Saturday, April 15, 2017

A Day in Suzhou

Though foreigners generally have never heard about Suzhou, it happens to be a huge tourist destination for Chinese people!  We ran into some major crowds today!  Even with all of the people we had tons of fun.  After we hit the Humble Administrator's Garden, I bought a real pearl necklace for 20 kuai then we crossed the street over to Pinjiang Road to walk along and enjoy the sights.

It ended up being a super touristy street, which was fun it its own way.

There were tons of different shops that were so hip, we felt like we were in Portland again.  There were also some cool restaurants, we ended up buying apple pie at a Danish bakery!  All of the workers were European, it was so weird!

The street was up against a little canal.  It was fun to watch people go by on little boats, with their tour guide singing to them!

We came to Suzhou today without really having a plan, so when we reached the end of the street, we sat down with a map to decide what to do.  We decided that all we wanted was some good night market food, then to go back to our hostel.  We hired a guy on a bike to take us to the other side of town.  It was spendier than other transportation options, but it was so fun!  It felt so nice to be out in the open air.  We really enjoyed it.

We felt bad when we went up hills.  The guy pressed on, though, and ended up pulling us part of the way!

It took us SO LONG to find this "night market" that I read about on a blog.  In fact, I don't know if we actually ever found it.  We definitely found a night-life full street with crowds comparable to Disneyland.  All we wanted was to eat food but people like to stop in the middle of walkways so no one can even move!  Bailey got hangry and I got anxious and eventually we stopped in the most random restaurant for some overpriced dumplings and noodles.

After eating we felt a little bit better and booked it out of that crowded place.  Wherever we were, I don't recommend it.

Back to the hostel it was!  I'm starting to like hostels because of the private room discovery.  For just a few dollars more, Bailey and I were in a private room with our own bathroom!  The bed was way bigger than the one in our apartment, and everything was pretty clean.  For $21 a night, I'll take it!

This hostel was a happenin' place, it turns out.  Shey and Petro made it to the hostel late at night after their daytime adventures, and we met up with them on the main floor where they serve fancy drinks and have live music.  Even though we just barely ate, of course Bailey and I had to buy the overpriced waffles and fruit.  It was fun to just sit with our friends and try to have a conversation while right next to the loud musicians!  It was a great way to end the night!

Humble Administrator's Garden

This morning we set off early for Suzhou, the Venice of the East!  We really are in the best location when it comes to China travel.  Suzhou is only a half hour away by bullet train!

We got there, checked into our hostel, and walked down the street to the beautiful Humble Administrator's Garden.  It is the number one thing to do in Suzhou, according to TripAdvisor, and I can see why.  It was gorgeous!

It was really crowded though!  We took a lot of breaks and just sat and watched people, because it got a little bit exhausting walking around them.  Also, spring has sprung and it is HOT around here these days!

We really enjoyed seeing all the different sections of the garden!  I loved this flowery spot.  And the old ladies in these pictures that come up with the best poses.

But the bonsai section was really cool too!

We were walking along, and all of a sudden I smelled a certain smell and was instantly transported to my sweet grandmother's garden.  We turned the corner and there was a nice bunch of wisteria!  It was so beautiful and reminded me of my childhood days pretending to be a fairy under my grandma's wisteria covered patio.

The beautiful thing about Suzhou is its waterways.  There are little rivers and canals all over the place!  Even going all around and through Humble Administrator's Garden!

We spent quite a bit of time enjoying the garden today.  I'm so grateful that spring is finally here!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Sports Day

What an interesting morning!  A few days ago we were told that Thursday would be "Sports Day", and that the teachers were going to have a four square tournament.  Some things get seriously lost in translation, because only last night did we learn that it would be less of a four square tournament, and more of a parade that we would be involved in.

So early this morning we donned our bright orange school shirts, and went to the field for the parade!  Some teachers were to ride in a golf cart, some were given large flags to hold, and some were given small Chinese flags to hold.  All of the large flags (except for one) were English speaking countries, or at least flags from Europe where they speak lots of English.  I was given the Korean flag which I'm still confused about.

The American flag kind of got passed around throughout our group.  I think Petro was the most patriotic fit for the flag holder.

While we were waiting to start the parade, all of our kids started pouring out of the school building in their neat lines (that they can't seem to keep during ILP lessons).  THEY WERE ALL IN CONSTUMES.

I think their teachers just get to decide what their students wear.  Like, some classes were all in matching outfits, one six grade group was all wearing animal hats, and some classes were a mish mash of whatever the kids wanted to wear.  Like my group of second graders, haha.

I liked the matching outfits!  I probably wouldn't as much as a kid, I guess, but there were some seriously adorable costumes out there.  Like these tropical girls!

The most adorable, of course, were my first graders who came out of the school building in police costumes!  How cute is that?!  I caught on later that the animal tails and headbands probably made them Zootopia characters?

Soon enough we found ourselves marching, walking, and running around the track for the "parade".  The kids were on either side of us, cheering us on and wanting high fives.  We felt like celebrities!


We stopped when we made it around the track once and sat down for a performance from some cute little cheerleaders.  They were so impressive!  They were so serious, it was adorable.  There were even two little boys in there!

After the performance, the crowd kind of dispersed so that everyone could get ready for the sports.  I took the time to find some of my kids and get pictures!  How random are these little outfits?  So cute though!

I also finally got a picture of Bailey with his dear friend Kimi (I finally learned how to spell his name).  Kimi is awesome!

The games began, and we realized that it was just a school wide track meet!  There were many heats, a lot of the kids ran (but not all).  I couldn't believe what they ran in, some were in their school uniforms, some were in regular clothes, and some were still in their costumes!  Yes, some first graders ran while dressed as police!

The meet went on for a long time, so us teachers sat around and talked and also went to play with our kids.  We like our kids of course, but we like them a whole lot more in a non-teaching setting!  They're so playful and snuggly!

When my first graders saw my camera, lots of them wanted me to take pictures of us together!  Here I am with CJ who is seriously one of the cutest kids ever.

Diego is another one of my favorites.  She is so good and cute!

Samantha is so sweet!

Shu Shu isn't in my homeroom, but I have him in my rotations and I just love him.  He is the tiniest little guy, but he is so smart and creative.  And so adorable!

This is Trevor.  He isn't in my rotations at all, the only time I see him is during opening (where we sing a song and talk about what day it is before splitting off into classes).  But for some reason he yells "teacha mommy!!" every time I see him and he gives me a big hug!  He always tries to sneak into my line to come to my class.  He's so funny!  I'm not sure why he calls me mommy... maybe I look like his mom?

Eventually hunger took over, and Bailey and I left the games to go find some food.  But what a fun morning it was, being able to just play with our kids!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Some Little Things

Here's just a little update on some of the random things that have gone on.

Like teaching a new subject.  I taught kitchen for two weeks in second grade and wow!  Kids really know how to behave well when there's a snack at stake.

Speaking of snacks... I eat a whole lot of them because our cafeteria still feeds us meals like these.

I much prefer eating at the night market, as you know!  There is tons of delicious food everywhere!  A typical meal at the night market for me is a bunch of super garlicy fried dumplings, room temperature coconut juice, a banana and chocolate crepe, and rolled ice cream.  Crawdads are in season and of course delicious!  I just don't like getting my hands so saucy.

At the night market the other night, Bailey got a 20 kuai tattoo of a little bomb.  It was gone in two days.

Bailey was brave and got his first Chinese haircut!  Andrew took us to his barber which definitely made us feel better.  I'd say Bailey got a really nice haircut!  I mean, I was hoping he'd end up with a ponytail like the barber, but maybe next time.  Look at this team effort!

Dumplings are probably my favorite of all foods in China.  Shey, Bailey, and I went on a quest the other day to find the best dumplings near us.  We didn't find anything that we seriously loved, but it was still fun.  While we sat and waited for some to cook, a little girl came and just sat down right next to me, eating her lollipop and staring at me!  I tried my Chinese on her but she wouldn't respond.  I was about to put my arm around her for a picture, and she booked it!  Funny kid.

We finally were able to watch some General Conference!  They don't show it in China (and I think most countries actually) until the week after.  We watched the Sunday morning session on Sunday morning, then met in the evening to split up for Women's and Priesthood Conference.  After Women's, Shey, Rachel, and I went to see if our husbands were done, and found it was just the three of them in that giant room, watching conference on a little laptop!  We were proud of our righteous husbands!

After the morning session, Monica got this picture of Bailey.  She has a super cool calling of taking pictures for the Mormon Channel, so watch out for Bailey for the next couple of years!

Yesterday was Katey's birthday!  Us married couples celebrated by going to Grandma's Home (the best Chinese food around!  It tastes American!) then eating the cake that the school bought for Katey.  It was beautiful and delicious except for one thing.  The things we thought were giant cherries... were actually tomatoes!(??)

Life is good here in China and our stay is almost halfway over.  I can hardly believe how the time has flown!

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Mt. Lingshan Scenic Area

We finally made it to Wuxi!  We've tried to go for a couple of weekends, but it never really worked out until today.  But we got up bright and early this morning to catch our Didi ride which took us straight to Lingshan Scenic Spot!

So this spot is another one of those Chinese people tourist spots.  As in, a lot of Chinese people visit it, but it's not known enough that a lot of foreigners come.  There was hardly any English to be found, but that's hardly a problem for us anymore!  Soon enough we were through the gates and washing our hands in a dripping lotus fountain.  Not sure why we were doing that, but everyone else was so it seemed appropriate.

We stopped by a little booth to buy some breakfast.  My waffle was pretty good, but Bailey wasn't so sure about his little egg custard things.

We hung around the central area for a little bit, admiring the gigantic fountain and a cute little boy who was feeding the birds!

Basically the whole park is devoted to Buddhism.  The first building we hit was "the hall of the three saints" or something.  I'd call it a temple.  It was gorgeous!  It was well kept, clean, and had more natural light than I've ever seen in a Buddhist temple.  I thought it was just beautiful.  And the giant golden saints were impressive!

After that we hit what they call the "Vatican Palace".

We had tickets for a show inside, which we actually missed half of.  The last half was very cool though!  There were a whole bunch of performers in beautiful costumes, dancing while a story was being told.  The stage completely surrounded us in a perfect circle.  A highlight was when it started "raining" right between the stage and the audience!  Then giant screens came down and the next part of the story proceeded via video.  Next thing we knew there was a giant tree rising out of the ground in the middle of the room!  Under it was Buddha (well, I guess he wasn't Buddha quite yet), confirming our guesses of what the story could be about.  It was all very interesting to watch.
After the show we explored the palace, which was full of Buddhist art.  A lot of it was really amazing!  And the building itself was beautiful.  Look at these ceilings!

After that we decided it was time for our trek to the giant buddha.  It is quite the procession.  First we passed a giant hand, which I think is supposed to be the same size as the buddha's.  Everyone was touching it for good luck, including my husband (I decided to forego the germs).

We then passed through a courtyard where Bailey found his favorite animal!

It was time to start the ascent!  Bailey bought some noodles for the way up, but I ended up eating a whole lot of them because they were delicious.

To get to buddha's toes, we had to enter through an exhibit underneath him.  There were some cool cave like things that I enjoyed seeing.

We eventually got on an elevator and soon enough were touching buddha's toes!  Yes, germy, but I think it is worth it for the serious amount of luck I was promised.

It was really crazy being right at Buddha's feet!  He looked giant from far away, but this angle really proved how massive the guy is.

There wasn't much to see after we climbed up to the Buddha, so we headed towards the exit.  We passed by this beautiful pond/lake thing that I especially enjoyed because of the little turtles just chilling on the rocks!

I would definitely recommend the Lingshan Scenic Spot if you ever find yourself in the Wuxi area.  We had such a fun day!