Four Iowans Abroad

Angela and I recently hosted two very special guests. Angela’s mother Cindy and her grandmother Marjorie visited us for two weeks. It was awesome! They are both very laid back people, and were a pleasure to have around. It also gave Angela and I a chance to do a few things that we had not yet accomplished in and around Shanghai.
Arriving at the Airport!

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August/September 2015: Back in Shanghai

Angela and I are back in Shanghai and getting adjusted to being on a normal working person schedule. Although it would be great to be on vacation all of the time (and some of our relatives think that we indeed are), it is nice to be back into a routine. Angela has all new administrators, and is adjusting to a newly implemented schedule. I no longer teach any guitar classes, and get to teach just band without having to share the band room anymore. It is a tremendous relief for me to stay in the same room all day, every day, and get to teach band for every class. I am finding myself much more comfortable at the start of this year than in previous years. Angela is the lower school specials leader this year, and I am the 6th grade team leader. That means we are both extremely important people. Overall, it has been great getting back to our apartment and our life, and seeing all of our wonderful friends.

We recently did something that I have wanted to do for a very long time. It was our friend Juliet’s birthday, and for her birthday she wanted to go to a classy afternoon tea. Being an American, I have never been to afternoon tea as a meal or activity, so I was excited to try it. I was also excited that afternoon tea was going to take place at the Fairmont Peace Hotel. This is a really old, classy hotel on the Bund, and also home to the ‘Old Jazz Band’, which is Shanghai’s oldest jazz band. All of the members were in their 80’s, and had been playing together for many years. I have wanted to hear them play since we arrived in Shanghai.

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Angela and I enjoying our very first afternoon tea.

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Shanghai Weekend!

Wow what a crazy week of highs and lows!   First off, we have to give a huge THANK YOU to the Shanghai Bloggers and all the companies for the amazing goodie bag!  Fields (an online grocery store) was very creative and gave us product that related to our blog!  Can you guess what it was?   Corn!    So if you’re looking for a way to keep up with all the Shanghai bloggers, download the app! 11412154_10101096512362613_5782021768617926288_n (1)Besides the amazing party, I had my week of concerts.  It was stressful and exhausting but well worth it!  This year Sean and I did 2 mini-musicals for grade 4/5 and 2/3.  Both concerts went extremely well and the kids had  a blast!   The past 2 years have flown by, but I have to say Sean and I have done a pretty good job! Continue reading

Daily Life in Shanghai: The Not-So-Mundane

Angela recently agreed to share our blog on a website called Shanghai Bloggers. I was initially excited about the prospect of sharing our blog with a larger community, but then I felt a little bad about being a ‘seasonal blogger’. By this I mean we typically only post after we’ve taken an exotic vacation somewhere, and we have a lot of pictures that we need an excuse to share. This led me to the decision to write a post about our normal lives, which for the past few weeks have seen some interesting activities.

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Into the Heart of Beer Country: Qingdao, China

On April 30th, Angela and I made a pilgrimage with our good friends Andrea, John, Catherine, Ross and Juliet, into the heart of Chinese beer country. We traveled to Qingdao, which is the home to the Tsingtao Brewery, which to be honest was the main reason for us visiting. We had a three day weekend, and so decided to make a quick trip out of it. We arrived to a slightly rainy and cold Qingdao, and transported directly to our beautiful little hostel called the Wheat Hostel and got checked in. After we moved into our new accommodations, we decided that we should find a local Tsingtao before turning in. We had heard rumors that they served beer in plastic bags in Qingdao, and were hopeful to score one. Upon turning the corner outside of our hostel, we were greeted by a nice Chinese man who immediately asked us if we wanted some. Perfect!

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We soon found out that it seemed to be customary in Qingdao to try and pour beer with as much head as possible. However, the beer was delicious even still! We turned in soon after the above photo was captured.

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Xi’an, China: The Terra Cotta Army

Angela and I decided that for our Spring break, we should see some of China. We have seen embarrassingly little of the country that we are currently residents of, so we settled on a trip to the ancient capital city of Xi’an. I had a gig with my jazz band on Friday night, so we stayed up until around 1:00 AM the night before our 7:50 AM flight. It was a little bit of a bummer, but we made it to Xi’an, and to our very accommodating hostel called the Han Tang House. We had arranged a driver to pick us up from the hostel, but they never showed up. We managed to communicate with a cab driver and found our way. Once we arrived to our hostel, we took a nap! The room was pretty basic, but the bed was very comfortable.

After our nap, Angela and I headed to the Muslim Quarter of Xi’an. There is a large Muslim population, and a large area with many shops and food stalls, along with the Great Mosque of Xi’an.

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The Return to Paradise: Cebu, Philippines

 Angela and I have been reflecting on the fact that we are awfully spoiled. We were given a week of vacation in celebration of the Chinese New Year. We are in the year of the sheep. A group of 11 teachers and friends from my school, including myself and Angela, decided to take a trip together. We had done a similar trip last year in the Philippines, and had a wonderful time. Angela, being the booking whiz that she is, booked us at a beautiful place called The Granada Beach House, which I could not recommend highly enough.

We left our place of work at 3:30PM sharp, and traveled to the Pudong International Airport with our good UK friend, Jules. Our flight was delayed several hours immediately after we had made it through security. We were supposed to fly to Hong Kong, then to Manila, and then catch a flight to Cebu island. Due to the delay, we missed our flight out of Hong Kong and had to rebook for 7:50AM the next morning. We also knew that this would cause us to miss our flight to Cebu, so we had to totally rebook a different ticket. Angela and I decided that we have had such incredible luck so far in our many travels that we were due for some nonsense. Our track record is still pretty good. We spent a cold and delirious night on the floor of the Hong Kong airport while we waited for our 7:50 AM flight. Manila has a strange airport, with different terminals spread many miles apart from one another, so we were a little concerned about making our new flight, but it turned out we arrived and departed from the same terminal in Manila. That part was a breeze, and we arrived to our gate with time to spare to purchase some necessities not readily available in China, such as A&W root beer and Combos.

We arrived in Cebu City around 5:00PM, and met our friend Brian who had arrived just shortly before us. The four of us had booked a van to shuttle us to The Granada Beach House. The traffic was bad, so it took about four hours to reach the house. We arrived around 9:00PM, exhausted from our trip. It was hard to see much of the place in the night time, and we were ready for bed anyway. The friendly and very helpful owners Jacques and Keira greeted us upon arrival and fed us dinner. We passed out soon after.

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December 2014: The Motorcycle Adventures from Nha Trang to Hoi An.

After spending almost a week in Mui Ne, Angela and I headed to Nha Trang, Vietnam. We decided to take the bus, which had options of leaving at 1:30 PM or 1:30 AM. Angela wanted to take the AM bus, but I talked her out of it as that sounded like something that would make me grumpy.

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The bus had reclined seats in a little pod, so you had to kind of lay in them. I think it was supposed to be more comfortable, like a sleeper train. The pods were a little small, so I could not imagine sleeping a long time in them. That said, the 5 hour bus ride was pretty comfortable, and very cheap. I’d definitely do it again. Once we arrived in Nha Trang, our motorcycle guide, Mr. Nam, met us at the bus station. Mr. Nam owns the company called VietnamRider, which is a cut above all of the other Easy Rider tours available. We needed to send a suitcase that wouldn’t fit on the motorcycle ahead of us to Hoi An, so Mr. Nam agreed to meet us at the bus station to help us do this. We had not repacked yet, so we had to do this on the street right after we arrived in Nha Trang. It resulted in a few unnecessary items, and a few missing items, like sufficient underwear! After we sent our suitcase away, Mr. Nam took us across the street for some cheap and delicious Vietnamese food. We talked about the trip, and he showed us our route.

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Nha TrangDa LatBuon Ma ThuotKon TumKham DucHoi An Continue reading

December 2014: Ho Chi Minh to Mui Ne

Angela and I spent one week in Hanoi, Vietnam last February and loved it. As we were deciding where to explore during our Christmas holiday, Vietnam came up during each discussion. We finally decided that since we had seen some of the north, this time we would travel from the south to the north. We booked our tickets to Ho Chi Minh city and arrived on December 20th. Angela, being a booking whiz, had arranged for a car to pick us up from the airport and drop us at our accommodations called Long Hostel. Long Hostel was affordable and extremely helpful. The one thing that really stood out to me was how many bananas they give to you – for free! When we arrived, we had bananas. Every morning when we ate breakfast – we got a banana. When we were sitting in the common area waiting to book tours – we feasted like royalty on bananas.

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(And tea)

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Christmas in Mui Ne

After a fun night in Saigon, we headed to Mui Ne with our friends John and Catherine (aka the GKs)We had arranged a car through our resort to take us on the 4hr trip! The price wasn’t bad since we split it 2 ways but if you are looking for a cheap option, the bus is always better!

For the 1st three nights we decided to stay at a fancy resort! The resort was on the edge of town and far from the main strip. It did have a nice pool and beach front. However the drinks were overpriced and service medium. I guess we can’t handle fancy things! On Wednesday, we rented a scooter and explored the area! We stopped for coffee and later met up with the GKs for lunch. Since it was Christmas Eve, we planned to have dinner together at our resort later that night. After lunch we rent to the Forester Spa for massages. This place is great! It’s right on the beach and you can hear the waves as you get a massage. Jason and I both got relaxation massages. This was Jason’s first full body massage…lets just say he didn’t like it! After the massages I was feeling good so we decided to meet the GKs for drinks at Pogo. Pogo was also right on the beach and had big beds to lounge in by the water. We had some drinks and watched the sunset before headed to our place for Xmas eve dinner.

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