Friday, December 5, 2014

Thanksgiving in the Philippines

Thanks to the wonders of Facebook, Curtis and I spent this past Thanksgiving eating, drinking, singing, and reconnecting with oodles of his friends and family in the Philippines. 

It all started when Curtis found his old family friend, Aunty Luisa, on Facebook. Aunty Luisa and her husband, Uncle Caesar, actually live in Las Vegas, but spend part of each year in Tagaytay (pronounced Tah-GAI-tai), which is a mountain town just outside of Manila. Although Curtis hadn't seen her in over twenty years, she said we were welcome to stay with them if we ever visited the Philippines. 
Here is Curtis with Uncle Caesar, Aunty Luisa, and a delicious pineapple rum cocktail.

Now, Curtis was thrilled about this because he has been DETERMINED to visit the Philippines since we arrived on this side of the planet. He lived there for a couple of years when he was a kid, and he really wanted to reconnect with all the family who he hadn't seen in decades. Plus, I think he wanted to know if he remembered any Tagalog. He kinda sorta did in the "Hey-- that one word means UNDER!" kind of way. 
A couple pics from his time in the Philippines. Although Curtis and his brother Chris are only a year apart in age, Curtis was (and still is) about half Chris's size.

You know what really made things intriguing, though? A little message from Aunty Luisa inviting us to come for Thanksgiving and adding, "We are getting a fresh, live turkey!" Did she just mean "not frozen?" Surely she couldn't possibly mean...
Yup! That's what she meant! This guy arrived a couple days before Thanksgiving. This was the first and probably last time I will ever actually meet my Thanksgiving turkey. As far as turkeys go, he seemed nice.

Once we landed in Manila, it felt like the party never stopped. We were immediately taken to Curtis's cousin's home where we were warmly welcomed by his cousin's big family and treated to a delicious Filipino dinner.
Note the family resemblance between Curtis and his cousin Alan in the top right photo! Hairline twinsies! It was fun to learn more about Curtis's family history, and about his great-great grandfather who immigrated to the Philippines from China. It was also fun to have Curtis's model/actor relative, Albie CasiƱo, recreate his magazine-spread pose.

After that, we drove 1.5 hours to Tagaytay where we settled in, did some exploring, and of course, lots of eating.
Tagaytay has great restaurants and beautiful views of Taal Lake and Taal Volcano.

I cannot tell you how many other relatives and friends were also staying with Aunty Luisa and Uncle Caesar during the five days we were there. Judging by the number of towels hanging on the second floor balcony, I would say a whole heckuva lot.
Our favorite fellow house guests were Luisa and Caesar's son Alex, his wife Pau, and their 2.5 month old baby Lily, who made the trip all the way from Las Vegas! Check out the head of hair on that little cutie!

Every single night, a big group would hang out outside. Some of Curtis's relatives traveled a long way to say hello. Eventually they busted out the karaoke machine, and I ended up trying to fall asleep upstairs while listening to my husband singing "Hey, Jude" after having a few (too many) of those pineapple rum cocktails. 
Pictured on the left is Curtis with his Aunty Chelle and Aunty Cling Cling. Curtis was especially excited to see his Aunty Cling Cling since she helped raise him when he lived in the Philippines. He was also happy to meet some of her six children (top right).

Just for funzies, we spent one night in an area of Manila called Makati. It's known to be a cleaner, safer part of the city. Still, it was hard to ignore the armed guards everywhere, and the bag checks and metal detectors at every entrance to everything. I've often heard Manila has a teensy problem with kidnappings and murders. I distracted myself from thinking about that too much by simply eating everything in sight.
I loved the public transportation in the city-- "tricycles" were little carts that seemed to easily weave around the insane traffic (bottom middle), and "jeepneys" were elaborately decorated buses with open backs that people could jump in and out of (bottom left and right).

On Thanksgiving Day, all of the Philippines descended upon Aunty Luisa's house. The food was endless and delicious, because in addition to bringing in that live turkey (on a bus!), relatives and friends also brought a goat (A GOAT!), and freshly caught crab, shrimp, squid, fish, and all kinds of other treats.
I don't think I had ever had goat stew before, but it was tender and delicious. So were the fried scallops, marinated shrimp, and grilled squid. The sticky rice dipped in sugar was oh-so-tasty. Oh, and the extra fresh turkey? Ridiculously good.

Unfamiliar-yet-friendly faces arrived all day and night, and Curtis got to hear a lot of stories about his family. He also got to hear lots of people tell him that he's really thinned out from being a fat little kid. Is "thank you" a good response to that? We're still not sure.
Curtis with just a few of his friends and family.

The slogan of the Philippines is, "It's More Fun in the Philippines!" and I can definitely see why. Of the Asian countries I've visited (China, Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand), I can say that the people of the Philippines are the most extroverted of them all. The Spanish influence here is very evident in the language, food, culture, and physical features of the people. They love to laugh loudly. And eat enthusiastically. And sing soulfully. And thankfully for us, they love to show their visitors a really good time.  

Monday, November 3, 2014

Northern Thailand Vacay!

I recently decided that one of my favorite things about living in China is how easy it is to get the heck outta China.

A few weeks ago, Curtis and I agreed that we needed to take a breather from Beijing. I say "breather" because quite frankly, we needed to breathe. For several days in a row, the air quality here was deemed "hazardous" by the U.S. embassy, so it seemed like the most perfect time ever to escape to somewhere glorious (and non-toxic). After a quick Google flight search, off we went to Chiang Mai, Thailand! 

This was the view from the cab on the way to the airport. Beijing has taught me that my favorite kind of air is the invisible kind.

Our seven day getaway was mostly amazing, but as with most vacations, it included a few hiccups that I will briefly summarize here, lest you be too jealous of us having a mostly amazing trip.

1) We got a little bit burglarized. "How does one get a little bit burglarized?" you ask. Easy. We put a bunch of cash in our hotel safe (under the little carpet-y thing, no less!) and three days later, two of those cute hundred dollar bills went missing. Curtis knows because Curtis counted. Happily (and incredibly), the hotel owner happened to be around when Curtis went to complain, and he reimbursed us for the missing moola!

2) Our taxi to the airport never showed up. Looking back, maybe it was a sign that I should've stayed put in beautiful Chiang Mai? Whatever the case, we could only find a tuk-tuk to take us at the last minute. I would've taken a picture of how ridiculous we looked with all of our luggage crammed on top of us in the back of a tiny Thai tuk-tuk, but I was too busy making sure my bags and I wouldn't slide right out of the side as he sped through traffic and made quick turns. Good times!

Here you have a Thai tuk-tuk.

3) I dramatically fell down. At the end of what was a very long day, my knees basically failed to lock as I stepped out of our tour van while waving a pageant-style goodbye to everyone. So there I was, hugging the sidewalk while a van full of horrified fellow tour-goers (not to mention a horrified Curtis) gasped in unison. Thankfully, my natural reaction when I fall down is to laugh hysterically, which lets everyone immediately know that I am okay and maybe a little bit crazy. This is the third time I've dramatically fallen in my adult life, and since everything happens in threes, this obviously means I'm done with that and can now move on to doing other wonderfully embarrassing things in public.

Okay, now for all the stuff we LOVED about our vacation (you might as well get comfy, because there was a lot)...

Thai cooking class at Asia Scenic Cooking School
I knew we were in for a glorious day when our extremely animated cooking instructor (top right) introduced himself as, "Sexy A." After a grocery store stop and tour of the cooking school's organic garden, Sexy A taught us to cook everything from green papaya salad and spring rolls, to coconut chicken soup, curries, and desserts. He pranced around as we cooked, saying awesome things like, "If you cook more spicy, then you more sexy! How sexy are YOU?" (For the record, I am decidedly unsexy.)

Thai Mangos!!!!!
Mango with sticky rice might be my favorite thing to eat on the planet, and we ate it multiple times a day in Chiang Mai. The rice is sweetened and flavored with coconut milk, then coconut cream is poured over the whole thing. Sometimes they'll even throw in a side of mango ice cream for extra fun. Sexy A taught us how to make sticky rice, but said we may not find the correct kind of rice in our home countries. In that case, he helpfully instructed us to simply eat a mango, close our eyes, and pretend we are in Thailand.

Weekend Walking Streets (Night Markets)
In addition to having statues of cute Buddhist monks and colorful shoes with pom-poms on them, the weekend night markets of Chiang Mai are known to be THE place to bargain for pretty much anything you can think of. I wandered around for HOURS while Curtis opted to indulge in the sidewalk massages that were being offered on every block to weary travelers for $6 an hour.

Street Food
Chiang Mai is kind of a street food paradise. The little carts line the streets and night markets and make all sorts of delicious things for about $1-$2 a serving. As a result, we were forced to eat pretty much constantly throughout the day. I say, "forced" because everything was so freakin' tempting and scrumptious and we are only human after all.

The White Temple in Chiang Rai
If you've got a Buddhist temple laying around and you're wondering how to make it infinitely cooler, let me suggest that you make the whole thing white and shimmery. This temple symbolizes the purity of Buddha and all kinds of other stuff about escaping greed and other evils through Buddha's teachings. Mostly though, you just end up thinking that it looks like an amazing castle for the luckiest princess that ever did live. Note the "no smoking" sign on the right. I wants one.

Golden Triangle
The Golden Triangle is where Thailand meets Myanmar and Laos. We took a boat to Laos where we got to wander around for 30 minutes looking at great souvenirs like snake wine (bottom right) and white-people dolls dressed in ethnic clothing (bottom middle). Then we got to see the border to Myanmar where we witnessed a guy casually jump over two barbed wire fences to cross into Thailand for what our tour guide guessed was his daily crack-smuggling commute. I do not think that was a planned part of the tour, so we were quite lucky, indeed.

Karen Longneck Village
Originally from Myanmar, I later read that this tribe mainly exists in Thailand for the tourists. That makes a lot of sense since they seemed far more eager to slap rings on our necks and ribbons on our heads for pictures than they were to teach us about their culture. We also watched them weave scarves that they really wanted everyone to buy. So I did. Because buying scarves from women with long necks is a new thing I do.

Doi Suthep Temple
Located on Doi Suthep mountain, this Theravada Buddhist temple is said to have been founded in 1383. It's a very sacred site for many Thai people, which means you must try very hard not to drool as you stand there with your mouth open while admiring all the shiny golden-ness that's absolutely everywhere.

Overall, Curtis and I decided that we really love Thailand. We are definitely not alone in our love for this country. During our time there, we met sweet, interesting, quirky, and adventurous people from Malaysia, Canada, Korea, Germany, Finland, and Sweden. Everybody agreed that Thailand, and Chiang Mai in particular, is very lovable, indeed.

So... next time the air becomes unbreathable where you are, this would be a most excellent place to go!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Stuffing Our Faces In Shanghai

I admit it. I am 100% guilty of being a blog neglector lately.
Do I have a good excuse? Yes! I was eating, sleeping, and watching Netflix! Nope.
I do want to document how Curtis and I spent our very first wedding anniversary, though.
So that's what this here little post is gonna be about.

As I was saying, a few weeks ago, my marriage turned the big O-N-E.

Curtis and I really hadn't talked much about how we were going to celebrate even though this past year has given us lots to be happy about. I mean, in addition to getting hitched, we had a beautiful home built in KC and got to enjoy living there for a few months. Curtis totally healed from his broken ankle fiasco. And of course, we moved to China and have pretty successfully navigated all the crazy-weird-awesomeness that has come with THAT.

So yeah, I thought maybe a nice dinner was in order.

Then I got a text message.

It was sent by Curtis, who was sitting two feet away from me on the sofa at the time. It said that I should look inside my favorite decorative green teapot for a surprise.

Sitting inside the teapot were high-speed train tickets to Shanghai for the weekend. AND he booked us a room at a fabulous hotel... the kind where you get to pick what kind of pillow you want from a "bedding menu," and then sneaky elves leave chocolate on your selected pillow each evening when you're not there.

If I've said it once, I'll say it again: I am a good husband-chooser.

Since this was our second trip to Shanghai, we decided not to bother too much with sight-seeing, and instead focus on one of our shared passions: eating everything in sight.

The following photos document our shameless gluttony in all of its glory.
First stops: Yang's Dumplings for fried shrimp and pork soup dumplings, and Jia Jia's across the street for steamed versions with pork and crab. Here you can see Curtis demonstrating cautious dumpling-eating behavior since he overzealously dove in last time, only to have the hot soup squirt out and burn his nose.
No more risky dumpling eating for THAT guy.

We met up with my old college friend for a delicious dim sum lunch at Tang Court in the Langham Hotel. Poorly pictured here is a shrimp roll, turnip cakes, and slices of roasted pork belly. Not pictured at all because I was too busy pigging out were custard buns, spare rib soup, a cold mango puree dessert, and a whole lot of other dishes I somehow managed to stuff behind that stupid restrictive bow on my dress.

Goodfellas was a little gem of a restaurant I found on good ol' Tripadvisor. The lasagna (bottom left) isn't much to look at, but with layers of fresh pasta, cheese, cream sauce, and bolognese sauce, it was pretty much heaven in my mouth. Fantastically, they offered a complimentary digestif of limoncello (yum!) or sambuca (eewww.).

Calypso is a gorgeous restaurant with a chef who is so authentically Italian that I could not understand a word he said when I asked him what the soup of the day was, but it was still fun listening to him talk. Far and away, the shining star of the night was the Margherita Pizza. The crust was perfectly chewy and salty, and I coulda drank a vat of that red sauce with a straw. I don't know if I can ever eat at Pizza Hut again. (Just kidding, Pizza Hut. Nobody does a super supreme quite like you.)

When we occasionally looked up from shoveling food into our mouth-holes, Shanghai made sure to show us a few of the other beautiful and/or strange things it had to offer. Very notable were the bags of fruit juice that were being sold in IV bags for vampire wannabes (left middle), and the grown women wearing giant light-up bows on their heads (bottom middle).

So yeah-- it was a pretty great first anniversary. I'm already kinda looking forward to seeing what we'll be doing and where we'll be celebrating next year.

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Wild Side of The Great Wall

I spent most of yesterday huffing and puffing my way up a mountainside and through the wilderness, swatting away bugs (giant and teensy) that were incessantly buzzing in my ears and/or attempting to attack me, and trying not to think of all the slithery critters that were probably resting near the very overgrown path on which we were stomping. 

None of this was part of my plan. 

Our goal for the day was to see an unrestored, or "wild" section of The Great Wall. How beautiful and fascinating I thought it would be to see a part of The Wall that showed off the splendor of being 2300 years old; that wasn't filled with hoards of tourists and didn't look like it could've been built last week.

How hard could it be, right? We'd just hire a driver, pack some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and have a leisurely stroll and picnic lunch on the crumbling stones. It would be lovely


I didn't have a good feeling from the moment our driver dropped us off in a little village, gestured in a general direction, and said, "About twenty minutes that way." The Wall was absolutely no where in sight. 

But off we went with our pals, Rachael and Jerrod, wandering up the side of the mountain. 
We had no idea what the day would bring! Which is the only explanation for why everyone is smiling.

About twenty minutes in, our path was blocked by some tall bushes that were completely covered in thorns. Obviously we were going the wrong way. We did the only logical thing and turned around to head back to the car. Except we bumped into two young Brits, who insisted the right way was through the thorn bushes. They had been told by a Chinese guide to keep walking east, and that the trail to The Wall was "treacherous." 

Hmmm. Surely the translation was wrong. By "treacherous," the guide surely meant "relaxing" or perhaps "really easy." 


So through the thorn bushes we went. 
I could not save my torso from the angry wrath of the thorns, but I could save my arms. Rachael and Jerrod got pretty scratched up. Thankfully, the fur on Curtis's legs seemed to save him.
Which is why I'm now considering growing mine out.

As we climbed further up the path, the bugs would not leave us alone. Rachael walked right into a huge spider web, which probably enraged its inhabitant. Flying things wouldn't stop buzzing in our ears and swarming around our water bottles. When we put the bottles away, they started flying directly into our eyes. What I'm trying to say is that I'm pretty sure the crazy bugs were trying to drink the moisture off our eyeballs. I had to pick like, SIX thirsty bugs out of Curtis's eyes. That, my friends, is love. 

While all that was happening, I was also dripping in sweat and having a heckuva time catching my breath going uphill no matter how many little breaks I took. Apparently couch-sitting is not a good cardio workout. 
Jerrod and Rachael were always a bit ahead of us. You see, they are the kind of people who say things like, "When we climbed Mount Rainier..." whereas I say things more along the lines of, "Can I have some of your cheese?"

Oh and did I mention-- The Wall was still absolutely no where in sight. 

After hiking for well over an hour, I could feel the utter and complete hopelessness start to set in. I was ready to give up. Who cares about a stupid, old wall anyway??? And that's when I knew we had to be close-- because if there's one thing I know about life, it's that just when things seem totally hopeless is exactly when it all turns around for the better. (Usually. I mean, sometimes. Okay... once in a while.) 
Sure enough, about ten minutes later, Jerrod and Rachael yelled out, "It's The Wall!"

Holy cannoli. We were beside ourselves with joy. 
Synchronized jumping for a photo is a good way to document happiness.

Soon we were exploring and marveling at the rugged beauty of The Wild Wall, munching on our peanut butter and jellys, and sipping the wine that Rachael and Jerrod thoughtfully brought along. It was perfect.
Here you have six hard-earned photos of beauty.

And not even the very long snake skin dangling from a nearby tree could ruin it. 
Horrifying. Juuuuuust horrifying.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

White River Hike

I have been spending a lot of time hanging out on our couch lately.

It's not because of the air quality outside-- that's actually been surprisingly good. It has more to do with the fact that Curtis just signed us up for Hulu Plus (because seeing his wife be a productive human is clearly not of great importance to him). Also, we found out that some of our favorite restaurants will deliver FOR FREE. If you have never tried watching all The Mindy Project episodes in your pajamas while eating chicken ravioli and tiramisu from your favorite Italian place, I highly recommend it. That's good living right there.

Anyway, when some of our friends suggested we all go on a hike together, I knew it was time to give my couch some space and spend a day in the great outdoors. Time out for honesty: I am not a huge fan of being in nature. I mean, I like looking at it... in pictures and stuff. But mosquitoes are such party poopers. And when I see a random hole in the dirt, I'm always 87% sure that whatever's in it will probably try to kill me, or at the very least will not want to be my friend. Still, Curtis and I set our alarms for 6am this past Sunday so we could spend time with some very cool people in what turned out to be a gorgeous setting about two hours northeast of Beijing's city center.

As we began our nature trek, we noticed tons of locals hanging out in rafts on the White River. One of the downsides of living in such a populated country is that even when you try to get away from it all... you can't.
Fellow nature lovers. 

Not to worry though, because soon enough, the crowds thinned out, and we had all the highly questionable bridges and random goat herders to ourselves.
Not to reinforce negative perceptions, but if there's one thing I don't want to have "Made in China," it's a bridge. This one in particular rocked hard with each step we took and had large gaps between the wooden slats. If you love danger, this bridge is for you! 

Oh yeah-- there was also lots of beautifulness just sittin' around, waiting to be admired.
Note the pollution-free blue skies! This of course meant there was no pollution to protect us from the scorching hot sun. Curtis's sunscreen kept melting off his face and running into his eyes. By the end of the day we were all covered in a sticky film of dirt and about twelve layers of dried sweat.
But did I sleep well that night? Yes, yes I did. 

One of the "highlights" of the hike was having to walk through the river at four different spots. Our guides seemed to think this would be a treat. Note: My idea of an actual treat involves fun-sized candy bars or realizing there's enough wine left in the bottle to fill another glass.
Two things I learned from walking through the river four times are 1) wearing flip-flops is a very poor choice in situations of full-foot water submersion and 2) there are actually bugs that just walk around on shallow water all day and wait for you to spot them and scream.
Get a real job, bugs.

The true highlight of the trip was getting to hang out with this fun bunch, who we met on a day trip soon after moving to Beijing. If you've gotta be out in The Nature, this is a great group to be with.
The bottom left pic shows us in front of a "cave" we walked through at the end of the hike. If you think the rocks look fake and glued on, that's because they are. It was some sort of weird styrofoam and wood facade that resembled a grade school art project.
Why was it there? Because China. 

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Our First Houseguests!

It is much too quiet in our little Beijing condo since my mom and baby brother left after a whirlwind-y and super fun two-week visit. I LOVE that they came with Costco-sized packages of everything from my favorite granola bars to brownie brittle and macadamia nuts. If a zombie apocalypse ever happens, now would be a good time because we are STOCKED with snacks!

Anyway, it would be an understatement to say that an amazing time was had by all in Beijing, Xi'an, and Shanghai. We walked until our feet hurt, ate until our bellies bulged, and got lots of practice bargaining for souvenirs. I was also reminded daily of how totally hilarious my brother is, and how nice it is to have my sweet mom around who always carries snacks and hand sanitizer, and makes the most perfect cheese omelets for breakfast.

Lots and lots of great memories were made... here are a few of my favorite ones...

Climbing The Great Wall
We spent a glorious day eating salami and cheese sandwiches, hiking, and trying not to trip on the rebuilt Mutianyu section of That One Famous Wall. Mom was extremely hesitant and moderately terrified about tobogganing down when it was time to go... but she did it!!!
Yay, mom! 

Dining at Made in China for Beijing duck
Our perfectly cooked duck was carved table-side. Its skin was crisp and not at all greasy, while the meat was tender and flavorful. We wrapped pieces of it in a thin pancake with scallions, cucumber, and plum sauce. Best Chinese burrito ever. We also enjoyed their snowflake dumplings, named for the delicate pattern of fried crispiness they were served with.

ALL the touristy spots (It's so much more fun to go with family!)
No group selfie was left untaken during our visits to every tourist attraction from The Forbidden City to the Terra-cotta Warriors to Nanjing Road. It came in handy that Jon and I both have freakishly long arms. 

Happy hours!
To help him cope with long hours of shopping with his mom and big sis, Jon often suggested we take afternoon breaks for a foot massage or a cold, refreshing glass of alcohol.
He is full of excellent ideas, that one. 

Riding the levitating train
A new thing I learned is that there are trains that magnetically magically levitate. One such train, The Maglev, is the world's fastest commercial train, and will get you from Shanghai's Pudong airport to the city center in 8 minutes. (It would take a taxi about an hour.) Bonus: You can get green tea soft serve at the McDonald's just outside of where it drops you off. Mmm.

Enjoying the Shanghai skyline
We took a nighttime cruise down the Huangpu river for spectacular views of the Shanghai skyline. The most amazing thing of all? Every last one of those brightly lit skyscrapers was built within the past 30 years. 

The world's most delectable dumplings
Yang's Dumplings serves up a fried version of Shanghai's famous soup dumplings (xiao long bao), and they are mouth-wateringly scrumptious. I really cannot overstate how delicious these little suckers are. They're filled with pork, broth, topped with sesame seeds and scallions, and delivered piping hot and crisp on the bottom. They are what all other dumplings only wish they could be. 

Man oh man, there were so many other great moments on this trip (like the awesomely awkward time my brother laughed hysterically for the better part of an hour-long massage because he's so ticklish, and then said to his masseuse,"Do you know kung fu? Because your hands are really strong. It's kind of scary."). However, I realize this post is already waaay too long, so I'll just end it by saying, "Come back soon, mom and Jon! We loved having you here!" (Plus, we're already starting to run a little low on brownie brittle.)

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Adventures in Jinan

This past week, Curtis and I were invited by our friends, Jerrod and Rachael, to join them for a day trip to Jinan. We had never heard of Jinan, but we happily agreed to go... because everyone knows that if you say "no" to a day trip, there's a good chance that all you'll end up doing instead is watch an entire season of Cake Boss on Netflix.

So I've heard.

Turns out that Jinan is the capital of Shandong province, and is located about 250 miles south of Beijing. Apparently it is known throughout China as the "City of Springs." It has several beautiful parks filled with weeping willows that are built around lakes fed by natural spring water.
Lots of prettiness.

While we did spend the majority of our day wandering through these lovely parks and basking in all that nature-y goodness that we don't get a whole lot of in Beijing, there are other things that I will remember much more clearly from this day of adventure.

Here they are for your perusal:

1) Jerrod ordered this plate of silkworms for lunch.
Silkworms are the pupae of moths and not actually worms. Knowing this does not make it any less horrifying.

2) Curiosity trumped disgust, and I ate half of a silkworm. (Handy tip: If you ever decide to eat only half a silkworm, never ever look inside to see what's in the other half.)
Here is Curtis looking on lovingly as I eat my first silkworm. This is pretty much one of my favorite photos of all time.

4) An hour after eating the silkworms, Jerrod grew red welts all over his face and neck.
This is not Jerrod. This is Will Smith in the movie Hitch. But this maybe COULD HAVE been Jerrod if we didn't run into a pharmacy so he could get some Chinese meds to get his face under control.

5) This building:
Located in the city center, we couldn't help but notice that whoever built this enormous structure was clearly making up for something.

6) What would Sylvester Stallone look like as a giant Buddha?
Obviously, that's what the makers of this Buddha wanted to know. At one time, Jinan was the historical center of Buddhist culture for the whole province, so there are lots of Buddhas everywhere. This here is the only one we saw that resembled Sly.

7) Riding home in style after our eventful day.
They ran out of the cheap seats on the train home, so we ended up doing the 2-hour ride in first class, which was AMAZING. If you're ever wondering if you are in first class, just ask yourself these questions: 1) Am I wearing brand new house slippers that were just now given to me? 2) Could I comfortably get into a fetal position if I wanted to? 3) Are there free snacks? If you answered "YES!" to these questions, then CONGRATULATIONS! You are officially livin' it up, China-style.