Monday, March 30, 2009

Changing the water.

Yesterday we took our standard stroll through the markets near us, but this time we saw something that we hadn't seen before.

One of the vendors was cleaning out the fish tank that they keep their fish of the day in. Fish tank? Well, the small stryofoam box that the fish are always kept in, who knew that these things needed to be cleaned?

But where do they put the fish while they are cleaning out their tank?
Yep, they just throw them out on the street...

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Getting stuffs done....

This weekend is one where we just get caught up on all of the little things that we need to get done. Since we just received our latest mail packet from Canadia we were able to finally submit our taxes - and feel really good about the birthday gift that was included for Tina.

So, we caught up on bills, did our taxes, booked some hotels for when we head down to Heather and Mike's wedding in May, and for when Tina's friends come to visit in a few weeks. We moved some more movies and music onto our iTunes - we're getting closer to finally getting all of Mike's music loaded.

Oh, and what Tina was proud to take photos of, is that I decided to take our toilet apart and fix it so that it wouldn't continue to run after we flushed it....
Yes, we know that we re renting an apartment and we could just call them in to fix it. We did that before - after about 9 months our toilet started having problems and eventually we complained. He sent in a service guy and they replaced everything - of course he cracked the porcelain on the bowl which would leak slightly until we lowered the float. The new plunger system lasted about 3 months before it stared to stick.
I think that is something standard in the way things are here - things don't seem to last much past the 6 month mark. I pulled it all apart, it was just poorly molded parts and maybe some bad design - nothing that a knife can't correct. I also caulked up the crack in the bowl so that we can get a proper full flush again.

So yeah, that's what our weekend activities are, standard boring stuffs but don't worry, Barb and Nancy are coming in on the 10th of April so we will once again have guest bloggers and something for you all to enjoy reading....

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Love our market!

Our market has just about anything one could want, from crazy looking fish, to a variety of meat, live birds of your choice, and of course, fruits, nuts and vegetables.

So just when I thought the market had everything, I noticed a new vendor selling their products.

Yup, we can now buy alcohol. It's like shopping at Walmart but cheaper!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Who's says I'm bored...

on average most Americans spend up to 4 hours of television per night, and while that may be the case, I often wonder how many hours we waste/entertain ourselves with the computer.

Sure, there are nights we need to work, rather I'm talking about surfing the web, reading blogs, playing solitaire, reading the news, talking to friends, emails etc.

Usually, my morning is doing just that, reading emails, blogs, news, talking to friends back home via IM, uploading photos, and researching information. It makes sense given the time difference. That being said, the past week, I have been sitting at the computer for about 5 hours each day, researching two things, Japan and a new cell phone.

Japan,I figured I could research what sights we wanted to visit, and find a hotel close to the areas in Kyoto, or close to transportation. After choosing hotels that were moderately priced, and being told that they were sold out, I went online to figure out why. I understand Kyoto is very lovely and very busy, but this seemed rather odd that they only hotels were in the $300USD price range. Yup, Mark and I are travelling in one of the busiest times in Japan. While we thought we were smart leaving China to avoid the holidays, we discovered that we will arriving right at the start of the Golden Week. Well, at least it explains why we couldn't find a hotel. So, now we are on to plan B, booking a hotel in Tokyo (most of the Japanese leave Tokyo and Osaka during the holidays) and taking day trips.

As for cell phones, that's another story. My phone doesn't have the best sound quality, so we decided a new phone was in order. Here in China, since landlines are pretty much non-existent, most people have cell phones, and since China has a vast pool of potential buyers, competition is stiff. It's great that we have vast amount of phones that we can choose from, it's also overwhelming. Last time we purchased phones, we had just arrived in China and was taken to SM, one of the larger malls in Xiamen. The entire floor (which is a few city blocks long) is dedicated to selling phones. Aside from the hordes of people, the phones all started to look alike, so this time, I figured I will research ahead of time.
I finally decided on the phone, the Nokia, N82, and hope it's as good as the reviews say as it's getting hard having a one sided conversation.

My plan is to walk in, pay for it, and leave with my new phone. The goal is to have this completed is less than 30 minutes but seeing as we're in China one never knows..I'm optimistic.

Welcome home....

So when I arrived home from work today this was stuck just outside our doorway...
It's a little hard to see, so I got you a close up view too...
Yep, it's our electricity bill. Normally they just deduct what ever they feel we used every month from a bank account that our landlord set up for us. I'd like to say that it's based on meter readings but the amounts vary too wildly for me to correlate them to our actual electrical usage, although we did see a spike when we bought our heater last year - maybe Tina uses it more then she lets on....

The landlord set up the electrical account when we first moved in last August, and then when we were out of town in September he realized that we would also have to pay the water and bills, and quickly set up a second account for us. He couldn't add it to the original account because we had the card and he hadn't bothered to keep any of the account information or something, it could just be that without the ATM card he couldn't give the water company permission to automatically deduct from that account.

So anyway, we've had this happen before - the notice that lets all your neighbors know that you are delinquent in payment. Last time we worried and tried to figure out how to pay the electric bill directly and were finally told - "Just put the money in the account, they'll take it next month then, don't worry about it." We put money into the account and after a second warning letter they pulled the fee from our account.

We had been better after that, but my sudden two week stint in Taiwan meant that we didn't get a chance to get to the bank and make sure that accounts had enough money in them to cover any bills. We just went this last weekend, everything looked fine and we added some cash to cover the next payment. The bill left on the door read 03-11, which means they attempted to deduct 2 week ago and are just bothering to tell us now.

I think that are really trusting to some degree, we talked to another foreigner that didn't get a gas bill for the 3 years he was living in an apartment and that caused some issues when they suddenly wanted to collect when he was moving out.

Ah, but all is good - no worries this time, we know that we will get another warning before they bother to look in the bank, and for the time being (until they clean the hallways) there will be a nice reminder that we are bad people who were behind on one of our payments....
The first time I went out with a razor blade to clean in and feel good about ourselves. The second notice I left remnants - they were there for a few weeks. We will have to wait and see how long this one remains.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Another excursion..

Today a few of us headed out to a city called Tong'an which is part of Xiamen but on the mainland. We enjoyed spending the day wandering around Quanzhou and Chongwu, we decided that it would be fun to start exploring more of the cities that surround Xiamen. It also helps that a some of the women have drivers, which means, that a few of us are lucky enough to tag along.

We started off at a place called Tong'an Movie City, which basically is a miniature version of Beijing's historical sites. So, if you don't have the time, money or inclination to travel to Beijing, you can go to Tong'an and pretend you were there. The beauty of this place, unlike Beijing, you avoid the crowds.

Replica of the Forbidden City
After lunch, we headed to a temple, which is larger and quieter than Nanputo Temple. This temple has been around for a few hundred years, and one can take trails to get different views of the city.

Local women cleaning the steps up to temple
Cemetary for the monks
Kim, Katie, Ellie and Pam

It was interesting to see, and nice to get out of Xiamen to explore the area, but once is enough. I don't think I need to add this on guest's "must see while you are in Xiamen" list.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Relaxing Weekend in Xiamen

The weather is perfect now here in Xiamen, so we took advantage of it to wander through the alleys and over to 中山园 (Zhongshan park) and enjoy watching to locals...
This whole area was filled with people tossing and catching these little balls on their rackets. It was fun to watch, and they are doing it all in this slow rhythmical motion. I think we watched for at least 5 minutes and I only saw one old lady drop a ball, the rest of them were flawless in their routines...
The park is filled with with people playing cards, enjoying a picnic, relaxing and catching up with friends or even just napping.
And it's a great place to hang out with you tiger striped spay painted puppy....

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Long time no see....

It's been two weeks since Mark left to go to Kaohsiung for work, but I am happy to report he's coming back to Xiamen late this afternoon.

So, for the special occasion, I went to the market to buy some groceries, so that I could use my culinary skills to prepare one of our favourite dishes, stir fried garlic prawns.

I picked up a little more than a 1/2 kilo of large prawns, vegetables which included, peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms, onions and garlic. The total cost of the above mentioned was 60 kaui, which is about 9USD.

Yea, it's going to be tough when we move back to the U.S.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Cutest Toilet

Leaving Kaohsiung, I had to make a pit stop before boarding my flight, and I came across the family restroom.

Mama toilet, and Jr.'s toilet!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Kaohsiung Part II

As Mark mentioned, I spent the weekend with him in Kaohsiung, Taiwan so it gave me an opportunity to spend time with my husband and explore a new city.

My first and lasting impression of Kaohsiung is that it was clean, well organized, and a city that was relatively quiet of automobiles and people. I am of course comparing this to Taipei and Xiamen. High rises are few compared to the size of Kaohsiung. Most of the buildings are low-mid rise structures, so you can get a very good view of the city if you are in buildings higher than 30 floors.

Love River

Traffic is minimal, though there are plenty of scooters. Apparently there is a law that was just enacted which the drivers of these beasts must wear helmets. Why the children don't wear any, I don't know. The majority of drivers wear masks to cover their faces from pollution or perhaps to keep the sun from their faces. We're not really sure, either way, they do a pretty good business in selling these masks to the locals. They come in an array of colours and patterns.

You can have a different colour for each day!

These masks cover you neck as well

Take note of the kids with no helmets!

Saturday, Mark and I walked around the city, and the idea was to go to Shoushan, the mountain to get a view of the city and see some of the sites that were situated on this mountain. Unfortunately, it was a dull grey day, and we opted to go to the island that was just off of Kaohsiung, that was recommended by every Taiwanese we met.

First we needed food, and the one thing that Mark and I keep encountering when we travel is the lack of restaurants we find when we decide we want to eat. Oh sure, they're everywhere when you don't need them, but as soon as you throw it out there, that one of us (usually me) is hungry, and the hunt begins, we can never find a place to eat. We always seem to be in an industrial area for some strange reason. This time we ended up in an area that was selling scooters and tires. After 45 minutes of walking around, we found a place, a small stall that seemed appetizing and it was. We then took a ferry to this highly recommended island. We wandered around for awhile and decided to head back to the hotel. Gu Lang Yu it ain't.

Lunch; tasty and inexpensive!

One of the many temples in Kaohsiung

Later, we decided to go the Sky Tower only to find out you needed reservations. Makes sense considering it's a Saturday night, so we opted for dinner at an Indian restaurant and then later went to a British pub, that Mark knew, to join in the St. Paddy's celebration. Seems rather wrong going to a British pub, but our choices were limited.

The next day, turned out to be a much warmer, and sunnier day. We spent most of the day wandering around snapping pictures of Kaohsiung going to the Lotus Pond and then off to the airport to snap photos of planes landing and taking off.

Lotus Pond

We enjoyed Taipei when we went to visit with Emily, and Taipei has more to offer regarding sights than Kaosiung, but we preferred Kaohsiung.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

... back to posting.

It's been a tough week where I left Tina all alone to handle writing blog post for all of you to enjoy. It's not that I was purposely slacking on the posts - last Sunday I left the cold and dreary Xiamen for the slightly warmer island just across the straight. For the last week I've been in Kaohsuing, Taiwan enjoying this view from my hotel.
Looks nice right? Yes, but I'm here for work and this trip other then looking out my window I haven't gotten a chance to see any of Taiwan.

I was initially planning on returning to Xiamen on Friday but plans have changed and I'll be here throughout the next week. Tina found this change in plans unacceptable, I understand as I missed her too, and she decided to take the ferry from Xiamen to Kinmen and then fly herself to Kaohsuing for the weekend.

It was a very welcome break, and we got to enjoy the weekend and everything that Kaohsuing has to offer together. And because of that you all now get to enjoy some photos of the Lotus pond that we went up to this afternoon -

Dragon & Tiger Pagodas
Qing Shui Temple
Another fun thing that Kaohsuing has are restaurants set up just across the tarmac from the airport. It's listed as the closest you can get to an airport to view landings and takeoffs anywhere in the world. Problem being that there are not a lot of flights as say a Chicago or Shanghai, but we still managed to see a plane land and two take off while we enjoyed a gorgeous sunset...
Small plane coming in for landing
Taking off at dusk

Tina leaves first thing tomorrow morning to return to Xiamen, and I will head back at the end of the week. So, once again, you will be left with posts only from Tina - that is if she decides that she has anything worth sharing with you.....

Driving 101

Some things I will never understand when it comes to driving in China.

Take for example the pictures below.

Pick a side, will you?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


As of last week, I finally finished the entire taijiquan sequence that began back in August of 2007. Yes, it's been quite a long learning experience and I'm glad that I am able to learn from someone who truly is a 师傅 (master).

Though I still continue practicing each day and working with Yang, we are now breaking the movements down, so that I start learning more the theory and understand the history, and the mental part of doing Taiji. All in the name of channeling your qi, and ensuring correct balance when doing the movements. Unlike Yang style (which is actually a later version of Chen and more popular) there are movements that are explosive as this style is used for martial arts and requires a lot of balance.

I suspect this will be harder than learning the actual movements. Next up...swords. Now, that should be fun!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Cheap Entertainment

The other day upon returning home from grocery shopping, I witnessed a scene I thought happened only in Chicago. A young gal about 8 years of age was standing in the middle of a parking spot clearly trying to hold this space for her mother. As her mother was coming around to park, another car was ahead of her, and wanted the same space. The poor girl didn't know what to do, as these guys were honking, and yelling at her to move. Ah, but she was a stubborn one, well at least for a short time. She kept her stance. She just looked away as not to hear them, but the car was bigger, and it kept creeping toward her trying to squeeze into the space. By this time, the mother came around the corner, parked her car behind these guys, and walks out of the car, and starts yelling at this guy through his window and in typical Chinese fashion, people gather around for the entertainment value.

I was too much in a hurry to care about the outcome, though I am betting the guys won this round.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Cold and Damp.

It's cold and rainy in Xiamen this week - not at all comfortable. The inside of all our windows are covered with moisture...
It's a not so toasty 14C (57F) and pushing 98% humidity....
Yeah, that's living in comfort. Our little heater has decided that it isn't up to the task of warming the place up. We can only wait it out and hope that this cold and rainy spell breaks soon.