Tuesday, December 9, 2014

China's Golden Week 2014

This year for October holiday (the week of National Holiday in China), we decided to go to the island of Borneo.  Before this trip, I knew nothing about the island and it had a reputation that I didn't know about.  After our trip, I was texting a friend in the US and she mentioned that her grandmother would refer to the "wild women of Borneo".  Even recent episode of the BBC show, Downton Abbey, Lord Grantham referred to Borneo.

I believe that the island of Borneo is the third largest island in the world.  The northern part of the island where we stayed is governed by Malaysia and the southern part is governed by Indonesia.  After doing a bit of research, I think the former practice of head-hunting on the island might have had something to do with its reputation.  

Our visit at the beginning of October meant that there was a good chance that the rainy season might have already begun.  And, it had.  There were a few days of full sun, but many days it rained.  We were thankful for a great hotel with lots of indoor options for fun because we needed it.
Enjoying some Borneo milk tea.
This look says, "Oh, dad"

Our hotel had an orangutan rescue center.  We were fortunate to see the orangutan's up-close during their morning feeding time.

On our way to the sanctuary...

 Here they come...

Can you see the baby hanging onto the mama?
Comparing our feet to the orangutan.
 The clouds are rolling in and the rain will begin...

Date night.  Jamie and I have decided that going to dinner with fewer than your maximum amount of children constitutes a date night.  LBean and EBean partied at the Kids Club while Jamie, ChinaBean and I enjoyed a nice Indian dinner.
Mmm, Indian food!
We convinced the girls one night to go toteppanyaki restaurant.  They were skeptical at first, but the table-side entertainment and good food won them over.  LBean sighed and said that it was too bad there weren't these kinds of restaurants in Suzhou.  I got to give her the good news that indeed China has it's fair share of Japanese teppanyaki food too.

While the rain came down, we found ways to entertain ourselves.  We enjoyed games in the kids club and it was even more fun because some friends from school happened to be staying at the same hotel.  We took advantage of the activities in the lobby and learned how to make a grasshopper out of a leaf and fold napkins in fancy ways.  The hotel also had a nice open-air game room and we introduced EBean to game Jenga and LBean tried to dominate a game of checkers.

On our last day in Borneo, when the sun broke through, we made a mad dash to the pool before the rain began again.  The water was a bit chilly since there hadn't been enough sun to warm it up, but the girls got over it quickly and enjoyed themselves.

Peeking up at our room!

On our way back to the airport that evening Jamie struck up a conversation with our Maylasian taxi driver.  The driver mentioned that he had been to the US before (I was expecting him to say L.A. or some other major city) and in fact he had been to Illinois.  He shared with us that he had gone to school for 18 months in southern Illinois to earn his FAA pilot's license.  He had been about 3 hours from where Jamie and I grew up. 

What they say is true, it's a small world! 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

I Chose Pink!

Tuesday I had the chance to cross off another item on my bucket list...attend a Melbourne Cup race party and wear a fascinator!  It was a really wonderful day and even though none of my horses won, and I didn't win a single raffle prize, I had a great time with some wonderful ladies and friends.

As you can see, I went with the pink fascinator!  I had so much fun shopping for it on Suzhou's Wedding Street.

The beautiful ladies at our table
Me with my friend Shannon
As an adoptive mama, the highlight for me was listening to where all of the charity money raised at the event was going.  An amazing lady from the US, Jenny Bowen, started a charity called Half the Sky many years ago.  Her organization seeks to train caregivers in orphanages how to interact with the children and to enrich their lives.  They also set up model preschool and programs to impact the children in a positive manner.  Half the Sky has done some tremendous things for the children of China.

The woman below is the current CEO of the partner program in China to Half the Sky.  She is holding the book that Jenny Bowen wrote and book that I just happened to read last month.  It's called Wish You Happy Forever.  I was a tad bit teary when I realized the speaker's connection to the Half the Sky foundation and that all the charity money would go to this organization.  For me, it was the best reason for being at the Melbourne Cup party!

All smiles with my Australian friend Claire.
The ladies from Building 68! (Our apartment building)

The husbands jumped in too!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Fascinators and the Other Curiosities on Wedding Street

In my mind I have created short bucket list for my time in China and my experience as an expat.  This year I am very excited to attend my first Melbourne Cup (horse racing) party with some of the women from our apartment compound and to cross another thing off my list.

Part of my ensemble will include a fascinator, which as my Australian, Scottish & British friends know, is a headpiece.  To shop for a fascinator two friends and I headed to Suzhou's Wedding Street to go on a treasure hunt.

As the name suggests, Wedding Street is lined with little shops selling wedding dresses.

Before my friends and I had started exploring the first alley, this gentleman came up to me and motioned that he wanted to have his picture taken.  I was happy to oblige!

We saw all kinds of dresses.  Some were very fancy, others were whimsical and a few reminded me of the 1980's.

We did find a handful of shops that sold hats, headpieces, fascinators, jewelry, feathers, bows and costume jewelry.  Being in China, the majority of what we found were limited to red (China's favorite color) and white (a now-popular bridal color in China).  We did find a few other choices and we enjoyed trying on the pink, purple, blue, black and green fascinators we found.

I felt very Jackie O with this hat/fascinator on.  And, I also realized how desperately I need a hair cut.  Yikes!

A few choices of fascinators...

Another bridal shop in the row.

It looked like several of the shops had additional dresses on the second floor or were sewing dresses.  I took this picture right after someone had thrown a bunch of scrap fabric out the window to someone waiting below.

Feathery and pink, but not my favorite.

I like purple, but I don't think this is "the one".

Peeking down another alley

And, I now know where the scrap fabric and discarded mannequins go for their final resting place.  I only saw two rats as we were wandering around.  It's fine.

We asked one shop owner about hats and she took us through this little hole between her shop and the one behind.  I felt like Alice falling down the rabbit hole.

The streets around the bridal shops were just as interesting.  Tour buses coming to unload people on their way to visit Tiger Hill, a lady selling scarves, a vendor roasting chestnuts and the hustle & bustle of a busy street.

I ended up purchasing two fascinators, a pink one and a red & black one.  I'm not sure which one I'll wear (I need to decide on my dress first).  The race is next week, so I need to decide soon!