To Sum It Up

We lived in Beijing, China from August 2014-July 2016 with just a few days of travel outside of China (5 days in Thailand and Cambodia in Dec. 2014, 5 days in Hong Kong in Dec. 2015 and Brandon on his own for a few days to the US in Feb. 2016).

Was it hard? Yes.

Was it scary? At times, yes.

Was it fun and exciting? Yes.

Would we do it again? Maybe. For the right job and the right money. And the right political situation. And the air quality… that still worries me because there’s no quick solution to that.

Will we keep learning Chinese? Brandon is still studying Chinese at the university he’s teaching at now. The kids are still working on Chinese on their own with apps and videos and mp3s and books, etc. As homeschoolers, we plan on this being their foreign language to fulfill various high school requirements (only our oldest is in high school right now) and to make them appealing as college applicants.

Am I glad we did it? Absolutely. It was a once in a lifetime experience. Living in a country is so different than visiting.

This is it. It’s been fun. I’ll come back if something changes and we move back to China!

Zaijian!

 

再见 Zàijiàn

6/29/16

Due to our horrible experience traveling to Beijing from the US, United Airlines awarded us $200 per ticket in vouchers. I had to use them by a certain date, and at that time, and as I checked flight prices, it became apparent that it was going to be more and more expensive the closer we got to the summer and tourist season. So the kids and I flew out June 29th, the last day of decent priced tickets. B had to stay until July 8, the end of the semester. But his ticket would be reimbursed by the school, so it wasn’t a big deal to get the cheaper tickets earlier.

We weren’t sure how to arrange travel from our apartment to the airport. Coming, B’s school had picked us up. I didn’t think this would be the case, so I arranged a ride with the company who picked us up from the airport when we flew home from Thailand in December 2014. She assured me that they had a van that could fit 6 passengers (B rode with us and then took the airport express home) and all our luggage. When the van showed up that morning, just as people were starting to show up for school, I was skeptical and started panicking. Luckily, everything fit!! We said goodbye to our apartment and set off for the airport!

At the airport, there was a long line at the ticket counter. When we finally arrived at the front, they wanted to charge me for each of our second bags. I wouldn’t have it. We got there with two free bags per person on United, we were getting home the same way. Plus, I’m pretty sure ALL international flights allow for two free checked bags. Argh. Anyway, it was frustrating but they made it work. Compared to flying to China, flying back to the US was a breeze. Since there were five of us, when I picked our seats, I picked a row of three seats with a row of just two seats behind it. Buddy and I sat together most of the time with PS, Little Guy and Squidgems in front of us. I read a book on my phone (which I downloaded at the last minute as we were riding to the airport) while Squidgems played my Kindle. We were flying to San Francisco and then on to LAX.

I knew we had to go through customs in San Francisco, what I wasn’t expecting was that we’d have to retrieve all of our luggage, ten suitcases, two rolling carry-on suitcases and a stroller from the weird sized luggage carousel. Such a pain! And we only had about a 2 – 2 1/2 hour layover. Customs was so crowded. After using the computer kiosks to scan our passports and get little print outs, we had to wait for all of our bags, then go find the stroller, then load them all onto luggage carts. Luckily PS and Buddy are big kids that could help. We got in line but got separated by a group of foreigners in wheelchairs with airport staff pushing them around. Then the customs guy was mad that we weren’t all together. Then we had to re-check all our bags… simple enough, but there were so many of them. Then another security check. Meanwhile, I’m panicking about making our flight! And stressed that I couldn’t connect my phone or Kindle to airport WiFi to get in contact with B.  Luckily we made it, with plenty of time, and we were on the last leg, a short leg, of our trip home. My parents and my niece A were meeting us at LAX with two cards (ours and my parents’).

Facebook Posts

4/21

Princess Sparkley noticed today that I’m one of the top Goodreads readers, users and reviewers in China! 🙂

4/24

Success of the day: President Grumpington (aka Squidgems) ate a homemade Larabar ball. Downside, he refuses to eat anymore because they made him too thirsty.

4/24

A favorite author of mine (Laurie Halse Anderson) is in Beijing either this week or next week, but just for fun, no appearances. I sort of feel like just stalking around the major sights and hoping I run into her. #booknerd

 4/26

 'Organizing our last weeks in China and our summer in America. 8+ weeks and counting.'

Organizing our last weeks in China and our summer in America. 8+ weeks and counting.

4/28

'And a happy happy birthday to this sweet young man who made his appearance on our three year anniversary! #twelve #theWilliversary'

And a happy happy birthday to this sweet young man who made his appearance on our three year anniversary! #twelve #theWilliversary

Birthday celebrations! Jiaozi and apple Fanta for dinner, cream filled donuts for dessert.

gph.is

media.giphy.com

I felt like this SO many times today.

Buddy‘s birthday is ending here in China, but if we’re being technical, he was born in the afternoon in California… so 7-8 more hours to go.  

4/30

😉

4/30

Today’s food. I know people complain about people who post pictures of their food… but I figure I get a pass because I’m in China.

4/30

 'Going home just in time because this bed only has about another inch to offer him. #MinstersinChina'

 Going home just in time because this bed only has about another inch to offer him.

 5/4

Our Chinese grocery store has been playing a song (they tend to only play 1-4 songs on rotation for weeks/months) that is familiar to me. But it’s been playing for more than a month at the store so I wasn’t sure if it’s only familiar to me because I hear it at the grocery store several times a week. Today I told PS I thought it might be Hannah Montana. I was right! “Rockstar” by Hannah Montana. (I blame my knowing any Hannah Montana songs on PS’s short-lived obsession with Hannah Montana almost a decade ago.)

 5/4

'A horse. In Beijing!  #MinstersinChina'

A horse. In Beijing

  

'Will was ordained a deacon today. #LDS #Mormon'

5/8

Buddy was ordained a deacon today. #LDS #Mormon

'Brandon junior?... Will drew this free hand only looking at a map for a little help. Pretty good, right? (USA in light pencil, train lines in green.)'

5/9

B junior?… Buddy drew this free hand only looking at a map for a little help. Pretty good, right? (USA in light pencil, train lines in green.)

 5/11

 B has always been opposed to owning a cat but he told us yesterday that he’d be okay with getting a cat (back in America) if we could name it Chairman Meow. We’ve struck a deal. #futurecatowners

 5/11

 'I finished Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery) and Food: A Love Story (Jim Gaffigan), and went searching online for some new books to read. I quickly finished Rain, Reign (Ann M. Martin) and I Will Always Write Back: How One Letter Changed Two Lives. But then things got a bit out of control because I checked out 4-5 other books, put some on hold and then today, two old holds and a new hold came available. Better get reading... #Kindle #bookworm'

 I finished Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery) and Food: A Love Story (Jim Gaffigan), and went searching online for some new books to read. I quickly finished Rain, Reign (Ann M. Martin) and I Will Always Write Back: How One Letter Changed Two Lives. But then things got a bit out of control because I checked out 4-5 other books, put some on hold and then today, two old holds and a new hold came available. Better get reading… #Kindle #bookworm

5/11

It’s fun when I do use some Chinese and the store clerks are super impressed. All I said was twenty (in Chinese) and PS translated how impressed they were and that they kept asking if Squidgems spoke Chinese too.

5/11

One suitcase packed. Nine to go. #lessthan7weeks

 5/16

'Some days this sums up my life (or the life of any mom)... on a boat at the Old Summer Palace in Beijing, on the phone for my church calling while a kid tries to get my attention.'

Some days this sums up my life (or the life of any mom)… on a boat at the Old Summer Palace in Beijing, on the phone for my church calling while a kid tries to get my attention.

5/15

'As a new Deacon at church, Will helped pass the sacrament on Sunday. Here he is on the subway on the way to church. #LDS #Mormon'

As a new Deacon at church, Buddy helped pass the sacrament on Sunday. Here he is on the subway on the way to church. #LDS #Mormon

 5/21

 At the rate my kids are getting sick and recovering, we should be healthy again mid June. Little Guy last week (spent 3 days throwing up). Squidgems this week (fever and throwing up). And I have a cold.

5/24

  3 suitcases packed. 36 days to go. I still think we’ll be able to fit everything in 12 suitcases, but I am starting to worry.

5/29

One month! We fly out in one month. Ahh! So much to do still!

 6/8

 6 bags packed. Plane takes off in 21 days.

6/9

Nancy Minster's photo.

At the Chinese grocery store half a block away from me!! They opened in December and about a month ago, the import section went away. Then it came back like this! First time I’ve seen some of these items outside a specialty import store and on my side of town. Although they failed to bring back the cinnamon chocolate bar which I hadn’t tried yet!

6/12

 8 suitcases packed. 16 days to take-off. #TheyreComingtoAmerica

6/15

 'That's a chicken...just walking around Beijing. #MinstersinChina'

That’s a chicken…just walking around Beijing.

6/23

Countdown: my last Thursday in China. One thing I’m going to miss: being able to walk to a grocery store, convenience store, restaurant, etc. in just five minutes. One thing I’m looking forward to…driving my car (to the grocery store… any where, really).

6/24

Countdown: my last Friday in China. I’m going to miss some of the yummy food we’ve had here… jiaozi, xiao long bao, kao leng mian, jian bing…to name a few. I can’t wait to eat cheese! And Mexican food. And Italian food. And In N Out burger!

6/25

Last Saturday in Beijing: I’m not going to miss the lack of lines and the lack of respect for lines and sometimes the lines. Ha! I’m excited to cook and bake to my heart’s delight.

6/26

Last Sunday in Beijing: I’m going to miss easy access to imported chocolate (although, not Cadbury chocolate). I’m looking forward to eating billions of Peanut Butter M&Ms, Twixes, and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.

6/27 

Last Monday in Beijing: I’m going to miss sightseeing. And I’m not sure how this didn’t make the list earlier but I CAN NOT wait to have a dishwasher and a clothes dryer again.

6/27

Accidentally archived a bunch of the stuff I put on my kindle fire for the plane trip. 

6/27

Thirty six hours to go. 9.75 suitcases packed. Our allotment is ten. (B gets two more when he flies, but one of his is already almost at maximum weight. How did we acquire so. much. stuff!?!!? And will I be able to squish the rest in?! Carry-ons are mostly ready. This is getting real.

6/27

I downloaded nine books, four standby books, and a short story to my #kindlefire for my upcoming PEK>SFO>LAX flight, when in reality, my three year old is going to use my Kindle the entire time. #booknerd #flights #theyrecomingtoamerica

'Simon drew a treasure map, folded it up and then wrote Chinese characters and told me, it says, "middle person big worker."'

Squidgems drew a treasure map, folded it up and then wrote Chinese characters and told me, it says, “middle person big worker.”

6/28

Our driver (to get to the airport) shows up in 24 hours!!!!

Northern Utah friends heading to southern Utah in the early part of July. I may need a favor. We have a box of books flying home with some friends tomorrow (because we can’t fit them). Would someone be able to pick them up in Provo and bring them down?

Countdown: Last full day in China. We’re going to miss all the fabulous people we have met here. And we’re super excited to see our friends and family in the States.

Mom Field Trip: Fabric Market and BaiRong World Trade Market

6/17

The kids have been trying to watch all the Star Wars movies with the W kids. And the moms (B and Ch.A and I) wanted to get together and do some more shopping around town and B can drive and speak Chinese so together with another friend, JD, we embarked on an adventure while the kids watched Star Wars at the W house.

Our first stop was the fabric market. The second stop was a place none of us had been but a friend told me that’s where I could find the little good luck fish I wanted to buy for all our nieces and nephews. It is called BaiRong World Trade Market. I had a business card with an address, so we gave it a try and found it!! It was pretty awesome too.

 

Tianyi Market

Tianyi 天意市场 Market (near Fuchengmen and Chegongzhuang) is sometimes called the Christmas Market because of the giant Santa statue out front. Really, it’s a wholesale market full of just about anything you can imagine. Princess Sparkley and I rode the bus (if I wasn’t so wimpy about riding our e-bike, this was almost close enough that I could have done that. B and I would have, had he gone with me.). We met a fun couple from church, AM and PG and shopped around the craziness. This was our second time there.

 

Tian’anmen Square

6/14

We’ve been in Tian’anmen Square a few times, but once was at night so the pictures aren’t great, and the other times were to see Mao’s mausoleum or to go to the museum there and I didn’t really snap a lot of pictures so I wanted to get some before we hopped back on the subway and headed home.

This first batch is all with Tian’anmen (Gate of Heavenly Peace) and Mao’s portrait behind us. So we’re standing in Tian’anmen Square, with the entrance to the Forbidden City in the background of the photograph. Squidgems was very adamant about which selfies he wanted to be in and what direction I should be taking the picture.

Below, these are facing the Forbidden City, with Mao’s mausoleum and the Column of Martyrs in the photo behind us. As you can see by Squidgems’s face in the bottom picture, he did not want this selfie taken. It turned out, he wanted Mao’s photo in our photo.

I didn’t mention the guards and metal detectors, etc. that you have to pass through to get to Tian’anmen Square. Here’s Buddy leaving. You never really get used to soldiers carrying large rifles walking next to you.

The Forbidden City

6/13 Monday

Subway stops: Tian’anmen East or Tian’anmen West

Cost: varies depending on if it is a touristy time of year. We went in June, it was touristy. Adults, Y60. Kids, Y20 each. (Our 3 year old was free.) Extra fees for the Treasure Gallery and the Clock/Watch Gallery)

The Forbidden City (the Chinese Imperial Palace from 1420-1912) is located in the center of Beijing, and thus, probably one of the closest large tourist attractions to our apartment. We’ve walked past it several times, seen it from Jingshan Park twice, but it gets thousands of visitors each day (about 7 million a year). We eventually decided that rather than wait for a crowded Saturday to go with B, the kids and I would have to go without him on a weekday and he’d go on his own while he was still in China after we’d flown to America at the end of June.

The Forbidden City is across the street (Chang’An Aveune, Beijing’s main east/west street) from Tian’anmen Square and subway line 1 runs underneath that street. So we ride underneath this part of town several times a week. The main gate you walk through with Mao’s portrait on it is actually Tian’anmen, or Gate of Heavenly Peace. Once through there, you show your passports and pay at one of the many ticket windows. On the map below, we started at the southern gate.

 

The Forbidden City is huge. We sort of walked north on the eastern side, cut through the middle, walked north on the western side, cut to the center when there was an important building, and hoped we saw all the good stuff.

 

From Wikipedia:

It consists of 980 surviving buildings with 8,886 bays of rooms. A common myth states that there are 9,999 rooms including antechambers, based on oral tradition, and it is not supported by survey evidence. 

From here:

Inside there are five halls, seventeen palaces, and numerous other buildings. The Forbidden Palace is reputed to have a total of 9,999 rooms. In some accounts, the Forbidden City has 9,999.5 rooms – the half-room, apparently, houses nothing more than a staircase.

Actually, depending on how the counting is done, the total is about 9,000.

The digit 9 was seen as a special, magic number, especially for emperors, because it is the highest value ordinal. Also, the word for nine in Chinese, ‘jiu’, is a homonym for ‘long / lengthy’. The number of rooms has a further rationale : because the Forbidden City was on Earth, it was impossible to have 10,000 rooms, which would conflict with the number of rooms in the version found in Heaven because the number 10,000 symbolizes infinity.

 The pagoda you can sort of see in the background, left, is the top of the hill in Jingshan Park.

 It was a super overcast day (we even got rained on some), but we could still 

see the tallest building downtown off in the distance. 

I didn’t plan on taking any pictures inside the Clock/Watch Gallery, but then S and L followed me around asking me to take pictures of their favorites.

 

We exited at the top (north) of the Forbidden City (it seems like you are supposed to enter at the south gate and exit at the north gate). When we exited, we could see the pagodas in Jingshan Park and the White Dagoba in Behai Park. We turned west and walked toward the watch tower on that northwestern corner then we headed south so we could get some pictures in Tian’anmen Square.