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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!

Aaand we’re back! Sorry for the delay, we were busy soaking up the rays in Hong Kong, traveling back to Tangshan and getting right to teaching. To get back to the trip, I wanted to re-iterate how much I loved that tea house! The whole culture of the miniature tea pots with various designs depending on the type of tea leaf, and intricate system of pouring and sipping was really fun for me. The really nice clay teapots in China are small and made of red or black-colored clay (typically referred to as purple or red). The most famous clays are called yixing zisha (red clay) from the Yunnan province in Southern China. These pots and cups are so small that I thought they were only for show, but really the traditional style is just somewhat miniature, and only one type of tea is meant to be brewed per pot, because the clay absorbs the flavor of the tea it brews. Also, after many pourings, the dull finish of the pot begins to shine like it was polished. I have been able to sample many types of oolong, pu’er, green, black, white and red tea, but green still remains my favorite. One of the most famous green teas is called Long Jin or Dragonwell, and it has a great, earthy and strong taste. As Laura Jacobs has reminded me, I’m very lucky to have sampled lots of pu’er black tea, because it’s an expensive and somewhat rare in the states. It tastes a little like Thai tea without the milk or sugar. Pu’er is interesting because it is sold in circular “bricks” that increase in value depending on their age. We have seen some bricks of Pu’er that are hundreds of years old and sell for thousands of dollars. Long Jin green tea is completely opposite of Pu’er, as it is considered best when drank during the same season in which it was harvested. Tea has always been a major comfort and source of satisfaction in my life, and I am really enjoying learning all about the different types, benefits, and flavors over here. I’m not much for wine, but am understanding through tea the desire to try all different flavors, types, etc. I hope to purchase my own tea set and bring back lots of different types to host some authentic tea tastings. (Sound like a great fundraiser to anyone else?!)

Lets see, the night after rainy Victoria Peak we took Richard’s suggestion and headed to the Red Pepper restaurant near our hostel/hotel in Causeway Bay. The food was good, but unfortunately my stomach problems came to a head with the spicy cuisine and I kept David and I up until 5am with really serious cramps. We slept in the next morning and I got some herbal chinese medicine that came in little black balls and smelled really strongly of herbs. My stomach hurt for most of the day, but we headed out to neighboring Lantou island via a ferry. Lantau was a pretty sleepy, traditional fishing village, complete with many clammers along the edge of the water. There wasn’t too much to do in the port, so we took a bus to Tai O fishing village, which is famous for its dried seafood and fishing village on stilts. The rows of dried seafood were stinky and a little scary, but pretty interesting to see. There were huge dried squids stretching at least 4 feet, and sadly lots of dried sharks fin. As a result of my stomach situation and sheer disinterest, we didn’t try and of the salty, dried goods, but enjoyed the unique architecture of the quiet, secluded village.

Stay tuned…next up we will recount our adventures in Macau, the Vegas of China!


(Also, the last photo of the “No Hawking” from the IFC building was posted especially for Megan Newhouse.)

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