Saturday, January 29, 2011


As Adam mentioned, one of my NY roommates, Kim, and her current roommate, Maisha, visited for a whole week! It was wonderful to have them here, and Adam and I are looking forward to [hopefully] visiting them in Guangzhou in May.

Kim and Maisha were avid tourists during the day, and I met up with them after work for some good eats. We met Sarah for pizza and beer, visited the delicious DaDong Duck (never fails to be incredible), enjoyed Spanish-style churros, and tried out the new bar/restaurant around the corner. YUM! Here are some pictures from the week:
Found on the wall at our neighborhood bar. AMAZING. (I only added the writing in white)
It was also great to have a friend from home here; while Adam is many things and I love him dearly, a girlfriend he is not. I do miss those relationships, and Kim came at the perfect time. While Adam was busy working, we had drinks, long dinners, and great conversation. This morning, we also skyped with our 3rd roommate, Liz, and it was a lot of fun to be "together" again.

I also wanted to share a few pictures of Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) decor. Students brought in candy and sweet notes on Friday, and for the past few weeks, they have brought home-made lanterns, which is the decoration of choice for this holiday.
This is the entry-way to the mall nearby:
Adam and I will be spending the holiday in LAOS; we leave Sunday night and return late on the 8th. I cannot wait for hiking, waterfalls, elephants, Buddhas, and everything else!! Chun jie kuai le! (Happy Spring Festival!)

Friday, January 28, 2011

Worst. Bloggers. Ever.

We have had a crazy week--one that has been overall positive and exciting, but extremely draining emotionally and physically for a gabillion reasons. Luckily, Alison's roommate from NYC, Kim, and her new roommate from Guangzhou, Maisha, are in town, so we've been much more busy in the evenings, going out to dinner or drinks every night, etc. It's so fun to have house guests, though it does make for much less sleep. Alison will post about their visit, so I won't steal her thunder.

Sarah and I have been working super-hard with our American PI, Dr. Smith, the last few days. In the 52 hours she was in Beijing, she made final revisions for the papers we're doing with her (her final revisions, though, mean we each have tons of work left), help us set up our future papers, and edited other papers. She also came to watch us give talks to the China CDC. Knowing she was in the audience was intimidating as I couldn't just start talking faster so no one could understand me if I messed up (my normal strategy), but it went well.

Now we have about 300 things to do before we leave, but, as they say, you can't stop time...and come
Sunday evening, we'll be on our flight to LAOS!!!!

Amusing sidenote: We don't have TV, but apparently the government is using the advent of Chinese New Year to amp up their propaganda. Recently, they've been promoting their airforce, saying they're about to have the most advanced planes in the world, the US is afraid of rising Chinese dominance, yadda yadda yadda. As evidence, they broadcast on national TV a "prototype plane" in "test flights." Turns out, their footage was lifted from the movie Top Gun.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

When the going gets tough...

...the tough get going (to Laos)!

This week has been rough for both of us. Last Saturday, we woke up both feeling blah--I think it was the combination of coming down from the high of the engagement (the ring, talking with everyone, then getting the pictures, and then spending a while reviewing them, the whole time being so excited!) and then being forced to settle back into our somewhat boring daily routine. Also, we videochatted with a bunch of friends and family in NYC, and everyone looked so beautiful and happy (and they were eating PINKBERRY!) that it was hard not to get homesick. I mean, we're definitely not ready to go home...but are undoubtedly missing a few key things (besides friends and family): being able to buy Draino when you need it without hours of fruitless searching in Carrefour and finally recruiting a bilingual friend, being able to ask a complicated question and get a real answer instead of "yes, yes, san-q"(My latest trick for the less-English fluent is to type into googletranslate while I say something. A little embarrassing for both parties involved, but it gets the job done...and it's not like my Mandarin has gotten any better). We definitely expected these things to happen and these minor annoyances are nothing new...but having recently celebrated our 5 months anniversary of arriving in Beijing, they're wearing on us.

Before our mothers start getting worried, know that we ended up having a good weekend--we went to American-style brunch and a flower market on Saturday and then Sunday, we went with Esther and Ben to a DELICIOUS European-themed cafe, where I had a steak for the first time in months--so we both realized that we still have a lot going for us here and that we have to remain optimistic.

Here's what is bringing us down:
Alison: The kids are still adorable, but she's becoming increasingly frustrated with how lazy her co-teachers are and the sweaty, jam-packed, pushy commute.
Me: After the paper was rejected from JAMA, I realized that I basically in the same exact position I was 6 weeks ago: working endlessly on one paper that doesn't really make sense and sitting on two completed manuscripts that require approval to be submitted to different journals. Workwise, I'm definitely in a ground-hog's day scenario, but I can't complain because at least I have work to do.

Here's what we have to look forward to the next 3 weeks:
Jan 22: Kim, one of Alison's NYC roommates , is coming up from Guangzhao for the week!
Jan 25: Dr. Smith, our UNC mentor, arrives in Beijing. I think she's here for 4 days, which will likely be a whirlwind of productivity. Keep your fingers crossed that I can submit one of those papers I am sitting on.
Jan 30 - Feb 8: LAOS
Feb 12: My parents come!

Just get us to the weekend!!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

I Am A Baker!

It's been a while since I've posted anything about school. It's become pretty routine, and I still adore [most of] my students. I tend to post pictures of the small class because they're so freakin' adorable, but the big class is pretty awesome too; there is finally a girl in addition to the 11 boys! The 2-week unit that we just completed taught the sentence structure "I am a _____." The kids loved acting out different animals and jobs, but they had trouble figuring out some of the characters in the book, the baker in particular. I tried to explain about cooking sweet things, but I figured it would be better to show them; thus, we culminated the unit with "I am a baker" day on Friday, when we made no-bake cookies in the classroom (yes, I do see the irony, but the kids don't know the difference!). It was a lot of fun and the kids LOVED helping out, pouring ingredients, and taking turns to mix. Here are some pictures:
The class wearing our "baker hats" (or decorated KKK hats...your call)
Billy adds the sugar.
Looking at the ingredients in the pot.
Johnny is trying hard to mix.
Preparing to shape the dough into cookies (notice the gloves...haha!)

Friday, January 7, 2011

A Picture's Worth 1,000 Words...

We finally got THE pictures back!!!  We decided on a few favorites to share (this is "few" because we actually received all 263).

Pre-proposal (me: "this is a lot of fun!" Adam: "relax, relax, relax"):

The next few are pretty self-explanatory:
(The moment of realization: I looked at Bella, thinking "Is she in on this?!")

Celebrating :)

We're thinking of enlarging a few favorites but are having trouble narrowing the field beyond this; any suggestions?!


Yesterday, the Jurassic-park style bus at the Siberian Tiger Park got stuck in the snow, the driver got out to look at it, and...the rest is history. You can read it here:

Thanks to Kate for sending us this terrifying!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Yay for Chinese stereotypes!

Thanks to Alison's friend for sending us this link:

Now, it makes sense why everyone was so impressed when they asked about my Christmas plans and I told them I didn't celebrate the holiday because I was Jewish.

In other news, Alison and I went to pick up the engagement pictures today (1.5 hour trip each way) only to find that the studio was closed. We arrived 30 minutes before closing time, which I had confirmed via email twice. Bella answered her phone on the third call and said, "Oh, no one is at the studio, can you just come back tomorrow? At 5:30, not 6?" We were SO angry, but there's nothing we could have done. At least the Mexican place nearby had two-for-one margaritas during happy hour. Will post the pictures on Saturday, when we get them...

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Harbin-slash-the North Pole

So the main reason we decided to travel to Harbin in this frigid season was the annual Ice Festival. After a lot of drama about whether it was open for visitors, we went to see and it turned out to be open and relatively empty! The ice sculptures were magnificent; buildings, castles, slides, pagodas, etc. We were able to walk around on many of the structures and slide down several of the luges. 
It was also pretty neat to see the workers in construction-mode; the official opening isn't until this week, so a few of the buildings were incomplete and being worked on while we were there.  
Our strategy for the cold was a cycle of walking around and taking coffee breaks to thaw. 
Adam kept warm by shaking is booty to random hip hop music!
Thus, we were at the Ice Festival for a while and witnessed a gorgeous sunset
AND the spectacularly lit ice structures:
This was about the time that people flooded in, so we decided to meet Alberta (a Fogarty in Nanjing) and her boyfriend Daniel at the hotel and head to dinner. We ate a delicious Chinese-version-of-Korean-BBQ restaurant and crashed at the hotel in preparation for Day 2: Snow Festival!

For those of you who have never been in -20 degree weather, here's a quick glance at the dressing process:
(tights, 2 pairs of long underwear pants, jeans, 3 long-sleeved shirts, 1 T-shirt, 2 pairs of socks, 2 pairs of gloves, hat, earmuffs, jacket, hood, scarf, AND hand and foot warmers).

The Snow Festival is similar to the Ice Festival in that it's basically structures made out of snow; however, these were more sculptures and fewer buildings. We passed everything from the Mona Lisa (under construction):
to David (Goliath was across the street),
to Pinocchio,
to the characters from Shrek
to The Birth of Venus (made from dyed ice put into a frame of snow)!

I was surprised by how "western" the Snow Festival seemed, particularly in contrast to the Ice Festival; Marco Polo was the only "eastern" figure, and there were 3 of him! They apparently love him here because of the Silk Road.
(every time we saw Marco Polo, Adam mistook him for Jesus!)

After encountering a small parade, we came upon another slide, but this time you rode down on a tube! We couldn't resist :)
By this point, we were beyond frozen. You know you're cold when...
your breath freezes on your scarf, hat,
and eyelashes!

We went into the city center for lunch and to find the St. Sophia Cathedral. We ran out of time, but managed to catch a glimpse as we searched for a cab to take us to the train station.

The bottom line of this trip? A fantastic experience, but never again will we go willingly to such cold weather!