Saturday, April 18, 2015

Weekend Getaway: Hangzhou

The first time I saw West Lake, I promised myself I would drag Chris there one day.   Almost three years later, I was able to make good on that promise.  We were a little late to plan our Qingming vacation, so we decided hop on the bullet train to spend Easter by West Lake and check out some of the Hangzhou sights mentioned in my Shanghai Day by Day book.

Many of my Chinese friends told me West Lake would be packed during Qingming.  They were correct. 

I think everyone in Hangzhou decided to visit West Lake Saturday afternoon.  Traffic around the lake was extremely congested.  The masses didn't stop us from having a good time!
Many ladies were wearing floral wreaths on their heads to celebrate the start of Spring.
For 150 RMB, visitors took an hour long cruise on the lake.
We took a ride in a larger boat to the island in the middle of the lake. 
We had a great time checking out the pagodas and ponds.
The island was much more peaceful than the perimeter of the lake.
Right before I took this picture, Kenny G started blaring over the loudspeaker.  (When it’s time to head home from a heavily populated event or a Metro car needs to be cleared out, Chinese folks play “Going Home” by Kenny G.) Chris and I started to hustle across the island to prevent getting stranded, but I needed to take one more picture.

Those rocks were beautiful but slippery.
Right after I took this picture, I raced across the rocks and face planted in West Lake. Unfortunately, I twisted my ankle and gave my camera battery a new home in the bottom of the lake. Fortunately, I was able to get up without damaging my camera and breaking any bones.  I also packed two spare camera batteries so I could continue taking pictures.  Needless to say, my wet clothes and Chinese folks snickering put me in a pretty bad mood.  Looking back I'm sure my fall was a funny sight, but my pride was bruised at the time.  After the drama, we decided to settle in for a quiet night at the hotel.

After my spill into West Lake my ankle was still throbbing.  On Sunday, all I wanted to do was go to mass and have a casual day of easy sightseeing.    Despite the dreary weather, we had a nice day!

There is only one Catholic Church in Hangzhou, and it was packed for Easter mass.
This little guy was spreading the Easter spirit in the middle of the aisle. 
After mass, we headed to Laowailou restaurant for Easter lunch. 
Their house specialty, Claypot Chicken, was very yummy!  The chefs wrapped the chicken in leaves, and packed it in clay.   After being cooked in the ground, the clay is chipped off the chicken.  
After lunch, we headed to a calligraphy compound next to the restaurant. 
That evening, we headed to West Lake for a rainy production of Impression West Lake.  Fortunately our seats were inside a boat on the side of the lake so we stayed nice and dry.
The show was performed on boats and runways in West Lake.  I was quite impressed with the acting, dancing and special effects. 
My ankle was feeling better, so we had a leisurely breakfast then headed to the last place on my Hangzhou checklist, the Lingying Temple.

Rock carved statues lined the walkway to the temple.
I especially liked this carving. 
Many visitors made offerings to their ancestors.
I was impressed by the golden statues inside the temple. 
After the temple, we headed to Xihutiandi to get some lunch. These fried Cantonese noodles hit the spot.

The dumpling soup at West Lake Garden restaurant was tasty.

After a couple days of touring Hangzhou, we were ready to train home.

I love traveling via bullet train.

The seats are large, cheap, and comfy!
For more suggestions on where to visit in Hangzhou, I highly recommend Frommer's Shanghai Day by Day. 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

What’s Up?

So Chris and I played a dirty, yet oddly effective AprilFool’s day joke on y’all.  We told everyone we were heading to Sweden so Chris could be a Swedish Fish farmer.  Eight days later, we were still getting messages of support and love so we decided to come clean by letting everyone know our future plans.

So…where are we headed after Shanghai?

I don’t know.

What I do know is last December, Chris’ company extended his assignment for another year, so we have every intention of staying in Shanghai until the summer of 2016.  (I was THRILLED with this news!  There are so many things I want to see and do before relocating.)

Our final year in China will more than likely be a transition and travel year. With his boss’ blessing, Chris will keep his eye on other assignments within the company and I will more than likely keep teaching at my current school.  (I will negotiate my contract this Thursday.)

I have so many things I want to teach these kids before I leave. The thought of saying goodbye breaks my heart.
This also means I will have an encore year for An American Girl in Shanghai! 

I thank everyone so much for your encouragement, and can’t wait to share our stories while we transition to the next chapter of our lives.   Stay tuned for more adventures!
I am so happy to keep calling Shanghai my eastern home for one more year.  There is more fun to come!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Next Chapter

As much as we love Shanghai, we knew that Chris’ position would only be a three-year gig. We are nearing the end of our time here, and many people are asking,

            “So what are you going to do after Shanghai?  Where will you live?”

After lots of long conversations with Chris and weighing all our options, we finally have an answer. 

Chris and I aren’t quite ready to return to the US, so we’ve decided to continue our adventure in Europe.  We’re picking up our bags and are heading to Stockholm, Sweden.

Chris has always been a fishing enthusiast, so he has accepted a position at a Swedish Fish Farm.  That’s right, my lovely husband is following his dreams of being an angler in Stockholm.

Here's a peek at our future.
When he first shared his idea of leaving the engineering profession, I said,

            “Holy Mackerel!  I had no idea you were so passionate about fishing!”  

He replied,

            “I want to do this just for the Halibut.”

What will I do?  I’m not sure.  Either I’ll keep teaching English, or I’ll join an Abba tribute band.  How long will we live there?  We anticipate staying there for three years.

I don’t know much, but I do know I’ll keep posting our adventures online at An American Girl in Sweden!