China Life – pet alley


B and I together, and B with Buddy (to get a belt) have explored this weird alley a few blocks west of our apartment full of animals, but I had never taken all the kids. It was on my list of stuff to do before we left, so one hot day we headed over.

Apparently in order to upload videos anymore, I need to upgrade my account. Since we’re back living in the states and I only need to blog another month of China… that’s not happening.


Crickets chirping


China Life – a guest post by B

This year for Spring Festival there were these public service announcement posters telling you to not set off fireworks because of the pollution they create.

The last of the three trains we ride to church every week. We get on at the terminus of the line, so we can get seats. We ride one stop like this. Most of the ride is like the next pictures.

Many of the church members who live in the westernized eastern suburbs talk about how difficult it is to have events at the church building because traffic can be bad and a drive to church could take over an hour. This is our typical Sunday morning commute. It’s 90 minutes each direction.

Before you leave for church, you have to decide if you are going to carry Squidgems the entire way there or none of it. Once his feet have touched the ground in the filthy outdoors of China, you cannot have his shoes come anywhere near your clothing. For most of our time here, I’ve carried him from door to door, but he’s larger now, and we don’t always get seats (although signs tell passengers to give up seats to children, not everyone does, because they need to be sitting down to watch their TV shows on their phones). So Squidgems rides his scooter to church most weeks now. It helps with the transfers (which can be hundreds of yards long), and it helps him have a place to sit when no one gives up his seat for him. This is what his ride is like most weeks.

Our local Korean place is full of jerks who can’t understand anything we say or gesture. So when I wanted bibimbap a few weeks ago, we had to go to the next-closest Korean place, which is called Cosmic Korean Restaurant (their translation, not mine). While there we were served water bottles with large labels reading, “Hotel Exclusive.” We were nowhere near a hotel.

Lots of these little two-seater cars are around China. This one, evidently, is three-quarters of an Audi.


Last week, my wife and I rode our electric bike to Walmart. On the way we saw the “no horse-drawn carts” traffic sign as we were approaching Fourth Ring Road. We commented to each other how it seemed that sign was no longer necessary. That evening, on the way home from Walmart, we saw this horse-drawn cart, parked two blocks from our house. People were selling red bell peppers out of the back. The horse was just, like, “Whatever.”

I’ve been intrigued with the cultural differences in perception of beauty. It seems the Chinese women that Western men find beautiful are not the same women that Chinese men find beautiful. Which I guess is a win-win: Chinese guys get their “hot” wives and Westerners take the “homely” old maids off the market. My wife said, “I don’t see any Chinese men that I find attractive.” I said, “I see good-looking guys, but they aren’t the ones China thinks are good looking. They are rugged, fit manual laborers with messy hair and stubble. They’d be male models in the U.S., but here they are ignored because they are poor.” Male beauty here is very much tied to wealth. This subway ad features an “attractive” man. How do I know? Because look at that expensive cat bag he has!

Or you can just go the Japanese route of making viewers say to themselves, “Wha?!” Somehow this llama is supposed to make you want to buy shoes.

This nonsensical statue at least got anatomy right where it counts.

Our local lingerie store is selling these pajama sets. I’m not sure what the emoji is supposed to signify. Is Islamic State genocide all about the lulz here? China is very lax on blood and violence. While a recent TV show was re-edited to obscure the historically-accurate cleavage, R-rated violence is shown on the subway TVs all the time. One Sunday our ride to church featured all the “best” kill shots from the film American Sniper. A TV show I was watching last week had CGI-added blood spurts. Public TVs in China have aired Islamic State beheading videos on repeat. I think this clothing company is taking the 21st-century’s closest thing (so far) to the Holocaust and has turned it into a marketing slogan that’s supposed to make young women feel comfortable.


My wife and I were supposed to meet some colleagues for dinner at a new Indian restaurant (Raj Indian Restaurant). I felt like I was cheating on my favorite Indian restaurant (Ganges), but my love of Indian food made me go. Before dinner, we saw the Drum Tower and the Bell Tower. This is us with the Bell Tower. While the first Bell Tower was built in 1272, this version was built in 1745. (Verdict on the Indian restaurant: nicer restaurant than my favorite, but slightly worse food, comparable prices, and much more difficult to get to. I’ll stick with my favorite place.)

Walking home from church on Sunday, my wife went full Chinese and had her toddler pee in the bushes on the edge of the sidewalk.

A lizard on a support column on the fifth floor of my office building. Later in the day I doubted it was real, so I sort of poked at it and it ran around for a while.

Hong Kong – Day 4


Merry Christmas!


I took the kids to Ocean Park on Hong Kong Island (sort of like Sea World) so B could stay at the hotel and get some reading and dissertation work done. 

We had to catch a double decker bus outside our hotel, across the street by the race track. We got on, got seats on top deck in the front row, waved to B up in our hotel room, went through a tunnel, and then were there. None of us had any idea the bus ride was going to be so short. This was a huge disappointment for Squidgems. Once off the bus, we followed the little crowd that was with us and the signs indicating where to go for Ocean Park. We’d bought our tickets from the hotel concierge the day before, so no lines, just entering.

Ocean Park is two levels connected by cable cars. We started below where there are mostly animals and some kiddie carnival/theme park rides.





 I think we spent too long on the lower level, not really knowing how much there was to do once we took the cable cars up. 


 Once we got to the upper level, we wandered all over trying to find the promised McDonald’s. The other options for food we’d passed had been strange Chinese food that isn’t  something we’re eager to eat, let alone pay amusement park prices for. When we found McDonald’s, they had normal prices AND served breakfast all day. Win. Win.  Then we explored. Penguins, more string rays and sharks. Buddy liked spotting cargo ships in the Pacific.


 Squidgems and I waited for an hour (and used the bathroom several times, giving up our seat on a bench each time) while the three big kids waited in line for a roller coaster. The upper level of Ocean Park was were all the big roller coasters were, but there were long lines and we were supposed to meet B at Stanley Market in the later afternoon. 


Stanley Market is on the southern part of Hong Kong Island, sort of near Ocean Park. By the time the kids got off the roller coaster, we waited in line to take the cable car down, exited the park, found the right bus, rode the windy bus ride to Stanley Market it was almost dark and the market was closing. We looked around quickly, bought some Hong Kong magnets for our fridge and ate dinner at a yummy Thai restaurant. Then we took the bus back to our hotel.


The bus back to our hotel didn’t stop where we thought it did and took us all the way back to the northern harbor side of HK Island. When we exited, we found ourselves at an LDS church just starting to clean up the nativity display they’d had for Christmas. We went in for a few minutes and chatted with the missionaries there and looked at the nativities. It was a nice end to our not typical Christmas day.

China Life


 My new favorite food… Cookie Puffs at Paris Baguette (Y8 each but you have to buy two). Sort of like a cream puff but a snickerdoodle flavored puff part.

I couldn’t get a good picture of how matchy this couple is!

Leftover pizza from a YW activity. It’s from Tube Station but Kro’s Nest pizza is also GIANT.


I saw a Staples delivery truck at the school gate one day too.

I didn’t even know Staples (or UPS) existed in China.

 The movie theater we went to (future post) was in a fancy mall and in the women’s bathroom, there was a tiny urinal and a tiny sink! So cute!


People here match their spouses, their boy/girl friends, their kids their best friends. It’s sort of weird.

 Even in China, Uncle Sam wants us to do stuff.

China Life


Top left, can you tell this dog has fancy hair clips holding her “bangs” out of her eyes?

Top center and bottom left, unusual Chinese strollers.

Top right, can you tell he’s carrying her purse? I see that a lot here.

Bottom right, while our building was under construction, we’d sometimes find the construction workers napping in the apartment hallways. Weird.

Look at these kids shoes!

And I found Old Navy! There are two in Beijing that have just opened in the past several months. Yea!


And a crazy vehicle.

Life in China

Every few months, B’s school gives all the teachers a box of fruit. Usually we are at least familiar with some of the fruit, but not always. We had to Google what these were. On the right, mangosteen and on the left, lychee.

 On a beautiful July 2. On the pedestrian bridge above Fuxing Road, one block east of the Yuquanlu subway station.The top picture is facing east, toward town. In the distance, you can see the tallest building in Beijing. The bottom picture is toward the west, toward some hills and a pagoda.


The new police substation being built outside our grocery store and McDonalds.


A puppy outside the mall at Wanshoulu subway stop.

 Sunflower seeds.




Crickets… like in Mulan! First time I’ve seen them in China.


In a subway station… not sure what it is. ??


Little Guy getting his hair cut down the street at a Chinese barber shop.


Grocery shopping. Yum!

 My friend BW just got a car (embassy family, getting a license is simple). She and I went on an adventure to find Decathlon (a French version of REI here in Beijing). On the way home we drove past short pants and the tallest building in Beijing… just down the street from her apartment. This is on 3rd ring road.


Strange Chinese stroller.

Street food: These are sort of like a waffle cone rolled into a loop. *Sort of.


Napping in Walmart? Sure, why not?

Our subway stop has a little breakfast food stand set up in the morning. It’s a delicious round fried dough with an egg fried in it and then a “sausage” and something like shredded potatoes with some green pepper and they paint some sort of sauce on the fried dough. Mmmm… so good! You can also pick chicken rather than a sausage and lettuce rather than the potato-like filling.


Sorry, I left this sideways because this is how it was on the box. Extinouiher. Awesome.


Squidgems making friends on the subway.


John Lennon purse, anyone?


July 8

For two days, we’re cat sitting for our neighbor who is cat sitting for someone else. The neighbor left this afternoon so after the kids were in bed (and we were sure the neighbor was really gone), B and I let ourselves into our neighbor’s apartment to check out the cat. It’s a kitten! The kids are going to be even more excited than they already were! Little Guy has already claimed feeding duties and asked if he needs to feed it breakfast, lunch and dinner.