Relief Society Belated Birthday Party

At church… we had a party to celebrate the organization of the Relief Society (our women’s organization). We accidentally ended up with too much cake… but really, can there ever be too much cake!?!






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.



The Primary had an Easter activity.
Hunting for Eggs on Sunday around the apartment.  He’s looking at a list telling him which eggs are for him to find.  Funny thing, it’s not colors or pictures, but words, so the list is unreadable to him.
We also didn’t have baskets so he used this Thomas backpack. He’s been wearing it, backwards and full of eggs, all week.
I failed to get a picture of the kids all dressed up. It wasn’t anything special anyway. We didn’t have baskets. Thankfully, the Primary activity supplied us with eggs and we stuffed them with tiny Dove bars, snack sized Snickers, Skittles and sour gummy worms.

Tie Dying

PS’s church Young Women’s activity this week (4/7) was tie dying t-shirts at the young women’s leader’s apartment. The shirts all turned out great and everyone had a fun time. One yw was out of town (-1), the leader’s niece was visiting (+1) and there are three leaders (-3). So, only three of these are actual young women in our branch. Actually, the two branches are combined (-1), so only two of them are yw in our branch. 🙂

Church Relief Society Party- Chinese style


For our Relief Society Birthday party at church, one of the Chinese women somehow arranged a building at Olympic Forest Park with some traditional Chinese performances. As the planning went further, they decided to invite families since there would be a magician the kids would enjoy. Bet none of you have this exciting of a Relief Society birthday activity!

Olympic Forest Park is pretty far north of downtown Beijing. It’s near the Bird’s Nest but we were too tired to walk further to see it. We went to the South Gate Forest Park subway stop (line 8) and then walked further north.

Our building had a little balcony over the water and a broken down bicycle that didn’t stop the kids from riding it.

Four different people performed martial arts… dances.  A woman played a Chinese zither. There was a magician who did traditional magic tricks. Before the show started, there was massage and something where they poked your ear and attached stickers to massage for a week (I was told it was painful, so we skipped that).


Then a Chinese dragon dance!

Squirt loved the lions dancing, not so much standing next to the lions.  PS and I didn’t realize we were accidentally being photo-bombed.

Afterwards, the Relief Society president sent out pictures taken by a photographer that was there. The two top, right hand pictures are the W family, the other homeschooling family in our branch.

Playing a Relief Society trivia themed hot potato game.

A few videos:

Walking back to the subway park through the beautiful park with all the trees starting to blossom. We walked with the Ws.

Church Christmas Party

Our bus got stuck in traffic and we were late, missing santa, but the rest of the party was fun too. We ate. There was an impromptu nativity play with Christmas carols and parts picked based on papers taped under certain chairs (Princess Sparkley was the angel).  Then there was a gift exchange that was actually pretty fun.  12+ in one circle, grab a gift and pass it around while “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” is read and every time you heard “left” or “right,” you switched the direction you were passing the gift.    They did a simplified version of this for the Primary kids.