On Thursday, a group from the Jia journeyed down to Downtown Disney (Disneyland) to see the Mandarin production of Beauty and the Beast at the Walt Disney Grand Theater. Right after classes we had a quick bite to eat (pizza) and headed to the metro station for a 45 min ride to Disneyland. Many of the male and female students got dressed up for this classy night out. It was fantastic. The music and costumes were amazing and the little boy that played "Chip" - just too cute. Thanks to the student life committee (with special thanks to Pamela) for setting up such a wonderful cultural event.
Three nights out of the week we have group dinners where all the students meet at a local restaurant for a meal together. Trying to find good food places that are not to far from the Jia and that accommodate such a large group can be difficult at times. Enter "Staff Dinner". On this night, students sign up to have dinner in a more intimate setting with a single staff member - Charlie, Gigi, Mona, and William. For our night we were privileged to have dinner with William. We started with a peach jello type drink with a core of taro root - delicious. Every other dish exceeded the first in taste and quality. Add to that great company, conversation and a coffee nightcap, and you end up with a perfect evening. William, thanks so much for your hospitality and friendship.
It was a busy last week at the Jia. Thanksgiving on Thursday. Talent Show on Friday. Service Day on Saturday. And we wrapped everything up with a Girls' Brunch on Sunday. Stella put together a special morning for all the girls here at the Jia including a quiz which had fun facts about each girl. There was coffee, food, roses, gifts, and lots of sentiment and emotion.
On the Saturday after Thanksgiving, the student service committee setup a Service Day for the Jia (thanks Amiyah for the planning and Madison for the snacks). Our project was to pick up trash at the beach. So at noon on Saturday, we boarded a bus for a 1.5 hour drive to the coastline south of Shanghai. We met up with about 150 Chinese university students and walked to the "beach" - no sand or umbrellas here. The area was a shoreline and a water-break which was packed with 50% bamboo and 50% trash. We represented Pepperdine well by taking a bluetooth speaker and playing Taylor Swift and other popular American artists for the crowd of workers while we all picked up trash. Everyone loved it. Some of the Chinese students even sang along with our students. The work effort lasted a few hours, then we headed back to the Jia. Thanks to the 6 students who volunteered their precious Saturday free time. Feels good to give back to the community where we live and work.
It can be difficult to celebrate your first Thanksgiving without your family, so the students put together their own Thanksgiving with their Jia family. Of course, China doesn't celebrate Thanksgiving, so the students don't really have any time off to celebrate. Classes were in session, with even a few tests (I believe) up through 5:15 PM. Our celebration started at 6:00 PM and consisted of a dinner feast in the Sunshine room followed by desserts in the Convo room. Despite a busy schedule, the students signed up to cook side dishes and desserts, and shared the ovens for cook time. Everything came together beautifully and although we weren't home, food-wise, it was pretty close. The evening capped off with the students writing cards of thanks to other students, expressing what about that other person they were thankful for. Great time. We are thankful to be here with these wonderful students and thankful that they chose to come (and their parents helped to send them).
Being half way across the world doesn't mean you can't see your family. A few students have had family members come visit them in China. Wow! Thanks to all of you for coming to add a bright spot to your student and the other students you have impacted from spending time with them. Thank you also for all the goodies you brought to the Jia (American food is always appreciated). I was able get a hold of a few pictures from their visit (after begging students for them). As a tribute to you the photos are posted below. Thanks for coming to our home away from home!
Our second travel break during the semester occurred from Nov. 15th to the 18th. We decided to get away on our own to Thailand. Our itinerary took us to Bangkok city for one night, and then to a beach front hotel in Phuket for two nights.
Bangkok is one interesting city. The first impression is very deceiving - it is very crowded with cars and scooters, it's hot and humid, and it looks primarily dirty and run down with some new clean elements spotted here and there. But the food and the people here are amazing. It is rare you come across anyone that is angry or yelling at anyone else, and the people are very polite and helpful to foreigners (our experience). Our itinerary was pretty relaxed: In Bangkok tour The Grand Palace and the Floating Market, and in Phuket... relax. We caught the water taxi (just like on the streets, you pay for boats to take you up/down the river) to the The Grand Palace. Very unique place, like a Disneyland for temples. n China, most temples derive their beauty from the architecture, sculpture, and the painting. Temples in Bangkok are also beautifully built, but then they are "bedazzled" with mirrors, glazed tiles, gold, and anything else that shines. There are a few monks around, but not many. If you go, make sure to have clothes that cover pretty much everything but your arms and head or you won't get in. We had to buy Stella some pants because her Capri pants where showing off too much calf. After a quick walk through the palace, we grabbed some fresh mango at a roadside stand (best we ever ate) then headed off to a Thai massage. It was hot, the metro (sky bus) was packed, we had to walk about 0.75 mi,. Upon arriving at the massage, we were miserable. But then the 1.5 hr massage. Ahhhhh... Just what we needed. So relaxing. Best ever. There is a reason the Thai people have massage places EVERYWHERE and may explain why the people are so calm and relaxed all the time. The next day we booked a tour to the Floating Market - you will never see anything like this. As you motor through canals you can buy item from people on shore or from people selling stuff in their boats as they float by you. What kinds of things? Anything! Food, drink, clothes, souvenirs, etc. We ate some interesting foods and enjoyed the beauty of the canals and the people, and we did a little shopping (haggling for a price is expected). Definitely a highlight of the trip. Then it was back to the airport for our flight to Phuket.
We arrived at night and woke in the morning to a beautiful view of the ocean through the pine trees surrounding the resort. Today was about relaxing which we did well. There was walking on the beach, swimming in the warm ocean water, massage by the hotel and finally a Thai dinner to cap off the night. Perfect day! Day 2 as a bit on the cloudy side, but still beautiful. We booked a boat tour of the Kai islands - tiny little spots of beauty planted in the Straits of Malacca. Back to the hotel and one final last minute massage for Stella then back to Shanghai. Great trip!
Oh and did I mention that in Thailand the exchange rate is about 35 bhat to one US dollar. A complete meal will only cost you about $8-10 per person ($1-2 if you eat from the street vendors), and a 1 hr massage on the beach of Phuket was about $10. Cheap vacation - oh yeah. You just have to get there!
We have been busy, busy, busy. There are lots of activities here in the Jia and we have our hands in most of them. In our spare time we have managed to do some traveling, but have not had an opportunity to post about our travels until now. On Dec. 9th through the 11th we traveled to Beijing. We offered to take students with us and 7 of them jumped on the Erbes bandwagon. After classes on Friday, we caught a ride on the bullet train from Shanghai to Beijing. Only 4.5 hours traveling at about 218 mph. Fast, quick and easy - like almost all the transportation here in China. The first obstacle was finding our hotel/apartment. Apple maps, Google maps, and even the booking website placed our hotel right in the center of what looked like a government facility. After about an hour of struggling with the locals to find our hotel, Stella managed to get a hotel worker on the phone and had her talk us through the route from the subway to the hotel. A bit stressful but we made it safe and sound. We finally headed out to dinner at about 9:00 PM. A 30 minute walk placed us at The Cheesecake Factory in the Wangfujing shopping district. We got in just before closing and feasted on some American comfort food. It was FANTASTIC!!! The portions were way beyond our ability to eat it all, so "dao-bao" (doggie-bags) for everyone. We then headed home for some rest before our next day's adventures. Andy (our tour guide) and his driver picked us up in the morning and took us on an amazing 2 day tour of Beijing. Our itinerary included: Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City, Peking Duck lunch, Mutianyu Great Wall, Olympic Venue, Temple of Heaven, Hutong Rickshaw ride w/lunch at a local's house. This was the way to go. Andy was a wealth of knowledge and took very good care of us along the way. If you are interested in booking a Bejing trip (or other nearby locations) contact us for his information and he will take good care of you. As you will see below, the sights were amazing and a great time was had by all. In addition to all the activities above, we rode a toboggan down from the top of the Great Wall and ate 31 Flavors ice cream, had a local artist paint our family name in Chinese to hang in our house, had a rickshaw driver "graze" some guy in a wheel chair during our tour through the Hutong, ate scorpions at Wangfujing Pedestrian Street (at least the kids did) and watched older people dance at night in front of a church. Yes, this is China.
We just finished our second long travel break of the semester. The students went all over the place... Hong Kong, Macau, South Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, etc. Good times were had by all and everyone made it back to the Jia safely. We are in our final push toward finals and the semester break. Below are some pictures the students shared with us.