Sunday, February 12, 2017

2017 Week in Review Video

It's time for my favorite post of the year! You may have seen this TedTalk about the guy who compiled a 1 second video from every day of a year and made a video. We took that idea and made it our own. Using 2 second clips throughout each day of one "typical" week. This is our 3rd year doing this and it's not the exact same dates as the videos we did in 2016 and 2015. For those years, we used the 3rd week of January because there was nothing really going on and it seemed very "usual". In China, the 3rd week of January is kind of like the week leading up to Christmas-very festive in anticipation of the biggest holiday of the year. Then the following week was Lunar New Year. So we decided to push the project back to the first full week of February. You'll see that Lunar New Year goes on much longer than I was aware of. So when you see fireworks in the video, it's not that typical.

Here's what a typical week in Tianjin, China is like for us:

Saturday, February 11, 2017

3rd time's a charm at the Forbidden City

Another Must See in Beijing is the Forbidden City. We had attempted to go in the fall, but by the time we got there they were sold out for the day. They limit this attraction to 80,000 people per day. Noted!

We left earlier this time and got there right around opening time. Along with roughly 90,000 others. 

We waited in the security line and got in through the first gate but the tickets to actually get in the Forbidden City were sold out! Again! Jim mentioned something about the times he had been there with school groups and I said, "How did you get in the last time!?" He said it was with a guided group and they had pre-purchased the tickets.

 Tickets can be bought in advance?! When we got back to the hotel we asked the concierge-who did not speak English-about purchasing the tickets. It took an hour to communicate what we wanted and get the tickets. 
fortunately passport numbers matter more than names....Rarley, Farley, Grace, Roby and Aogostine
On our last day in Beijing we left early again and waited in the security line again. We held our breath as we checked the paper we had with the booking office and then we were in!

And this is why they only let in 80,000 visitors per day:

Grace is in there....

It was really interesting to see and I hope we can go back in the spring. There is a large garden within the walls that was beautiful in the freezing weather, but we couldn't stay long because it was that cold. 

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Staycation-The Great Wall of China

As we've said, it's easy to get from Tianjin to Beijing. With this week off, we decided to spend a few days up the road in Beijing. Jim has been to the Great Wall of China so many times, but the kids and I had never been. We were so excited! Jim contacted his guy and that guy set us up with our tour guide, Matthew. Matthew picked us up in a nice van and we were off. From the city, it's about a 2 hour drive to the Wall at Mutianyu (Badaling is closer, but more crowded). It was very, very cold outside but on the upside, the sky was completely clear.
Not as cold now with these new fuzzy hats
There are 3 options for getting up and down to the actual Great Wall: hiking, cable car or chairlift up and slide down (like an alpine slide). We took the cable car both ways (too cold for the slide, and hiking would take about an hour just to get to The Wall).

The trip exceeded expectations. Once we got on the wall, we started walking. There are several towers along the way. Some parts are hilly, and some are intensely steep. It was challenging at times, but just so interesting. We tried to hike to the top, but once we were there, Matthew pointed out that there one never really reaches the top here-more will keep appearing for miles. So we chose a reasonable time to turn around and go back.

Matthew said he gives tours to a lot of teachers at the International School of Beijing when they have family in town. On the way back from The Great Wall, he said that when the teachers tour with their families and friends, they always ask him to sing his army songs. He asked if we wanted to hear some. We said yes, but he was hesitant at first because August was sleeping and he said it is very loud and he was worried it would scare August. We said he'd be fine. It was loud! He did wake August, but he was fine. 

Friday, February 3, 2017

It's already New Year's Eve again

Saturday, January 29 was Chinese New Year. This is THE biggest holiday of the year in China, in fact, this is the biggest travel holiday in the world. We got a week and a day off from school, but since hundreds of millions of people are traveling this week flights were way more expensive and (by the time we went to book) the trains were sold out, so we decided to stay here.

New Year's Eve was Friday and we heard that the fireworks were going to be spectacular and everywhere, especially between 11:30pm and 1am. It's freezing during the day this time of year and I wasn't looking forward to standing outside in the middle of the night for an hour when it would be even colder, so we booked two rooms at the Tianjin Crowne Plaza. It's walking distance from our apartment. 

If you rank hotels by their bathtubs, and I do, you can see that this is a very nice hotel. For most of New Year's Eve day, the kids swam in the pool and watched Harry Potter, which was playing on tv. 

 Then we waited. Actually, fireworks had been going off all day, so we weren't waiting for that to start, we were just waiting for it to get dark so we could see them. We had a spectacular view from our room.

Just look at how many fireworks are going off:

Jim and Grace went outside to really feel and hear the fireworks:

For NYE, I don't think there are any formal fireworks displays. These are all just fireworks set off by regular people. That's right, you can have your own 4th of July professional-looking display in your driveway.  This is what all the streets looked like the next day:

Did you catch that? ANYONE can have their own Colorado-Rockies-baseball-4th-of-July-sized fireworks. Anyone. Even us! The fireworks are sold on every corner. We walked over to one on New Year's day night, when people were still setting off fireworks.

All we had to do was decide if we wanted the "Wealth" fireworks or the "Good Times" fireworks. We decided that good times were sure to follow if we got all the wealth, so we got the "Wealth" box. 

We were still very nervous about this being something that is actually allowed. I figured it was a don't-ask-don't-tell situation, but as we walked past the gate guard at our complex, he nodded and pointed to the place for us to set them off. They drain the ponds in Crystal City for the winter and earlier this week they had set out about 30 fire extinguishers in each pond as a subtle, this is where you can set off your one-fuse-60-fireworks-in-one-minute display.

Here's our video of our own, personal fireworks display (please ignore my screaming, I was very excited):