Category Archives: Gratuitous Photo Post

Mongolia – The Details

I thought that if I gave myself a week to let our trip to Mongolia sink in in my head I would have an easier time deciding what to say about it, but that hasn’t happened, so I hope you’re comfortable – this could take a while.

The flight to Ulaan Baatar only took 2 hours (which made it the shortest flight we’ve taken since we moved here), and we were blown away by the blue skies immediately.

The California license plate also blew us away!

If only we’d known what would await us!  Turns out Ulaan Baatar is a pretty nasty, gritty place.

This is probably the prettiest picture ever taken of Ulaan Baatar.

The drive was spotted with villages like this one.

Thankfully the countryside more than made up for it!


Our camp was 17 km off the main highway, which was a paved road with massive potholes every few yards, which essentially made it a one lane road for much of the  - sometimes harrowing – drive.  It took us about 3 1/2 hours to arrive at the camp, but it was totally worth it.  It was amazing.

Our ger.

We spent the first afternoon down by the river.

The kids enjoyed throwing rocks into the river, which astonishingly only resulted in one head injury (Naomi’s head, which we had to treat with a semi-cold can of tuna due to the lack of ice at the camp).

On day two we hiked around the countryside and watched the horses play by the river.

These two weren’t messing around.

Naomi befriended everyone she met, including the janitor and the camp’s cat Ginjee . . .

After all of this activity the kids slept great – and didn’t wake up when the sun started to shine into our ger at 3:30am!

Naomi Sleeps in Mongolia

To be honest, we all slept well after a long night of Uno and Mongolian vodka in the dining room!


The cozy fireplace also helped.

On Sunday Will and I scheduled a horseback ride with a local herder.  Our friends had gone out the day before and galloped around with the herder and his friend, helping move their cattle from one spot to another.  Unfortunately that same herder was somehow injured on Sunday and could not come to take us out.  The camp director called another herder, who arrived a short time later with two horses and one saddle.

He explained to the camp director that we would have to walk 2km to pick up a second saddle, which was still going to leave us with two horses and three riders, so Will ended up being led around by the herder while I walked beside them and took pictures.  On the bright side, Will didn’t realize his friend had had a more exciting ride the day before!

And on the even brighter side, Naomi was able to ride this horse too.

And pet it!

Afterwards both kids agreed that this was the best day ever.

The trip ended up being everything we hoped it would be and more.  We had a great time with our friends, the kids worked off months worth of excess energy – hell, we ALL did – and it was just such a nice break from the stresses and pollution of Beijing.  The *only* disappointment was that the moon was so full and so bright we weren’t able to see as many stars as we wanted to, but no worries. I am already thinking about planning next year’s trip during a new moon!

Spring has Sprung!

As you have heard me complain about – a lot – this past winter was a loooong one. It started in October and ended about a week ago, when suddenly the leaves sprouted in the trees again and the temperatures jumped from the 40s to the 70s.  Needless to say, everyone’s in a good mood.  In fact, the weather is so nice that Travis and I rode in a rickshaw to dinner last weekend – something I swore I would never do.

I bet they wish they’d used a rickshaw.

Something else I swore I would never do here was ride a bike.  But here we are (and I LOVE IT!).

But I digress.  Today was a particularly lovely spring day because it is international Labour Day and we all had the day off.  We started out at a loss for what to do with ourselves, but thankfully our good friends suggested that we meet at one of our favorite parks – Ritan Park – to explore.  It was lovely.

We explored the “tunnels.”

Enjoyed lakeside snacks:

And took in the scenery . . .

(note the Chinese and Cyrillic on the building)

. . . athletic competitions . . .

(in this case badminton)

. . . music . . .

(in this case a trumpet)

. . . and the bouncy castle!

Sadly, we forgot to bring our fish!

Now, as we sit here enjoying our gin and tonics and open windows, we need you to keep your fingers crossed that the weather AND air quality stay as perfect as they’ve been – at least for a few more weeks!!  Thank you!

Out and About

Our clean air days have become fewer and father between, but over the past month or so we’ve managed to get out and do some exploring around town. We spent some time in the hutongs, where we were perplexed by the number of abandoned bicycles.

I have 6 more photos like this.

We even made it to our favorite hutong hangout – Great Leap Brewery!

No one was more excited about this than Naomi.

On President’s Day the kids had school so Travis and I went to Tiananmen Square and a touristy neighborhood called Qingmen to explore.

Starbucks. Obviously.

Wetvac-ing the sidewalk. Again, obviously.

We’ve spent time visiting a few parks around town.

Most of the parks have rides!

Making friends wherever she goes.

We even made it up to the Great Wall!  But this is the only picture I got.

Pretty cool, though.

Of course, seeing this burning truck is all Naomi remembers about the visit.

All of this walking around gave us an opportunity to witness China’s excellent security standards:

Sidewalks look like this in America, right?

Yes, he is standing on the very rock he is jackhammering.

So, despite my lack of posts recently, you can see the adventure continues!

Swim Lessons!

The kids started private swim lessons on Saturday.  Their instructor is a very nice Chinese man who has been teaching expat kids for ten years. His English is good, and the kids think he’s tons of fun.  Which is good, because they spend a lot of their lesson out of the water – stretching.  Apparently American aren’t as limber as we should be . . .


They got to go in the water too!

Naomi worked it, as usual:


Hong Kong Weekend

We were fortunate to have an opportunity to spend last weekend in Hong Kong. Travis had to go there for work, and Santa Claus gave us tickets to Hong Kong Disneyland for Christmas so we decided to combine the two!  The weather and air had been pretty abysmal here for the past few weeks, so it was a welcome escape!

We started Sunday morning exploring Hong Kong Park, which was beautiful and provided a welcome chance for the kids to run around outside!

Look ma! No puffy coats!

Travis, Will and Naomi are back there!

We came across an amazing aviary that had lots of beautiful birds, and it was feeding time so we got to see them up close and personal!

After Hong Kong Park we went up to Victoria Peak on the tram.

The view from the top was a little hazy (thanks, mainland!), but still beautiful.

After brunch with our friends at Cafe Deco we drove to Stanley Market, where the kids got to play on a pirate ship and we did some shopping.  Then, as if that wasn’t enough, we rode the famous White Star Ferry to Kowloon for dinner!

The views from Kowloon to Hong Kong Island were spectacular!  Especially as the air started to clear up.

(and especially at night!)

On Monday we spent the day at Hong Kong Disney. We arrived just as it opened and we had the place to ourselves for a while!

We walked right onto Space Mountain, which Naomi turned out NOT to be a fan of.  Will even managed to ride the biggest roller coaster – Grizzly Gulch – 4 times without waiting in line!  (Travis and I each got to ride twice, and it was awesome).

They turned out to not like the Jungle Cruise as much.  It had a massive fireball that even set the water on fire and they were pretty scared.

No one more than Naomi, though.

After 5 hours the place really filled up and the temperature climbed into the mid-70s, so we decided to go back to our friends house, where the kids played together and the adults went out to dinner.  It was the perfect ending to the weekend!

I guess it’s a little early to start planning our next trip, but as soon as the opportunity presents itself again we will be there!

Also, I posted a bunch more pictures on Flickr!

Cambodia Highlights

We just returned from an amazing trip to Cambodia, and I have so much to say about it, but it’s getting late, we flew home overnight, and I was browbeaten into making Will’s Dinosaur School of Natural History website this afternoon, so I will provide a few highlights while I gather my thoughts.

Cambodia was incredible.  Seriously, probably my favorite place I have ever visited. I mean,

The temples!

Angkor Wat at sunset

Bayon in Angkor Thom

Ta Prohm (famous from Tomb Raider, I’m told)

The detail!


So is this!

The wildlife!

The adorable children!

The scenery!

The elephants!

The restaurants!

The transportation!

The photo opportunities!

I posted a ton of pictures on Flickr for now, but have so much more to say soon!!

Merry Christmas!!

Our first Christmas in Beijing was a roaring success – and I am not just referring to the wind chills, which, along with the 5 or so degree temperatures  (that’s Fahrenheit) were no joke!  Christmas cookie baking proved difficult, which I blame on  the scarcity of things like “cream of tartar” and my poor math skills and inability to convert butter measurements from grams to cups, but we did get a decent batch eventually, which the kids had fun with:

Santa enjoyed them with his whiskey as well!

The kids each got to open a present on Christmas Eve once our dinner for 12 (eight friends plus us!) had quieted down.

Thankfully, Santa texted the kids at about 8pm to let them know that he was delayed in Russia and wouldn’t make it to Beijing until morning, so they had to promise to stay in bed until 6am, which they miraculously did!

They were the recipients of lots of very thoughtful presents from our family and friends, and were super excited about everything.

Even Quigley got in on the action.

Our resident paleontologist spent the rest of the day digging for dinosaurs . . .

. . . While our resident princess spent some quality time snuggling with her baby princess Cinderella.

After Monday’s giant Christmas Eve dinner we had a bunch of friends over for Christmas brunch Tuesday morning, which was a lot of fun, though except for dinner at Home Plate BBQ Christmas night we haven’t eaten since!

Many thanks to you all for the wonderful Christmas cards and gifts you’ve sent.  they’ve made being away for Christmas so much easier for us. Merry Christmas and lots of love to all of you!

Christmas is all around us . . .

Since the day after Thanksgiving, Beijing has been decking itself out for Christmas. While it’s not observed as a holiday here, the locals appear to get really into it, and there is no shortage of Christmas supplies and decorations available around the neighborhood. Here’s a glimpse.

Ladies Street was first to get into the action:

Our favorite restaurant Din Tai Feng was next:

When Rudolph isn’t available, of *course* Santa uses a hot air balloon!

Christmas dumplings!

Ladies Street is the local place to buy decorations – many of which are tagged with recognizable labels – like Target!

the Romahtic store is the place to go!

We manages to get all of our decorations between these two places, and our apartment is all set for the holiday now!

If only we could get her to stand still in the corner until Christmas morning.

Santa even made an early appearance!

Mutianyu Revisited

Last week, at the end of Golden Week, we spent the night in a traditional courtyard home near the Great Wall again.  This home turned out to be a little more *traditional* than the last one we stayed in, but it was still lovely, and such a great experience.

The house (technically houses) was beautiful, but what’s missing from the pictures is the smell.  It is pear season in the hills, and apparently pears bring stink bugs, which bring stink.  Thankfully all of the windows in the house had screens, so it was quickly aired out without allowing other bugs to come in.

This was taken at the entrance, looking at the living room – the second house is in the background.

The house was actually two houses separated by a courtyard.  The main house had a bedroom with twin beds, a kitchen and a living room surrounding a fireplace.


Living room

Living room with fire and people

The second house had a queen bed and the kids slept in sleeping bags on the floor.

We had fun sitting outside in the courtyard while the kids ran around.

We had amazing views of the Wall, which would have been even more amazing had the air quality been better.

The entire ridge is Wall!

The neighborhood was pretty interesting too:

On Monday we headed up to the Wall, and the views were terrible because of the air quality, but there were very few people there, and the lack of crowds was a definite bonus!

We also got to get a glimpse of the fall colors!

We even got a nice photo of everyone!

We’re planning to head back up there to stay in a third house in November.  Can’t wait to do it again!

More pictures are posted on Flickr!

Golden Week (aka “Let’s All Go To Beijing!”)

The first week of October is known in China as “Golden Week.”  It coincides with the National holiday, and it’s traditionally a week of heavy travel throughout China.  Apparently, due to the beautiful weather (thank you, cloud seeders!) and the fact that the PRC lifted tolls on the toll roads throughout the country, this Golden Week was one of the busiest ever, and we managed to experience it first hand.

We kicked off on Tuesday morning to experience the Forbidden City, and, as it turns out, so did 182,000 other people.  October 2nd was officially the busiest day ever there, and as soon as we saw the crowds we escaped as quickly as possible.

I hope that ambulance doesn’t need to get anywhere!

We decided to try our luck again on Friday, in the hopes that the visitors had returned to the provinces. We started at the Summer Palace, and it was crowded, but thankfully nothing like we’d experienced Tuesday.

It was also really, really beautiful.

We came across a couple of musical performances that we all enjoyed watching – Naomi especially.

I posted videos of the music and Naomi’s dancing on YouTube.  She had a BLAST.

We followed up with lunch at a Beijing University staple – Tube Station Pizza – where the kids had fun playing with the foosball table.

We then spent the afternoon in the Botanical Gardens, which were relatively empty, and lovely and quiet.

Graffiti Botanical Garden Style.  (I hope it’s not too offensive!)


On our way home we decided to try to see Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City again.  We made it to Tiananmen, but the Forbidden City was still too crowded – plus, we were exhausted!

We’re still recovering, but it was a lovely Golden Week all around!