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Published: April 27th 2010
Whew, life has been busy! Sorry for the lack of updates, but at least I can say I warned you. 😊 Prepare yourself for a LOT of writing...I'll try to separate this out into more than one blog later.
The past three weeks really sped by. I spent 4 days in Beijing with my dad and sister, took a 24 hour train ride down to Shenzhen, 3 days at our home, 3 more days in Hong Kong, saw my sister off at the Hong Kong Airport, worried like a parent while my parent was traveling in China on his own, taught a little, celebrated my birthday multiple times and finally saw my Dad off this morning. Three weeks certainly seems like a long time when you're thinking about taking a vacation but it somehow felt like no time at all when my Dad was actually here, just like last time when he came with my Mom.
April 8-13: Beijing was great- I felt like I got to see lots more of the city than I previously had the last August, and from a completely new perspective. I was suddenly the one being leaned on for language skills, something that helped me to realize how far we've really come since arriving last summer. We saw most all of the 'big' touristy sights, including enjoying an absolutely beautiful day at the Great Wall. The weather was pretty miserable the whole time we were there save for ONE day- we woke up to sunshine and knew we had to make the Wall that day, which turned out to be a great decision. The three of us shared what seemed to be countless stories, laughs and jokes at (mostly) my father's expense.
On April 12th, we boarded a 24 hour train that brought us back to Shenzhen. Martin and I did the same train trip back in August, so I was used to the cramped quarters and eating instant noodles for a full day, but it was a new experience for the fam and a pretty fun one at that. We had planned to get soft-sleepers, but they were sold out! So, there we were, the three of us in the 'hard sleeper' section of the train all with top bunks which are about 8 feet off the ground. It was another 'experience'- not necessarily the most comfortable, but one that we will remember for years to come!
The trip to Beijing was also the first time this year that Martin and I had been apart for more than a day, which felt strange. We've grown accustomed to being around each other practically 24/7- living in a dorm room, working at the same job, having the same friends, sharing an office- this will probably be the only time in our lives with this much togetherness!
My sister enjoyed a few whirlwind days in Shenzhen where she attended both of our classes, continued to perfect her chopstick skills, met our closest friends, experienced lunch in the cafeteria with our contact teachers, braved the Shenzhen bus system and just generally saw how we've been living for the past eight months! So much of our year is going to be impossible to fully explain, so it was nice to have another person here who will now know exactly what we mean when we talk about taking a certain bus to somewhere or eating in the cafeteria. 😊 Our students were, as always, incredibly kind and welcoming to my dad and sister. Her first response was how it was so different than an American high school- how many American 10th graders would cheer for and ask to take pictures with their teacher's family members?!
April 16-18 was spent in Hong Kong showing my sister many of the same sights my parents got to see back in December. It's another fascinating city and I think she thoroughly enjoyed getting to see it! We saw her off at the HK Airport on Sunday, the 18th and the three of us headed back here to Shenzhen for the week. My dad then took off on his own solo adventure to Wuhan and Xi'an from Tuesday-Saturday, which he's documenting on his own blog, !
April 23-25: This past weekend was dubbed 'Girls Birthday Weekend'. After Chinese class on Friday, we headed out to Yantian with C&J and met up with K, K, P & E for a weekend of festivities planned completely by the boys. The weeks leading up to the weekend were filled with secret emails, 'man talks' and Martin leaving the room to 'go make a phone call', so us girls knew they had something special up their sleeves. Friday night was kept lowkey- the eight of us went out to a nice Shanghai-style restaurant for dinner and then spent the evening just chatting and drinking at the apartments, at which point the boys revealed their plan for the next day- "at 12:45pm, we'll see you off to the bus stop where you will head into Luohu District to a spa that has you down for 2pm full body massage appointments." Nice! No complaints from us there.
As planned, we headed out after breakfast on Saturday with directions from the boys to a place called Kai Li Hotel, recommended by our Chinese teacher's friends. It was a piece of cake to find, but a little more complicated once we got there. Martin had arranged it with our Chinese teacher, so the reservations were under her name and we weren't sure we fully got that across to them, but off we went to change in the women's bathrooms. The next few hours saw the four of us laughing, being utterly confused at times, yelling at each other through the shower walls exactly what was supposed to be going on and, of course, being fully relaxed. We each got a 30 minute "back scrap" which actually was a full-body scrub-down to exfoliate. Not at all what we expected, but definitely nice! We also sat in the steam room, took multiple glorious showers and then enjoyed a 1.5 hour full body massage while wearing silly pajamas and laying on 4 beds next to each other. We all agreed we wanted to go back and get pedicures/manicures before leaving, but who knows if we'll have time!
We called the guys as we were headed back and were told that my dad had arrived (on his flight back from Xi'an) at the apartments and that they were ready for us. Not knowing what that meant, we slowly climbed up the stairs and noticed that it smelled like delicious garlic bread- definitely not a usual smell in China! 😊 When we opened the door to K&K's apartment, we were greeted with music playing and a table full of candles & wine-- they'd cooked us spaghetti, garlic bread and garlic broccoli! It was very sweet, and totally unexpected...nice job, guys! They even special-ordered a cake from a nearby bakery that tasted surprisingly good, unlike most pastries in China. The 9 of us (now including my dad) spent the rest of the evening bowling, singing karaoke at a bar and then eating street food and drinking beer with local factory workers on the street at 2am. On Sunday, the surprises continued with a 'cooking class' at our favorite Sichuan restaurant in Yantian! The boys had arranged (with the help of a Chinese tutor/friend) for us to be able to help prepare some of the dishes we love eating- though the kitchen was too small for us all to be in there at once, it was fun to get to watch some of it happen and snap the green beans that we then ate!
It was a weekend full of wonderful surprises, lots of laughter and the utmost appreciation for the friends we have made this year. It's going to be hard to leave them in June! 😞
And now? My dad is safely at the HK Airport awaiting his flight back to Portland, and Martin and I are spending one day playing games and movies for our students before they have midterms. We're off in the morning to Taipei for a 5 night, 6 day vacation...so you can be sure we'll have lots of updates and pictures after we experience Taiwan!
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