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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!

In short, moving to Beijing was terrible. We (mostly David) lugged many suitcases and bags from our apartment, to a taxi, to the Beijing bus, through the subway, to a taxi…left the things a few nights in offices/apartments…and finally to our new apartment in the Shuangjing neighborhood of Beijing. The really difficult part of the move was that we initially thought we had an apartment, but it didn’t work out at the last minute. Thanks to the generosity of some new Beijing contacts we left our belongings in various locations around the city, but it was quite a hassle to get it all back together and into our new place. However…after a few days of apartment searching with what felt like every agent in the area, we found a comfortable new pad. We share the master of a 3-bedroom apartment, and pay about $500 USD/mo including utilities. The place is nicer than any we have lived in before, and has a good amount of space. Our roommates are two Chinese guys, one 20-year old college student and a 30-year old IT whiz. The college student is studying Spanish but only leaves his moment for brief seconds, usually saying Buenos Dias, as he nervously jets by. The other roommate is named Er Wei (his brother is Da Wei, so he’s Wei #2 or Er Wei) and he has become our good friend. His English is basic but good enough to communicate, and he’s always willing to teach us Chinese. He’s a really friendly guy and what you do you know? He’s another Dongbei ren! Photos of the apartment and area we live in will be posted shortly.

On our first weekend in Beijing we volunteered at the Slow Food Saturday Event at The Schoolhouse at Mutianyu. I had heard about this event through The Beijinger, one of the best expat guides in the city, and thought that volunteering would be a good way to meet people and see a part of the Beijing countryside. Slow Food is an international movement founded in 1989 to counter the rise of fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions and people’s
dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from, how it tastes and how our food choices affect the rest of the world. (taken from www.slowfood.com) The Schoolhouse at Mutianyu is a sustainable dining and lodging facility that hosted the first annual Beijing Slow Food event, and is located near the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall.

The scenery at the event and people involved were really great, and it was good to be a volunteer again. Despite the fact that there was some organizational chaos involved with the actual event, it was a nice introduction to the countryside. I think that David’s highlight to the day was probably hosting a information booth where he threw a bottle with a very excited local kid for about a hour. The Schoolhouse is set in a naturally beautiful atmosphere, complete with more lily pads at our lunch destination! Although we didn’t get to hike the great wall, you can make it out behind David’s head in one photo. I also helped The Schoolhouse with a post-event survey to make recommendations for next year, which made me feel more connected to the community and less of a waste of a human as I sat around looking for employment.

David’s job continues to be going well; he has helped coach a few kids to visa interview success and found some new partners to work with in the US. He often gets up in the middle of the night to make international calls and still goes in to work early the next day. I don’t know how he does it. I am have connected and volunteered with various non-profits and smaller organizations, and am hoping that one will turn into a paid position. It has not been fun to be constantly uncertain if I can stay in the country due to my visa status, which hinders decisions like buying a phone, joining a gym, etc. However, the Autumn holiday ends in two days, so I am hoping for some good news after that. On a more positive note, I am going to Hong Kong in two weeks and will be meeting up with The Jacobs, The Kliglers and hopefully Erin Manfredi, too!

I have given David a break in his posting responsibilities since he has been working a lot and I need the distraction…but I will get him back on here shortly. Below are the photos from the Slow Food Event:

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