Wednesday, December 31, 2008


One of the main reasons we headed to Beijing this week was because our friends from Tianjin were having their baby girl in the hospital up there. She was due on the 29th or 30th, and we were hoping to catch a glimpse before we had to head back down to Qingdao.

On the 29th, Kim woke up with mild contractions. Hoping this was the real thing, we all went to lunch at a restaurant near the hospital she was going to deliver in. (By the way, this restaurant has the best Tex Mex found in China, and definitely filled my Tex Mex craving.)

During the lunch, Kim told our little friend Anna, who is two and a half, that there is a baby in her tummy. We caught some adorable pics of Anna trying to feel the baby. Anna also found out that lunch that her mommy has a baby in her tummy too! (Jacquelyn is 8 weeks pregnant and we are so incredibly excited for them!) Here's the pics of Anna and Kim:

From Beijing '08

From Beijing '08

I decided that some positive encouragement would do little Keturah some good, so we told Anna to tell Keturah to come out. We missed the photo shots of this, but it was very cute, I can assure you!

Needless to say, I was a little bummed after lunch when the contractions had lessened and Kim and Patrick decided to head home to let Moyer (their almost two year old son) take a nap. Nathan and I headed off to do some sight seeing on our own. (Pictures of our sightseeing to follow at the end.)

Well, anyways, little did we know, but shortly after they arrived back at the house we were all staying in, they decided it really was time to head back to the hospital. Keturah was born at 8:00 that evening.

We went to the hospital the next day to view their beautiful baby, and it was fun to see Anna with the baby less than twenty four hours after she had told Keturah to come out. Anna wasn't quite sure what to think about this, but the rest of us were thrilled!

From Beijing '08

From Beijing '08

From Beijing '08

From Beijing '08

Congratulations Patrick, Kim, Moyer, and Baby Keturah! We're so excited for you!

Other than seeing friends and meeting baby Keturah, we tried to spend a little time sight seeing and eating at western restuarants we don't have in Qingdao. Here's some pics of what we saw this week. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008


It's cold. Really cold. And being that the houses are concrete boxes, it's really really cold.

One interesting note is that getting dressed when it's really really cold takes a lot longer, and has a lot more to it! Gone are the days that one could hop into a pair of jeans and a top, pull on some shoes and socks and head out the door. Dressing is an intricate process now!

Today's outfit consists of two pairs of socks, thick black tights, jeans, a tank top, three layers of sweaters, a hat, and a thick scarf. And that's indoors!

This week I've felt particularly cold as we've been visiting Beijing. Located a few hundred miles north of Qingdao, the days rarely get above freezing, and the nights are well below. Add to it the expansive house we're staying in, and even indoors it's only about 14 degrees Celsius. That's one fantastic thing about our small apartment back in Qingdao! Located on the third floor and warmed by city heat, it stays relatively warm. I will be looking forward to heading back there tomorrow!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Snow in Qingdao!

It's snowing, and snowing a lot! What a great anniversary. Today we've been married five years. And what a fantastic five years it has been! Here's a few pics to memorialize the day. :-)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Worse than...

I've finally found out what's worse than taking finals. Even worse than grading finals...I think.

Proctoring finals. Walking around for an hour and a half staring 200 kids down to make sure they are not cheating on their finals.

One fellow teacher even stated "If I had an hour and a half left to live, I would want to proctor an exam. That way that hour and a half would feel like an eternity." I added, "And at the end of it, you would look forward to death."

Well, finals are over and grades are in. Hurrah!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Laughs in China

Funny thing about Chinese door locks. Besides the fact that our door has three different ways that you can lock it, you can also accidentally lock someone inside the apartment. It works like this: if you turn the primary lock once, it locks the door from the outside. If you turn it again, it locks it from both sides, and only a key from the outside can unlock the door.

This has never been a problem before, as we primarily leave the apartment together. But this morning, Nathan had to go to our gathering earlier than me, and I needed the extra sleep. Someone had told us once about the danger of locking the other person in, and when I half awake heard Nathan leave, I thought, that wasn't two clicks, was it? And then rolled over and went back to sleep. I woke up late (after hitting the snooze button ten gazillion times), hurried into the shower, into some clothes, and half dried my hair. Rushing, I completely forgot the two clicks until I was bundled up and ready to head out, taxi money in hand, and found the door wouldn't open. So much for hurrying. Now I'm locked inside waiting to be let out. Romeo, oh Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo? Let's hope there's not a fire, or I might be in trouble!

Mr. and Mrs. Clause

So, somehow the two new couples to Qingdao were drafted to be Mr. and Mrs. Clause for the school Christmas Fair. We each had two hour blocks, and I thought you might enjoy seeing the pics!

From Mr. and Mrs. Clause

Our Team!

From Mr. and Mrs. Clause

Us with the other couple during their turn. Stacy looked much cuter in the Mrs. Clause outfit!

As you can see, Nathan and I were thoroughly bundled up after our turn. The room we were having pictures in had no heater, and this was the morning after the coldest day of the year! I think it was nearly below zero degrees Celsius in there. I'm just waiting until next year when I can turn over the title as "new". :-)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Haha, just thought this was incredibly funny! I never knew "smoke" was a weather condition.

From Random

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


Well, we're up for our first big round of good-byes.

We were warned when we came over that the international community is incredibly mobile. Not only are our own company contracts only two years long, our students tend to move in and out quite often. As students' parents' job contracts end, are relocated, or just simply lost due to the economy, rarely will we have the same student for more than a few years.

On top of that, the Korean school year starts in February, so several of our seniors are graduating early in order to be ready to start at the university come the new year.

This year, whether it's due to the economy or what, we are saying good-bye to at least 27 students at the end of the semester. We have over thirty more that have taken admission tests to start in January. With less than four hundred students, that's quite a large percent to come and go in the middle of the year!

So, with the joy of Christmas and graduation, and the stress of finals, we face our first big good-byes. We hope that we have taught them what they needed to learn before they leave, give hugs, and wish them on their way. Always a relational person, this is going to be hard for me. But, I think, it is only the first of many to come.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Comfort Zone

Last time I posted we were about to head up to Tianjin on our own. As you may have seen from Nathan's blog, this went rather uneventfully, and we had a fantastic time! It was so great to reconnect with our friends.

I also mentioned that I was rather nervous about traveling out of our comfort zone of Qingdao. So...that went successfully, and then we went to Hong Kong for a school conference.

Have you ever thought about how frustrating it would be to work 4 months to learn a little Mandarin, only to travel to a place where all of that means practically nothing? :-) In Hong Kong they speak Cantonese, which is completely different from Mandarin. While there are several people who speak a little Mandarin, it is actually easier to find someone who speaks English! Talk about being pushed out of your comfort zone!

But, overall it was a pretty good trip. The conference was great. I had a big juicy steak and ribs (for about $20 USD) for the first time in four months or so. I even found slushies! There were 7/11's everywhere! Now if only I could find some sleep...but finals start next week so I guess that will have to wait.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Up For Adventure?

Just a quick note as I have to finish many things in the next hour--because we're off to Tianjin!

Many people know that while the Phillips are the reason that we are in Qingdao, our close friends in Tianjin are really the reason we came to China. We first met them when they were on leave in the States about two and a half years ago. When we found out they really lived in China, we thought that it was so cool! And look now where we are...

Tianjin is only a five hour train ride a way, and when we first found out we were not going to be sent there, I consoled myself with the fact that Qingdao is the next closest city that our company has a school in. Only five hours is not so close in reality! So between the play and everything else we've been doing, this is the first time we could get away for a whole weekend. I'm so excited!

I'm also incredibly nervous. I was surprised by this. Qingdao has come to feel so much like home that I've become very comfortable with exploring on our own. I always know that even if I get lost I can grab a taxi, give the name of our street, and direct them home. Getting on a train and navigating across a town I've never been to is another thing entirely! Our Chinese lessons have focused on pronunciation, or "pin yin", so far rather than vocabulary, so our conversation language is still incredibly lacking! But, in this modern age, we have dictionaries and cell phones, so we're hoping for the best. Good luck to us! Can't wait!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Joys of Teaching

Some days I spend running around, it feels like in circles, with hardly time to breathe. I start class rushed and frustrated, and from there, everything goes downhill.

Today felt like it was going to be one of those days. I came to school and needed to print some pictures out before my first class. I had forty-five minutes before Chinese class, this should have been plenty of time, no? That was before the computer wouldn't turn on, the internet wouldn't work correctly, the printer became jammed, and the copier had the wrong paper in it...but I finally got what I needed, just in time.

I then rushed to my Chinese class. Normally I don't meet on Mondays but I had arranged to make up a class I had missed a couple weeks ago when I was sick. That went well, but ran late.

I had left the papers I needed for chapel in my office, so I ran back there, then to my small group's meeting area. Having been so rushed, I was not nearly prepared went alright, but from no fault of my own.

And this is how I started my first class; tired, frustrated, and late.

But having awesome students makes everything better. My first class, sixth grade, had two projects they were working on. I got them all started on one project and then pulled them out one by one to work with me on the next. It was a little hectic, but worked.

My HS class was great. They all are in the middle of a project, so they came, got out their projects and began to work. I circulated and gave them pointers as they got stuck.

Last but not least, my MS class. Cultural Art in 3D. This one started out as the beginning of my day had. The material that I thought was plaster, was not, and not wanting to ruin their projects before we experimented with the new material, I made a quick and executive decision to put the project on hold. So where does that lead me? 17 students and no lesson plan. After quickly brainstorming, they wanted to play pictionary. The only problem is that I had to come up with the words for them to draw. Then a lightbulb went on...what a great way for them to review and learn vocabulary words! By the end of the class, all of my students knew words like, shape, balance, texture, ceramics, paper mache, sculpture, and many more. The great thing was that they (and I!) thoroughly enjoyed it! Next time I will have to actually plan this in advance-they'll be learning and they won't even realize it!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


I just have to post...our Ayi is amazing! Not only does she generally anticipate our needs before we can say something (we never run out of paper towels), she is an amazing cook.

Many people know that I am allergic to gluten, which makes finding a variety of foods often quite difficult. In the States, ingredient substitutes were quite easily found at our local HEB or Whole Foods. Unfortunately, Qingdao does not have an equivalent of either, and their local specialty "jiaozi" (pronounced jout-za) is completely wheat and gluten filled. It is similar to a dumpling, bread-like dough wrapped around a tasty filling, usually meat. Due to my allergy being against the main ingredient, I have been unable to take part in this local delicacy.

When we first hired our Ayi, our translator explained to her that I cannot eat wheat or gluten. The first night we came home to her food, she had prepared fried chicken...I was concerned until I realized that she had used a cornmeal mix to create a wonderful breading. For the first time in years I was able to eat fried chicken!

Since then she has prepared fried shrimp, noodle dishes using rice noodles instead of wheat noodles, and many other tasty treats that have been absent from my diet since I discovered my allergy.

However, Monday she topped everything she had ever done. We came home to her preparing a gluten free jiaozi for me! She has created a potatoe flour substitute to wrap the meat with, and it was fantastic! It was so good, I was afraid once again that she didn't truly understand my allergy and had used wheat, but I did not get sick. She has proved her worth to us in many ways, but what has come to stand out to me the most is her deep care for us. She continues to go above and beyond! Thank you Ayi!

From Random

Friday, November 7, 2008

Late Nights...

So it's 1:00 AM here and I'm still up. Amazing since I've been up since just past five. Adrenaline will do that to you. Way to go Fiddler Cast--you are amazing! Only one more performance to go!

Actually, it works out well because it's actually late enough to call home. I think the time difference has been the hardest thing since moving here. Oregon is a sixteen hour difference, which means that to call in my evening, their morning, I have to stay up to 12:00 AM just for it to be 8:00 AM there. If I want to call in the morning, not only do we never have time (we've never been early risers) but weekdays we have to leave by 6:30 AM. This means we'd have to call by 6:00, which is only 2:00 PM there and few are home that time of the day. So it's Friday night or Saturday mornings for us. And everyone knows how busy weekends are.

Skype is a wonderful tool however. We can call Skype to Skype for free, and to call a phone is only 2.5 cents per minute! I don't know how people lived overseas before our millennium. Especially before e-mail. We are still tying up loose ends back home. Thank Goodness for my sister who is absolutely amazing at helping us get stuff done on that side of the world! Well, I am hoping to call one more friend before I find my pillow, so I shall sign off for now.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Night Owl

Last night was the opening night. It was great! The kids are awesome. So much fun, but all of these late nights are wearing us out. :-) Two more days, then we can all sleep...

I'll try and post some pics of the play soon, but for now I have a really cool picture I wanted to post...

From Random

Yes, that's an owl! It was so cool. It was in our dance hall for some reason yesterday when the drama students went in for class. The windows don't close well in that room, so I guess it just thought it found a cool place to roost. One of the students caught it (it was either hurt or very disoriented from being woken up in the middle of the day) and we took it over to the science department. They set it in a box outside overnight and it was gone this morning. Whether it flew off or became food, we don't know, but it was a fun interruption yesterday! I've never seen one so close up. And yes, even though the picture looks fake, it really was real!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

PT Conferences

This week is Parent Teacher Conferences. They have been very interesting! As a first year teacher, and that of an elective class, I was not sure what to expect. It is actually a great chance to meet the parents and hear what their students tell them about our classes.

The most unique one was a parent who brought me cookies because her son tells her I often look tired during his class! I wasn't sure what to think of that. Sweet of her to think of me, but not exactly the persona I want to be giving to my students!

However, most of the conferences have been very good. They vary from whether they should look for art as a major in college for their child (a sixth grader), to how professional and nice I look today. :-) It is fun to get to meet the parents and hear their perspectives on things. For example, I was concerned that I was not making the 6th grade class interesting enough, but one parent said she is very glad that I am teaching it in an academic manner focusing on the elements and principles of art. Another couple parents discussed ways to help their children focus during class.

Well, one more to go, but not until later today. For now, it's off to painting more sets!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Beard Making

These past couple days I've been making beards for the school play. From set painting, to costumes, to poster design (and anything else they need an artist for!), I'm helping out. This year we are doing Fiddler on the Roof, and I never realized how much work that putting a musical production on in two months would take!

I am happy to say, I am finally enjoying it. The past couple weeks have been increasingly hard between balancing the play, Quarter grades, and everything else we do, and I was having a hard time with it all. I am ashamed to say that I have not had the best attitude about it all at times. But this week, the play is on in just a few days and excitement is growing! While everyone else is getting stressed about everything they need to do before the big day, I'm starting to see how awesome the play is going to be. I'm even starting to get my artistic juices flowing again.

So what, you may ask, do I mean by making beards? Our poor Asian students, and even some Caucasians, have an awful time growing hair, so we've imported some synthetic hair and liquid latex and I am literally "building" beards on their faces. The fun part is that the latex peels off their face in one piece and they can just re-glue it on before each performance.

What is interesting is that of all things I actually learned how to do this almost ten years ago when I was a freshman in High School. One of the moms of the drama group was experienced in "making beards" and I was so fascinated that she took the time to show me how. So now I get to use this skill learned so long ago! What fun it is.

I'll try to have some pics soon of this creative process. One of the students in the photography club was photographing the two-hour process (yes, you heard that right) tonight, so I'll see if she'll pass them on to me. Hold tight!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Is Sleep Really So Important?

Last weekend Nathan and I helped with the High School Lock-in. Perhaps that is why I have not blogged recently--I still feel as though I'm catching up on sleep! It was a great night. Both the students and the teachers seemed to really enjoy themselves! However, the aftermath was a little rough. Most of our students are already incredibly sleep deprived (many regularly sleep only a couple hours a night, and all-nighters are not uncommon) and this certainly didn't help things. Here's a pic of the morning after to give you an idea.

From GirlTravelOR

The morning sunrise was incredible! The air was so clear you could see the islands off the coast. We have a really pretty campus and I tried to capture some of the morning light. Unfortunately I was about five minutes too late before I found our camera. Much of the color had already left the sky but a few of turned out okay I think. The building with the dome on top is the fine arts building, and the room directly below the dome is my classroom. You can also find a few more pics on my picasa page.

From GirlTravelOR

From GirlTravelOR

It was a relief to go home when six AM finally rolled around but by this point I was so hopped up on sugar and coffee it was hard for me to sleep. I was so awake I went home and watched The Notebook before finally drifting off at 10:00 AM. Recovering has been a little rough. It seems I'm not as young as I once was...actually I never recovered well from these things! Just ask my mom.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

To cut or not to cut...

So...I've been promising a picture of my short hair to all those back home. Here you are!

From Us

I really like it. One side is a little longer than the other, and the back grows so quickly, but in general it is a lot of fun to have something different.

I always enjoy having short hair. It's so easy to deal with, cooler (temperature wise), and very fun. The last two times I've chopped it, I've immediately started growing it back out so that I could donate it again to Locks of Love. Since there is not Locks of Love here, I'm trying to decide if I still want to grow it out or keep it short. I enjoy both, and even some of the stages in between long and short, but I'm not sure I have the patience to grow it again. It is so much work!

Well, anyways, enjoy the pic. Let me know what you think!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Shopping Adventures

Today I need to go couch shopping. The couches we had, besides being orange, were quite large for our small apartment and have been moved to a larger apartment where they will be recovered and enjoyed more fully. Buying anything is interesting in China as there are many additional steps to go through. As far as the couches, this is what I have done so far.

Step one--Ask another foreign staff member where to look and try to explain to the taxi driver where I need to go.

Step two--Wander aimlessly around where the taxi driver drops me off (hoping it's the right area of town--in this case it was. Yay!) Be followed by the salespeople, who are hoping to make a sale but intimidated by my inability to communicate.

Step three--Grow mildly frustrated with the selection and head home for the day.

Step four--Intimidated by steps two and three, put off looking for new couches for the next month.

Step five--Find out the current couches are being removed from your apartment that day and realize you've procrastinated too long.

Step six--Ask a Chinese staff where to look.

Step seven--Wait a week until you have time in your schedule to look again.

This, of course, brings me to today, which, after watching movies on the hard floor last night, has motivated me to take care of what I should have done a month ago. However, there are still a few steps to be done. I must find a couch that I like and will fit our apartment, then I must find a Chinese staff to return with me to negotiate a price and delivery. Hopefully I can accomplish the first of this part today.

On the note of our couches and apartment, I ran across some pictures last night of our apartment from when we first arrived. You'll see it's not bad, though a little old. We've replaced the curtains, which, although it's hard to tell from the pictures, were a nice 1970's muted orange fake velvet, and as mentioned above, we no longer have those couches. Hopefully that will help with the overall "orange" feel of our apartment. We're told the company is going to help us update the apartment a little. The kitchen shelves, which are over six feet off the ground, will be lowered and resurfaced. The moldy panel in the second bedroom hopefully will be removed. We might even be able to paint over the fake orange paneling that runs throughout. This album also includes a few other pics from when we first got here. Maybe this will work...
We just returned from a retreat this weekend, which was the first retreat I've had that had more relaxation time than sessions! It was a great experience with lots of time to relax and spend time with new friends. I also got to hold a sleeping baby the entire way home, which is one of the best things in the world. Overall it was a great weekend, and we're looking forward to the rest of the week off before classes resume Monday. Enjoy the pictures--you'll find them on the left of this page.

PS...Badger Nathan until he puts a post up on his blog about the "shortcut" he and several other bikers took to the retreat! :-)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


So, I just made a post, but then I realized another thing that I needed to mention.

No, we are not returning to the States any time soon.

There has been some miscommunication recently that I wanted to address. Nathan posted on his facebook that he was getting on a plane and heading home, and we had several (excited) e-mails from people in the States asking why we were returning to the USA so soon. :-) Funny how easily things can get misinterpreted, and how fast things can spread!

I realized that what's even more interesting about this is how fast Qingdao has begun to feel like home. I know that is not what you all in the States want to hear, but it has been good for us to settle in quickly. Some days I still long for the familiar places of the USA (especially when I go grocery shopping) but overall, it feels really great to be here. Thank you all for your support in our decision to move international. We couldn't have done it without you!

Long Days and Nights

Ever have one of those weeks when you get to Wednesday and know it must be Friday? This week has felt that long. I think this feeling is always intensified right before a good break. Next week is National Day Holiday, which means we have the whole week off!

Saturday through Tuesday we have a staff retreat in the mountains. Then the rest of the week is free, although Nathan has drama practice one of the days so we can't go out of town. That's okay. I'm REALLY looking forward to sleeping in regardless!

Even though the weeks sometimes feel long, I have been surprised to realize how much I love teaching. All of my classes are great, and one of them is absolutely fantastic! I will miss this class when the semester is over. Being an art teacher is great, although so different from any of the standard disciplines.

Pluses of being an art teacher
1. Less grading--almost no papers to read!
2. Fun, hands on interaction with the kids.
3. I am forced to be actively involved in my art.

Minuses of being an art teacher
1. More planning is involved, especially in China.
2. It is so hard to find some of the simplest supplies.
3. I only get to meet a portion of the students.

It's great when you get to do something you love as an occupation. The days and nights might be tiring, but a new morning always comes.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Seeing the World

So, Nathan is in Shanghai this weekend for work. Do you know how cool that is? I still have a hard time getting over the fact that we live in CHINA! And that we can fairly easily visit so many exciting places...two weeks ago we went to a beach resort in Wahai for Middle School Fall Camp! Sailing, kayaking, windsurfing. Yep, I did it all!

Next I may be traveling to Tianjin someday soon to observe the art program there (and of course, visit some wonderful friends). We also have a retreat coming up where we'll head out of the city. Beijing and Hong Kong are on our list to travel to later this semester. So cool! I love living international!

So, anyways, I'm bacheloretting this weekend. While I hate sleeping alone, I'm actually quite excited about this. I'm planning on heading home tonight and watching a long, sad chickflick that I will wouldn't be able to see otherwise. And lots of chocolate. :-)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Our Beautiful City

So last week was our New Staff City Tour. Usually they do this when the new staff first arrives, but this year the Olympics sort of put a wrench into everything. It was fun to see a lot of places we hadn't been to yet.

For those who aren't aware of Chinese geography, Qingdao is directly on the coast, sort of on a peninsula. This is really cool because just about anyway you turn you run into the ocean. In fact, our commute to school every morning is along a beautiful coastal route. Leaving the house at 6:30AM may not be fun, but a lulling tour along the coast with a rising sun backdrop usually makes it worth it. Our school is also built on a hill, so we have a beautiful view of the ocean from much of our campus. I can even (barely) see it from my office!

Enough about the ocean though. I don't want to make you poor landlocked souls too jealous.

Here are a few pics of the city:

The night before we had our city tour, we had a karaoke birthday party for one of our staff members. Turns out karaoke is really big here, and they have a lot of karaoke bars with private party rooms. We had around 30 people there, so we even had the VP suite with a large screen to read the lyrics on.

Karaoke in China is even more fun than in the states (for all of you non-karaoke fans) because on the screen behind the lyrics they karaoke machine projected cheesy music videos to go along with the music. However, sometimes it seems they weren't so sure about the translation. Sometimes the lines were mixed up (we're still not sure how they got "I want to floor you" from "I want to hold you"). The funniest was the background to "Oh, Come All Ye Faithful." Yes, the Christmas song. Someone thought it would be fun to sing it...what was more fun was to see the music video that went a long. Here are a few shots...

Yes, that is a beach on a warm summer day (I don't think that was in the song), and I think the couple is adoring each other more than the Christ. :-) This video was absolutely hilarious. It started out with a bunch of shots of Buddha, and then went to a very sultry, cheesy, 1980's video. I'm sorry to say we were not able to focus on the words...

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Well, Here I Go

So, as I have my own thoughts and feelings about our adventures, I thought I might create my own blog. Life is speeding away at its own fast pace these days and it seems that I can't e-mail everyone I'd like and tell them all that is going on. I'm sure everyone by now thinks we've dropped off the edge of the earth, as much as they've heard from us!

We're doing quite well here, and I'm starting to feel as though we've settled in. It's amazing to me that we've been here for over six weeks. (Or is it seven?) Living in China sure is interesting!

So, to catch up those who I haven't talked to since moving here (which is almost everyone), I thought I would make a couple lists. I might have to add to them later, but here are a few best and not so best things about living in China.

Things that I love about living in China

1. Taxis are cheap, and buses are even cheaper!
Most places I go to in a taxi take only 8-10 yuan, which is about $1.50--buses are only 1-2 yuan!

2. Our Ayi!
We love our Ayi! An ayi is a hired person who generally cooks and cleans your house. Sometimes they don't work out so well, but ours is fantastic. She is a wonderful cook, and it's awesome to have someone else do the ironing. However, every once in a while, something disappears only to show up in a strange place (it took us a month to find Nathan's brown belt). Overall, she has been great.

3. The food is great! (and inexpensive)
So far since moving here, I think I've cooked twice. Well, that depends on whether you count tuna fish sandwiches. :-) Although I have started baking for different birthdays at work.

Things that make life (a little too) interesting

1. Art supplies are limited
Basic art supplies are plentiful, but there's no Michaels for those random little things I took for granted in the States. Things like, sawdust, modgepodge, quality colored pencils...

2. Interesting Smells
Actually, this doesn't usually bother me. Except for the garbage can we have to walk by every day on the way to the bus. And the sewer gas that comes up through our drains.

3. No google maps
This is perhaps what I miss the most. In the states if I wanted to find something, say a furniture store, I would just google it, and then google map it. Here, few stores have websites, and if they do, I'd be lucky to be able to read it!

Until next time...