China Photo Shoot

>> Friday, June 23, 2006

Hello all! I am giving you a picture overload this time. Everywhere we go, I see perfect settings for pictures. Sooooo...last week I dressed up my boys (all three of them) and we went to Chaoyang Park and Temple of Heaven for some photo shoots. Don't think this was an easy task...I had to bribe Kaleb and Barrett with treats and a small prize for cooperating. They are such good sports! By the way, only half the "candid" shots were set up...the rest were real...imagine that.

I know I am setting myself up for remarks from some of you, but hey, I have already endured the many years of teasing about my constant picture taking. What can I say, I LOVE IT! I always have my camera with me when we go to the park by our apartment. In a country like this, there are several perfect picture moments. An ancient, darling old man approached me the other day and tried to make conversation in his broken English. He proceeded to tell me "you here many times...we say you Camera Lady." So, there you go...even on the other side of the world, I am teased about my camera always in hand.

Travis might kill me for putting this one on here, but it's not his fault. I made him do it and I loved the picture!


Happy Father's Day

>> Sunday, June 18, 2006

Just a little blog to wish our fathers, grandfather, and all of the other "fathers" in our lives a Happy Father's Day! Our day is just ending, and yours is just beginning, so have a great day!

So...have any of you been watching the World Cup in Germany? I must confess that we are quite obsessed with it here. The only problem is that the games are on every night at 9 pm, 12 am, and 3 am. We always stay up for the 9 o'clock games and sometimes for the midnight games. But, the U.S. played last night at 3 am, so what were we to do? Yep, that's right, we pulled an all nighter and watched it. It was kind of weird to go to bed as it was just getting light outside. Hmmm, not very smart for two parents whose kids would wake up two hours later. The U.S. didn't win, but at least they tied Italy. We are rooting for the U.S., Argentina, and England.

Go USA!!!

Travis is a big fan...I'm pretty sure if he were in Germany at the World Cup, we might find him in the stands looking like this...hee hee...

Speaking of soccer, Kaleb and Travis have been watching the games together. Here is a conversation between them last night while they were watching...
Kaleb: Daddy, will you watch me play soccer on TV when I grow up?
Daddy: Of course I will, Buddy!
Kaleb: Will David Beckham watch me too (very famous English soccer player for anyone who doesn't know)?
Daddy: Yeah, he'll need tips.
Kaleb: The two things I want to do when I grow up soccer on TV and work at Toys R Us.

Yep, that's right, when our kid dreams, he dreams BIG. A professional soccer player AND a Toys R Us employee. Come on, every kid's dream is to work at a place surrounded by toys, toys, and more toys. We'll see how that one turns out...


A Few Random Pictures...

>> Thursday, June 15, 2006

Hello all! I'm just adding a few random pictures to show you what we have been doing the past week or so. We had been doing a lot of shopping and sight seeing, so we wanted to find some fun things for the kids to do. Thanks to our neighbors, the Jagodas, we find out about all of the fun kid stuff around the city. Um, maybe it helps that he speaks Chinese. Go figure. Anyway, sometimes I can't believe they have this stuff here...I thought I was in a third world country. But, everyone keeps telling me that I need to go out of Beijing if I want the TRUE culture shock.
Kaleb, Barrett, and Savannah Jagoda at the Beijing Zoo

The next stop was the Beijing Aquarium, which is part of the Beijing Zoo. It is the largest inland aquarium in the world. It was the nicest building I've been in since coming here. The dolphin and seal show were the kids' favorite. Here are Trav, Kaleb, Barrett, and the Jagoda's (Brittany, Dan, and Savannah).

We had heard about a "nice" pool at Chouyang Park and decided to go check it out. We were leary because we had heard about the Chinese pools...Yuck. But, this one proved to be great and the kids were in heaven.

I didn't take this picture because I like Chinese men in spandex swimsuits. Rather, a funny story occurred and I had to add a visual. A group of 6-7 Chinese guys walked by us when Kaleb blurted, "Why do all of the boys here wear black underwear to swim in?" It was just a funny moment, because Brittany Jagoda and I were thinking the same thing. They are not quite spandex, not quite Speedos, and not quite biker shorts. Whatever they are, it must be the style, because they ALL wore them.

Something else interesting at the pool...we noticed that the only girls in bikinis were foreigners. But, the teeny, tiny Chinese girls all wore one piece swimsuits. why is that?

Just a random pic of our day trip to the Forbidden City. I love the colors of the buildings...the pictures don't always do them justice

Another picture at the Forbidden City. It doesn't have any special meaning...I just liked it.

So, there you go...hope all is well with everyone. We love you all!


Everyday Life

>> Friday, June 09, 2006

I can't help it...I must be a super blogger nerd. Here I am for the third time in one week. I just like to ramble I guess. Some people have been writing and asking what we do everyday. Well, I must admit...up until today, we have pretty much been on vacation. Sight seeing, shopping, eating out, exploring the city, meeting people, etc. Travis had been interviewing with companies, but didn't actually start his internship until today. Soooo, I guess real life begins...well, as real as it could be living all the way across the world in a strange land. So, what's "everday life" for us like here?

Let's start off with Trav's internship. Fitting, since that's the whole reason we came here! He interviewed with three companies and accepted a position with a consulting company that deals with IPO's (I'm not going to pretend to know what that means) and venture capital. He will obviously have to give you details later, since I seem to be mental when it comes to business talk. Anyway, he liked his first day. Of course he did...they gave him a nice, big office overlooking the city, ordered him lunch (which seems to happen everyday there), and let him just settle in. Hmmmm, doesn't sound too bad.

What do the boys and I do everyday? Well, like I said, this was the first day away from Travis. We don't have a routine yet, but here are some of the things we have done. We walk around a lot. We love to explore the many types of markets and we try to find parks and anywhere the boys can run and play. Before we came, I thought I would be freaked out and never leave the apartment. But, I feel totally safe here and will go anywhere I know how to get to. I even dare to ride the buses, taxis, and subways by myself. It sounds nerdy, but I want to see you try to go somewhere where no one understands you and you have to tell them to go to a certain destination or read bus and subway signs. I'm still baffled that ANYONE can make sense of their characters.

Here are some pictures of a park that we were SO lucky to live right across the street from. I call it "my little piece of heaven in a big, dirty city." It is a beautiful, little park that also has a playard with cars, tramp, swings, playground in it for a small fee. I mention this park because we spend a lot of time there. I LOVE going there with my camera and capturing all of the small things that I never want to forget about China. Couples dancing to music at night, old ladies playing hackeysack, old men flying kites, ladies doing synchronized dances, and people doing Tai Chi in the mornings are all very common things that I never tire watching. I love these things because there are many other things that are not so pleasant.

These fountains are at the park across from our apartments

The boys love the "mushroom fountains" at the park

You can't really see very well, but this is the "exercise equipment" in the park that you will see all over China. Very different ideas about getting into shape...

This is a picture of some men doing Tai Chi in the morning at the park

I HAD to add this. I was shocked for weeks when I found this out...the children don't wear diapers here. Yep, your eyes to not deceive you, that is a slit in his pants to just squat and let loose wherever and whenever. All of the tiny kids wear slit pants. I've seen way too many mini one eyed snakes here. I'm still in shock...

This picture is Kaleb and Barrett (obviously) in their new Chinese jammies that I just couldn't resist. It was a good purchase, however, because they seriously want to wear them every night and they call them "karate jammies." Yep, they pretty much think they are invincible when they have them on. You can see their sweet kung fu moves in the next pictures.

I will make you a promise. I have so much to say and ramble about right now, but I swear all of my blogs will not be this long. If I make Travis do the next one, you may only get a few sarcastic one liners...


The Saga Continues...

>> Sunday, June 04, 2006

Hello all! It's time I mention one of my favorite things about China...the shopping! Back in the states, my specialty was the clearance rack. Over here, I swear it's just one big clearance rack, but much cheaper! We were given all of the bargaining tips before we came over. You know, take their offer and bargain to about 20% of their offer, walk away (and they always call you back), and wife comes up to bargaining husband and says no way (this one works great). As one girl at church put it, "shopping here is a full contact sport!" Thanks to the people in our ward and a wonderful couple who lives a building away, we have been told where the many different types of markets are. There are clothing, toy, shoe, electronic, flower, jewelry, souvenir, antique name it, they sell it.

So, needless to say, we've done a bit of shopping. I told Travis that it is almost an addiction to see how low can you get the price. By the way, don't think it's just me...Travis has become the bargaining king. Oh, and the food here is so cheap! I must admit that we have struggled with the cooking thing. With limited ingredients and only a stove top, we're not sure what to cook for dinners. If any of you have any good stove top recipes, we would REALLY appreciate you emailing them to us! Sometimes it's just easier and cheaper to go out to eat. At a restaurant by our house, we can order 4 or 5 Chinese dishes and only pay 4 U.S. dollars for the whole family.

Speaking of shopping, the next pictures are from a big outdoor shopping center with a little market of souvenirs, restaurants, and outdoor Chinese opera (which is absolutely horrid by the way). It is called Wan Fu Jing (spelling?), and I couldn't pass up pictures of some of the creatures they have skewered and being sold for food! Enjoy!

Yep, those are seahorses and scorpions...yummy!

A delicious arrary of beetles, other bugs, hearts, octupus, and who knows what else.

The next pics are from our trip to Temple of Heaven. It is where the emperors held ceremonies to worship heaven and pray for good harvests. The buildings and surrounding gardens making up the temple were beautiful. It was kind of foggy and rainy that day, but made for fun pictures.


We Are Alive!!!

>> Thursday, June 01, 2006

We finally have internet! Yeah!!! When the internet is our only way of communicating with friends and family back home, a week and a half without internet is a HUGE pain! I checked my email today and recieved a lot of emails from people wondering if we fell off the face of the earth because we haven't written or called. Just for the record, we are fine and doing so great!

We have already experienced so much in the two weeks we have been here, I just don't know where to start. Since I can't fit it all into one blog entry, I'll start where I left off last week and write more as time goes on.

Last Monday, we moved into our apartment. I have attached pics to show what our home looks like in China. We were shown three apartments and our number one deciding factor was cleanliness (that tells you something). Unless you have been to China, the housing and apartments here are nothing like the states. I don't even want to tell you about the first apartment we looked at. Anyway, from the outside, the apartments look pretty bad, but the actual apartments inside are not too bad. It's actually better than what I was expecting before we came. We spent the first day scrubbing down the apartment (since the people before us didn't bother). Here are a few of the highlights...there is no oven, our fridge is in the family room, our mattresses are similar to sleeping on the ground, and the shower and toilet are in the same stall. But on the bright side, we do have a clothes washer and a normal squatter for us, thank you!

We laugh about our first impressions now, only because we look back and realize that we experienced our own kind of culture shock the first night we moved in. After that first night of "shock" in our apartment, we have absolutely loved every minute here and have so much to tell!

Speaking of housing, we have seen two extreme ways of living here in China. While our housing is a typical city apartment for the upper middle class, we have seen and heard of others who aren't so lucky. I understand we are in a third world country, but I can't believe what some people have to live in. We have seen a few Hutongs around, which are an underground type of housing that families live in (we will post pictures of these later). We are so spoiled in the United States...

On the other end of the extreme, we have seen the "expatriate" lifestyle as well. Expatriates are people living in a country with a foreign passport. There are many of these families from America who go to our church. We have been to a few of their houses for dinner and I went to a baby shower this week. They live on the outskirts of the city in American style neighborhoods in huge, beautiful houses. The neighborhoods have water fountains, security guards, and beautiful landscaping. It is amazing. Just to give you perspective, the international schools for the children cost about $22,000 dollars a year, and the house rent ranges from $5-8,000 a month (US dollars). But, of course, all of this is paid for by the companies or the US government (embassy employees). Oh, did I mention they all have their own drivers, maids, and access to all imported goods? Seriously, I could live like that! But, the people in our ward are wonderful, humble people. We went to a ward party last weekend at the international school. It was so much fun!

Ok, I've once again written a book. I'll continue the rest of our adventure in a few days. Thank you for the emails, we love to hear from you! We love you all!!!

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