Sunday, December 28, 2008

Fairyland Flower Park

A little while ago, Kitty, Kelsey, and I went to check out the botanical garden near Kelsey's place. After wandering aimlessly through his town, getting accosted by guards when we tried to walk into a rich subdivision that we thought was the garden, and getting yelled at by ladies trying to sell incense for not walking in front of their store. Eventually, we came across what looked like the entrance to a huge park, but when we asked the people, they all told us that it was not a park, but instead was a temple. It seemed a bit confusing, because this temple didn't really have a temple anywhere and people were just walking in, hanging out, and playing badminton or hackey sack.

We ended up not liking the place too much, but we figured our botanical mothers would appreciate lots of pics of all the greenery. However, there were quite a few places in the park where it seemed like someone just went and uprooted all the cacti.

One whole section of the park was dedicated to busts of Chinese biologists from the turn of the 19th century mostly from the University of Illinois. Becky, Linda, maybe one day your white stone skulls will end up here (Linda has a one up on being from china, also was Zooey a biology person?)

Several rooms were filled with only cacti and nothing else; really, for a botanical garden I don't know if we saw any non-cactus flowers.

Here I am, looking like a 3 year old who got taken to a brothel while being babysat by a weird uncle, and was too concerned about my melting ice cream to notice the strange, naked women.
Ahh... that's much more like how I was supposed to repsond.

This tree got planted by Shenzhen's hero, Deng XiaoPing.

Yep, more cacti, more naked lady statues.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Butterfly Mountain, (Nanshan and Turtleshan)

On Saturday we traveled an excruciating 6 hours round-trip to climb up a different mountain on the other side of the city. (Side note: it's unbelievable how long it takes to get around this city, which is spread out west to east along the coast. We could've driven from Urbana to Chicago in the time it took us to get across Shenzhen). It was definitely worth it, though, because, as our friend Jeanette told us, there was some huge mass of butterflies at the foot of the mountain.

Unfortunately, the pictures don't quite do it justice, but, as Jeanette said, there were more butterflies there than the sum of all the butterflies we'd ever seen before. There were honestly thousands of butterflies flitting through the air and covering the trees like blue and black leaves. When Andy shook the branches of the trees, giant, swirling clouds of butterflies took to the air, making all the people there gasp.

(Andy Edit: They build bridges a little crooked in shenzhen)

The mountain was a lot smaller than our local Wutongshan, which was quite a relief. Climbing the mountain offered its own charms, of course. The view was really cool, and we could see the oddly balanced bridge from Shenzhen to Hong Kong. There were also cute elephant benches and a fun turtle statue.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas: Earth Poetry Jam

I had my kids make poems about the earth as part of their final project in the Recycle, Reduce, Reuse, Replace lesson (yeah china tacks on this weird meaningless concept of replace).
I taught them about the concept of rhyming (though not very well apparently), and had them go at it.
Most kids tended to just scribble something like:

I put trash in the bin,
I am the win


Throw away the rubbish in the rubbish bin,
The earth rubbish bin.

Some kids managed to pull off some coherent work:

Be nice, don't be mean,
Help us keep our city clean.

If we help to keep our city clean,
it will become healthy and green

but most of the decent ones just latched onto the fact that mean, green, and clean rhymed.

Then there were a few gems:

The earth need clean,

I like english,
we'll get up earlier
because time is very good, good.

We should keep the earth clean,
If we all have teeth,
I have a tooth,
Im soo happy

Thanks for all the emails and replies and boxes of wonderful goods!
Merry Christmas everyone!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

7th Anniversary!

So Andy and I celebrated our seventh anniversary on Wednesday, and it had to have been one of the best yet. We bought ourselves a cake for some reason (new tradition?), and, since Andy was incredibly impatient, we cut into it at midnight on Tuesday. They told us that we were buying a half cake, and we clarified to them that it was just for the two of us, but this is what they gave us:
To our credit, it took us a couple days and a friend to polish it off. We also opened our presents at midnight, because Andy just couldn't wait to give me my awesome present, a new Nintendo DS Lite!
As you can see, it is a limited edition Baby Milo version. Baby Milo is kind of like a bizarre version of Hello Kitty. He's an off-shoot of this brand "A Bathing Ape," ( whose slogan "Ape shall never kill ape" has made me nearly obsessed with it. In addition to the Baby Milo aspect, my DS is totally fantastic. It would be basically an updated Gameboy, but it's eminently hackable, so it's also a PDA, mp3 player, and video player. Plus it's got awesome games, such as Yoshi's Island, New York Times Crossword Puzzles, and a Chinese tutor program where you can even write characters! Best present ever!

Here's my less fun but super practical present to Andy: a new backpack!

He said he didn't want a super-huge one, but it's got all kinds of nice little amenities. Also, the bag is full of delicious snacks.

Andy passed out pretty soon after we exchanged presents, but after he finished teaching his English classes, we had a pretty great day. They had chicken nuggets at our school cafeteria, big cause for celebration and a major departure from the typical dishes like "stinky tofu with tentacles."

After we went to our Chinese class, we went out for this awesome all-you-can eat and drink teppenyaki dinner, basically like Benihana. It was so wonderful, I wish we'd brought the camera. I got my first white wine that wasn't "bai jiu" (tastes like horrible grain alcohol) in this country, and, you may not believe this, but Andy ate at least two steaks. He even tried most of the weirder dishes, like the 'prime rib' I ordered that was actually a delicious chunk of liver rolled up in a wafer-thin slice of meat. Also, Dad, if you're reading this, the oysters were EXCELLENT.

Finally, Andy carted off a fairly inebriated Kitty to a showing of Tarsem Singh's "The Fall," played on one of our group member's amazing 1080 projector. If you haven't seen this movie, I recommend it highly. It's filled with all kinds of cool visual trickery, and it's got a pretty sweet, sad story.

To top it off, I get an extra month-long paid vacation on top of our Spring Festival vacation. That's right, they somewhat inexplicably cancelled my classes a month early, so now I only have to do the English Show (aka entertain 400 children for an hour) once a week. I get to spend the next month playing my DS, studying Chinese, possibly picking up some extra jobs on the side. Poor Andy has to keep working, but he's an awfully good sport about it.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Adventure Chosen!

(It ended up just being a lot cheaper!)
($150 roundtrip!)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Choose our Adventure!

Kitty and I get a month long paid vacation coming up (she actually has a two month long vacation-she stops working tuesday while i have to work till january 12). Anyway we have decided on taking one of 2 possible trips, and since you are the one reading this, and this is where pictures will be posted of the adventure, you can help decide!

Trip 1: We fly to bangkok, and then take trains and buses around the bottom of mainland asia for the month to cambodia, laos, and vietnam. Everything on this part of asia is apparently dirt cheap.

Trip 2: We fly to kota kinabalu (the cutest named city ever), and then hang around the island of borneo for the month visiting malaysia and indonesia. Big rainforests, and crazy islands (even islands with stingless jellyfish). No one speaks english, and prices for things are slightly more expensive than what we are used to in China.

So if you have an opinion on either place (that might require more research and info than i have provided) let us know.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Mountain DEFEATED!

Once again the mighty Wutongshan mountain, the constant sentinel, stood over us...mocking. But this time, there was no turning back. After setting torch to our room, we knew there was no turning back, and the only way towards freedom was up.
One of the worst parts about this mountain is that the closer you get to the top, the further it seems away.
The ground trembled below our feet as the mountain accepted its new masters.
Also there were about 1/2 a billion other chinese people up there too.
Here was the "Heavenly Lake" that signs had been advertising since the bottom.
So this mountain is part of a range that divides two districts of Shenzhen, Yantian (where I live) and Louhu (where kelsey lives). So instead of just heading back from where we came, we though that there must be some way over the range to just walk to kelsey's house. We would just keep walking the opposite way that we came from. Maybe it was the altitude, but for some reason it didn't seem like that bad of an idea at the time.

We made it to this big towery thing that had a tea house in the bottom.
There were a bunch of temples scattered around the range also, but we only saw one.

This house looked super fun and abandoned, so Kelsey and I decided to go climb around and explore it.But as soon as we stepped foot near it, droves of dogs began smashing against the welded shut metal doors. That place was scary.
Here is where we made it to louhu about 4 hours later! Fun!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


After the Jackie spectacular, we spent the next day exploring Guangzhou.

The chinese seem to be very enthusiastic about lots of little physical sports and activities, but i have to report that, sadly, they aren't that great in general. I stepped up to show them how jump rope was done.
We journeyed up to the top of the big mountain in Guangzhou, but, as you can see, we definitely weren't the only ones up there.
We were happy to see that no longer were psycopaths or persons with "bibulosity" allowed on the lift.
Kelsey and I climbed up a waterfall.

We then visited an awesome bird park for only 10 kuai.
This cockateil could rollerskate...
and ride a bike!

Here was the smartest bird in the universe. If you held up money, he would fly down and steal it from you, BUT if the bills were of a denomination lower than 5 kuai he would spit the money back in your face in disgust.

We then made our way to the Guangzhou martyrs cemetery. Guangzhou was apparently one of the first places that the big communist revolution began. This big cemetery was dedicated to all those who died in the earliest uprising, but now was also the cool place to take your family to play hackeysack and go on carnival rides.

We tried to resist the feudal superstition, but once they tell you not to, it becomes so much harder.

There was a big wall depicting the ancient origins of the Chinese characters.
Cool commie gun statue.