Thursday, March 15, 2012

...just around the neighborhood...

Of course, we could be taking photos constantly…and sometimes we are! (loving the Panasonic Lumix, thanks again Ed & CarissaJ)

Some sites are recorded with specific people in mind, and Ben said, “Are you sure you’ll remember to show them when we get back?”  So, I’ll make a note of who we specifically thought of the moment we snapped it…and maybe the rest of you might find them kind of neat too. 

These are just random photos taken while we’ve been out and about.  We took several today during our 2 hour walk around the area.   

If we are going to learn the language here, the park may be the best place to practice.  This man wanted to chat, and we exhausted our vocabulary in 15 words, but he was very happy to have his photo taken with Ben.  Behind them is a monument to the archaeological accomplishments regarding the historical city wall.  
 There are people of all ages enjoying the space, which is well kept, accessible, and with a nice variety of non-motorized equipment that are like treadmills, ellipticals, and here, Ben is using a back massager. 

 Kevin and Stacey had told us about the parks with unique exercise equipment and legions of ping-pong tables, and we discovered this one right across from the school.  

These “public health clubs” are amazing.  The Chinese really are constantly thinking about their health and good living habits.  Hopefully on a more sunny day, I’ll get a more comprehensive view of how impressive these parks really are.

While we were walking in the park, we spotted this couple in western wedding attire accompanied by professional photographers.  I’m not sure if they were just having photos or having a wedding.  There are parlors here where people can just get dressed up as a bride and groom for photos only.  Naturally, *Rachel Taylor came to mind J.  If you don’t know who she is, please look at her website: .  She’s Ben’s cousin, and whenever we think we are taking a lot of photos, we mention her name J and realize we are mere novices!

Komatsu equipment reminds us of *Adam Trebolo, of course.  We’ve seen several on construction sites and spotted this one on the highway en rte from the Terra Cotta Warriors tour yesterday.  The highways are unbelievably well maintained, with people out sweeping the sides of these major roads with little brooms.  We have yet to see a pothole in the shiny new highways.  Of course, there are narrower bumpy streets in town, but most of the roads near here are excellent.  That’s a good thing, because the driving habits of the populous here certainly don’t need the complication of swerving to avoid Detroit style “speedbumps”.

The city has put a lot of effort into landscaping, which, in this dry area, is quite a feat.  Their method of helping the trees retain moisture and stay straight is to use ropes wrapped around the trunk and then add a layer of plastic and they dump water into the top of the plastic sleeve.  *thought of Uncle John at the tree nursery J

When we deplaned in Xi’an, one of the first billboards we saw was this great advertisement for beef.  I said, “We have to take a photo of this for *Dad!”  Also, perhaps Myers Meats would like to open a store in China?  The man from Shanghai that we met on the Detroit flight told us that one of his favorite foods to eat in the States is steak.  These folks eat lots of soy and veggies, but plenty of meat as well. 

As forecast, we had rain this morning and the temp was around 40 degrees.  Although we needed to pull out every layer of clothing we’d packed to keep out the chill, the rain succeeded in clearing the smog away somewhat.  Here are Ben, Kevin, Stacey and Carrie leaving our apt bldg this morning.  Due to the rain, our trip to the Muslim Quarter/Market was postponed and we went to the history museum. 

…and this is a snapshot taken for the enjoyment of all the engineers/electricians/construction workers…can you see the wires wrapped up on the poles in the upper righthand corner of this photo?

...and if the sight of the wiring gives palpitations, fear not...we discovered this medical facility nestled among at least 4 pharmaceutical factories on our walk.  Actually, it is nice to know we are not far away, and this really looks like a good place...if you need it...hope we don't!

Ben and I were in the high-tech factory zone, near the clinic.  Note the very modern cars.  If you have seen Ben’s blog, you’ll already know that not everyone here has the same style of vehicles.  Also, note the sidewalks.  Most of the sidewalks in this area are done in these colorful tiles. 

We’ve seen this puppy a few times now.  It is evident he owns the place.  Dogs are very popular here, and we’ve seen all shapes and sizes.  This morning at the gatekeepers’ building here at the school, someone had a beautiful border collie. 

While the attendant was fueling the bus, Kevin went in to get a drink.  I’m not sure if the name of the gas station mandates that no one complain about gas prices?

 ...and this is our "Magic Schoolbus"...oh the places we go and the things that we see...Ms. Frizzle's class has nothing over on us!  With Mr. Chen at the wheel and Xiaolan as our guide, we've had a great couple of days.  We've been working on digital fieldtrip projects to use in the classrooms when we return to Lexington, and there has certainly been plenty of raw material!  Tomorrow we will be entering the Chinese classrooms.  Stacey and I will go to the primary school.  Ben will be here at the high school along with the others.  

Good Night!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

...what we are eating...


The food here in Xi'an has certainly lived up to its reputation.  Outstanding.  Flavorful.  Diverse.  Plentiful.  Definitely plentiful.  I am mentally reviewing meals we have served our Chinese friends in Lexington, and wondering what they think when they sit down to a table with only 4-5 bowls/plates of food. 

Here is a snapshot from the lazy susan at the local restaurant the driver, Mr. Chen, suggested yesterday.  We each had bowls of pumpkin soup and then there were 2 other soups as well as bread (not pictured), and this photo was taken after 2 or 3 dishes had already been removed.

This is a spinach tofu dish (as far as I could tell).  It was delicious.  However, there are very few vegetarian dishes in this country...lots of very tasty meat.

Our driver, Mr. Chen (who has nerves of steel and total control of the wheel...thankfully!), with the utensil they use to make a specific kind of noodle.  He hollered to the kitchen for them to bring one to supplement his excellent "sign" language. be continued...

On Tuesday, Madame Wang, the principal, and Xiaolan, the international coordinator, took us to eat "Hot Pot" at a very nice restaurant.  The tables have a sunken center with gas burners and a large pot of boiling broth with various meats and vegetables.  Then you take a small soup bowl to what I'll call a "sauces and seasonings bar" and you create your own sauce.  Back at your table, broth from the communal pot is added to each person's individual sauce.  Then plates of raw meat and vegetables are brought to the table and you add whatever you want to the pot an fish it out with your chopsticks when it floats to the top (indicating it is cooked).

 Our friendly server with butterfly shrimp.

Many kinds of noodles are also brought, including a beet noodle, sweet potato noodle and a fancy noodle created during a performance that resembles a skillful lasso-ist.  After he finished swinging these noodles, each table received a pile to add to their hot pot.  You can see the principal and Xiaolan in the background.  They are wearing red aprons (just like Ben above:) provided by the restaurant because the meal can be easy to wear.  This place has creature comforts down to an art form.  Need a hair tie or glasses cleaner?  Provided before you were distracted enough from the food to even realize you needed them!

While the restaurant meals have certainly been a welcome treat, our regular fare is fairly hard to beat.  Here is a snapshot I took of Ben this evening in the canteen.  We eat breakfast and supper there.  For less than    5 yuan, we have a great meal.  (That is less than $1USD for both of us)  I will say, sometimes we are unsure what exactly we are eating in our soup.  The other night it definitely looked like octopus, which was very sweet.  Another new item we finally identified with the help of other teachers is lotus root.

We eat the noon meal on the next floor in the regular dining room.  Although you can't see any students in the background, there were several on the other side of the dining hall, and many were scurrying in and out to keep an eye on the basketball games in the main courtyard.

My chopsticks skills are improving.  Its also encouraging to know that it is quite acceptable to pick up your bowl and drink the soup!  Also, the rice is pretty sticky, that's another bonus.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

...from Detroit to Shanghai...

Ben's parents took us to the Bluegrass Airport Saturday morning and we flew to Detroit.

Of course, at the Horse Capital of the World, one would not be surprised to find an airplane just for horses!
(I guess horses don't need windows:)
Our nephew, Jacob, was wondering which direction we would be flying.  He is very interested in finding places on his globe.  The flight trail took us up across the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and the clear skies allowed a nice view of the Great Lakes!  We continued on over Hudson Bay and further toward the top of the globe.
Ben took some photos from the window seat.  To see his account of today, go to his blog at

I found out from our seat mate that Chinese people believe in drinking a lot of water. (I'm going to like China :) When I mentioned the standard advice of 8 glasses a day that Americans advocate, he informed me that amount would be considered the minimum!  Ice water is not popular, nor considered healthy.  Rather, hot and warm water is recommended. Here is a photo from the Shanghai airport, likely common here, but new to us.

We found a comfortable hotel near the airport where we are glad to rest and regroup before the final leg of our trip tomorrow to Xi'an.  Interestingly, the door key card also activates the electricity for the room.

Our group is to meet at the airport with the director of the school and travel together to the campus.

somewhere over the tundra...

Ben working on his blog for Spanish students about the adventures of Pepe.  Check it out even if you don't speak Spanish!

The local time is 12 hours ahead of eastern time zone, so we have essentially skipped ahead a half day.

Good Night in Mandarin Chinese - 晚安 wǎn ān