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Tag Archives: Photos

Houhai and the Paddle Boat Traffic Jam

11 Jun

Morgan and Brett at Houhai

After what felt like the longest and coldest winter of my life, I was ecstatic when spring finally sprung.  Brett and I could not get outside fast enough to soak up some Beijing rays (I believe it is actually called smog but beggars can’t be choosers, right?) and enjoy a cold Tsingdao (local beer) at a fun rooftop bar.

Many of our local and expat friends recommended a park area in the center of the city called Houhai, and we decided to give it a go. Unfortunately for my feet, the park was a “little” larger than we anticipated.  Nevertheless, it was my first opportunity of the season to sport a new pair of platform sandals, and I didn’t want to miss it.  Truthfully, the shoes were inappropriately high for a day at the park and even though my brain knew better…fashion overruled.

Traffic Jam View from Rooftop Restaurant

My good friend, Giant Festering Blister, showed up soon after our arrival.  Thankfully, Brett was a true gentleman and flagged down a rickshaw to take us around the area. We overpaid like total newbies, but sometimes it is just not worth the time to haggle over $1USD!  The ride around the park was actually quite charming and pleasant until the traffic jam.  That’s right…a rickshaw traffic jam.  Only in China can a rickshaw traffic jam exist.  Check out the crazy cluster in this photo.

Other than crazy Chinese rickshaw drivers, the area is entirely lovely.  Numerous cafes, bars, and boutiques surround the Houhai Lake which once served as the terminus of the old Beijing canal system.  We found a quaint rooftop spot overlooking a bridge where we could watch Chinese paddle boat mania.  Seriously, paddle boat traffic jams?  I really shouldn’t be surprised – human traffic jams exist here.  I swear there is no courtesy, right of way, or any semblance of order in any form of transportation in this country.  I am making a concerted effort to find this amusing rather than frustrating, but the fact is that our driver had to tell me to calm down after I shouted at an extremely rude cabbie two days ago.  This clearly demonstrates my lack of progress in the matter. I should also take this opportunity to openly reveal that I am a horrendous driver.  There is no judgement here – only amazement.

Paddle Boat Madness!!

The truth is – Houhai is a lovely spot to spend a sunny Beijing afternoon.  We will definitely go back.  I am not sure that we will ever have the desire to partake in the paddle boat madness, but we will definitely watch from afar with cold beverages in hand.  Bravo to those forward thinkers who turned this once low-rent part of town into a buzzing hotspot.

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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.

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