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Phuket, Thailand
Beijing, China



Phuket, Thailand  
TianMen Square, Beijing, China
Great Wall of China
Great Wall of China

Phuket, Thailand

Great Wall of China


Great Wall of China

Beijing, China

Great Wall of China

This month is filled with immensely enjoyable projects like cleaning up after Christmas, sorting, sifting and enduring a full physical, while pregnant (and having a strange Dr tell me basically how stupid I was to be moving to China with a baby in my tummy-I later miscarried) and no less than 10 vaccinations, Joy! My husband takes a trip to China to look for an apartment as we begin to divide our life in half ~ one half Chicago, one half China 
We bid "farewell" to family and friends and wait for our visas to clear. My husband is all cleared to work and live in Beijing, along with our 2 children. However, my husband and I were unable to locate our marriage certificate and therefore we were in a desperate hurry to obtain another. We married in Jamaica and obtaining documents quickly from this country was no easy feat! We even took a trip to the Cook County Court House to remarry as a remedy! Alas, this was not allowed.  The weather in Chicago is still cold.

On March 5, we fly out of Chicago to Tokyo, and then drag ourselves into Beijing at midnight. Not the easiest trip to make when you have a 17-month-old who wanted nothing but OFF THE PLANE!! Poor little Miss daughter was a miserable mess on this flight and quite literally banging on the doors for a quick escape.  Hubbie goes straight into work and I have to balance two small children in a strange city with a driver who speaks very little English. We are living at Apartments, a fully furnished apartment complex. East Gate has continental breakfast service (Chinese style) in the morning, English speaking staff 24 hours a day, a health club (with the coldest swimming pool on the planet), and a wonderful play area for the children on the 31st floor. We spend many hours here. We move into our much bigger apartment after a week and await our shipment from the states. We shop for groceries at a local Chinese grocery store, Carrefour (French), and get our first taste of the hustle and bustle of Beijing citizens. The store is incredibly busy. We are confused and lost looking for anything familiar. The sights and smells are amazing. We are able to locate some things that we need and make essential purchases. Hubbie’s colleague takes him to the local German butcher where the expat community shops for meats. We are most happy! We eat at a few local restaurants near our apartment, ordering from pictures, not knowing what we are about to consume. After a few weeks of this, we give up and stick to restaurants that we are familiar with. There are many throughout the city and easy to find. TGIF’s is, of course, our favorite. We find many others that cater to the needs and taste buds of our children as well.
The weather in Beijing is getting warmer and I am able to explore the streets and alleys with the children and a map, me pushing them in the double stroller. This is an anomaly in Beijing, along with us being Americans. We receive many stares and smiles as we explore the areas around our apartment. With my trusty map, I am able to locate three grocery stores, Jenny Lou’s & April Gourmet, within walking distance, which caters to the expat community. I find Doritos, Heinz ketchup, cleaning products with American Labels (yeah), and for my son, his beloved green-salted chips (Lime Tostitos).
I also find a place for the children to play, FunDazzle, a cavernous indoor playground. FunDazzle has a huge two-story jungle gym, trampolines and the largest ball pit you will ever see! There is also a toddler area with small cars, swings, seesaws, and toy houses. My children want to go there every day. We finally receive our shipment from the United States. Now we can finally start really living! We spent Easter at a beautiful restaurant, The Orchard, with other expat friends. We all enjoyed a wonderful Easter brunch and the children enjoyed an Easter Egg hunt. We receive care packages from home from Grandma and Grandpa that are especially welcoming and comforting to the children.

The weather in Beijing is nice and we are able to play outside almost daily.
We continue our walks to familiarize ourselves with the city. My children make new friends as we get ready for the summer. We spent Mother’s Day weekend at the Grand Hyatt and the children had a grand time swimming in the amazing indoor pool done up like a tropical grotto complete with palm trees.
My husband continues to work amazingly long hours. We begin to pack and sort again as we are moving from one apartment to another in a different tower. The original apartment is above a nightclub. Each night beginning at 11 PM promptly, the bass starts to vibrate our floor until 3 AM. We are unable to sleep and functioning on fumes during the day. My husband travels to Shanghai on business for one week. We fill our time with playing outside and going for walks and to FunDazzle.
We are in our new apartment in a different tower, better we think, and happier and sleeping nicely through the night. It is the beginning of a long, hot summer. My children are thriving and making new friends. My husband travels to Shenzen on business and a colleague from the US brings a bag of goodies for us! We shopped at department stores and markets. We scoured and purchased over hundreds of DVDs and CDs. We went to Wangfujing Street (we did not partake in any of the local delicacies which include snake and scorpions and frogs legs-BLECK!), enjoyed American breakfasts at Grandma’s Kitchen and Steak and Eggs. I went to the local fruit and vegetable markets, a wet market, which is an open market for meat, fish, poultry, fruit and vegetables. I went and scoured fabric markets and took the children on a rickshaw ride. We visited the dirt market, Panjiayuan. Panjiayuan is the mother of all local markets. There are antiques, heirlooms and curios, furniture and almost everything in between. I continue my grocery shopping trips to Jenny Lou’s – oh, what I would have done without this store! I found the Kempenski Hotel, which had an amazing bakery! American pastries and donuts! We continue to receive our monthly care packages, a welcome treat!

We get a new driver this month that speaks even less English, but is much more professional and nicer. We make many new friends at East Gate and are enjoying shopping in the markets. We brave the sweltering heat and see a bit of Beijing. We enjoyed the hutong at Houhai Lake, the zoo and amusement parks that are so dilapidated, they would be shut down in 30 seconds in the United States. I join an expat East Gate mother’s group once a week and the children were making even more new friends. We attend friend’s birthday parties and visit new Chinese friends’ homes. We swim on the weekends at the Sino-Swiss Hotel in Shunyi, which is a wonderful time. I continue my weekly trips to Jenny Lou’s and the German butcher and the local wet market.

We saw Disney on Ice at the Worker’s Stadium, which the children loved! We celebrated Hubbie’s birthday at Hard Rock Café. We continue to go swimming at SinoSwiss Hotel and play weekly with our East Gate playgroup. My son loves to go to Chaoyang Park with my husband on the weekends. We take many bike rides through the city with the children. Hubbie continues to work crazy hours. We shop for Chinese furniture and antiques and trinkets. We shop some more at the markets for gifts for family and friends.

My son starts Pre-Kindergarten at  Academy, five mornings a week and he just loves it, coming home each day leaping with joy. My daughter is quite jealous and wants to attend school also! The locals are celebrating Moon Cake festival and we receive and give many moon cakes. We celebrate our daughter's second birthday with a pony party, with lots of ponies and horses and many friends. We attend more friends’ birthday parties, lots in September. We spend a particularly beautiful day scaling the Great Wall with the children. Go to the zoo one last time before fall to feed the elephants and giraffes. We spent one glorious day at The Great Wall, Mutianyu section. We rode a gondola up and down the mountain, the children loved this. This was a wonderful day and the children were great troopers, climbing most of the way themselves! We shop quickly because mu husband's contract has been cancelled and we are to return to the United States ASAP. I am devastated and not looking forward to packing, sorting and moving again. At the end of the month we fly to Hong Kong for a long weekend and go to Hong Kong Disney for the children. It was a wonderful time and we hope to go back someday. The children visited and dined with Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Goofy and Pluto, Chip and Dale, Buzz Lightyear, Sleeping Beauty, Mulan, Winnie the Pooh and Tigger too! We stayed at The Peninsula in Hong Kong after our stay at Disney and had high tea. What a joyful experience!! We did not get to see much of Hong Kong as the city was in the middle of a monsoon! We did, however, visit Toys-R-Us! A much-needed trip as the quality of toys in Beijing is awful! We flew back to Beijing for one day and repacked for our two-week trip to Phuket, Thailand.

We begin the month in Phuket, Thailand. One of our life experiences, for sure. Thailand is beautiful and the people are amazing. We had the best vacation of our lives thus far. We stayed at the Sheraton Grande Laguna in a Golf Villa. The villa was located along the lush fairways of the Laguna Phuket Golf Course, the two-story three-bedroom Golf Villas had spacious living area enhanced by a private garden terrace with Thai sala and swimming pool. Complimentary butter croissants were delivered to the villa in the morning and a complimentary full a la carte breakfast at Puccini Restaurant or full buffet at Birds of Paradise Restaurant or via room service was offered everyday. Each evening a Thai dessert was delivered (we did not care for these too much). The children thrived in the sun there and made a new friend with a baby elephant, Ning Nong, which was in residence at the hotel. My daughter rode Ning Nong every morning and absolutely would refuse to come down from her. She loved Ning Nong and by the end of the vacation had taken to calling her "My Ning Nong". We hung out at the beach in the morning then came back to the Villa pool and visited other pools, then lunch and my daughter to bed then more pool then beach, swim and dinner. Every day the same except when we went elephant trekking and sailboating to James Bond Island.  The service was incredible. Everyone is so happy here (especially my husband) and so smiley. Swimming, swimming, swimming at our villa pool(we had a pool with our villa-our very own) Walking on beach. Swimming in all the pools available throughout the Sheraton. At beach looking for shells, chasing the waves. Eating, room service and we even had a private chef cook for us on our last evening – absolute heaven! We bought our son a squirt gun and he had a ball. Our daughter would float around all the pools. We went to "sand pool" where they have water volleyball and kids can play in sand on the "shore" of the pool. Also went to Canal Village on the little barge-like lagoon boats that come and go every 20 minutes. Had coffee and ice cream galore and a wonderful spicy Thai dinner. By the Grande Villas, there is a little "private" area that is for the guests of the villas. It is right next to a little Puccini restaurant and every afternoon they bring out complimentary plates of fresh fruit and you can serve yourself iced tea, iced lemongrass water or fresh water. Every evening they serve complimentary hot hors d'oeuvres and tropical drinks. We went to another resort in the Laguna Beach area – the Laguna area has 5 resorts {Allamanda Laguna, Dusit Laguna Resort, Banyan Tree, Laguna Beach Resort, and Laguna Phuket Golf Club}. Laguna Beach Resort had a waterpark and waterslides, so the kids had a ball, we spent the day there. One evening we went into town to see the Chinese New Year Festival! So much food, fun and people! Much, too much for the children. We purchased two carved elephants to remind us of the baby elephant for the children and a Thai xylophone. We returned from Thailand to Beijing mid-October. In those three weeks, Beijing’s weather turned from stinking hot to cool, which was wonderful. We went to the Summer Palace and had a lovely day. A week later, an East Gate friend decided to organize a Trick or Treat celebration for our kids – with about 5 other moms involved (I bowed out as I was not feeling well-morning sickness had stuck me all day). What an absolute blast! It was truly the most, most fun for our children. My son and I made spooky theme cupcakes. My children dressed as Spiderman and a Ladybug (thank you Grandma). We attended a Halloween party at an East Gate friend’s apartment We had an absolute blast! I shopped and lunched and began my long round of farewells and special times with friends. We met with a tailor and had many leather and suede jackets custom made. My husband also had three suits made. We said goodbye to wonderful friends from England who were returning home. He also worked with my husband.

We were monumentally sad to be leaving Beijing and our apartment complex where we had made very special friends. Once again, I packed, and sorted, and packed and packed our things to ship back to the United States. My son was especially sad to leave the Academy where he was thriving and making loads of new friends from all over the world. We visited Tian’anmen Square
one last time and many markets for any last minute purchases. I took the children to Blue Zoo Beijing, an aquarium with an enormous coral reef tank containing eels, tuna, shark and stingrays. We joined my son's class on a school outing. We departed Beijing on November 19 very early in the morning. Many friends were waiting in the lobby for a very emotional, tearful goodbye! It was also sad to say goodbye to our driver, Mr. Sun, who was very fond of the children. My daughter had taken to calling him "My Sun". The flight to Tokyo was a dream; my daughter had adjusted to flying and slept the entire trip! We arrived back in Chicago on November 19 to a cold, dreary morning. Our home looked beautiful and clean and I forgot how much I loved it! My son was so ecstatic to be back at his house that he couldn’t even sleep, even though he had been awake the entire trip, almost a full 24 hours! I had planned to cook a traditional Thanksgiving feast for our new East Gate friends (none American), but we had departed earlier than anticipated. I left my friends with a recipe sheet and they were all determined to recreate it! My friends  coordinated and served up a massive traditional American Thanksgiving feast for the expat community at East Gate – not one American at the table. I was so proud of my friends and so sad to not be there! We all went to grandma’s house for Thanksgiving dinner back home in Chicago. My son slept through the entire dinner and my daughter was in an impressive mood induced by lack of sleep. I was stricken with morning sickness still and also in a coma due to lack of sleep. The dinner was a complete blur for us. We were all still on Beijing time. At the end of the month, my son began preschool. He misses Academy and does not like his new preschool here in the states. I am busy shopping for my empty pantry and fridge and closets. My children were in dire need of new clothes. All of us needed new socks as all the filthy floors ruined them in Beijing!

Hubbie is back to work. We are finally adjusting to the time zone. My son is beginning to enjoy school a bit. We are getting ready for a very low-key family Christmas. It is extremely cold here in Chicago, wind chill well below zero. My son celebrated his fifth birthday and we had many friends and family over to our house for a Spider Man party. Everyone welcomed us home and My son had a grand time with his cousins and friends! We visited Santa this year and I am happy to say that The Children were excited to let Santa know what they wanted this year. My son, a "girl Cindy". (A neighbor of ours in Beijing had a beautiful lab which my children became fast-friends with) my daughter just wanted more ponies! My son had his Christmas pageant at school, which he was none to happy about and quite upset that he had to participate. We finally came out of hiding so he could see us, and off he sprinted to daddy’s waiting arms! Towards the end of the month we played Christmas music and put up our massive tree and everyone decorated it and the children had a great time! Grandma and Grandpa spent the day with us on Christmas Eve and the kids had a very nice time. We went to church services in the evening. We had a wonderful, warm, quiet Christmas Day. My son was the first to wake and ran downstairs to see if Santa had found him. There was Santa tracks throughout the house and bites from the cookies we had left. My son tore through his presents, one after the other, having a blast. My daughter opened one and was completely bored with the entire process. My son was more than happy to assist her! My brother, and his son came down late afternoon for a quick, quiet visit. The chidlren had a wonderful time playing with all the new toys! We spent the last few days of 2005 in Tomah, WI at an indoor water park for the children. We celebrated New Year’s Eve there and our fifth wedding anniversary on January 2nd.
We miss Beijing and had an amazing experience living in China. We are glad to be back to normal daily life. Another year, minor changes in store, and we are all so looking forward to a fabulous 2006 and a new baby! My son is back in school (almost) most happily. The children are taking Art classes. My son begins T-Ball in January and Soccer in March. My son will attend school 5 mornings a week, next fall and hopefully My daughter will attend 3 mornings a week. We have had a wonderful start to the New Year and hope that 2006 brings us much contentment, new and wonderful challenges and, of course, lots of fun times.