Friday, May 1, 2009

Amanda's Trip to Beijing

What an exciting and fulfilling 5 day adventure to Beijing.

I decided awhile back that I desperately needed a vacation away from Shekou (the city where I live). So after mulling over it I decided to go with a family of 6 and a now dear friend and colleague of mine. We first found a great flight and then an amazing hostel to stay at. If you ever go to Beijing stay at the Peking Downtown Backpackers Accommodation and ask for Apple (yes that is her English name). It was cheap and very helpful.

The trip begins Sunday April 26 at 7:15 AM as I say good bye to Dylan my dear husband who had to stay back and work. I met Barbara, my colleague I teach with, at the local Starbucks. Grabbed some nut bars and a juice and met Michelle and her husband and 13 year old triplet boys and a 8 year old daughter.

We took two cabs because they could only carry at maximum 4 people. It was so nice to see that two actually pulled up at the same time. We arrived at Shenzhen International Airport at 8:00 and checked in. Fairly nice airport. The flight was three hours from Shenzhen to Beijing. No in flight movies but towards the end of the flight the stewardess leads in flight exercises which are counted in Chinese and explained in Chinese as well. It was hilarious to watch them "yi . . . . er . . . san . . . si . .." (English translation 1 2 3 4).

After disembarking from the plane we gather our bags and head towards a man holding a sign with my name on it. It was a great feeling of importance. We then all climbed into the van and drove to our hostel. The hostel is located down a small road that can only be used by cars going one way and motorized bicycles.The roads are referred to as hutongs. Go to this site to read more about what hutongs are and the history behind it.

Our rooms were quite familiar on some level of when I was living in a dorm room in college. The family of six had a 3 bunk beds in their room along with a private bathroom. Barbara and I shared a room with two twin size beds and a private bathroom as well. Our room also had an odd skylight which allowed the sunlight to appear at 5 AM! It was unruly but at least we never overslept! HA!!! Upon checking in we learned that we had to supply our own towels. This was a problem since we did not have these. So Barbara and I decided to make our way on our first scavenger hunt amongst many in search of the Jian Mart (closest thing I can compare this too is a Wal Mart). We found snacks for our trip to the Great Wall for the following day and cheap hand towels to dry off with. We were roughing it by far.

When returned we all, including the family of six, went to see a Chinese Acrobatic Show. It was truly amazing to watch the small limbered children and adults do things with their bodies that made me almost need a muscle relaxer after watching them. It was a sight to see nonetheless. After that we all climbed back into the van and said good bye to the "Heaven and Earth" theater. Once we returned, Barbara and I decided to eat at a small Tibetan food restaurant located on the same hutong as our hostel. It was cute and quaint and we enjoyed each others company with small talk and such. We both decided we had to head back early because we were leaving the hostel at 6:40AM to see the Great Wall.

6:40AM came so early for the both of us after traveling all the day the day before we both agreed we could have used another hour or so to sleep. The bus took us and the family of six along with others to the Great Wall. The ride was almost 3 hours long. Once we got outside the city, it was amazing to see the mountains and flat lands where people lived in houses much like the setting of a countryside in the states. Something we had not seen in a long time. It was beautiful. As we approached our destination we got out of the van and was disappointed to see that there was so many students on a field trip as well. They all had on red track outfits jackets and matching pants. It was a bit warm for the warm up suits but with that many kids they had to wear something that stood out. I am guessing there was over 300 students there in groves. After making our way to the bathroom, just about everyone opts to climb the first part of the wall. Barbara and I decide to enjoy the sights so we paid $6 to ride on the cable cars. It was so nice to enjoy the sights and get the first call from Dylan. Once we got to the top we were malled by the Chinese women selling crap and bottles of water. Luckily Barbara and I came prepared with peanut butter and fruit and big water bottles.

The section of the wall that we walked/hiked on was 8KM and took about 4.5 hours to complete. It reminded me so much of my hike I previously did which was 11 miles and more hills to go down and climb. The wall is continuing to crumble in places and is very difficult at times to go down safely. I got a great sun burn on my shoulders and neck. But it quickly faded to a tan the next morning. When we finally reached the end of wall, we had the option of zip-lining down over a river. Naturally I did the zip line and it was amazing. Barbara and I went together as they were putting us on two at a time. Once we all got to the bottom we went on a short boat ride to the shore where everyone else met us. Amazing sights and to think we were walking on a huge part of Chinese history where dynasties came and defended what they knew to be theirs and wanted so much more. Here is a web link about the Great Wall We then headed back and it was around 6 or 7 PM when we finally made it back to the hostel. When you looked at every one's faces we all agreed that it was time to hit the showers. That was one night we all slept hard.

Tuesday was a jammed packed day. We went to the Forbidden City, Tianamen Square, and the Bird's Nest where the Olympic stadium is in Beijing. I do not personally like the feeling I felt when I was at Tianamen Square due to the history and its claim to fame. It was very eery to me and I felt unsettled there. As we continued through the square to the Forbidden City the feeling dissipated. Here is some history about Tianamen Square The Forbidden City was beautiful and full of facts that I cannot spout out. There are always two lions at the entry. The lion on the left is the male lion and has his paw on a ball and the lion on the right is the female and she has her paw on a lion cub. This was noted throughout the entire temple setup. It was amazing to see that they had drainage systems too that terraced down and spilled out of gargoyles mouths. The emperor had so many rooms of his personal things and keepsakes. Lots of clocks as they were a valued gift to him. Here is a link to the Forbidden City Very informative trip and very long too. I am noticing though that if you have seen one temple you have seen them all with little variation to the setup and its surroundings. We rode on the metro which is a subway that runs all over Beijing. We decided to take it to the Bird's Nest and see the sights around it. What a long train ride that was. UGHHHH!!! And crowded too! I know exactly what it is like to be a sardine nonetheless and it was not pretty with stinky men and women who choose not to wear deodorant or failing deodorant. The phrase "Are you SURE" has not reached China yet. My nose is ultra sensitive and it was all I could do but not pass out. Crazy times but fun!!! The Bird's Nest was amazing to marvel at from the outside and the construction that took place. It is earthquake proof and boy does it show. Steel bent and molded into so many directions . . . . just pure amazement. We also saw the aquatic center that looked like bubbles were all over it. Neat to view. Then we faced a mob of people trying to sell stupid Olympic paraphernalia like cheap kites with the Olympic creatures on it (I have no idea what they are but its their logo in China) and paper weights that light up. I got into it with a vendor who could not take no for an answer. I first was polite and said no in Chinese. He then continues and I continue to say no again in Chinese. After this went on 3 more times I got extremely annoyed and raised my voice loud and repeated again. Then the vendor laughs at me behind my back and I turn around, show him my fist and say "ha ha ha". He then freaks out and says "Ooh". After that the guy left me alone and walked away.

Wednesday we decided to go to the Summer Palace. Here is some info Very beautiful place. We all agreed that we had seen so much of the temples that we opted to take a pedal boat around the lake. This place was enormous. Bigger than the Forbidden City. It was so wonderful to pedal around looking at the various things. As I got in the family of 6 decided it was race time. I am not used to this competitive side. . . . well maybe I am and that is why I decided to go forth and race a grown man and a 13 year old boy with me and an 8 year old girl. I was ready to cry. And my thighs were barking well more like screaming. We pedalled for about an hour and a half. Saw the marble boat which I have named the plaster of Paris boat for no particular reason. We then got off and Barbara decided to go back to the entrance and wait on us to finish up the tour. That was about 3PM I think. So we continued to look around and we came to a Chinese calligraphy professor. I was so amazed at the work he did I had a silk/rice paper scroll made for Dylan and I with our last name in the middle and wishes of good luck and fortune. As we continued to stop and look there was this uncanny event that occurred with the daughter of the family of six. Her name is McCall and she is 8 years old with blond curly hair and blue eyes and cute as a button. All the Chinese people would stop us and take a picture with her and sometimes me as well due to my "blond" hair as well. It was like the paparazzi was all over the place. Once we had enough of the Summer Palace we all decided it was time to head out at 6:00. We could not find our way out so we had to retrace our steps in how we got in. As we exited the palace we could not find Barbara. It was awful. We looked everywhere and finally we decided that she must have gone back without us. We also needed two taxis to get us back to our hostel again. So we find the two after being "attacked" by the crazy taxi drivers who are unruly and charge way too much. All the way home Michelle the mother of the 6 and McCall her daughter are constantly worrying about Barbara. In hopes she made it to the hostel before us we were sadly disappointed. So Michelle and I decide to have a drink after what we went through. As we sit down we saw Barbara walk by. Michelle quickly gets up and runs up to her with me in tow behind. Turns out Barbara needed to eat and doesn't do well in crowds so she hopped in a taxi and went to the metro station and came back home that way. I was so relieved when I saw here and learned that she was not angry with us for leaving her. Michelle, Barbara, and myself all decided after that whole ordeal that we needed a drink and food.

The next day we packed and went in search of the Harley Davidson store for Barbara to get a gift for her brother. Her and I both posed on the the bike and took pictures. Too funny. On the way back we got a little lost and I was worried I was going to wet my pants in search of finding our hostel. We needed to rendezvous back at the hostel at 2PM to get the van to take us back to the airport and it was 1:45PM. Finally after much freaking out from both Barbara and I we heard a familiar voice . . . It was Michelle and her husband. Boy were we glad to see them. We then walked back and headed out to the airport and said good bye to Beijing.

I am planning on going back again with Dylan next time. Soak up some nightlife and see more things than before.

I wish you and your family sunshine and blue skies to share with each other.
Until next time . . . .

Amanda Blankenship and Dylan in tow!!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Hello all

Just for the record I want to say that I do not post a new blog unless something exciting happens that is worth writing about. If not then you will lose interest and well that is not my goal in writing this thing. So there will be periods of time that you will not hear from us because nothing is going on worth writing about. With that said I will tell you some exciting things that Dylan and I have been doing lately.

So since we have been back from the states we are coming to the conclusion that it might be awhile before we decide to come back due to flight fares and the awful jet lag. But we welcome our friends to come and stay with us now that we have this awesome apartment!!

At the end of February we moved out of our previous apartment and into one that is three times its size (maybe not exactly but its pretty darn big). We love coming home now to our little haven.

I have been super busy lately at school and around the community here in Shekou. (Sh-e-k-O). I am amongst a group (or few) that has a purpose of bridging the gap between expats (non-Chinese people living here) and local Chinese people. One group I am apart of is called Social Responsibility 101. We are working right now with a local Chinese school and my current school through a pen pal program with 9 and 10 year old children. The students have yet to meet each other and continue to write letters back and forth. On April 24th they will present art work for a local "hang out" here in Shekou which will represent how Shekou is Earth Friendly and doing things to help keep Shekou Earth Friendly. I am so excited about this event. Another event going on that I am apart of is having our students at my current school work with the local Chinese school in helping ot clean up a park together. This is such an amazing event just building the bridge between expats and locals on a small level.

Dylan is also doing many innovative ideas with his company as well. As stated earlier, he has branched off from the company where he first started when he came to China and is forming his own company with a great friend and colleague from his past working experience in the states. I think the phrase "never burn your bridges" falls into this category because you never know when you will meet up with someone again and fulfill your dreams and ideas. I am so proud of him in that he is going to school online, starting his own company which is an idea that came from scratch and no templates to follow so to speak, and being a wonderful husband in the end. Very multifaceted and I am proud to be married to him. He is supportive of me and I of him as well. His new project is beginning to take shape and come to fruition, which is something I feel by both Dylan and his partner that was once a concept but never really imagined it would be true. They are creating a site in which will allow many people from around the world to see how to import and export out of China and provide the "how" in doing it effectively through stories and experiences of others. Just "GOOGLE" sourcejuice and you can see for yourself.

On a lighter note, Dylan's first boss that brought him to China has his baby this past Thursday here in China. We got to visit the mother and the baby boy. The baby is HUGE but completely beautiful all in the end. I am still not a fan of Chinese hospitals. Here is some interesting facts about having babies here in China . . . . back in the states and even in Hong Kong you can find out what you are having (boy or girl). However, if you are local Chinese you cannot find out the gender of the baby due to abortions. Since the Chinese people are allowed to have one child (free) they want usually a son so that he will continue to carry out the family name. But if the Chinese person wants to have another child they have to pay a large sum of money to do this. This is how they do the "one child per family" law. If you see how many people live here it does make sense in the end. So that is why they do not allow to find out what the gender is or else they might abort it if it is a girl. Another interesting fact is that women cut their hair relatively short towards the end of their pregnancy (Chinese women). The reason behind this statement is that the extra nourishment that it takes to keep their hair long takes away from the babies nourishment. Not sure about that one but I do not think I will be cutting my hair in the end. The pregnant Chinese women also wear smocks that are lined with lead to protect their unborn babies when using the computers and what have you. They remind me of when you go to get x-rays and they put the smocks on you to protect you only these are lighter and not as heavy. I guess its a smart idea but definitely tacky to wear. Another friend of mine that I work with also had a baby too. She is from the states and so is her husband. They had the baby in Hong Kong which is about an hours worth away. Sort of like the distance between Suwanee and Northside Hospital for the Georgia folks. This is where Dylan and I are planning on having our baby when we decide that life changing event at a later time. Too many people want us to have a baby now and I am saying no until things settle with me changing schools and insurance plans next year we have to wait and no rush or worries at that. No pressure please from the peanut gallery. Trust me we will have them but on our own time which is not being told to anyone.

For my travels I am actually getting ready to plan some fun trips with a few teacher friends of mine. We are getting ready to travel to Beijing (FINALLY) and see the Great Wall and the other things you do when you come to China. We found flights for $200 round trip which is amazing being that they are now creeping up to $500-$800. We are leaving April 26th-30th. Then when I come back home I am leaving for Singapore the next day for a three day weekend with Dylan and a great friend of ours. Busy busy busy.

Things get really busy here in China between Dylan and me. We wait until enough interesting stuff has accumulated before we decide to post a blog. So know that something exciting is going on but we are waiting on a good time to post it. School for me has been super busy. I am also helping out with the high school play in choreographing 2 dances. I am helping out with the school's talent show and I am in two acts myself . . . The evolution of dance (Youtube) and playing the part of little red riding hood in a performance. Dylan, myself, and the founder of Social Responsibility 101 was featured in a magazine here in China called That's PRD. It was fun for awhile when the local Chinese people would use their best English and tell you "I sawr you before in magazine." hahahahaha. I feel pretty excited being featured. I am also taking up running now. I run in the mornings a few days during the week for about 30 minutes. I am trying to boost my time now and distance. Not for any particular reason other than staying fit. The air is better in the mornings and not many people are out that early either so that is why I bite the bullet and run then.

We miss and love you all. I am not sure when we will come back to the states. My wonderful and loving mother in law is coming with her finance this summer to stay with us. I am so super psyched about that. She is so uplifting and makes you feel warm and good inside which is the contrary of what I hear about mother in laws in general. I guess it helped by having her first as a friend before I met my dream come true . . . Dylan.

Well I think that is all for now. Post a response if you wish. I'd love to hear how you are doing.

Warmly from our family to yours,
Amanda and Dylan Blankenship

Friday, January 2, 2009

Back to the states then back to China again!!

Hello everyone!!

Dylan and I went back to the states for Christmas and it was quite . . . . . busy.

We landed in Atlanta on Dec 13th. Dylan's flight got in about 4 hours before mine so he and my in laws went to the mall for awhile and ate lunch. Meanwhile I am flying from Hong Kong to Newark and then a five hour lay over. I finally hop on the plane to Atlanta and fall asleep....probably snoring according to Dylan. My flight got in late and all I could think of was sleep.

So our first meal (with me included) was . . . . Chinese!! Hahahaha. I know what you are thinking but American Chinese food is not the same as Chinese Chinese food. Dylan got Mongolian Beef and I think I shared it but not too sure. I know I got some soup which was pretty good. Dylan and I went to bed around 3AM and woke up at 3PM. Yeah that would be a shocker to us all. We spent the next day and a half doing the zombie march. It was nice to see our friends and loved ones. I went back to Suwanee Elementary School and had one of the warmest welcomes I think I ever received. I felt like some celebrity. Every five minutes someone stopped me in the hallway and started asking about China. It was priceless. Everyone looked the same with the exception of a few different hair styles and bigger bellies from being pregnant but nothing too out of the ordinary. Dylan and I have many friends who love us dearly and that is something we are so lucky to have. Thank you to everyone for the countless meals and long talks and even letting us crash at their house (Cuvo's) and eat Ethiopian food.

Dylan and I got to see so much of our families. Christmas was really a time for sharing this year. I didn't want anything but to spend time with others and that's what I got. Seeing friends, catching up on who became parents since we left . . . it all puts things in perspective.

By leaving China to come and visit the states made things look as if they had stood still for just but a split second. Things have not really changed and then again they changed drastically. Change is a good thing and if you continue to live life in one direction the whole time you will be missing out on some of life's most precious things.

We arrived back in Hong Kong on our one year anniversary. It is amazing how fast and how eventful our first year was as man and wife. Get married, husband leaves wife to move to a new country after a month and a half of marriage, move in with the in laws, shipped the dog to China, then move to China myself and start a new job. One would say it wouldn't last and others would say it was meant to be but as for Dylan and I we know that this would never had happened if we hadn't fell in love with each other in the beginning and that's enough for us for now. Life is not something you have to explain but to experience. So on our 1st anniversary we stayed at a nice hotel in Hong Kong went out the next morning had breakfast and went back to Shekou, Shenzhen (China) via taxi. We spent the next day in bed all day watching movies and ordering out for food. It was a wonderful day to spend together.

As far as jobs are concern, Dylan is still working at forming his own company with skill and finesse. He is so dedicated to being a great entrepreneur and puts so much time into what he is building with his company and products. I am so proud to call him my husband.

I, myself, have taken on a career advance. In the fall I will be teaching at another International School which is located across the street. The reason for the switch is not because I am unhappy at my present school but more opportunities that allow me to grow as an educator. Dylan and I couldn't be happier about the vertical move.

With that said we are so happy to see our friends and be back in China. Our only regret is that we could not stay longer to see more of our friends. Best to you all and may this new year bring joy and excitement to all.

Amanda and Dylan

Saturday, November 15, 2008

I am summing up the last few months in a nutshell and adding some more information

Hello All . . .

I am sorry that I have completely but not entirely fell off the face of the Earth. So let's bring everyone up to speed on the lives of the Mr. and Mrs. Dylan Blankenship.

Well as you know I have started school in August at the QSI Shekou International School. This entire school concept is different than what I know of at good ole' Suwanee Elementary in Suwanee, Georgia.

Suwanee/ Pretty much all Gwinnett County Schools vs. International Schools
> (or at least the one I am working at)
> Report Cards GCPS vs. Outcome cards and narratives
> -yeah so this is an odd thing. Talking major old school style on this one.
> So when we complete a unit (there are 10 to complete for the entire year) we
> have to write the date of when we began the unit and when we ended it and
> the grade we gave the child. Everything is handwrittten. No typing it in.
> That is what our reception office workers do. Which sucks because they end
> up either loosing the cards that you worked your butt off in filling out or
> they enter in the wrong thing. Narratives are written on each child for five
> subject areas and a paragraph on each child. That is for 17 children. Yeah
> thats a bit different but luckily I did mine during conferences and just cut
> and pasted into the documents.
> Suwanee Lunch time vs where I teach
> -So we eat in the classroom. We do not have duty free lunch but we do have
> duty free recess which rocks. Our parapros take them out. Everyone gets
> their own parapro from grades K-2. Thats pretty nice. Mine is pretty cool.
> She is Chinese with broken English and it is so funny listening to the kids
> talk to her and she talks back to them. She also takes me shopping and shows
> me where to buy thing cheap near our school. That's pretty sweet! Also the
> kids have their lunches delivered to school from high end restaurants either
> they choose a Western lunch which is food that we eat in America, a Korean
> lunch from a nearby Korean restaurant or a Japanese lunch which is catered
> by a Japanese restaurant. Yeah these kids are majorily spoiled. hahaha
> Suwanee Specials vs where I teach
> -We get a special everyday and sometimes two in one day. The kindergarteners
> have the most jacked up schedule in the school. Some mornings first thing in
> the morning we have a special and other days we have two back to back. Yeah
> . . .not to sure about that one but at least we get some time away from the
> little cuties. We have PE twice, Computers, Library, Art, and Music. Also
> the kids go to Chinese classes on Monday Wednesday and Friday. We do after
> school activities much like SOAR but ran differently. At Suwanee you have a
> choice of whether or not you want to teach SOAR class whereas at my school,
> you choose a class and teach it for 6 weeks twice a week on Tuesdays and
> Thursdays for an hour. I am doing Cheerleading this time around and its so
> fun with 7 and 8 year olds.
> Suwanee Grades vs. QSI (where I teach)
> -So we call grades in the states kindergarten, first grade, second and so
> on. At QSI they call them by age levels which can be annoying at times when
> for the last seven years as a teacher I have referred to them otherwise. So
> instead of teaching kindergarten it is called the five year old class. We
> have 4 five year old classes at my school. Two women and two men. Coolest
> grade level I have ever taught with.
> USA laws vs QSI
> -So we are not allowed to administer meds back in the states for obvious
> reasons. Well that is acceptable at the school I work at and I have the
> hardest time doing it to this day. Also we are allowed to ask them to empty
> their pockets and check their bags if we suspect someone stole something.
> Suwanee/GCPS vs QSI
> -We have the most sensible writing and reading continuums I have ever seen
> in my life. I believe they make sense across the board. you guys should
> adopt them because the other ones you had last year sucked to say the least.
> Suwanee population vs QSI
> -In my classroom this year I have a broad range of cultures in my room. I
> have first of all 12 boys and 5 girls which might seem pretty messed up and
> it was in the beginning of the year but my boys are as sweet as pie and work
> well with their peers. I have two japanese girls, one American/Chinese girl,
> one brazilian boy, one french boy, one russian boy, one hungarian boy, two
> tawianese girls, one canadian/chinese boy, two korean boys, two british
> boys, one dutch boy, two tawianese boys. So yes we represent the land of
> change. The parents are not the ones I primarily deal with. It's the Ayi's
> (nannies/maids). The parents are so super busy that they have someone take
> care of their child for them and clean their house too. Dylan and I have an
> Ayi but she only cleans our house, does our laundry, irons and walks Lucy
> once a day Monday through Friday. Yeah thats a pretty sweet deal.

Now let's see here what else have I got myself into. Well Dylan and I found out I was pregnant in August but I miscarried after 7 weeks. I am OK about it because neither one of us were ready for such a change to occur in our lives. We just got married almost a year ago and then moved to a new country to work for new jobs. . . . really not the most appropriate time for a baby. It made us think though that we can do it here in China (actually more like in Hong Kong after seeing what the mainland Chinese hospitals look like). It makes us think more about having a family in the near future and that there really is no such thing as the perfect timing for a baby. I will say this, that I am so glad to be back to my semi normal self again. It felt like an alien took over my body and I was possessed or something.

I am currently teaching five year olds (kindergarten) and absolutely love it. I am also doing an after school cheerleading class for 7 and 8 year olds. It's so funny . . . I am unaware that my body is getting older because I thought for a mere hour that I was 17 again doing toe touches and cheers with the girls and cartwheels and round offs. I am still paying for it three days later!!!

Speaking of pain . . . so my dearest husband suggests I go for a "blind man massage." It is exactly what it is . . . a blind man massaging you more like a blind man beating you up! At times I couldn't tell if I was crying because I was laughing so hard or because I was in so much pain. It was ruthless. I had to go home and take ibuprofen to go to bed. My skin even hurt. A week later and I can still feel remnants of where he "stabbed" me with his fingers and hands. AGGHHHH!

The weather here in China is now finally starting to get cooler. Whereas before when coming down the elevator, or should I say "the lift" I had sweat trickles everywhere and could have used another shower and another application of make up. No now it is really nice weather. I have began to enjoy the new concept of hiking and have ventured out to Hong Kong on the famous hiking trail The Dragon's Back. Very cool and amazing! With the changing of the weather comes the changing of the food delicacies here in China. Yes so now we have gone from pork, fish head with eye balls inside still, bones in everything to dog!!! OH MY GOD . . Is all I can say. So I am walking basically across the street from where we live which is dominated by many expats (people not originally from China) and in a glass box on display like a trophy or something is a dog that has been shaved and gutted. It was awful!! I made Lucy cover her eyes and told her if she ever ran away she would be next!! Oh it's just awful awful awful.

As for Dylan, he is doing some of the most amazing things in technology these days. Recently his company that he had originally came to China to work for, dissolved and went their separate ways. So Dylan and one of his business colleagues from a past job linked up to form a software company that designs anything from web portals or social networks. Dylan is understanding the ins and outs of owning his own company and juggling not only this new endeavor but going to school full time and be married to me. I too am playing with the concept of changing jobs and working at another local international school here in Shekou. We are exploring many different venues and looking for the one that more conducive to our requirements and family arrangements. Will keep you posted on this situation if and when things may or may not change.

I work with amazing group of people and they dynamics of the school are so wonderful to work with. I can honestly say that I am so thankful not to work with those who are consistently outdoing each other and being a fashionista or putting on a front for others to follow. We all have the same thing and accept each other for what is inside. This is something I felt was missing from my life in the states.

On a side note . . . so riding bikes here is not such a safe past time as we all remembered from our childhood. For the last three or so months I have heard at least four people who have gotten seriously injured while riding their bikes. Just this past week one of the teachers at my school fell off her bike due to uneven ground and broke her collarbone, fractured her hip and elbow. She opted not to go to the Hong Kong hospital as that would provide better care. She went to the Beijing Hospital which is about 30 minutes away from where we live. Grant it is further to go to Hong Kong but when Dylan and I went to visit the teacher the situation and care giving was not what a westerner (someone whose native language is English) is used to. For starters you have to provide your own care. Someone who will help you go to the bathroom, fluff your pillow, basically what a nurse would do in our minds. The nurses at the hospital serve as taking temperatures and coming back in a hour to check them, changing the IV drip. Providing food to the patients is also not a luxury that we get in the states. The person you bring to help you also provides meals for you or your American co-workers bring food to you. I was thinking and told Dylan that if anything happens to me Med-Evac me Hong Kong. In Hong Kong there is standards in place that resemble the ones we are used to in the states. Actually the doctors are British decent and are very good. Just like in the states. I plan on having children over there someday but not today.

Life is great these days and I would not trade it in for anything in the world. We hope you families and loved ones are doing well. Dylan and I are planning on returning to the US to visit family and friends on Dec 13 and leaving on the 30th. We will be staying at his mom's house.

Amanda and Dylan

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Our honeymoon to Thailand

Sorry to be posting this late. It's been crazy since we got back from Thailand. I was recovering from some weird stomach bug and doing new teacher orientation at my new school.

So lets begin at the beginning of our trip. We left Sunday morning and took the ferry from Shekou (the city where we live) to Hong Kong International Airport. Very cool to see the sights from the ferry. Dylan was not too excited because we were not on the nicer ferry but nonetheless it was pretty neat. We even did a pre-check-in at the ferry terminal which was nice too. We hung around the Hong Kong airport for a few hours and I must say it is by far the best airport I have been too. Stores such as Burberry and Gucci who actually sell real brand name things not fake like in Shekou. No I did not buy anything but was tempted many times.

We boarded the airplane and flew Thai Airways. Very nice and the service was wonderful. We flew directly from Hong Kong to Phuket (pronounced poo-ket not fu-ket . . . I have some people who need that little tidbit). Once we landed we had to go through customs which took a long time. If you are traveling to Phuket you do not need a visa if you are from the US and there are another 29 other countries that qualify too but not sure which 29. After going through customs we grabbed a taxi and told the guy where we were going. So we get about two minutes away from our place where we are staying and the taxi driver asks us . . ."So where is your place?" And we were like "Uh we are not from here and we thought you knew when you left the airport." Needless to say the guy pulled alongside of the road and found out where we were going.

This place where we stayed was AMAZING! It was a friend of ours who lives here in Shekou and has a house both here and in Thailand. He was so nice to allow us to use his place while we mailed my passport back to the US. On Monday the Fed Ex guy came by and we sent my passport in his hands to be mailed to Houston, Texas. I was a little nerve wracked so Dylan and I go venturing out to see what Thailand looks like during the day to get my mind off of mailing it out. We ended up renting a motor bike which was key element that made our trip extra exciting. When we get to the place to rent the bike, the lady asks for Dylan's passport and holds it until we returned the bike 7 days later. So the lady is trying to start the bike and has so many problems starting it and I kept thinking we are going to be stranded someplace because we cannot start this thing (we had to jump start that thing every time we went someplace). I asked the lady to give us a crash course on how to use it and Dylan was like "It's OK we know what we are doing." I was thinking "when in the hell did he ever ride a bike?" but I trusted him and took off with our bike. First of all they drive on the wrong side of the road (wrong side meaning the left side verses the right). I guess wrong can be right in most places. So Dylan drove and I held on for my life. He did really good and we never crashed or had a "holy blank blank" experience. I called Dylan my "Hog Stud" sorry but he was a bit sexy riding it. I can say that being married to him and all that goes along with that subject.

The beaches were so gorgeous and we rode to about three or four of them. Dylan had a suit made there too. Evidently Thailand is known for the following: Custom made suits, eyeglasses, and foot massages. We indulged in having massages on the beach which was soooooo nice with the sound of the waves in the background. We also decided to try out the Tuk Tuk which lead us to renting the bike because Tuk Tuks (which are little truck/car/van thingy majigs) cost half of what we spent on the bike one day. As for the suits, there are guys lined up and down the streets just standing outside of their stores. "Hello my friend where are you from?" We were very nice at first and said we were from the US . . . then we shook their hand . . . . thats when they have you and dragging you into their stores. So we ended up saying that we were from China and the guys were not too impressed but laid off of us so we found the remedy. Dylan did end of getting a suit made there. I must admit the suit is really nice looking and looks awesome on Dylan. We ate awesome food everyday for about the price of what gas was before George W got into office the first time . . . . around $1.50 for crab fried rice with real crab. We ate at a really nice restaurant on the beach for about $20 each which is not bad at all.

Everyday was paradise . . . wake up go out on the balcony that overlooks the ocean and check our emails. Wonderful. Our next big purchase is a house there. We figured that we can do it in the next few years and go there on short breaks to chill out and offer it to our friends and family. NOT YET . . . so no asking please. On Saturday the Fed Ex guy found us in town and gave me my passport with my Z Visa that allows me to use one time to get into to China and work there. Yeah don't ask please its a jacked up process but we have to abide by it if we want to live here. The next process is going for my interview with the police station where they ask me questions off my resume like where did you go to school how many years. We ended up pushing our plane departure date to one more day because at that time we weren't sure when we were supposed to get the package. So the new departure day was Tuesday instead of Monday. This meant our flight was leaving at 7:00 AM. However, we were not sure if we could get a cab from where we were at that time of the morning so Dylan and I decided to stay at the only hotel near the airport The Phuket International Airport Hotel. We left our friend's house Monday evening and got a taxi to take us to the new place . . . . again we told the guy where we were going and he seemed pretty sure where we were going. Until . . . . . we got to the airport. . . . . . driving through security gates with armed guards. So thankfully the armed guards are nice just as the rest of the people of Phuket and explained to our driver where to go . . . yeah still didn't have a clue. So we stopped a local shop and the driver asked and so we made it. When we arrive at this place it looked like The Bates Motel. The place was just not what either of us had in mind but it was only $30 for the night so we got exactly what we paid for. The guy shows us to our room. Too funny . . . so you entered the room through a sliding glass door . . . yeah what does that tell you. So I am laughing the whole time. You walk in the room and above the bed are Christmas lights for "mood" lighting. Again I am laughing so hard. Dylan says "Go in the bathroom" . . . I walk in and it's like I am outside next to the pool. The floor is the ground like it is near the pool and its wet for some odd reason. I am just laughing all night while Dylan is ready to kill me because he is trying to write his paper and I am just a nut the whole time.

We ended up leaving the next morning at 5:45 AM. So sad. Flying from Phuket to Bangkok was not such a good idea but it was the only option. Bangkok's airport is so jacked up. Once you go through the X-rays there are no restaurants so just remember that if you decide to fly there. Plus I am walking around feeling like I am going to hurl or run to the bathroom. Yeah got really sick from something in Thailand and thought I was going to die. Stomach bugs suck sorry but they do. I am better now.

In a nutshell . .. We love Thailand and would recommend it to everyone and anyone to go and visit. Nice people, great and cheap food, relaxing environment . . . What's not to love? The flights from the US are going to be a pain but fly to China and visit us and then go to Thailand.

Hope all is well with you . . . Be on the look out for my first day of school blog entry coming this week after Thursday.

Dylan and Amanda :)

Friday, July 18, 2008

The three B's and no I don't mean Blankenships

So I hope this finds you and your families doing exceptionally well as for Dylan and I we are constantly staying busy, meeting new friends, and continuing to have the times of our lives.

I am assuming the title of this has created quite a taste of curiosity. Always remember it killed the cat. hahahaha. Just kidding. So on to the the three B's.

I have been begging Dylan to go with me to get a new bike so I can ride around and such. Well I did!! This bike is the most unique thing we had ever seen. It folds up into the size of a suitcase yet I doubt it would fit inside of one being that it is bulky and all. But it did fit inside of a trunk of a taxi with no problems at all. Dylan took some pictures of me riding around on it and a few of my friends did too so be on the look out for those pics. So I am now a free person who can ride around wherever I choose to including to work everyday. This past week my thighs have toned up considerably which is good. Last night one of the teachers and I tried to ride around like they do here with one driving it and one sitting on the little rack you tie things to. Really funny but I think my bike was missing the element of having a motor for it did not turn out well in the end and thankfully we were only going about 12 feet away from where we were to begin with. Another bike the day before yesterday I do my thing wake up get ready blah blah and then take my bike with me out to the elevator and ride down. Well as I get into the elevator I noticed my front wheel looks a little flat and then when I pressed it, it was and I could not ride my bike to work that morning. UGHHH! So I hit the next floor and got off and dropped it off. Later on that day I went to this man who is outside with whom I assume is either is wife, girlfriend or sister. You really can't tell especially if you cannot speak the language that well to begin with. So the man takes off the outer part of the tire and fixes the inner part which looks like an inner tube. It was fascinating to watch him fix it. The "sand" it down with this weird looking tool, put what looked like a patch on the whole and filled it back up with air again. All for 3 RMB which is about 50 cents US. I tried to offer him more but he refused and shoved it back. So I was happy again and rode around till my legs got tired.

Next B story . . . So the same day we bought my bike, I bought a bra. Yes I finally found one that did not have as much stuffing as a good year blimp. Evidently FYI women here are as flat as walls no lie. And all their bras have tons and tons of stuffing in them. I am not a fan and in my situation I believe I don't really need the extra padding. This style of bras had made it nearly impossible to find one A. in my size and B. without the padding. So we finally found one and I was too excited about it. The lady says to me "What size you are?" and I am looking at the bra sizes saying "I don't have a clue." So she proceeds to measure me (deja vu from getting measured for my dresses). Then she finds me my bra in my size which was in a drawer and not with the others. Sad huh?? The sales lady proceeds to show me the fitting room which is long and narrow. Not one I have seen before. She shuts the door behind her and I am thinking maybe she is just trying to help me by putting the bras up on the hook and such. Then she starts helping me out of my shirt and I am like "Oh so you are going to help me?" Dylan said he could hear the whole conversation and thought it was too funny. Then I am standing there topless with the sales lady feeling just a bit vulnerable and then she helps me into the bra but it didn't stop there. She reaches down into the bra and "moves me" if you get my drift to situate me so that it looks right. I was thinking this is the most bizarre thing I have ever experienced...someone watching me undress (could handle to an extent) then helps me into a bra, and then moves my stuff around to situate it. So that is the Bra story.

Onto the third and final B story . . . the Bank! Since yesterday was the last and final day of summer school we got paid. It was nice too (for China) and I was paid in US dollars. I am walking around with a big hunk of one hundred dollar bills in my pants pocket and calling Dylan to get his secretary to meet me to set up a bank account. No way was I exchanging all that money for who knows how much and storing it who knows where. So Crystal, Dylan's wonderful and sweet secretary goes with me to the bank more specifically The Bank of China. When you go inside you first fill out the forms. Thankfully they had a few without the Chinese characters on them and were in English. If not that's what Crystal was for. So we fill out the work and stand in line. Now I am not a fan to begin with standing in line but it wasn't so bad until towards the end. The bank closes at 5 PM so they had two little tellers open when we started the line and then when it was our turn the man who was one of the two tellers decides it is quitting time for him and puts up his little sign that says "Service Paused". Crystal tries to see if he will budge but he didn't as I thought and he starts counting his money. There are other bank tellers walking around the place yet none seem to want to work. So now there is this huge line behind us partly due to pay day because it was Friday and only one teller. She was forever slow. I kept thinking how funny is this....this would so not fly in the US. The manager would be using all of the tellers (all three of them) and making sure everyone got as much as they could done before quitting time. It reminded me of our Wal Marts back in the states. Not exactly sure where and what your Wal Marts are like, but the ones in Suwanee and Buford Georgia have over 30 check out lanes with tons of check yourself out lanes too. However, as many as they have they are never truly filled up in fact there are usually 5 or so that are actually open and forget going to the self check out lanes they are either broken or someone who doesn't understand how to use them with two grocery carts full of stuff to the brim. Well same situation but one teller with a huge line behind. The guard told the majority of the people to go home. Awful!!! However, I now officially have a bank account with an ATM card and it won't charge me an arm and a leg to get money out now. YEAH!!!!

By the way....Dylan and I are getting ready to leave for Thailand in about 8 days. We leave on July 27 and come back on Aug 3. The main purpose of this trip is doing what Dylan did with his passport to get his working visa. So we are mailing my passport and documents back to the states from Thailand stay there while they process the visa and mail it back to me. The other purpose is that we need a vacation. A friend of ours who is from the US lives here in China and has his own company (well I should say companies) and also has a house in Thailand as well. He usually rents it out but not in the summer time as much as in the winter when people are trying to get away from the cold. The flights are extremely cheap from Hong Kong airport so that's a plus and things we have been told are relatively cheap there too like food and trinkets and such.

So that's all for now. As stated before I hope your loved ones are doing well and family members I love you all!!!

Amanda and Dylan Blankenship :)

Thursday, July 3, 2008

So it's been a little over a month now and . . .

Hello all . . .

Well Dylan came back successfully from Hong Kong with his z-visa which is his working visa that allows him to come in as many times as he wants, pay Chinese taxes (only as long as we stay out of the US for 335 days we don't pay), and gets to work in China. It was kind of lonely not having him around for a week but allowed for me some down time which we all need every now and then.

A couple of weekends ago Dylan, Andy (a guy who Dylan works with), and one of Dylan's US friends and business associates Travis went to a temple here in Shenzhen. It was amazing to say the least. After I left the temple I had such a wonderful feeling inside and I was filled with peace.

The weather here has been just as unpredictable as the sights I see. Last week we had a typhoon roll through that was downgraded to a tropical storm. There was massive flooding and they canceled summer school for a day. I think that is a first for me to have school canceled because a tropical storm. As for summer school, things are actually starting to lighten up or maybe its me. In the county where I used to teach in the US they were test driven and taking the creativity out of teaching and creating robots as for teachers and students. No fun or letting you teach. Now being given the opportunity to have fun and be creative I am rediscovering my teaching roots that I was taught in my undergrad classes. I am loving teaching these days and I am seeing the students increase their academic successes within these last 3 weeks. It is something indescribable. So now my days are like this: I get up and push snooze 3 times get ready for work. Find my driver whom I have adopted. His name is Joe and speaks semi good English. We actually have a conversation on the way to work instead of sitting in silence. He has a family and a teenage son. We talk about me teaching and if I like it and my feelings about life. Then I say good bye hand him 15 RMB and walk into school. Get started in the classroom make sure everything is ready go and meet the kids in the gym at 9:00 and walk them back to class. We get started with normal morning activities such as calendar. Then break up into reading groups. Then come back together and go to specials. Come back from specials and have lunch. After lunch we go to recess in the gym in fear of the crazy old man and its just too darn hot. Then go back and grab our bags then go to the library and then go home.

This past week our theme for the week was Rainforest so we did divided into four groups (mixing low English speaking with high English speaking students) and did a really small research project on a rainforest animal. We made a clay creature and safari hats. Graphed in math and for our field trip we went to the Evergreen Park in Shenzhen where they have a pseudo rain forest and the kids loved it. The Evergreen Park reminds me of Helen GA when you first drive in and for a split second you forget you are in China until you get off the school bus and are approached by the staff "Ni Hao" (hello). The parts that remind me of Helen GA are the greenery that cross over the road as you drive in. Also it has mountain looking rooms or so I've been told.

I have been taking up a new hobby of cooking. I am trying to watch my weight for it jumped when I got here. Scary thought huh? Oh well. So I am on the Zone Diet which is very beneficial for my blood sugar levels and sugar cravings. I am making vegetarian dishes for Dylan and I for dinner. Finding the things to make these new found dishes is a bit tricky and slightly pricey but I love being in my closet of a kitchen. By the way there is no oven in the kitchen so I am getting creative in "baking" dishes. So far I have made an eggplant parm which is pretty good and a vegetarian chili that is pretty good but not as good as the eggplant. For breakfast I made an apple melt with raisins. Not too bad either.

So life is awesome here in China. Meeting new people and exchanging exciting stories with one another. It's a wonderful feeling living here in China. You feel as though you are a part of something special and that its "alive" here versus being "complacent" where I was before. Speaking of being a changing person, just found out I am going to be teaching kindergarten again next year. I am excited about going back to where I started as a teacher.

In getting back to the visa issue because many of you are so sweet and kind in asking about Dylan and I's situation so here it goes. As for Dylan he is complete with his but now as for me....the fun has just begun. In order to do the visa process you have to get a "physical" at the "local" hospital. One of the girls who works at my school took me to the hospital last week. It was a 30 minute trip. I kept thinking....If I have a life threatening problem I am better off throwing myself in the ocean and dying in peace. Scary thought but thats China for you. So we arrive at the hospital and then we walk up to the floor that does physicals only. They are open from 9:00AM-12:00PM and then reopen at 2:00 till who knows but this I think applies only to floor where you get your physical. So we fill out a form and thankfully I had the girl help me who brought me to the hospital for there were three thing that said something in English. We wait around kind of like at the DMV where you are constantly looking at the digital signs above the help desks and waiting on your number to pop up and when it does you make a mad dash to show passport and other crazy information. Then you pay first for it and then you get to go on a scavenger hunt of a life time. You have to go to these different rooms to have these different tests performed. The girl who brought me was like Speed Racer zooming into room after room with me. So the first "test" was cardiovascular where they put these zapper things on your chest and print out what your results were. Then I went and was tested for tuberculousis where they did a chest x-ray screen. They scanned my stomach looking for who knows what and did an ultrasound. I told the women I was not pregnant because the test was performed just like looking for a baby but all is well and no baby. Then there was the teeth screening to make sure you had all your teeth I guess. Then there was the "Surgery" room and I was "hell no I am not going in there and no one is going to cut me up especially here in China". And the girl was like "what??? No they just look in your ears and throat and make sure you are OK". I was like they need to come up with a different name for that room. Then we had to have my blood drawn. Dear God that was not so fun. I did find out I am o positive which is a good tidbit of information to know. Next I got to pee in a cup. Gee whiz thats a story within itself. So you get this flimsy little cup with a handle on it kind of like a measuring cup that could hold only cotton because everything else is to heavy to put in it. So you take the cup downstairs and go to the bathroom. Dear God this was interesting. They didn't have toilets like we know. They had a hole in the floor (yeah I about peed my pants laughing when I saw it) and there were these places to put your feet while you squat. So being a girl we all know its not possible to write our names in the snow with pee so there is a process to go about handling the peeing on a hole in the floor. Take off a pant leg (I now understand why Chinese girls always have skirts on) and hold it with the opposite hand. Hold the flimsy pee cup with the other free hand within pee catching distance but don't pee too much or it will overflow and then you got a new problem which is trying to pee again to fill the cup up. Then put pee cup down carefully place your leg back into the pants and grab the pee cup. You are carrying this thing like a prized possession because you don't want to go through that process again or at least for awhile. Then you walk out of the bathroom and place your pee with everyone elses on a a cart that is in between the men's and women's bathroom. I kept thinking..."someone's going to contaminate my pee with something" but everything turned out OK. Then the girl that brought me to the hospital was like "hurry hurry...we have to catch the bus". So I was running around and there was the QSI school bus (the school where I teach at sent a bus to pick the girl and I up) waiting for us and they came just to pick us up so that we didn't have to pay for another taxi ride. That was so nice I thought.

If this is what the physical turned out like I can't wait to go for my interview at the police station. Should be just as interesting if not more. Probably they will put me in Chinese prison over night to see if I will crack up or something. Too late I already did.

Well I hope this finds you finding my life a smidge bit funny and I hope you and your families are doing well. I wish for cool gentle breezes and a big nice tree to sit under to relax and reflect.

Amanda and Dylan!