So Different, So Far, So Good ….

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

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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…….


8 thoughts on “So Different, So Far, So Good ….

  1. Our trip to China was initially begun when President Nixon started his “Ping Pong” diplomacy. Our team and their team competed in ping pong tournaments. From there the Department of Justice under Ed Meese sent the People-to-People delegation, of which we were a part, to Beiging. The idea was to have attorneys from the Midwest meet with like-minded people to encourage trade between the two nations. Uncle Marv ended up helping clients sell used machinery to the Chinese.

  2. Thanks for sending the link to your blog. Love reading about your adventure. We’ll have to live vicariously through you and your blog. This past weekend was our Monster Mash. We always loved seeing your family at Halloween and wondering what totally over-the-top costumes you would be coming up with each year. You are definitely missed at Halloween time. Hope you are all having fun and school is going well!

  3. What a wonderful education you and your family are experiencing. This is a great idea to set up a blog. Now I understand when Joanie tells me what is going on in your daily life. A motor bike is very practical and will save a lot of time. I drove one when I went to Burmuda in college, however, mine was just a bike with a motor. I had to pedal like crazy to get the motor started. I was able to see the entire island and go to the beach. Looking forward to more pictures. How fortunate you are to see the other side of the world.

  4. What an amazing start to your blog! I hope you are enjoying putting it together as much as we are all enjoying reading it 🙂
    Thank you so much for sharing, and I can’t wait to hear more about life in Beijing!
    Lara and family

  5. China has such rich culture and it’s amazing they preserved so much of the past, despite how fast the modern world is pushing them along. i really envy your touring around such an amazing place 🙂

    • Thanks for checking out our blog. Glad you like it. Hope you, Dave and the boys are all well. Is Ben enjoying his new school? Did you head to Colorado for the holidays?

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