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Sunday, May 30, 2010

But Wait!

Posted by She Said

Yes! We are home!

Yes! I have a new computer. Woot! Woot!

Yes. We need to blog. Zip it.

Yes. We need to update our banner. Pfffft!

NO. I’m not fully functional yet. This jet lag is kicking my ass.

But! Before you think we have gone totally geeky (thank you, Greg, for that last ÜBER nerd fest post), I thought I’d at least post a quick picture from our visit to Fragrant Hills.

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More to come very, very soon. Pinky swear.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Dropbox Saves The Day, Then Screws With Me

Posted by He Said

While we were in Beijing there were several tools that made our life easier but none was more useful than Dropbox. This personal version control on steroids allowed me to quickly and easily share files with friends and family as well as come home from work to find my my recorded TV shows already on Susanne’s laptop as well as easily upload images to Picasa.  Picasa you ask (well if you don’t ask I will ask for you)?

Along with Facebook and Twitter we found that http://Picasaweb.google.com is blocked in China.  As this is my web album of choice it made it difficult for me to upload images. On the PC that we left at home I configured one album for each month we would be gone to automatically web sync to Picasa.  These three folders were located in my Dropbox folder.  This meant that all I had to do in China was drop my daily pictures into my Dropbox picture folders and wait for them to be magically synced to my PC here in Reno, then automatically uploaded and synced to my Picasa web albums (March, April 1 & 2, May 1 & 2).

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It worked magically till the day it didn’t.

I used another tool of choice called LogMeIn (which allows me to control any PC from any other PC, or from my iPhone using LogMeIn Ignition) to access my PC only to find my C drive full!  The PC uses a small 30gb SSD drive as the primary boot partition and a secondary drive for everything else.  When I left I had 15gb free.  I kept logging in only to find the C drive full.  After some digging I found the issue. 

Dropbox keeps a cache of files deleted and active in a cache folder on the C drive.  Even after I had deleted my TV shows from Dropbox they were still being held onto in the cache location and filling up my boot drive and causing all kinds of havoc.

Dropbox does not natively support changing the location, nor can it be changed from the registry (that I am aware of).  In Windows 7 the files are stored in the C:\Users\YourUsername\AppData\Roaming\Dropbox\cache folder so installing the application to a different drive will not solve the problem.  After a quick search I ran across only one application to address this, and it did not meet my needs. DropBoxDataWrapper requires you uninstall Dropbox first and I did not want to do this.

So I fixed this myself and I didn’t have to uninstall and reinstall anything and now my C drive is happy.

Of course the week before I left China the Chinese government blocked Dropbox as well.  I think they wanted keep American Idol out of the country.  You know, to preserve their youth’s innocence.

How To Move The Dropbox Cache Folder

Windows 7 / Vista:

  1. Shutdown Dropbox
  2. Browse to your Dropbox cache location
    • Likely here c:\Users\YourUsername\AppData\Roaming\Dropbox
  3. Move the entire cache folder to another drive location. 
    • I created F:\Program Files\Dropbox\cache folder.
  4. Execute the command (using your correct path locations)
    • mklink /D C:\Users\YourUsername\AppData\Roaming\Dropbox\cache “F:\Program Files\Dropbox\cache”
    • Be sure to use quotes around the folder name if there are spaces
  5. You should see a new folder created in the location of your original cache location.  It will have a shortcut arrow, and if you open it, you should be directed to the new location of your cache folder.
  6. Restart Dropbox and rejoice

Windows XP

Windows XP does not include the mklink command.  You can use junction.exe or linkd.exe to create symbolic links7 using similar steps as shown above for Win 7/Vista.  Instructions for junction can be found at Microsofts Technet.

 

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Last Post From Beijing

It is 6:45am on our last day here. In few minutes we will pack up the
Internet hardware, collect the last of our things and head home.

I think this was a life changing experience for all of us. As a
coworker put it in a text to me. "It will be hard to go back to normal
life." He is right in so many ways on so many levels. This was how our
son felt last night as he said goodbye to Rachel and said with tears
in his eyes, "Daddy, I don't want to leave Rachel, I love
her."

_IGP8882 _IGP8889

I plan to take many of the things I have experienced and use them to
make my "normal life" a little better and a lot different in how I
live it.

Goodbye from Beijing, thanks for reading. I hope you keep coming back
because we have so many stories still to tell, and Susanne will get to
write hers on her new birthday gift from home.

G.

Sent from my iPhone

Monday, May 17, 2010

I Can’t Read This. I Hope You Can.

Posted by She Said

Some of you may realize that the computer we brought on this trip is failing us. Well, we can change that to past tense.  It HAS failed us. I can not see what I am typing as I type this. Forgive any misspellings, ok?

The train ride to Xi’an was pretty interesting. We had our own little room with two bunk beds. The kids thought this was really cool, and it gave them an adrenaline rush that put their bedtime WAY too late. It took forever for them to finally crash so Greg and I could watch a show on my lovely PC. It must have been the bouncy cab ride to the train station that broke my computer’s proverbial back. In order to watch our show, we had to pinch and twist the monitor in just a way to make the screen not freeze up. This, I assure you, is not the exercise my husband prefers for his hand. Ahem.

So, to compensate, I used my amazing engineering skills to hang a pair of pants from two carefully mounted hangers attached to the monitor. Shutup! It TOTALLY worked!

Here is proof:

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Sadly though, this technique has not worked in our hotel in Xi’an. Instead I am typing blindly and missing my TV shows because there is no way to hold, pinch, and twist for that long without cramping. So, instead I thought I would blog blindly.

This city is pretty spectacular. We have come here with Lilian and Chang, and they had a full schedule, so we hit the ground running. First, we saw an amazing fountain. The kids were little stars again but had a great time running through the water (which was choreographed to music).

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This was seriously the largest fountain any of us had ever seen.

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The above picture only shows about half of the fountain. Then we hit the Large Goose Pagoda (the large tower in the above building). Filled with a sense of tranquility and peacefulness, we roamed the luscious and meticulously maintained grounds. It was stunning.

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To hell with it. This is simply too hard, so I am going to cut this blog short. But, I will leave you with two things. First, a video of me trying to blog blindly:

Second, I will leave you with a list of blog posts we intend to write after we get home and do this to my computer:

  1. Spachinglish on the bus to the Hot Springs.
  2. Almost getting in trouble with the law in McDonald’s.
  3. The woman who offered Greg a smoke and why.
  4. The man who offered Greg a smoke and why Greg took it.
  5. Muslim street.
  6. Terracotta soldiers.
  7. A Song of Everlasting Sorrow
  8. The train ride.
  9. Food. Food. Food.
  10. Partaking in public urination.
  11. English translation fail pics.

Thank you all for following us on our adventure!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

My Final Open Letter To My Coworkers

Posted by He Said.

This was the last letter I wrote to my coworkers while here.  Perhaps I will write a final FINAL one detailing my adventures in Xi’an after I get home.  Tomorrow night we leave on the sleeper train.  We may have internet access and will post again if our laptop doesn’t die on us. We return to Beijing for one night only and will be busy packing everything up (including the internet hardware). If we are not able to post again, I want to thank all of your for your letters of support, encouragement and smart ass comments.  It has been quite the adventure.  I do hope to post again before I leave, but I cannot guarantee it.

===

Greetings,

This weekend was my last here in Beijing.  Friday night we leave for the week and will be in Xi’an returning to Beijing Thursday morning and leaving on a plane to fly home on Friday at mid day.

We have had a lot of fun here, and have made many friends.  We want to thank all of you for your assistance and kindness while we have been here.  Susanne and I hope to come back again some day to visit.

Thank you all for being the kind, friendly and helpful  people that you are.  We will miss you.
Oh, and if you see any pictures of my kids showing up on Chinese internet websites, please let me know :).  I know that my children will miss many of you!

Our children are having a hard time understanding how much time passes before we leave home, so I used my fine art skills to produce a calendar to help them mark off the days.image003One of the things that I have always wanted to do was ride on a train. A very fast train.  We do not have these in America and China has some of the fastest trains in the world. So this weekend we took the speed train from Beijing South train station to Tianjin.

We packed up the family and took the subway to the train station and were able to buy our tickets with the help of someone in the line who spoke a little English. We rode the train and I loved watching how fast we were going.  A top speed of about 206 mph.  It does not feel like you are going fast at all.image005 image007 image009 Then we explored 古文化街 (Ancient Culture Street) in Tianjin.   We did some shopping (the prices were very good) and the people were very kind.  Fewer people asked for our children’s photographs so we were able to explore without being bothered much.

I even found shoes in my size. :)  image023 image024 image025 image026 
We walked across the bridge on the 海河 (Hai River) and then took a cab back to the station and came home.  It was a long and fun day. I think it is a very good place to recommend foreigners to visit.  If we had more time I think we would have taken a ride on the very large ferris wheel over the river.

Saturday night the lightning and thunderstorms came.  We sat on the patio outside and watched and listened to the sounds and sights of the night.  It was awesome.image027Sunday was Mothers day.  The children made cards for Susanne (drawings) and we took her to Starbucks for a coffee treat!image029We took the subway over to Sanlitun to eat at our favorite western style restaurant for her Mother’s Day Lunch…and it was good.

I ate a giant burger called the Montana with bacon, cheese, onion rings, BBQ sauce and lettuce and onion.  It was HUGE!

image031 image033And I finished it….  image039 They had these very cool rubber drink coasters that we were considering sneaking home.image040Then we talked to the manager who was from Dallas Texas.  He was a very nice man and he told us to just TAKE THEM.  He said during the busy season that over 200 a week go missing.  We felt a little bad taking them without buying some too.  So … we did both!!  :D

It was a good weekend.

Um, Yeah, I’m Not Eatin That

Posted by He Said.

With one week to go, things are supposed to be winding down as a trip ends, but instead the chaos begins.  We are trying to figure out how to get not only all the crap that we have purchased on this trip but how to include all the wonderful gifts we have been given.  Kevin, sorry, but the MacBook Pro is just not going to fit, I think you are getting a t-shirt instead. We even bought an additional suitcase today and I am STILL afraid not everything is going to make it home. 

To top things off I have been dragging and feeling pretty run down.  This makes being motivated to do anything a bit trying.

During this last week my boss from back home arrived for a weeklong trip and as such the company has to buy the required luncheon out.  We arrived a a great looking place with the coolest looking table (appearing to be made of Jade or facsimile thereof with a builtin fountain, pond and fish.  This was a tea table with built in accessories and such.  There was a large aquarium which the kids love to look at until I tell them that the fish are not for looking at, they are for eating. 

They think I am kidding.

While here we have read about, heard people talk about, witnessed on menus and even eaten the occasional strange item on the menu (can you say century egg).  This place put it all out on on the table, literally.

This restaurant really stood out as it had everything we had heard about, and more.  The menu was somewhere in the range of 25 pages filled with photos and unusual items. One of the items that was ordered for us (because you know, I like chicken) was a smoked chicken. It’s the WHOLE chicken.  They just de-feather it, clean it, lay it out, smoke it, and using the worlds sharpest cleaver chop it into little strips.  With the BONE IN! I couldn’t figure out how to eat it without breaking a tooth.

Just a small taste of the menu

Snake, Crispy Pigeon, Ducks Tongue, Pigs Lung, Chicken Feet, and of course Dog.

Yeah, like I said.  I’m not eatin that, I don’t care HOW pretty that flower is in its beak.

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Sunday, May 9, 2010

Say Kimcheese!

Posted by She Said

A few weeks ago our neighbor, Vivienne, showed us pictures they had taken of their family at a local photo studio. She said it was really quite an experience and that we should consider doing it. After hearing the incredibly low cost and after seeing the amazing pictures of her family, put together in a beautiful book, I signed us up. Vivienne decided it was time for her family to get some more pictures taken too, so we booked our appointments at the same time so she and her husband, Ethan, could help us, since no one there spoke any English.

Vivienne explained to me that they have hundreds of outfits from which the kids could pick to wear for the pictures. In addition, they would do our hair and makeup. We snuck some shots in behind the scenes as we got all dolled up for our big shoot.

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Emily went in for her pictures first, which was a huge mistake. She freaked out and decided she didn’t want her pictures taken. And since she has an iron will, we had to let her take a break for a while. Nothing like a local, nearby bakery to put everything back in order in Em’s universe again.

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Language barrier be damned! Braedyn went in and figured out everything asked of him without any of us to help him. He had a great time getting his pictures taken.

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Yes, you see correctly. Braedyn picked out a U.S. Army outfit for one of his shots. Can’t say I was thrilled, especially with the shots with the machine gun in them, but Greg convinced me to just say yes. He’s such a good liberal.

封面  琉璃摆台  IMG_3459

The hardest part was having to whittle down all of the shots taken to just 22 for the book. Oh wait, that’s right. I didn’t pick 22! I ended up purchasing another small book with an additional 12 shots in it. It didn’t help that as I sat in front of the computer deciding which pictures to keep and which to delete, Vivienne and the employees groaned every time I axed a picture. When asked if I wanted the smaller book to focus on Emily or Braedyn, I replied that I didn’t want to have to pay for that kind of therapy later in life and asked they do a combination book of the both of them. They can fight over who gets it later. Much, much later. When I don’t have to be their referee.

Some of you on Facebook know that I promised a picture of Greg with makeup on. I don’t want you to think I forgot about this. He doesn’t know I snuck this next picture in, so I’m probably really going to really get it when I show it to you. Ah, what the hell. Witness Greg’s transformation:

 

Before_IGP7467

After OperaMask

Do YOU Know Your Kung Fu?

Posted by He Said

Several weeks back I had the opportunity to go see a movie with my coworkers here in Beijing.  It was a big night as movies here are very expensive to see in the theatres, probably to help make up for all the DVD piracy. We went to see Alice In Wonderland in 3D on Imax.  I have never seen a 3D movie on an Imax screen before, and it was very impressive.

The movie experience started out as does everything here, with similarities to home but with small variations and Asian twists.  If it were not for the movie posters all written in Chinese, I suppose I could have been in any large theatre in any large city in the states.  Well, except for the beer being served with popcorn or that I was the only person with a naturally occurring hair color other than black. In fact the shining sea of black hair is only rarely punctuated with slight artificially colored variations on the local public or from the occasional blonde or redhead expat.  Oh, and the white haired Chinese albino - complete with white mustache - we saw today.  What are the odds of being an albino Chinese person, let alone my odds of seeing one on the subway?

Getting back to the movies… It was a very interesting experience.  As we neared the show time, an employee came out and started shouting at everyone to line up.  What I found odd was that we didn’t line up at the entrance to the theatre, but facing the wall next to it, and they took this very seriously, I assure you.  As soon as we were all in line it was redirected towards the entrance where everyone basically reshuffled and pushed for a better place in line.

Why do I find all this so strange?  We all had assigned seats. Yeah, get in line, jockey for a better place in the next line when you are directed towards the door, push and shove to get in, and then find your way to your ASSIGNED SEAT!  I guess the jockeying for the best place in line, first on the subway, first to the front of everything when there are 24 million of you in one city just gets in your blood.  Even with assigned seats.

I really enjoyed the movie because it was in ENGLISH with Chinese subtitles (in 3D of course).  For once I got all the jokes.  I understood all the subtle nuances of the conversation.  In fact I found myself laughing out loud at many places where the rest of the Chinese audience just sat and stared.  It was pretty cool.

After the movie, I was waiting to get on the subway with two of my coworkers and we were talking about action movies, and of COURSE the topic came around to asking if I knew who Bruce Lee was.  I will have you know when I was a kid, I was a Kung Fu fan.  Yeah, I even had a Bruce Lee poster on my wall.  The Chinese are very serious fans about Bruce Lee.  He is still very iconic here and several people I have talked to here believe that neither Bruce Lee nor his son Brandon Lee’s deaths were accidental. “They were murdered” I am told.  I did not argue the “facts”.  What the hell do I know about Kung Fu conspiracies.  Now if you want to talk about whether slot machines are “loosened” or “tight” I am ready to go.  Give me your best shot.

BruceLeecard

So there we are talking about Kung Fu and action films and they get very excited and ask if I know who Jet Li is.  Like I said, the Chinese I have met take their Kung Fu heroes and movie stars VERY seriously. Now I have watched a few of Jet Li’s films and to speak truthfully, they didn’t do a whole lot for me.  But I know, it’s Kung Fu, right? So I say “Oh Yeah!” and do my best arm swinging Kung Fu moves and stance, screeching out “whoooaaaah”.

I think I looked a little something like this.

_IGP8065 Photo Credit: Emily Madison Moyle

They both looked at me quizzically and said in unison with completely straight faces “No. That is Jackie Chan.”

I stand corrected.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Full Service Hot Pot

Posted by She Said

Yesterday was a company-wide bonus day at Greg’s work. To celebrate the “big day”, everyone was given the second half of the day off. Several coworkers invited us to go with them to a hot pot restaurant that was a short thirty minute subway ride and a 15 minute walk away.

They had us at hot pot.

When we arrived, the 13 of us were directed to our own private room. We had to split into two groups to fit around the tables without clamoring for hot pot privileges. The kids, of course, ate their “chocolate sandwich” that I picked up from 7-Eleven prior to hitting the subway. Yeah, I know. I hate me too.

In my hurry out the door to meet Greg and his coworkers, the unthinkable happened. I forgot all four of our cameras. Maybe I should consider having one surgically attached like my mother did. This is incredibly unfortunate because this place was amazing. A-MAY-ZING.

The service staff was abundant and attentive. Dare I say, especially to Emily? *groan* I found it particularly humorous that one of Greg’s coworkers was asked by one of the staff if the children’s hair was “colorized”. No, no, it’s not. But I am considering a nice shade of black.

After our pots started to boil, a man came in carrying a tray, which he set down and took a small piece of dough from and slightly stretched it. Then he began to dance with the dough as he tossed it around, stretching it into scrumptious noodles. The dough flowed around him like the ribbon of a gymnast during a floor routine.

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Since I didn’t have my camera, it is obvious this is not my photograph. Meh, we’re in China, and copyright isn’t an issue, so thanks to whoever took this picture!

Ahhhh, then the food. It was amazing! To start, there was a sauce bar. There were dozens of options of what to dip your savory cooked pieces into. As if I could get past the tahini and cilantro. Pshaw! And as if we were attending the Rib Cook Off in Sparks, Nevada, they gave us aprons to wear so as to not stain our clothing during our chow fest.

There was also a kids’ play area, which we didn’t discover until we were almost ready to leave. We must have spent at least three hours on this glorious lunch. And as if the sauce, the food, the attentive and kind service weren’t enough, they have a FREE shoe shine station and a full-service manicure station set up right across from the computers with free Internet and small book library.

So, to recap:

  • delicious food
  • sauce bar
  • noodle dancing
  • great service
  • Internet
  • kids’ play area
  • shoe shining
  • nail painting
  • books (I would have put this one up higher on the list but I figure I probably can’t read any of them anyway)

Yeah, you’ll be lucky if you ever see me again.

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Thursday, May 6, 2010

Xi’an and then Home

Posted by He Said

The timeframe for the trip just became compressed, and I am feeling a little stressed about the time we have left.  I still have a great deal of work to complete before I head home, but this did not stop me from taking the last week before we leave off for a vacation.

Yeah, I don’t think it’s going to be a restful one.  Next Friday we hop on a sleeper train for an overnight trip to Xi’an, home of the Terracotta soldiers.  Xi’an is the former capital of China and one of the oldest cities in the country.

We will travel back on another overnight train the following Wednesday, returning to Beijing on Thursday morning.  This means before we leave for Xi’an we will need to get everything together for the trip home, and pack for our trip to Xi’an. We have one week from today to get everything done.

The date of our return from Xi’an is the 20th of May.  It’s Susanne’s birthday that day, so I think I will give her a trip home for her birthday.

On Friday we will be up bright and early to get loaded up into the company rented van to haul us off to the airport and ship us home.

I explained to Braedyn all that we are going to do in our last couple of weeks here. In order to help him understand, I created this picture:

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Braedyn is faithfully marking each day off of my “calendar.”

I just wish I had brought my anti-anxiety pills.

Wow! Kids That Actually Smile for the Camera!

Posted by She Said

As promised, I took the kids back to the zoo today. Now I know we haven’t blogged yet about our experiences the first time we went to the zoo, but I’m going to jump ahead to a short but memorable moment I had there today.

While exploring the aquarium, we saw several groups of school-aged children. Each large group of kids had a matching hat and jacket, identifying them as part of a particular group or school. When we walked by, they were very excited to say “hello” to us. I stopped to say hello back, and then they started practicing their English with me. Braedyn and Emily could have cared less and did their own thing as I let the adorable group of kids bounce their words off of me.

“What is your name?” I was asked.

“My name is Susanne. What is your name?” I asked in return only to be answered with a huge grin, followed by a shy glance and a step away from me.

“How are you?” asked another.

“I am very well, thank you! How are you?” I answered, completely loving the interaction.

“I am fine,” answered the young boy, grinning from ear to ear.

The short questions and answers fired back and forth a bit longer and huge grins spanned many faces, including mine. Then one boy, enjoying snacks from a bag, came over to me and handed me one to enjoy. I was overwhelmed with his kind gesture, so I bit into the treat. I have no idea what it was, but it kind of reminded me of what a dried up apple would look like after a voodoo head-shrinking ritual was performed. It was difficult to tear off a piece of the dried flesh of the fruit, and the pit on the inside that my teeth scraped made me happy for not popping the whole thing into my mouth. The taste was rather bland, but it was sweetened by the beautiful smile I received from the boy. I know, sappy, huh?

Once the exchange was witnessed by the other boys, another one wanted to give me his Oreo-type cookie – his partially eaten Oreo-type cookie. Then another boy tried to hand me another type of treat. I thanked them both and politely declined.

Before being bombarded with more treats, I swiftly changed focus to taking a picture of them.

P5060095And unlike our children who shy away from a stranger’s camera, this group of boys were more than happy to smile for the camera. And for that and their happiness today, I was very grateful.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Hidden Children in the City, errr, I Mean Children in The Forbidden City

Posted by She Said

Last weekend was a three-day holiday here in China. After visiting Fragrant Hills on Friday, Google, The Bird’s Nest, and The Water Cube on Saturday, and a full day of shopping on Sunday, what better way to end the holiday weekend than visit a place everyone else in China was visiting at the same time?

_IGP7653(The line to get tickets.)

That’s right. We decided to go to the Forbidden City. This palatial estate was built roughly 600 years ago and spans almost 8 million square feet.

800px-Gugun_panorama-2005-1 (picture courtesy of Wikipedia)

We were very fortunate to have Greg’s coworker, Jun, and her mother, May, join us for the day. We started by visiting the Tiananmen Gate, which is the primary building in the above picture. Behind the gate is the Forbidden City. In front of the gate is Tiananmen Square. This cost an additional 15 yuan ($2.25) for the adults, and the children were free. Score! There was just one catch. No bags whatsoever were allowed. Thank goodness I bought capris the day before on my shopping spree that had cargo pockets to hold all of our passports and my wallet. We then checked our bags into a place that seemed completely disorganized and confusing and was completely swarmed with people trying to do the same thing.

To get up to the top of the Gate, we first had to go through a security check. Males and females were separated into different lines. For once, the men’s line was longer than the women’s line. Kind of refreshing actually.

Emily, Jun, May, and I were simply waived through the security “check”, and then we waited for Greg and Braedyn to get through their long line. When they did get through, Greg’s bright red cheeks were very telling. Apparently he was not simply waived through, but was felt up and patted down quite thoroughly. He looked back at the security check, and if I hadn’t known better, I’d swear he was looking for a way to get back in line for another round of that little extra somethin’-somethin’.

I’m sure this next part might get old hearing about, but this is our blog, so you just have to suck it up. Much of our day was spent being asked (or gestured) to take pictures of our kids or being asked if they could pose with them and have their pictures taken. Much of Emily’s day was spent clamoring away from random touches and from numerous cheek and hair strokes. It was also spent running away from, and I do mean literally running away from, strangers’ camera lenses. And because it was a holiday weekend, we were told many visitors that day were from other areas of China, not just Beijing. Translation: Emily and Braedyn were even more of an anomaly to those from outside of Beijing.

This next picture taken at the top of the Tiananmen Gate by Greg really sums up Emily’s experience:

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After having a temper tantrum about not wanting to have her picture taken again, she ran off, screaming. Those of you who have had the pleasure of hearing her eardrum-piercing, glass-shattering screams can imagine that it did in fact NOT help with diverting attention AWAY from her. In fact, quite the opposite happened. Although everyone is giving the wild child space during her tantrum, all eyes and camera lenses are on her, including the one on the tripod. And I thought the tantrum pictures at The Great Wall were good.

Emily kept asking, “Daddy, can I be on your elbows?”, meaning she wanted to ride on Greg’s shoulders. He pleaded with her to just walk because her being on his shoulders just made them a beacon. She didn’t care, she was out of reach from random touches.

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The attention to the kids became so bad that at one point we hid behind a tree while we had a snack and waited for Jun to graciously tackle the long lines to get our tickets into the rest of the Forbidden City.

_IGP7631 Our anonymity did not last long, however, and we had to start moving. Movement is the best defense we have learned. And it’s not like the police would be any help if we needed it.

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Once inside, the magnitude of the buildings truly became apparent.

_IGP7667 (Jun and her mother, May)

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The details at every turn were intricate and remarkable.

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And the colors were glorious. I can only imagine how it must have felt to be there during its heyday.

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My favorite part of the Forbidden City had to be the imperial gardens. Braedyn and I quickly swooped in and had our picture taken in the very spot emperors had their wedding pictures taken.

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The grounds were meticulously cared for. OK, let me clarify that. The foliage was meticulously cared for. Trust me, there is a difference. We particularly enjoyed the old trees, which appeared to be almost as old as Greg.

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After making our way from one end of the Forbidden City to the other, we called it a day and bid Jun and May farewell. We decided to poke around that area of town a little longer, and I am happy we did. Greg was trying to find a specific restaurant he had heard of, but instead we found a magnificent little park with a river running through it that fed into the Forbidden City.
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A beautiful ending to a jam-packed weekend. Next time we do this, I need to know just one thing. Anyone know where Michael Jackson got those stylish veils for his kids to wear out in public? If you do, please order me two.