Thursday, September 29, 2005

Last day of work

From the hand of Cara:
Its been a great 9 years doing a job I loved, but it is now time for something new. Today was my last day at Harris. wow

While I have been looking for a job in China, nothing is for sure yet, so it looks like I will have some time to explore the city, unpack, and, oh yeah, be with my husband!

I leave on Sunday. Time is a' tickin down

Thursday, September 22, 2005

The Quest for Taishan

Tonight Michael will be climbing aboard a train bound for Taishan, the most famous mountain in China. It is a seven-hour trip by train (leaves at 11:30 pm local time) and a cluster of language students are using "language immersion" as an excuse to escape to the Chinese countryside for two days. Fortunately, all students have "soft sleeper" tickets, which means that each student will get a small bunk/berth (stacked three high) in which to sleep. Michael's ticket actually announces that air conditioning is installed on this train, marking it as one of the "modern" trains.

Chinese tradition holds that Taishan is the source of divine authority bestowed upon China's emperors, and it was used by China's emperors as a pilgrimage for about two thousand years. Legend has it that anyone sturdy enough to climb to the top of Taishan (7,000 steps have been carved into the mountainface) will be rewarded with a lifespan of 100 years. Michael, unsurprisingly, has already planned out how he wants to spend his 100-year reward, and is working on ways to get Cara to make a trip to Taishan sometime soon.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

No blogging in China?

It turns out that blogger (the host of this site) as well as
geocities (the host of our other site) are both considered very very
dangerous and blocked by the Chinese governement. We are trying to
find a way around this, but it might make future updates a little
more difficult.

Its all referred to as 'the great firewall of china'

It turns out that you can post by emailing blogs to the account, so we will be able to post something at least :)

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Monday Night Football on Tuesday evenings!

Woo hoo! It turns out that one of the Japanese TV stations shows Monday Night Football as a rerun on Tuesday evenings. I'm actually watching a Redskins game right now!!!

(says Michael)

Monday, September 19, 2005


Now that the computer is set up, we can download pictures!

Here's the view from our place
The two doors you can see from the balcony lead into the two guest bedrooms. The nearest of those guest bedrooms has already been converted into an office/workout room and is where Michael is sitting as he sends out the pictures and email

Sunday, September 18, 2005

HHE in the house!

Our stuff arrived in China! Well, the stuff we had shipped from Virginia that is. The stuff that got packed from Florida is still on its way.
Michael accepted delivery Friday and is now unpacking.
Here is our office/home gym midway through setup

Saturday, September 17, 2005

And then there was one

Sheila (the youngest sister from the Sullivan side) came to Virginia to reclaim her car from Cara.
If you were counting, that means up until a few days ago Cara was in
possession of 3 cars. And while she likes to think that she exceeds at many
things, Cara can only drive a single car at a time.

Sheila and Cara explored DC, enjoyed some wonderful company, and imbibed a few drinks. They also managed to discovered a neat little Irish pub just a few miles from Cara's place. Between the two of them, they even managed to know all the words to the Irish drinking songs.
Well, they weren't really Irish songs
And maybe we recognized the choruses more so than the rest of the lyrics
But still, it was a fine time. And they had a decent Guinness pour, so it was all good.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Syphoning ain't what it use to be

The newest twist with the CR-V (which is being shipped to China) is that it is only suppose to have 1/3 tank of gas when the shippers come to pick it up at the house. The trick is that the car was bought from the dealer, driven home, and not driven since then (sort of) because it has no tags. So we are looking at a full tank here. Easy enough, we'll just siphon the sucker.

Got hose, got gas tank, got brand new knowledge right from the web, got advice from plenty of friends, got practice with the the water in the kitchen sink... and got a un- siphonable tank as it turns out. Can't even get the hose to the tank, let alone get the gas out, and we're talking 10 feet of hose here! The end wasn't even wet.

That's okay, just run the car until the gas is used. Of course, the Honda CR-V is a pretty darn efficient car and after idling for 4 hours with the air condition blowing full it did manage to almost use a little less than a quarter of a tank... well... maybe an 1/8th. Turns out you could idle this thing for days on a full tank of gas.

They took it anyway though

Thursday, September 15, 2005

More about our apartment

View from balcony:

Jianguomenwai Dajie (a major commercial thoroughfare that runs east-west through the heart of Beijing, and runs right across Tiananmen Square). Lots of pretty lights at night, with several very modern skyscrapers illuminating the evening haze of pollution. During days on which pollution is very low, off in the distance we can see the range of mountains that lace across the northwest corner of Beijing. Normally, however, pollution is such that it is not possible to see beyond a mile or two; everything else is lost in a pale fog.

The city officially has over 100 parks, though many of these parks are teeny little "green spaces" that offer little to Beijing residents. There are, however, some fairly impressive parks, several of which are associated with the ritualized lives of China's emperors back in the day. Some old, old trees in a few of those, and nearly all of them have classical Chinese bamboo architecture.

There are no visible waterways from our apartment, but the walk to the supermarket to the south of us crosses over a canal that cuts across central Beijing. It is chronically muddy, though, and there's no romance in walking by. There are some beautiful lakes elsewhere in the city, however, and they are well worth the trip.

To answer Kristi's question, Beijing's urban layout is unique among modern cities. Beijing has an unusual advantage for its city planners: if there is an established neighborhood right where it makes sense to build a highway, the central government simply issues an edict that the neighborhood is slated to be demolished and residents will have to move out. The government compensates residents, but it is important to note that protests will not stop the government from building that highway. As a result, Beijing has 5 concentric beltways (they are called "ring roads" here), with a sixth one being planned. Traffic flows aren't great, but they're no worse than Washington's traffic; the proliferation of ring roads and highways that act as spokes to connect the rings manage to make traffic bearable despite an urban population of some 20 million residents.

Tastes of China Part 2

From the palate of Michael
By the way, I do not recommend Hot Pepper Sprite. I'm not a Sprite fan in general, but I thought maybe the taste of hot peppers would save it. They do not. =)

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

More about our apartment

(just in case you missed it, Michael is in our apartment in China and Cara is in Virginia)

Michael says:
I'm sitting here enjoying the breeze. That's right, the breeze. I have the window in our bedroom open and another window over in the dining room open, creating a channel for a breeze to whisk through the entire apartment.

It is wonderful.

Being up on the 23rd floor we don't need screens to keep out insects, and each window is door-sized to allow us to step out onto the balconies that run the outside perimeter of the apartment.
Oooo, balconies sound cool! I wonder if we can put some herbs out there?
Or maybe some flowers? Is the pollution less at that height?
- asks Cara
Another cool feature that is fairly common here in Beijing: door stops have small magnets on them to hold doors fully open, therefore there is almost no risk of a door being blown shut accidentally. A simple and effective addition to door stops. =)

Yay magnets! Got to love those ingenious engineers. Whatever will they think of next!
- says Cara

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Shamrock what?

'So, uh..What's up with the name?'

Its simple really:
MichaelAndCara was already taken
CaraAndMichael had too many a's all squashed together
Last names just got too long
We're Jews
He's Irish
She is by marriage

There you go!

Monday, September 12, 2005


Cara got her tickets to fly to China today. She's leaving Oct 2nd in the morning and will be arriving in China Oct 3rd in the early afternoon.

Suddenly this moving thing seems a whole lot sooner than it did before.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Tags? Who needs tags?

So Michael and Cara bought a car to take to China to be used in some of their out of city exploring.

There was a bunch of things here about what nice but useless people work at the dealership. But it was just too darn negative, so it has been erased. Please pardon our momentary frustration
- The management)

The car is nice. Unfortunately it took about 2 months to get the title (that was going to mailed that week) from the dealership, so the car was still not shipped by the time the temporary tags had expired. Well, it wasn't being driven, so what's the harm?

It turns out that there was plenty of harm according to the nice police officer who left the ticket and the notice saying that if something wasn't done in the next 4 days, the whole thing was being towed.

uh... that's not cool

Kind of funny though considering the car is being picked up in 8 days. Now that is poor timing.

After some low key panicking, it was decided to drive the car to Cara's townhouse and park it in the garage where the townhouse owners park their vehicle.

Now, how should this troublesome little car be moved?

Should it be taken under the cover of darkness, late at night?
You mean when the cops are out cruising for drunks?
Maybe some plates from Sheila's California car could temporarily be moved to the CRV so it would seem okay.
Which means that if you happen to get pulled over, instead of a ticket you would get thrown in jail
Maybe it could be towed
Only costs $200
The options were endless and not particularly useful.

Finally it was decided upon. Nicola agreed to follow Cara to Cara's place, carefully driving behind her to block any view of the rear expired tag. In addition, they would make this mad attempt at 8pm on a Sunday, when no sane police man would be looking for anything out of the ordinary. Then the getaway car would be stashed in the garage - assuming the people who normally used it were able to find other parking.

The good news, it all went just fine. The car is moved, it is not being towed, it is being picked up Friday, and peace is restored.

If you are wondering about possible legal actions as a result of this posting, I just want to say that of course, this is just a work of fiction, and that no actual cars were harmed in the writing of this tale.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Parks in Beijing

Michael has been off looking for cool places to explore. He has found a few parks. You can check some of them out here.

Today Michael was in search of an unfortunate translation at Minzuyuan, Beijing's park honoring China's ethnic diversity. Minzu literally means "race," not ethnicity; for example, a Han person is still Han whether he grows up in Tibet or Beijing. Rumor had it that some fool translated "Minzuyuan" into English as "Racist Park."

Michael's comments from his brave new adventure:
The park was fairly impressive, even though nearly 50% was under construction. It's not a new park, but they're completely rebuilding it to get it ready for the Olympics. It will be fairly spectacular come 2008, I think. Wait 'till you see the photos I took. The place is huge. It's still fairly crude, but there are a lot of neat features to it: they've engineered the land to create simulacra of the terrain of each culture group, flowing from one to the next. Something like 56 different groups.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Bye bye Florida

Cara went back up to DC today. It was a good 9 years in Florida.
And to think, once upon a time DC looked like a big move....

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Pack out (take 2)

Cara's stuff was packed up and taken away by the movers today. It went surprisingly quickly, about 4 hours in total. It probably helped that about a third of the stuff was still in boxes from when Cara moved into Brents, 10 months ago. The mega size M'n'M's (how on earth are you suppose to spell that?) were a big hit with the movers.

(Some background from Cara:
For those of you not familiar with the back story, I took a field assignment in the greater DC area back in November of 2004. I had been living in Florida for the last 9 years. When it was time to head north, my buddy Brent graciously allowed me to move a whole bunch of stuff over to his place. When I came back to Florida for working home visits, I was able to visit my belongings. At the time, the plan was to have everything ready for when I came back to Florida, or maybe, just maybe, move everything up to DC.

If you re-read that last paragraph carefully, you will notice that moving to China was not part of the original plan.)

Cara has one more work day to go here in Florida and then heads back to DC. She is still planning on working till the end of September and then leaving for China on October 2nd.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Meeting more family

Cara had a chance to meet Vito and Noreen (Michael's uncle and aunt) today. What a great day!

You know life is good when you meet your new family and can't wait for them to meet your old family.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Tastes of China

From the palate of Michael:

Today's taste experiments:

Blueberry bubble gum: could be an acquired taste. First try was not encouraging, and I have no intention of trying it a second time in the near future.

"Icy Mint" Sprite: Nasty. I was unable to convince myself to finish it, and threw it out.

Corn Yogurt: Not bad, but not my preference, either. Imagine very thick, very sweet creamed corn. I don't care for creamed corn, by the way.

Red Bean and Chestnut Ice Cream: Not nearly as good as the purple yam ice cream from last week, but might be worth trying from a different dairy, as the ice cream itself seemed to be of an inferior grade. The purple yam stuff, if you can believe it, comes out of San Francisco.

Honey-flavor Colgate Toothpaste: Surprising. Pretty good, actually. Doesn't taste much like honey, but it's still pretty good.