Friday, September 26, 2008

Chinese National Holiday

Well, it's that time of year again - Chinese National Holiday. This is a five day holiday that runs from October 1st through the 5th, but because it starts on a Wednesday this year, most of China will work this Saturday and Sunday so that they can take Monday and Tuesday off, giving them a full 7 day holiday.

Great, we do like these Chinese week long holidays. But because the whole country is off, tourist places in China tend to get a bit crowded, so we tend to leave the country during these breaks. Last year at this time we headed south and went to Vietnam, this year we are heading north to the wide open spaces of Mongolia.

So once again, we will most likely be without access to an internet so we will not be posting until we return home on the 5th. I'm sure that we will have tons of stories and even more photos, so it's something for you to look forward to.

Tonight we overnight in Beijing, then it's a 08:00 flight off to Ulaanbaatar and a week of riding yaks and staying in yurts....

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Another friends time is up....

As we've written a few times lately, a few of our expat friends time is China is coming to an end and they are moving back home...

First the Mexicans family moved home, then two weeks later the Mexican followed them. Just last week it was Jose and Edlin's turn to take their leave of China. Each time somebody was leaving we'd get together with them for a nice last goodbye, and a small party with friends.

This week our Canadian friend, 老Joe is leaving. He flies out tomorrow, and due to the time constraints it has been hard to get together with him. So he called us last night around 19:00 and wanted to get together at 21:00 for a last bottle of wine over at Temptations....

We're not going to refuse that, so off we trot to Temptations just before 21:00 and get a nice bottle of wine. A quick call into Joe to see where he is but there is no answer. Huh, we've had him do this before where we make plans and then he decides that he's too tired and just goes to bed. We ended up just enjoying that bottle of wine all by ourselves, and our several calls and text messages went unanswered.

If we were nicer caring people we would have maybe worried about him. Today he emails and call to apologize, apparently he ended up going out for drinks with people from work.

But, as luck would have it, we will both be in Beijing tomorrow night, so we have planned for a final going away get together up there. We wonder if he'll blow us off again, this time on his last night in China...

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Just when we thought we were done..

Well, just when I thought we had said all of our goodbyes, and sent Edlin and Jose off, I received a call from Edlin saying that she had forgotten her camera bag.

Could we please retrieve it from the hotel and send it to her when we get back to the U.S over the holidays? Of course.

The nice surprise was that there was a package waiting for us; one bottle of Champagne and a nice bottle of red wine.


It was bittersweet to see Edlin and Jose leave. Sad they are leaving, but happy as we ended up with a fridge full of food and some nice bottles of wine. It just saved me a shopping trip to Metro.

On another note, this past weekend we found out that 老 Joe (old Joe) will be leaving Xiamen, for good as we had known already, except his departure has been moved up by about 2 months.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Typhoon Hagupit

Well its' that time of year, when Taiwan, Hong Kong and Xiamen, are in the midst of typhoon season. Most times, the typhoons taper out by the time it travels to Xiamen, though Taiwan and Hong Kong are not so lucky.

Todays typhoon, Hagupit, seems like it may stay a little longer. Tropical storm watch has labeled it a category 3, of a scale out of 5.

For the past two days, though sunny, winds have gusted upwards of 55 kms per hour. By the way the sound of the wind blasting through our place you would think it was more than that. It hit Taiwan with winds reaching upwards of 140kms per hour and now it's on its way here. The past day and a half, the wind was so strong, that we didn't even hear the lovely sounds of construction going on below us. Personally, I prefer the wind.

I tried to capture the wind on a couple of quick movie clips to give you an idea.

video

video

The best part is that the laundry is dry within an hour.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Market

It felt like weeks since Mark and I went through the markets and alleyways of Xiamen, so yesterday we spent a couple of hours taking pictures.

This time I decided to shoot in black and white to get a different prespective of the people in the market.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

And now they're gone.

So, this past week whilst I was working down in Dongguan, China (not a beautiful place), Tina was filling her time with showing Edlin a great final week in Xiamen.

Friday afternoon Tina gathered a lot of Edlin's friends and gave her a nice farewell lunch.
I flew back up to Xiamen Friday evening, and then Tina, Edlin, Jose, and I met for dinner at a local Chinese restaurant - the Mao Restaurant. Good food, and from there we head where? That's right Temptations. Jose and Edlin had bought a couple cases of wine from them earlier in the year when they thought they would be staying longer, so we offered to try and help them finish some of them. It was fun an relaxing evening, for as we knew the big farewell party would be the next night - Saturday.

So, Saturday was another full day of running around and having fun. Tina took Edlin to get her hair washed....Jose and I toured around the city on the new BRT bus line, wandered the alleys, and stumbled upon a Chinese fashion show.
Then it was off to Portofino for a nice Italian dinner before heading out for the night.
Over at You & Me 2 we had quite the group of friends for their farewell party. Good music, drinks and just laughing over all that they we able to see and enjoy in their time over here. Jose even got up and sang with the band...

From You & Me 2 over to The Key, a newer nightclub that has a pretty good live band. We had some good seats upstairs where we could enjoy ourselves while most of the group headed down to the dance floor...It was a good night, nothing too crazy - we were home and in bed by 02:00, but we think that it was a good sendoff for our friends. They were up and out first thing this morning, returning to the states where they too now need to move from their old home base of St. Louis up to Seattle.

We will miss them, they were good friends and Edlin was invaluable in her knowledge of where to get anything you could ever need in Xiamen. I wouldn't be surprised if Tina ends up having to put a call into her sometime in the near future when she's looking for something.....

Friday, September 19, 2008

All in a day's work!

The other day as I was looking out our window, I saw ropes dangling down from the top floor from our building, which has 37 floors.

I look down to see what's going on, and find that workers are trying to get a narrow long piece of wood or piece of furniture to the top of our building. It took about 40 minutes to get to our floor, so thinking it probably took about another 30 minutes to get to the top.


There is a man at the top

They had another 5 pieces to go!


All in a day's work!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Edlin's first and only debut!

Yesterday was the start of the new expat season. This is the time of year when the monthly luncheons begin, as many expats are returning from their summer vacations back home, or not returning at all, while the new expats are looking to make friends and get some advice on living here in Xiamen.

As expats leave, many times they have more than their share of stuff to dispose of. Edlin and Jose are no exception. Before the luncheon a few of us stopped by Edlin's little mini mart to do a little shopping.

Edlin's grocery store

As for these luncheons, I generally don't go to them, however, since Edlin became the President of this organization, and it was the first and only luncheon that she was to plan, I promised her that I would support her.

Edlin's debut as President

We had the luncheon along with some speeches, particularly, Edlin asking if anyone wanted to become president of this gig. As you can imagine, not a lot of takers.

Later, the dice game, was followed by lunch.


Again, I left with tissues, notebooks, lotions, etc. This is like Christmas, except I don't have to spend any money.

After the stress of planning this luncheon, Edlin, Siew and I decided to go for a foot massage. We figure this may be the last one before Edlin departs, and it just so happened to be at the same hotel, the Millenium, where we we had the luncheon.

Edlin enjoying possibly one of her last foot massages in China

Siew enjoying her foot massage, though not her last

We chatted for about 20 minutes, and the next thing you know the three of us were sound asleep, until one of us starting snoring...

..and no it wasn't me!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Never thought I would eat this....

Yesterday, I was had dinner with the Temptations and Nationwide team to celebrate the mid- autumn festival. As everyone is aware by now, Temptations is the wine bar/restaurant here in Xiamen where Mark and I live, and Nationwide is the company owned by the same team which imports and exports wine from around the world to establishments in Xiamen, Fuzhou and Shanghai.

We went to a place called Little Sheep, where it's basically a hot pot restaurant, where they had two different soups in one huge bowl. One side is extremely spicy, while the other is a more mild version. Here one selects the meats, vegetables, fish, whatever you would like, toss it in for a few minutes to cook and basically pick your food out of this pot. Mark and I have gone to Good Taste near our house on many occasions, the difference here is that I went with 20 odd Chinese, so you can bet the food they ordered wasn't going to be the same as the food Mark and I order.


After Shelley mixes the sauces together, off hot oil, raw egg, soy sauce, and a few other things that I had no clue about, we received our dip.

Before the food came out, everyone was already doing their best to get their fellow mate drunk. The gunbeis started very quickly and within one hour, we already went through 2 boxes of Tsingtao.

One table held the Temptations team and the next table had the Nationwide team. The newest employee had to go around each person on the other table and toast each person. Some were a little more enthusiastic then others.

The Temptations Team


The Nationwide Team

Next comes the various plates which consisted of lotus, string mushrooms, potatoes,lettuce, spinach duck's blood, lamb, fish balls, and of course, one plate I never thought I would eat, pig's brain. It wasn't that bad actually. The consistency was a little on the soft side, but the taste was quite good.

The pig's brain

Throughout the meal, the drinks continued with the staff becoming more boisterous as everyone cheered everyone. I think Gordon won for the most consumption of alcohol.

Later unbeknownst to me, the night was to continue at a KTV. Here we were to sing, drink some more, and play the dice game. After all, it is the mid-autumn festival.

Well as usual, the dice game is always a big favorite, especially when there are prizes to be won.
The one thing that we enjoy about the dice game is that the Chinese give practical gifts. People won woks, toasters, detergent, toothbrushes, etc. I won a steamer, which is good since we don't have an iron, Kleenex, and shampoo.


Some of the prizes

Afterwards, singing and drinking ensued.

The two chef's from Temptations,Hong (also owner) and Icen

Allen (one of the owner's)

Temptations staff, Ice, Hong, and the newest member, Martin

Meanwhile, Gordon, who was the rock star earlier in the night, quickly found a nice corner to sleep.


The Chinese do love to party!

Monday, September 15, 2008

The next group to leave.....

Now that the Mexican is back home, safe and sound, or so we assume, it's time to turn our attention to Edlin and Jose, who will be the next of our group to depart China.

This is their last week, and final preparations are underway. They picked up their clothes from the tailors over the weekend as they had business suits made, evening dresses, shirts etc. Hey, why buy clothes in the U.S, when you can have them made tailor made here in China for a fraction of the price. Edlin had a winter wool coat made for 170 RMB, about 30 USD.

This rest of the week will be for Edlin to enjoy her final week in China. We have foot and body massages, pedicures, facials and a host of other events, scheduled for her. I'm not sure about her, but I know I'll be exhausted and broke. Ah, but the fun we will have.

Though it's tough for us, who are still here to say good bye to our friends, we also know that as expats depart, others arrive, which makes being an expat very interesting.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Farewell to the Mexican

Today was the crazy Mexican's last day in Xiamen, so last night we met up with him for a few drinks and to wish him well.

It was a nice day, Tina and I met up with friends Howard and Juan for yet another excellent dinner at Temptations and then the four of us wandered over to one of our favorite bars, My Way. We've mentioned My Way before, it's a tiny little pub with seating for about 8 people and when we got in there last night it was jam packed. Luckily, after standing cramped in the corner of the bar for about 5 minutes, the people sitting in the small room upstairs left and we wandered up there to sit and enjoy. Our friend 老Joe met us there and then about 20 minutes later the Mexican finish having his farewell dinner with other friends and he joined us.

Good times. It was nice to sit and reminisce about the fun and parties that we went to at the Mexican's house. The rest of his family had moved back to the states a few weeks ago and he was here just finishing up some final items, so he'll be glad to get back home and be with his family. Once home in San Diego he has to gather up the family and move them all up to Seattle where he's now been relocated. So, at least now we've got some good friends that we will be able to go and visit in Seattle....

Saturday, September 13, 2008

A new expat

There comes a time when it's your turn to impose your knowledge to a newbie. Today was my day, to help a young new expat, named Amber.

She arrived approximately one month ago, and is living in Xiamen until the end of this year. She contacted us, through our blog, inquiring about a tailor. After a few emails we confirmed a date, place and time to meet. Today was the day.

We first went to the material market in search for material. Amber seemed a bit overwhelmed by the fact that there were so many stores in one place, not to mention the various types of material one can buy. I took her to my favorite places where we bartered down the prices, (this is why we love China!) and purchased meters of material. This is becoming my favorite past time, going through the market and having clothes tailored made for us.

After getting a business card for Amber so she can return to the material market, we took a taxi to the tailor. His English is limited at best but we were able to get across what Amber was looking for, or we hope we did anyway. I picked up the remainder of my clothes, and and dropped some more material for him to make some more outfits.

After a few hours we finished and we will be head back in a couple of weeks to see the results of Amber's clothes.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Mid Autumn Festival

Well as Mark mentioned, this is the time of year when everyone is out and about buying, celebrating, drinking, visiting family and playing dice.

Yesterday, Edlin and I went to SM, the largest mall in Xiamen to purchase party gifts for the expat luncheon on Tuesday, so we can also play the dice game. Generally I avoid the expat luncheons but since Edlin is the president, and I offered to support her during her reign, I got suckered into helping her. The only saving grace is that she's moving, and I only have to attend to one of these functions, but I digress.

We enter the Walmart to purchase the gifts, and let me tell you, it's worse than black Friday, which is the Friday after the American Thanksgiving. Most of the customers had three to four buggies worth of merchandise. It's amazing how they can push through you as if you weren't' even there.

Amazing during this time of year, the Chinese buy practical things, such as Tupperware, notebooks, toilet paper, creams, towels and oil which seems to be the most popular item. We went and purchased Kleenex, Tupperware, makeup, brushes, candles, etc.

Let's just say that the enthusiasm in which the Chinese purchase their goods, would deem them worthy of a gold medal. Perhaps, the Olympic committee should, consider this as a sport. Somehow, I think the Chinese would sweep in this event.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Mid-Autumn Festival

It's that time of year again here in China, time for the Mid-Autumn Festival and all of the fun that it brings. I'm not sure exactly what it is, other than a holiday (wikipedia has this) where everyone gifts mooncakes to everyone they know. Mooncakes are the Chinese equivalent of our fruit cakes, delicious and good for you...

As added fun, here is Xiamen they also play a dice game called BoBing. This is apparently a game that was started here several hundred of years ago as a way to keep soldiers in the navy from missing home during this holiday.
Basically it just tossing six dice into a large mixing bowl and hoping for the best possible combination to come up. Yep, it requires that much skill. The best roll - four fours and two ones.
Back in the day they must've say around like this a played while enjoying their mooncakes. Now every store or restaurant you go into will have a bowl and you can roll and maybe win a prize. Tina's already won 30RMB off a massage and two free manicures, I've won a stick of gum.

It's strange because you walk around all you hear are the sounds of dice rattling in a bowl. They have them at work too, and you can't go 20 minutes before you'll hear the dice as someone is practicing for that big roll that they'll need later....

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

CIFIT

Here is Xiamen now is CIFIT, a hugh trade fair that apparently is a big deal. They've been doing all sorts of city beautification before this event, and now they adjust traffic regulations similar to what was done in Beijing for the Olympics - odd/even plates and that sort of thing.

But, one of the perks of Xiamen showing off what a great place they are is that they put on a great fireworks show. So, the other night we went over to You & Me 2 with Jose, Edlin, and the Mexican to take in the show.

With that we will just leave you with our photos -