Friday, April 23, 2010


Sometimes Chinese doesn't translate very well in English as evidenced by the following signs. I got such a kick out of these...hope you do too!!
This one sounds about right.

"Mind Your Step"

Have you ever been to a 4 star rated toilet? Neither have was 2 stars at best!!

or how about the following menu description

"The Nutritious Sauce Hoof is Colored"

or how about this tasty delight?

"The salty pig's feet cooks the radish"

I don't know if the radish was cooked or not...did not try this!!

How about this one?

I actually really like their translation on this one. I will be using this one again!

Anyone need a sucker (straw)?

and no outing would be complete without a hamburger and some cooked rice!

And finally my all time favorite!!
Isn't this the nicest keep off the grass sign you've ever read?

"The Grass is Smiling at you. Please Detour"

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Do you need a vacation from all of my China posts? :-) How about some kid odds and ends?

We are pretty proud of sweet Claremarie around here. She got picked to go to the district speech contest and got a Superior rating on her poem. She did excellent...only got marked down for nervously playing with her skirt a little bit. It was awesome!!

Conversation overheard between Camden and Grandma Holmes.

Camden: Grandma, did you know that you have 3 eyeballs?
Grandma: No, I didn't know that Camden? Where is my 3rd eyeball?
Camden: Oh it is on your uvula.
(For those of you wondering...that is the little hangy down thing in your throat!)
Grandma: When I eat won't I get food on it?
Camden: That's why you have to drink water while you are eating to keep it clean.

Thanks Camden...we didn't know that!

Thursday, April 15, 2010


When you think of church in China I'm not sure what you think of but I was laboring under some incorrect assumptions.

  • Churches are allowed to meet as long as they are approved by the government.
  • The pastor is allowed to preach what she wants to as long as she is not bashing the government.
  • Most of the pastors are female.
  • They have choirs with real choir robes. :-)
  • Before church starts, there is hymn practice. Some hymns you would recognize.
  • The ushers are usually all female too and let me tell you they don't mess around. You sit where they tell you and do what they tell you!
  • Their churches are what we would consider here, mega churches!
The first church we went to had 5 services with a membership of about 5,000 people. It was Palm Sunday so the choir walked in with palm branches (just telling you that because it was abnormally normal). There was a translator at the service we went to so I got to wear these big black earphones. You remember the ones with the padded earpieces?! Although it was hard to hear at times and sometimes the translation was a little strange, the Truth was preached that morning. This service was about an hour long. This picture is of a painting on the outside of the church and then a lady who really wanted a picture with Kristina.

The second church we went to was on the outskirts of Beijing. We went there because a friend of Kristina's knew the pastor. This church was smaller...I'm guessing maybe 800-1,000. This was Easter Sunday so the choir walked in with Calla Lilies. The first part of the service was your basic church service, singing, praying, sermon. (No translator at this service.) Then the pastor baptized (sprinkling) 37 people. Very cool and at this point we all think church is over. Little did we know that the variety show portion of church was just starting. There was singing, dancing, skits, and poetry. I so wish I could have understood what they were saying. One of the dramas, was two older ladies who were sisters who went back and forth (I think using poetry) "arguing" about who could memorize the most verses. Even in Chinese it was cute. So this portion of the service comes to an end and again we think now church is over (we are at the two hour mark). Little did we know that the choir cantata portion of the morning was just starting. Let's just say at the end of the 3 hour service, I had definitely gone to church!!

Inside of church

The three people with flowers were baptized that morning. The pastor is in the middle with the black on.


We met this little guy while we were walking on the street on a Saturday morning. He was on a break from school (they go to school 6 or 7 days a week). We could tell he wanted to try his English out on us. He spoke some English and Kristina spoke some Chinese to him as well and then she asked him, "Has anyone ever given you an English name?" He said no and so she proceeded to say, "I think you look like a Tim." He smiled and she showed him how to write it out. Chinese names don't really translate to English so they get an English name (if they want one) by people just giving them one. In this case his Chinese name had some of the same sounds in it as Tim. He was as happy as he could be. Kristina said he'll remember that forever! We were thinking later we should have named him Sam! (You will notice in many of the pictures how much they love to make the peace sign)
Isn't that a sweet story?!! My kids loved hearing about Tim!

Tim was about the only kid of his age we saw who was not in a group of uniformed school children. We saw a lot of little kids and college-aged kids at the many places we visited but no 6-17 year olds. I think that is probably because most of them don't live at home during that time. They usually board at their schools and they go to school A LOT!

Saturday, April 10, 2010


1. Foot rubs...enough said previously!! However, last night I paid my kids $1 each to rub my feet (pathetic I know). They did pretty good. Mr. Wenfung may have a little competition.

2. The food...I kind of had a love/hate relationship with the food. I enjoyed everything I ate (well, except for two things, a tofu dish and an eggplant dish) and I ate some really GOOD food (the pictures are of two of my favorites....sweet and sour fish and jowza)! However, I also got sick of it too. At those times my cousin would take pity on me and let us go to McDonalds or have pizza or would cook something herself. So when I say I miss it I guess I miss the ability to have good Chinese food at any time not just Hy-Vee's version. Although today when Sam asked if I wanted to go to a Chinese place for lunch, I did get a little nauseous so I guess I'm not quite ready for that yet.

3. Our fan club...It was kind of fun to see how celebrities live if only for a short time. Almost everywhere we went stares and picture-taking abounded. My cousin has blond hair so she got more attention than I did but I did ok! Our uniqueness was especially evident in Hohhot where I did not see another foreigner the whole time I was there (other than the people I was with). Some of these people do ask if you will pose for a picture with them and we always obliged. When shopping we also drew large crowds when we stopped to look at something. I was somewhat offended when I got off the plane in San Francisco and had no fans!!

4. The way the Chinese people's faces would light up when my cousin started speaking Chinese to them....That was just cool! I could tell they were very impressed and excited that she is learning their language!

5. The way no one there understood what I was saying....I've always wondered if the ladies at the nail salon are talking about me when I go to get my nails done....They are! We didn't talk bad about the people but we did make observations about them. Such as, "Oh no...he did not just spit there did he?" or "He is driving like a maniac!" Those kinds of things. I had to retrain myself when I got back among English speaking people not to just blurt out the first thing that came into my head.

6. The Freedom....It is probably extremely ironic to read that I found freedom in China. Let me explain. When a mom goes on a trip with her family she still has to work but when a mom goes on a trip by herself she doesn't have to take care of anyone but herself. That was a nice break. I did a pretty good job of setting aside my worrying about what was going on at home and enjoying my free time.

7. The Adventure....Every morning in China I would wake up excited to see what the day would hold and what new things I would get to see, and the new people I would get to meet. Now I'm back to real life and don't get me wrong but I've gone from Indiana Jones to Debra Barone in just a few days and all the excitement that cooking, cleaning and school runs brings doesn't really compare with international travel and The Great Wall.
(picture is of me and a friend riding bikes through some back streets of Beijing)


I can't believe I forgot to add these two things to my things I'm not missing list.

Hot Water...You probably thought I drank hot tea the whole time I was in China...not true. When you eat in a restaurant they serve you hot water. It's standard. Very odd and I did adjust but I would be lying if I said I wasn't happy to see ice cubes on the airplane!!

Diet Coke...Theirs tastes different, almost like they still use saccharin in it. The coke zero there is much closer to diet coke. I pretty much just stuck with the hot water!!

Thursday, April 8, 2010


The weird taste that I had in my mouth from the moment I got off the airplane until I got back on the airplane to leave. Hard to explain what it was like...kind of a sweetish taste. Weird I know. Possibly caused by the water I was drinking or the pollution in the air.

The pollution. As we were landing in Beijing I could see a brownish fog over the city. It made everything hazy as you can probably tell by my pictures of The Forbidden City.

The inability to understand anyone and to keep having to ask my cousin, "What are they saying?" It is weird to be in a place where you are the outsider, unable to communicate
The squatty potties. As some of you probably know, in China they do not have many "western" toilets. The squatties kind of look like a toilet bowl in the ground and in theory you should be able to squat over them (doesn't always work out so good!). I had prepared myself to use the squatties even going so far as to using my first one as I got off the airplane (I had held it for 7 hours!). My cousin later informed me that the airport has tons of western toities and that I had probably used one of the only squatties there. From then on I waited until we found westerns everywhere we went!!
The throwing of the toilet paper in the trash. Bet you didn't know that!! All toilet paper, and I mean ALL, is thrown in the trash can and not flushed. I acclimated to many things in China. This was not one of them!! (Be very thankful there is no picture of this!!)

The smell of many of the people. Please don't think I'm being derogatory here...I'm not. But they really do have a different smell. As near as my cousin can figure out it is because they eat a lot of garlic and other spices and they wear their long johns until at least May 1st. So...those two things combined make for an unusual aroma. This is extremely noticeable as you are riding on a subway, body to body.
The continuous hacking up of loogies and spitting them. My cousin said she had told me about this before I came but I must have blocked it out. Anyway, they, both men and women, do it everywhere (I even saw people doing it in the airport.) so you really have to watch where you are walking on the street. Thankfully the foreigners I met have not adopted this cultural hygiene habit!

The chopsticks. In the USA, when you get tired of chopsticks you get to pick up your fork and use that instead. In China, there are no forks!! So, you either sink or swim. I swam in a clumsy sort of way. Food did make it to my mouth and I was never hungry but it did take some effort, especially with the rice!!

The Christmas decorations everywhere. In almost every restaurant we ate at, many of the stores we were in, and even the churches we attended there were Christmas decorations. I had never seen so many Santa's in April. The church we went to on Easter had wreaths on the wall and their Christmas tree still up in the front of the church. I guess they just love the colors, especially the red. My cousin said that most of them will be up all year long.
Up next...What I miss about China.....


I brought a lot of stuff home from China and if I could have fit this guy in my suitcase I would have!!

One of the little treats on this trip was two visits to Mr. Wenfung's salon, near my cousin's apartment, for foot rubs. The process went like this: First our feet were placed in very hot buckets of tea to soak for awhile. While they were soaking, the foot rubber (not sure of the official term) gave us a wonderful upper back and neck massage (no disrobing needed!! :-). Then they started on the feet. I'm not going to some points in the process they rubbed the foot so hard it was painful...but it was a good pain! The best thing about the foot rub is that it cost less than $5!

So, Mr. Wenfung, hurry, the people of America need you!!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


Before leaving on my trip my cousin sent me a list of 100 things to do in Beijing. I think we accomplished about 30 of them (pretty good for only being there 7 days-we spent 2 days in another city). To challenge my brain to work through the fog of jet lag tonight I decided to pick my top 5 favorite things. This is difficult but I'm going to stick with it. (Of course I know what you don't and that is that I have many more China posts planned for the rest of the stories!)

So here they are....

5. Seeing the vegetable market in Kristina's neighborhood. Basically this is just an empty lot where on Sundays, Chinese vendors come and sell their fruits, vegetables, spices, rice, noodles, bras, goldfish...pretty much anything. I just felt like I got such a great glimpse into a bit of the Chinese culture and got to see Kristina in action as she buys a lot of her produce there.
4. Purse shopping at the various markets. I had planned on buying a few purses but I had no idea the obsession that would come over me as I journeyed into the various booths looking at all the bags. Kristina did a great job bargaining for me and I actually came home with....well, I won't say the number. I'll just post the picture!

3. Tienanmen Square (and the surrounding areas). It sounds so cliche to list this one but it really was very interesting to walk through the Chinese landmarks that we see on TV. This area, to the Chinese, is like what Washington D.C. is to us. It includes The Forbidden City, Tienanmen Square, and Mao's Mausoleum. The most striking thing to me about this place was that most of the Chinese people do not know anything about what happened at the Square in 1989. I was told that the night after the "uprising" the pavement all around the Square was replaced so there wouldn't be any sign of the tanks that had plowed through the area. There were no news stories about the event and even if the people do happen to hear anything about it they don't believe it really happened. It is not good when the government controls EVERYTHING!!! 2. The Great Wall! This was pretty awesome. We rode a tram up to the top and then hiked for 3 hours and ate lunch up on the wall. Instead of hiking down the wall we went down on an alpine slide. It was so neat to see something I've heard so much about! Words can't really do it justice. It also didn't hurt to have some NE peeps there as well and YES I'm still talking about that!! If I ever have the chance to go back to China I'm definitely going to spend more time hiking on the wall including seeing the "wild" (translation-not updated) sections of the wall.
1. Spending time with my cousin, Kristina. This really was the best part of the whole trip! We had such fun just spending time together, having the chance to really talk and catch up. It was very cool seeing where she works and understanding more about the work she does, meeting her friends, seeing places that are important to her, and having her tour me around and translate for me. She has been studying Chinese for the last few years and I think she's pretty fluent, although she says she's only about at a 4th grade level. Anyway, it was a precious time and I'm so thankful to have her as my cousin and to have had the opportunity to go on this trip!

Thursday, April 1, 2010


One thing that has been somewhat disappointing to me is the lack of recognition my Nebraska gear has been garnering from the Chinese or even the Americans I see. Yesterday at Tianamen Square I did get a lot of looks and I could tell people were reading my t-shirt (although my cousin, Kristina, would say it was because I was wearing crop jeans 2 months before the Chinese would ever think about it...they don't take their long johns off until May).

Anyway, today we went to the Great Wall. (Totally awesome by the by!) I made Kristina wear her NE shirt because she still is from Nebraska even if she is an ex pat. I told her that if anyone from Nebraska was there they would be wearing their gear. Being from a country of 1.3 billion she was somewhat skeptical that we would even see any Americans much less someone from NE.
We had just pulled up and stepped out of our car when I spotted someone wearing red. I knew right away that he was from NE. He saw my shirt too and we started waving at each other. After exchanging the typical hometown info (he was from O'Neill now an ex pat in Hong Kong), we took a few pictures.

As we walked away I was giddy with the excitement that only comes when you have been proven to be right about something, leaving my cousin to shake her head in disbelief. Then, as we stood at the ticket counter, I heard someone yell, "Hey, are you from Lincoln?" I turned around and there were 4 more people all decked out in their Husker finery!! It was so awesome and unexpected. It made my day (as if seeing the Great Wall were not enough!)!

Even in a country of a billion people, the state of 1.3 million represents well!!
Go Big Red!!


...when you have $45.00 burning a hole in your pocket in China?

How about buying some new glasses (yes they are real!)

trying fried grasshoppers on a stick???
Did I do it?

Oh yes I did!