Olympics coming to Qingdao

The day we arrived home from our trip to the states our helper told us that the Olympic center was open to the public. So after Anna laid down for a nap we took a nice walk along the beach and saw where the Olympic sailing will be held this summer. It is very simple but pretty. It has a very nice view of Qingdao’s skyline. Walking around I could only imagine what it is going to be like this summer, very crowded with no where to move except into the ocean.

We were not too sure what these buildings are for but we each had our guess. We are guessing that the one in the air is for judges or cameramen. The one on the ground I think is like a lobby for the contestants. But whatever they are for I thought they looked pretty cool. Jeremy thinks they look old and retro and should have come up with a better design.

But it is kinda cool that we live so close (about a 5 minute walk). In the following blog I took some pictures of where our house is compared to the sailing center.

Our Home by the Olympics

In these two pictures I am standing at the Olympic center where the sailing will occur here in Qingdao. In the top picture you can see a building on the left that Jeremy and I guessed would be for the judges. If you look far to the right you see a bunch of apartment buildings with red roofs. That is the complex where most of our staff lives. We don’t live there but we live literally right behind those buildings. (There buildings are taller than ours so you can’t see them =( )

You can see now how close we are to where the Olympics will be held.

Kid’s Kingdom

Every Thursday my mother & father babysit for my brother’s three children. This past Thursday my sister from PA was also in town to visit, so we had 6 kids running around the house. To give the kids something to do other than drive the adults crazy and tear down the house, we took them to a near by play yard.
The place was really pretty nice (but coming from China I think that I would think anything America has is pretty nice). The kids enjoyed jumping into the ball pits (yes, there was more than one).
Being the most mischievous and adventuresome, my sister’s son was willing to do anything and everything. I think he was trying to find the one thing that he was not supposed to be doing.
The moms weren’t too sure about a sandbox inside, but all the kids enjoyed it for awhile.
All the kids really enjoyed themselves and did not want to leave. But of all the kids, can you guess who had the most fun? My one-year-old nephew!

Princess Belle

We arrived in America and started right away reuniting with cousins. Can you guess who was more excited to see the other? It surely wasn’t Anna.

Anna’s cousins were so excited to have someone new to play with. However, Anna was a little unsure about her new playmates who did not have any concept of personal space.

The cousins wanted to shared their favorite game, dress up. They picked out the Belle outfit for Anna. After a little bit of convincing, Anna put the dress on and then the other girls picked out their own dresses.

The older cousin said she wanted to be like Anna and be Princess Belle. The younger asked me help her put her “Stinker Bell” outfit on. I said that I would help as long as she didn’t stink as well.

Snow @ the Beach

It snowed the Friday before Anna & I left for America. I was so excited to have my daughter play in the snow. Unfortunately, the ground was not cold enough for the snow to accumulate. I was sad that the snow did not stick but it looked really beautiful all day as it was snowing. I was a little bit jealous to find out that our friends who live 45 minutes inland had 3 inches of snow and were able to build a snowman. Oh well, we had fun on our little walk in the snow. I’m hoping it will snow while we are in the States!

BJ Small Group

The past two years we were in a small group that meet every other Monday. This group was very supportive through our pregnancy and the birth of Anna. We grew spiritually because of this group. When we first started out we were studying the fruits of the spirit, we then moved through the book “Everybody’s Normal Till You Get To Know Them” by John Ortberg. Our last meeting with them they planned to study the book of Revelation.

Each week we began with a delicious meal, not forgetting dessert of course. This was usually Jeremy’s and my time to enjoy home cooked western food. Recently we started singing with the kids then send them upstairs to watch a movie or just go wild while we got down to “business.”

Through this group we made some really good friends that we have really been missing since in Qingdao. We did not get to know all the people in our small group very well, when you have 20 people in your “small” group it can be hard. But we really miss meeting with them and fellowship that we had. The people in our group really helped us get through some rough times – we love you guys!!

Smells like Korean food . . .

The other day Jeremy & I wanted to go out for cheap Chinese food so we asked were a good “whole in the wall” restaurant was. Some friends told us and so we decided to walk there. It took us a little while to find the right street because we still don’t know the area very well. After we found the right street and looked for the restaurant and thought we found it. We walked in and I said “Hey, this smells like Korean food.” We sat down and looked at menu and Jeremy said “They have Korean food here.” The waitress said, “Of course, this is a Korean restaurant.”

We had never eaten Korean food before so we did not know what to order. The waitress helped us and we ended up with a great meal. It was pretty cheap and very good. Not exactly what we were going out for but we ended up liking it and got plenty full.

Underwater World

We have been trying to get around Qingdao and enjoy the sites while the weather is still nice. So on Saturday we went to the Underwater World. It was pretty neat. It started off with a museum (which we didn’t learn too much since everything was in Chinese), then had a large part devoted to salt water life and ended with a small section for fresh water life.

They had a large aquarium that you went under while riding on a people mover that was not more impressive then any other aquarium that we have been to.

My favorite part was there huge cylinder shape aquarium that was surrounded by smaller aquariums (pictured above with Jeremy’s silhouette). Anna was not as scared as she was when we went to Polar world, she got up to the glass and enjoyed looking at the fish.

The creature that fascinated me the most was the spider crab. This thing was huge! But I didn’t get to observe it as long as I might have liked since Anna was ready to be done and go home.

Anna & her doll

Anna has always loved books and recently she has discovered a new love for dolls. So now Anna thinks that dolls need to have books read to them. Here is a short clip of Anna reading to her doll. Listen closely at the end and you will hear Anna speak Chinese!

Anna Has Hair

The other day I realized that Anna has enough hair that I can actually put it up in pigtails. I think it is adorable but she does not like that much. She likes the idea of having her hair made up but she usually only keeps it in for 15 minutes. I love to put it up because it helps everybody know that she is a girl and not a boy.

Qingdao Polar World

Our first sightseeing in Qingdao was to Polar World. We were very excited to take Anna, I don’t think she shared the same excitement. I really enjoyed taking her around to the different “cages” and pointing out the different animals. We would find the animal’s eyes, nose, and mouth. She was a bit scared when the walruses swam by. Being a little kid you don’t know that the glass will keep you safe. All she knows is that this huge animal is swimming right past her and could probably eat her up in one swallow.

We did not know when the dolphin shows were so we got to Polar World right after the last showing in the morning started. So we walked around the place first (a couple times) then eat lunch and then waited a little while longer for the first afternoon showing. Anna was getting a little bit cranky because it was about her nap time. But it was definitely worth the wait. Anna loved every minute of the show! Jeremy & I also thought the show was very good, the best we have seen here in China. The park itself was not that impressive. I thought it was a little bit over priced for what they had but the show was very good and worth seeing.

The Last Day of School

It’s official – we are finished home schooling Matt & Alicia. Today, June 1st, was our last day of school. To celebrate we took the kids on a field trip to a nearby water park. Jeremy, Anna, Francis (our Chinese teacher), Alicia, our neighbor friend’s two grandchildren, visiting from America, and myself all went together. (Due to an eye infection Matt was unable to go – sorry Matt, we missed you!!) It was very nice, clean and loads of fun. Most of the park is inside, so even though today was cold and overcast we were still able to have a nice time. The park has a number of different things to do. There was a castle with lots of slides and “toys” to play with while it “rained” on you. They had a lazy river with row boats, a couple different pools, hot springs and at least 4 different huge water slides. My favorite was the “Flying Boat” where you sit in a boat with a partner, fall down a drop that is only a little under 90°, fly up a wall that is also a little over 90° and then over a bridge (pictures shown below). The other favorite was the Space bowl (AKA the Latrine) featured in the next blog.
Although there was not a lot geared towards Anna’s age, she had a blast. I have never seen her so excited. The first part of the day she was acting like she was on a sugar rush, running around with a huge smile on her face squealing with delight. The second half she still had a good time but she was a bit worn out without a nap and from all the excitement earlier.
We made it through the day with fun stories, 8 worn out people and only one bruised elbow (mine). What a great way to end the school year!

The Latrine

You remember the first time you thought about flushing your brother or sister (nephew in my case) down the toilet? You wondered: where they would end up? would it be a fun trip down? And what a big splash it would make as you reached the end of the tunnel. Today I actually got to experience it (except without all the human waste). At the water park that we went to there was a water slide we nick-named “The Toilet Bowl.” You start at the top going through a tunnel slide then shoot out of a tunnel and into the toilet bowl. After spinning around the bowl a few times you would be flushed out into a swimming pool. (click on image to see larger view) It was a lot of fun – except for when I banged my elbow on the side because I wasn’t lying properly.

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The Bubble

Going to like minded schools people say that you are living in a bubble, shielded from the world. I won’t argue that point at this time but, I can tell you about playing in a bubble. Saturday, May 26, Anna & I, with some friends, went to the Goose & Duck Ranch. There they had these bubbles that you got in and walked on water. It was fun but extremely tiring! They say that living in a bubble shields you from the rest of the world but, even while in the bubble I could still here Anna screaming for mommy.

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10 New Things I Love About You!

Here are 10 NEW things that Anna can do:

10. Splashes in Puddles
9. Throws a Ball
8. Stacks blocks and then knocks them down
7. Likes to sniff everything! (Her favorite book is a scratch and sniff book.)
6. Runs around the house for no reason
5. Tries to copy what you are doing
4. “Sings” (does the motions while I sing) “The Duck Song”
3. Says “UP”
2. Understands “Give me a kiss.” (and most of the time will do it)
1. When I hold out my arms she runs to me and gives me the biggest hug!

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Chengdu 成都

This past weekend I “surprised” Jeremy with a weekend away to Chengdu, which he has said he wanted to visit for over 2 years now, to celebrate our 4 year anniversary. Our anniversary isn’t till June 28 but this was the only weekend that Jeremy didn’t have assignments due for his MBA and before he starts his new job (which he won’t be able to take time off). I arranged for our friends Lee & Becky to take Anna as we flew to Sichuan province Friday night returning Sunday afternoon. It was our first time to be away from Anna over night but we all did really well. I think Anna didn’t even miss us! Unfortunately I had some problems purchasing the tickets so Jeremy knew we were going but it was that thought – right?!

Chengdu is famous for being the home of the Giant Panda, tea capital of the world and having the best food in China. I found that the people were the friendliest there. Our Chinese teacher, Francis, said that is because Chengdu is self sufficient and therefore very relaxed. Chengdu is in the valley of mountains and supplies their own food . . .etc. . . so they are good all on their own.

The trip was short and not without some kinks but we still really enjoyed ourselves. I wanted to make sure we experienced the food, we walked around city, went hiking, drove through the country side, saw rice fields being flooded, visited the pandas and enjoyed each others company. We both really enjoyed walking around the city because we live out in the middle of no where and don’t get to experience China night life like we did in Dongguan.
The next few blogs I will go into more detail of what we did. Please enjoy!

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Le Shan Park 乐山大佛

On Saturday we went to see 乐山大佛 (Le Shan Giant Buddha). It almost was a disaster. After driving for 2 hours the driver asked if we wanted to take the boat (50 yuan) or walk the mountain (100 yuan). Of course we wanted to save money so we said the boat. We bought the tickets and got in line for two hours before we boarded the boat. Once we were on the boat we were excited to see the world’s largest buddha. After 1 minute on the boat we speed past the buddha then turned around. We looked at each other and said “That’s it?! All the time for that!” The boat slowed down so people could get pictures with it but still – that was it! We got off the boat and went to the drive and complained. He just smiled and asked if we were ready to go. We got in the car and headed back. We looked at each other and I said “No, we did not just waist 4 hours for 3 minutes just to drive back for another 2 hours. We are getting out and making the most of this trip!” So we decided to climb the mountain. It ended up being a lot of fun and in the end I’m glad we did it the way we did. If we hadn’t taken the boat we might not have seen the buddha. There is also a line that was probably 4 hours to walk down to see the buddha.

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We really enjoyed hiking up the mountain and down. There were lots of places on the mountain to visit along with quiet peaceful places to sit and just look. Jeremy said that this was probably the most beautiful peaceful place he has been in China.
There was a second mountain next to Le Shan that we hiked up (it was much steeper than the other) where the monks live. Every time we visit a place like this I feel so bad for the people because they really truly believe that what they are worshipping is going to help them.

Turn Up The Heat!

It is said that SiChuan (四川)has the best food in China, it also has the spiciest food! Jeremy and I wanted to make sure we experienced this world famous food while we were there so for every meal we asked the waitress/waiter to give us SiChuan speciality food.

For breakfast Jeremy had boazi (包子)(top right hand pic.). It is basically a roll that has meat stuffed inside. They steam it in wooden baskets (seen in top left hand picture). We have actually had these before, they are a popular breakfast/snack food all over China. I ordered beef noodles (牛面). I have to say those where the spiciest things I have ever eat! They made my lips burn for 15 minutes after I was done eating. I loved them! (mmmm they sound good right about now.) The bottom left hand picture is strips of potatoes wrapped with a thin layer of fried bread. It was greasy but delicious!

Here we had a tofu soup, spicy chicken (bottom right) and fish (bottom left). I couldn’t eat the chicken plain, it was too spicy. I had to eat each bite with a bite of rice to soak up the spice. For both of us our favorite dish at this meal was the spicy chicken.
This meal brings back bad memories because we made a rookie mistake. When ever you are going to buy anything you ALWAYS ask the price. Often times Chinese will see your pretty white face and think to themselves “Ooo, they have money and don’t know any better, I can raise the price.” But after living in China we DO know better and we DON’T have money so we can usually get the “normal” price for things (what a Chinese person would pay). We could not believe that for a 3 dish meal they charged us 240 yuan! That is more than what we pay to eat western food! But because of our easy going natures we looked at each other, shocked and appalled, paid the bill and walked out. The meal was good but it was not worth what we paid for it.

Hot Pot! Hot pot is probably my favorite meal in China (click here to see when we did hotpot in our home). With hot pot you order dishes, then they bring them out and you cook them in your pot of water which has seasoning in it. As the dishes cook it soaks up all the flavor of the spices and makes the meat/vegetables taste delicious. SiChuan’s hot pot’s spices are suppose to be the spiciest in China. While eating it we both had to blow our noses and wipe our eyes a few times. (It was very spicy but I didn’t think it was intolerable – my breakfast noodles were spicier!) We got the pot that is split into two, one for spicy and one for not. That way if it was too spicy for us to handle we could cook our food in the non-spicy side. Again we asked the waiter what was popular and he helped up order. The majority of the things he said Jeremy understood except one. When it came we figured out what it was – lamb stomach! (bottom right) I didn’t mind it but Jeremy couldn’t eat it. We also got regular lamb meat, mushrooms, veg eatables, blue birds eggs and noodles. We also order yindubobing (印度博冰)Indian bread (that is the direct translation). This was one of our favorite things to order in Dongguan but haven’t had it here in Beijing. As we cooked each thing it soaked up all that spice and tasted so good and cleared out my sinuses at the same time. Over all this was my favorite meal!

Yummy Lamb Stomach!

We really enjoyed Sichuan cuisine and I am ready to go back for more.
Yeah Sichuan Food ~ Bring on the Heat~


Sunday Morning Jeremy and I finished our Chengdu trip with visiting the pandas. We got there early so we could see them up and about feeding before it got to hot. We visited the baby pandas and there was a guy playing with them. I really enjoyed watching the movie about them and going through the museum. If we had paid 1000 Yuan ($130) we could have held a baby panda – but we didn’t.

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“Good Bye”

Thursday, May 17, our company had a surprise goodbye picnic for us. Unfortunately it was extremely windy so we were unable to have our picnic outside. We still enjoyed eating hot dogs (I actually didn’t eat any of those because they don’t sit well in my stomach), potato salad, fruit salad, chips and delicious chocolate cake inside. The company gave us a beautiful tray as a going away gift. We are excited to move on with what He has next for us in our lives but we will everyone in our company. We will miss Matt & Alicia the most since they have been such a big part of our lives these past 2 years.

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TaoRanTing Park

Our last day of holiday we took Anna to a park downtown that had a children’s play area. It was like a big tree house/fort area. Anna is still a little to small to do most of the things they had but she absolutely loved the slides and stairs. She could spend hours just going up and down stairs if her mother did not get bored of them. She also loves to go down slides and can do it all by herself! It took her a little while to get used to sliding down wearing a dress but she quickly figured out to lean back and pull her feet up so she could go fast.

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Minorities Park

     Happy May 1st! (China’s Labor day) Today, since it is a national holiday the Carmans and our friends had the day off. We all took a trip together to the minorities park here in BJ. There are 56 minorities in China and this park shows how they live(d) and some of their customs. It is a huge park, we spent about 4 hours there and did not even see 1/3 of it! (granted we had two kids, two strollers & lots of stairs, diapers to change, kids/adults to feed – but still)
     I can’t say that I really learned anything about the minorities but the park is absolutely beautiful and we had really beautiful weather to enjoy it (along with great company)!
     We saw model homes that the people would live in and we had fun picking the ones we would like to live in. There were also people dressed up in their minorities traditional clothes and saw some rituals and dances.

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Summer Palace

Our May holiday has officially begun! Our friends from Wuhan (The Clays) came up to show their friend from the States Beijing. We took them to the Summer Palace. This is where the Emperor of China would live . . . you guessed it . . . in the summer. (How Brilliant!) My favorite story of this place is the life of the Empress Dowager CiXi. She was a despotic leader consumed with a desire for power. To do that she bannished the rightful heir to the thrown (her 27 year old nephew) to a small Palace-island in the the middle of Beijing. (It’s actually not a very nice story huh?!)

The weather was nice and cool but very smoggy (typical for Beijing). But my favorite part of the day was watching the Clay’s two month old son while they went to climb up the mountain. I pretended that I was a mother of two for those 20 minutes. It was fun but nice that I could give him back when things got rough.

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Happy Day!

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Morning Star (aka ChenXing) is a Chinese school down the road from where we live that Jeremy & I taught at last year. Because our schedule is a bit busy this year we do not have time to teach there this year. The Bassetts and Vosslers are still very involved there, however. On Monday, April 30, the school put on a festival called “Happy Day”. There was a lot going on there. The kids put on performances for their parents, there were activities, games and food for all. People were selling things. (I believe all the proceeds went to the school.) Matt & Alicia headed up some games for the kids and I just got to enjoy everything! I love watching the kids – they are so adorable – as long as I’m not responsible for them (hehe)!

Beijing Blue Zoo

We took Anna to the Beijing Blue Zoo which is a small aquarium. It was a lot of fun because it was the first time that Anna was old enough to enjoy it. She was actually quite afraid of the fish at first. She would point at the fish and want to see them but when we brought her closer to them she we squeeze us tight. Once she put her hand in the water to touch the star fish she was not scared anymore. They also had a people mover through a tunnel where we saw lots more fish as well as mermaids!

This aquarium is not anything compared to the BJ aquarium but it was small enough that by the time we finished Anna was too.

Beijing Botanical Gardens

Spring Is Finally Here!

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Friday, April 20, the Carman family went on an outing to the Beijing Botanical Gardens. We had a lovely time! There were so many tulips out and blooming. It reminded me of the many trips to Pella, Iowa for the Tulip Festival that my family used to go to – good times! The cherry blossoms where out as well – I really liked the dark pink ones. But I think my favorite thing was walking through the lilac garden. It smelled so wonderful! We also visited the conservatory which is the tropical greenhouse. There, they had orchids (Anna’s Chinese name), cacti and other beautiful plants that I don’t know the names of. I encourage you all to get outside and enjoy the beauties of spring!