Saturday, January 28, 2012

Chinese New Year!

The Year of the Dragon has begun here in China!  It has been an interesting week as expats to see what that means to the Chinese.  Red Lanterns and banners everywhere, dragon decorations, tangerine plants in pots with red envelopes hanging from the branches.  People give red envelopes with money in them to children and unmarried men and women as gifts.  The children at our school were led in a Chinese New Year program by the Chinese language teachers at school.  They sang and danced in Chinese for their parents.  It was very entertaining.  People are generally very happy and excited wherever you go.  Fireworks have been going off every night this week.  The most were of course set off at midnight of Chinese New Year itself, but the whole week has been festive.  We went to Hong Kong for a day this week and saw their decorations, too.  They had lit up dragons on shop walls.  We spied a dragon costume sitting idly, obviously having been used to perform at some point, as well as drums.  Unfortunately, we missed seeing any of the parades or performances.  Maybe next year!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Winter Break Fun!

We had three weeks off for Winter Break from school. When you live overseas, this is your big chance to go and see something! We asked everyone we met who has been here a couple of years where we should go, and the overwhelming majority said "Go to Thailand!". So that is where we went. We were not disappointed. We spent one night in Bangkok and went on a river cruise in a "long boat". This gave us a view of several temples and the Royal Palace. While we were on the river, the Royal boat was out practicing. There were so many rowers on this boat, with a big throne in the middle where the King can sit. It was a beautiful, long, golden boat. After Bangkok we hopped on a "minibus" and drove 6 hours to the ferry to to Koh Chang (Elephant Island), then another short drive and we were there. We stayed for almost two weeks on Kai Bae beach on Koh Chang. Our bungalow (one big room with 2 big beds for the 5 of us to share and a bathroom) was cute. The best part, though, was waking up in the morning (we arrived in the dark), opening the curtain and looking right out onto the ocean! We spent the two weeks there playing on the beach and the pool, getting Thai massages, wandering around the little town shopping and eating (our favorite drinks were the fruit shakes!). It was so relaxing, and great for our family to spend time with one another, away from school and the stress of living in a foreign country. The boys enjoyed our encounters with the Thai elephants. We got to pet and feed baby elephants, and watch them take baths in the ocean. They had one at a Christmas Eve dinner we went to, and the elephant lifted us into the air on his trunk! We also went on a trek through the jungle, riding on elephants. Another favorite adventure was a snorkling day trip we went on. We saw some beautiful fish, fed fish bread with our toes, and the boys had fun jumping off the side of the big boat. Nicholas wouldn't put his face in the water, for fear of seeing sharks (!), but the rest of us saw many different types of fish and coral.

We arrived back in China with almost a week left of vacation. We took one day to go to Hong Kong Disney Land. It was so much fun! It is a really new park, only 5 years old, so really nice and clean. They had some different rides and shows than what we have experienced in Florida, but the familiarity of the characters and the experience just made us feel like we could be back in the States. We really enjoyed that. Here are a few of our pictures from Thailand and Disney. We took so many, though, that these are just a few of the best ones!
River Boat Tour of Bangkok.
One of many temples in Bangkok.
Royal Long Boat
Our Home for two weeks.

Christmas Eve
This is so cool!
Dad, why did you let them put me on this elephant?
I couldn't let the kids have all of the fun!
Fire Show on Christmas Eve
Fun at the pool.
I can fly!
Coconut Milk on the Beach!
On our snorkeling boat.
Look at all the fish guys!
Dad, are there any sharks?
Would you believe I jumped?
Rustic camping in Thailand.
The fish tickle.
Can we jump in now?

Is this Dumbo?
Coral and shell collecting.
This is not fake!
Are we in paradise?

You've got a Friend in Me...

Reach for the sky!
Tarzan's Tree House
Sleeping Beauty's Castle
We come in peace.
To Infinity and Beyond!
Hey Mom, it goes up and down.
Disney Hong Kong
I love Pluto!
Dumbo Ride in Hong Kong
Just Goofin' around!