The “Shmoopy” Movie – a guest post by Princess Sparkley

If it’s a secret that I’m SUPER obsessed with Peanuts, than it’s a really poorly kept secret. I’ve been secretly hoping for a movie since basically the first time I read a Peanuts comic. When my one brother was born and he shared a name with a Peanuts character, my parents told all my grandparents “Don’t worry! No one reads that comic anymore!*” I then promptly became obsessed.

I was worried though, that they would completely butcher the movie. Movies like Home, that are nothing like the book The True Meaning of Smekday I can sort of deal with, but if they ruined Peanuts, then…

Exactly.

The very first time I found out about the movie was when I saw this:

Click it to make it larger.

I kind of sort of freaked out and did a bunch of Google searches to find out more. However, there was nothing more to find out. Well, at least I knew they were making a movie. Then this teaser trailer came out:

And I fell in love. How could you not? Since then, all the trailers have been on replay in my house, and I’ve made a billion Peanuts versions of myself through Peanutize.

This was my profile picture on Facebook for around 2 months. (That’s a REALLY long time for me.)

Of course, IMDB told me it wasn’t coming to China until January, but still, at least I’d get to see it. AND THEN I SAW AN ADD FOR IT IN A MALL SAYING NOVEMBER 6TH! (This may not be a big deal for you, but remember, I currently own five Snoopy shirts. Not counting the ones that got demoted to PJ shirts.) A few more Google searches, and we were going to go see it on Saturday. And then tragedy struck, it wasn’t showing in English anywhere on our side of town!

(Yes, I just made this right now to go with this post.)

Well, a few more Google searches, and we were set to go with our friends the WAs to see it on the other side of town, IN ENGLISH, (very important) on Monday. We were the only people in the theater, so we got to sit wherever we wanted. By the time Schroeder had finished playing the 21st Century Fox music, I was pretty sure that I’d love the movie. And I did. All of my complaints were small things like how Peppermint Patty calls Snoopy a dog at the end of the movie. I liked the happy ending. The last few Peanuts comics always seemed melancholy to me because when it ended Charlie Brown had yet to kick the football, hit a home run, or talk to The Little Red Headed Girl. But this movie had a happy ending that didn’t stray to far from the comic! And I feel all grown up and sophisticated now for talking like that!

You can see James Bond’s face by the words because the screen was in the middle of switching to an add for SPECTER.

Since we went Monday morning, we were the only ones there, so during the credits, M WA and I danced to the closing credits song. A perfect ending!

You can’t really see anything in this picture, but M and I are dancing to the song down there.

*This is probably something along the lines of what they said. I wasn’t there.

N notes: It was super tricky finding a theater showing it in English and it cost twice what the website said it would.

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Girls Camp – a Guest Post by Princess Sparkley

11/5 – 11/6

So this year for girls camp, Mom and I woke up extra early and walked to our subway station. We got breakfast from the food cart right outside (Mmm… so good! And greasy!) and then rode the subway. I won’t bore you of exactly where we transferred, etc. because unless you’re Buddy or Little Guy or my dad, you don’t care. Anyway, we ended up at a transfer to Line 15, where my mom dropped me off with my friend Amelia, and her mom, Sister WI, who is the Young Womens president in the other branch. We were supposed to meet Ellie from the other branch there too, but she couldn’t come.

Amelia and I on the Line 15 train.

Line 15 goes above ground once you get out far enough to Shunyi (Shunyi is about 2 hours from where we live, and it’s a suburb of Beijing where a lot of the embassy people live). It had snowed the night before, (this is the kind of thing that happens when you have your girls camp in November) so we had an awesome view of the snow covering everything. Then we got off the subway at our stop and walked outside in the snow where Sister P was waiting for us in her car. Annika, Paris, Sister Dickens, and Sloane were already there. (Sloane isn’t really a young women, she’s Sister Dickens’s super adorable baby.) We drove to the 3rd branch leader’s home, where all the Shunyi girls (all 10 of them, compared to the two in my branch) were watching Good Luck Charlie. When we got there, they handed out camp t-shirts, camp notebooks, and bandannas for each cabin you were in. I was in a cabin with a bunch of girls I didn’t know. Remember that for later. Then we all got our coats back on, and climbed back into the car to drive to the “camp” site.

Amelia was in the other car by this point, because we were so squished.

I almost puked on the way up, but other than that, the drive was uneventful. When we arrived we discovered that the cabins were actually hotel rooms at DUCK AND GOOSE CAMPGROUND. (Why they call it a campground beats me.) It was sort of set up like one of those Motel 8 rest stops with a courtyard in the middle. (Hey, I’ve never been to a Motel 8 motel, I don’t know how they’re set up.) Each “cabin” was two stories with two beds on each level. The downstairs bathroom had a locker room type shower and a tiny closet I am pretty sure was a sauna. (Why have one in the bathroom? I don’t know.) Upstairs had a full sized bathtub. Oh, and each room had a pretty good sized TV. We were really roughing it, I bet you can tell. When we got there, it turned out that both Ellie, and a girl from Shunyi couldn’t come, so they re-arranged the cabins, and I got put in a cabin with Amelia, Ella, (my friend from the U.S. of A. who also moved to Beijing.), and Ella’s friend Aderyn. They gave us a little time to unpack and then we played some get to know you games. The first day, since it was all snowy, they planned a lot of activities indoors, so we had a craft activity/place. I made the following:

A washi tape bracelet that will not stay washi taped.

A cute scrap fabric headband.

A really hard to make bracelet. (No idea how to explain it, here’s a picture with it in it. It’s the pink one.)

A little bit of a scrap ribbon Christmas tree that I gave up on

Also, Amelia and I helped stitch some of the quilts we cut the fabric out for the Tuesday before, that we’re going to donate to Little Flower. Then it was time for fire safety. (I’m pretty sure that came before knots.) We started a fire, reminded ourselves of the basics, etc. Turns out that we were paying 400 Yuan for every fire we built at camp, since it was on DUCK AND GOOSE’S property, so we had to make that fire last. Not only was the area around the building all sand, it was also wet sand from the melting snow, so we had to build our fire on some tinfoil. When we were talking about what we could do if the fire got out of control, I suggested picking the tin foil up and running to the nearby pond to dump it in.

After the fire stuff, Paris’s Dad, Brother S, taught us some knots. He was a way better teacher than the guy last year, and I mastered two of the knots, and can sorta do the other. As a reward, we all got paracord bracelets. He told us about how much weight they could hold, and then told us that since these were Chinese ones, they could probably only hold 40 pounds or so.

Next was that glorious time of day, frequently called dinner. For dinner, we had hobo dinners, (which, to Will’s disappointment, is not eating dead hobos) salad, and hot chocolate. Literally no one ate the salad. Even the grownups didn’t want it. The only thing worth noting is that a hot coal burnt a hole through Aderyn’s plate, and started on her pants before she noticed. Then we had peach cobbler, and sang camp songs, and played NEVER HAVE I EVER. Then we all had to do the dishes, (AWWW!) drink more hot chocolate, and go to bed. They told us that 9:00PM was lights out, so until then Amelia and I hung out, and when Ella and Aderyn showed up from where ever they’d been. We all went upstairs and watched a Chinese TV show starring Steve Irwin on their TV, while we chatted. The leaders came through and called us to their room so that they could sing us a song, give us earrings or hair clips, and tell us to seriously go to bed at 9:00. I don’t think anyone followed that. We sorta kinda tried to, but it was too hot upstairs for Ella and Aderyn, so they came down and slept on the floor between Amelia and my beds, and we chatted, and finally fell asleep at around 11:00.

The next morning, true to their word, the leaders woke us up bright and early, and we had scripture study and breakfast. Two dogs (I’m not sure if they were wild or not) came and watched us, and Nyo and Annika threw bacon to them. Then we made pack lunches for the hike, and got kicked out of our room by the cleaning ladies, who gave us no warning at all. Then the hike began!

Hiking! Yay! I’m the one who’s turning around with the pom pom hat.

Our first stop was a movie set, which we explored. There was a wild cat there, who was scared of us at first, but then let Paris pet her. Paris named her Fuzzy.

So cute, right?

Eventually, we had to go, but Fuzzy kept following us. Ella and I decided to re-name him/her Mushu, and we made up a whole plan for how it could be a time share cat between us.* Then we found another movie set and a giant snowball fight ensued. (Also the kind of stuff that happens when you have Girls Camp in November.) Nyo, Paris, and I noticed Mushu/Fuzzy (Mushu is a better name, I think) in the forest watching us, so Nyo went up to try and get her to follow us. Instead, she tried to lead Nyo away, so the leaders made us go back. They told us he probably lived at the farm, so we couldn’t adopt him, which was sad but sorta probably true.

Nyo trying to pick Mushu/Fluffy up.

Turns out DUCK AND GOOSE CAMPGROUND is kind of fancy when it’s open. We passed closed tennis courts, closed archery ranges, some ostriches (I’m not kidding about that. Seriously, there’s a picture of them later in the post) and a closed go-cart track. There was a rope bridge that you had to cross, which was super cool.

Ella and I are the two girls waiting to start crossing the bridge.

We kept walking for ever and ever until we finally got to the mountain we “wanted” to climb. Wanted is in quotations because at the top we found out we had been aiming for another much shorter mountain with a pagoda on top, but had gotten bad directions from some people. Well, at least the view was pretty.

Lots of fall leaves.
This is the view from the very very top.

It was steps all the way up and back down, and our legs were all virbrating when we got back down. We started hiking back to camp, I fell and got my foot stuck between the slats on the rope bridge, but I got it out again and then we took a detour to see the ostriches. Someone tried to feed the ostriches some of their left over chips, which is when Livi said the best quote from all of camp: “We’re feeding Chinese ostriches junk food. This is such a good Girls Camp!” – Livi.

This was the closest I got, because I didn’t want him/her to eat my dad’s phone.

Then we also saw baby sheep, Shetland ponies, and donkeys. It was awesome, but the Chinese farmers had no idea why we were so excited! Nyo started a craze of feeding the donkeys hay, so the donkeys all liked us for feeding them.

Here’s Ella petting one of the baby donkeys.

Eventually, we went back and drank lots of hot chocolate. (We probably made Swiss Miss millionaires on this one camp alone.) Next was supposed to be skits, and my team started planning ours, (It was going to be a super awesome Shoulder Angel one) but someone had the idea to do a dance routine, so they did that instead. Both Nyo and I were nervous to join, but I told Nyo “I’ll do it if you will!” so we both did it. We had a yummy dinner, then we sang some camp songs, had testimony meeting and packed up. We said goodbye to everyone, Nyo and I treated Annika and Amelia to an impromptu rendition of the milk song, (one of the many very weird camp songs we sing here. I don’t know if they sing them anywhere else) and Sister P and Annika drove me (well, Annika didn’t drive, she’s not old enough) to the WA’s house, where Mom and Dad picked me up and we went the rest of the way home.

The Group

ZE END!

Except for this video: https://youtu.be/Qgo9xEkA-dc

It’s really fuzzy, but I really just took the video so you could see how cute Mushu/Fuzzy’s meow was. Also, I like how you can hear Paris say “I want to pick it up!”

And this picture:

It’s sparks flying off of the hot chocolate thing, I think.

*N note: Like my favorite book, Part-time Dog!!

New Photos, a Chinese Photo Shoot- Guest Post by B

B’s school initially told us how many copies of our passport photos we needed to bring with us for visas, etc. We used them all and were then informed that we needed more to renew our visas. Here’s his version of the events:

We have to get our residency permits renewed. For some reason, this means we will be without our passports for three weeks. This period overlaps the end of the month, when I get paid. Since I need my passport to transfer our money out of the country (a little shout-out to the trilemma right there), I will not be able to transfer any of this paycheck to our American bank account, so we’ve had to transfer larger sums the previous two months to prepare for this. As a result, we are artificially quite poor for the next week.
Last week we got an e-mail from one of our bureaucrat liaisons (a serious job description though not a serious job title) that said everyone had to give him four passport photos for this process, and when I asked if we could just reprint the photos we used last year, he said our photos from last year were unsatisfactory and he had had to talk the bureaucrat into accepting them. And, while this is a bureaucratic requirement of my working here, any photo expense is on me.
My wife found a place on the main shopping street in our area that told her it would be ¥20 each for a set of four passport photos. So today we went on a family field trip to the passport photo store.
In the front of the shop was a female employee going over photos with a couple. In the next area back were two male employees. I got the impression that the employees were a married couple and an adult son. The two guys asked what we wanted. We pointed at the passport pictures. They asked something else. I said, “Wǒ bù míngbái pǔtōnghuà,” which is close enough to “I don’t understand Mandarin” to make my point. So they motioned for us to follow them to a back room photo studio, where we took turns getting our chins tilted for us. Squirt was a little worried, but we only needed one shot of him looking at the camera, and eventually we got one.
Then came the surprise Photoshopping. This process took longer than the actual photo shoot. In America, when you get a passport picture taken, your face fills the required area and they press “print.” I thought things would be similar here, but I was quickly disabused of that idea when they opened the first picture file and removed a mole on Buddy’s cheek.
Then my wife and I got to watch them Photoshop us, which was demoralizing. It was less offensive, though, than watching them do our kids. We are aware of our flaws, but we think our kids look great. The photographer didn’t, though. The only bit of Photoshopping on our kids with which we agreed, though, was when the guy got rid of all the dried food on Squirt’s face; my wife was gone for a lot of the day and I was in charge of getting the kids ready for their pictures.
Eventually, the guy printed pictures that are much smaller than we were told to get and on a white background even though the bureaucrats supposedly need a black background, but this dude’s job is to print passport photos and my school’s bureaucrat liaison didn’t give us any instructions in Chinese, so screw them. (If unsatisfactory photos could be accepted last time, they can get them accepted again.) The grand total was ¥180, which was 50% more than they’d told my wife yesterday. Probably all that Photoshopping.
 *I’d also like to point out that we didn’t dress special or comb any of the kids hair because this was just a Saturday chore we needed to check off, not an actual photo shoot we were trying to look good for. Also, those aren’t B’s glasses, they had glass-less frames they had him wear.