Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Muse and Turtles

Next week, Therese and I are headed to the Philippines for the vacation of a lifetime. The first three days are Thrillah in Manila, the largest Ultimate Frisbee tournament in asia. The next 7 days will be spent on the island of Boracay, a beach paradise, voted numerous times as one of the best and most popular tropical beaches in the world.

We've both secured the time off work and are busy tying up all the loose ends before we depart. A few of those loose ends revolve around our pets. Which segues nicely into a few pictures i have laying around.

First up... Muse!
Muse is a good kitty, except when she's being an ass. Lately she's been feisty and doesn't want to be held. Except for those times when she only wants to be held. But then you can't touch her, or she'll start gnawing on your flesh. She purrs a lot, which is cute, except when you touch her, and then she hisses. She whines for food at 7am and 7pm like clockwork. It's more reliable then our alarm clock, which, actually, doesn't always work and talks to us in chinese. She's had a cold for about a month now, and she's been to the vet twice. The sneezing was funny at first, but then she pooped on Therese when a sneeze forced it out. In front of my parents. It was pretty hilarious. (sorry baby!)

Muse is the only kitty i know who LOVES her cat carrier.

When she yawns it looks like her face is going to come off. I'll keep trying to get that photo. Here she just looks like a devil kitty, but you get the idea.

Next up - The Turts!

We got them this floating log to play on and they chill on it all the time. Except whenever we are around... then they are swimming at us endlessly. They follow us as we walk by the tank and when we stop, they just keep on paddling after us. I wonder what they would do if they ever caught us. Just keep on paddling? Or eat us? Or, like, realize we aren't that great and just turn around?

Peeking out of the window in the log. Awwww.

And here's a bee on a flower. Not our pet, but i like this picture anyway.

Now where was i? Oh yeah, Manila is gonna be awesome and stuff!


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Reitz's Invade Beijing - The Wrapup

No pictures from the last three days of the visit, only a few videos. Ace and I had to work on friday and saturday, and the family visited the Forbidden City and the Summer Palace on their own. I believe they enjoyed both and, like most people, preferred the Summer Palace. Even though the tourism came to a halt for us, the fun did not. The last three nights were similar and all had a much different feel from the rest of the trip. Here's how it happened.

So, the top 4 things Ray needed to do in Beijing were: hike the Great Wall, play ultimate frisbee, visit some touristy crap, and see my band. Autobots, Deploy! decided on Thursday night practice and Ray planned to be our audience of one. It would be his only chance to see us play, and we figured it was better than nothing. You can imagine our disappointment when we learned the practice space had given up our spot. We decided to grab a beer at Salud in Nan Lou Gu Xiang, play some dice, and enjoy the night anyway. Soon we got a call saying the room would be open a little later if we wanted to wait. Several beers, rums, and games of dice later (Ray won 3 out of 4 games so Jeff and I paid the tab), we headed back over for one of the most energetic jam sessions i can remember. Ray and i were two drunk dudes, stumbling home at 1am. Ray took this short video to commemorate the night... basically just the tail end of a random drum solo and groove.

The next day after work and a big chuar dinner (Dad said it was the best lamb he's ever had), jon, jeff, ray and i went to What Bar to see some friends play. We had never been before, so we had an ulterior motive of booking a gig. Well, we met the lady who runs the place and asked her about playing there. She gave us a list of six options for the next month, including tomorrow night. We chose that one, since my parents and ray would still be in town. We even got to play a short set after the main act of the evening, just to give the people a taste of the next night.

Fast forward to Saturday evening for our show. It was amazing. My parents came and our friends showed incredible support and really made the night awesome. All the regulars were there: Therese, Jim, Joe, Tao, Alicia, Chris, Sandy, Gareth, Bill, Andy, Liz, Nicki, Adam, Mitch, Brian, and Baby Girl... a good, raucous crowd for the evening. We actually drank the bar out of liquor. Literally: we drank all their vodka, tequila, rum, and whiskey. It got so bad that someone brought out the baijiu. They even tricked me into taking a shot, because when you're on stage, you cannot refuse a drink. You just can't.

Tao captured the spirit of the show in a few videos, posted on the Beijing Ultimate blog.

The show ended after midnight and my parents were happy but exhausted. We packed them into a cab and pushed onward through the night. By this point, we were all pretty lit up, including my bro. Ace, ray and i stopped by Salud for a quick drink, before realizing a late night snack would be required to finish the night. We found a quaint little Xin Jiang place to have some chuar and chinese Spaghetti O's (chao pian'er). We were instant celebrities in this already drunk and bustling restaurant. The manager came over and took a picture with us. People tried to get our attention of multiple directions. Ray was hysterical and his senses were probably overloaded. After a short walk and a quick heave in the hutong, he felt much better. a second one out the window during the cab ride home probably helped too.

And that about wraps it up. All things considered, it was an epic vacation and delightful having them visit. Therese and i talked afterwards, about how we didn't really have a "vacation" during the fall holiday because we always had entertaining to do. But, they were such easy going, enjoyable guests that it wasn't stressful at all. And it was really nice to have some free time to enjoy Beijing during the best weather it has to offer.

Mom, Dad, Ray: you are welcome back ANYTIME!


Saturday, October 17, 2009

Reitz's Invade Beijing - Part 3

Where can you ride a chairlift, take a toboggan, and be greeted by blood-thirsty Mongolian soldiers at the end?

The Great Wall at Mutianyu, of course! Like a nice bell curve (y-axis = enjoyment; x-axis = time), my family's trip to beijing peaked in the middle, climaxing with our day at the Great Wall. I woke up early to cook french toast before our driver picked us up at our house. From beijing, dark thunderclouds and smog threatened to ruin our day. However, any worries we had were alleviated when we saw the clear blue skies at the wall. After navigating a gauntlet of hawkers, we were ready to conquer the wall... and yes, conquer is an apt word.

As usual, the wall speaks for itself. Enjoy.

Before my brother came to beijing, i asked him what things he really wanted to do, and #1 on his list was the Great Wall. While camping on the wild wall would have been his preferred method, it just didn't work out. I was a little nervous about the weather marring his one chance to see it, so we opted for the sure thing at Mutianyu. Unfortunately, Mutianyu doesn't have any Wild Wall, and it's all been greatly reconstructed. My parents called it quits after 2 hours of stairs and breathtaking views, with no end in sight. After all, the wall continues for another 4000 Km, give or take. Ray, ace, and i pushed on for the last 20 minutes of stairs and found the "end". The end is denoted by three clearly marked signs, each of them indicating we cannot not proceed. We proceeded. There, we found just a little taste of the Wild Wall and ray got his wish.

Back in beijing, we gorged our weary bodies on mexican food and quenched our parched selves with mango margaritas at Luga's. Truly, an excellent day by any measure.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Reitz's Invade Beijing - Part 2

Tuesday started with an early morning attempt at a Chef Too breakfast, our second failed attempt in three days. Their holiday schedule was not smiling upon us that week. We instead dined outdoors at Water, in Solana. I wouldn't recommend it for the food, but the location was great. We had some friendly neighbors snap this Godfather-esque picture of us.

And we ate overlooking the lake north of Chaoyang park, home to some adorable turtles. Red-Eared Sliders, just like ours. This is in full-out basking mode.

Check out that foot and neck extension!

But the actual destination for the day was Hou Hai and hutongs. I've found the best way to explore the hutongs is by foot or with your own bicycle. But if you're short on time and don't feel like walking much, renting a bike taxi is a great second option. I've already posted a bunch of pictures of the hutongs (lots more here), so here's a few random shots from that day.

The bike taxi experience was interesting though. We haggled pretty hard and got a fair price, but the dude didn't tell us there were extra fees on the tour. Halfway through we were dropped off at an old, museum-like hutong home and it was 20 RMB to get in, per person. We spent about 20 minutes of our one hour tour in there and, sadly, it was underwhelming. After the tour, we explored a bit more on our own. We perused the shopping area and rested in a tea shop to sample a half dozen different varieties.

We then rented a boat for an hour and explored the lake. Therese has long wanted to do this, so she was not shy about volunteering to captain and drive our little ship. Ray said, "Anytime, i'm around water, it feels like a vacation." Glad we were able to give you a little taste of the beach in Beijing.

The bottle neck at the bridge.

Approaching the chaos.

Safely through. Therese navigated that mess like a surgeon.

The night ended with Tuesday night pick-up. Ray joined our game of ultimate and played fantastic for his first time. The rents took a short walk to Deshengmen gate and hung out with the drummers and dancers. It is rumored that mom even joined in for a few measures and showed those old Chinese ladies how a southern girl shakes it. Go mom!


Sunday, October 11, 2009

Reitz's Invade Beijing - Part 1

Introducing my parents and our family's middlest sibling, Ray... all visiting for the long holiday.

I met up with the rents on Oct 3rd, after a 9 day boat ride up the Yangzi (Yangtze for you westerners) river, a trip to Xi'an for the Terra Cotta Warriors and a few days in Beijing. We spent our two days walking through Nu Ren Jie (ladies street - cool shopping destination), Ritan Park, and shopping in Ya Show. Ya Show is well known in my neighborhood as THE place to go to buy just about anything. You bargain for all things large and small. It's a huge game between the sellers and the buyers... there's lying, cheating, misdirection, physical brutality... and joking, laughing, playing, and acting. It's an experience every time, and we've been there 3 times already.

Ray arrived on monday and after a welcome dinner of Peking Duck, we initiated him with a journey to Tian'anmen square. All the floats from the National day parade were on display and, although we were warned about the mad throngs of people, we decided to give it a try. It was a good idea. The five of us wandered for two hours, awestruck by massive and detailed floats in every direction.

I needed a group photo so i asked a flock of friendly chinese teenagers for help. They were delighted. We all lined up for the shot and the girl took a nice one. At the same time, a half dozen other Chinese came over and snapped the same picture, which surely is a essential addition to all their scrapbooks, something like:
Five Westerners Posed Afront the Glorious Forbidden City
The photographer asked is she could take a picture with us too. I said yes. She thrust her camera into my hands and grabbed therese by the arm, grinning enthusiastically.

Words could approximate the awesomeness, but i'd rather you just behold the photo gallery!

Across the street, the Forbidden City was in fine form, ripping off the Bellagio with it's musically orchestrated fountains.

Weekend one: Success!