One Week in Kyoto, Japan

After a great couple of days in Osaka, Ang and I took another short (15 minute) train ride to get to Kyoto. Kyoto is awesome. There is a great mix of new and classically old in this ancient city. We rented an Air BnB in Kyoto, which is basically somebody’s apartment that you rent out through this website. It was a slightly less expensive option compared to many hotels and even hostels, and it felt a little more like being at home as it was a fully furnished (although absolutely tiny) apartment. I loved it, and the owners were extremely helpful in leaving us all of the information that we would need to enjoy Kyoto.

After getting checked into our apartment, and having a Krispy Kreme doughnut and coffee, we wandered around Kyoto a little bit. We walked to the shopping arcade near the Gion district. There was a never-ending row of shops with a roof protecting it from rain. The first thing we found while wandering around was the ‘Ninja Restaurant‘. A good friend had made several obscure references to the Ninja Restaurant, and so I decided immediately that I had to go as we had stumbled upon it by complete accident. I did not realize that I was in for one of the larger disappointments of our trip. To be fair, I think there is a dinner show that you can go to, and maybe that is where the ninjas are, but our experience was in an interesting and creepy looking basement where I was expecting to be assaulted by fake ninjas a number of times. The wait staff was dressed up like ninjas, but that was the extent of our ninja interactions. I kept waiting for one to jump out and do something ninja-like, but that must only be available if you go to the show, which we did not. Instead we paid $80 for an all-you-can-eat-and-drink hot pot meal. The meal was good, but not $80 good. For that price, I really expected to have been struck by at least one ninja star.

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Hot pot at the ninja restaurant. Notice the lack of ninjas.

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Tokyo in Christmastime

The first thing that we did upon finishing our last day of school before our Christmas vacation was to throw our Christmas tree out onto the curb. It was a strange thing to do, especially since it was December 18th. We were about to leave on a three week trip to Japan, and so we bought our tree three weeks earlier than most so that we could enjoy it as long as possible. After that, and a good night’s rest, we took off for our three week trip to Japan.

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Our sad and dead Christmas tree, abandoned in the dead of night to avoid being seen.

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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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The Summer of 2015: Back in Iowa

After spending a week exploring Chengdu and Shanghai with Angela’s brother and sister-in-law, we flew back to where our hearts are:

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Iowa, USA! It is always such a pleasant feeling to exchange big city life with rural Iowa for a month. My dad met us at O’Hare, and took us home from there. It worked well, and probably saved us some time rather than trying to fly to Iowa from Chicago (although it cost my father some extra time…). We spent the first few days enjoying some of the things that we miss most about our home state. We will often talk with our friends about the meals that we have to eat while we are home. Below is Angela’s staple must-have, purchased from That Place near Marshalltown, Iowa.

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Visitors in Shanghai!

At the end of June, Jason and I had the pleasure of hosting my brother Jon and sister in-law Rachel in Shanghai. After spending a week in Beijing, Jon and Rachel flew in to Shanghai the day after our school let out. Before heading to Chengdu we fit as much in as we could as the weather was pleasant and the air quality was good.

On the day that they arrived, we took Jon and Rachel to our go-to tailor Tony and Helen at the local fake market that we frequent as they were interested in making some cheap tailored clothes.  On our way home, we stopped for lunch at a delicious Muslim pulled noodles restaurant near our metro stop (S. Shaanxi) on line 10. For less than 40RMB we ate some tasty hand pulled noodles.

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Sweet and Spicy Chengdu

Chendgu and Sichuan province are highly recommend in all of the China travel books, and with my family visiting we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit!   After a rare on time departure from Pudong we arrived in Chengdu late afternoon on Sunday.  Whenever arriving to a new place, I always try to arrange an airport pick up from the hotel.  Is this more expensive?  Yes!  Is it worth it?  Yes!  As a nervous traveler it’s less stressful to know that you’ll have a ride when you arrive!
We stayed at Mrs. Panda Hostel which was located right near the Li River and semi central Chengdu.  The price was decent and the rooms were more like hotel rooms than hostel!  The common area was very spacious and served beer and food!
Since we had all afternoon we decided to take the bus to the Wuhou Temple and Jinli Pedestrain Street. After exploring the temple and gardens we stopped for some snacks and overpriced beers before heading back to the hostel.  We had the option to get our ears cleaned by the locals but decided to pass.
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Mystery Foods
Since our hotel was near a university, the staff recommended a near by street with a variety of resturants.  We decided on one that had a picture menu so that we didn’t end up with something strange!  We ended up with standard Sichuan foods such as Mapo Tofu, green beans, egg plant, ribs, and some random cold meat dish.  All in all it was delicious!

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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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