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Happy 5K/Turkey/Tofurkey Day to you all! Actually, we finished up Thanksgiving yesterday, but all of you stateside are currently in your turkey-comas watching football. Celebrating Thanksgiving in China was certainly different than in the states, mostly because we had to work. Although Black Friday isn’t a precious few hours away, I did read articles all week about where to get the best Turkey in town and which restaurants were offering the most authentic and elaborate meals. So, just most of our experience in China, the basics exist, just in a different way.

One of the things I am thankful for was The Jacobs trip to China. Not only did it work out incredibly well, but it eased my mind a little for them to better understand why we are so interested in living here. Despite the support we both receive from our families, I often feel a sense of guilt for being the impetus behind our trip to China. David especially forgoes a lot of family time to be here, as we both love and miss his four incredible grandparents AND we recently found out that he will be an Uncle come May! Sometimes China is hard on the heartstrings, I don’t even want to think about the weddings I may miss this Summer, but overall we are SO appreciative of this experience.
On that note, a few other things I am thankful for in China:
1. The internet and gmail
2. Heat after November 15th
3. Foreign import grocery stores
4. Practicing Chinese with friendly natives
5. Cheap massages!
6. Chinese tea
7. Food streets!
8. The expat community
9. Beijing ‘s extensive networking websites
10. Chinese architecture
I have to admit, I was thinking about a lot of things I miss about home while writing this list…but in the spirit of Thanksgiving I will refrain!

The following are the rest of the photos from the Jacobs visit to Beijing. First we snapped some iconic photos at Tiananmen Square, then headed to the Forbidden City with all of the jet-setters, including French President Nicolas Sarkozy who also stopped by for a visit. We ordered traditional hot pot at a local place, which was ideal for the cold day, and then headed to the Temple of Heaven. Although I had visited the Temple before, our guide took us to a great Tea House on the premises. It was government fun and therefore extremely expensive, but our Tea Hostess, “Miss Tea,” did a great presentation that showcased China’s famous teas while incorporating a good bit of humor. Mrs. Jacobs certainly funded the rent for the week, and was even rewarded with a “pee boy,” which is a little terra cotta figurine who pees when warm enough water is poured over his head. A perfect way to test the temperature of your tea!

The next jam-packed day was actually full of firsts for me as well. I had tried to hold back on many of the major sites so I could be as excited as my visitors, which worked out well. We visited a working Cloisonné factory in the morning, one of the tombs at the Ming Tombs, had lunch at a Jade factory and ended up hiking the Great Wall at Mutianyu. Although the factories were touristy, the guides explained a lot of interesting information regarding the detail-oriented process of making cloisonné and the time-intensive process of carving jade that I found very impressive. The time and energy spent to making authentic Chinese handicrafts gave me a new appreciation for the contrast between authentic and mass-produced Chinese goods. Although I’m not sure it’s evident from his blog, Mr. Jacobs could get enough of the stone animal statues at the Ming Tombs , so I made sure to take his picture there. The carvings are quite impressive, as they were formed from one solid piece of stone that was laid along the path to an emperor’s grave.

Lastly, we made it to The Great Wall! We took a cable car up to the Mutianyu section of the wall, and hiked around until Mrs. Jacobs and I were sufficiently tired, although Mr could’ve stayed there until the sun went down I think. We got lucky because we picked one of the clearest days of the year to visit, and our photos turned out really incredibly. When then battled the typical but massive Beijing traffic jams to eat an authentic dinner complete with Beijing duck and finally headed to a Beijing opera performance. While I thought the dinner was one of the best I have had in China, the opera wasn’t overly exciting. Although the make-up of the Opera Stars was great and there were bits of good acrobatics, it seemed overall like a low-budget production with a very weak and corny storyline. I have a feeling that’s pretty representative of all Chinese Opera, so at least we got to see what it’s all about.

In daily news, David and I have been working a lot and still fighting our visa battles…but we are looking forward to visiting home for the holidays. I am amassing quite a list of items I want to bring back, which mostly revolve around my new goal to run the Great Wall Half Marathon in May!

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We are a little mixed up chronologically on the blog at this point, but it’s an accurate reflection of the chaos of our lives, so maybe it’s really just literary genius. Ha! If you want a really accurate, awesomely detailed account of the Jacobs trip, you should check out Mr’s blog here: http://mb2china.blogspot.com/ Before David’s miraculous meet-up with his parents in Guilin, I met them in Hong Kong on my visa run/family run and then again in Beijing after their journey to Xi’an. I blogged about my experiences in Hong Kong earlier, but not so much about my time with The Jacobs. So…without further ado:

After the Victoria Peak car ride adventure, I met up with the Jacobs in Aberdeen and were then whisked away to the Hong Kong Lifeguard’s Club, which also houses a great little somewhat Buddhist temple. I have to say, this was one of my favorite temples we have visited to date, as was set right in the middle of the beach and a portion of the ocean actually washed up into a ramp leading to the temple. It was pretty elaborately/garishly decorated with bright-colored mosaic tiles and statues, and was complete with a mini-bridge to walk over and extend your life. After Repulse Bay we were dropped off at Ocean Park amusement park…no comment except the Jellyfish exhibit was pretty cool.

The next morning we headed to the Wong Tai Sin temple in Kowloon. This temple looked similar to many we have experience, but exhibited a lot of unique cultural aspects such as Falun Gong demonstrators and various types of fortune telling stalls with readers who would tell you your future based on everything from wooden stick readings to your facial features. We also participated in surveys for a school group English-learning field trip, very cute. Next up, the Wan Chai district markets. We saw the bird market, which seemed to have more cages and grasshoppers than birds, and made me a little sad for all the caged birds and squished grasshoppers. We also visited the flower market and a street filled with all sorts of fish, in bags, bowls, tanks, etc! I think the highlight for all was just walking around these authentically Chinese districts and checking out the every day vegetable markets and incredible amount of signage in downtown Hong Kong. This night we went back up to the peak to do the Peak Circuit, view the city lit up and eat at the famous Peak Lookout restaurant. Although the views certainly disappoint, the restaurant was beautiful but expensive and over-rated in our opinion. We took the Peak Tram down, and I said goodbye to the Jacobs until Beijing!

Greetings blogworld. I apologize for my extremely long delay in posting, I have been busy/tired/blog is now blocked on my computer, so that is the reason for my absence. I took a 2 week long business trip to the US of A, and it was nice to get a taste of the motherland. Unfortunately it is a 12 hour difference in time so I came back and was pretty tired for a few days. I am back now and am ready to give the people what they want, which of course is a new blog post. I will detail the portion of my parents journey that I was able to join them with to the beautiful city of Guilin.

It seems like ages ago, but the time of my parents trip was the most hectic that I have had in China. My visa was expiring the day I was supposed to fly to meet them, I had to get a new visa in order to get entry into China after the business trip, 2 of my companies biggest partners were visiting to discuss contracts and such, we were scheduled to visit a school the afternoon of my flight to Guilin, a school that we were donating to that was a free school for some children whose parents died in the earthquake of 2008, and we were being forceably removed from our apartment! Typical last-minute-I-have-no-idea-what-is-happening kind of thing. The day of my flight, I had to go to 2 different places to get a new residence permit and emergency visa extension, rush back to meet with the partners, go to the school to meet the earthquake children, rush back in a huge traffic jam to get my passport with new visa, give Erin keys to the apartment and finally get on the plane to Guilin. Somehow, all of these things worked, and I ended up getting on the plane. It was an incredible feeling, I really couldn’t believe that everything had worked out, but I walked into my parents hotel room at 2 am and that was that.

My parents were obviously asleep so we saved the real hellos until the following morning. We were staying at a nice hotel on the Li River, in a very good location in the city. My parents still looked the same and it sounded like they had a good time on the first portion of their Chinese journey. The breakfast at the hotel was incredible and it was amazing to have a decent, real breakfast for a change. We met up with our tour guide, Karen, who was very helpful throughout and took us to the Longji terrace, a village on the top of a mountain chain that was covered with terraced rice fields. It was a little hazy but still an amazing view. Hard to imagine that people make a living growing rice on top of this mountain that had no road going to it even a few years ago, but they did. I did some haggling with a lady to get a tablecloth for my mom, and it was a good introduction to haggling in China for my parents. No matter how upset they act, it is all for show. Stick to your original price and walk away, you will probably get it. We watched some rich people get carried up the mountain on a little throne, which also seemed like a pretty tough way to make money. It was my first terraced field experience in China though, so I was glad to see it.

After the terrace we went on the Guilin city night boat cruise, which I thought was pretty lame. All of the lakes in Guilin are man made, as are most of the old traditional looking buildings. Three ancient looking pagodas are actually 7 years old, so it wasn’t really my cup of tea. The Chinese eat it up though, the cornier the better. After that we wandered around downtown Guilin, ate some pizza that came with gloves so the grease doesn’t get on your hands, and went to bed.

The next day we took the famous Li River cruise to the nearby town of Yangshuo. The river was a little shallow so we couldn’t go very fast, but it was a very nice trip. The weather was incredible and the scenery really is amazing, plus there was a bad lunch buffet! What could be better?! It was nice to have a lot of time to just chat with the ‘rents though, and Yangshuo is one of my favorite places in China. A super touristy town with tons of amazing restaurants and shops, it can seem tasteless at first, but as our village tour showed us, there is a reason why foreigners love Yangshuo so much. We took a little truck with an engine that seemed ready to explode at any second and stopped at an old farmhouse. We were able to walk around and meet the people who lived there, 2 old ladies who were completely hilarious. My mom get a kiss from one of them and it was interesting to see how they live. My first thought was, what, no flatscreen TVs?! Don’t worry they did have a TV, pretty astounding if you saw how rustic the rest of the house was. The drive led us to more fields of rice which were orange and ready to be harvested, and then lastly to a little place where all the bamboo boats gather to give people tours. So beautiful, for anyone that wants to travel to China, you have to come to Yangshuo. The night concluded with a show on the Li River, with boats doing crazy choreography and girls singing and flashing outfits. Hard to explain but it was interesting. It was created by the guy that organized the opening ceremony of the Olympics, and again the scenery around the stage is ridiculous. My dad and I headed back to the town at night just to see it, and it is hard to explain just how many people are out and about in most places like this. The street is just packed with people, the town has transformed into a party zone, and my dad and I were offered our first prostitutes of the evening. As a foreigner, you get used to the offers pretty quickly, because it is everywhere you go. Wasn’t something that my dad and I are really accustomed to doing. The next morning we got up early and saw the major sites in Guilin, the Elephant Trunk hill and Reed Flute Hill, and then it was back to the airport.

All in all it was a great time, and considering all of the hoops that I had to jump through before I could even go, it was relaxing and fun just to be with my parents. It would have really left a dent on the China experience if my parents had come all this way to see me and China, and then I couldn’t see them at all. It was a big relief to me and a good time. So now the rest of you need to get your butts over to the Middle Kingdom to visit me! Hope all is well with everyone back home, hopefully I can post again soon. As before, I leave you with some wise words from some wise Chinese dudes. Peace.

“Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.” -Chairman Mao

and a more positive one from the good Chairman

“Communism is not love. Communism is a hammer which we use to crush the enemy.” – Chairman Mao

Ummmmmmm…….yea……….

Well, my experience in Beijing has certainly done a complete 180 over the past few weeks. For the first time since coming to China I really feel like I’m in the right place in my personal AND professional life. I have been doing a mix of marketing, events and teaching…and getting a kick out of it! I also booked my flights home for the holidays, so I will be visiting December 19-Jan 2nd and David is also likely coming home, but just working to figure out his work schedule.
If you are interested in seeing the details of the first two events I have helped organize, look below:

11.11 Get your singles Rum Truffle making on at The Fig Tree! http://www.thefigtree.cn/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=79

HAPPY HUTONG; The first charity event I have helped organize in Beijing: http://www.cityweekend.com.cn/beijing/events/77161/

This past weekend was the first I didn’t have to work Sat/Sun, and I got to attend Beijing’s Chi Fan for Charity fundraising event (http://chifanforcharity.org/event.aspx) which raised over RMB 200,000 for three different local charities. I invited Betsy and Jessica and we ate gourmet Chinese food at LAN, and I tried my first sea cucumber. This dish is quite a delicacy in China, and although I’m not sure I ever would’ve ordered it myself, I was happy to have had the chance. It looks like an over-sized, dark brown, spikey caterpiller, but has a gelatinous texture and actually tastes pretty bland. For the dish they smother the poor sucker in gravy, so it reminded me of a Chinese version of Thanksgiving turkey. If I had known I could’ve ordered the vegetarian version, I would’ve, it looked the same but was made out of flour!

Our table was mostly filled with very successful Chinese Americans who were all living in Beijing for one reason or another. Our table sponsor was Chen Daming, an up and coming Chinese writer/film director. He just directed Gong Li’s newest movie, which is a remake of Mel Gibson’s What Women Want for the Chinese audience. He was a friendly guy with some good stories about Hollywood, so I certainly ate that up! LAN also had a great atmosphere that looked like Alice in Wonderland, and of course the three of us hosted a mini photo shoot for the occasion. We also attended the after party for the event, where we had a good time eating a few free cupcakes and schmoosing with the local Expat community. People say the expat community here is small…and they aren’t kidding! It’s kinda nice though because after only being in Beijing for about 3 months I see some familiar faces. I chatted with the founder of the event, Michael Crain, who should be really proud of hosting such an excellent fundraiser!

On Sunday I volunteered to host a UVa table at Tsinghua University and answer questions for prospective students. Although it’s quite a trek to Tsinghua from my house, it was great to see so many nervously excited kids. I was really impressed with their knowledge of the admissions process and handle of the English language.

And now that I’m officially little miss Beijing Carrie Bradshaw (officially meaning…its been up for 9 months and we’re almost at 20,000 clicks) I have been introduced to a whole new world of high-class writers, also known as my friends. Anyway, my friends keep awesome blogs here if you are interested:

http://faruppereastside.blogspot.com/ First of all, how great is the name of this blog? Alison and Adam are from New York and have only been in China a few months. They just recently posted about an incredible trip to Xinjiang in Western China.

http://blog.sina.com.cn/laowaidianbao Caroline is an aspiring journalist and writes for an English magazine for expats interested in Chinese language and culture. Her entries have a really great voice, and I have her to thank for my marketing position.

http://betsybecky.wordpress.com/ For sure Betsy has the most off the wall blog, her references are hysterical and she’s very creative. She just started up again after a year in Shanghai, so get ready for more Betsalicious antics.
*The most interesting thing I have EVER seen in a vending machine…only in China:
http://www.presstv.ir/detail/149434.html

NEXT UP…Barbara and Mark Jacobs do CHINA

Using our blog as a handy Chinese time machine, I would like to take you back a month to the October holiday. Since David’s passport was somewhere in Visa land and we had not made any money, we spent most of the holiday laying low in Beijing. However, David and I had been wanting to take a trip to the outskirts and more natural areas of Beijing, so when our friend Caroline suggested the ancient village of Cuandixia, we jumped at the opportunity. As explained by Beijing.trip.com, this small village about 90 m outside Beijing “has a history of about 400 years and preserves more than 70 courtyards with approximately 500 rooms which were built during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).”

Four of us began our journey with a long bus ride to the western end of Line 1, the Pingguoyan Bus Terminal. Like bus terminals anyway it was pretty gritty and full of people trying to rip us off with taxi and car services. Caroline had researched the bus service, so we headed for the local bus to Cuandixia. Well, after the first bus came and left completely packed, we started looking towards a private car. We tried to ask a few Chinese going to the same town if they wanted to all go together, but they just nervously declined. Despite the fact that Caroline was slightly in favor of the 7RMB standing room only bus, we got a driver to down to 100RMB for the slightly over 2-hour trip. I will pay 20 RMB extra for a seat any day…heck, we know I will pay three times that for a cab in the city if I’m tired, cold, or lost and David isn’t around to complain about it.

Anyway, after a somewhat treacherous ride winding in and out of trucks on a windy mountain road, we arrived at the “quaint” village of Cuandixia. Well, not exactly. Although the area was certainly remote and natural, it was teeming with tourists. It wasn’t exactly the village we had envisioned in terms of seclusion, but the authentic courtyard houses were certainly not a let-down. We quickly breezed through Cuandixia and headed on a hike further into the mountains. The leaves were just changing, and the bright red vines snaking down the cliffs made a gorgeous spectacle that almost resembled dripping blood. We hiked for about two hours, stopping to take lots of photos and wound up in another ancient village called Baiyu.

Baiyu was great; truly secluded and sparsely populated with courthouse families cooking dinner and offering places to sleep. The people and animals in this little village made for one of the most fun picture-taking experiences I have had in China. As you can see from the photos, the doors and goat man were my favorite! We settled on a courtyard with a friendly Ayi, who made us a large dinner full of local ingredients as we chatted with some self-proclaimed avid “outdoorsmen” and women. I didn’t really love the dinner, kind of bland, and went to bed rather hungry.

The four of us shared a large room for 100 RMB ($15) and got up early to the rooster’s crow in the morning. We had a breakfast of soggy mantou and the most disgustingly rotten egg I’ve ever seen or smelled, so needless to say I was happy I packed a granola bar. We hiked for about two hours further into the mountains, hoping to catch a glance of The Great Wall in the distance, but had to head home for lack of water and to catch the bus. We stopped on the way back to have another local, bland lunch, but the highlight was a “grass” tea that is harvested from actual grass up in the mountains. I wouldn’t drink it every day, but it was a unique taste.

We walked back to Cuandixia to catch the local bus…and experience the least fun part of the trip. They crammed twice as many people on the bus as there were seats, and left us in there with no A/C for a half an hour before taking off. After walking most of the day we stood half of the way home, and then sat on the floor when the bus emptied a little. Thank goodness for my ipod, as I try to stay lost in the music. Overall though, a good trip to a more remote village outside of Beijing and nice break from the city.

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