A quick reminder:
You can click on any photo to view it larger.
This is part of the out-of-order blog posts from the Stader's visit this past June.
13 June 2014 -
It's FRIDAY!!! Woo hoooooo!!! It's also, technically, the last day of school....however the girls will be missing school today because we're heading to LIJIANG with the Stader family.
Lijiang is located in southern China and it has an Old Town that is absolutely charming and quaint. In fact, the Old Town of Lijiang is listed as a World Heritage Center with UNESCO.
We chose to visit Lijiang with our friends for several reasons: 1) we wanted to show them both northern AND southern China in a short amount of time and 2) we've had several friends rave about their trips to the area. It was a natural choice for us!
Out of all the crazy things we've experience here....this is a new one for us: our flights were ON TIME....and even (gulp!) a little bit early in some cases. Just when you think you know a place it changes on you! LOL! I don't mind that kind of change though.
The ride from the airport to our hotel...three cheerful travelers!:
And...just FYI- Mark will be joining us for the Lijiang leg of this trip. He'll fly back to Tianjin on Sunday while the rest of us fly onwards to Xi'an.
14 June 2014 -
Here I am - reeeeeaching waaaaaaaaaaay back to June for the next several blog posts and photos. And even after all this time I STILL haven't managed to get my photos all in order. However, in the interest of ATTEMPTING to get everyone caught up on our magical summer vacation I'll go ahead and post the photos in whatever order I can conjure up! LOL!
So... let's step back to June 14th, ok? The lovely Stader family was here visiting us and we'd flown to Lijiang for the weekend on Friday. Lijiang being a beautiful city in southern China with an exceptionally charming old town. (The old town looks exactly as how I'd envisioned China looking like before we actually moved to China).
We took a chance and booked a guided hiking three-hour with a Chinese guide for Saturday....here's hoping the rain holds out for us just a little bit longer!
The lady at the hotel took us to the meeting up point for the tour - it looks like it could rain on us today. It's drizzling as we walk to the pick-up spot.
Oh boy. When the lady booked our tour she wasn't kidding when she said this tour was going to be in Chinese. It's a several hour drive out to the gorge and the tour guide is on a bizarre reverberating speaker which loudly broadcasts his droning words all over the tiny tour bus. Really??? It that really necessary??? Can't we just sit in peace and quiet and watch the world go by without all the noise?
Check us out...we took over the back of the bus!:
While I'm quite behind on blog posts - having taken a nice two (and change) month holiday from writing blog posts - I just couldn't wait to write a blog post about Annika's birthday!
10 August 2014 -
It's Sunday ...and it's Annika's eleventh birthday!!! (Annika was born on a Sunday.)
We're back in Grand Haven, Michigan visiting family on The Farm. It's been a whirlwind summer with many adventures (which I have yet to share with you!) and sadly it's about to come to an end.
But not yet...
Today we're sending Annika and her fellow Elves, Dwarves, Hobbits ..and I suppose a few humans ...on a Lord of the Rings Quest!!!!
A little background info: Mark and Annika have been discussing her birthday wishes for months now and the only real request she had was that she wanted to organize a quest - or treasure hunt- Lord of the Rings style. Fast forward to Friday night before her birthday: Mark, with the help of Beth, came up six clues for the Fellowship of Friends to find. Mark made sure to scatter those clues far and wide on Grandpa's farm. After all, you don't want to make it too easy for the eleven-year old!!! ;-)
The Fellowship of Friends had to find the clues and solve the riddles to find the next clue. The Fellowship consisted of Annika, Ava, Lily, Gregory, Henry, Bobby, Kendall, and Caroline.
While the Fellowship of Friends got dressed up as characters from the LOTR series (some kids got into their roles more than others) Mark placed Clue #1 and all the adults raced into position. We adults kept in contact with each other via text messages (just to make sure the kids didn't accidentally get lost on the big piece of property that is The Farm). Aunt Beth made it clear to the kids that they had to stick together; they would ONLY receive the next clue IF and ONLY IF they were all together. The kids also got a packet of neatly wrapped "Lembas Bread" (store-bought cornbread crackers that Beth and I bagged in plastic baggies and then wrapped with grape leaves and cotton twine).
16 & 17 June 2014 -
Welcome to Xi'an!
Our flight was - gulp! - ON TIME. No seriously. I know you're shaking your head and tell me that's IMPOSSIBLE but I tell - it was. Really!
However, it's late. Our driver (whom I arranged via our guide we'll meet tomorrow) just dropped us off at the Bell Tower Hotel in Xi'an (this was after a nearly one hour drive from the airport). We're tired. It's close to midnight and these kids...and the adults!...need to get some sleep. Sadly, I didn't look at the check-in clerk's name tag when we first arrived. Otherwise I would have noticed that it said "Trainee" on it and I would have realized that check-in would take longer than expected. As it was I did NOT notice her name tag and I was got a wee bit frustrated just how long it took her to photocopy all of our passports...and then proceed to write down all of our China visa information on those photocopies. Except she got us all wrong (Lilly for Ava, etc). Argh! Why oh why can't you just make photocopies of our visas too? That way you'd get done with our check-in so much quicker! And this needing to copy down our visa information - that's new, isn't it??? I don't recall that being a requirement at any of the other numerous hotels we've stayed at in our travels around China. Always gotta change things up!
7 June 2014-
Anybody know proper etiquette when it comes to partaking High Tea at a fancy schmancy hotel????
I could use a crash course!
Mimi's mom, Chrissie, invited me and several teachers from IST (and my friend Quay), to enjoy high tea with her at the Ritz Carlton hotel this afternoon.
Now, a little background info for you: I've read ALL the Agatha Christie mysteries and many other English novels that at often delve into one of the characters of the story partaking in high tea at some point during the story. And ever since I started first reading Agatha Christie I've wanted to see first-hand what high tea really meant.
Here's my chance!!!!
Chrissie booked for us high tea at this extremely fancy hotel in Tianjin, the Ritz Carlton. Gorgeous place! I've been to this hotel only once before (the Elementary school Choir had a Christmas concert here this past year). Oddly enough, this fancy hotel is RIGHT ACROSS THE STREET from another fancy schmancy hotel (the Astor).
I've heard that high tea is more than just about the tea. It's about the food!
There's Ms. Lares! She's one of the grade 2 teachers at IST and she's from New Zealand. (oh, gosh...I do love NZ!!!!) And holy cow....check out the goodies that are MINE all MINE!!!! (we each got our own three-tiered tray of yummy delicacies):
I wish I could remember what tea I ordered...maybe pu'er??? Doesn't matter anyway as they seriously taste the same to me. I mean, I love tea, but I can't tell one tea from another (unless it's distinctly and -ahem- vastly different). After we finished this round of delightful goodies they brought out scones. SCONES! Oh, how yummy! Sadly though...they only brought out a teensy dollup of cream and jam. How am I supposed to load up my scone with cream and jam with that???? Doesn't matter. It was good!!!
Darn it! I missed getting a photo of all the lovely ladies together (I KNOW somebody has this photo. Why oh why didn't I take a photo????)
I feel a little guilty as I didn't know most of the ladies/teachers- many of them teach in the secondary school and up until recently I haven't had much interaction with secondary. Next year though. Oh my. Next year will be an entirely different ball game!!!!!
24 - 25 May 2014 -
Ever since moving to China I've missed one thing. Well, if I'm with myself there are many things that I miss BUT let's get back to THAT one thing, shall we?
What is that one thing???
Hiking and camping.
So, technically that's TWO things. Not one.
Anyway... I miss being out on the land and stretching my legs. I miss the smell of dirt, GREEN (you know what green smells like, right???), and let's be honest...the smell of sweat. And I miss that awesome feeling of feeling tired because you've physically exerted yourself. And that feeling of having your legs ON FIRE from all the walking. Oh yeah. LOVE IT!!!
So when Rachel invited us to go with them on an overnight camping trip ON THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA (!!!!!!) I naturally jumped at the chance and signed us up...IMMEDIATELY!
On May 24th we drove to TEDA to meet up with the rest of the group. Oh my! Rachel said it was going to be a big group of people going on this excursion and she wasn't kidding! There were more than FIFTY of us! Mostly kids! This is going to be AWESOME!!!! We loaded up on the giant tour bus Rachel had kindly arranged for us...and off we went.
Now, all I know is that we're going to a part of the Wall that isn't restored or as well-known to the general public as the parts we usually visit. Rachel said it's about a three-hour or so drive to the start of our hike. As it is it looks like we're driving north of Beijing.
Hey! We're finally somewhere. No clue WHERE we are but the bus has stopped in what looks like a small town and it's apparently time for us to gather our backpacks and start marching.
4 June 2014-
it's all around us.
Sometimes you just have to open your eyes and REALLY look at the world around you.
Hollyhocks ...not only growing but appearing to be thriving...in the sliver of dirt between a parking lot and a tall fence. Amazing, no??
Aren't they beautiful?
(I pass by these every time I walk to and from our local little veggie market. What a wonderful breath of fresh air!)
12 June 2014-
So...technically it's NOT the last day of school today. What would you call it??? The penultimate day???? We won't be here tomorrow (which IS the last day of school) as we're traveling to Lijiang with the Stader family. So it's the last day of school for us!
Lots happening today! The Stader kids, Emily, Noah and Lilly, are going to join Annika and Ava in school. That translates to making five lunches this morning. (easy peasy lemon squeezy when you've got LOTS of help). Emily and Noah are spending the day in Annika's class and Lilly is heading off with Ava. Fantastic day to participate- the second graders are having a party this morning and the Grade Five students are graduating today. So lots of fun stuff happening!!!
They're off! Five kids...with lunches...ready to go to school! (is it me or is it just me that it seems to odd that these kids should all be SO EXCITED to go to school when it's nearly summer holiday??? At least I'm ready for the summer break!!!!
We heard that Lilly had an ABSOLUTE BLAST in school...apparently the students were given their yearbooks for friends and teachers to sign and Lilly had one that she had everyone sign (although, I'll admit that I'm not sure if she was allowed to keep it). I think Emily and Noah enjoyed their day at school as well but they didn't get to spend as much time in the classroom as Lilly did (with the graduation ceremony and all taking up most of the day).
****************Alrighty...I can't seem to bring myself to post the photos in chronological order.****************************Yeah. Sounds like me! ;-)
12 June 2014-
That "oh my" is for so many different reasons...
1) I'm waaaaaay behind on posting photos. Whoops.
2) I forgot to tell you that we had our friends, the Stader Family from Wisconsin, visiting us.
3) The end of the school year- so many good byes. I hate them! Good byes just stink. Period.
but lastly but certainly not the least important....
4) Annika has now graduated from elementary school! Yes, that definitely gets an "OH MY" in my book!
On Thursday, July 12 at The International School of Tianjin in the Han Building auditorium we helped Annika and her classmates celebrate the rite of passage of finishing elementary school. We were lucky enough to have the Stader family (who had arrived the previous Sunday) along for this event. Sadly, Daddy was waaaaaaay too busy with work and couldn't attend. Sometimes life is like that.
1) Elementary school principal (Ms. Nicol)
Several of the fifth graders got up and either recited poems they had written or played their instruments for us (ChaeRin was lovely on the violin!). Some of the students couldn't be seen over the top of the podium!
Annika receiving her diploma from her teacher:
Hey... I'm gonna tell you about that dress Annika is wearing. I'd been putting off and putting off getting a dress for Annika (if I forget about it then it can't happen, right? RIGHT??? I don't think everyone approves of my logic....but I want my Buggy to stay small. What do you mean I can't stop that????? Whaaaaat????)
ANYHOOO....we were coming down the wire and she NEEDED a dress. We looked in my closet (the BACK closet...you know...where all the clothes are that really should be given away because you'll never wear them again. Yeah, that closet) and we found this dress. I bought it many moons ago for one of our anniversary dinners (B.C.: before children) when Mark and I celebrated our anniversary with a fancy dinner at an amazing restaurant in Seattle. So amazing, in fact, that I can't remember where it was (I think down at the Pier) or which anniversary we were celebrating.
To make a long story short (too late!): the dress fit Annika!
Dress shopping disaster- AVERTED.
Mimi and Annika waiting to be seated:
Do you remember the Grade 5 Exhibtion post I wrote a few months back? Do you remember Annika got to sing a solo for it (as did our friend Simon)???? Well, at the end of the graduation assembly the fifth graders sang that exhibition song again. Awwww...
Way to go Grade 5 students! You've successfully navigated your way through the twists and turns of elementary school....now onward and upward to more fun, challenging and rewarding secondary school (and then university...oh gosh. Don't even get me started!)
Buggy Boo and me:
The Stader family (minus Lilly....where was Lilly in these photos??? I know she and Ava watched the graduation ceremony):
Oh. My. Goodness.
Annika with Lizzy. Lizzy is a librian at IST and she's AWESOME! She was so sweet!!! She gave Annika a bouquet of flowers! (Oh...Eric and Dani helped me pick up a bunch of bouquets from the local flower market. I'm so grateful that Frances ordered the bouquets for us. Thank you!)
Annika with her teacher, Linnea Simon. Ms. Simon has been her teacher for the past two years and I can tell you...I will whole-heartedly miss her. She really helped Annika grow - especially in terms of her writing abilities. She was a wonderful and inspirational teacher.
Check out the parents who attended the ceremony:
Thanks for joining us on this special milestone in Annika's life!
I know she's ready for the next phase of school (secondary school)...but I'm not sure I am!!!!