Archive | April, 2010

Commune by the Great Wall

14 Apr

Me at The Great Wall.

About 4 million people visit the Great Wall of China each year.   This breaks down to around 11,500 visitors a day (taking into consideration days closed for holidays).   Naturally, I assumed that my first experience on the wall would feel a bit like the inside of a sardine can.  It could not have been more different.

During one of my first visits to China, Brett planned a weekend getaway for us at The Commune.   This resort like community, a private collection of contemporary villas designed by 12 Asian architects, is located about an hour and a half outside of Beijing. Situated on 8 square kilometers of private land in the Shuiguan Mountains, The Commune is built around an extremely remote portion of the man-made wonder that is The Great Wall.   Its unique location allowed me the opportunity to share my first visit to the wall with only one other person…Brett.  Albeit – a very sweaty Brett.

You see…after hiking several very hilly miles to the private entrance of the wall, we realized that we had left both of our wallets in the room, and we had no way to pay the 10 RMB entry fee.    (10 RMB is the equivalent of $1.47.)    Before I could even argue with him, Brett kissed me goodbye and took off in a dead sprint back to our room to get some Chinese Yuan (also called RMB). He returned less than 30 minutes later, soaking wet, with the tickets in hand.   Based on his speedy return, I knew that he had sprinted the entire way there and back just to be sure that I had plenty of time to explore the wall in the daylight.   It was incredibly sweat…I mean sweet of him.  Misspell intended.

Me with "My Very Big Deal" at The Great Wall

Me and My "Big Deal"

For guy friends of Brett’s reading this – try to control your gag reflex by taking a closer look at his Ron Burgundy inspired t-shirt. Clearly, the best choice for a once in a lifetime photo opportunity!

Beijing Tip:  Commune at The Great Wall managed by Kempinski

The View from Our Room

A Chinese Love Song Singer and a Hooker

12 Apr

Album Cover of Tai Yuan Long, Chinese Love Song Singer

Apparently being out on the town, with your significant other on your arm, is not a deterrent for the people of Beijing.  In fact, from my experience, I am beginning to believe that their aggressive nature lures them to the challenge.  I would like to share 2 of our favorite stories that happened within 1 week of each other.

The first incident occurred on St. Patrick’s Day at our favorite Irish Pub in town, Molly Malone’s.  It was absolutely packed (mostly due to the fact that the Guinness was flowing like wine…for FREE).  Brett and I were at a table about to order some food when a friend of mine from Hong Kong walked in.  I know – small world, right?  She was with a Chinaman. He quickly approached me, and introduced himself as a Chinese love song singer.  His English was very broken so the conversation was difficult, not to mention the fact that he had absolutely no interest in including Brett in the discussion (of which I am still fuzzy on the content).  We were able to get rid of him when the food arrived.  We had a few laughs and then we didn’t really think another thing of it.  The next day I received this hilarious text  message (verbatim):

“Hi Morgan.  Did not know that I write your name to be whether correct?  I was last night acquaintance’s Chinese love song singer.  My Chinese name pronunciation is Tai Yuan Long; you may call my English name TallOne.  You are very attractive, is very sexy, I like you, feels is infatuated very much.  Hoped that we have the very good relations.  Because perhaps we are acquainted with each other, may let your Chinese be getting better.  May let my English be getting better.  Will meet next time the present to you my phonograph record.  You from USA?   I am Cancer (the crab).  What is your constellation?”

First, I would like to thank my friend in Hong Kong for giving him my number.  Secondly, I am a Virgo.

Interior of Chocolate (i.e. hookerville)

A few nights later, it was my turn to be completely ignored.  We were having after dinner drinks with some friends at a pretty seedy bar called Chocolate.  I would NOT recommend it!  It was pretty clear that the majority of the women in the place were working girls (not the Melanie Griffith type). It was obvious that Brett and I were together – holding hands, arm in arm, etc; however this visibly did not matter.  Reluctantly I excused myself to the ladies room, which by the way, was covered in college bar gunk and had your typical hole in the ground Chinese toilet.  Needless to say, it was a lovely experience.

I couldn’t have been gone more than 2 minutes.  When I returned, Brett was engaged in work talk with our 2 friends, although someone else was desperately trying to join the group.  I watched and laughed from a few feet away for about 20 seconds as Brett continued to literally shake off the aggressive and pudgy hooker.  Then – I am not sure what happened.  As best I can tell, the Morgan that I know left my body to be replaced by a territorial hippo.  (I looked it up – they are the most territorial mammals according to many sources.)  I grabbed the little Chinese girl by the hand and pulled her away exclaiming, “Bùshì nǐ de”.  (Not yours in Chinese).  Classy…right?   Morgan reentered my body.  I looked over at Brett and our friends in utter humiliation, but Brett had the proudest smile on his face.  I am positive that Tammy Wynette would have been proud as well.

Beijing Tip:

Molly Malone’s Irish Pub

No.90, Jinbao Street

Dongcheng District


Tel: (+86) 010 010-65227258


Company Party

8 Apr

Brett and The King of PopI think most Americans would agree that the era of over the top company holiday parties is somewhat a thing of the past.  This is definitely NOT the case here in China!  In fact, the Year End NCGA (Brett’s company) party was one of the most fascinating events I have ever attended.

Our first clue that the soiree was not going to be a typical year end celebration came about 3 weeks prior to the event when Brett was approached by a few staff members and asked to participate in the company wide competition on the night of the party.  I mean – why pay for professional entertainment when the company has an abundance of employees more than willing to humiliate themselves for a laugh?  When Brett accepted the request for him to play the role of Michael Jackson as a part of the corporate team, I knew that I was in for a treat!

The competition proved to be far more intense than we expected.  Brett attended dance practice 3 to 4 times a week, props and costumes were purchased, and dress rehearsals were held.  When the night of the event finally arrived, I couldn’t wait to see “Mr. Jackson” up on the stage.

As a performer, Brett had to arrive many hours earlier  – so I had the unforgettable experience of walking into a room of over 900 extremely excited Chinese people all by my lonesome.  The celebration began almost immediately.  Wine and champagne were passed around and the “Gan Bei’s” commenced.  Gan Bei, the phrase used for toasting in China, literally means, “dry the cup”.  Honestly, I had never shot an entire flute of champagne before.  I would not recommend it.

After an hour or so of shooting drinks that should never be shot, everyone was seated and the show began.  Brett’s performance was legen…wait for it…dary!  He nailed it.  I literally could not take pictures fast enough.  They even won 3rd place (1st place went to an unbeatable group of men dressed as ladies in the Chinese version of a beauty pageant).

A 12-course sit down dinner was served after the show.  Well…it was 12 courses for the executives.  As best I could tell, the other 880 guests were eating some sort of simple rice dish.  I mean at least AIG had the decency to spend government bail out money on a gourmet meal for all of their employees, right?

The night ended with most everyone dancing on some sort of higher surface – a chair, a table, or the stage.  It was a fantastic night – made even more fantastic by the fact that I got to see Brett moon walk across a massive stage and that, once again, I got to be the only blonde in a room of almost 1000 people.

Beijing Tip: At the end of the Chinese calendar year, it is appropriate to give red envelopes with money inside to those who have helped you throughout the year: nannies, doormen, drivers, assistants, etc.  In fact, red envelopes are used for all monetary gifts given for weddings, graduations, and other celebratory events.

Easter Sunday sans Smocked Dresses and Pink Mary Janes

7 Apr

Pink Louboutin Mary Janes...for big girls!

Celebrating Easter in Beijing was quite interesting…to say the least!  For starters, it is somewhat difficult to successfully dye brown eggs.  Although, I suppose the real starter is celebrating one of the most important Christian holidays in a primarily non-Christian country.  It must be said; however, that there are over 125 million Christians living in China.   According to, there are just 159 million Christians in the USA.  Obviously the percentage of Christians in the States is much higher than that of China, but isn’t it exciting to see such growth in a nation that only recently began to permit churches that are not controlled by the Chinese government!

While there were vast differences, there were also many similarities.  For example – Brett was able to find Easter Lilies for me and some stores were even selling chocolate bunnies.  Of course the biggest similarity was the message of Easter – that He is risen indeed!

In full disclosure, I should admit that there were a few things about the church service that alarmed us.  For one, the welcome intro was done via video with a Wizard of Oz like voice narrating a message that sounded more like the end of the world than the beginning of an Easter service.  I was actually able to overlook this rather quickly though as I spanned the room (huge auditorium) and saw every different ethnicity one could imagine.  It was truly moving.

So even though I didn’t see a single little girl with goldilocks blonde curls wearing a smocked dress with pink mary janes, I did get to sing my favorite hymn “Because He Lives”, and Brett and I had a lovely champagne brunch at the Ritz complete with hand painted Easter Egg centerpieces.

Happy Easter!

Beijing Tip: Beijing International Christian Fellowship church offers services in a variety of languages at multiple locations around Beijing.  Visit the website for more information:

Please note that these are contemporary services.  I am currently researching more traditional church services, as that is really more my thing!

Sun Chips, Horseradish, and Cascade

2 Apr

I have always been told that it is the small things in life that make you the happiest.  Living in Beijing has confirmed this theory.

During my 3 trips to visit Brett in the fall, I confirmed that certain crucial items were available.  I mean…I do love this boy, but could I have moved if say…there was an absence of readily available Diet Coke?  Luckily for Brett, we will never have to know!

After a few weeks of living here permanently, I really started to notice a variety of missing or difficult to find items that I had grown accustomed to using on a weekly, if not daily basis.    Let’s see if any of you can relate to removing these items from your daily routine:

-Clorox bleach wipes (what is a girl to do?)

-Cayenne Pepper

-The big bag of Splenda used for cooking

-Black tights that fit someone weighing more than 95 pounds or 43.2 kilograms (oh yes -I am all metric now!)

-A Crock Pot

-Toothpaste that is not flavored like potpourri

-Aerosol hairspray (clearly a problem for any southern girl)

Many embarrassing tears later I did find a Crock Pot.  And, with the help of a friend, I located an amazing life saver…Jenny Lou’s International Market.  My first visit to the store was absolute bliss as the second I entered the door, I laid eyes on every flavor of Sun Chips in existence.  Granted, they are almost 7 USD a bag, but everyone deserves to splurge on her favorite chips once in a while, right?  I proceeded to the second floor  – more bliss – horseradish, liquid Cascade, and Honey Bunches of Oats.  I thought to myself; can life get any better than this?  And then it appeared…a lone can of aerosol hairspray.

2009 had many bumps in the road for me.  It was wonderful to be reminded that a simple, everyday grocery item could put such a huge smile on my face!

Beijing Tip: Jenny Lou’s has many locations around the city.  Visit the website to see all locations:

I have also recently had luck at the BHG Markets in the lower levels of Solena Mall and Sanlitun village.

Ni hao!

1 Apr

Okay….so I have been in Beijing since December 28th.  Today is April 1st, and this is my first entry.  I have quite a bit of catch up to do.  A lot has happened in the last 3 months, but I am  going to start with one of my favorite nights to date since my arrival – February 13th – New Year’s Eve in China.

Around the 1st of February, I began to notice that fireworks shops were popping up on every other street corner.  It reminded me of driving though Tennessee the week before July 4th.  What I didn’t initially realize is that these shops were not just selling your basic bottle rockets, sparklers, and poppers.  These little shanties were peddling top of the line, Macy’s Fourth of July Firework Extravaganza style fireworks to average Chinese citizens.

Almost 2 weeks passed and February 13th arrived.  Brett and I were enjoying our Saturday morning with a marathon of Top Chefs (downloaded on Apple TV) when we noticed very loud booms starting to go off.  It was sporadic at first; however, as the day progressed the booms became closer and closer together.  By nightfall the booms were a constant, and we fully realized what was happening.  The Year of the Tiger celebration was in full force.  Of the 8 large windows in our apartment, we could see about 4 firework displays from each one.  Yes – that’s around 32 firework displays going off at any given point!   I am crazy for fireworks so this was truly the most amazing display of pyrotechnics I had ever seen.   We watched for hours – toasting to the Tiger and to our new adventure.  By 3 AM (after 8 hours of fire in the sky perfection) we were out of champagne and ready for bed.

We foolishly set our alarm for the next morning, which proved to be completely unnecessary, as the booming fireworks continued through the night and for the next 2 weeks of Spring Festival.  Growing up in Murray with the Fabulous Freedom Fest, I thought that we had patriotism and pride in our country down to perfection….clearly the Ole’ US of A needs to step it up a notch!

or….HAPPY NEW YEAR in Chinese!

Beijing Tip:  A great spot for watching the official Beijing Fireworks Show is from China Bar on the 65th floor of the Park Hyatt Hotel.  Be sure to make a reservation at a table by the window.

Park Hyatt Beijing
2 Jianguomenwai Street, Chaoyang District
People’s Republic of China
Tel: +86 10 8567 1234

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