Friday, August 30, 2013

Yuelu Mountain and the Chinese Movie Theatre

We are starting to get the hang of some aspects of our life in China.  We just passed the one week mark and are pretty proud of ourselves for surviving this critical adjustment period.  Now, we only have 47 more weeks to go.  We seem to be picking up a handful of new words and phrases each day in Mandarin and will hopefully be able to get by even better a few months down the road.  Stacie is definitely studying the hardest.  She has a little notebook that she writes expressions in and then studies them throughout the day.  Then, she goes through the Chinese textbook at night after we put the kids in bed.  I wish I were as diligent as she is.  I usually just blog or watch tv (Netflix and Dish Network thanks to my brother, Eric), but I know that's not going to do much for my language skills. When the last season of Breaking Bad is over, I'll reassess my priorities.  Hopefully, I can find the time to do both.  We both have some apps on our phones that have proven to be critical.  One is called Hanping and it helps us translate English words into Pinyin and Simplified Chinese characters.  It also has a speaker icon that when pressed pronounces the word for you.  We also have Google Translate, which allows us to type English in full sentences and then translates them for you into Mandarin.  Stacie's phone (I'm not sure why mine doesn't) let's her say the sentence into the phone and it types the English text and translates it.  It's kind of a crutch for now, but we really pay attention to the words that we have looked up and try to learn them for next time.  The children are also doing well with their Chinese.  So far, they have had many opportunities to interact with people and to practice.  It certainly helps that we are quasi-celebrities here and can barely walk down the street without people coming up to us and wanting to take our picture and converse.  Even though we don't understand them very much, they are very kind and usually just tell us our children are beautiful or that we appear to be a very happy family.  We can recognize questions such as "Where are you from?" etc. and can reply that we are "Meiguo Ren" (Americans) and that yes, we do in fact have "Wu Ge Haizi" (five children). 

Today, we finally had the opportunity to climb Yuelu Mountain.  It is such a beautifully scenic spot and one of the more popular destinations in Changsha.  And, the entrance to the trail (more like a paved road) is only about 3 blocks from our apartment.  The mountain is so lush and green and has many different kinds of vegetation.  I knew Stacie would love this area and I was really looking forward to showing her this beautiful spot.  She's always been a nature girl and I knew the scenery would lift her spirits.  It's also good to get away from the honking horns and the constant threat of being run over by crazy drivers.  It was a much cooler day (high of 88 degrees) and we enjoyed our 2 1/2 hour trek up the mountain and back.  Lucy wanted to be carried most of the way, but the other kids did just great.  We went through about 9 water bottles in all.  The risk of dehydration is pretty good in this weather and we are trying to be careful.  When we reached the top, the view was tremendous.  We could see a large portion of the city of Changsha (which is just massive by the way), but we could also see spots of vegetation around the city.  It gave us a glimpse of what the terrain really looks like in our area and how things might appear had there not been so much urban development.  When we got home, we were just exhausted.  Luckily, we had cups of noodles (almost like our Ramen noodle cups in the United States).  We are becoming pros at boiling water to do our dishes, so making noodles was not a big stretch. 

Tonight, we were invited by my friend Ya Lun and a couple of her friends to the movies.  Ya Lun is the girl who was assigned to be my personal assistant last summer (I know that sounds weird to have a personal assistant).  She helped tutor me in Chinese and helped me to shop and get money from the bank when I needed it.  It was nice to introduce her to my family and to spend some time talking with her. We decided to go see Monsters University in 3D.  Last summer, I had the chance to see The Avengers and Men in Black 3 at the very  same Imax theatre and the movie was in English with Chinese subtitles at the bottom.  I found it annoying at first, but then I got used to it and was grateful to be able to watch these movies at all so far from home.  I assumed that this is what the kids would encounter when they went to Monsters University.  I even told Jeanie to expect some subtitles so that she wouldn't be surprised.  When we went into the theatre, the movie had already started because we were a little late.  We discovered that the movie was actually dubbed in Chinese.  Jeanie said "Daddy, you said this was going to be in English!"  I responded that she would just have to watch it anyway.  After about 10 minutes of getting used to Chinese voices for all these characters we know and love (the big void without John Goodman and Billy Crystal), we laughed and enjoyed ourselves immensely.  Ya Lun bought the kids popcorn (caramel since they don't have butter popcorn in China) and cokes.  Our kids don't drink caffeine, but it was one of those times we just said "the heck with it" and let them drink them anyway.  We worried they would be up all night, but I guess the Coke was no match for the exhaustion following the long hike up Yuelu Mountain.  Below are some pictures (and a couple of videos too) of our recent adventures.  The videos don't allow captions, but the first one is me filming a few seconds of the Chinese version of Monsters University.  The second video at the very bottom is the sound of the construction we have been dealing with at our apartment complex since we arrived.  I sure hope they are finished soon.  We lost our water for a few hours today, but it wasn't a big deal.


Annie and Jeanie having fun with Ya Lun and her friends at the movies.

Sully and Mike Wazowski ain't got nothin' on Jeanie.

We pretty much try a new snack every time we go to the store.  These are peanut crackers with seaweed flavor.  When they first hit your taste buds, you aren't sure, but then they become addictive.

One of about 75 rests we took on the way up Yuelu Mountain.

These girls wanted to take their picture with Stacie.  It's not often they see such an American beauty.

Stacie practicing her Chinese with these young girls.  I didn't hear all of their conversation, but I think the girl on the left is shocked at the amount of Chinese profanity that Stacie knows.

Here we are at the top of Yuelu.  We don't yet know how to ask someone to take our picture or we might have got the whole family in this one. 

Another great view of the city of Changsha from the top of the mountain. This was a surprisingly clear day.  It's usually a bit hazy from the pollution. 

What's all the fuss about here?  Oh yeah...a tiny caterpillar.

The television tower at the top of the mountain.  You can see this thing from all over Changsha.  Seems like a lot of work for one channel that doesn't have anything good on it.

More people wanting to take their picture with those famous Steins. 

I guess Annie's orthodontist has a little contest to see who can take their picture with one of Andertson Orthodontics' t-shirts from the farthest place on earth.  I'm not sure how anyone is going to beat her.  We are literally on the opposite side of the world.  Even the North Pole is probably closer to Utah than we are right now (although I'm not sure how to confirm this).

Lucy being carried up the mountain by her mommy.  On the left side of the photo is a representation of the most common attire for men during this crazy heat.  I know there's that expression "When in Rome...," but I'm not quite ready to show off my body yet.

Ezra has this look that says "Dad, I know this was an open bench, but this sleeping dude is making me a bit uncomfortable."

Base of the mountain.

Stacie chopping vegetables for us to cook for dinner.  We finally expanded our one kitchen tool operation (the rice steamer) and bought a frying pan.  We are going to saute tonight.

This is such hard work.  I first wash the food off the dishes in the regular Chinese tap water.  Then, I boil hot water in the kettle and pour it all over the dishes and stack them up to dry.  Then, I pour boiling water on the dish rag and wipe the countertops.  Sheesh.  I won't complain about helping load the dishwasher when we get home that's for sure.

Family dinner.

Yes, we still make the kids do chores.  They are hanging their own laundry up to dry in the sun room.

Lucy loves to shop. Can't you tell?  Oh, and more people staring at us again.

The secret to Lucy's happiness in China is Oreo cookies.

Ready to check out.

The sidewalk leading from our apartment to the university. 

This road leads from the grocery store back to our apartment.  We walk one more block straight and then left.


  1. This was a great blog. I felt like I was there with you. How excellent! I want to try to the seaweed peanuts. I also noticed they have donuts and your apartment looks pretty nice. Did it turn out that they counted the living area as a separate bedroom? I know you were concerned about that.
    I brought several colleagues into my office to show them Sully and Mike speaking Chinese. Excellent. I remember watching Ratatouille in Russian and marveling at the obviously high production values of the translation department at Disney/Pixar.
    I hate to ask but . . . any diarrhea yet with the kids? I hear most Americans experience that in the first weeks on a foreign trip. Tell Stacie and the kids that we love and miss them! I'd say "Wish you were here" but, truth is, I wish WE were THERE.

    1. No, they did not count the main living area as one of the bedrooms, so that was good. We did think it was funny that they decided Annie should have her own room and the others should be in one room. Then, they built bunk beds that we did not have the tools to take apart and move even if we wanted to move a set into Annie's room. So, she lucked out and she's quite happy about it too.

  2. Is the tap water really that filthy, or are you guys just playing safe? The mountain view is amazing. Good call on the cokes. You wouldn't want to offend your hosts.

    1. Well, I think we are being cautious, but I don't think overly cautious. The locals don't drink the water either if that tells you anything. I think they will wash their vegetables in it and say it's fine, but they don't drink the water to satisfy thirst. Also, the travel clinic in Cedar told us to absolutely not consume the water, so we are following those instructions. Here are the specific instructions from the American Center for Disease Control for traveling in China:

      Eat and drink safely

      Unclean food and water can cause travelers' diarrhea and other diseases. Reduce your risk by sticking to safe food and water habits.

      Food that is cooked and served hot
      Hard-cooked eggs
      Fruits and vegetables you have washed in clean water or peeled yourself
      Pasteurized dairy products

      Don't Eat

      Food served at room temperature
      Food from street vendors
      Raw or soft-cooked (runny) eggs
      Raw or undercooked (rare) meat or fish
      Unwashed or unpeeled raw fruits and vegetables
      Unpasteurized dairy products
      ”Bushmeat” (monkeys, bats, or other wild game)


      Bottled water that is sealed
      Water that has been disinfected
      Ice made with bottled or disinfected water
      Carbonated drinks
      Hot coffee or tea
      Pasteurized milk

      Don’t Drink

      Tap or well water
      Ice made with tap or well water
      Drinks made with tap or well water (such as reconstituted juice)
      Unpasteurized milk

      Take Medicine

      Talk with your doctor about taking prescription or over-the-counter drugs with you on your trip in case you get sick.

      Tap water is not drinkable in China, even in major cities. Bottled water is easily available.
      Information for travelers with children

      For infants, breastfeeding is the best way to prevent illnesses spread through food and water. For older children, make sure they carefully follow the food and water advice above.

      Diarrhea can be dangerous in small children because they become dehydrated quickly. Oral rehydration salts (ORS) packets are commonly available in developing countries. ORS should be used to prevent dehydration in children with diarrhea.

      Watch for symptoms of severe dehydration (fast pulse, deep breathing, sunken eyes, crying without tears, weight loss of 10% or more), and seek medical attention immediately if these develop.