was a trip in itself.  I managed to get myself from my hotel all the way to my boarding gate with very little trouble (my sense of travel saviness totally reached an all-time high here). 

This airport was SO busy, and flights arrived and then left out of my gate – I am not kidding- every 10 minutes.  I was really impressed and pretty surprised.  But then I saw the glitch in this system… once flights started being a tiny bit late  it sent everything into – um, UTTTER CHAOS!  I was an hour and a half early for my flight so I had a front row seat to watching a quiet orderly 60×100 foot waiting area go from having comfortable seating for about 200 people to being filled with about 1.500 annoyed, hot, noisy Chinese businessmen.  This was by far the most crowded (Asian subways at rush hour excluded) room I have ever been in (total fire hazzard!).  Oh and people were smoking and spitting and it was just icky.  My only saving grace was that, as I mentioned above,  instead of attracting crowds (or even being part of the crowd) I now repel them.  I was never so happy to be stared at in my life.  I had a good 8 foot perimeter around me free and clear of people/smoke/spit/etc.  It was a tiny bit ackward,but we are getting pretty used to being under the microscope here in China and I really appreciated my “bubble”.

The rest of my travels were pretty uneventful.  The American Consulate in Shanghai gave me a recommendation for a dentist and she was AWESOME (thanks Dr. Mai!).  my tooth looks and feels great, and the whole ordeal cost less than my deductible back in the States (including my last-minute airfare)!  I am totally keeping their business card and if I ever need to get major dental work done I’m going back to Shanghai – seriously!  Also, thanks again to Tom for putting me up in his luxury digs.  It was kind of fun to have a basic knowledge of Shaghai from our previous week there and I was even able to help some travelers in the subway find their way.  

So now we’re all back together again safe and sound.

Xi’an, the Terra Cotta Warriors, and our Chinese Grandmother
Oct 26th, 2009 by Kate

Xi’an is a “second tier” city in China.  There are about five 1st tier cities and 17 second tier cities.  This is determined by the size of the city and the the city’s GDP.  This was our first experience with a 2nd tier city, and I was sitting in traffic in our taxi thinking – they have got to be mistaken – this city is totally massive.  Oh no, but it is not a big city they say, just a medium city… yea, a “medium” sized city with 14.3 million people – more than three times the size of Phoenix!

We took the overnight train from Bejing to Xi’an (pronounced She-Ann) and when our train pulled into the station we were met by Sofia and Mr. Yung.  I know many of you know about our couchsurfing adventures – we had the honor of meeting Sofia indirectly through couchsurfing.  Sofia’s brother(Dr. Kang) and niece couchsurfed at our house back in May before we left, and they were kind enough to help us connect with Sofia when we reached Xi’an.  I can not tell you how wonderful it is to arrive in a really foreign city, and have a kind warm smile greet you at the station after 26 hours on a Chinese train!

Sofia is fabulous.  She was a high school teacher her entire life, and lucky for us the subject she taught was English!  She is retired now but organizes teacher exchanges and summer programs so foreign teachers can come to China and Chinese teachers and students can come to the US.  Her husband Mr. Yung was great too.  He didn’t speak any English at all, but we managed to communicate through elaborate sign language and lots of translations by Sofia.  He was an electrical engineer before he retired.  They have  two adult children but no grandbabies yet (much to Sofia’s dismay), but by the second day Ms. Sofia had an American grandchild named Phoebe (much to both of their delight!).  Phoebe even called her “Ni Ni” (grandma in Chinese) and they walked around the city hand and hand and you should have seen the stares!  (Phoebe wants me to add that Grandma and Nana shouldn’t be jealous because of course she knows they are here real grandmas!)

Sofia arranged our entire stay in Xi’an.  We were treated like royalty.  She had a private driver to take us to the Terra Cotta Warriors.  And all I can say about them is WOW!  They believe there are at least 6,000 of them.  They are life-size, and every single one of them is different.  I had seen pictures of them of course, and in my mind they found them all intact and upright.  Oh but that was not the case at all.  They were placed in a 5 meter deep pit and timber roofs were built over them.  The roofs collapsed and crushed them all to pieces.  At the site you are at an massive archiological site where they are putting the millions of broken shards back together again… Humpty Dumpty! 

Sofia also set it up to have two friends (hey Chen and Maggie!) spend the day with us in the Muslim Quarter bargining for treasures (Lisa & Tami – there are goodies for the girl scouts in the mail!).  With them we also visited the Great Goose Pagoda and learned about the Chinese way of praying at Buddhist Temples. 

One of the highlights of our time in Xi’an was renting bikes and riding them on top of the historic city wall (10.6 km).  It was SO interesting to have a bird’s eye view of a bustling city.  You could see people cooking through the windows of their apartments, the snarls of traffic, little old Chinese men tending pigeon coops on rooftops, people doing Tai’chi in the public park, children in their schoolyards singing patriotic songs and practicing their marching, men teathered to bamboo scaffolding building luxury highrise apartments, and old crumbling houses with full size trees growing out of their cisterns. 

Another highlight was Sofia arranged for us to visit an after-school program for elementary kids in her neighborhool.  There were about 20 kids in the program and she had worked with them the week prior on speaking a bit of English for us.  We were excited and they were REALLY excited – and we had a great afternoon of eating and playing and singing with them (Mom - you will be SO happy to know that the Sound of Music is very well loved in China and the girls and I did you proud by leading a sing-along of Doe-a-Deer!).  The kids in Xi’an start school at 7am, have a 2-hour break for lunch from 12-2pm, and then go back to class until 5pm.  The afterschool program offered homework and tutoring help, and about 15 of the kids live at the after-school program during the weeknights and go home on the weekends.  Most of the kids ate dinner there, and quite a few don’t get picked up until 9pm!  The girls and I all thought about Miss Karen back at Khalsa and agreed that she might just have to strangle some of them if she had to keep them until bedtime!

We all felt so fortunate to have met Sofia and spent time with her family and many friends, and look forward to hosting her in Phoenix someday.  And for everyone that is reading this, I have promised to help them find an English teacher (or two) to come and live and work in China for a year.  I’ll post more about that later – but it would be an amazing opportunity for someone to take.

** We will post pictures soon- we have been having a few computer issues and that’s why we’re 2 weeks behind in posting!

Three nightmares collide in a taco shop in western China…
Oct 20th, 2009 by Kate

So you know that bad dream you have that you are just sitting there minding your own business and all of a sudden your teeth feel loose and fall out into you hand?  Or how about that one that you are in a dimly lit dentist office and people in masks want to work on your teeth with drills and no novicane?  Oh and how can I forget – the traveler’s nightmare of needing to visit the “emergency room” in a hospital in western China  at 11pm on a Saturday night … OH YEA BABY – I HIT THE TRIFECTA OF NIGHTMARES!

The night didn’t start out as a nightmare, actually it started off fabulously… our friend from Shanghai (Tom Callarman - Miss Lisa’s dad and our saviour!) met up with us in Chengdu to go and visit the giant pandas.  He knew of a good Mexican restuarant (hey all you out there in AZ – stop rolling your eyes – it was good – and we are JONES-ing for Mexican food!) and there was NO question that the Wells’ would be “livin la vida loca” for the night!  Cold Corona, carne asada and burritos as big as our heads – ole!  We ate and drank and had a merry old time.  The girls were topping it all off with fried ice cream while I sampled the key lime pie (okay, now all you Florida people stop rolling your eyes – they tried really hard and get an A for effort) and finished off my “tastiest beer ever”.  Nightmare #1:  We were stuffed and happy and chit chatting when my tongue brushed by my tooth.  I felt it move.  I felt it again and it moved again.  That’s weird, I thought.

I didn’t want to touch it.  I had a few beers at this point so I pretended it didn’t happen.  But my tongue was curious, and when it brushed it again I felt it pull up on the inside bottom.   Holy shit I thought!

I suddenly felt nauseous (I am NOT writer’s embellishing this) and reached up with my two fingers to access.  My tooth just feel into my hand.  I can not write on this blog what I said but anyone who has ever had a bad dream about their teeth falling out can just guess…

I breathed in and it felt like someone shocked me with electricity.  Man do exposed tooth nerves hurt like hell!  I stuck the tooth back in its hole and held it in place while I did my best not to faint.  It was a tooth that I had a childhood filling in, and I had it replaced with a crown last year.  All that is left under the crown is an ultra-sensitive tooth nub.    I mumble and drool in Jeff’s direction – honey my tooth has fallen out – he doesn’t seem to get how serious this is for a few seconds (Margarita Boy momentarily forgot we were in far western China) and then his face gets white like mine.  More “oh shit”s follow.

It’s 10:30pm now on a Saturday night.  I need help right away – if I move my hand away from my mouth my tooth falls out and I have insane exposed nerve pain.  Tom calls someone he knows and they say go to the hospital.  An American expat sitting at the next table also says go to the hospital and tell them “gold card” and they will bring you into a special emergency room for foreigners.  I’m feeling like I’m going to cry but the girls look worried so I keep it together.  We have our computer with us and the taco shop has wi-fi so I tell Jeff to get on and call the American consulate.  Someone name Mark answers – I LOVE AMERICA!  WE HAVE PEOPLE, IN THE MIDDLE OF CHINA, IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT, THAT PICK UP YOUR PHONE CALL AND HELP YOU – OH BEAUTIFUL FOR SPACIOUS SKIES…. He gives us some numbers and tells us he’ll call us back after he speaks with the “consulate nurse”.  After some back-and-forth they also say go to the hospital.  UGG – I was totally looking for another answer than that!!!

Nightmare #2:  I am sorry if I am offending any of my friends here in China – but the mere thought of going to a hospital here scares the beegebbers out of me.  At this point my mind has shifted from “sane, rational can-conquer-the-world-Kate” to “oh-my-god-germs-and-pain-and-dirty needles-Kate”.

Everyone has given us the same name of the hospital, Hauxi Hospital… so at least they are being consistent.  We take a cab there.   It is a massive complex of concrete buildings.  It is dark and there isn’t really anyone around but one security guard that acts like he has no idea that he is guarding a hospital.  We walk around outside along the sidewalks and Phoebe spots a giant tooth holding a toothbrush in front of a building.  I mean this is a giant tooth.  There is a light on in the building and suddenly the security guard is at our side pointing for us to go in (I’m thinking that it took him that long to decipher what me pointing at my mouth and crying meant).

Nightmare #3:  There is no one in the building, then out of no where a young guy in a lab coat comes out.  He is too young to be a doctor (Tessa reminds me that he was old enough, I just have a warped sense of age because I am getting old).  He doesn’t speak English.  He motions me to a chair and puts a mask on but I won’t sit down.  I figure out he is a student and I ask for him to call a doctor.  He wants to examine me first but there is no way in hell I’m seeing a 14 year old student/doctor/child.

Okay, now is when my story gets less nightmare-ish… I didn’t mention that the hospital’s dentistry emergency room (yes, they have a dentistry emergency room – isn’t that cool!) was nice and bright and clean.  The student/doctor/child didn’t make me beg for a doctor – he called the dentist-on-call and he came right away.  He spoke great English as he went to the University of Indiana (Katie H - your people are EVERYWHERE!) and put on a nice temporary bit of goo on my tooth that made the pain stop.  He arranged for me to see another dentist at 8am the next morning (on a Sunday no less!) – and charged me a whooping… $6.35 US!!!  For an emergency room visit on a Saturday night!!!

So to make a long-ish story a bit shorter – I got good care the next morning too (that follow-up visit cost $2.10US) but ultimately I needed to get to a bigger city that could take care of me.  So on Sunday afternoon I put Jeff and the girls on a train to southern China (we had already booked our train tickets) and on Monday morning I flew back to Shanghai where the American consulate there helped me find a doc who could fix me up right.  My new crown should be ready on Friday afternoon, and if all goes as planned I’ll be back with the family by Saturday for a nice lunch and cruise down the Li River.

I have to say, that for about two hours I felt like I was in a nightmare.  But, everything did in fact turn out to be just fine.  Again.  Thank god!

As to Tessa’s post – it scared me too!  She is SO overdramatic… I don’t know where she gets that from!!!

The Tradegy
Oct 19th, 2009 by Tessa

 There are four bunks per room in a train car. The one across from mine is empty. My mother should have been there. The bed is cold and stiff and the blanket and pillow are untouched.

A perfectly dramatic way of describing a sad scene in yet another novel in which the mother has died don’t you think? Fortunately, my mother is not dead. Unfortunately though, train tickets are not refundable.

Due to an emergency, my mom had to fly back to Shanghai. She didn’t want to because she thought she’d be lonely. Just to make sure that she isn’t lonely while we’re gone, I am not going to tell you what is wrong with her! (Forcing you to email her to figure out what’s wrong!!! I’m a genius!)

EDIT- My dad is forcing me against my will to write about what happened. But I still think it was a great idea.

The day after we went to the Zoo (in Chengdu, China where the giant pandas are), where I swear that Phoebe was the main exhibit because of the amount of photographs people took of her with their crying small children, we met Tom again for Tex Mex. As soon as we got there, I attempted to converse with the Chinese waitresses in Spanish. I quickly realised that NO-ONE in this restaurant spoke Spanish, much less English. Mom dove for the chips and Guacamole- but no she isn’t food poisoned. We were all finished with the meal, it was probably the best Mexican food I had eaten in China (which really isn’t saying a whole lot, but still, it was okay….). We were all convercing when mom suddenly brought her hands to her mouth- no, she doesn’t vomit either! Her eyes went wide and she simply said, “I think my crown just came off!”

So we call the consulate. They give us a hospital. We get to the hospital and they have an English speaking doctor who put a temporary cap on her tooth and we shipped her back to Shanghai where she has instructions to harass the FedEx people until they fork over our new Kindle. Oh, and hopefully she can get her tooth fixed while she’s there.

Potty training in China
Oct 11th, 2009 by Kate

This is especially for my sister Krissy… and friends Tami, Theresa, Jennifer and everyone else out there with babies…Beijing potty training

Get those babies potty training!  All you need is some butt-less pants!  They are ALL the rage here in China amoung the 6 month to one-year old set… no self respecting two year old would be caught dead not being potty trained!  Word of warning for the rest of you… when in China watch out for little tiny piles of baby pooh – ugh!

Beijing, China
Oct 11th, 2009 by Kate
This park was one of four built along side the Forbidden City for the royal families.  The hill we are on is built of the debris from when they dug the moat around the wall (and also is rumored to hold a stash of coal).  The building in the background all lit up is the northern gate to the Forbidden City, and all the dark area behind it is part of it.  It is massive, over 6000 buildings!

This park was one of four built along side the Forbidden City for the royal families. The hill we are on is built of the debris from when they dug the moat around the wall (and also is rumored to hold a stash of coal). The building in the background all lit up is the northern gate to the Forbidden City, and all the dark area behind it is part of it. It is massive, over 6000 buildings!

Flowers.  That will be my lasting memory of Beijing.  There are flowers everywhere!  I know – not what I was expecting either.  But there they are – lining every freeway, in planters on every sidewalk, in giant arrangements in front of every office building, hotel, and apartment building around.  I figured it was in celebration of the 60th anniversary of the PRC, but our friendly driver Mr. Pei said no, every summer through fall there are flowers.

 Beijing is very very interesting.  We’ve been here almost a week and have enjoyed it enough.  The streets are all boulevards – very wide and grand, not surprising when you think that they make it a habit of marching 1 million-odd soldiers down the street for various reasons.  Visually, compared to Shanghai, it is a very low, very spread-out city.  Apparently for years and years no building could be built higher than the Forbidden City.  They have broken that rule now, and don’t get me wrong, there are a million tall hotels, office and apartment buildings, but they aren’t really really tall like in Shanghai.  There are quite a few parks and green spaces here too, and many of the buildings really look like Chinese buildings (in comparison to Shanghai where they were sky-scrapers or French looking) so you really get the feeling like you are in China.  I’m not sure though that even with the grand streets, park, historical buildings and flowers that I actually think that it’s pretty here.  I don’t know why, it has all the right ingredients to be a beautiful city, but to me it’s just not, I can’t put my finger on it.


The Red Columns of Tian'anmen Square

The Red Columns of Tian'anmen Square

We spent our first day here checking out Tian’anmen Square, which is as massive as you’ve heard.  With all the crowds, it took us almost an entire day to walk across it.  Plus we had to stop about a half million times for people to take pictures with the girls.  We did score some awesome “Mao watches” for a song after some hard-core bargaining but alas one has already stopped waiving and we are sad. 

The main entrance to the Forbidden City, with Chairman Mao watching over us!

The main entrance to the Forbidden City, with Chairman Mao watching over us!

Obviously, we learned no lessons from our little adventure in Suzhou!

Obviously, we learned no lessons from our little adventure in Suzhou!

 The city is so massive it really takes forever to get across town to the various tourist “sites”.  This, coupled with our promise to the girls to only do one major attraction a day has made it so that we’ve only just scratched the surface of Beijing.  Sadly, we are leaving tonight and never did make it out to the Olympic Park to swim in the “Cube”, but as we say to ourselves in each city (as we lament the things we didn’t get to)… “It’ll give us something to see when we come back someday!”

Oh Nacho, so quick you are to forget your alligence to Mexico and take up the Chinese flag!

Oh Nacho, so quick you are to forget your alligence to Mexico and take up the Chinese flag!

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