Archive for September, 2010

Lightning and thunder and blackout, oh my!

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

power outage

I enjoy lightning and thunder. I know, that’s weird. It’s a good thing I do because I barely got settled in this place when I was treated to a whole night of lightning and (loud!) thunder show outside, complete with a blackout. I found that my survival skills kicked in as I searched for the flashlight that I remember packing away (courtesy of good ol’ papa). Since I grew up in the Philippines where blackouts were common, I knew how to feel around in the dark, use a flashlight in the shower, and prepare for a night sleep without electricity. Strangely, I felt calm in the midst of it given that this is my first time in an apartment by myself. In fact, it was a rather exhilarating experience to be responsible for checking everything inside and outside of the house in this weather. As I was getting ready for bed, the lights came on and I was reminded that this is just the beginning of many more of these kinds of experiences.

The adventure continues …

3.5

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

Guilin Mi Fen

Today, I had some local noodles from this small restaurant. It only cost 3.5 yuan, which is equal to about $.50 a bowl. I didn’t bring my camera during lunch so I found this one online that comes really close to what I had today. What I liked about it is that after they give you your noodles, there is a spread of various sauces that you can use to flavor and season your bowl in addition to the ones they already put in. As the name suggests, this particular dish is a specialty of Guilin, a city in the Guangxi province.

I think the adrenalin has done its part in getting me through the rigors of travel as well as fixing up my room, setting up the house, and meeting my various teammates. My body finally let me know that it is still going through jetlag. I stayed in bed for most of the day.

First Day

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

Biking the Streets

On my first day, I woke up early to get myself oriented and to run some errands. The refrigerator was empty, the internet connection was down, and there was no toilet paper! These items were first on my to-do list. Because I was already familiar with the area, I went right into it. The sun was out and it was very warm. At lunch, I met up with teammates who provided me with a bike to use. I was able to ride it to have dinner with another group of teammates. The main road is a wide one that accommodates trucks, cars, bikes, tricycles, and pedestrians. Off this main road are little roads that are narrower (where I buy vegetables and fruits from street vendors). I really like that you can see the mountains wherever you go in this town.

Amazed by the Mac (who wouldn't??)

On my first night here, while I was still unpacking, there was a knock on my door. These five little giggly girls wanted to know if I was new in town and if they can come in and help me get settled. In my limited Chinese, I was able to communicate to them that I had just arrived and the place is still a mess so I wouldn’t be able to host them. They introduced themselves as my neighbors attending the local elementary school (3rd, 4th, 5th graders). I told them that perhaps they can come back the next night. Sure enough, they came knocking as I was checking my email (internet connection back – yay!). I invited them in and showed them my Macbook. They were fascinated with the functions and watched a Chinese video on Youku.

Smile!

They were very much at home here, looking around and giggling and pretty much being girls. These are the times when I wish my Chinese was better to communicate more with them. They were patient with me, though, and offered to teach me Chinese in exchange for some English sessions. On their next visit, I’ll probably have English names for them (easier for me to remember) and they will teach me some useful Chinese phrases!

On My Way …

Monday, September 27th, 2010

Above the Clouds

For anyone who has ever traveled by plane (and sit by the window seat), this is a familiar sight. I don’t know why it caught my attention on this particular day. Maybe because my excitement heightened my senses. Plus, it was a beautiful and clear day. Riding above the clouds was a reflection of what I was feeling as I flew out of Shanghai. Heavenly.

Glimpse of Guangxi

This is not my first time to Guangxi, but it felt special this time around. It’s the start of a new adventure. Again, the view of land right above the clouds is familiar to the common traveler. I decided to take a picture of this one just because it was nice and clear. After the plane ride, I still had a bus to take to get to my destination. But because I had an early start, I still had a lot of energy.

I was undaunted by the 5-hour bus ride despite my jetlag. I was once again fortunate to have a window seat. This is one of the shots I took as we climbed up the mountain.

Up the Mountain!

Visiting Friends

Sunday, September 26th, 2010

It was fortunate for me that there was school on a Sunday because of government regulation so I was able to go in. I had an early start because I knew there would be many people to visit in their offices. Sure enough, I ended up chatting at length with most of them. From teachers to students to principal, it was a whole day of embraces and catching up! One of the first (and most memorable) is stopping by my old office in the English Department. They rearranged the furniture but pretty much kept to the academic environment with the library and conference table still intact. It was gratifying to see everyone again. I kept checking myself to see if I had any regrets about leaving this place where I had five wonderful years … Nope. Inasmuch as it was great to see people again and reminisce about old times, I know in my heart it’s time for my next season. Just glad that people have picked up where I left off …

HS Office

I was invited several times to lunch by my former colleagues, but I wanted to spend this precious limited time with my girls. I’ve decided that there are those who simply want to chat, those who want to catch up, those who want to reconnect, but there are those who wait for a long time, go out of their way to spend time with you, pay for the meal, and give you gifts. These are my girls … they have been the jewels of my stay in Shanghai. I have a feeling we’ll see each other again in the near future.

Another Sweet Reunion

Warm Welcome

Saturday, September 25th, 2010

Old Friends and New Friends

After a long 18-hour trip, it was good to finally be back, although this time around, I wasn’t thinking of semester frameworks and lesson plans. For the first time in five years, I am coming back to China as a tourist. My layover in Shanghai was a warm one as I was welcomed with a hearty dinner. It was very nice to see my friends again, albeit for just a night, since I leave for the interior in two days. I was pleasantly surprised to hear myself pick up Chinese automatically as I conversed and listened to it being spoken again. Moreover, I remembered how much I appreciate the culture and how easily it makes me feel at home, like eating comfort food. My friends are a reminder of why I came back … and hope to be back again someday.

The last time I left Shanghai, Tsao Tsao was only two days old and now he’s almost two months old! He’s so plump and precious. I can tell that he is his parents’ and grandparents’ (on both sides!) bao-bei (“precious baby”). He is one blessed little guy!

Sweet Reunion

Preparation

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

Bonelli Park

It all went by so fast that it felt like a dream. It’s time once again — the end of another vacation. As I wind down from the activities of these past several weeks, I come to a quiet place to collect my thoughts. What better place than my old stomping ground at Bonelli Park? Five years ago, when I left for China the first time, I hiked to this place where I took this picture. It was in this same spot I was reassured that I was on the right track, like a revelation of sorts. This particular path in Bonelli is about a mile long; it has both straight and windy stretches, uphill and downhill slopes. I like walking it because it has a beautiful view of the lake as well as the mountains. When I am on the peak of it, I see beauty as well as a good view of the rest of the path. Just like this season of respite from work and responsibility, I am able to gain some perspective on life and love. My preparation for China this time around brings me back full circle and reminds of the Providence that has carried me thus far. On this next bend in the road, I feel more confident that “He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it in you.”

It has been a wonderful time of rest and renewal. One of my favorite things to do during this vacation, for sure, was spending time with my nephews, like this one in the playground. I’ll miss them when I go back to China. Here’s another picture of these three little guys:

Aldridge, Avery, Aiden

People Pictures

Sunday, September 19th, 2010

After church, the family decided to take a walk at the Americana right next to Glendale Galleria. It’s an outdoors-type mall area with good family friendly things to do, like a ..

trolley ride ...

There was also a grass section in front of the fountain where we hung out for about an hour. We watched the dancing fountain show that starts at the top of each hour. It was relaxing to people-watch, enjoy the cool air, and have the kids run around. It was getting late in the afternoon, so we only had time for one visit to a store. There were many shops in the area but we chose to just hang out at Barnes & Noble ….

bookstore ...

Earlier, we had seen the biggest In-N-Out restaurant I’ve seen this side of Southern Cal. It was a no-brainer that we’d go there for dinner. Again, there were quite a few selections but we already knew when we passed by it earlier that we would be having …

burgers and fries ...

Usually, In-N-Out burger joints are these small tucked-away drive-in places. So, it was a surprise and delight to see such a big one in this relatively upscale town. The cheeseburger and fries I usually order tasted just as yummy. Indeed, it’s “quality you can taste” (their motto). This picture is for you, Kim: :-)

In-N-Out Burger!

South Coast Plaza

Saturday, September 18th, 2010

We went to South Coast Plaza over the weekend because there was something called Festival of Children that sponsored activities specially for kids. All over the mall, they also had exhibits called “can-structions” in which companies competed to build the best structure using cans. The can drive encourages families to donate to charity. One of our favorite displays was this creative construction of a pretty pink gown. There is this a cute sash that is tied in a pink bow in the back of it. We liked it so much that we decided to take a picture next to it!

Can-struction!

There was also a carousel there. All three boys got on it, and we adults had to ride with them. I had forgotten why I don’t like these kinds of rides — I got a little dizzy after a while. Good thing it wasn’t going too fast.

Alvin and Avery

I think we were able to walk the length of most of South Coast Plaza. It’s an upscale, high-end mall with stores that include Louis Vuitton to Mont Blanc. It’s amazing to me how extravagantly some people live. On the drive back home, Wensley and I discussed class differences in society. She admitted to experiencing some kind of culture shock. It certainly gave us pause to think about how different people value and use money.

Resting at the Bridge

OC Day

Friday, September 17th, 2010

Newport Beach

The last time the kids went to the beach was over a year ago, I believe. This time around, they lost no time running into the water (which was icy cold, by the way). We brought swim clothes, but it would have been impossible to go in. It was a beautiful day but we could not stay too long. I’m glad, though, that they overcame their fear of the waves and went right in, even falling into the water several times!

Playing in the Water

After the beach, we went to the Mall and had dinner at CPK. I didn’t know that they have a to-go branch called ASAP. They gave crayons and puzzle paper for the kids. While waiting, it was so cute to see them try their hand at coloring. We had pizza, but I have to say that CPK has the best mac&cheese I’ve ever tasted (mooched off the kids because the portions were too big for them!). The tortilla soup wasn’t bad, either!

Dinner @ CPK

When we got back, Alvin showed off his guitar skills. It was really late, but we managed to get a boba drink and hang out in the parking lot so we could play the guitar. We took turns playing some familiar worship songs with Marvin. So nice to pick up the guitar again. I better start practicing more, though, because my little brother is gaining on (surpassing?) me! :-)

Late Night Guitar Playing