Weekend 2

This was a 3 day holiday weekend in China.  May 1 is May Day, like Labor Day in the US.  So Tim got an extra day off and we had a great weekend.  On Saturday, Rodney showed us around the area near his hotel, and we met Karen and Yusef too.  The sun was shining for the first day in many, and throngs of people were out.  Sunday, we opted for a French afternoon.  A group had invited us to go on a picnic to the Botanical Garden, but rain prevented that.  We ended up at Annique’s home for the indoor picnic.  Thankfully, the weather broke and the whole group (9 adults and 7 children) went on a walk along the river.  It was interesting for us to get the American perspective on Saturday and then the French perspective on Sunday.  Two languages will afford us the opportunity to broaden our relationships in Shenyang, and make more friends.  Finally, on Monday, we navigated something on our own.  We had read about Clash of the Titans showing in English, so we taxied up there and communicated with the ticket folks, 3D glasses guy, and even the bathroom attendant.  And the rest of the afternoon, we repeatedly said to each other, “We went to the movies in China today.”  Next week, Iron Man 2!

Things are going well so far for Tim at work.  It is busy, but his predecessor will continue showing him the ropes until sometime in June.  We should start our Mandarin lessons here soon.  We’ll do that separately, but with the same goal in mind; to communicate in daily life and in traveling.  It looks like we will move into our apartment around the 17th.  No pictures yet though.  The following week, the last week of May, our cats will arrive while Tim is gone to Poland and then Thailand.  I am not looking forward to Tim being away, but we are both excited and anxious about the cats’ trip and arrival!

Thanks for all the great emails and comments.  Continue to enjoy!

Weekend 1

On Saturday, we took the standard city tour.  It was an interesting mix of business and sights.  They were kind enough to take us to the supercenter to buy a phone, then to China Mobile for the sim card and service.  That’s how they do things here.  They also took us to the Metro superstore, which requires a membership, so that required some navigation.  We could not have done this without the guide/ translator.  Angela and Michele (their western names, of course) were lifesavers.

Among the sights we saw was the Shenyang Imperial Palace, built in the 1600’s, the only other Palace of its kind outside of Beijing.  It was a quick view so I’m sure we’ll go back and see it again for a closer look.  While there, we passed by a gorgeous little girl on a pedal bike.  Angela translated when the little girl’s Grandmother told her to send me a flying kiss.  So sweet.  So I blew one back and she posed for a sassy picture.

There is so much construction going on in this city.  It seems to be apartment buildings, for the most part, but there are hotels going up too.  That, and the wind off the desert, makes for a dusty city sometimes.  That, and a booming economy, make for a haze in the sky most days. 

For my fellow foodies out there, you will be happy to know there has been some traditional Chinese dining since we arrived.  On our city tour, the guides took us for lunch at a large local restaurant.  We had three kinds of steamed dumplings (egg & tomato, egg & leek, and pork & vegetable), fried dumplings of vegetables, soup with mushrooms and tofu, fried pumpkin slices, and sweet and sour pork.  They chose wisely and we were not disappointed.  Michele also wrote out the names of the dishes in characters so we could order it again if we wanted to, or we could just point and be surprised.

Perhaps one of the most interesting things we observed on this city tour was the traffic.  In a city of 7.5 million people, where the statistics say they are adding 400 new cars per day.  We have seen everything from the Chinese brands to Buicks, a Camaro and even a Bentley.  I guess I expected a lot of small cars like there are in Europe, but the newer cars are all full size.  Oh, and speaking of Europe, where I hated to see a moped coming, or rather, hear a moped coming, the mopeds and motorized bikes in China are electric.  They are not adding to the cacophony of noise on these crazy streets.  The Michelin folks had told us that we would not be able to drive here; they said it was because the rules are relatively the same, but the methods are very different.  Yeah, very different.  Tim believes that there is a system to all the honking, but I’m not sure.  Red lights seem to be only a suggestion for some.  And there is an unspoken accord between drivers, pedalers and pedestrians that one will not hit another.  Be aware, cars come very close when you are crossing the street, and you are expected to keep walking because there is timing to the whole relationship.

Observations from a 36 hour Trip

In no particular order, these are observations from our trip from Lexington, South Carolina (dep 4/21/10) to Shenyang, China (arr 4/23/10).

We thought our bags could only be 50 pounds, but learned the night before they could be 70 each.  That would have been a lot too manage, so it just saved us an extra carry on.  Tim and I, along with our 208 pounds of luggage made it 10,000 or so miles over the last couple of days.

It was interesting for us to realize that it would be the last time in South Carolina until Ann’s 2011 Clemson graduation.

Tim’s big observation was that business class = good.  And the lie “flat” seat with a real pillow and blanket make a 14-hour leg a little more bearable.  The dessert cart rolling up the aisle of business class was pretty darn impressive to me.

We were in 4 countries in 2 days with our various stops, which means I went to the restroom in 4 countries (and 3 time zones) in 2 days).  Tokyo was a model of efficiency, living up to their reputation.  On the flight from Tokyo to Seoul, we were served an amazing bento box with 2 rice dishes, a sesame meatball, and a pink gelatinous (sp?) blob that neither of us could identify.  We tried it all though; we won’t miss a food experience. 

Upon entering Asian airports, we noticed the heat sensors at the arrival gates.  These help identify if someone is sick.  If so, they are whisked off to a quarantine office a few steps away.  When we arrived in China, we had to complete a form as a part of the immigration paperwork, attesting to our lack of flu-like symptoms and that we hadn’t come into contact with any sick people recently.

We stayed overnight at the Air Garden Hotel at Incheon airport in Seoul. This hotel is within the security limits, inside the airport, which makes check out and departure very easy.  This 8 hour stay in a hotel helped us get some quiet rest and a shower before actually arriving in Shenyang bright and early on a Friday morning.  This stay also prevented us from having to sleep on the many benches, lounges and even floors in the airport.  We saw just how many people did though.  We were so thankful for the Korean Air lounge with food, coffee and a beautiful red can to greet me.

Before going to sleep at the hotel in Seoul, we got some bottled water at the 24 hour stand.  We had not gotten any Korean money, so Tim used a credit card.  I wondered if he had warned Capital One that there would be expenditures in China….

Here are some pictures in a slide show from our first day.  A view from our hotel room with a slight haze in the sky.  A view of one of the many construction projects in Shenyang.  Pictures of our first meals; noodles (Julie) and fried rice (Tim).  The well know red can welcoming us.

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Coming soon … Responses to the Top Ten questions we’ve been asked over the last few months.

Leaving on Wednesday

April 18, 2010 – We have had so much going on over the last few weeks, or rather few months, and now our departure is coming down to the wire.  Tomorrow, Tim will be driving back from North Carolina after having dropped off the cats at their temporary home with Joanne & Ron.  It seems Piper just moved right in and made herself at home.  Bandit eventually came out from under a couch to find a better sleeping spot on the cushy chair.  Daisy was still slow coming around; I’m not sure how long she’ll be under that couch, but eventually she’ll have to eat.

In addition, tomorrow should be the second and final day of our visit from the movers and packers.  Our house is full of boxes and random furniture.  I understand that the truck will be here in the morning to load up the storage items.  We hope to see all that stuff again in 4 years.  We are allowed to take up to 525 kilograms in an air shipment that will reach us in China eventually.  They’ll finish that packing tomorrow and weigh it.  Let’s all say a quick prayer that everything comes in under the weight limit.

So that’s Monday.  On Tuesday, we have last minute errands and some appointments, and dinner with friends.  And on Wednesday, we’ll turn in rental cars and take off.  We’ll fly from Columbia to Atlanta, and I’ll wonder if we’ll ever make that flight again.  Then Atlanta to Tokyo, the 14 hour leg that will hopefully yield at least a few hours sleep.  We have a short layover in Tokyo, then on to Seoul.  By this time, it will be Thursday night, local time in Korea.  We’ll overnight in Incheon’s airport hotel, then make a very short flight to Shenyang, China Friday morning. 

Tomorrow, I will celebrate my last Monday in South Carolina for a very long time.  And by the end of the week, we’ll be finding our way in our new home.  I will contemplate that as I fall asleep tonight.