Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Sophia and Ann start school!

After weeks of Sophia begging me and me begging the principal of the kindergarten program...Sophia started school today. On Monday we had visited the hospital for a hep B test and physical --just as I had in the fall with Helen, and bought a little 书 包 (shu bao --bookbag)..above is Sophia with a "who me?" look on the way to school...

As we get closer, a little pensive...

Not a bad looking classroom..but "do I really have to take off my shoes?"

"OK -- I am going in..."
Of course right after this moment, Mom and Dad disappeared and we could hear the crying before we got away...oh the guilt -- even with the third child it gets no easier! The report this afternoon was positive...she cried in the morning for a while, but played and ate and napped OK, woke up fine with no crying in the afternoon...whew!!! It was a long day for me, wondering how it was going. We had taught her a few words in Chinese for potty, hungry, etc. and sent her off to see what happened. The principal had been trying to put me off by stating that the kindergarten was full, but in the end admitted that she was nervous about Sophia being at the youngest end of the class and speaking so little Chinese and the teachers not speaking English. I won her over in the end by asking her just to try it for a month and see how it is going..and of course the teachers do speak a few words of English to her as needed and she was so HAPPY when I picked her up and showed me her playground and told me about the toys. She had to give up the pacifier for naps and I was nervous about that, too (she still ended up with it tonight, however --) but I didn't want to scare the Chinese teachers with our odd American ways (and she is getting too old anyway).

Tonight she is already saying "hao bu hao" to Helen ( kind of like saying "yes or no?" -- teachers say it a lot when giving a choice....) I am guessing she will pick up phrases as fast as Helen or more so. The teacher is a veteran teacher who seemed happy to meet Sophia and the other teachers nice, too. There is a tiny western-style potty in the nursery school, which was a relief. The nursery kindergarten is run by the same administration as Helen's but has its own building, just two blocks from our building. It is just for the smallest children , 2 1/2 to 3 years old. It looked well supplied with toys and there is a small play yard, also riding toys and balls. I confided in a grandmother who was waiting at the gate with me at 4:20 that I was afraid my daughter had cried all day, and she assured me "mei guanxi" the all purpose Chinese phrase for "it doesn't matter -- its OK". She emphasized that all the children do at the beginning -- an international phenomenon. I was pleased that a little girl we have already met was in the class-- Xing Yi. Her mother works in the waiban office (foreign faculty affairs office) and they were on the bus trip to the Hakka roundhouses we took back in December. So I have a familiar face (and a parent fluent in English) if needed, which has been helpful in Helen's class.

So the next question one may be asking is -- "what will Ann do all day with no Sophia to follow around? " I am now a full time college student for the first time in a very long time! I have my own student ID, my own Chinese name, and today was my first test..a written and oral placement test. I want to place out of the introductory semester into the second semester of Chinese -- but the test was the same one for everyone, so I found it quite difficult. The 150 characters I do know did not seem to appear together in the same sentence so I was unsure of almost everything!
About my Chinese name...our tutor helped me come up with is 林子 安 or Lin Zi An (Lin is a direct translation of Forest..also one of the most common surnames in China, An, pronounced like Ann without a Midwestern drawl, means contented or peaceful and the zi is there to make it sound better!) I have been filling in to forms for school and the doctor's office/nursery school for Sophia, and its amazing how comforted the Chinese are by it -- they don't care that its not my legal name -- just glad to see those characters! I guess its similar to the way that Chinese people often have an English nickname. On Saturday my orientation will conclude and I will get my schedule for the semester. I know I will be a bad student because we will be doing some traveling and hosting visitors, but I am excited to have something to myself again. Michael and I actually had lunch in the faculty dining room today after I fished him out of his office...I had never been there..

Here he is, hard at work until I turned up. Tomorrow is a pretty free day since my classes haven't started and Sophia is in school-- what will I do? The possibilities are endless, but I will likely squander it on doing bills and cleaning our cluttered apartment!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Catching up on Beijing photos..and introducing my new camera

Thanks to my friend Linda we now have some more photos of Beijing. Above is the mandatory 40th birthday dinner shot...

And particularly photo-worthy was the Summer Palace, although it was a hazy day, you can still appreciate the serenity of this imperial getaway. It was a quiet place to visit in the winter time --in the summer the grounds are lush and beautiful -- but the frozen lake gave it an eerie quality I quite liked.

The "stone boat" was a must see -- it is a stone (marble maybe?) boat on the edge of Kunming Lake on the Summer Palace our friend Yoni pointed out, "its what the Empress Dowager built instead of modernizing the Chinese navy".

One day while we were in Beijing, Thomas went with Linda and her sons to the Great Wall. Michael had meetings that day and I opted not to go back to the wall in February with a toddler (and we had no baby back pack anyway). But Thomas had a terrific time, and here he is with Tal and Noam and some invaders (or defenders?) of the Wall that they met. When somebody dons a costume like that and asks for a little money to take their picture (a common occurrence) it is usually worth it!

I have some more photos from Beijing upcoming from other sources.. in the mean time, I bit the bullet and purchased a new camera. After my unsuccessful attempt to get the other one fixed in Beijing, I was still 200 RMB in the hole, and the camera store in Xiamen wanted another 500 RMB (about $65) for a second attempt...for about double that I bought a new one -- not quite as good a camera, but maybe I can still get the old one fixed back in the US where I can understand what is wrong with it a little better. I guess these digital cameras have a shelf life, and mine has been pretty overworked this year..A lot of things are cheaper in China, but generally not electronics.

I was playing with the new camera on the way to church today -- a very nice clear day (its actually been pleasant since we got back) to see Gulanyu in all its colonial era glory..

Finally a picture Michael has been trying to get me to take for a while...we have a regular lunch spot on the island, a friendly, family -owned restaurant. The bathroom is upstairs, near the living quarters, and we pass the porch where the family laundry is hung..and usually a few other items are out to dry as well, such as a duck and some pigs is good to keep this stuff handy!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Beijing with a busted camera and back to Xiamen for Lantern Festival

I picked up my camera Wednesday morning full of hope, snapped a photo in the shop -- it looked OK and I left...after taking this shot of Helen making a Beijing opera mask at the children's program I became suspicious, and some outdoor shots confirmed it -- the camera is still not working right -- although it does take photos, they are overexposed and poor quality... with the help of the hotel concierge, I got the shop to agree to refund half my repair cost, but small comfort since its still not working! I will have to work on it back in Xiamen -- but I am worried I will need a new one -- what's a blogger without a camera????

I am hoping to get some photos from my friend Linda to post from our last the evening the Fulbright program took us to a Tibetan restaurant. Having eaten Tibetan breakfast with some trepidation in Lijiang, we were a little concerned. The food was pretty good, if a bit unusual, and was only a prelude to a show featuring traditional instruments, singing, dancing and the appearance of two "yaks" who engaged in a fierce battle to the delight of young and old alike. It was really quite entertaining, and I would recommend it to anyone visiting Beijing. The restaurant was called Makye Ame, in the Chaoyang district. (By the way, friends and family -- some folks have already purchased their tickets to visit us via Beijing -- if you don't have yours is not to late to make up your mind!)

We bid farewell to our Fulbright friends, most of whom we will likely not see again (unless it is back in North America!). I was especially glad to hear about how other families had adjusted to varying degrees to life in China. One family who was going to leave in December decided to stay on for the rest of the year. Everyone has had their unique ups and downs it seems.

Thursday night was the Lantern Festival, the official end of the 15 day Spring Festival season. I am afraid it ended with a bit of a let down... we went out in the afternoon to the street vendors and bought a lantern and some light up toys on sticks for the young one (and a light saber for Thomas), having been told that children would go out at night with their lanterns on that night. I guess we missed the party, because we saw no one else on our walk after dark. Maybe you had to go to a big park or something...oh, well. At least my overexposing camera was good for a few night's the paper lantern with a birthday candle inside..

Here's Sophia's fish...

And Thomas's light saber..

The kids had fun in the dark, we saw the moon, it was 65 degrees at 8:00 at night -- not a total loss....

Today (and yesterday afternoon for Michael) was back-to-school day. Thomas was dreading it and Helen was thrilled, as expected. After bringing Helen, I went to meet with the principal and beg once again for her to admit Sophia to the 2 year old program for the second term. As it turns out her main concern is not space in the program, but fear that Sophia is too young to handle the immersion experience with no one to speak English to her. With the help of a bilingual friend I convinced her to give it a try for at least 3 weeks to see if Sophia makes a good adjustment. So at least we can try it out and see, and I can go ahead and enroll myself in the Chinese program...I have been trying to teach Sophia Chinese words all day now! Sophia has been kind of stubborn lately, so I have some fears, too, but we proceed boldly forward -- if it doesn't work out we are no worse off than we were, I guess.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Beijing -- no camera....

I really count on photos to carry me along on the blogging, and today I missed the camera when Michael and I went out for a walk this morning with Sophia to find the Dongyue Daoist temple. I learned more about Daoism in the 90 minutes we spent there than all the books I have scanned this year...
It was very visual, but the big impression was a world view of heaven as a very organized place, with departments to oversee every aspect of human conduct, and deliver consequences to evildoers (such as, I'm afraid -- the Department of 15 Ways to Die a Violent Death). It seemed a stern cosmology to be sure, but colorful and interesting in its detail. The temple is quite old, but has not been used again for worship until quite recently...anyway we enjoyed it. Our hosts from whatever department they are from ( you know the US government - I can't keep the acronyms straight) arranged for the children to ice skate at the China World Mall and I tagged along to watch -- Helen had the best time with one of the staffers as her partner on the ice the whole time. Thomas spent most of his day with his friend Tal and his family on the Great Wall. This evening was a reception at the residence of a high ranking embassy fellow (sorry -- I am really bad a remembering these positions) which was interesting -- everyone was very up on Xiamen because of its strategic importance with Taiwan...I was told that the US hopes to open a consulate there. I was glad when it was all over and time to head back and relax a bit.

Tomorrow Michael has meetings all morning and I have to bail my camera out and I am hoping to get to a good English language bookstore...and maybe a Starbucks?

The Summer Palace, camera trouble and I turn 40

This morning we set off on a fine day, though cold -- for a winter visit to the Summer Palace, the elaborate weekend getaway a palace favored by the Empress Dowager Cixi, a late Qing dynasty figure (the Qing were the last imperial dynasty, and their misuse of funds and opulent lifestyle doomed the imperial system in China) Now that I have seen the summer palace, I really understand why. Unfortunately I have no pictures until I get some from my friend, because my camera stopped working. I have take in to a Canon dealer and won't get it back until Wednesday, so no photos for a while, I am afraid.

Our big sightseeing is winding down since Michael's meetings start tomorrow afternoon. We have met some of the new Fulbright folks...its interesting to hear about what brought them to China answer their questions.

Today was also my 40th birthday..roses and a cake from the Fulbright staff, a truly beautiful strand of black pearls from my husband and a night on the town with our friends..we had arranged to hire a babysitter through the staff of the conference. Being in Beijing hardly felt like China tonight --we had dinner at a Persian restaurant with hummus and lamb kebabs -- tastes we have truly missed. Our friend Alan who joined us for dinner told us there are 650,000 foreigners in is a different world! In Xiamen there are 200 and we know them all (OK -- a slight exaggeration, but it feels that way!)

Thoughts on turning 40 -- is it a big deal or not? I sure don't feel old, but not young any more either. As I told my Dad in an email -- I feel like I am living the life I want to live, I am living a little boldly, I am abundantly blessed by my family and the opportunities we have received to grow....and I am so glad to be a grown up at last.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Beijing's Panjiayuan market and return to the Temple of Heaven

You know I am traveling when I manage two posts in the same day!
We headed out today by subway to find the Panjiayuan weekend market. We rode the new line that has just opened since the fall...and a lovely subway system it is too -- looking very ready for the Olympics -- clean and bilingual, although the automatic ticket system is not running yet and you still buy them from a person.

The market was everything I hoped it would be and more... we started in the furniture aisle -- sighing deeply over the furniture we have no room for since we are committed to not shipping is Michael in the Tibetan shop admiring a helmet..

I wanted this box with the Tibetan script on it but contented myself with a photo..Thomas bought a chess set (a carved wooden one) from these guys for $9

The mark up was incredible -- the opening price was triple for the same item I had purchased in Xiamen -- when I told him that in Chinese -- immediate 200% price cut! I was pretty satisfied with my bargaining today. I have learned that the key is to not be too attached to the item and be willing to walk away -- then the vendor will follow you and seal the deal at the last price, usually. The market was not real busy, which helped, I think..when there are a lot of foreigners there throwing money around, it is probably harder to bargain.

More Cultural revolution art -- someone asked me if I bought any -- I never would, because while it is curious, as a lover of China, I find it too painful to look at...I think this art was not only permitted at the time -- but even encouraged as part of the total brainwashing approach...

More to my taste -- these period gowns..quite amazing up close..

In the Tibetan aisle we made some friends of the vendors, who are from Tibet and come to the market to sell goods. They were taken with the kids and we stopped to talk -- they let Thomas blow this enormous horn...takes two photos to capture it.

It made a sound like a dying yak, only louder -- I think it is some kind of call to prayer, but must admit that it looks more like a Dr. Seuss creation to me. Of course our "friends" were determined to sell us one -- not easy to put that in the luggage!

There were so many fun things to look at..of course many are replicas, but we still bought what we liked -- Thomas some more old coins and an arrow head, Helen some more glass beads and I found an antique marionette -- just what I had been wanting..(see below for his trip to the Temple of Heaven). I had been to the Temple of Heaven in August with just Sophia. Since we were not far away, we grabbed some lunch and hopped a quick cab there..I just love the refurbished detail work --the phoenix and the dragon are the emperor's symbols, and the Temple of Heaven was the place where the Emperor would come to worship, give thanks for good harvests, etc.

It is an unmistakable sight..and ready to receive hordes of Olympic tourists -- since I was there last they installed ramps for wheel chairs throughout many places in the complex -- which was a big shock to me, as I have not seen that anywhere in China, and as a stroller driver, I appreciate it!

Helen and Thomas had fun running wild on the grounds. Looking a bit barren to our eyes used to the tropical winter..

Here he is -- my new puppet getting a ride in the stroller from Sophia..He has a wooden head and hands/feet and some handsome robes.

A full day, and as we arrived back at the hotel we met up with our friends who are also here for the conference and had a feast nearby with lots of eggplant and beer...stay tuned for the rest of the week's fun.

Back in Beijing

We are back in Beijing this week for the mid year Fulbright meeting. The scholars who are coming just for spring semester will arrive in China and we full year families will see each other again while there are some meetings and receptions, etc. We have taken advantage of the hotel deal and come a few days early to enjoy some sights in Beijing we missed in August.

We were prepared for horrible pollution but arrived on a remarkably clear day, and while its cold here, it is mild for Beijing in winter -- highs in the 40s forecast for the week. And the Swissotel has heat and unlimited hot water (I know this is not a surprise for a 5 star hotel, but it is a delight). Unfortunately I think Sophia may have a bit of a cold starting, but we will have to see how it develops.

Last night after arriving we found a small local restaurant down a side street and after dinner, waled to the Tian Di Theater for acrobats. You weren't supposed to take pictures, but everyone else succumbed to temptation, so I snapped one of 12 girls riding a bicycle.

There was also juggling, flips and other hallmarks of the acrobatic tradition, but presented in a modern way, with pop music and some strange costumes. All in all a fine way to spend our first evening. Some of our friends are arriving later today, which we are excited about. And if I can get everyone up and going this morning we are going to the Weekend Dirt Market (Panjiayuan) -- which does not sell dirt(!), but is a flea market where vendors from all over come to sell curios, artwork, crafts and hopefully some really interesting things. It is only held on Saturday and Sunday mornings, so this is my chance...

Friday, February 15, 2008

Antiquing and the troubled past

Today we had the excellent experience of accompanying my friend Julia on one of her "junking" expeditions to a flea market and antique shopping street. She has lived in China for about 5 years, off and on, so she knows a lot about different items, prices, etc. While I am not a big antique collector as a rule, there were so many interesting items that I felt myself getting drawn into the fun and ended up with some cool things. I would describe them in detail, but my sister might get one of them for her birthday and I know she reads the blog, so I don't want to give it away! Thomas is now collecting old Chinese coins and Helen found glass heart shaped beads she fancied, so we all had a good time with Julia and her girls.

I meant to take pictures, but once I started shopping seriously, I forgot in my effort to keep all those numbers straight in my head while we bargained. Towards the end of the day I did see a ceramic tile (the kind which is often inlaid in wood) which really got my attention, a cultural revolution scene with someone being denounced at a public meeting.

How do you start understanding an item like this? And how do we understand the Chinese people we know when the culture which produced art like this is barely a generation removed from the present?
This tile features a scene that was so common in its day that I have concluded that every family has a story...people attended many meetings like this, maybe some were denounced in this way, or even participated actively...
China has changed so much, so fast -- its hard to make the China we are seeing -- the free wheeling market place, the colorful traditional arts, the very modern and educated community at Xiada -- jive with the not so distant history of the cultural revolution, when the leadership wanted to destroy every shred of connection with the arts of the past, and when a paranoid mob rule mentality led to so much persecution by people of one another. When I stop to think of it, as I did today when the raw pain of this piece caught me by surprise -- I wonder if the calm we see isn't a more fragile thing than it seems. I think I begin to get some idea why the average person here is so apolitical and focuses exclusively on economics and development. Development and a rising standard of living is the key to maintaining stability even while certain freedoms that people in the West find so important may be lacking. Americans look at China and say -- well, capitalism will lead to democracy. But I think that the average person here is willing to forgo real democracy in exchange for some choices in their person life (like what kind of work to do, where to live) and a stability that is such a vast improvement over the world their parents and grandparents lived in.
Deep thoughts for a Friday night -- and I will probably not be able to get back on blogger easily while the firewall scans my posts after all this politics. (Am I paranoid? -- don't think so...)
We are off to Beijing for a few days and will post if we can -- but we are staying somewhere nice (its a Fulbright meeting) so we should be able to stay in touch.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Odds and Ends

On Valentine's Day and Mom....

The above video Valentine greetings are about the extent of things here...although I did get some heart shaped candy tins for everybody today. Helen's friend Lawrence wanted to see her in a video, so here she is...

Valentine's Day was always a big deal in my family because its my Mom's Happy Birthday to Mom....a number of folks have asked for an update on her health. She is continuing to hold her own with radiation treatments, some weakness and other nuisances, but OK. We are optimistic that she will be cancer free when they are done, but for now we just wait and see -- this round of treatments will be done next week. Thanks so much for all the prayers.

On Carrefour...
I finally made it to the Carrefour today, because I took the girls to a play group at the home of an American woman who happened to live a few blocks away. For the uninitiated, Carrefour is a European chain store, kind of like a Walmart. For many years, before Walmart and Metro came to China, they were THE place to find western foods in China. And today I found ground coffee, cheddar cheese, hot chocolate and curry sauce packets with directions in English -- all in about 10 an HSBC ATM machine. It was very satisfying -- kind of like the first time I shopped at Wegman's (Western New York reference). Its a lot closer than Metro, the coffee was cheaper, and the whole place was more efficient and pleasing than a Walmart. Can't believe it took me 6 months to get here (it is still not exactly around the corner, but a 20 minute, $2 cab ride away).

On "Bad Kitty" by Nick Bruel
Do you know "Bad Kitty"? We have been reading it since last summer -- it has the offbeat sense of humor that Helen loves best, and she now reads it to Sophia all the time. It is an alphabet book with lots of foods for the kitty. We have been pleased that the food for X was xigua (the Chinese word for watermelon), and while on vacation we discovered the food for Y --yak yogurt-- in Lijiang. So we emailed the author and to our great delight he replied the next day. (and while he has been to China, he denies having any idea that yak yogurt was real:) So for his quick and friendly reply he gets a free plug for this very funny book on the blog...

On a family with too much free time..
While we are on a product endorsement kick...we would like to tell you that tonight's blog is brought to you by POCKY, the family treat that gets you revved up on chocolate goodness enough to design a I am being force fed one by Sophia...imagine crunchy pretzel-ish sticks dipped in chocolate. We were having a boring night in a hotel room in Longyuan in central Fujian -- not exactly a happening town -- when I returned from a snack forage with them, and we were transformed immediately into a POCKY party. And tonight we had them again -- complete with knock -knock jokes and interviews with POCKY microphones. We are a silly, simple people over here....and small things please us! Like the fact the sun shone today for a few hours...can't you tell!?!?

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Fourth Intermittant Chinglish Post with Bonus Signs

We being rather cold in our unheated apartment, there is little of excitement to report other than family squabbles about who gets to be closest to the space heater. The winter doldrums have hit, I have a cold, so why not send out a Chinglish post.

This posting is quite a bit lower on the true Chinglish and higher on the odd signs discovered in our travels. We are so used to Chinglish now that we barely recognize it anymore in daily life.

The sign below is, however, Chinglish to the core. I think that I know what 'conscribe' means, and I know what "wasn't born to follow" means, but together I have no clear idea what this means.

It was on the front doorpost of a clothing store near our apartment if that helps. Maybe the Chinese underneath can explicate it, but I am rather ignorant about that.

Below is a sign from a restaurant in Kunming, Yunnan Province. The restaurant served a famous local dish "crossing the bridge noodles". But the sign is a little odd.

As the customer, I expect the cooks to mind the soup. Do I have to do everything?

They even expect me to mind my kids. The spelling is a bit off, but I was a little offended by the lack of confidence the staff had in me.

But really, couldn't you put that anywhere? Isn't it a bit like a sign that says "keep breathing"?

Below is another Kunming sign. It comes from a shoe store in the city center, in fact it is the name of the store.

Employees wear aprons that have this logo printed on them. They looked proud to have them. Maybe they can also walk out of the store and look up at the sign below.

Nothing Chinglish, nor even something you can't find around the world, but the kids could not stop giggling. It dominated the pedestrian mall of the town center. Of course, this is in conjunction with our experience of seeing kids all over China whizzing on the streets, curbs, sidewalks, bushes, and trucks. Today in Xiamen we saw a kid whizzing into an empty plastic pop bottle on a crowded sidewalk. I think that showed good public sense.

Maybe that kid the read the sign below at the New Year Festival in Xiamen.

While I endorse both environmentalism and social morality, the sign seems a little broad. As you might expect it was roundly ignored. Thomas wanted me to take a photo of another one that had litter scattered right below it!

Now below we have a true beauty. Ann brought this home after seeing it on the Lewis family blog. It is now our favorite tissue.

I am all in favor of the power of mind. I can even pontificate on the subtle but clearly present thesis that all is mind. Nothing like finding a little Chinglish and launching right into idealist metaphysics! However, that all seems a bit out of place for a product designed to wipe your bum.

Finally, what would our posts be like without a few menu items. Last Chinglish post I brought you Donald Duck. But here, yes, we have that item that we have all heard about, wondered about, and even feared.

I assure you that we did not order Stewed Dog Meat Pot, nor were we tempted to. If you would like to go to Kunming, I bet they are still serving it.

Still hungry after you've downed a stew of Fluffy and Fido? How about some of these items?

Not sure what some of them actually are, although Deep Fried Locust seems pretty straight forward.

In Xiamen there is a 'delicacy' that we are invariably served called "local seaworm dish". I can stomach a lot but I find this one quite difficult to eat. I have several times been served it first, of course, while the rest of table eagerly waits to get their turn after the honored guest. The worms are served in a gray-green translucent jello. You pick it up with a toothpick and pop it in. It can be hard to chew because the jello is very rubbery and then you can sense a little friction when your teeth cut through the worms. I've wanted to just spit it out onto the table (who cares if I am at a banquet - it's worms!) but I dutifully continue and swallow. The only time I have been able to tolerate it is when it was served with wasabi. You can eat anything with enough wasabi on it.

I'd like to conclude by noting that Chinglish should not be thought of as a one-way street. The other direction, which must amuse Chinese people greatly, is westerners who wear shirts and tattoos with all kinds of Chinese characters on them that say . . . what? Maybe there is an Engl-ese blog by some Chinese in America. I hope that they post a lot of good ones.

Friday, February 8, 2008

A walk in Bailiuzhou Park on New Year's Day

Although we slept late on New Years' morning, I was determined that we not spend the day indoors, where it was colder than outside, actually. So we got dressed in our new finery and ventured out.

The temple next door proved to be the hot spot of the city. The crowds were thick and the incense smoke even thicker, so after a peek around, we decided to head for the big park downtown, where I had seen them setting up some new year displays of some kind.

I snapped this picture of a man carrying his baby bundled up in a basket..looks cozy doesn't it?

Bailiuzhou Park was filled with "sculptures" of nylon and wire, with lights and featuring all kinds of New years' and Chinese themes..kind of like a Chinese "Lights in Delaware Park", for you western New York readers.

Michael especially liked the greetings from a smiling Deng Xiaoping.

Of course there were balloons for the younger members...

And all the features of a carnival, street food, a bounce house, crafts, and games of chance for Thomas and Michael.

We also took our turn ringing the bell -- I think this is some kind of custom because I saw on TV people all over China doing it on New Years' Eve-- making lots of noise like firecrackers, bells, etc. was associated with warding off evil and bad luck in the old days.

The park was a great place for people watching, as lots of families were out strolling with their kids. I wanted to catch this Muslim woman in head scarf...the whole family was gathered around with their jaws dropped to see Sophia and Helen..

I decided that turnabout was fair play, and since everyone was photographing Sophia, I began taking pictures of their cute kids all dressed up...

Here was one display we could not figure out...who is the rabbit? Probably not the Easter Bunny...?!?!?! (Now I know it is Chang e the moon goddess)

After a long walk we headed home to let the kids shop on our street a little with their hong bao money and eat leftovers from our New Years' Eve feast --we even had enough dough to make some more dumplings..

We finished with some giant oranges, which ended up tasting more like grapefruit. Funny to think that our Chinese New Year in China is over...but the festival continues for more days and we may do some visiting with friends, local sightseeing in Xiamen, and Thomas wants to get to the mall...just like Christmas week in the US...