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.


Boy excursions- Day 2


While PS was away, we decided we’d revisit the White Cloud Temple to show it to B. While we were in the area, we could see a pagoda we’d spotted in the distance when we visited the White Cloud Temple without B.

First we had to leave church and eat lunch. We chose a place famous for its colorful dumpling restaurant, Bao Yuan Dumpling, near Zaoying subway stop that some friends have talked about. It was yummy, but a bit frustrating. The wait staff ignored us for a long time and the menu was confusing. Once a waitress did check on us, we learned that a pair of dumplings here means 12… very confusing on the menu. They are sold in sets of 6 and you have to buy two sets. But they used the character for a pair which would have been ridiculously overpriced, Y15-Y22 for 2 dumplings. Once we were sure we had enough money to eat (our kids can eat a lot of dumplings!), we ordered. The food was delicious, the overall experience left something to be desired.


 Sweet and sour pork.
Gu Lao Rou
Or, what we tell Squidgems so he’ll eat this… Chinese chicken nuggets


A type of spring roll.
Notice how I can never get a picture of the food before someone has eaten some of it?
Unfortunately, due do a long wait at the restaurant, and having to travel far and transfer trains, we showed up every where just as they were closing in the early afternoon. 
This is the Tianning Temple Pagoda just south of the White Cloud Temple. 









While PS is away…

While PS was in Hong Kong, we took the boys on a few little adventures.

Saturday, 4/30 we went to the mall down by the southern Ikea and ate lunch at a yummy Japanese place called Udon and Tempura.

 Above: Udon noodles… delicious, with a hint of curry. Mmmm.
Below: a curry beef and rice dish

Then we shopped a little at the mall (bought Squidgems his Star Wars BB8 shirt from Uniqlo) and then explored the Subway Culture Park.



We found this giant tile subway map at the Subway Culture Park.

Little Guy (far left) is standing on our subway stop and Buddy (far right) is standing on the church subway stop.




 Inside an old Beijing subway train.

From there we headed to just south of Tiananmen Square and explored some hutong streets while trying to find the Christian Woodcarver so we could buy a nativity.


We ended the day at the  Xidan bookstore (B shopped for maps) and then a Korean Bibimbap restaurant at on of the Xidan malls. Bibimbap is one of B’s new favorite foods.

Top left is a weird bibimbap… there’s an egg in that seaweed ball. Bottom left is a beef and rice dish. Bottom right is beef udon noodles. Delicious.

China Life

 PS wants to buy all these fish and set them free… the problem is where to set them free?!

 Now that it has warmed up a bunch, these bird cages are hung out in trees and we see them when we go out to run errands.

 Saw this tiny excavator leaving the Beijing Automobile Museum.

 Getting all the vegetables cut and ready for breakfast/lunch/dinner at the restaurant.


I see men carrying their significant other’s purse quite often.


 This may look like a rescue mission. In actuality, it’s a guy, trimming tree branches, with a chain saw.

We transfer from line 1 to line 2 every week at Jianguomen station to get to church. It wasn’t until after visiting the Ancient Observatory and the Planetarium that I understood the murals above the train tracks. This is the station beneath the Ancient Observatory. Further down the track, it actually depicts the observatory. This specific mural is the Chinese interpretation of the big dipper, which I saw at the Planetarium.

 All of a sudden this is in our stores… no idea what it is. Ideas?

 Crowded transfer from 1 to 14 at Dawanglu subway station.

 Below: Shopping at Miniso… it’s a Japanese or Korean dollar store type shop. We love it, but some of the stuff is a bit crazy!

And in the Tour Le Jours Bakery next door… (ie: croutons).

I’d mentioned to my friend Becky that I wanted to try to find a Mooncake mold to bring back to the States as my souvenir. She found me one in Tianjin when there family visited!! The characters are for Double Happiness.

 PS thinks this Tinkerbell candy gun is hilarious.

 Granddaughter riding on Grandpa’s shopping trolley.

 Pet fish? Dinner?

 I want to take the boys here. For Y10 they cut your hair and vacuum you clean. At first, I thought it was a vacuum cut place.

Popsicles. Based on the picture, it looks like a stack of haw fruit frozen in water.

 A few days after Easter, our grocery store had this display table out front with markers and eggs.

 On the way to church, right before boarding the line 13 train, there are an especially large amount of red banners.

 Our church district had a dinner followed by viewing the General Women’s meeting. Afterwards, walking to the subway, one of the street food vendors was selling “grilled” jiaozi! Yum! This was fuller, we’d eaten some before I took the picture. And it only cost Y10… less than $2 USD.

B took me to the Alley Market down the street to get Jian Bing. He’d tried it on his way home from transferring money at the bank and said it was yummier than the Jian Bing we had in Tianjin. It was good. Bu La means not spicy/hot. That’s helpful for me to remember. It sort of tasted like a Taco Bell burrito that was heavy on the lettuce… and crunchy. The guy makes a crepe like shell… but it’s crunchy. Then he cooks an egg on it. Then his wife paints spicy stuff on it, adds green leaf lettuce and a fried dough stick, folds it up and chops it in half. Super filling. Y6, about $1 USD.

Here’s someone else’s video:

China Life

Spring Festival clean-up. Note the fake blossoms… since they celebrate SPRING’s arrival in February, they have to fake it.
Now that it’s “spring,” there are birds out hanging in their travel cages getting fresh air. I’ve heard people take birds on walks too, but we haven’t been lucky enough to see that yet.
 3/2     Trying to capture the sunset in bad air.
 The Old Navy by us is open!!! (Wukesong mall)
 Buddy is obsessed with buying this fedora.
 Riding the bus to and from Old Navy.
 Trash can on bus says, “Do not stampede.”
Tree in the lobby of our church building.

3/6 Riding the subway home from church.

Hong Kong – Day 3



Our hotel.

Subway ride.


Across from the Nunnery is Nan Lian Garden.

Snoopy’s World!!

(3rd floor of the Sha Tin New Town Plaza Shopping Mall, Sha Tin Metro Station, exit A)

Several months ago I made a note that there was a Snoopy’s World in Hong Kong. Then I forgot about it because we had no plans to go to Hong Kong. Then, in researching stuff to do with kids in Hong Kong, I happened upon a brief mention of Snoopy’s World again. It’s not big. It’s free. It’s basically a small outside play area part of a mall. But for our Peanuts lover (Princess Sparkley) it warranted a visit by our family.

We at a late lunch in the mall. Dim sum, won ton noodles, spring rolls and BBQ pork buns. This bakery looked delicious but was a Japanese bakery, apparently and the stuff was… okay. When we tried the one near our hotel for breakfast the next morning, it had a MUCH smaller selection and was a disappointment.

Next, we visited 10,000 Buddhas Monastery at the same subway stop, just behind the Ikea.

B said to Little Guy, “count these Buddhas and if there aren’t 10,000 we’ll sue!” Little Guy responded, “I won’t count.” [later] “Buddha 173’s weird”

 B took the three big kids to the top while Squidgems and I hung out near the pagoda.

Later, B tweeted, “Me: I made it to the top of the Ten-Thousand Buddha Monastery pathway!” Buddhists: “You don’t get Buddhism, do you?”

We headed back toward Mongkok area to find food (ate eggettes -delicious bubble-like waffles, and other baked goods from food stands for “dinner”) then waited for the light show to start.

Every night over Victoria Harbor (between Hong Kong Island and the mainland part of Hong Kong) there is a light show. Look up pictures online, it’s awesome. What we saw… the worst excuse for a light show I’ve ever seen. We didn’t know it happened. I had to go ask a first aid volunteer when it was going to happen and she told me it already had. So the 20 green lights or so we saw randomly “spotlight” off the buildings were apparently the light show. We called it a night and took Star Ferry back to Hong Kong Island and our hotel… stopping for more Eggettes (egg waffles) and a place called Oddies near our hotel (we got chocolate chip and pineapple ones this time…mmmm).

A conversation between myself and B:

N: That light show was the lamest thing I’ve ever seen. B: That’s saying something ’cause you’ve seen Tonapah [Nevada]. N: Second-lamest, then.

Oddies was like a new, more modern take on eggettes (egg waffles).

Hong Kong – Day 2


Every morning Buddy and I got up, got dressed and went out in the neighborhood in search of bakeries and grocery stores where we could buy breakfast to bring back. The other kids slept in a little (but were usually awake when we returned) and B could start out his morning working on reading, catching up on the news, etc.


Buddy is a HUGE fan of 7-Eleven (and their Slurpees) so we’d been excited to find out that

(some of) the 7-Elevens in Hong Kong have Slurpees.


Money here is way more exciting than in Beijing. First, instead of dividing by 6 (now 6.5) to get the US price, divide by 8 (or more accurately 7.77). But it looks cooler and they have 1, 2, 5 and 10 dollar coins! So British! B tweeted, “My 1st time in a country w/ competitive note issuance. We’ve had money from 3 different banks so far! Might be the highlight of my trip!”

Buddy and I, along with breakfast-like foods, also brought back new candy to try. For some reason, there is no Cadbury chocolate in Beijing so we were excited to have it in Hong Kong.

A lot of the stuff we wanted to do (Big Buddha and Victoria Peak) involved being able to see a view. The air pollution in Hong Kong wasn’t bad (compared to Beijing) but it wasn’t great and add to that fog, so we skipped both of these destinations. Victoria Peak is where the post card pictures of Hong Kong everyone is used to seeing is taken from. It would have been nice, but we’d only be looking at fog.

Outside our hotel there was a double decker tram stop (in Hong Kong, they are called ding dings by the locals because of the bell sound they make). This was super fun for everyone.

 On the tram around Hong Kong Island.



Our first stop was the Central-Mid-Levels Escalators on Hong Kong Island. In the morning, they go down (toward the northern coast of the island) and the rest of the day they go up. It’s a series of maybe eight escalators.

Next would have been Victoria Peak but instead we walked around a bit (making our way back down from the Escalator’s top) and made our way toward Star Ferry to ferry across to the mainland part of Hong Kong.


Next, exploring Tsim Sha Tsui, Mongkok and Kowloon areas of Hong Kong. We wandered around looking for lunch and ended up getting a variety of pork buns (zhu par bao or maybe Char Xin), pineapple buns (bo lo bao), cocktail buns (coconut -guy may bow), egg tarts, etc. from a bakery. Then we made our way to the subway and headed toward the Hong Kong LDS Temple.

I wish I’d gotten a picture of our little camera tripod wrapped precariously around a street sign pole in order to capture a self-timer picture of our family in front of the temple.

It was late afternoon by now and we were pretty warn out (and pretty far away from our hotel), so we headed back to Hong Kong Island, had dinner (at Uncle 4… picture below), got Slurpees at 7-Eleven and tried some new candy.


 Once we got the kids in bed, B started flipping through different tv stations and came across a live horse race in Hong Kong. Our hotel was right next to the Happy Valley Racecourse so we looked out the window. The track was lit, but we could only see 1/4 of the track so we had to wait until the next race started on tv and then watch for horses outside. Sure enough, it was live from our race track!