Archive | December, 2013

2013 in review

31 Dec

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.  I will follow with my own comments for the year, but wanted to let you all see what I have been up to.

Following site stats is one of the fun parts of blogging.  I always wonder why certain posts strike a chord – or where my readers call home.  If you click below for the full report, you can see for yourself.

Surprisingly, some of my most popular posts in 2013 were written in 2012.  Who knew that buying a jade bangle and the Kunming airport would have such staying power?

Best wishes to you all for 2014!

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 14,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 5 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Merry Christmas!

24 Dec

We are celebrating Christmas this year with family and friends in the US.  The weather still looks a bit iffy, but fingers crossed that we make it there in one piece! I anticipate there will be lots of cookies and carols and hopefully board games.  There may be snow and mistletoe as well. 🙂

This year has been a year of travel – trips to Cambodia, Singapore, Taiwan, Japan, the US, Greece, Dubai and within China.  It has also been a year of change – two different wedding ceremonies, a new job, much longer hair, lots of visitors and old and new friends.  In all – pretty great.

I’ll look back at my 2013 resolutions in another week, but for now – enjoy a couple of my favorite shots from the year.  All credit for these goes to my husband, Li.  One year down – a lifetime to go.

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Merry Christmas!

Christmas in New York

22 Dec

Right after Thanksgiving I was in New York for a couple of days of meetings.  With my flight schedule I was lucky enough to have half a day free to wander the city before my meetings started in earnest.  I haven’t been in the US this time of year for seven years and was soaking up everything.

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The hotel was downtown – not far away from Grand Central Station so I started a mosey which led me from there to Bryant Park (made famous to me from Project Runway) and then to view the windows in Macy’s on 34th Street.  The weather was perfect – not too cold, with blue sky peeping out from behind the skyscrapers.

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The decorations, music, free ice skating and blue skies set me humming Christmas tunes the rest of the day.

Later that evening I met a friend for dinner up by Lincoln Center.  Coming up from the subway there was a group on the corner singing Hannukah carols in the twilight.  I gawked for a while and then hurried to the restaurant.

Only in New York.

I will be heading back Stateside to celebrate with family and friends during this happy time of year.  May you find peace and joy in the holiday season.

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New York is one place that is unique – a complete cultural mix and represents the US to so many people outside of it.  It is one place that is very special.  This post is my response to the Weekly Photo Challenge – One.  To see how others illustrate it, please click the link.

Thank you for your support and comments over the year.  Merry Christmas!

Dubai – photos and thoughts

19 Dec

Aside from multiple camel sightings, I packed a lot more into my trip to Dubai last month.  Traveling for business is always exhausting, but this trip managed a good balance of exploration and eight hours straight in a meeting room.

My first day I arrived about noon and so had half a day to explore with another colleague before we headed into the mandatory dinners and mingling.

First we went to the Dubai mall under the Burj Khalifa.

Divers into an art exhibit in the Mall of Dubai

Divers into an art exhibit in the Mall of Dubai – ironically, I saw a miniature version of this fountain when I was in New York a couple of weeks later

It was so tall that my camera couldn’t capture the entire building in one frame.  I understand that it is taller than two Empire State Buildings put on top of each other.

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At the base is a fountain show – reminiscent of the one in Las Vegas that was featured in Oceans 11.  We found a restaurant overlooking the fountain and chowed down.  One of my favorite dishes was chicken on rice pilaf – the rice studded with almonds and pistachios.

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That evening for the work events we watched the sun set over the city and then enjoyed the lights of the hotel shaped like a sailboat.

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The meetings took place outside of the city in the real desert – you don’t have to go far – 30 minutes will take you away from all of the modernity of the city.

Blue sky over the dunes

Blue sky over the dunes

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The second day they arranged a 4×4 trip and so I got to see what it was like.  We whipped up and down the dunes and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.  I’m not sure I’d like to drive – one of the trucks got stuck – but as a passenger – bring it on!

The last couple of days we spent by the ocean’s edge, which is one of the great contradictions of Dubai.  You can go to the beach in the morning and dune bashing in the afternoon.  I didn’t have time to go swimming, but I did manage a walk on the beach one morning before things started.

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As a final treat, we did our team meeting the last day in the Burj Khalifa – for afternoon tea.  We discussed business from 138 floors above the ground before everyone scattered to their own corners of the world.

Tea on the 138th floor?  Please!

Tea on the 138th floor? Please!

Dubai felt a little like a commercial – there was so much new construction, big malls, flashy watches – all things available and ready.  Ironically there were a lot of stores that specialized in selling fur coats – which I hypothesized was for the Russians who come to defrost in Dubai’s heat.

It was a very interesting place – and I enjoyed my time there, but I don’t think I would go back unless I had business to do.  The place felt shallow, transient – very international – but kind of like eating candy – I know it’s not good for me, but still want to gorge every now and again.  And Emirates – the airline – totally, worth it.  It was head and shoulders above any airline I have flown before, from the toothbrushes in the lounge to being able to use your electronics during the entire flight.

Perhaps if I had met some local people, been able to appreciate their lifestyle and gotten away from the “tourist track” it would have been easier to understand the city.  As it is – it remains an enigma.  Who knows – maybe I will go back.

Goodbye Dubai - a final view from the lounge

Goodbye Dubai – a final view from the lounge

Have you been to Dubai?  What do you think?  Would you like to go?

Initial images of Santorini

17 Dec

This post is part of our adventures in Greece in the fall of 2013.  To see other posts in the series, please click here.

Leaving Crete was bittersweet – we had had a wonderful time in both Chania and Heraklion and could have stayed there the rest of our vacation very happily.

Li prior to boarding the ferry - he's not a fan of boats, but everything worked fine

Li prior to boarding the ferry – he’s not a fan of boats, but everything worked fine

Boarding the ferry though, the anticipation continued to build as the siren call of Santorini became louder and louder.  The sky was blue and we sat in luxury on the second level of the ferry.

Casting off under the Greek flag

Casting off under the Greek flag

On the way!

On the way!

Disembarking we found the driver from the hotel and along with another couple headed up the steep cliffs to our hotel.

Right outside the door of our room

Right outside the door of our room

Li had selected the hotel because it was on the highest point of the island and so the car twisted and turned going higher and higher until we arrived.  After settling in to the room – built into a cave in the cliffs – we decided to walk along the old path to a restaurant recommended by the hotel.

Our room - snug inside the cave

Our room – snug inside the cave

The initial view from our hotel

The initial view from our hotel

Each curve presented another picturesque view.  We even saw people taking pictures on the top of a building in front of the caldera.  Upon closer inspection – it was a bride and groom.

The caldera

The caldera

The caldera - zoomed in on the bride and groom

The caldera – zoomed in on the bride and groom

Looking back towards the hotel

Looking back towards the hotel

Lunch was delicious – and as we finished up – the bride and groom came and took a shot just in front of us.   I decided that was a good omen, given that we were considering the trip our belated honeymoon.

The bride and groom came to us - though others were photographing them too

The bride and groom came to us – though others were photographing them too

The white roofed houses and the blue sea and sky

The white roofed houses and the blue sea and sky

How can you not smile with such a beautiful view

How can you not smile with such a beautiful view

We headed back to the hotel, took a swim in the pool and then I posed for a few more pictures before the sun slipped over the edge.

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Santorini was living up to the hype – and we had three days left!

Have you visited somewhere that surpassed your already very high expectations?

Who’s worried?

15 Dec

Last week I caught up with a former coworker for lunch.  There have been some interesting legislative developments recently about an aspect of her business so we were discussing how/if they were planning on capitalizing on the change.

She said it had been very difficult to get the decision maker (who sits outside of China) to take the changes seriously and it really felt like her team was pushing to try to market the appropriate new solution.  Then she asked if I had heard the expression “皇帝不急,太监急"(Huang di bu ji, tai jian ji.)

I hadn’t heard that phrase before and asked her to explain.  She said that it meant that the key person (the emperor) didn’t think something was important but his underlings were all running around trying to find an answer.  The phrase seemed to fit the situation perfectly as she just described it.

The next day I told my husband I had learned a new phrase.  He listened, corrected my pronunciation slightly and then asked me if the woman who taught me the sentence was married.  Taken aback, I said that yes, she was.  He then gave me the literal translation of the phrase.

Literally the first part is the same – The emperor isn’t worried – but the second part is – but the eunuchs are worried.  You can see how that translation emphasizes a slightly different point of view.  The overall idea is the same, but the specific words have a different focus.

We had a good laugh – and I decided not to use that phrase for a while.  I don’t feel my Chinese is quite good enough to work that one subtly into conversation.  Give me another couple of years – I am not worried.

In another language note – last week I went to an event where the current US ambassador to China (Gary Locke) spoke.  He will soon be stepping down from his post and was explaining why.  His translator had a style very similar to his so I started to see if I could see the translator in the crowd.  To my surprise – he was a white, foreign face! The man was amazing.  In comparison, my Chinese is terrible.

Translation is not an easy job and there is so much more than just translating words – there is the feel, the meaning, the historical context, the rhythm and the underlying shared background.  This language continues to draw me in.

Have you had a moment when you proudly used a phrase that didn’t turn out quite right?  Or have you viewed a masterful translator in practice?  What aspects do you remember?

Camel sightings

12 Dec

I went to Dubai for the first time in November.  It was a great experience with a lot of work meetings and a lot of fun – punctuated by a variety of camel sightings during my trip.

The sightings started at the airport – where there was a “camel” for me to climb on right by the baggage claim.

What other airport lets you pose with a camel while you are waiting for your bag?

What other airport lets you pose with a camel while you are waiting for your bag?

They continued when exploring the Mall of Dubai which is connected to the Burg Khalifa – the tallest building in the world, there were another pair of camel statues hanging out in the main shopping area.

Wandering through the mall

Wandering through the mall

A camel accompanied by locals in white

A camel accompanied by locals in white

I also saw some real live camels during our trek through the desert in 4x4s.  They appeared to be racing with our jeep as we sped over the dunes.

The real deal - an entire pack of camels!

The real deal – an entire pack of camels!

My final camel was the one that I won in an archery competition during the visit.  It was a hidden talent I didn’t even know existed.

He has eyelashes!

He has eyelashes!

To make it even sweeter, at the duty-free in the airport I purchased some camel milk chocolate to give to my family for Thanksgiving.

As the weather gets colder, hope these camel sightings heat you up!

Any camel sightings in your history?

Heraklion – the end of day 3

8 Dec

This post is part of our adventures in Greece in the fall of 2013, for other posts in the series, please click here.

It was mid-afternoon by the time we got back into downtown Heraklion.  The next day we were heading on the early ferry to Santorini for three days of white buildings nestled on cliffs.

We decided to find the main square and look at the church there and then wander back down to the port.  Unfortunately when we arrived the church was closed for the afternoon, but after poking around we were able to find out it would be opening soon.

Scouting the church before it opened

Scouting the church before it opened

We settled in the square outside to wait.  It was a perfect afternoon and Heraklion has free wifi throughout the city so it was a painless process.  After a thirty minute wait we went inside.  It was worth the wait.

The Greek Orthodox churches we visited during the trip are incredibly ornate – the murals, lamps and decoration all much more elaborate than the Roman Catholic churches of my childhood.  This one in particular was not that large but very grand.

First view of the inside of the church

First view of the inside of the church

Close up of the chandelier

Close up of the chandelier

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To make it even more special, the stained glass windows colored the foyer shades of the rainbow as we left.  Outside in the square they were setting up for a concert to celebrate the end of the World Tourism celebration.

Light streaming in the foyer

Light streaming in the foyer

On Sunday, most of the shops were closed, but we followed a crowd of people to a square with a view of a fountain and went to try some special Greek sweets.  We both had a glass of fresh juice and delicate doughnuts dipped in honey.

Fresh juice, sweets and the lion fountain in the square

Fresh juice, sweets and the lion fountain in the square

Sated from the treat we wandered back to the port.  The sun dipped low in the sky washing the seaside with warm light.

Flowers for sale as we wandered through the streets

Flowers for sale as we wandered through the streets

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It was a magical evening.

Viewing the sunset

Viewing the sunset

After walking along by the old fort, we headed back for dinner – a lamb schwarma meal right off another square.  As we ate a tumbling club set up their mats in front of us and we were treated to a thirty minute performance of ribbon gymnastics.

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Smiling from the enthusiasm we started to wander back to the hotel, but stopped again at the site of yet another concert with traditional Greek music.  A night market had sprung up and we swayed and danced with everyone else in the square.

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Go to Crete and go to Heraklion.  The city will draw you in, like it did us.  We went there on our honeymoon, but will have memories forever and it seems fitting to write about the trip given we just celebrated our first wedding anniversary.

The trip, however, wasn’t over – we had much more to see.  More to come.

Supermarket smiles

5 Dec

We went to the supermarket one recent weekend.  It had been a long time since I had been to the supermarket actually – which is embarrassing to say, but true.  With all my business travel I have been eating a lot of delivery – or buying vegetables at one of the small stands on my way home.

The supermarket by our house is always reorganizing the merchandise, which means each trip is like a treasure hunt.  This trip I focused on two items that really made me smile.

Do you want to take them home for dinner?

Do you want to take them home for dinner?

The first was an entire vat of chicken feet – toenails and all that were piled up just like you would see onions or apples.  We must have gone at a slow time of the day because the vat was overflowing – not yet picked over.  My husband looked at them closely and asked if I wanted to purchase them.  Since that is the one Chinese food that I avoid if possible – I knew he was joking, so played along.

Just beside the chicken feet were a series of what looked like mini swimming pools with netting over the top.  Inside were live hairy crabs – sorted according to size and gender and ready to take home.  The crabs brought back memories of the crab basket I was given as a present several years ago and made me smile.

One of the tubs of crabs - yes they are hairy - there is hair on their front claws

One of the tubs of crabs – yes they are hairy – there is hair on their front claws

After a short discussion – we decided to purchase three of them and bring them home to steam.  The attendant took them out and deftly wrapped each crab in string before putting them in a plastic bag with several holes in it.  These crabs were tied much more tightly than my errant crab of before.

We took quite a few pictures, but unfortunately the next day Li’s phone broke and so we lost all of them.  Trust me though – that woman was a master of her craft.

That night we had a crab feast – and no chicken feet.

What’s your favorite part of the supermarket?

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