Two Months in the Capital of China – Beijing

This is the new home for everything that is going on in the Katsoolis world. We will post new photos and stories as we go.

Our world is changing daily and we surely know that we are alive.  Meeting the fun challenges that being in a foreign land brings and watching Sepia and Max take it all head on, make it all worth while.

Please let us know your thoughts on anything in the posts or just tips for making our site more fun to visit.

The title image was taken on our visit to the Ming Tombs.

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that’s Sepia

Sepia was asked to create a cartoon character and a story to go with it for her English class.   She created “Bobby Bobble”.  Sweet Bobby Bobble has a head that smells like moldy bread so the birds like to peck at his head….

Sepia wanted to do more than just write a story so she made a claymation video.  Sepia was able to show the video in class and as it turned out on that particular day the School Principal was in her class.  She was impressed by Sepia’s creativity and so were her class mates.  

Here is the link to Bobby Bobble

So Different, So Far, So Good ….

Featured

Beijing is proving to be a great city, each day is an adventure.

Katsoolis' at Tian'anmen Square, Beijing on August 14, 2011. We are in front of enormous LED screen which was installed for the 2008 Olympics .

When we arrived it was hot and humid.  Now, it is Autumn so it is breezy and comfortable temperatures.  On Monday, September 12th we celebrated the Mid-Autumn break by eating moon cakes as part of the celebration of Mid Autumn Festival and the full moon. They have red bean paste, Durian fruit(very pungent) or egg duck filling wrapped in a pastry.  The Chinese traditionally celebrate by giving elaborate moon cakes as gifts to family and friends.

Mooncake at Rest (Approx. 6cm Dia.)

For the holiday, we also enjoyed visiting the Dongyue Temple which is 400 years old.  It is a sanctuary in amongst the high rise buildings of this huge city.  We did not realize it was there until a week ago and it is 4 blocks from our apartment.

Dongyue Temple, No. 141 Chaoyangmenwai Dajie, Beijing, Mid Autumn Festival

Home
We moved into our small apartment on the 18th floor.

View from our apartment. We can see mountains on most days.

It is near the Embassy District and in the middle of the Russian District.  Help!  I think we might need to speak Russian!!  We are only 10 blocks from the CBD-Central Business District.  In fact, when Vice President Joe Biden was in town our whole neighborhood had security guards on every corner and we watched the 15 vehicle motorcade escort him to the hotel where he and other diplomats were staying.  Also, the kid’s school is four blocks away.

Kid's School - Still under construction. The three gray buildings are their school. Conveniently, there is a underground parking garage for staff. This rubble will soon be the playground area.

Currently, they are building a new school and it will be complete in 2 months.  So the kids take a luxury coach bus to and from school each day which is different.  One of the main reasons we selected this apartment is the beautiful Historic park across the street from our apartment called Ritan Park, Temple of the Sun Park.

Ritan Park Lotus Pond with willow trees and Pagoda.

 It has traditional architectural temples and landscaping with ponds and water sculptures.  There is Tai chi each day at the park, table tennis, exercise area, badminton and a little pond for recreation coy fishing which anyone can conveniently borrow to test your patience at fishing.

Max on a rock bridge in another section of Ritan Park.

Sepia was lucky to have a kind local give her some fishing tips.  And caught 6 fish, which she was lots of fun.

Sepia and Max at the fishing pond at Ritan Park.

Art

798 District is totally cool.

Katsolis' at 798 Art District, Beijing

We had a great time walking around the 798 area and checking out great art one Saturday in August.  With every corner we turned there was something else cool to check out.

Here's some fun art which we enjoyed at 798 District in Beijing. Everyone needs a pair of 20 ft high underwear! And Max is showing how art can be heavy. Oh! and Shane caught a Rabbit.

Kid’s school

Yes, we made it into a local Chinese School, called Fang Cao Di  International School.

Fang Cao Di International school - Temporary School

It has over 700 students with 20% foreign students from all over the world, which is great. This school focuses on Math and English as a second language.

Kid's school - 1st Day Ceremony at temporary school.

All their lessons are in Chinese which is a big challenge, but with the help from the homeroom teacher and with a tutor after school 3-4 days a week, we can help them succeed.  Max has already made a great friend who is in his homeroom class who is Australian and his name is Max, too.  Sepia is making friends and has found some fun kids in her class and lucky for her almost all her classmates speak English.  They have marching drills each day which is very different, lunch in their classroom, table tennis as and elective class, calligraphy lessons, and even eye exercises along with Science, History, Music, PE, and Art.  They start school at 7:40am and ends at 3:15pm.

Sport

Max and Sepia have taken up table tennis as new sport.  In the parks, there are 2-3 tables set up so we have been having fun.  Max has been mastering his skills and the locals all want to play with him.

Max playing table tennis with the locals.

Even some boys have taken him on and taught him some new skills.  Max is by far the favorite with the locals. Sepia enjoys doing this fun exercise swing at the park where they have some basic manual fitness machines which the locals (age 3 to 83) enjoy getting fit even some women exercise in their high heels.

Sepia on exercise swing.

Sepia is convinced this swing would be a huge hit on the playgrounds in Seattle.  They also have a massive climbing wall at the park which the locals enjoy, too. Football (soccer) the kids will be playing games each Saturday with a British coach.

Transportation

We walk everywhere.  On weekends, 4-5 miles when we are shopping and checking out the city.  The subway system is excellent.  Shane takes it to and from work.  But be ready to cram in like a sardine.  There are bicycle rickshaws -drivers with a traditional 2 seater decorative carriage on every corner of our neighborhood constantly offering their services but for a big price as they are after the naive tourists.

Rickshaw carts ready for passengers at our building complex.

Taxis can be good, but there are times it can be hit or miss for grabbing them in a heart beat.  Like the other day, I needed to go out of town a ways, and after 4 taxi drivers, finally, I got a driver who knew how to get there.   Thanks to Google translate on our phones- It has saved us so many times!

Shane all serious on our new Electric Bike, but really it is lots of fun.

We bought a new electric bike!  Shane can now get to work easily, and we can explore more of the city at our own rate.  We are trying to get another bike as well.

Food

We have enjoyed lots of:  zhengjiao (steamed dumplings),

Yummy big steamed buns!

mifan (steamed rice), niuro mian (beef noodles), jiachang bing lazi jiding tudou  (home style pan baked bread with quick-fried spicy chicken & potato), lizhi  (lychee which is a delicious tropical fruit) and lots of other very spicy dishes (forget about STARS for how spicy it will be- just know it will be 5 STARS.

Max eating Bullfrog!

Roasted bullfrog (no it does not taste like chicken-it tastes more like seafood because of it’s amphibious nature). These are close to the correct phonetics of how to pronounce these foods, but it is not 100% accurate due to my font capabilities with Google.  Eating out proves to be very inexpensive if we eat Chinese like only 80RMB for the four of us($12 USD).  If we eat western food it can be expensive compared to Chinese food, $10 for a small box of western cereal and did I mention maple syrup for $12 a bottle.  So Chinese food we are enjoying in it’s many variations, but there are days when we just have to have something else, so we go to the International grocery store, 3 blocks away called “Jenny Lou’s” and get some of our favorites like olives, feta, pasta, and Italian bread.

Entertainment 

So far we have been enjoying many movies from local video stores for our fix of Western films.  As well as 13 TV channels with Chinese news, Traditional Opera, China’s Got Talent and other Samurai warrior TV shows… One channel is actually in English which is a Chinese International News program.

Well, if you are in the neighborhood and would like to drop by for game of table tennis, glass of wine or bowl of hand pulled noodles…….