From Jamie's Philippines Pics

We have also had the opportunity to travel to some amazing places in China, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Bali. We have archived all of our travels and living experiences abroad; and if you wish, you can read about our adventures by finding the archives on the right of this page and by checking our Photo Album.

We appreciate all of our family and friends who have stayed in touch and emailed us with encouraging words throughout the year. We hope you will continue to keep us in your thoughts as we continue our adventure of living abroad teaching at an international school. For those who have stumbled upon our site, check out the "About Eric and Jamie" section on the right for more information.

Thanks for checking us out!

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness."
- Mark Twain

"Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends."
- Maya Angelou






Skype: "ericandjamie"



Friday, April 30, 2010

May Holiday 2010 - Day 8

From May Holiday - Day 8 - Shanghai

We awoke this morning, but had to wait around on our laundry to finish. For some reason, our hostel took 2 and a half days to do our laundry. We had pre-purchased tickets for Alice and Wonderland in 3D at Xin Tian Di Cineplex, so we took a quick cab over there to see the movie. Great film if you haven’t seen it. I downloaded the book and plan on reading it after I finish my current book. I have started downloading some of the classics on my Kindle, so I’m reading Gulliver’s Travels right now and plan to read Alice afterward. As a kid, I didn’t quite have the love for reading as I do as an adult.

Our next adventure was to find the Hard Rock Café Shop and try and find a t-shirt. The HRC of Shanghai closed in February, but there was a store that still sold the merchandise. After roaming around for 45 minutes trying to find it, we discovered that it had already been converted into another store. What was fascinating was that they had closed down the entire street around the Shanghai Center. I believe some high ranking officials or someone obviously more important that us were exiting the center and probably on the way to the EXPO.

If you haven’t checked the 2010 Shanghai EXPO online, please do. We bought tickets today for only Sunday. We will only have about 6 hours to walk around the EXPO, but I believe it will be well worth the cost of the tickets. The Chinese government has pumped in around 40 billion dollars into the EXPO, more than what they spent for the Olympics. 194 countries have built pavilions, some amazing beautiful, artsy, or architecturally unique. Our goal on Sunday is to see as many as possible, but the EXPO covers a rather large area, so I doubt we’ll be able to see even half of them.

We are sitting here watching the opening ceremonies on TV as I type this. They are showing the flyover of the pavilions and they are enormous. These are pavilions, these are large scale buildings. The US’s pavilion costs 61 millions dollars and they were late getting in the game. They weren’t even coming to this EXPO until Hillary Clinton encouraged some people to donate for the pavilion.

Back to our day, after our failed attempt to buy our t-shirts, we checked out of our hostel and into a much better one that is right next to the Bund. Great location. We dropped our stuff off and headed out toward the Yu Yuan (Yu Gardens). This area of town does have some beautiful gardens historically, but it has now been really converted into a shopping and restaurant district but decorated with traditional architecture. I took some good pictures of some of the buildings including Dairy Queen, KFC, and Starbucks all keeping with the style.

Jamie decided to stay in for the night, but I headed out to the Bund to try and take some pictures of the Shanghai skyline at night. If there are 20 million people in this city, I bet 18 million were out on the Bund along the riverfront. I had previously read that you probably wouldn’t be able to see any of the fireworks from the opening ceremony along the Bund, so I wasn’t planning on staying out there for that. I guess the zillion people thought otherwise because it was packed with people hoping to see them.

I don’t know if they could or not because I decided to come in and watch it on TV. As I sit here and type this, the fireworks and laser show is going on live on TV, but we can actually hear the fireworks 5 km away from our hostel. Amazing show along the riverfront where they have used the 2 bridges as launching pads for some of the fireworks as well as for a laser show. The centerpiece of the ceremony is the LCD screen that aligns the waterfront that they are claiming is the largest LCD screen in the world. I haven’t heard the dimensions. The ceremony is a mixture of laser lights, water show, LCD television, and fireworks. They just got through have little small boats float up and down the river carrying the flag of every nation.

Enough about the ceremony. I only wish we could have gone, but it is more of a VIP thing. It is a shame that most of the people in the US have not even heard about the EXPO much less have the ability to tune in to see this ceremony. I think it is just as good if not better than the opening ceremony of the Olympics in Beijing. China should be proud.

Tomorrow we’ll take a 40 minute train ride to Suzhou to tour that city for the day before heading back to Shanghai tomorrow evening. Sunday will be a jam packed day of EXPO where I will take a zillion pictures before sadly flying back to Shenzhen that evening.

I’ll get the pictures from today uploaded although there aren’t many.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

May Holiday 2010 - Day 7

We slept in before heading out to the Shanghai Museum, a fabulous museum that also free, a rarity in China. The only problem was that we were pushed through some of the rooms as there were apparently more important people who wished to view the exhibitions privately. One of the highlights for me was viewing a piece of Neolithic pottery that dated back 8000 years. Oldest artifact I have ever seen, pretty amazing.

We then took a long long trip north of city central to purchase train tickets for our trip to Suzhou in a couple of days. We finally found the ticket office and it was pretty easy, but the signs pointed us in the wrong direction at first.

Lunch was very tasty at a chicken curry restaurant on Nanjing Road. We then headed out to try and find 2 things: Expo tickets and an agency selling night river cruises. We went 0 for 2 in our search, so decided to get some rest. Walking around the entire morning had exhausted us and I believe our trip has worn on us some.

After some rest, we headed toward Xin Tian Di street, a renovated street of ritzy restaurants that was also the site of when Mao Zedong first began meeting with his friends discussing the soon to be created communist state of China. Dinner was Italian before heading back. We'll be back at Xin Tian Di tomorrow to see a matinee of Alice and Wonderland in 3D.

Tiring day without getting really anything accomplished. That's OK, because Shanghai is rapidly becoming one of our favorite cities. The city is a buzz because of the EXPO which starts on May 1 and will run for 187 days. We'll try and get some tickets to it for May 2, but if not, we still plan to walk around seeing the country's pavilions.

Not many pictures today, but keep reading...

May Holiday 2010 - Day 6

From May Holiday - Day 6 - Shanghai

Today, we set out for a nice full day in Shanghai. We first walked through the People’s Square, similar to Central Park in New York, but smaller. It is nice because you have the tower skyscrapers all around and some marvelous architecture mixed with a lovely park.

We found our way to the famous Nanjing Road, a pedestrian street that has shops all around it for miles. We found a place for lunch and then headed down toward The Bund. The Bund is an area of Shanghai on the riverfront with spectacular views of the Pudong district of Shanghai, its newer section with tall amazing skyscrapers and the skyline that most people would recognize or think about when they think of the city. The Bund also has 54 large buildings aligning the road of various architectural designs in Romanesque, Classicism, Baroque, among others.

Jamie went back to the hostel and rested for a little while I decided to check out the Urban Planning Museum. It was a pretty cool museum that told the history and future of urban planning of Shanghai. The highlight was the large scale model of the city on the 3rd floor.

I napped a bit before heading out to check out the night skyline. Our destination was the Jin Mao Tower, the tallest building in Shanghai, where we would take the elevator to the 88th floor and check out the town. Unfortunately, we arrived too late, so we had to settle for the restaurant/bar called Cloud 9 which was on the 87th floor. Still a great view, but we had to buy 120 RMB per person minimum to stay in the place. Needless to say, we can now say we’ve had a drink at the world’s highest bar, which is cool to say.

Great day checking out the city. Be sure to check out the pictures. I am having some trouble uploading them all here, but I'll be sure to get them all on there when we return on Sunday night.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

May Holiday 2010 - Day 5


We stayed up last night for a while to watch our cruise ship go through the lock system at the Three Gorges Dam along the Yangtze River. We started going though at 11:15 pm and finished up sometime after 2:15. We were going down the lock system which is actually a 5 lock system. They have one for upstream and one for downstream, so boats do not have to wait. The locks were enormous and we had 4 ships end to end and side by side in our lock going down. Jamie stayed up for the 1st lock and I stayed up through the 2nd. Very impressive feat of ingenuity. They are currently building a ship “lift” or elevator that will only take 40 minutes to fill up the 125 meter single lock that will lift or lower the boats. It is supposed to be finished in 2015.

After breakfast, we went on an outside tour of the Three Gorges Dam. I’ll let you read all about its specifics by googling, but it is the largest hydroelectric power dam in the world. Construction started in 1993 and the last phase of the original design will not finish until 2015; however, this 22 year project benefits China is some amazing ways for flood control, energy, and transportation. As I mentioned earlier, the dam flooding displaced 1.3 million people, but the government provided them with money and low interest loans to start a new life. The younger generations especially seem more hopeful.

The tour was decent enough, but we didn’t really get to see too much except for one view from the side. I enjoyed it though, especially the lock system and being able to experience it.

After our tour, we wound our way through the last of the Three Gorges, Xinling Gorge. This gorge is probably the most beautiful due to the more karst-like landscape that towers over the river. We didn’t take too many pictures, but did get a great one of us from the back of the boat.

After lunch, it was time to say goodbye to the Victoria Rose and her crew, so we headed to the airport, waited 4 hours, then boarded a flight to Shanghai.

While I type this on our first night in Shanghai, I can already tell we are going to like this place. This city is huge and VERY modern. Lights and tall skyscrapers everywhere and that was just the drive though the city. Tomorrow, we’ll get a first hand view as we set off to explore this city of 20 million people.
Posted by Picasa

May Holiday 2010 - Day 4

We woke early, ate breakfast, and disembarked for Baidicheng or the White Emperor City. There is quite long long history to this place and one in which would take several books to write. I can summarize by saying that since the Three Gorges Dam has been built, it is an island which is inhabited by an ancient Chinese gated city dating back to the Han Dynasty a couple of thousand years ago. It is now mainly a tourist site where travels of cruises like ours visit on excursions from the ship. Jamie and I were the only English speaking tourists who decided to make this excursion.

Our guide, Apple, showed us the city and explained its history after we climbed the 300 steps to the top. We could have paid 2 guys to carry us to the top in these chairs, but we politely declined. These men are displaced farmers who now make a living carry tourists to the top of the White Emperor City. Among the sites we saw in this area were the poems carved by Du Fu and Li Bai, two of China’s greatest poets who spent some time there during their lives and were inspired. The White Emperor City is at the entrance to the 1st Gorge along the Yangtze River, the Qutang Gorge. The gorge is especially interesting because it is featured on the back of the 10 RMB note where you can pose for the picture inside the White Emperor City. Another interesting site inside the city was small room that showed the Hanging Coffins of the Ba ancient civilization. The Ba civilization of cultural ethnic group of China dates back 5000 years and lived along the Gorges of the Yangtze River. One of their customs was to bury their wealthy in caskets and literally place them or “hang” them in small caves or crevices along the gorge walls. Some of the coffins are as high as 900 feet from the water today, 1100 feet from the water prior to flooding. We were able to see these coffins up close and our guide explained how they were able to place these coffins in such precarious positions. According to archeologists, there are three explanations: using scaffolds, using a raised platform, or scaling the gorge from the top. As you can see from the pictures, all three methods would be difficult.

We walked back down our 300 steps and heard went exited though a very typical Chinese tourist “factory.” Every city in China is famous for something: Dali has marble, Beijing has pearls and jade, etc. This city was famous for its oranges for some reason and its wooden combs. Hundreds of women were selling these small wooden combs. Our guide told us that these combs were fake, of course, but the real combs were the government certified combs sold in the store. Go figure. These combs apparently are made from a special tree called the Rong Shu and sell anywhere from $5 to $125 US depending on what part of the tree it is made from, the root, trunk, or branch.

We boarded our ship afterwards and rested a short bit before lunch. After lunch, we disembarked again for 2 smaller cruises to see the lesser gorge and the lesser lesser gorges of the Yangtze River. I will have to go through my pictures to find the names of these gorges, but the highlight was being able to see 3 hanging coffins still in the cliffs. Be sure to check out the pictures of these in our photo album. These smaller cruises were very relaxing and the scenery was spectacular. After a rainy, misty first day, we were thankful to have some sun. Unfortunately, this is still China so there is a constant haze, even out in the middle of nowhere.

After returning, we learned to play Mahjong, an ancient Chinese game similar to gin rummy except with cards and different characters. It is a fun game and actually pretty easy to learn. Jamie and I plan on buying a set before we leave China.

Dinner was delicious tonight and we ended the evening watching a cabaret performance with more Chinese staff and some tourists who could play some instruments and sing.

Tonight (I’ll put it on the blog tomorrow), we will travel through the Three Gorges Dam. It will take us 3-4 hours to go through their 5 lock system. It will be in the middle of the night, but well worth staying up at least a little bit for. Check back for pictures and a description of what I’m sure will be an amazing adventure.

May Holiday 2010 – Day 3


After a buffet breakfast on the ship, we enjoyed a couple of presentations by the Chinese staff on board. The first presentation was a Powerpoint and video of the history of the Yangtze River and the Three Gorges Dam. It was very informative.

Just to let you know, the Yangtze River is the 3rd longest river in the world and the longest in Asia. The Three Gorges Dam, when flooded on June 1, 2003, displaced between 1.3 and 2 million people. Some of these people had family who had lived in the same village for 35 generations. While they were compensated for their displacement by the government (very little), the lives of the older generation are still torn. We have noticed that the younger generations sees this displacement as an opportunity for additional types of work along the river. The Yangtze River history is truly fascinating, and I’ll try and give you a little insight to what we’ve learned as we go.

After the presentation, another followed by the doctor on board. He discussed the eastern practice of acupuncture and accupressue. Jamie even volunteered for the demonstration and still has the mark on her neck to prove it. See picture and video!

The ship is so relaxing. You can rest in your room and watch river go by out your window you can relax on the decks. We spend most of the time in the room napping and reading or watching a movie.

After lunch, we headed out to Fengdu, most known as the Ghost City of China. You can clearly see the remains of the city that was once here but is now flooded by the Yangtze after the dam’s completion. The villagers were moved across the river to what is now a city of 100,000 people. The Ghost City still remains and has been restored as a temple complex for Buddhism, Daoism, and Confucianism. It is said that the Chinese, even those living abroad, will come back to this ghost city and be judged prior to moving on to the afterlife. It looked very similar to all of the other temple complexes Jamie and I have seen in our travels of China, but the “ghost” section of the “underworld” was pretty cool as they had sculptures of all of these ghosts depicting various character traits. Our local guide, Jimmy, led us through in typical tour guide fashion and had us do the all of the typical tourist things along the way to keep us entertained. At one point, I bunny hopped up 25 steps because I turned 33 this year. All of these little activities are supposed to be for good luck or good fortune, or for a long life. China is littered with stories like that. I guess if your country had a history of 5000 years of civilization, you’d have stories too.

Prior to dinner, we had a captain’s meet and greet with appetizers and free Champaign. Dinner was typical Chinese style and was delicious enough. Jamie and I then waited around in the multipurpose area for the traditional Chinese performance, our entertainment for the evening. The performance was very cute as it was performed by the Chinese staff on board, cleaning crew, bartenders, and dinner staff. They performed some dances and dressed in traditional dynasty era dress. Somewhat hokey, but we were pleased and entertained.

Tomorrow is an absolutely jam packed day as we leave early at 7:00 am to see the White Emperor City. More details to come, so check out all of the pictures and videos.
Posted by Picasa

May Holiday 2010 – Day 2



We actually slept in a little and had a plan for the day. We took a 40 minute bus from our hostel to the ancient city of Chongqing. This area reminded us of many of the ancient cities of China we have visited. The gridded design of the city, slanted Asian style shingled roofs and thousands of shops selling just about handicraft and snack you could imagine. We spent a couple of hours wandering through the streets, enjoying some snacks, and even purchased some framed Chinese artwork at a local store.

A quick taxi across the city brought us to the People’s Square, which is surrounded by the Three Gorges Dam Museum as well as the People’s Hall, the symbol of Chongqing and quite an impressive building. We walked around trying to find a good restaurant for the famous Hot Pot meal. We have described hot pot before, but it is basically a fondue style chicken broth that is set before you. You then add some veggies and a variety of meats to the pot, wait a few minutes for it to cook, and dive in. Chongqing is considered the birthplace of hot pot, so we definitely wanted to partake in some while we were here. Most westerners will opt for the regular broth with NO spicy sauces. We like the yin and yang pot that is half spicy and half regular. The Chinese will usually opt for all spicy. Our hot pot restaurant in Shekou serves up a delicious yin and yang that really isn’t that spicy. We’ve learned that we can eat mainly from the spicy side. The Chongqing spicy recipe will set your mouth on fire. While we dipped into the spicy side, we actually had to dip our servings into the regular side to wash off some of the spicy. Yes, it was that hot. Being the only westerners in the restaurant, we enjoyed many stares, but also some great service from the staff, who were probably curious as to why we were there.

Our next stop was the Three Gorges Dam Museum. We opted to not to go the People’s Hall. The museum was wonderful and led you through 4 stories of the dam’s history as well as other exhibitions on the history of Chongqing, Chinese currency, and Chinese calligraphy. A Chinese art gallery at the top caught our eye as we purchased three unique framed paintings. You’ll have to see our home some day, but these paintings were done on very thin and transparent leaves with beautiful scenery of the three gorges we’ll pass through tomorrow.

Our next stop took us wandering around the city trying to find the cable car ride across the river. We took some pretty good video shots here that you’ll be able to see the city skyline pretty well despite its haziness.

We then headed back to our hostel to wait for driver to pick us up and take us to our cruise ship. We arrived on the boat at about 7:00. Interestingly, the cruise ship had their staff line up and greet each passenger while a small band played as you boarded the ship. We chose to book the Victoria Rose cruise ship. This is a ship in a fleet under the Victoria line. They cater to international travelers, and we felt right at home once we entered. Our cabin is a decent size and the facilities on the ship are very nice.

This ship will take us down the Yangtze River through the Three Gorges before finally arriving at the Three Gorges Dam, the largest dam in the world.

I don’t believe we’ll have a decent Internet connection on board, so almost all of this will probably be posted after the fact and once we are in Shanghai.
Posted by Picasa

May Holiday 2010 – Day 1





Shenzhen to Chongqing

After a long day at work, Jamie and I caught a 2 hour flight to Chongqing to begin our vacation for the May holiday. We arrived late, checked in to the Yangtze Riverside International Hostel. Didn’t get to do anything but plan for the next day, then absolutely crashed.

Chongqing is China’s largest city in land area and has a population of nearly 20 million people. It is an interesting designed city and was the capital of China during WWII when the Japanese invaded. Like most Chinese cities, it has an ancient town and a sprawling urban area with tall apartments and skyscrapers. It is now most noted for being the port for the beginning of the Three Gorges Dam Yangtze River Cruise, a cruise which we will take tomorrow for 4 days.
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Middle School MUN Conference

My wonderful wife volunteered last spring for us to organize the middle school MUN conference this year. While we have had all year to plan this event, we had zero, zilch, nada idea about how to actually organize a MUN conference. Slowly, we began finding some information and organizing the conference. In short 5 schools from Guangzhou, Xiamen, Hong Kong, and Shenzhen represented 9 model nations and came to the conference hosted by QSI Shekou. Jamie and I were responsible for arranging everything but we had some help from the visiting teachers, our own students, the QSI staff, and the QSI students. We made the registration packets, found hosts for 8 students and 2 adults, ordered all of the food, made sure the building was set up, designed the t-shirts, certificates, and made a 25 page full color program. We also set up and orchestrated the opening and closing ceremonies which included flags from all participating nations and their national anthems.

It was a ton of work and overall a huge success and opportunity for the students involved. It makes me look back to my middle and high schools days and wish that I had those opportunities. There are always some pros and cons of living in a small town and going to a small school.

We have some final touches to do for the post conference; but it is downhill from here for Jamie and I. We have a trip scheduled to Chongqing to begin the Yangtze River Cruise and ending in Shanghai, but that trip is at the end of the month. We'll go to Macau one more time and perhaps a trip to Guangzhou. Of course, we'll hit up Hong Kong a couple more times prior to leaving China for good on June 20.

My dissertation research is just around the corner, and I'll be putting in some major hours interviewing Chinese teachers and writing Chapters 4 and 5 of my dissertation. Ultimate goals is to finish by the end of the summer, but that might be too optimistic.

Griffey is doing great and we'll be shipping him home within a month. More information to come about that, and I'll keep you posted. People who move to Shekou like to read our blog and it might be helpful for them if they want to move a pet. I'll be posting more over the next several months as we begin our preparation to move out of China, back to the U.S. for a month, then to Saudi Arabia in August.

Hope everyone has a wonderful week!

Buy a Kindle Here!