Sunday, May 17, 2009

The End!

I've left Beijing and I don't know when I'll be back...and that is so hard to say out loud. Leaving Beijing was one of the toughest and most emotional things I've done in a long time. An intense outpouring of love from my friends made me realize how much I loved the city, the people I met there, and how I had more friends in that city than in any other single location in the world. As Rory reminded me, "Don't be sad that it's over, just be glad that it happened!" We are all made of different chapters, and they open and close with the flow of life. My Beijing chapter has just finished, but I know that China will always beckon me back and I will find time for it again and again. Thank you, thank you, thank you to China, Beijing and every person that I have grown to know and love there! I can't wait to see you all again!

For now I am closing the "Experiencing China" blog, as I would be doing it injustice because I am no longer living there. I graduated with an International MBA degree and accepted my first job in the United States. However, it is with a global company so I will definitely be able to enjoy various cultures and seek out the new perspectives that so often drove this blog. As an ending note, I've included some of the graduation pictures. So long for now, it sure has been fun sharing life with all of you! 再见朋友们!

These are most of my classmates that did the Chinese track of the IMBA!

My Family (minus Kelsey)

And my Aunt and dear friend Courtney that also trekked to Columbia to watch the graduation!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

End of April 2009 in Beijing

The end of April in Beijing brought with it beautiful weather and fun outside! First stop: Boating with Rory and the gang!

We got 10 people on the electric boat!

And puttered around the lakes in Houhai, all is green in Beijing!

It was also my last month to enjoy some of the favorite Chinese foods! This is what a typical spicy soup for Hot Pot looks like! You cook the raw meat and vegetables in the red pot, dip it in the peanut sauce in the front and enjoy! Mmmm.

Rory's adopted Chinese family also invited us for a lovely homemade dinner!

And last but not! Everything started blooming so it was time to trek out to the many parks in Beijing and take pictures with the flowers!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Guests in Beijing!

In the beginning of April, two friends came to Beijing. John- a first-timer and Adrian- a returnee. I spent the first part of the month seeing Beijing again through the eyes of a newbie. Here are some of the adventures:
The group at brunch on Sunday:

With Adrian and John at the Saddle:

Back at Mutianyu section of the Great Wall:

And coming down the great wall on the toboggan slide:

At Korean BBQ with Zhangyi:

On Jingshan hill overlooking the forbidden city:

The classic Chinese baby do they do that potty training so early???

At the 798 Art District, which one am I?

The Panjiayuan Antique Market:

And the good ole Chinese acrobatics!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Good Times in Seoul!

I went for a long weekend in Seoul to visit my cousin Laura and to add one more Asian place to the list before I move back to the States in May. We did lots of fun stuff, so instead of narrarating it, I like lists! 16 things we did in Seoul:

1) Visited Gyeongbokgung Palace:
(I realized how much the Koreans borrowed from Chinese as all of the buildings looked just like Beijing's Forbidden City and the titles of each were in Chinese characters.)
2) Watched a changing of the guards at the palace
3) Ate traditional Korean BBQ: (Mmm Mmm Good! Done over coals in the middle of your table)
4) Walked along Insadong street, (fun art and culture pedestrian area)
5) Bought great street jewelry! (I like the street jewelry much better than in China. It is original and inexpensive!)
6) Ate Korean pancake and powdered rice cubes from the street vendors
7) Met up with an old Korean friend that I studied with in Beijing.
8) Spent a night at a fancy wine bar. (We don't really have these in Beijing. The wine list was a book!)
9) Went to the Dr. Fish cafe where fish give you a pedicure by eating at the skin on the bottom of your feet. Weird!
10) Enjoyed Turkish, Thai, Indian and American delights at various restaurants throughout the trip.
11) Walked along the Cheonggyecheon Stream that runs south of the palaces while sipping Lattees.
12) Went to the large COEX Aquarium (saw my first two-headed turtle)
13) Took silly pictures in one of the crazy Asian photo booths
14) Enjoyed the plethora of cafes and donut shops on every corner!
(No, even more than that, multiples on every block! Who knew the koreans were so into coffee, donuts and belgian waffles?)
15) Went to the top of N Seoul Tower to gaze upon the city.
16) Toured the National Museum of Korea

In summary, a good time was had by all! And thanks to Laura for all the hospitality!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Trip to Guangxi III: Final Thoughts

I wanted to include the last thoughts or pics on the trip to Guilin before I move onto the next thing. Yangshuo's foreigner-hangout and really the only interesting strip in the city is called Xi Jie, or West Street. We went a couple of times for shopping, coffee, etc. Xi Jie at night:

When you get out of the big cities, you see a lot of interesting vehicles in China. Like these old trucks with exposed engines. They make quite the clanking as they putter down the street and are really only used for trash, landscaping, etc.

Back in Guilin we visited the Elephant Trunk Hill. Apparently to Chinese people, this is a symbol of this city. Of course, I had to demonstrate where the hill got its name:

Around the mountain were photo ops with various local cultural outfits. I chose to go the fisherman route. These are my fish-catching birds:

I couldn't find many specialties in Guilin except for Mifen, or "rice noodles." I'd say this is one province with relatively few offerings when it comes to food. These noodles are served up with a little meat and pieces of vegetables and then you add as much pickled vegetables and spices to the soup as you can handle. It's OK...but pretty uninteresting compared to other Chinese foods.

However, rice wine and corn juice were both new to me on this trip! Rice wine was not so good...I just wanted to try it because I was amazed they had found yet another way to eat rice. Corn juice, however, is fabulous. It is served warm with a bit of a thin, sweet soup. We ate it practically every day we were down there, so this was definitely a good culinary find.

That's all for the Guilin trip. Next stop: Seoul.

Trip to Guangxi II: Yangshuo

The village of Yangshuo is the launch-pad village for the trips to Lijiang River, which was my last blog. We stayed 2 nights in this town, set in a background of those beautiful pointy mountains. This was the first night, as we waited for a bus to a show.

Besides the river, a must-see is the show by famous director Zhang Yimou. (Many popular movies and most recently, the Beijing Olympic Opening Ceremony Creative Director) The show was based outside, and this was the audience as we waited in the moonlight:

The show started with a vocalist in the lake and mountains lit-up in the background.

The torches lit up all around the lake as the minority peoples sang from all directions...first men then younger girls:

There were all sorts of creative dance and props on the water, representing various parts of this Southern China culture...

Then the show ended with hundreds of singers linked hand-in-hand walking across various platforms over the water in lit-up outfits. With impressive coordination they turned the lights on and off creating patterns and rhythms with the music.

Zhang Yimou certainly does an amazing job of creative directing as well as creating art with large numbers of people. I was very much reminded of the Olympics opening ceremony as I watched this show. It's called "Impression Liu Sanjie" if you are ever down there and interested in going!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Trip to Guangxi: The LiJiang River

I'm on a long weekend trip to the Southernmost part of China to a province called Guangxi. This province that borders Vietnam (as shown on the map) is famous for its scenery that appears in the classical Chinese paintings, songs, etc. A must-see for any long-term China traveler. I'm not going in order here but I will skip right to the LiJiang River and Yangshuo, where we went on our second day. These peaks that jutt out of the water are the most unique mountains I've ever seen, and the same ones that I've always seen in images of China.

In fact, the place where we were initially dropped off to take a boat was the exact image from the 20 RMB bill...(as I'm trying to show you in this picture. But you can click it for a larger image)!

The locals live off of the land as it is green and full of life. These guys had two very different methods of fishing...One with a bamboo boat and the other with a trained bird:

Then we ate some of their catches as we got to our half-way point. The crabs and fish were fried whole so we ate them that way. Quite tasty actually!

That's all for the Lijiang River. I'll share more from the town of Yangshuo and the city of Guilin soon!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Beijing Birthday + Weekend Brunch

This was my third birthday in Beijing and they have all been wonderful so far thanks to great friends! We had a lovely steak dinner (first and probably last in Beijing this year) followed by a party hosted at my friend Chris's house. These are some of the peeps from the party!

Thennn...comes Sunday brunch! We have set out to be connoisseurs of the Beijing champagne brunch offerings. This week's offering: The Intercontinental Hotel.
Major plus: Pork ribs and other BBQ imported from Texas, USA and cosmopolitans included in the buffet.
Minus: Service not as good and poor live music doesn't meet up with the Westin's jazz singer from New York. We enjoyed ourselves immensely as another "Sunday Funday" came to an end.

Attendees line-up:

Group shot of everyone after they came around with loads of cotton candy:

The evening continued at a friends nice pad back on the East side of Beijing. Altogether a good day and an enjoyable birthday weekend.