Monday, December 29, 2008

Oh to learn Chinese...

I (Stefanie) recently completed a beginning Chinese language class. It was a very enjoyable experience and I actually have pictures to accompany this post, so I thought I would document it. At times it was frustrating, considering it is still Chinese, but I had a very patient teacher/laoshi (Catherine) who was always willing to help me through my difficulties. We had very interesting dynamics due to the differnt backgrounds of the class members: English, Belgium, Philippians, and American (me), along with our teacher from Shanghai.
I am sad to see it completed, it was a good use of the spare time I've found on my hands and allowed me to feel a little more connected to this mysterious land.
Robert continues to be the Mandarin expert in our family but now at least I have something to contribute.
Catherine and me...with my certificate!
The good old Han Fan class

Sunday, December 14, 2008


I must explain. I know it's been almost a month since I've posted anything but this time I really have an excuse...and it's valid! Somehow our SD card got a virus on it so we can't upload any pictures, and what's a post without pictures. So, in light of this information, I ask for your forgiveness. We have been enjoying our holidays here despite what you may think with my silence. We had a tasty Thanksgiving dinner with friends and have decorated our apartment with Christmas excitement! We're looking forward to Christmas and have appreciated the spirit that it has brought us here in China.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

More Photos

Here are some more photos from the land of the Chinamen. Enjoy!
Our traveler’s checks in the grip of the Chinese banks ignorance!
The bank that finally let us cash in our dang traveler’s checks…MONEY IN HAND!! And it only took TWO months!
Sun-Yat Sen memorial building
Workin’ it out, Chinese style, with Monika Nordlander. You should have seen the faces we were getting: Priceless!
This is an example of signs found in China. My favorites were #7, 6 and 4. Ohh China.
at the Chen Family compound (a Relief Society outing)

Some serious ivory sculpting
Koi anyone?
Being a domestic diva: making bread with friend Leslie (don’t mind the awful picture, a little Chinese lady who doesn’t know picture etiquette took it.)
More fun with fish!

A very unusually clear day: view from our apartment
Fire drill, Chinese style
Our friends the Nordlander’s adorable son Johnny Owen

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Down time in China

I haven't done too great at keeping up with our random pictures postings, so here are a few of the things we have done with our spare time here in Guangzhou, China. Prepare to be inundated!

This was one of our favorite things we’ve done in Guangzhou. We went for a “hike” up to Baiyuan Shan (White Cloud Mountain- it’s actually just a big hill, but it’s their version of mountains). It offered a great view of all Guangzhou, at least what could be seen through the smog. It was nice excursion out of the city and it was a relief to be surrounded by greenery again.

This is how we spent most of our time when we arrived here…hanging out at police stations for hours on end, and not for the reasons that you are thinking, I’ve been behaving myself. It was all for the seemingly endless race of getting the ever coveted red stamp on various, and I mean VARIOUS, papers in order to get residency. Wheeeee!!!

Eating food in forms we’re not exactly accustomed to.

Rob playing Mahjong (the real Chinese way, not the Americanized version, don’t worry, I didn’t know there was a difference either).

Yeah! There’s an IKEA here too!

Don’t worry; I’m still a dork in China.
Splurging at “The Mexican Restaurant” (yes, that’s really the name of the restaurant, I guess that means there’s not much competition for Mexican food here) with our friends the Nordlanders.

Celebrating the Mid Autumn Festival by enjoying a moon cake…well, it wasn’t really enjoyable, people just eat them because it’s tradition.

Our cheap meal= a box of 10 jiaozi (dumplings) for a whopping 3 kuai (about 25 cents). Unfortunately we became rather disenchanted with them pretty quick. It’s probably a good thing since the place we would get them at got demolished not too long ago.  Don’t worry, no serious sicknesses for us yet!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

America the Beautiful-Isn't democracy a wonderful thing!

Yesterday Rob and I were able to attend the American Chamber of Commerce in South China 2008 U.S. Presidential election party (wow, that was a mouthful). It was quite an event. Surprisingly enough there was at least 20 Chinese people to every 1 American. We expected it to be much different. We learned several interesting facts during our time there. Apparently AmCham and the U.S. Consulate had invited many Chinese university students. However, once the universities caught word of it, mysteriously there arose a number of mandatory meetings for these students. So, despite those mandates, more students than expected attended. Once you walked in the door many free prizes were given out: buttons for each candidate, American flags, AmCham tote bags, and hats that stated “America Votes” (as viewed below). There was also an option for attendees to enter a voting both enclosed by large American flags and cast their vote and receive an “I Voted!” sticker. Welcome to democracy China! Something I regret not getting a photo of was also what I found to be one of the most interesting, but expected, sights; there was the ubiquitous presence of a Communist officer standing in the middle of the room. I figure he was there as a reminder of directive. That’s one thing I’ve learned about the communist government here. They give off an air of allowing the Chinese people freedom to explore different facets of livelihood while keeping the ever-present regulations and parameters controlled completely by the government.
While I ran off to my Chinese language class to hear about my teacher’s beloved “Chairman Mao”, Rob underwent several interviews about who he voted for, why he made that choice, and what he feels would happen. He spoke to me about one particularly well informed or well prepared young lady. She asked him what he felt about Barrack being “black” and how the American people would react if he was elected President. She also asked him about Alan Greenspan and the economic turmoil. This elicited interesting comments from both sides (Rob’s and the Chinese girl’s). Overall, it was mostly just fascinating to observe what was probably many people’s first analysis of a country run by democracy. It made me grateful to live in such a world that these types of events are possible, but even more to be a citizen of a country that allows us such great freedoms and opportunities.
God Bless America!

Rob posing with "Uncle Sam". He's actually a guy from our branch that works for the American consulate.

This is the freebie hat. I know you are all very jealous at how attractive I look in it :)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

A weekend in Hong Kong

(I'm sorry for all of the writing. I've decided to use this blog as a type of journal since I'm too lazy to actually keep one. So if you want to, feel free to just skip through the gibberish and head for the pictures.)

Rob and I spent this last weekend in the bustling city of Hong Kong. It's something we will have to do every 60 days due to the type of visa I was given. It's kind of a hastle but it gave us a good excuse to check out the previously British ruled, very international, port city. It was nice to hear English again and not get stared at everywhere we went. Our little trip was jam-packed with fun around every corner. Our first day we took the train down to Shenzhen, walked across the border to Hong Kong just made it in time to go to the Hong Kong temple where we saw our Branch President and His wife. We then walked around the shopping district (no shopping for us poor students), watched the ever enjoyable, free, nightly, light show, and, sorry to say, ate dinner at McDonald's. The next day we slept in on our SOFT and unbelievably comfortable bed, did breakfast at McDonald's :( We are such Americans! The little street front shop we wanted to eat at wasn't open yet. I've now officially eaten at McDonald's more here than I have in the last 5 years in America. We then headed off to Hong Kong Island via the legendary Star Ferry. We walked around and checked out the infamous, massive banking and finance buildings...that place is crazy! Then we headed up to "The Peak". What a view!! We went up on a little tram/rail car on a slope that was about 45 degrees, no joke. After enjoying a nature walk and getting lost for a while up there we headed back down into the chaos and found a random carnival going on, and rode on the "world's longest escalator". The next day we checked out of our hotel: the charming YMCA Salisbury (this is not like any YMCA in the U.S., it was actually pretty impressive), and jumped on the MTR all the way out to Tung Chung on Lantau Island. From there we went by cable car up to the village of Ngong Ping where the 'The Big Budda'(an 85 foot statue of Budda) resides along side the Po Lin Monastery. Hordes of people flock there to light incense and take pictures of, and pray to, Budda.
Then we headed back down the mountain and on till daylight...or our arrival back in Guangzhou at 11 p.m.
All in all it was a fabulous trip!

The train ride down to Hong Kong

The Hong Kong Temple!

Hong Kong Island skyline

Our Star Ferry ride

Rob and the IFC building (International Finance Center)

Happy Halloween! I've been wanting to carve a pumpkin for so long now...maybe next year. At least I found these little jems!

On the rail car to The Peak

Ridin' along on the cable car to check out Budda!

A fracking HUGE spider we found on our “Inspiration walk”

The house that the spider built a.k.a. the house we found the spider in. We're thinking about turning it into our summer retreat; who wants to come visit us there?!

It’s a big Budda!


a wretched 90 minute wait to get on the cable car headed down

Rob chillin’ in “the line”

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Our Apartment in Guangzhou!

Robert here. I'm going to try my hand at this blogging stuff that Stef always takes care of in our family. So bare with me, i'm a first timer.
A few weeks ago I decided that we needed to let you all know how cool our Guangzhou apartment is. So, I made a video and tried to upload it for the longest time to no avail. Yeah, apparently there is a limit to the file sizes, who'd a thunk it. Anyway, I have now broken up the video into two segments in hopes of making it work this time. We live on the 15th floor of a 15 story building. I suppose that this means we are in the ever-desired penthouse. It actually is a pretty cool place and we feel pretty lucky to have it. I think we can also rest assured that my salary will never be able to afford another place with this kind of view so we have to relish it while we got it. Enjoy the quality footage folks!
(Ok, update: Rob tried to upload our videos on blogger but I'm pretty sure that thanks to the lovely Communist government of the People's Republic of China we are unable to view or upload videos on blogger. So I thought we'd try our hand at You Tube thanks to the idea of some of our friends. Hope it works!!)
The downstairs

The upstairs

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Robert Taylor Stephenson's 27th Birthday!!

My hubby's birthday was two days ago (October 14th). Considering that we live in China I had to try and make due with the resources, or lack of, that I had. It was an enjoyable day, at least that's what he told me :). Anyone that knows Rob knows that he is a big breakfast man. So I tried to make something that resembled a good old American breakfast. After that we went to a massage place, nicknamed "Heaven on Earth Massage Parlor"= to be said with a black man accent like Chris Tucker does on 'Rush Hour'. It wasn't exactly "heaven on earth". Those little Chinese women can really inflict pain! We kept telling ourselves that it was doing us good but now, a couple days after, we are starting to not feel as bruised and sore from it. They just thought it was hilarious to watch our faces contort as we groaned in agony...especially once I pulled out the camera. Anyway, after that Rob had to go to class and I had to try and get the Birthday cake I'd had my eye on for a while. Through many failed attempts I conceded and went to another "bakery" named "Best Confect Bakery" and bought a few mini cakes. Notice in the picture Rob is 'acting' blowing out incense as I was unable to find candles. We then went to 37.2, a European restaurant, and had a fabulous dinner of beef tenderloin for Rob and chicken cordon blu-ish thing for me!
Hurray for my Robert and his life! I am so lucky to be able to share that life with him. I Love you Robert!!

THE breakfast (just so you know, it's hard to cook toast in a wok)
Blowing out the incense candle
"Heaven on Earth Massage Parlor"

This lady was Rob's torturer

Tasty Birthday dinner!