Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Round Houses

In October of 2016 J had to go to Xiamen, China for work. We decided that Little O and I should join J for the weekend to do some sightseeing. J was particularly excited to be in this area because he has wanted to visit the Chinese round houses since before we moved to China.
Round houses are large multi-family communal living structures. This style is unique to the Hakka people from Southern China. The round walled villages were designed for defense, there is only one entrance and no windows on the ground level. Typically the structures were three to four stories tall with one meter thick walls. Each level had a different function - 1st for livestock and the well; 2nd for food storage and the 3rd/4th were for living.
To get to this village we had to get up early for a long/curvy/high speed drive from the city of Xiamen out to the hills. The drive is especially memorable because Little O got carsick...twice! The village was interesting, but overall it wasn't a great day. He also go threw up in one of the round houses, you know the 600 year old UNESCO World Heritage site! Thankfully the drive back to Xiamen was less eventful.
At the village that we visited there was one round house that was a museum (in the first picture it is the largest round building just to the left of the square house) and the others were still being used as family homes.
We didn't have much time to spend in this area of China. I know that J would have liked to visit a couple of the other villages. I believe that there is even a round house that is now a guest house. It would have been fun to stay for a night. 

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Guilin, China

Last July we spent a long weekend in Guilin, China. This area of China has beautiful scenery that is very different to other areas that we have visited. There were many hills and there is a river that goes through the city.
While we were there we got to see a elephant rock, a temple a night cruise on a canal on a day cruise on a boat to another city called Yangshuo. The picture above shows the elephant rock, the elephants trunk is above my head. We climbed many steps to get to the top of this little hill. There was a very nice view of the river and the city below.
One evening we went on a night cruise on a canal that went through the city. It was really nice. There were so many things with bright lights. Little O really enjoyed it!
A highlight of the trip was going to see the rice terraces. Getting there took much longer than Little O wanted, although he really enjoyed walked through the rice fields. It was a beautiful day. We walked through rice terraces, and a tiny town that is only accessed by foot. We ate lunch outside with an amazing view.
We took a long cruise from Guilin to Yangshuo. It was not the best idea to do with a very active toddler. It was not a hug boat and all Little O wanted to do was run around. There were many pretty spots to look at along the way. It was neat to see the scene that is on the back of the 20Yuan note. Our cruise ended in Yangshuo. It looked like a cute little town, unfortunately we only had a short time to visit.
Little O's favorite part of our vacation was swimming in the hotel pool. He liked to jump in, get out, jump in and repeat as many time as I would let him.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Dragon Boat Festival

On the fifth day of the fifth month of the lunar calendar, in China it is called  端午节(duan wu jie), the west we call it Dragon Boat Festival.  Every year in Suzhou there is a dragon boat race on Jinji Lake which is very near to our house. Last year we went to watch a few of the races.
 We got a decent spot at the starting line. Unfortunately we only got to watch a couple of minutes then our view of the race was obstructed by a building. Little O didn't mind at all. He enjoyed watching all the people and the next group of racers getting ready.
 Just before the first race a group of paragliders when flying past. Everyone was excited to see them go whizzing past.
 The boats were brightly colored. There were many different groups. There were even a few boats that had all foreigners rowing.
 The traditional food of Dragon Boat Festival is 粽子(zong zi), or stick rice dumplings. I had not had one of these before so we stopped to get one on our way back to the subway. These dumplings are made from glutinous rice and stuffed with different fillings, then wrapped in a bamboo leaf before being boiled. I am glad that I gave them a try, but this is one of the many Chinese food items that is not for me.

This years Dragon Boat Festival is just a week away. I don't plan on trying the traditional food, but I do hope that we can make it over to the lake to see a few of the races.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Year in Photos

Last May I decided to take one picture a day for an entire year and I made it! I used an app to keep all my pictures in a calendar. I love looking back at past months to see what we were up to.

May 2016
May was a typical month. A few play/coffee dates with friends and hanging out at home.

June 2016
June was a pretty normal month around here as well. J had a few days off work for Dragon Boat festival. J also celebrated his birthday this month.

July 2016
July was a busy month. We potty trained Little O, it went better than expected! We went to Shanghai for a day with friends. And we traveled to Guilin, China for a long weekend.

August 2016
August was a good month. Mostly a typical month with playing outside, getting beers with friends. The highlight of the month was when Little O started preschool!! He goes five days a week, and rides the bus. Most days he loves it, but he does occasionally want to stay home and hangout with me.

September 2016
September was a month to get used to our new normal. Little O is at preschool every day and I started a mandarin course at a local University five days a week as well. We still had time to see friends, celebrate my birthday and go on a couple date nights.

October 2016
The first week of October is the national week holiday. We all had time off work/school so we headed to Cambodia. We visited Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, the best part of the trip was definitely Angkor Wat. It was amazing, I hope to visit again some day.

November 2016
November was a month for apartment searching/packing, and saying good-bye to friends. Our good friends moved to southern China, we were very sad to see them go. We were also busy looking for a new apartment, our landlord wanted to give our old apartment to his newly married son/daughter-in-law. Again we were sad to leave our old apartment, but we were able to find a new place in our same complex.

December 2016
Typically we would spend December in the USA, but this year we decided to do it a little differently. We spent the last two weeks of the month traveling around Thailand. It was a great trip, but it felt like we didn't have a Christmas. Before leaving on our trip we did get to do a few Christmas events, like visiting Santa, a Christmas market in Shanghai and brunch with good friends.

January 2017
Just a normal month again in January. A few play dates, my cellphone died, manicure/pedicure for me, and we ended the month celebrating our third wedding anniversary.

February 2017
Nothing too exciting happened in February. Little O was home sick for a week with a fever. We took the train to Shanghai with friends.

March 2017

March was a fun month! Little O turned three!! J went to the US for work while Little O and I went to Osaka, Japan to visit my brother. My mom, dad, sister and niece were also visiting. It was a really fun partial-family reunion.

April 2017

This part month was again a fairly typical month. The weather has warmed up and the rain has mostly stopped so we had a few outdoor playdates. We also randomly meet a university classmate of my brother and sister in laws through the parent of one of Little O's classmates.

So there you have it a quick recap of what we have been up to for the last year.


I know I've been terrible at writing posts for a while now. Both Little O and I started school in September, he in preschool and me in University learning Chinese. I hope to get caught up with our travels as my school year is coming to an end soon. I can't promise that I will be perfect as we have a busy summer ahead of us. But I will do my best to post regularly.