Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Some pretty pictures from Europe....

I figured I should post some pictures from my trip...
Standing on the oldest bridge in Venice..A bridge that spans the Grand Canal in Venice, Italy is known as the Rialto Bridge and is the most famous in the city besides the Piazza di San Marco. This single span bridge in Venice was designed by Antonio da Ponte and was completed in 1591, eventually becoming one of the architectural icons in the city of Venice, Italy.
The stunning Rialto Bridge has three walkways, two along the outside railings and a wider central walkway that leads between rows of small shops. From the outer walkways you have a beautiful view of the Grand Canal

That's me on the bridge...
A view from a bridge in Amsterdam...
Amsterdam is a beautiful city too!
having lunch at an outdoor cafe in Amsterdam.
We were fortunate to have beautiful weather the whole week. We ate ALL our meals outside. These are two cities that I would highly recommend people to see if given the opportunity. They are full of history and just absolutely beautiful.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Michele and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day! (But a much better evening!)

Okay....WARNING...MAJOR WHINING TO FOLLOW............................
So, last night the internet goes biggie, hopefully it will be back up in the morning and I can get some school work completed. I get up this AM to internet, still!! I read a bit, clean (the maid is coming...gotta make her life easy! ;}), and do some laundry.
I check intermittently to see if I have a connection....NOPE, NADA, ZIPPO!! So I call the husband at work around lunch time, let him know I am getting kind of worried, I have school work to do. He says he sent Mr. Shen over to make sure the bill was paid {it was} and it should be working... SHOULDA, WOULDA, COULDA...still not working. I have reset the router and modem, and done everything I know...this is not a good thing. Okay, I figure it's lunch time, maybe I'll head down the street to Casa Zoe (Free WIFI)and I'll take my ebike, it's a nice day! So, I pack up the computer and school folder and down to the garage I go.
Have I mentioned the ridiculously stupid EBike ramps they have at this apartment complex? First of all, the ramp has stairs in the middleof the ramp and the smooth driving pavement are the two small strips on either side of the stairs. Also, there 2 pretty sharp turns up the ramp before you reach the street level. I have walked the bike up it before (Mark was with me and has helped) but I figure I am a grown woman I need to do this so I can go and get school work done. Well, I get up about three quarters of the way, just around the last tight turn and someone is behind me, and I accelerate just a bit too much and the bike ZOOMSa bit too fast and I try to get control of we go , bike and I go down! OUCH! So, the picture you should have now is me laying on the pavement, with my nice pretty blue EBike on top of half of me! At least the computer bag is still securely attached to the back of my seat! Okay, so I am really hurting, and embarrassed because a few Chinese folk (No English speaking)have come to my aid. I get up, and they help get the bike off me. Then, the bike won't go! Turn the throttle...not going. GREAT! :( Now I am really getting upset here. My knee and arm are killing me, the bike doesn't have power...oh and look here comes my maid on her EBike to come clean the apartment. She stops, she also tries to get the bike to go...No luck! So here I am, with 3 people trying to help me, my maid..and this bike not wanting to have any power. Well, Mrs.Song (the maid) and I push it to my apartment building entrance. I call Mark...blubbering, that "this day sucks, it continues to increase in suckiness and I wanna go home...TO THE GOOD OLE' USA! Where people speak my language, the internet works regularly, and I can get in my car and drive to places I need to get to!!!"
He says he'll come home, I say no...I'm just having a really bad day and it was bound to happen. In the meantime, Mr.Shen arrives at the apartment with a very nice gentleman who speaks excellent English and he is going to see about getting my internet to work. After about 10-15 minutes...internet working! YEA!! :)While he is doing that, I tell Mr. Shen about the EBike; so he goes down to look at it. Then Mrs. Song comes speaking Chinese to me...I have no clue what she is saying but she wants me to go with her down to where we parked the EBike (Pantomime works wonders!) So, we head down to where the bike is and here come another Chinese gentleman walking towards us...Mrs. Song then points to the advertisement license plate on the back of the bike at the phone number and s grins and points to her phone...she has called the place from where the bike was bought to tell them to come and make it work...and they showed up! You gotta love China and their customer service! By this time, Mark is arriving also. So, Mr. Shen had already discovered the problem and fixed the bike. (The hand brake was stuck).Mr Shen and the man from the Bike shop have a discussion, Mrs. Song is heading back up to the apartment, and my husband has arrived to save his "Damsel in Distress" By this time, it's almost three o'clock and my husband informs me he has cancelled our Chines language class because he figured I probably wasn't up for it...and he is taking me to dinner to that wonderful Italian place we like so much...what a man I got...he sure knows how to turn this gal's frown upside down!!!
SO, I am back from dinner, had some lovely vino, a fabulous dinner with my husband, and as I post this rubbing my incredibly sore knee and very achy arm, I am still very fortunate...I really am! Tomorrow is another day, and no, I will NOT be attempting to get the EBike out of the garage!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Can you say JET LAG??

Oh yes...the benefits of International, time zone jumping all within a week. It is 3:31AM here in China...and I can not sleep. It probably has to do with lying around like a slug all day because my hugely swollen "Fred Flinstone" feet and my swollen "cankles" were extremely achy and I felt the need to keep them elevated so they would go down and resemble a pair of normal feet and ankles. I am sure it had to do with the BAZILLION miles walked on our lovely trip and the 14 hours of travel by plane in cattle call economy/coach. But, the bit of soreness is well worth it for the enjoyment of our European vacation.
I've done most of the work on my paper that needs to be turned in for school in the next 8 hours. I have done a bit more research, read a bit, cleaned the study, and folded laundry. I guess I really should go back to bed so I can get up with Mark at 6:30 and finish my paper so I can get it turned in. This is my last class of foundational classes, then I start my teaching specialization courses. I can't believe it...I will be done in June of 2012 and hopefully the proud bearer of a Masters degree. It's true what they say...time sure flies when you're having fun...and I am having the time of my life!! :)

Friday, March 25, 2011

Venice....oh what a beautiful city!

I am posting a few pictures to show just how "picture postcard" this city really is! I can not believe that I am lucky enough to have a husband that surprised me with this AWESOME 10th anniversary trip. He is a jewel of a man....I am truly blessed that I am able to call him my mate for life!

So, we arrived here believing I could get my hair done somewhere in the next couple of days because I do believe the Italian stylists will be better at handling naturally curly,"enhanced" blonde hair than Chinese hair stylists. So, we inquire at the front desk about a hair salon in the area. The receptionist says she'll look on the internet and call to see if I may be able to get an appointment. She finds one five minutes away, and they can take me now! Woot! Pretty good...I get there and a girl says "hotel?" I say yes and she whisks me away to the shampoo bowls...I get a wash and then walked over to one of the stylist( an older man...probably been doing here for 30+ years!) I feel good, until my husband informs me... that he thinks that the salon employees are not aware that I want COLOR...just a cut. I attempted to explain (in English) what I wanted/needed; while my stylist is speaking Italian. GREAT! So, I decided to "pantomime" what I need. I bow my head, to show my lovely 1-2 inches of dark root and say "color"? He shakes his head, and holds my dripping wet hair and says "Gocciolante Pelli" pretty much telling me I get no color because my hair is now wet! he proceeds to grab his scissors and I again pantomime by showing my index finger and thumb as to say "just a bit off; trim". Mark then comes over and picks up a bit of hair and shows "Mr. Italian Stylist" a small portion of hair to take off. And take just a bit off he did...I do believe the blow dry took much longer than the actual hair cut. He seemed to be a nice man, I was just disappointed that I didn't get to get my color done here. Plus, my bangs are still pretty long and my husband says it's blow dried very "Doris Day- esque" Thanks Mark! So, we paid 42.00 Euros for a slight trim and a blow dry with much "Grazie", Arrivederci, and Ciao with smiles. I started the day with that and had to laugh...gee an American woman is in Venice and because of a mix up with language, I don't quite get what I want.... SUCK IT UP! You're in a beautiful city , the weather is gorgeous, and I have my husband with me for a most enjoyable day ahead. SO, it's off to see more of Venice...with my dark roots and "Doris Day-esque hair!!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Hello from Amsterdam!

Well, we have been here for 2 days and we have walked so much that our legs and feet are killing us!! Oh, the joys of aging!! We plan to go into the city again today and tour the Anne Frank house. We have tickets to take the canal buses to the nearest sights. I'm blogging this from my itouch pictures this post but I promise to post some in my next post.
We are really enjoying ourselves and the weather has been gorgeous! We certainly are blessed in that department.
We are headed to Venice tomorrow. Our flight is later in the afternoon so we leave here around 1:00pm. I am looking forward to it. Let's hope the weatherman is correct when he tells me sunny and in the 60's while we're in Venice. Doesn't get much better than that now does it?Now, if my legs (actually my calves) would not ache and my feet would stop throbbing...I'll be good to go!! 2 days until our 10th wedding anniversary...I still can't believe the wonderful husband of mine puts up with me! Like I've told him before "lesser men would have bolted by now!! He's such a wonderful husband and I am an extremely lucky gal!!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Chinese Language...oh what fun!

Mark and I have started language classes last week. Our Chinese teacher is named Ashley (I have no clue what her Chinese name is). She is as cute as a button...and probably all of 23 years old! She does speak impeccable English and I have found her to be a good far. Oh to be young again and be able to have my brain cells retain this information! Between grad school research and paper writing, add learning a foreign language to the mix...MY HEAD HURTS!!!
There are sound to this language that our American tongues and lips are not use to forming. Oh...and I forgot to mention the tones! Yes tones, four of them....the word MA can mean four different things, depending on the TONE ! Oh, it's been a treat and poor Mr. Shen (our driver) gets many laughs from us slaughtering his native language!! He is a good sport and does attempt to correct us and teach us the proper pronunciation and tone!
Mark actually missed class this evening , due to working late. My husband works too many hours and far to hard! Thank goodness we leave for our anniversary trip on March 18th. It's our tenth wedding anniversary on March 23rd. and my husband has planned a lovely trip for us...I'll keep you updated when I find out where we are celebrating...He has kept it a surprise! That's my wonderful Englishman for you...oh, but he is a wonderful man and I sure am lucky to call him my husband!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

March 10th...Shopping and Lunch (of course) with my Posse!

To say I have an absolute BLAST with these bunch of ladies is an understatement! Celeste, Pam, and Christine are just fun to be with and I so enjoy getting together with them. This is the same group that went to tea a couple of weeks back. I must take a picture next time we're together (which will be March 17th).
We started the day with lunch at the Indian at the Cross for some divine Indian food. It was delicious and we had a very enjoyable meal with much chatting and laughs! After lunch we headed to Shangtang Street: Suzhou's Shantang Street (山塘街) has always been regarded as the first name of Suzhou ancient streets. This has three reasons, Shantang Street has a long history of about 1,100 years, its layout and architecture are best to represent the characteristics of Suzhou's old alleys, and it has connections to many ancient Chinese celebrities and anecdotes.
It's a very unique experience with great shopping and wonderful little shops. Here are a couple of pictures:
The Canal that runs along the street

Shangtang Street

They still make the bamboo accordion fans. Here is an artisan at work:

We wondered the street and shopped for a couple of hours...many items were purchased between the four of us. Lots of lovely things and plenty of bargains. I got many gifts to take home.. and I purchased a couple of little paintings of Suzhou done by a local artist to hang here in the apartment. They will be a nice reminder of the time I have spent here.
Before we knew it, it was time to head back. It was a fabulous day...and I can't wait till March 17th.for our next excursion!

A Lucky Lady who lunches...and lunches!!

In my haste to post...I forgot to mention my wonderful lunch with my new friend Laura. She took me to the Renaissance Hotel on March 4th for a "Dim Sum" lunch. The unique culinary art of dim sum originated with the Cantonese in southern China, who over the centuries transformed yum cha from a relaxing respite to a loud and happy dining experience. In Hong Kong, and in most cities and towns in Guangdong province, many restaurants start serving dim sum as early as five in the morning. It is a tradition for the elderly to gather to eat dim sum after morning exercises. For many in southern China, yum cha is treated as a weekend family day. Consistent with this tradition, dim sum restaurants typically only serve dim sum until mid-afternoon (around the time of a traditional Western 3:00 coffee break), and serve other kinds of Cantonese cuisine in the evening. Nowadays, various dim sum items are even sold as take-out for students and office workers on the go.
I had never experienced this so I told I was game to give it a off we went to the lovely Chinese restaurant in the hotel. it was so delicious and a great way to experience different Chinese dishes. There is just enough of a portion to have a bit, and if you like can order more. It's a lot like a buffet, but you order off a menu...and order we did! The things we liked, made an encore appearance :) I wish I had taken my camera to get some pics, but the blonde girl in me forgot it! It really was good. I got to be honest, every time I go for Chinese I am still a bit apprehensive...and then pleasantly surprised after that I really do enjoy Chinese food!!
The one sad thing, Laura may be leaving here fairly quickly. It appears her husband's job may take them somewhere else. She is someone that I just genuinely felt that "instant click" with..Know what I mean? Someone who just gets you for you? It was just that easy between us. That is definitely the drawback to coming here and making new friends...they come and go from anywhere from a month to three years! The "nature of the beast" of life as an expatriate. At least I have made friends from all over the world, and with modern technology the way it is, it's not too difficult to stay in touch.
That evening also was nice because we went to La Casa Vostra for dinner with Mark's work colleagues. It was a lovely ending to a very nice day. Such a lucky gal I am...

Another Tai-Tai Outing--March 9th.

Okay...I guess I owe people an apology. My lovely sister Katie has informed me that it was extremely rude and wrong of me to post an "I'm busy, talk to you soon" kind of entry. So, to Katie...and everybody else this happened to annoy...MY SINCEREST APOLOGIES!!!
I miss you my sister!!! This pic is from Thanksgiving 2009...the most recent i have of us together. We obviously need to rectify that when I get home this summer!
Well, let's see...a lot has been going on with me these last couple of weeks... On March 9th we had a "Tai -Tai Outing to the Suzhou Art School and we also went to a park/historical area:
Zhang Ji's poem put Han Shan Temple on the map of famous Chinese religious sites, it served to immortalize neighboring Feng Qiao, or in English, Maple Bridge.

Through much of the Ming Dynasty, Maple Bridge and its crossing over Iron Bell Pass had been a military position outside the city walls, contributing to Suzhou's defense against marauding pirates, at least some of whom were of Japanese origin.

Zhang Ji's poem assures us that Maple Bridge dates back at least to the Tang Dynasty period when he penned his famous verses. In that earlier era, the bridge served a small but apparently prosperous town of Fengqiao. Sitting alongside the Grand Canal, the town was likely a center of local business and commerce related to the sizable product movement north and south along the canal. Maple Bridge itself connects the local district to a small, elongated island sitting along the eastern edge of the Grand Canal. The single-arched bridge spans the Iron Bell Pass, while another ancient bridge, Jiancun Qiao, sits just to the south and provides a second crossing onto the island.

Since 2000, the Suzhou city government has transformed the Maple Bridge area into the Feng Qiao Scenic and Historic Area. Visitors enter through a stone gate topped with a traditional-style guard tower overlooking the famed, single-arch bridge. On the other side of the bridge now sits a collection of small arts and crafts shops as well as several buildings evoking life and commerce in the Qing Dynasty era. These occupy either side of Fengqiao North Street, which runs to the northern end of the island and terminates at a pavilion-like structure called the Awesome Rainbow Pier.

Here are a few pitures:

It was a very picturesque park with a lot of history. It was also a beautiful day to be out walking! Spring is starting to make an appearance:

We also went to the Suzhou Art School. That was very interesting and entertaining. This is like a performing Arts School where they learn dancing, singing and the intricacies of Chinese Opera. A few visuals here:
It was a very enjoyable afternoon that included a Chinese lunch. I also bought a few gifts to take back home. I was glad to experience this and I'm fortunate to be able to do these things.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The wonders of living in a foreign country.....

Hello World!

I have been busy with the start of a new class, and being the social butterfly that I am! I plan on blogging about the past week this week-end. I am alive, and the adventure continues...

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Fun with's a busy Tuesday!

Well it's the first Tuesday of the month,March 1st...and that means it's the "Meet and Greet" coffee social at the Renaissance Hotel for EAS members and anyone who is new to the city who wants to meet other "transplants" from all over the world.
Val and I walked over, and it was freezing! The wind was just wicked. We toughed it out, and made it in about 20 minutes, it's about 1.5 miles away. There was a huge turnout for this one. I am not exaggerating when I say at least 50-60 people showed up. It was a nice time, as I ran into L (a lady I had met a few weeks ago at the nail salon). I also met a few new folks and chatted. I also made plans with L to go to lunch on Friday afternoon. I am looking forward to it. After the gathering, the Mahjong gang decided to go to lunch at the Blue Marlin. It's a good choice because it is very close to the apartment complex that Mahjong is played and they have a half off lunch menu. There were 10 of us that headed over. It was a lot of fun and again, I got to spend time with some ladies I haven't really spent much time with.
After lunch, we went and played Mahjong(I'm still attempting to get the hang of it!)I was at a nice table and learned a bit more about the game. Practice makes perfect...right? When we finished, it was about 4:00PM, and Val, J and I walked back to our apartment complex. I went to the market to try to find something I could have for dinner, as Mark is out for the evening for dinner with his work colleagues. I really didn't find anything...but I did buy some popcorn ($3.25)for a box that contains 3 bags of microwave popcorn. I just love the import prices! I swear, when I go back home in June...I'll be working to save money for my "import treats".
I got a text from Ollie that poker was commencing this evening at 8:30...Hmmmm... it's been a while since I played with my new "poker buddies", I have nothing pressing to do {okay...homework, but I can put that off! :) } So...I decide what every dengerate gambling girl would do...I hop in a taxi and head over to Ollies! Glad I did! We had a two table tournament....and I won! WOO-HOO! Well, actually me and the only other female playing that night split the pot, we had pretty close to the same amount of chips and "GIRL POWER"---we took all the Men's money!! :) I had a great time...I am really going to try to do this at least once a week! I forgot how much fun I had previously with these folks. I got home kind of late...after midnight and Mark was already in bed sleeping. Time for me to join him...I need my beauty sleep!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Saturday Shopping in Shanghai

Well, we woke up early to head over to Casa Zoe for breakfast (delicious blueberry pancakes!) then it was off to the supermarket near Mark's old apartment. We got most of the items on my list...not all! We ran into Gary; Mark's co-worker. We made plans to meet up with him later at the Blue Marlin to have a few beers and listen to the band. We took a taxi back because we had a pretty heavy bag to lug back to the apartment.
Mr. Shen was picking us up at 1:00PM to go to Shanghai. It's a two hour car ride, so I took my textbook to read for my new class that is starting. We arrived a little before 3:00 and off we go to shoe shop. For those of you who don't know...I am married to a fashionista! He need some brown shoes (he has a pair of brown shoes, but they do not go with the new suit he had made!) We search for ties also. We find him a few new ties (4) then it's off to find shoes. He finds a pair he likes...let the haggling begin! This shop owner is one tough cookie! She is really trying to get Mark to pay more than he wants! :) My husband is not having it. He has lived here for nearly three years, and he knows the game only to well! She is persistent though. After about 15 minutes, Mark finally gets his shoes at the price he wanted...but he had to work for it! Shopping is an exhausting sport here in China let me tell you, but fun! :)
I have been looking for a "happy Budda" for myself. I just think they are cute and I have been casually looking since my visit back in '09. I found one, haggled now I have my "happy Budda"!
Isn't he cute??

Done shopping, we stop for a coffee and split a sandwich; and then it's time to head back. We got back around 6:30 and we head back out around 8:00 to stop at the DVD store, then off to the Blue Marlin. It was packed! We ended up sitting at the bar, had a couple of beers and listened to the band. I ran into my friend Susanna and met her husband. We stayed till around 11:30 then headed back to the apartment. Tomorrow is going to be a lazy Sunday of watching movies and just staying put!