Thursday, August 30, 2007

Beijing: Pardon our construction.

So Beijing is a HUGE city. It's quite expansive, compared to typical asian cities, which are building up because they're out of space. I guess Beijing is building up as well. It seemed like half the city, not to mention all the tourist sites, were under construction, everyone preparing for the Olympics in 343 days (there are countdown tickers all over the city to remind them how much longer they have to get that building done!). Some of these projects they are undertaking, I have no idea HOW they will have them completed, functional, operational, and SAFE in under a year. But I guess with a virtually unlimited workforce that works around the clock, it can be done.

Just some thoughts, observations, etc, before I go to work (they're a work in progress, forgive me):

Subway: There is currently a Line 1 (Red), Line 2 (Blue), and Line 13 (Yellow). Red goes west to east, blue is a loop line, and yellow is a spur off of the loop line. Thus begins the mystery of lines 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12. According to Faye and other Chinese insiders, all the subway lines have been planned in advance; these three are the only ones that are done. In one subway station, I saw plans for lines 5, 8, and 10. And the other day in Zhongguancun, I saw a crane that said something like "building the future line 4". Thus remains lines 6, 7, 9, 11, and 12. Interesting, though, that a city this big is just beginning to get a subway system.

Bus: It's because everyone depends on the bus. These cans are packed like sardines all the time. But it can be cheap: Some buses charge .40, some charge 1, some charge per km or per stop. How this is determined? Who knows. But buses can get you anywhere, it's great. Too bad most of them stop running after around 10 or so.

Nightlife: Maybe it's because I'm a family man now, but it seems like, unlike other asian cities, there's not much that happens after 10 or so. No night markets, karaoke, etc. Maybe I'm just looking in the wrong place.

Tourbooks: Anyone who's traveling to Beijing, don't count on a travel guide book like Frommers or Lonely Planet, especially if it is out of date--like 2006. I got one from the library that was 2006, and had trouble finding places because a lot of places have moved because of the Olympics. There was one store I really wanted to go buy stuff from, I told the taxi driver to take me to a place close to it, but just to make sure, I asked him if he's heard of the store, and he said it was no longer there, it moved to make way for a highrise. And this book was dated 2006!?! Argh. So I told him to go to the airport instead because traffic was horrendous anyway.

Cars: Interesting conversation on television was talking about reducing pollution by telling people to take public transpo, while at the same time, cars are just becoming more and more popular, people are trading in their bicycles one by one for a car, and the novelty effect probably hasn't worn off yet. So they have a little "Maodun". Another thing: Black Audis and Black VWs seem to be the status symbol around here. If you have money, you most likely have a black Audi. They're nice, but when everyone has one, where's the novelty in that?!

Foreign vs Domestic: I went to a fast food beef noodle shop (wasn't that great, but oh well) and got a can of coke for 5 RMB (about 70 cents or so), which I already thought was a rip off, since a can can cost about 2-3RMB usually. But then I go back to the American-owned hotel I was staying at, and was a little thirsty, and since I was sitting in the lobby lounge mooching wireless internet, I felt bad that I was sitting there not ordering anything, so I ordered a can of pepsi. Can anyone guess how much I paid? 34.50 RMB (5 bucks or so). Crazy. The same type of charges can be seen in transportation costs as well. Taxis are 10 RMB to start, and then 2 RMB for every few KM (I don't remember exactly how it works, but it's still relatively cheap). Pretty much it costs about 20 RMB (about 3 bucks) to get places in town (on average; going across town is another thing). Cheap, yes? But get this. Taking the subway to go across town is 3 RMB (less than 50 cents). That's cheap, right? But wait, there's more. Taking the bus (well, I wrote it earlier) is only .40 RMB to as much as 2 or 3 RMB as well! (so 5 cents to about 50). And one wonders why everyone takes the bus.

People: It's funny, these people are always scrambling to get places. Not the most orderly, but I was told by some Malaysians that it's worse over there. I can't even imagine. The way people drive is the way people get on and off the subway, on and off the bus, and in and out of food lines. Drives me crazy! I like Japan because it is the exact opposite--a lot more orderly. Makes DC traffic look like cakewalk, that's for sure!

Another comment: You wouldn't think China was a communist country. Did anyone else notice that? I mean, other than Tiananmen Square and the Great Hall and all that out there, it would be hard to tell. I bet it's even harder to tell in Shanghai.

Well I'm out, I'm completely out of clothes and need to get the laundry done--it needs to last another week or so!

More later.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Groban Concert

Yes, I am a Groban fan. I've been a fan since I heard him sing "You're Still You" on the radio the summer of 2002. And I remember clearly being blown away by his amazing voice.
Anyway, since then I've made my sister a fan too, and we decided to go to one of his concerts here in Seattle. And to be honest, it's my second Groban concert this year. I'm embarrased by it cause it's like I'm one of those crazy stalker fans! Well, the cheesy-ness doesn't end there...
Let me first say that the concert is still great the second time around. Although, I knew exactly the jokes he would say and what to expect during the show, I still enjoyed it.
Ok, so before the concert, while we were driving around the Key Arena for a parking spot, we found out where the performer's RVs were parked out back. We were already being silly, realizing that Josh could be in one of those RVs right then! So I jokingly said to my sister that we should come back after the show to see if we can see Josh leaving! Of course, its so out of character for us to chase celebraties down. We believe there's a line between being a fan, and being and OBSESSED stalker.
At the beginning of the show, my sister drops her cell phone and the back cover to her Razr is lost somewhere, being kicked underfoot, by everyone in section 208. There was no way we'd find it till after the show when the lights were back on.
So, after the show, while the crew was dismanteling the stage, we finally found it 6 rows down from us. *whew*
Then, I, being 6 months or so pregnant, needed to find a bathroom asap. And of course there are lines into all the women's bathrooms everywhere! Don't event planners know that twice as many women go to the bathroom than men?! So we kept walking around the inside of the arena looking for a bathroom. We finally found one that was empty, and when we were leaving looked outside the arena to see that the RVs were still parked outside. So, just out of curiosity, we decided to walk past the gates to maybe catch a glimps of Josh.
Just as we were getting close, I heard a security guard yell out, that everyone needs to get in line behind the barracades. Then we see a rush of crazy fans coming at us, cause we were standing at the entrance to the barracades. So, without much thought of WHY we were getting in line, we got in line! If a hoard of people are rushing to get in line, there must be something good at the front of the line right?
There were these two old ladies, 60+ yrs old, in front of us, and we asked them what this line was for. They said that sometimes, as tour buses leave, the artist may stop and get out to meet the crowd and sign autographs. Really?! Wow we got in a good line!
These two old ladies were SO funny. They were telling us about how they've tracked down Ichiro Suzuki of the Mariners at spring training hoping for an autograph, only to see him speed off in his shades and black sports car. And how when they were younger, at 50 yrs old, ran after Barry Manalo's car as it was leaving a concert! Can you believe it?! These two old ladies have one crazy hobby!
We waited about 20 mins in the drizzle of Seattle rain with these 2 old ladies and a lot of underaged, acne prone, hormone raged, stalker fans that knew WAY TOO MUCH about Josh and his dog and other usless facts. We DEFINATLY did not want to be associated with this crowd.
Just then an RV pulls up and, YES, Josh Groban steps out in a hoodie to sign autographs in the rain. Well, that was nice of him. So, as it turns out he went to the back of the line first and worked his way forward, back to the RV. I made my way toward the back of the line, where there was less of a crowd, and took some good pics and got him to sign my concert ticket. Whoo Hoo! My sister stayed in the front, and mangaged to get a signature too under all those crazy fans. Looking at the video tape afterwards, I realized she was the second to last person to get an autograph in all that madness. Lucky her.
We both were too star struck to say anything more then "Thanks, Josh" when we got his autograph. We're so lame.
Michelle K.: I think that whole evening is right up there with your latest cheesyness.
But, it was a great experience to top off our Groban concert, and we came away with a great souvenir too. Especially since we were sitting in the nose-bleed, cheap seats section surrounded by a lot of Josh's geriatric fans. Who knew his demographics spanned that wide of an age group?! I almost felt weird cheering at the beginning of the concert, cause a lot of the people around us just didn't have that type of energy level. There was, however, a very metro 20 something seated a few rows in front that was freakishly too much of a Groban fan. Let's just say his "enthusiaism" for Josh kept us entertained.
Groban Aug 07

Friday, August 17, 2007

NYC through Uncle Brian's Lens

That's the last of the pics from Mark's childhood friend Brian from our NY-PA-DC trip. Brian must have some mad skillz cause even his point and shoot comes up with some nice photos. That or else I really don't know how to maximize the functions on our camera. Enjoy!
NYC DC Brian pics

Thursday, August 16, 2007

A few more Seattle pics

I added a few more pics to the end of the album.
I'm doing it this way so Mark can see what we're doing while he's away.
Seattle Aug 07

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


Ok so, I'm posting these pics of Seattle a little prematurely. I was gonna wait till I was back in DC, but I'll just keep adding to the web album as I upload more pics.
I feel like a schmuck again for not taking more pictures! There's not nearly enough pics of when Jerin and Wami and Taisei were here. And there are no pics with Lisa, no pics of my old friends that I've been hanging out with, and no pics of Mark's 10 yr high school reunion! The reunion is the biggest reason we were even in town. *sigh of dissappointment*
Well, imagine with me a large dim lit room with green and white balloons, filled with about 150-200 27-28 yr olds with glasses of beers in their hands, loud 90's music blasting from a DJ in a corner, "heavy" appetizers on the tables, and Mark's slide show he put together for the reunion looping on the big screen in the back. There were a lot more people that showed up than expected, and there weren't enough chairs and tables for everyone. That's ok cause most of them congregated around the bar. Being that I only knew 3 people at the reunion, all Mark's friends, I did OK making small talk with the others there accompanying someone that did go to that high school. I'll let Mark post his thoughts on his reunion...
My 10 yr high school reunion is in 2009, and after going to Mark's I've reconsidered not attending mine. I know there aren't going to be many people there that I'll talk to, cause I already keep in touch with the ones I care about. But I would be curious to see who's lost hair, gained/lost weight, who's doing well, and who's still never left high school mode. Funny that even after 10 yrs, there were still noticable cliks at Mark's reunion. If you weren't tight with a certain group in high school, you still didn't talk to them at the reunion.
So, I guess after going to Mark's, I know what to expect going to mine. And I have 2 years to start a business or get my masters or do something HUGE before then. :)

*I'll post the slideshow again when I add more pics to it.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

July = Visitors!

July was one crazy month of visitors coming and going, family and friends, but its fine by me to play host to great visitors.

For Evan's birthday, we got to see Andrew and Liew and Andersen, Abbey and Da and Brennan and Clayton, and David and Alexis. I posted a pic of Evan's strawberry guava cake in a previous post. Evan loves strawberries, and pretty much picked off all the strawberries and left the cake and frosting behind! I decided to make it a kiddie pool party since we'd been having insanely hot and humid weather this summer. The kids, mostly Brennan and Evan, loved splashing around in the kiddie pool and getting the non-swimmers wet. I feel like a schmuck, cause in my busy-ness playing hostess, I didn't take many pictures! Here's a link to the Zhou's site and of the pics they took of the kids splashing around.
I don't have pics of opening presents either cause I was busy video taping... but "Thank you for the gifts!"
Half the people I invited never showed, but I think, in the end, it turned out just right for Evan.

Mark's old childhood buddy Brian came for a visit too. Its becoming a yearly thing now for us to get together and travel. Last year we went to Taiwan together. We drove up to NYC for a few days and did touristy type stuff cause Mark and I haven't done it the last 2 times we've been. Evan did pretty well in NY given the extreme heat. He's in love with "choo choo trains, choo choo!" So he was in train heaven getting to see and ride on the subway everyday, everywhere, all day long. Simple pleasures.
We stayed at the Marriot at Newark airport for super cheap. The only downside was that it takes us a while to get into NYC on bus and train.
Someone please explain to me why Newark is SO ghetto and SO nasty? You'd think that being in such close proximity to NYC that it would be at least OK. But it makes SE DC look like paradise! Anyway...
I never get bored of NYC. I always like to imagine what life would be like to live in one of those grand old townhomes next to central park and have some fabulous design job. I can dream.
On the drive back, we stopped in Philly for, what else, Pat's Philly cheese steaks. There's a whole other language you speak just to order, of which Mark has figured out. So that's 5 languages he speaks now?

Here's some pics we took. Brian's pics of course are WAY better, and I'll have to post them separatly cause mixing his with ours would be wrong. :)

Brian stayed a little longer with us to see more of DC and play with Evan. Brian got well aquainted with Evan's "mickey mouse" trick. Evan made up his own sign for Mickey Mouse one day. And also has been on a kick to teach people sign too. So he's been teaching Brian how to sign his own sign for Mickey Mouse. It consists of taking your thumb and forefinger, and placing them on either side of your/someone elses nose and pinching while saying "Mickey Mouse" at the same time. Silly boy. I think Brian's got a pic of Evan giving me the "mickey mouse" demo.

Liew and Andrew and Andersen came up for our monthly temple trip and to celebrate mine and Liew's birthdays. I like when they come cause it gives us a chance to trade babysitting so we can go to the temple too. Plus they keep us on track to visit the temple at least monthly. :)
I've also come to really appreciate how Liew is always right there with me in the kitchen, cooking or cleaning. And she's willing too! That's something I don't see everyday. And she always goes above and beyond what she needs to do. She's the guest, but everytime I turn around she's loaded the dishwasher, or wiped down the dinning table, or put leftovers in tupperware and in the fridge! I don't ask her to do any of this and I'm always amazed she knows what I needed to do. And its not just meal times. She keeps an eye out for Evan too, along with Andersen. When we're over at their place, I know I don't even come close to doing as much as Liew does.
Liew, I don't know where you get the energy, and you're so quick too, for housework and you have so much patience with the kids, and keeping an eye out for them, like you have "eyes on the back of your head", I really admire you.

So, that's about it for July. Stay tuned for a post about our trip to Seattle (where I still am right now), meeting up with Jerin and Wami and Taisei, and Mark's 10yr high school reunion.

I can't believe its almost the middle of August. Where does the time go?! The baby is gonna be here before I'm ready for it.


Friday, August 10, 2007

Beverly & Liew's Birthday!

Liew and I have birthdays only 2 days apart. So we celebrated together. Liew and Andrew made some super yummy fried springrolls for dinner. And I made another fruit cake too. This time I added white chocolate to the cream cheese frosting, and it was DIVINE! Afterwards, I ended up eating the frosting with the left over strawberries. mmmmm. My next thing is to find the perfect cake recipe. I've just been using the store bought box type, but it isn't as fluffy as I'd like. I tired whipping the egg whites before folding it in the batter and it helped a little. Maybe I just need to use a sponge cake recipe and modify that? If anyone out there has a white cake recipe that's half cake and half sponge cake consistancy, please share!

I mentioned before that I was taking on a new hobby of crochet. I'm happy to report that I've completed my 2nd project! That's amazing for me! I almost let this one collect dust in my craft closet. But it's done and it turned out well for trying to make up my own pattern. Evan likes it a little too much. He thinks its for him, and will ask me to cover him with it when he's watching tv. I was planning on giving it as a gift, but now I'm wondering if I can part with it? I worked so hard to complete it. What if I never finish a project of this scale again? I'll have nothing to prove to Mark that I do get craft projects done!