We'll post pictures as soon as we can.
-Phil and Jen
This has served as a personal diary and means to share our day to day experiences while foreigners living in Shanghai China. As the View has certainly changed for us, you can now follow us as we try to navigate (or fumble) our way through life as repatriated foreigners here in the United States... raising twins.
Phil and I hope the same for you, and want to wish all of you a happy, healthy and blessed Christmas and New Year!
Phil and Jen
We've been back from Paris for 2 days now. Shanghai has been kind upon our return. The weather has been beautiful- with blue skies and 60 degree days since our return. But everything tastes awful! For any of you who have eaten your way through France like Phil and I just attempted to do- you might be able to appreciate my sentiments. For those of you who have lived in China and have been forced to dumb down your taste and food expectations in order to "enjoy" western food here- you can also appreciate where I am coming from. For the rest of you- you are wondering what the heck I am rambling on about...perhaps even thinking I am crazy.
This morning I traveled to the other side of Paris for a morning market tour/ cooking class. We have spent the last four days ravenously exploring the city sites. We have climbed the Eiffel Tower, toured the city by bike at night, visited the Notre Dam, seen the Sacre Coeur, wandered the streets of the Latin Quarter, cruised along the Seine at night, visited the Palace of Versailles, and the list goes on. I have to say that of all of the sites we visited and all of the things we have done- the cooking class was my absolute favorite thing on this trip.
Food is the heartbeat of culture; particularly French culture. I feel like more than any other time in this trip, I was able to truly experiene the essence and heartbeat of French culture.
Off to the next adventure!
Phil and Jen
I returned from Shanghai with many gifts, literally and figuratively. I love to shop and I love a bargain. The many marketplaces Jen and I and sometimes Philip visited were incredible and indescribable. You haven’t lived until you have seen Jen “bargain”. She has become a pro and her command of Mandarin is awesome. Her energy kept me going when I was on “overload”. My favorite shopping experience was the fabric market where I had a few things made to order; and very inexpensively thanks again to the queen of bargaining.
I am so thankful to Jen and Phil and their graciousness. This was an opportunity NOT to be missed.
WANTED: Family and friends to visit Shanghai. Stay in luxury accommodations overlooking the Bund. Tour with young, knowledgeable couple possessing very good Mandarin skills excited by the community and culture. Explore local history. Major opportunity for phenomenal photos. Extraordinary shopping, great food. Guarantee: You will never be the same. Make reservations before your opportunity slips away.
Could you pass up an ad like this?
Obviously, I had an awesome trip. I would go back in a heartbeat. I am already saving my vacation time at work……just in case there is a vacancy.
Phil and I are also in the last stages of gathering documents for our dossier. For those of you who don't know, Phil and I have decided to pursue adoption here in China. We are very excited, but the journey has just begun. Once we get all of the paperwork done and off to necessary government entities- we will start a special adoption related blog. Until then, we have approximately 3 months of waiting ahead of us. Then we will find out if we get approved for the adoption. Needless to say, it has been very busy and stressful around here!
That aside, hints of autumn are in the air. Skies are a little more bluish, the air is a little less stifling, and people are out and about in greater numbers. This is the time of year when you remember there really are 22 million people in this city.
Phil and I find ourselves at the 18 month mark in this adventure and I'm not sure how I feel about it. The time has really flown by. Here we are realizing that we're halfway through our assignment, and there is still so much we want to see and do. We have many travel hopes and plans as well as some personal goals we would like to see realized before we move on from Shanghai.
We are getting ready to take a much needed vacation- our first of this year in fact. I have been able to travel a bit on my own, but between our home leaves and his new job- we haven't had any time to travel together on our own. I can't wait!
Though my most recent journey along the Silk Road is more prominent in my mind, I must honor chronological order and start with the trip I took to Kaili and Shidong. Only one month ago, I along with 18 other people, embarked on a trip to Shidong in Southern China. The primary purpose of our travel was to experience the local Miao minority people and observe one of their yearly festivals known as the Sister Festival.
We flew into Guiyang and transferred to our hotel in Kaili. Though Kaili is a two hour drive from Shidong, it was the closest place to stay with a modern, moderately decent hotel. So each day we boarded our bus and started our two hour drive through the mountains into the town of Shidong. As daunting as a daily two hour bus ride may sound, the scenery was absolutely beautiful.
As the bus wound its way along the mountain road, each bend gave way to one beautiful vista after another. Villages peered mysteriously through the rice terrace stacked hills as farmers and their water buffalo worked knee deep in rice fields. This was the China I had been looking for; the China I had seen in pictures, imagined in my mind, and longed to experience.
The first day we were in Shidong we ate at a local family farmhouse (the only restaurant in the town), visited and watched a silversmith, and went to the local market. For me, wandering around the village and going to the local market was great. For such a small town, the market was an impressive size. People from all over- travel to this market to buy and sell anything from food and livestock, to their famed Miao embroidery, silver, and clothing.
On our drive back to Kaili we stopped at a local school. As a group we donated money to buy needed supplies for local school children. We were going to the school to deliver the supplies and meet some of the children face to face. I can say in all honesty that this was the absolute highlight of the entire trip for me. What we encountered when we arrived at the school was overwhelming and humbling. Over 300 children from the school were there to greet us. They lined the walkway clapping their hands and playing drums. After ushering us in, they proceeded to gift us with traditional necklaces, a dance, and a song. We spent about two hours- walking through the village, interacting with the children as well as some curious villagers, and giving some of the supplies we purchased.
The following day we went to a local Miao village close to Shidong where the festival was being held. The Sister Festival is a traditional festival for young people to find their love. There is a lot of dancing, singing, and eating. Each Miao woman wears her traditional, often richly embroidered costume, along with their famed silver jewelry, accents and/or headdress'. Girls sing and dance by the river and boys show off their horse riding skills. In the evening the boys sing to the object of their affection. If the girl feels the same way- she will give the boy a traditional ball of multi- colored sticky rice with a trinket inside. Each gift represents something different. One thing can mean "I am breaking up with you", while another means "I love you", and yet another meaning "I like you as a friend". Unlike the common Starbucks break-up here in Shanghai, the youth of the Miao minority have found a more creative and gentle way- a ball of rice with a trinket in it.
My travels through this area have given me a greater appreciation for China and its people. The beauty of the region was breathtaking and the richness of the culture- deep. I have chosen a portion of my photographs from this journey to share with you. While they cannot fully capture the beauty of this region and its people- I hope it gives you a glimpse. Simply go to the photo album link to the right and find the one creatively titled "Miao Sister's Festival".
Aside from Phil learning his new job, traveling for work, and us being incredibly busy with friends and activities here- we just found out last week that we are going to have to move. The landlord of our apartment wants to raise the rent over $700/ month! Needless to say, we don't feel like that is a legitimate price hike, so we are going to move. We've gone out several times now with a realtor, and are getting ready to work out an offer on an apartment we found.