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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:

Personally, I think we saved the best for last. On our second to last day in Hong Kong we took a Ferry to Lamma Island, which is known for its seafood restaurants, fishing villages and beautiful scenery. Upon arriving on the island we visited a typical Buddhist temple with tons of overpowering incense hanging in spirals from the ceiling, took pictures of funny tourist stickers, and I bought some tea at a small tea shop. Soon after we took a pretty nature hike around the island, and got to put our feet in the water.The dichotomy of beautiful Lamma island with huge smoke stacks in the background represents much of the feeling of China that I have experienced thus far. We also took photos of these great houses that were completely surrounded by lush vegetation, and look like little tropical hideaways. On our way around the island we ran into Angel and Javi, two very entertaining and vibrant Spaniards, who wanted our help taking a picture. We ended up speaking Spanish with these two for a good part of the afternoon, and their antics and strong northern accents had me laughing the entire time. We found out that Javi had taken a last-minute leave from the army to visit Angel, his long-time friend who was “working” as a corporate lawyer in Hong Kong for a week or so. Javi didn’t speak Chinese or English, so he was very happy to have people to communicate with for a while. Angel told us about his life learning French, traveling, and living currently in Los Angeles. We had an incredible seafood lunch together, complete with the best mini-lobster I have ever tried! Sadly, we had to catch a ferry back before they were ready to leave, so we quickly exchanged emails…but I haven’t heard from them. The experience definitely made me want to visit Spain again!

We took a nice, sunny, ferry ride back to HK island and caught the 6 Bus (with a bunch of hyper French teenagers) to Stanley. Stanley is a upper-class beach neighborhood outside of downtown Hong Kong that seems like an ideal place to live. In Stanley we met back up with the Kliglers, who had graciously offered to host us for the night! We got to meet Sean and Jill, the Kilgler kids, as well as the newest addition to the family…Jet, the Hong Kong dog. It was really nice to have a relaxing evening full of great home-cooked food and conversation with the Kliglers. I regret to inform you that we didn’t get pictures of the kids, the dog, or the apartment, which was decorated with incredible art from all over Asia. However, both the home and family gave me inspiration for the future. And of course…we toasted the end of the night with some good old fashioned Baijiu.

The next day was our last in Hong Kong, and we spent it leisurely in the town of Stanley. I bought a few souvenirs in Stanley Market, and we ate some pizza in one of the water-front restaurants. O yea, and I took a quick nap under the sun! After that, we caught the bus back to the metro, took the long metro ride to the HK/Shenzhen Boarder, passed through customs, spent the night in Shenzhen (where we managed to eaten some “Mexican” food), took a complicated bus from Shenzhen downtown to the airport, flew to Beijing, took a bus from Beijing to Tangshan…and taxied back to our apartment. Simple, right? Only for David the transportation wizard!

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