Taoist Zhang Scenic Spot, Yi Xing, Jiangsu, China

bya Gabrielle at 1:40 AM

Here is my last video from my trip a few weeks ago.  On one of the three days that we were there, we hopped in van and were driven to another city, Yi Xing, which is about an hour away from Chang Xing.  Yi Xing is located in the Jiangsu province.

When we got there, I expected us to go to the ticket counter to buy tickets, but instead we just walked right in.  I am not sure if they already had tickets or it was because they weree retired.  People who are retired or a certain age can enter for free.  When we got to the gates, there was some exchange between my friends and the woman standing guard.  I could tell the woman was talking about me, but I don’t know exactly what she was saying and I didn’t ask.   Since I am not retired and I have not even passed the 30 mark(it is just around the corner, though – eek!), I am pretty sure the woman was saying that I needed a ticket.  The woman and my friends yelled back and forth for a minute and then we walked in.  I guess she was satisfied that I didn’t need a ticket.  Maybe she was told I was helping them out by teaching them English and that I should be allowed to come in for free.  I guess I will never know.

We were met by a guide and she walked us around, explaining what things were – in Chinese of course.  The importance of everything was lost on me.  She walked us around pretty quickly, so I had to move fast with my picture taking.  Yue Hua kept wondering off to take pictures of pretty things, and while everyone walked on without her, I stayed behind so she wouldn’t lose us.  There were a lot of people there that day, so because I stayed back, we both nearly lost our group.

The guide then walked us over to a cave entrance, and I had to be sure to hold on to Yue Hua’s arm.  The steps were mighty slippery.  I could just imagine her or one of the other people in my group tumbling to the bottom of the stairs.  I love going to caves in the summer time because they are so much cooler.  Yeah, they smell a little funny, but the cool, damp air is refreshing!  Walking through, someone told me that the cave was natural and had been around for a long, long time.  I was also told that the cave had been used in over 20 Chinese movies.  It wasn’t Carlsbad Caverns or anything, but it was nice.

The guide took us down another level where there were seats on either side of an open area.  It looked to me like they put on performances here.  I thought we were about to leave until I heard some music start to play.  I am not sure if our timing was just right or if there were finally enough people in the cave to put on the show.  My friends grabbed my arm and pushed me in front of some other Chinese people.  They wanted to make sure that I was able to see alright.  I wanted to tell them that I was taller than almost everyone there and that seeing wouldn’t be a problem, but I just kept my mouth shut – front row seats can be awesome.  Or they can lead to very strange experiences – I’ll link you to a video at the bottom to show you what I mean.  It has nothing to do with this day, though.

A few moments later, the action began. Two men came out, both dressed rather amusingly, and starting lip singing to a Chinese song I’ve never heard before.  You should at least watch the video until one of the guys pulls out a gun.  It’s pretty funny.  And remember, neither one of the guys are actually singing.  When I was watching them, I was impressed that they really looked like they were and a lot of their motions were dead on with the music.  I’m just guessing, but I don’t think it was their first time.  :)

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I posted about Phil’s experience at the Taiwanese Folk Village in Xiamen way back in July of 2008, but I figured I would post it here again.  I doubt I have the same reader base as I did back then.  So, just in case I have some newbies on board, it’s for you!  You can read the post about it here.

Phil was right about getting called up on stage, but had we sat in the back, I would have never gotten this video.  The quality sucks because Xiamen’s humid air crept into my camera and destroyed it.  You have no idea how happy I am that they didn’t drag me up there with him.

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Young at Heart

bya Gabrielle at 9:13 PM

I have yet to post any of the pictures from my trip to Chang Xing, but I have a few more videos I would like to share.

On the last day we were there, a group of us went to what I think was a temple or a garden or something like that.  I think it was a temple or a garden because I never actually went inside the gates.  My friends said that the tickets were 60 yuan.  I guess they thought that was too much because they decided to walk through a field that led to a path up the mountain behind the temple/garden thing instead.  The mountain, or maybe I should call it a large hill, was completely covered in bamboo.  The trail that we took was rather tame, but in a few spots, it helped to grab onto one of the bamboo trunks as you walked up.  I probably could have walked to the top in a hour or so, but my friends, being a little older than myself, took their nice sweet time.  I’m not complaining or anything.  I would much rather walk up a mountain slowly and enjoy it, than rush to the top and fall over dead.  Due to time constraints though, we never made it to the top of the mountain/large hill.

While we were walking up, everyone took the right fork in the path that led further up the mountain/large hill except Yue Hua, who took the lower left fork.  It seemed like the path my friends should have taken, so I was surprised when everyone but Yue Hua took the more challenging route.  Yue Hua had found something she wanted to take a picture of.  Like me, she loves taking pictures.  It doesn’t matter if it is a animal, bug, or a pretty leaf.  And she always points it out so that I can take a picture of it, too.

Now, before I tell you what Yue Hua did, let me tell you what we talked about the day before.

As we paddled down a man made river in a blow up boat, Yue Hua said to me, “People tell me that I am too old to do a lot of things like this.  I tell them, let me try.”

These words echoed in my mind as I stood up on the ridge looking down on her as she attempted to climb up to us.  Of course, she could have easily have walked back down to the fork in the road, but she wanted to try.  And try she did, but the side of the mountain proved a little too difficult for the 71 year old woman.  When I am 71 years old, I hope that I am as young at heart and as determined as she is.  I admire her a lot.

Here is the video of her attempting to the climb up to where we were standing.

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Chinese Story of the Afterlife

bya Gabrielle at 12:21 AM

The other weekend, I went with the people I teach on Friday mornings for two hours to a city called Chang Xing, located in the Zhejiang province.  It is about three hours away from Shanghai by bus.  Before we went, I was only told that were staying at a farm and going to sleep in the owner’s home.  When they said we were staying at a farm, I pictured big hogs, clucking chickens, cows that needed milking, and maybe a field of corn or some other vegetable.  Of course, I was picturing an American farm or a farm you would see in an American movie.  You would think by now, after living nearly 3 years in China, that I would paint Chinese images in my brain.  I mean, I’ve seen enough of it to get an idea of what to expect.  I guess I am just too American for my own good sometimes.  I imagined a lot of things before we got to Chang Xing, but I did not think I would be sleeping in the middle of bamboo forest and fields of tea bushes.    The owner’s home turned out to be a 4 story home and had about 4 bedrooms on each floor.  It wasn’t luxury or anything, but it was better than sleeping in hay with the hogs that I had briefly thought I would be sharing a bunk with.  Thankfully, I was spared the hogs, but I did get to experience another extremely hard bed.  I’ll never get used to them.  Never.

After breakfast one morning, a group of us went out to sit in the shade.  We sang You are my Sunshine several times and then Mr. Yang decided to share a story with us.  He actually told the story twice.  As he started to say it the second time, I asked him to stop so I could catch it on video.  He stopped, but he didn’t start back at the beginning.  He just stopped and then started where he left off.  I guess he didn’t fully understand me.  So, I missed the first sentence.  I remember what he said, though.

His story starts off like this – “There was an old man, and he told his son, ‘I think I am going to die son”.  The rest of it, if you turn your volume up, you should be able to hear.

I wanted very badly to say, “Jesus came back from the dead, what does that tell us about the afterlife?”, but I remind quiet.  I knew they wouldn’t understand my little joke.

I guess the morale of the story is that you shouldn’t fear death and that the afterlife isn’t that bad of a place after all.  I hope you enjoy Mr. Yang, and his little story.

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My Second 15 Minutes of Fame and a Proposal

bya Gabrielle at 2:08 PM

You are lucky if you get to experience one 15 minute of fame moment in your life.  If you get two, then the gods must be shinning down on you.  And if you get three, well, then you must be famous and it comes with the territory.  I guess the gods were shinning down on us in Linyi, because we were asked to participate in a second promotional commercial.  I am sure it helped that we made friends with my boss’s buddy, The General.  He liked us and thought we would do a good job showing off a new apartment complex in town.  I did find it interesting that he didn’t want us to tell my boss that he asked us to do it.  Since we couldn’t communicate very well, it was hard to figure out why exactly he didn’t want us to talk about it, but we think he was trying to say that if our boss knew then we wouldn’t get paid as much because our boss would take a cut.  This made me wonder what sort of cut my boss took when we volunteered for the hotel commercial.  We weren’t paid at all for that day, but we were paid in food and a free night at the hotel – which is just as good if you ask me.  Since our boss didn’t know about our second 15 minute of fame, we were both paid 500 yuan.  We only worked 4 hours, and it wasn’t hard work.  We just had to smile a lot and pretend we were a married couple checking out the apartment complex like we wanted to live there.  I think 500 yuan was very fair.

The day we filmed the commercial is a very special day for me because it is the day that Phil proposed. Some back story is needed.

Because our initial shoot at the hotel wasn’t perfect, we were asked to come back and do a few of the scenes over again.  It wasn’t because we didn’t do a good job.  Apparently, they didn’t like the fake flowers they used in one scene, how they served Phil first in another,  and finally, the way we were greeted at the entrance of the hotel or the lack thereof.  Since we had to go back and work another day, they offered another night at the hotel.  My birthday was coming up, so they said they would throw in a cake for me, too.  We asked for our stay at the hotel be on a different day than our shoot, so we wouldn’t have to get up early like last time and go to work.  We weren’t able to enjoy much of our last time at the hotel because we worked all day, I had a headache, and we didn’t make it to bed until well  after midnight.  We had to be awake and downstairs by 8 in order to get back to the University on time.

Well, anyway, it was at this make-up shoot that we were invited to participate in the second promotional commercial.  When they first pitched the idea to us, we were a bit skeptical because they weren’t doing a very good job explaining it to us.  We didn’t even know that it was another commercial like thing until we showed up for it.  We thought we were going to have to pretend we were French, again, and get trashed on red wine.  That’s another story all together.  They told us it would only take a few hours the next day(after our make-up shoot), and then we could come back to the hotel and rest.

After our make-up shoot, we came home and I took a shower.  I took off my fake engagement ring like I always do, and laid it on the bedside table.  When I came out, I put all my rings and watch on, or so I thought, and hopped into bed.  The next morning we got up, hurriedly got dressed, and ran downstairs to meet our driver.

As we were walking out, Phil says to me, “Did I do something to make you mad?”

“No,” I said.  “Why?”

“Where is you ring?”

I looked down, expecting to see my ring where I always have it, but like Phil said, it wasn’t there.  I started to freak out.  We had a few minutes to spare, so I ran back into the room and started searching for it.  I looked everywhere.  I even had Phil look for it.  I was definitely freaking out at this point. I hate it when I lose things, even fake engagement rings.

“Did you take it?”  I asked.

“No,” Phil said.  “Don’t worry, we’ll find it later.”  Looking back on it, Phil seemed a little too okay with the fact that my ring just vanished out of no where.  I even at one point thought that in my sleep I took it off and threw it across the room or something.  It wouldn’t be the first time I did something like that.  Running out of time, I just had to deal with the fact that I would have to wait to find it.  All day I touched my hand and worried about it.

I think they did a better job with my makeup this time.

While we were at the apartment complex and waiting to film our next scene, my dad calls to say hi.  It seemed normal.  I told him how things were going and then we went back to smiling and pretending we were shopping for a place to live.

Four hours later, we had a great lunch, and then we were taken back to our place so we could get ready and go to the hotel.  I looked again for my ring, but I wasn’t able to find it.  At this point, I was pretty sure it was gone.  I told Phil that he would just have to buy me a new one, and this time a real one, and then we left for the hotel.

We got to the hotel and settled in.  While Phil ran down to try and find a store that sold some snacks, I enjoyed a wonderful bath.  The water wasn’t exactly clear, but it felt good.  When Phil got back, we flipped on The Social Network and watched it for awhile until we started getting hungry.  At this point we noticed that our room was slowly getting warmer.  We had the AC on, but every few minutes the illuminated number would go up by one.  Phil said I should call room service, but I didn’t want to.  I jokingly said I would call room service when he put a ring on my finger.  We eyed the room service menu for some good food, but decided to go down to the Italian restaurant that we had been meaning to eat at for a long time.

Right before we left there was a knock at door.  Like promised, my birthday cake was delivered.  We shoved it in the tiny in-room refrigerator, and then took off for yummy Italian food.

I’m not usually a big fan of Chinese cake, but this one was pretty good.

With the unexpected 1000 yuan lining our pockets, we decided to splurge a little bit.  Phil got a few shots of Tequila.  We picked out a few more things off the menu than we normally would to start us off, and then completed our meal with one awesome pizza.    As we were eating the pizza, our waiter, the same guy who brought my birthday cake to the room, brought over a complimentary Tiramisu with Happy Birthday written in chocolate on the plate.  I thought it was very nice.

The people at the hotel were so nice.  The staff was truly awesome in every way.

Before I could take a bite, Phil says to me, “I talked to the front desk about your ring.”

I perked up.  The reason he said this is because Phil told me that maybe I lost it at the hotel the day before and I just didn’t notice it.  But I swore that I took it off before my shower the night before, and that was the last time I remembered it.

“Did they find it?”

“No.”  I sunk in my chair.  “But they did find something.”  My mind went through all the possible things that they could have found that belonged to me, but I couldn’t think of what it could be.  I watched as Phil reached into his jacket pocked and pulled out a little red box.  “They found my heart,” he said, and dropped to one knee.  “Gabrielle, will you marry me?”

I don’t know how long I stared at him, my mouth hanging open.  My eyes teared up a little.  After waiting 8 years, I never thought this day would come.  I remember thinking at the time that I better say yes quick, or Phil might think I was going to say no.  I finally go my mouth to work.   “Of course, I will!”

I stared at my hand for nearly a week straight.  It shines so bright, even in a dim room.

Phil probably won’t admit to this, but he got a little teary eyed, too.

The few people that were in the restaurant, mainly just the staff, all started clapping, and Phil and I hugged.  I sat back down, my hands shaking a little and said, “I don’t think I can eat anymore.”  I was too happy to eat anything.

Phil then told me the story of my fake engagement ring.   When I was in the shower, he took it and pocketed it.  He was a little amazed that I didn’t notice it was missing when I put all my other rings and watch on.  I guess I just thought I put it on because that is what I always do after a shower.  If it had been my watch, I think I would have noticed.  Or maybe not.  I don’t know. The reason my dad called was to see if Phil had asked yet.  I was glad to find out that Phil did the proper thing and asked permission.  And as it turned out, I had to call room service to see if they could fix the AC problem.

So in the video below, I am not pretending to be married, I was just practicing.  :)  Enjoy!

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Ten on Friday: Movie Edition

bya Gabrielle at 11:02 PM

I saw this on my friend’s blog, and decided I would take my turn.  He borrowed it from another blog, too.  Seems there is a lot of sharing going on right now.  I didn’t know what to title this post, so I just followed their example – except they each called their’s Ten on Tuesday: Movie Edition.  Since today is Friday – Friday the 13th, to be exact –  I didn’t think it would make a lot of since calling it by that name. Well, anyway, moving on – enjoy!

1.  If you could watch only one movie for the rest of your life, what would it be?

This is tough.  I have a lot of favorite movies.  Some are funny, others are sad,  a few are even lovey-dovey, but I guess it only makes sense to pick A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984).  I’ve already seen the movie a billion times, but I figure a billion times more won’t hurt.  Even though it scared the crap out of me as a kid, no thanks to my big mean brothers, it has become one of my favorite movies.  I know it isn’t the best movie in the world, and it sure as heck didn’t win an Oscar or a Golden Globe – what horror movie ever does – but I’ve always enjoyed watching it as a stand alone movie or a part of back-to-back  A Nightmare on Elm Street movie marathon.  And I find it impressive that after all these years, I still dream about Freddy.  He just won’t leave my friends and family alone!  One of these day, I will best him in my dreams!  The movie also got me really interested in the horror genre.  Thanks to that, I took a class in college that I otherwise never would have taken.  Thank you, Bill Cooke, for the most awesome 100 Years of Horror!

2.  Let’s say someone wrote a screenplay about you; what actor/actress would you choose to play you and why?

Hrm.  This is another tough one, but I guess I’ll go with Rachel McAdams.  She’s pretty.  She’s been in a lot of good movies, and overall, I think she’s a good actress.  I don’t think she looks much like me, unless you count that she occasionally has brown hair.  This isn’t part of the question, but I would have Cillian Murphy play Phil.  If I can’t have Cillian Murphy in real life, at least an actress pretending to be me can.  Don’t worry, Phil.  I still love you.

3.  What’s the first movie you remember seeing in theaters?

Oh, God.  Let me rack my brain . . . Okay, I’ve racked away, and the earliest movie I can actually remember seeing in the theaters is Batman, but I can’t remember which one I am remembering.  Does that count?  I mean, I think I’m remembering the one released in 1989.  I am pretty sure it is that one because I remember it was a family affair.  Batman came out in June of 1989 and at the time, I was still living in New Mexico. My mom and I hadn’t moved to South Carolina yet.  Now if the question was what is the first movie I ever saw even though I don’t remember a minute of it, well, that would be easy.  I know because my mother wrote it down in my baby calendar, along with all the times I fell or was injured.  The first movie I ever saw was Chariots of Fire.  I never seen it as an adult, though.  Maybe I should.

4. Did you ever make out at the back of a movie theater in middle school/high school?

I used to think I had a pretty good memory, but these questions are proving otherwise.  I am going to say no, because I honestly can’t remember.  I suppose it is possible.  The only person I can clearly remember making out with in a theater is Phil and that was in college.  If you know me, and we dated, and at some point we made-out in the back of the movie theater sometime in high school, and you are offended that I can’t remember, I’m sorry.  My brain just isn’t what it used to be.  If by chance you are reading this and you remember, well, don’t be shy – remind me!

5. Are you a Netflix-er, Blockbuster-er or a Redbox-er? (Or none of the above?)

Once upon a time I used Netflix.  It was convenient and cheap – I liked it.  My brother was probably mad at me, because he works for Blockbuster and would have liked it had I used their service.  Now that I am living in China, the only thing I use is the internet, and it’s beautiful.  I can get my hands on just about every movie and TV show that I can think of, and I don’t have to wait for it to be released on DVD.  The only downside to that is that if it is a new movie, the quality sucks, but if I wait it out – it’s just like getting it from Netflix or Blockbuster.

6. Name one actor/actress who you would give anything to have a dinner date with.

Going back to question #2, I would choose to have dinner with Cillian Murphy.  He makes me drool.  At dinner, I would probably slip something into his drink and drag him back to my place.  I’d never ever let him go, not even if Phil threatened to divorce my happy ass.  My fascination with him began when I first saw him in 28 Days Later.  It was love at first sight – him laying butt ass naked on the hospital bed.  I think I even cheered in the theater and thanked the British for not being afraid of showing of a man below the waist.  Phil thinks I am crazy.  He says Cillian is awkward looking and that I tend to like weird looking guys.  I asked him. “Does that mean you are weird looking, too?”

7. What’s the worst movie you’ve ever seen?

Thanks to Phil, I can say Gymkata(1985). Do yourself a favor and don’t put it in your Netflix/Blockbuster queue.

8. Do you sneak snacks into the theater when you go?

It depends.  I have in the past, but sometimes I hate trying to hide my stash.  When you have a small purse or little to no pockets, it makes bringing in stuff without being caught difficult – not that I ever have.  What happens if you do get caught?  Do they kick you out or make you throw it away?

9. Movie theater popcorn: love or hate it?

Extra butter, please!

10. What is the all-time best Disney movie in your opinion?

This one is easy.  Hands down, my favorite Disney movie is Sleeping Beauty.  I always wanted a Prince Phillip.  I had to wait awhile, and he isn’t exactly royalty, but his name is Phillip.  Maybe I’ll get lucky, and Phil will find out he is the next in line for a throne somewhere.  Now that would be sweet!

Bonus question: What is your favorite chick flick?

I’m not sure if it falls under “chick flick” completely, but I really enjoy the movie Legends of the Fall(1994). It’s sorta like a chick flick – it’s got romance and love and what not, but it also has war and other manly themes.  Every time I watch it, it makes me cry – so I guess it has be somewhat of a chick flick.

I should have never reminded Phil of Gymkata. He just made me look for and download it because his copy is crap.  I’m afraid my computer might blow up because it truly is that bad.  If you watch even five minutes of that wretched movie, I want you to remember that I warned you!


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Sexually Explicit Eggplant

bya Gabrielle at 12:09 AM

Looking through Phil’s old iphone pictures, I stumbled upon a memorable eggplant.  We found this guy in the Peach Blossoms grocery store in Linyi, Shandong, China.  It made me giggle.  Yeah, I’m a perv.  Shoot me.  You would have giggled, too.  Don’t lie.  You are probably giggling right now.  And I wont’ mention any egghead jokes, if you won’t.  Oops . . .  I guess I already did.

Maybe the eggplant should hook up with the rather strange sweet potato I found at Wal-Mart in Columbia.  With a little love and some dirty fertilizer action, they’d be having some beautiful Eggtatos in no time.  I’d buy it.

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The True Face of Evil

bya Gabrielle at 12:27 AM

I am entirely too tired to write about my 3 day trip to ChangXing or YiXing or go into detail about my second 15 minutes of fame, but I thought I would at least share a picture of my evil dog, Meili.

This is what Meili, a Shiba Inu, looked liked a little before we brought her home.

And this is what she looks like now . . .

When she wants to, she can look super evil. She loves to show her teeth. I try to tell her no, but that just gets her even more excited.

On the way home from my trip today, Phil called to tell me that we were not going to get our deposit back when we leave the apartment. I asked why, and he said because Meili decided to eat the wall. I can’t imagine eating dry wall is good for a dog. I hope it doesn’t kill her. My friend is coming tomorrow to look at it to see if she find someone to come and fix it before we leave. I would really like my 4,500 yuan back.

I should have my head examined for wanting to buy a dog. How was I supposed to know that she would end up being the spawn of Satan?

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My Fifteen Minutes of Fame

bya Gabrielle at 2:09 AM

When Phil and I lived in Linyi, Shandong, China, my boss knew a guy who needed some white faces for a commercial.  We didn’t have anything else better to do, so we said we’d help him out.  Plus, they said they would give us a free night stay if we would do it.  I never pass up free night stays in five star hotels.  Money would have been nice, too, but whatever, it was an experience and experiences last longer than money.

The Huasheng Jiang Quan Hotel and Town is located on the outskirts of Linyi.  It doesn’t look like it belongs there.  It is this massive building standing tall amongst all the other buildings out there – mostly homes of poorer Chinese and the Double Moon campus of Linyi University.

Before we went to the hotel, the friend of my boss, who I lovingly refer to as The General because he smokes General cigarettes like they are going out of style,  took Phil to get a new tie and a white shirt.  It would have been awesome if he had gotten a whole new suit out of the deal.  Oh, and The General didn’t speak a lick of English, so trying to communicate with him all day was interesting, to say the least.

Here is Phil in his new tie and shirt before he got covered in makeup.

Phil in a big fancy chair.

Doesn’t he look regal?  Phil was very lucky that the staff was super awesome at the hotel.  When we went to follow The General up to our room, Phil accidentally left his laptop in the lobby.  When we came back down, a woman rushed over and handed it to him.  In any other country, in any other hotel, that laptop would have been history.  Something similar to that happened when I left my $600 phone in a coffee bar in Linyi.  The attendants held on to it until I realized my mistake.  Maybe the people of Linyi are just awesome.

Before we were made pretty, we got to watch a few scenes filmed in one of the biggest hotel rooms I have ever seen.  Too bad it wasn’t the room they offered us.  It was a two story room with really fancy furniture.  Here are a few pictures.


They had that poor girl walk up and down those stairs until they got the perfect shot.  She got so frustrated.  The guy in blue is the director, and he is from Shanghai.  I should totally drop him a line to see if he needs a foreigner for anything.  I’ve got his business card with me somewhere in this apartment.  He didn’t speak much English either, but we got by.  Since our parts didn’t require speaking, he just mimed what he wanted us to do.

Pretty Woman in the Window

Before they were able to film this shot, they had to get several people to pull back the curtains.  They were really hard to move.  I don’t think it was because they were very heavy.  The curtains were just really, really long and it took more than a good tug open them.  They went almost to the ceiling.   Just like on the stairs, they filmed her in the window over and over again until they thought the shot was perfect.

Phil going under the knife.

Phil really, really, really did not want to put on make-up, but he did it anyway.  The lady put way too much on both of us.  We didn’t turn out too bad in the commercial, so maybe she knew what she was doing.

Pretty Phil

Phil partially learned what it is like to a woman . . . and he didn’t like it.  I now have a picture to blackmail him if we ever have kids.  Haha!

Pretty Gabe

And, well, I already knew what it was like to be a woman . . . and half of the time I hate it!  It isn’t the most flattering picture of me in the world, but I thought it was fair if I posted both of our pictures.  I am such a kind and thoughtful wife.

The General

The General is a very happy, go lucky kind of guy and he loves to smoke.  When he dies of cancer, they will probably bury him with an afterlife supply of cartons and light a cigarette in his mouth before they close the casket.  And no, I don’t want the poor man to die of cancer, but if you saw how much this man smoked, you would think the same thing.

The Limo

I can’t count the number of times they had to shoot us getting out of the limo.  It wasn’t because we didn’t know how to get out properly.  It was because the limo had automatic locks, and the driver kept forgetting to unlock the door when the guy came to open it.  Also, the driver had issues stopping just right.  In the video, you can see what I mean.  The limo stops and the rolls back a little.  I don’t think the director liked that, but eventually he gave up.

The Lobby

Another area where they filmed us.   The lobby of the hotel is absolutely gorgeous.  When I first walked in, I didn’t feel like I was in China anymore.

Wine Room

If I remember correctly, the woman in white was a student at Linyi University and she was majoring in English.  I ran into her months later and I barely recognized her because she was wearing street clothes.  The guy on the far right did a complete 180 after filming was done.  When I saw him at dinner, I could of sworn he was a completely different guy.  He went from prim and proper to punk rocker.  This is the room where they filmed us drinking wine.  I don’t like wine, so I am glad it only took them a few shots to get it right.  The director is standing in the middle.


After a long day of filming, The General took me, Phil, the director and the punk rocker dude(he isn’t in the picture) out to a restaurant that was even more in the middle of nowhere than the hotel was.  He took us to what I would call a fish farm.  So, you can imagine that most of what was served was fish.  At this point, I was experiencing a rather significant headache.  I think it was caused by some fumes that we accidentally inhaled when walking around the hotel.  They were fumigating or something and didn’t bother to warn us as we changed locations.  I’ll never forget the slew of cooks running down the hallway, one of them screaming in English, “Dangerous! Poison! Get out!”   Luckily, there was a doctor near the hotel that was able to give me some honest to god ibuprofen.  If it hadn’t been for that, I think I may have died.  They wanted to know if I needed to go the hospital.  My head hurt so bad that I couldn’t eat anything and I felt like I was going to throw up.  I was so happy to get back to our room later that night and crash. The only thing that sucked was that we had to get up early and go to work.  We weren’t really given the opportunity to enjoy our stay.

Okay, now that you’ve read about our day, you can watch the final product.  Phil and I are in the commercial about 5 or 6 times.  And you will notice it isn’t a 30 second spot.  It is more of a promotional video than anything.  You probably won’t notice, but parts of the commercial were filmed months a part.  It was a good thing I still had the same clothes.  My hair probably wasn’t as red the second time around, though.  I will talk more about the second day of filming next time because it leads into the second commercial we did for The General and Phil’s proposal.  Hope you like it!

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Even Batman Has His Down Days

bya Gabrielle at 5:47 PM

Batman Breaks a Leg

Batman fights tough, so he sometimes breaks a kneecap.  It’s no big deal, though.  He can just whip out his trusty super glue and be back in action in no time at all.

This is NOT a Pen!

A few days before I took this picture, I bought what I thought was a pen, only to find out later it was actually a pencil.   Irritated, I went back to the store to find a real pen and saw this item hanging up.  There was an entire wall of these things.  The funny part, besides the obvious, was that most of them weren’t pens.  They were pencils.  If I had had a Sharpie, I would have written a big NOT, so that other people would not have been tricked into buying fake pens.  Oh, China.

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Gabe, Dr. Gabe

bya Gabrielle at 5:57 PM

It doesn’t have the same ring as Bond, James Bond, does it?

A couple of Fridays ago, I went with my neighbor to sit in on their English lesson.  Almost every single person there is retired and over the age of 70.  They decided since they no longer work, they might as well do something productive, and learning English seemed like a good idea.  Some of their English is very good, while others are shy and are still learning.  Some of them have even gone to the United States.

The first week, I more or less listened.  A few times they asked me to help with pronunciation.  They had a hard time pronouncing words like camera and digital.  I also gave me them new words to liven up their vocabulary.  They thanked me over and over for coming and helping them learn.  I told them it was my pleasure, and that I admired them for learning English.  They asked me if I would be back the following week, and I said that I would.  Hey, I don’t have anything else to do on Friday at 9:30 a.m.  And it is kinda cool hanging with people that have seen China change so drastically over the last several years.

Never to Old to Learn English

The woman on the far right lives in the building next to me.  Her name is Gan Youfan.  I met her and her husband, who both speak English rather well, a few days after I arrived in Shanghai.  Their grand-daughter is American.  That is part of the reason they decided to learn English.  The second and third person down from her are the two ladies who have decided to teach me Chinese in their spare time. Their names are Cau Yuehua and Jiang Zhenrong.  I asked them if they wanted English names and they got so excited.  Usually, I am really awesome at choosing names on the fly, but knowing they would have difficulty with the names my mind could create, I had to go with simpler names.  For Cao, I chose Katie and for Jiang I chose Jody.  They really seemed to like their names and said them over and over again.  For those of you who don’t know.  Chinese names are written with the surname, the family name, and then the first name.  So, in China I would be Olexa Gabrielle.  To me, that just looks weird.

The second guy from the left visited America for a few months several years ago.  I asked him if liked American food, mostly because Chinese people are always asking me I like Chinese food.  He very frankly said, “No.”  It made me laugh.  Maybe, like me, he just didn’t know what to order.

During our first meeting, everyone wanted to know my email, so I gladly gave it out.  One woman, maybe it was Cao, asked if I had MSN messenger.  I told her no, that I didn’t, but that I had QQ, the Chinese equivalent.  Almost all of them perked up and said, “You have QQ?!  What is your number?!”  I found this extremely funny because I don’t know many 70+ year old people in America who are as technologically savvy as these people.   Nearly every person in the room can text, send emails, and use an instant messenger service.  I’m not going to point fingers or anything, but there are a few closely related people reading this blog that should be ashamed of themselves.  If a bunch of retired folks in China can learn how to speak English and use modern day technology, well, you should, too – except, you should be taking the time learn Chinese or some other language!

A few days later, I received an email from Cao.  It  reminded me of the days when my middle school students would send me thank you emails.  I found it very touching.  And I don’t know how, but apparently, I went to graduate school and got my PhD because I am now Dr. Gabe.

Dear Dr. Gabe :

Last Friday I was nice meeting you and I appreciate you teaching us who aer members of English Group in Qingshuiwan Resident English! You have solved my many question.As well as you have corrected our English pronouce  solved problem for us tha we have been benefited ! We love you !Thanks for your help . And good luck !  Would see you again !

Yours Sincerely

Cao Yuehua

I responded to her email saying that it was my pleasure and that I enjoyed spending time with them.  I mentioned that I wished my Chinese was as good as their English and that the following week I would like to teach them all how to sing “Take Me out to the Ball Game”.

Because I am a baseball fan, or more importantly, an Atlanta Braves fan, it is my duty to spread the word of baseball to everyone I meet.  One of these days, China will love baseball as much as they love basketball.  It may take years to bring the love of baseball to China, but I’ve got time.  I’m not even 30 yet!  :)

Speaking of baseball, when Phil and I were walking around the university just across the street, I saw a whole bunch of students wearing New York Yankees(curse them) uniforms.  They even had metal bats, gloves, and cleats!  I nearly fainted.  It was the first time I have ever seen Chinese students seriously partaking in baseball.  I stared in awe for about ten minutes and then Phil drug me away.

So, the following Friday, I showed up with lyric sheets and a mission – teach these people what baseball is and how to sing “Take Me out to the Ball Game”.  Only a few people had arrived when I showed up.  Cao was already there and wanted to show me something.  She unfolded a newspaper and placed it on the table for me to read.  Cao had written the entire contents of my email on the newspaper so that everyone could know what I said.  I was like, “Yep, that is what I wrote.”  As people came in, she showed it to them and explained what it said if they didn’t understand it completely.

I tried my best to teach them the basics of baseball.  I think they grasped most of what I said.  And then came the hard part.  I had to teach them how to sing “Take Me out to the Ball Game”.  I had them read the lyrics to themselves first, and had them ask questions about words they didn’t understand.  Most of the words are very simple, but there were a few that they didn’t understand.  I had to teach them what Cracker Jack was, what rooting meant, and I tried my best to describe the meaning of “old ball game”.  After a bunch of practice, they more or less got it.  Thankfully, they were okay with me capturing them on video.  I would have been mad if they hadn’t – for one guy had his HD camera out the entire time – recording everything I said and did!  I wish I had just let them sing, because my voice was loud and it sorta drowns them out, but I think it helped them out, too.  And here it is!

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The guy on the far left, in the video, told me, “Frankly speaking, I find this very hard. I would rather sing Peking Opera.”  This made me wonder what a Peking Opera version of “Take Me out to the Ball Game” would sound like.  My brain would probably leak out of my ears.  Peking Opera to me sounds like a fleet of cats dying in agony.

Maybe one day, these guys and gals will make it to a MLB game somewhere and stand up during the 7th inning stretch and sing the song and make me proud!  I’ll keep my fingers crossed!

Last night, right before I was going to bed, I checked my email.  I had another one from Cao.  When I first started reading it, I didn’t know what it was, but it didn’t take long to figure it out.  It totally made my day.  I think it is one of the most creative things I ever seen someone Chinese do. Here is what she said:

Zi(3) wei(1) :ni(3) hao(3) !
1,Take me uot to the Chinese classroom ____Rang(4) wo(3) qu(4) shang(4) zhong(1) wen(2) ke(4),
2,Take me out with my Chinese friends._____Wo(3) he(2) zhong(1) guo(3) peng(3) you(3) yi(1) qi(1) xue(1).
3,Buy me some books and pen.___________Gei(3) wo(3) mai (3)shu(1) he(2) bi.(1)
4.I don’t care if I never get back.__________Bu(4) hui(2) jia(1) wo(3) ye(3) bu(2) zai(4) hu(1)
5,Let me root ,root root for the learning Chinese
5-1:Wei(4) xue(2) zhong(1) wen(2) wei(4) wo(3) jia(1) you(2) ,jia you ,zai jia you    or
5-2,Wei(4) xue(2) zhong(1) wen(2),gei(3) wo(3) li (3)liang(4) ,gei(3) li(3) ,gei(3) li (3)

Good night !

Cao Yuehua

Isn’t that just awesome?  I thought so.  Okay, well, now that I have typed your eyes off, I should probably stop while I am ahead, and save something for the next post.  I think I will share Meili, my evil Shiba Inu with you next.

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