Friday, May 30, 2008

The Hangzhou Zoo

Though the kids had been to the Hangzhou Zoo before, I had not, so we went back there today to hang out under the high canopy of trees and look at the local captives.  Here are the Sophie, Jack and Peter near the entrance.

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LEFT: This little girl stopped briefly to watch the foreigners go by.  Love the red parasol! RIGHT:  A little cave we went through in this very lush park.
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Here's Jack, that handsome little devil.
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We came across this nice little pagoda amongst all of the lush greenery.
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Near the pagoda was a lone sole seal who was doing some tricks.  This is for my brother-in-law who wanted pictures of things being balanced on noses. Here you go Dan :).  The seal held this pose for quite a long while.  Amazingly strong!
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Some beautiful giraffes here...
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The zoo was a great place for Sophie to run, which is her favorite thing to do.  It's always fun to get her in a crowd because she darts all around us, and the other Chinese are wondering where her parents are.  Tee hee. 
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Since the boys' previous school were the Abia Judd Jaguars, I had to get a picture of this lovely fellow, yawning in the heat.
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Let's see, which animals shall we see next??
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While at the zoo we saw this beautiful butterfly.  I could tell Sophie was thinking, "Hey, where can I get a set of wings?"
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So many people were feeding the animals! The attitude towards animals in zoos appears to be COMPLETELY different here than in the west.  Some guy was tossing slices of bread to this bear - I think he tossed down a whole loaf of bread while we were there, much to the crowd's enjoyment.  There wasn't a zookeeper in sight.
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Aah, chariot rides, pulled by a GOAT!  How could we resist!
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Then we saw this little boy with a very distinctive haircut, paying homage to the upcoming 2008 Olympics.  The torch...
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... and the year, 2008 emblazoned proudly upon his crown!  Jack immediately thought he would like to do something like this to his hair.  What a surprise!
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After an enjoyable couple of hours, we walked through a little more bamboo forest as we exited the zoo, and grabbed a cab back to the city.
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Here's a shot of the delicious milk-tea that can be found as frequently here as Starbuck's in Seattle.  It's a sweet tea with some kind of powdered milk added, and in the bottom are balls of tapioca which are sucked through a large diameter straw.  The straw pierces a piece of cellophane wrap that they heat seal onto the top while you wait, so that it's spill proof - very ingenious.  Cold or hot, milk-tea is strange but delicious!
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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Children's Day in China

On June 1st, China celebrates "Children's Day", a day where children are celebrated and gifts are given to them.  Since June 1st will be on a Sunday this year, Sophie's school put together a celebration today that involved waves of children getting up on stage at the local park and dancing to music.  We were lucky that we were in only the third wave of children, as it was a crowded, busy morning!

When we got there, Sophie's teacher put lipstick on her so that she would be extra beautiful on stage.  Yes, this same lipstick was shared amongst all the kids...

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Here's the drinking station, where Sophie found her cup for a drink of water.

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Their classroom bathroom, with the shin-high urinals, and the trough to squat over. Water flows from one end of the trough to the other.   In a trough situation, you always want to be the furthest one upstream, for obvious reasons.
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The chamber pot is also brought out during class at regular intervals to prevent accidents from the little ones.
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We were told several days ago, "Make a costume out of old paper and plastic bags, and make a hat having something to do with a goat!"  Well, we did our best.  Here are some of Sophie's classmates, getting ready for the big show, in their costumes.  RIGHT: Sophie says her friend's name is Xu Wo Ling,
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LEFT: Sophie in her costume trying on her "goat-hat", and RIGHT: one of her friends all decked out, Sophie says her name is Jia Yi"
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Sophie, practicing her dance moves with one of the boys, Ling Long.
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After 30 minutes of pandemonium getting preschoolers into fragile recycled costumes, it was time for a walk to the park.  Thank goodness Peter and Jack came, they were so helpful!  Here are Peter and Jack carrying the camera gear and Sophie's goat hat, which at this point has been categorically rejected by Sophie.Hangzhou 072

Sitting in the crowd, receiving instructions in Chinese with the rest of the parents.  Yeah, right. Thanks to Peter for taking the picture! I cajoled Sophie into wearing the goat-hat, VERY briefly.Hangzhou 082

Sophie waited in the wings with her teacher for her turn to go on stage.
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The group that went on before us, who were supposed to be bakers...
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Sophie waited for the bakers to perform...
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... and here are the little bakers, dancing on stage.
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Parents were very AGGRESSIVE getting to the stage to take a picture of their children.  I gave Jack the video camera and told him to worm his way up to the stage, which he did very successfully.  Crowds always part for Jack in China!  Next,I worked on positioning myself strategically, so that I'd be able to rush the stage when it was Sophie's turn.
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After studying how other parents did it, I said to myself, "Ready.... GO!"  I flailed my arms and pushed other young mothers, fathers, ayis and grandmothers aside as I charged the stage, and... TOUCHDOWN!  I dove down in front for a shot of my little girl on stage!   When in Rome...!Hangzhou 120 Hangzhou 123

Only 3 of the kids, including Sophie followed the teacher's cue to stand up, partially because it was so noisy and confusing!
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Then, as the students were listening for their next cue, some fireworks exploded which shot pieces of paper into the air above their heads.  Sophie grabbed her ears, and it was pretty much chaos after that.  The fireworks definitely had not been a part of the rehearsal!
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We stripped the costume off after being on stage, and the kids played for a bit.  Sophie tried to limbo...
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Jack demonstrated how to use some of the old people's exercise equipment.
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Sophie and one of her classmates, hanging out after the show...
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We were all pretty much exhausted after all of that excitement, and now school is over for the day.  Oh look, it's only 9:30 am!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

300 Days!

The boxes of souvenirs are shipped, and the apartment is getting more bare as we prepare for our exodus back to the U.S.!  Our "300 Day" photo, and we're all still smiling.

We are trying to enjoy all of the things we like about China in this last month before we leave.  One of the small things we enjoy is the ubiquitous "milk-tea"; a tea and milk concoction with black balls of tapioca in the bottom.  An extra wide-diameter straw is provided to suck up all of that chewy tapioca goodness!  We go for a walk in the evenings along the city streets to the local milk-tea outlet, and it no longer seems strange.

We are enjoying not only a different culture, but also a climate that is so different from Arizona.  It is HOT and HUMID here, and we have had Hangzhou 020 monsoon like conditions here lately with lots of RAIN.  The boys love all of the green, and the moss and the vines growing everywhere.  The rivers, lakes, canals and waterways also provide a nice touch to the city, however there is a mosquito problem. LEFT: Here are the boys today, near Lingyin temple enjoying the rain on an 80 degree day.

The classrooms are not air-conditioned, so it gets downright HOT in there with 20 or 30 people inside.  The classroom windows are always wide open and the fans on at high-speed, but I still find myself sweating while teaching!

We're excited to see our family and friends back in Prescott but we'll sure miss our friends here!  Let's make the most of our next 30 days!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Song Dynasty Park

Today we visited a park whose theme has been taken from the Song Dynasty.  We went with Alice, Guido and Francesco, and Damiano and Stefania.  Here are Guido, Peter, Stefania and Damiano pictured below.

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We arrived at the park early in the day, and this merchant was awaiting his first sales...Hangzhou 004

Colorful decorations everywhere, and all could be had for the right price!
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These pots were set aside to age vinegar, and you could sure tell with your nose!
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Peter enjoyed looking around but became tired quickly as it was SO HOT and HUMID out.  We all did a good bit of sweating!
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LEFT: A sign for a shop that sells the vinegar, and RIGHT:  Some horesemen wandered through town, all decked out in period garb.
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Here they come again looking handsome, but very menacing!
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Damiano and Stefania, looking around the Song park.

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There was an old pharmacy there, and we smelled something interesting...
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Aah, here's the smell!  Some Chinese medicinal tea cooking over the fire.  Very pungent!  It'll cure what ails ya!
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Next, we found some period clothing to try on.  It was SO HOT and HUMID, so what did we do?  Put on more clothes!  Here's Queen Sue.
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The King and one of his Princes...
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The other Prince is just back from conquering other warlords, no worse for wear!  An of course we have our own Chinese Princess!
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In our royal wear with the waterfall as the background.  There's also another waterfall going on under my shirt!
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Our three little royals, ready to assume the throne.
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Jack was be-knighted by King Damiano.
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Guido, Francesco and Alice, looking marvelous in their Song clothing.
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Stefania and Damiano also took a short rest on the bridge...
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All of the grown-ups... Thanks to Peter for taking this shot for us!

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More ancient Chinese Song artifacts to buy...

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In the middle of this theme park there was a water feature with rope swings, hanging rings, and a pond with lots of floating obstacles on it.  The kids had a really good time here.  Sue and Sophie crossed the rope bridge...

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Peter also took his turn...
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He also enjoyed running across the water obstacles.
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Jack easily swung on the rings across the lake.  I was amazed!
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Success!  However, no skin left on the hands...
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Peter, Jack, Sophie and Sue crossed this floating log obstacle...
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Here is Sophie before falling in...Hangzhou 122

... and AFTER!
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Sophie is certainly not one to complain about going around mostly naked, however.  In fact, it is her preferred state.Hangzhou 147

The kids found some historic figure's lap to sit on.  However, all of the signs in this park were in Chinese, so we had no idea who it is.
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Jack enjoyed a bowl of cold pasta containing cucumbers, hot pepper flakes, and vinegar.  Delicious!
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Usually, he isn't up for these types of poses, but today he was being a really good sport.
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They found their own hamster wheel to run in.  Maybe we could use this to generate electricity back in the U.S.!
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Jack gonged a bell that could be heard for miles around...
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This drummer played, while a man balanced a ping pong ball on a stick, on top of which was another stick which balanced a glass.  Impressive!
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Cooking lunch. Yum, looks good!
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Sophie whispers a secret to her buddy, Francesco.
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They were watching a little puppet show / musician act and they were both engrossed by it.
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Love this little boy's hairstyle!
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The two buddies, exploring the Song park...
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So many things for sale on this busy little street!Hangzhou 217

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Candied fruit...
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... and decorative fans for this HOT day!
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