The door guy.

The other day, my dad reminded me we had not written ANYTHING on this blog for much too long. Yeah, I know Dad.

Dad says we are running out of time. Need to write before its too late…How about we try to write shorter stories, but more often? My dad said just think about little pieces of our life here, any topics. Ok, I can do that. Let’s focus first on the mornings. The school bus stop is a good topic but first let’s discuss the “door guy”.

Our apartment complex, private gated community, whatever you call it, is located behind The Guangming Hotel on Liangmaqiao Road. On the backside of the Hotel is a small 7-11 store. Same logo and colors as the 7-11 stores in the USA. It is open 24-7, and my parents sometimes bribe me to run the 100 meters from our apartment door to this store to buy stuff like milk, bread or even beer.

There is a back door entrance to the hotel, just beside this 7-11 and standing by this door, always, is a uniformed door guy. This door guy is always a guy, never a woman. Why is that? When we walk to his door he always opens it for us and nods his head or says, “nǐ hǎo” (hello) or “​zǎo”  (morning). And that’s it. The guy opens a door for us and that is all he does, for hours, all day. Every day, every night, the door guy stands at that door.

At least this door is enclosed in a glass like bubble so the door guy isn’t standing outside. But, in the winter he does wears a heavy winter coat and hat. Don’t think there is any heat for the door guy.

No way would I want to be the door guy. So boring. I never see him reading a book or sitting down. Ever. I wonder what kind of shoes he wears….He just stands at that door. Although, I have seen him reading his phone. Bet he is not supposed to do that.

Oh, I sometimes see the door guy cleaning. He polishes the chrome railing, by the door. Although, I wonder if that makes the cleaning ladies angry? We have SO many uniformed cleaning ladies around here. (But, that is a topic for another day.)

Why do we need a door guy? We don’t. That door is not really heavy or anything special. Just a glass door.

Maybe the Chinese like having door guys….?

Around the front of the Guangming Hotel there a 2, maybe 7 other ‘guys,’ hanging around, anytime day and night.  Like the 7-11 door guy, these folks are uniformed guys who spend their days:

  • opening the hotel front door
  • open a taxi door
  • sweeping or picking up trash- mostly cigarette butts.
  • Oh, and don’t forget the human parking meter guys. There are no parking meters in Beijing. Those orange jump suite dressed guys (AND yes sometimes ladies) help people parallel park their cars in front of the hotel and sell parking spaces.

You can’t put a number on how many work the front of the hotel, because it changes but let’s just say half a dozen. Those guys are outside, no glass bubble, to block the wind and cold. Absolutely no way i’d want that job.

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If you look close you can see the door guy inside the glass bubble.

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Pine wood derby day

I go to cub scouts every Tuesday from 6:30pm to 7:30pm. Tuesdays, I also have ASA (after school activity), so that day I get home later than normally, about 5pm. Tuesdays are very busy but I am enjoying being a cub scout. One of the must fun things the scout do each year are building the Pine wood derby cars and racing them.

Our den master Andre passed out the car kits a few weeks ago so we’d have time to make our own cars. My dad said it was up to me how we designed/paint the car so I looked on Google and YouTube and there are so many videos and information about how to make a pine wood derby. Who knew. Dad said, many of the fancy cars on the internet, clearly, the dads (who are rocket engineers) made the cars, not the kids. He said he wanted me to design the car. Ok, sure thing.

I decided I wanted a simply design, a slanted hood of the car, then paint it with lots of red and flames of FIRE. One video talked about putting weights on or inside the car to increase speed. They said put up to 5 grams of weight on the car and ideally, place it just behind the front wheels.  We didn’t have any fishing weights but had plenty of (foreign) coins laying around so I selected two, about the size of a US quarter but heavier. Next, we had to figure out how to attache the coins. Maybe glue them or tape them…?

My dad came up with the idea to embed the coins inside the car. Using a very sharp knife, he slowly dug out a circle shape on the top of the car. I sanded it down to make it smooth, then we placed the two coins inside the hole. Next, he found a candle and we dripped wax over the hole, filled up the hole. Coins are now invisible, cool.

I took care of the painting, found some permanent markers. Used red, yellow, orange, purple and black and in about 20 minutes, had the entire car looking like a paint job. After we attached the wheels, my car was ready to race!

The Tuesday meeting before the race, we had to bring the car to the meeting for the official weighing. I think they wanted to do this to verify the car wasn’t too heavy. The top limit was 5.0 gram and I think my car weight in at 4.5grams.

The day of the race, it was actually snowing! Hadn’t had much snow this winter, so kinda nice. Although I did  remember the government warning from last year, “do not eat the snow.”

The race was held at ISB (international school of Beijing), way out by the airport. Looking at all the other kid’s car, I was impressed. Clearly, a lot of kids had put in a lot of time making their cars. So many cool design ideas.

The cars would be raced on a really long wooden track that held four cars at a time. With automatic starting gate and timer, it was a fancy set up. My den, the Bears, would all run together, each car getting 4 races. The first, second, third place finishers, and best design would all win trophies. All others received medals.

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The first race for me, I was nervous but the car did great. Finished 2nd, out of four. Then the next race, again finished 2nd out of four. Yes.

The third race, I crashed! Flying off the track. And the final race, didn’t crash. At the awards ceremony, I knew I didn’t finish in the top three. But there was the best design trophy…..

And I won it !!!!!!

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The whole gang:

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A good time was had by all. Can’t wait until Pine wood derby day, next year!

 

Vietnam and Cambodia, Part 2

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This picture isn’t from our trip but I like it so told dad to post it.

One thing we forgot to mention from Part 1, was about the boat trip to the beach. We spent 2 nights and three days on boat. On the third day, we climbed off the main boat onto a much smaller boat. This small boat drove us to a really nice beach, on a distant island.

Bunches of other people on this island but I still liked it because I got to play in the sand building a sand fortress. Dad went swimming and mom read a book. Wish we could have stayed there longer.

Sadly, we soon boarded the big boat and headed back to the boat dock. A van drove us from the bay back to Hanoi.

In Hanoi, we booked a very inexpensive hotel. I forget the name but we arrived very late at night and we were so tired. While checking in, the dining area was just around the corner, in the dark with lights out. While waiting at the front desk, dad wondered over to the darkened dining room and something in a shadowed corner, about the size of a cat, caught his eye. This was no cat, he said the tail told him what animal it was. Too tired to deal with it, the next morning we skipped breakfast and checked out. The next hotel was more expensive and no ‘cats’ seen.

While in Hanoi, we decided to check out a water puppet show. The theater had live musicians playing on the side of big pool on the stage. The music was good, with live singers. Bunch of fancy, traditional Vietnamese dressed puppets running around on the top of the water. Couldn’t really follow the story but I think it had a happy ending.

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Best of all, the food of Hanoi. Mom was thrilled with a French/Vietnamese restaurant and also the more basic street food was so tasty and so cheap. The French place had a super view of the city:

Several meals of noodles/broth on the street, I never tired of. So many families came out to eat on the streets, usually sitting in little plastic chairs put out by the food vendors. Few sights from the streets near our hotel:

 

Oh, one thing about the streets of Hanoi is that they are narrow, crowded and full of people walking, cars and worst of all, electric scooters. Walking down the street is no picnic, watch out.

Most of our time was spent in the Hoàn Kiếm District – center of the city, with its core in the Hoan Kiem Lake (Sword Lake). People as old as my parents may know that US Senator, John McCain, aka “the maverick”, after being shot down, crashed his plane in Hoan Kiem during the Vietnam war.

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McCain pulled from his plane after being shot down and crashing into Sword Lake.

My dad wanted to visit the prison where McCain was held, Hoa Lo Prison (The Hanoi Hilton):

Our trip over lapped the end of Tet, the Vietnamese New Year. Lots of flags, decorations on display.

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The next day we flew to Siem Reap, Cambodia. Siem Reap is the closet town to Angkor Wat, a HUGE temple of something.  Vietnam had been warm but we were warned Cambodia might be really warm. We love the heat. Especially, coming from the dry, bone cold Beijing.

In Siem Reap, we stayed in a hotel with a pool. Dad used it the most, mostly after his early morning jogs. He said it was way too hot during the day to run later.

Dad mentioned something about being chanced by a street dog once but I don’t remember seeing any blood so the dog must not have caught him. When he needs to be, Dad can be fast, for someone as old as 50 years old.

A popular way to get around in Cambodia is riding in a tuk-tuk. They are an open carriage usually pulled by a motorbike. We rode them to/from the airport and around town.

Dad looked for seat belts but no luck. We call dad ‘Capt’n Safety.’

Here is a good picture of a tuk-tuk and the driver taking a nap, inside:

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Our first day in Siem Reap, we walked around, found some tasty noodles to eat. Also, walked by a gem shop and I had to go in. I bought about 10 stones….

The second best thing that day was getting a fish pedicure- letting tiny fish eat dead skin off our feet. This is very popular and very cheap. I enjoyed it, thought the fish tickled. Dad didn’t agree and didn’t keep his feet in very long.

He kept saying, “piranha!”

I liked it so much, after dinner, I returned for a second ‘treatment.’ Dad was happy because with this night pedicure, they gave Dad a free beer. What a deal.

The next day a tuk-tuk took us about 30 minutes out to Angor Wat, where we hired a tour guide to show us around.

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This place is big, really big. Next stop, Angkor Wat…

 

 

Vietnam and Cambodia, Part 1

The other day, we were talking about Vietnam and Dad realized we never posted anything about the trip to Vietnam and Cambodia.

Chinese New Year or Spring Festival takes place in late January/early February. My school is closed for a whole week. And I really like this holiday because it is just one month after the Christmas holiday. Many Chinese travel during this time, so we were warned to watch out for large crowds at the airport and especially the train stations. Millions (no joke) of Chinese will travel during this holiday. Most go home to visit family. Mom said this is the largest human migration in the history of the world.

How many people are traveling? Dad pulled this from another website. (“not fake news” he said):

“In 2014, it was estimated that for this holiday, 3.6 Billion journeys (air, sea, car, train, etc) took place in China. For comparison, in the USA just 93.3 million peopled traveled during the 2012 holiday season.

This year (2017) for the Chinese New Year we decided to visit Vietnam and Cambodia. We started in Hanoi, then two nights on boat cruising in Ha Long Bay, the few more days in Ankor Wat, Cambodia.

Ha Long Bay was my favorite.

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The Bay is just east of Hanoi, maybe two hour drive. The area is a World Heritage Site and popular travel destination. And it is really known for the thousands of limestone mountains or karsts. I bet you have seen a picture of them before.

Our boat was big but not too big. Think it had about 8 bedrooms, so several other families and people were on the boat with us. The weather was so sunny and warm, clean air (opposite of Beijing) nice staff and other passengers (other kids) and best of all, the FOOD. We ate so much, then ate some more. We all love Vietnam food. Mom was excited because in Vietnam, noodles are usually rice, not wheat (like in Beijing) so she could eat them too.

There were other cruise boats nearby but didn’t seem crowded after the day trip boats all headed home in the late afternoon. Oh yeah, one of my favorite things was fishing for squid. The first night, after dinner, they put a light into the water to attract the squid then gave us fishing poles to catch them. We didn’t hook any but was fun, until too cold. The days were so warm but cold at night.

Here are few more pics of this part of our trip:

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Fishing for squid

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our tour guide giving a cooking class

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our boat

 

 

I am a Scout

I am a Cub Scout, that is.

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Recently, I joined Cub Scout Pack 3944, and Den 2. My dad found out about the Scouts through Ben. Ben went to YCIS last year and rode my school bus. Dad said Ben really like scouts so we should try it.

“Ok,” I said.

Our Pack is divided into two parts; the group who live near the airport and the group that live “downtown.” We are the downtown group. We’ve already attended several meetings. Twice with my mom, when my dad was in Idaho and several more with my dad. There are about 8 boys in my den and several other dens, under the “Pack.” The Pack is both groups, together.

My dad was in Boy Scouts, not Cub Scouts and he still gets the lingo mixed up. He keeps calling the ‘Pack’ a “Troop.” Not the same thing dad. All the boys in our den are 8 or 9 years old and two go to my school. Den #2, meets most Tuesday nights then once a month the entire Pack get together for a fun activity. Two weeks ago, the Pack went hiking on the Great Wall.

This is the crew (my den) who went on the hike to Gubeikou Great Wall. And beside my dad, we had a special guest- a visiting Uncle John.

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We took a bus ride of about two hours to the NW of Beijing then started to hike near the wall, up toward the wall. Climbing up was kinda steep but not so bad. My parents have taken me on much harder hikes.

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You may have noticed Cub Scouts is not just a Dad and son thing. They allow mom’s too. Don’t think we have any girls in our den but I think there are a few girls in other dens.

A few upcoming activities include:

  • Raingutter Regatta Nov 17(not sure what this is,….)
  • Scout Olympics- Jan18
  • Blue and Gold Banquet- March18
  • Pinewood Derby- April18
  • Spring Campout- May18

We’ve been warmed that some kids (aka Parents) take the Pinewood Derby very seriously so watch out for some VERY fancy and fast cars. I’m looking forward to carving my car.

Above that is me leading the den repeating the Scout Oath. And last, me and my mom after our Pack leader gave me my first Badge, the BobCat.

Draw Off

Our latest Draw off. You may recall a ‘draw off’ can be called at any time. And one participant picks the subject, we draw, then a judge declares the winner.

Will picked the topic- aliens.

Naturally, I thought of ‘space’ aliens and therefore loosely based my creation on this guy, Marvin the Martian. (sadly, forgot about his scrub brush on top of the helmet)

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Will’s focus was more land creatures. A combo dragon, fox, fish and a I think a French dude with a long bicycle mustache.

Ok, we need a judge, who won?

 

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Nearly Summer, now June

What has been happening……?

My class and school held their final school year music concert last week. There are 3 maybe 4 concerts per year. My grade (3 classes) played two songs on these GIANT red Chinese drums. I really liked it but don’t tell my parents. We practiced for weeks or maybe months. Mom said we sounded really good.

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Can you find me, I’m right in the middle. Wearing a white shirt under my read Chinese shirt.

That same day, my grade (year3) held an open house and parents were allowed in to watch our collaborative space and group work in action. Next year, another group of YCIS classes will follow our (year 3) lead and build similar open work spaces.

Here are some random pictures from biking in the city, dad took recently. I forget where we were going but dad wanted to take a picture of these dogs in a wagon. This is at the 3rd ring road, very close to mom’s office. The nice wide bike lane is in Sanlutin, a neighborhood close to ours. Dad misses trees like this. Most of the city streets don’t look anything like this.

 

As I tell dad what to write, there is less than two weeks left in the school year. Am I really excited? Actually, I told mom that I want to keep going to school. She looked at me kinda funny.

Last Sunday was father’s day. Dad wanted pancakes, bacon and lots of syrup for his special breakfast so mom cooked up a big stack. Using a gluten free mix, so she could eat some too. Very tasty.

After our (late) breakfast, we walked to the Liangmaqiao metro station. Dad had wanted to go to the Olympic Forest Park for a long time and today we decided to go.

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Metro stop near the Olympic Forest Park. The train arrives behind this cool glass.

This is the largest park in the city, build for the 2008 Olympics. HUGE place, with walking trails, a giant lake and lots of green grass and trees. So much water and green, for a minute, you forget Beijing is a desert. It was hot, really hot today but a cool wind picked up, unfortunately, as soon as we rented a paddle boat at the big lake.

Soon after we started peddling, the sky turned a bit darker and wind picked up. Mom and Dad needed my help peddling so I helped out. Our boat didn’t go so fast, next time we’ll rent a fancy electronic boat, no peddling required.

The park was nice, Dad was impressed with all the running trails around the lake. We’ll be back.

And 10 feet from the heading down into the metro, to head home, the rain arrived.

 

Amazing April

Wow, April sure when by fast. Kinda like every month here. Summer is almost here!

Since this is ‘my’ blog, I decided to let my dad include the first picture for April. He is kinda a college basketball fan and wanted me to post this so, ok…..He says we don’t need to discuss it since the picture will explain itself.

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Kennedy Meeks, West Charlotte High school grad. Go Lions!

Early in the month, the three of us walked over to a friend’s house. My mom likes wine and since Dad is mostly a beer guy, if she gets an invite to drink some wine, we go. Our friends live near the US Embassy, it’s a quick five minute bike ride. Jon is older than my dad but exercises. Not a runner like my dad but he said he is very good at pushups. Since my training includes daily pushups we gave a demonstration:

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This month my dad signed me up for some tennis lessons. Another girl in our neighborhood also signed up. I didn’t want to do it but I think my dad really wanted me to. I’ve had 2 maybe three lessons. Our compound has two tennis courts so very quick walk. One court is new and nice and the other really old and worn out. We practice on the old one. The teacher is nice but speaks no English. I can understand some of what he says. For other words, I just pretend to understand him.

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Speaking of sports, my dad ran another marathon last month. Or maybe this was March….anyway, we flew to Seoul, Korea for his race. It was kinda cold but we ate good food and the hotel roll away bed I slept on was really soft and had three pillows.

 

The big trip of April was to the BIG Island of Hawaii, over my school spring break. We met my cousin Kate and her parents and boyfriend. I played a lot in the pool and we rode in a helicopter over active volcanoes. Wow. The food was really good and my dad said he gained five pounds, even after running almost every morning.

 

The last trip of April was hiking and camping on the Great Wall. We hiked nearly straight up a mountain. Dad said he was really ‘spent’ after getting to our campsite. Luckily, we didn’t have to carry our tent and sleeping bags and food. A donkey carried all the heavy stuff. Or was it a mule….? Dad was impressed with the pictures mom took with her fancy camera. I think some of these are really great too.

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Not sure why this picture makes my parents laugh. I was hot and wanted to sleep on the floor. What’s the big deal?

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Old friends

Way back in the day, ISL and I went to the same pre-school in Seattle. This was the school with mostly Chinese teachers and students. We learned Chinese. I went for one, maybe two years… ISL was my best friend at this school.

ISL’s mom is Chinese and his dad is American. ISL and I had several play dates, back in the day. Then we went to different kindergartens. I went to Adams in Ballard and ISL went to a fancy private school near the UW. I forget the name but dad called it something like “paying for college in kindergarten.

Before we moved to Beijing, ISL and I saw each other several more times. ISL and his family visit Beijing once a year, since his mom still has family here. So, we knew they would visit. Then came to China last summer but we missed them, we were in the states.

ISL and his mom came to town the other day and we made plans to see them. I was nervous. Hadn’t seen ISL in about a year. Would he like the same things as I do?

  • Does he read HP (harry potter)?
  • Has he read ALL the HP books?
  • Has he seen all the HP movies?
  • Does he still play with legos?
  • Does he still listen to the Beatles? (my dad asked this question)
  • Does he have a science lab in his house, like me?

What would happen if he didn’t like these things? Would we not get along, no longer be friends?

I told my mom I was nervous before he arrived. She said she was very sure he still liked many of the things I like. But if he didn’t like something, that is ok. If he had new hobbies or interests maybe I’d like those things.

After ISL and his mom walked into our house, he ran up to me and said, “show me your room.” So, we walked upstairs and in about 30 seconds we were laughing and playing with my air hockey table.  We had fun and then the next day he came over and we spent the day together. Just like old friends.

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Moving day finished

(just found this in the ‘draft’ folder. Time to bring into the light)

We left Seattle, way back in January. I forget the day, maybe the 25th…Bet mom knows the date. Today is April 18th (2016)  and our moving is now complete. Our “stuff” arrived today.

When we left our house, some stuff went into storage in Seattle, some stuff went with us on the airplane, some stuff went in a separate airplane shipment and the last stuff went by boat.

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Arrival in Beijing. Who brings this much stuff? Little did we know we’d wait 12 weeks for our other stuff to arrive. Btw, I’m really tired, can I sleep on this?

Talking to dad we tried to remember what stuff went where…

  • Storge- the furniture we didn’t bring. Some clothes and other stuff
  • In duffel bags-mostly winter clothes, some shoes, just a few legos
  • Air shipment- the MAC, my and dads guitar and….
  • Boat shipment- sofa, books, love seat, my bed, summer clothes, dishes.

All of us are very excited. Mom is happy to get her books, more clothes and dishes. Dad can’t remember what he packed, versus put into storage, so it feels like Christmas to him. And me, I get more LEGOS!!

The property manager provided some furniture that we had removed before our stuff arrived.

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Out with the old…

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In with the new

Now Beijing feels more like home. Well, “home” with a bunch of loud air filtration machines running.