The local men…

Cupping, a local therapy to relieve your body of illness.

Cupping, a local therapy to relieve your body of illness.

Sunday lunch...surrounded by a local market.

Sunday lunch…surrounded by a local market.

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So handsome!

So handsome!

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This guy is actually on my phone trying to give directions to drop off a friend to join our group! So helpful!

This guy is actually on my phone trying to give directions to drop off a friend to join our group! So helpful!

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The local lives…

The following pictures were all taken on one street!
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Flower Market..

Flower Market..

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Bang Bang man taking a break.

Bang Bang man taking a break.

Local street dentist.

Local street dentist.



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local delights!

local delights!

Fruit vendor.

Fruit vendor.

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Ao da li ya 澳大利亚 Cont…

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Ao da li ya 澳大利亚 Ah….Australia! Our Chinese New Year get away!

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The nightly passing of thousands of "flying foxes" fruit bats!

The nightly passing of thousands of “flying foxes” fruit bats!

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Ella’s first modeling shoot..OIC!

Late Saturday night I got a text asking if Ella was available on Sunday from 1-8pm to do a paid modeling shoot for a local company for their new advertising promotion. I trusted the person who contacted me and talked it over with Chip. We decided, why not, another China experience! Well by early the next morning we had more details, a car would be sent for us at 1:00 and she was to bring several changes of clothes from school uniform to a party dress. She was going to be in the shoot with another little boy we know and they were going to be the children of the other models. When we arrived at the development we were brought to the club house and said the wait would be a little over an hour. In this time, Ella, Will and the other little boy waited. Welcome to a model’s life! When it was our turn we were picked up in Rolls Royce looking extended golf cart and driven to the model home where the pictures were to be taken. The new development is near completion of their next round of high end homes, all with five stories, an elevator, gourmet kitchens, a pool, jacuzzi and three hot springs and I’m sure the right asking price! Needless to say the place was gorgeous! We were brought down to the bottom floor where the doors led out to the patio and pool area. This was right beside the wall of wines and game room! Ella was brought to hair and makeup and we got our first glimps at a full blown photography set. There were four other models from a modeling agency in Chengdu and then loads of photographers and organizers.
20130409-151151.jpg We learned that the first shoot would be at another home so we were off again to that location. Of course there was lots of waiting and watching. The first shoot involved Ella and our friends son getting in and out of a BMW going to and from school. Of course the chauffeur was opening the door for the kids (in what world??? 😉
20130409-151501.jpg They did the same shoot at least 30 times! Ella took her work very seriously and when she complained she was bored in the downtime, I just reminded her she was being paid for being bored! Of course her mother and brother were not getting paid for being bored, but I reminded Will that Ella had waited through many baseball and soccer games! It was also very interesting to watch the whole thing take place! After the first shoot we went to dinner. All of the models and crew got a lunch box style meal at the house, but we were taken to dinner. We found out that if you are a western child modeling in this country you have a fully booked schedule and it is near impossible to book children. So by default and someone thinking Ella was cute, she got the job!  After dinner were were headed to the fake cocktail party shoot. One of the other models was a guy from Washington state. He was funny and made it more fun for the kids. He graduated from college and signed up for a three month modeling contract in China. He has traveled to Shanghai, Hong Kong and other cities getting paid to model. He will go home next month hang out with his family for a couple months and come back and do it again! He’s young and never thought he would be traveling the world doing this so he is going to keep it going for a while. Not a bad gig if you ask me! The other models had various levels of English and were oddly, far less extroverted. The female model was from the Ukraine and I didn’t catch where the other two were from. Ella put on her party dress and she was set in the background of the party. I guess they wanted to show that the parents who live here can have great parties and the kids could party too!
20130409-152505.jpg Ella only ended up in the two shoots because of how involved and how long the whole process took. We are hoping to see some of the finished print material, but who knows! They did take our number and ask if Ella was available to model children’s clothing. We’ll see if that happens, but for now we are chalking this day up to another OIC experience!!! Here are some picture of the new homes for sale if you are interested!
20130409-152849.jpgThe hot springs.


I realize that I have a lot of catching up to do with my blog writing so I will start with December. The month was incredibly busy, starting with the International Woman’s Group Chongqing Charity Ball. The group raises money to support very poor local schools. This event happens every year and I currently have friends on the IWGC Board and they spent endless hours putting the event together. Everyone you talked to before December 8th was getting dresses made, shoes bought, nails done! Even Chip and several other husbands had tuxes made. The man who made the tuxes made a lot of house calls in December, and oddly he was late to most appointments and had a different excuse every time. I had gone out shopping early to get find a dress with a couple of friends. We were all lucky and found our dress on the first outing in early November. I had mine made and was told it wouldn’t be ready until two weeks before the ball. There were a lot of women who had problems with their dresses, so I was quite pleased that the only thing wrong with mine was the length. I did try to buy new shoes, but size nine shoes are hard to find in this country so I went with black heals I brought from home! The theme of the ball was “Hollywood” with a full blown red carpet and paparazzi as you were walking into the event! There were auctions, entertainment, dancing, a fashion show and more! We had a great time! It is not often that you go to a black tie affair dressed to the nines and chat all night with great people! We sat with friends from Australia, two couples from America, a friend from Hong Kong and a Chinese business man I did not know or get a chance to talk to. At events like this there is always press from the local news and newspapers. A few weeks later my girlfriend showed up with a local fashion magazine where the ball got a two page spread.


20130126-231239.jpg I guess my two second modeling career is over! The article talks about the how “the Western women put on this big event, they said the event was very Hollywood and that everyone was very glamorous. The article continues to also tell about the charity work that the Western women do and at the end it suggests that the local women should follow the example set by the IWGC! Other friends were in newspapers, other magazines and on the news!

The International women’s groups are in all foreign cities with Expat populations. If you are contemplating an international move make sure to Google them. The Chongqing group supports several local poor schools. The main focus is to provide milk to the schools and the IWGC has a contract with a milk company that delivers milk each week. Some of the schools are so remote the milk company can only deliver the milk to a drop location and the school has to arrange to pick it up. Money is collected and raised in several ways throughout the year, but the largest sum results from the ball.

After expenses were paid the ball raised almost 50,000 dollars. That is 277,000 RMB!
This event was December 8th and in the 23 days left of December we still had Ella’s birthday party, a huge Christmas play at school that both of our kids were involved in, Christmas shopping, our first visitors arriving from the US, a Christmas Eve party at our house, Christmas Day, another trip to Chengdu, a trip to Beijing and the Great Wall!


What I miss (or will miss) East vs. West….

I was recently asked what I missed the most. I thought that might be a good thing to blog about, so THANKS Lois!

10. I miss driving. I miss getting into the car and driving myself to and from anywhere I want to go on my own schedule.

9. I miss my house, the physical surroundings, the street, the patio and the dryer!

8. I miss the stores like Target, CVS, TJ Maxx andHallmark (or these kind of stores). I could always quickly run to one of these stores and grab something I needed for the right price and quality!

7.  I miss the Internet. I miss being able to quickly check something on my phone, laptop or iPad. I will never complain about Internet speed again!

6.  The FDA and being able to read food labels.

5.  Our schools.

4. I miss the grocery stores. I miss the bunny free, meat hanging free, pig head free, turtle free grocery stores!

3. Our pets!


1. And what I miss the most…friends and family. I miss picking up the phone and calling them in the same time zone and the ease of getting together or just dropping in.

Something from home I do not miss is TV. We have two beautiful flat screen TVs in this house, but we don’t have cable and they are never turned on. We of course download a few shows from home on our iPad and we may watch a movie on the weekend, but that is a few hours a week at most.

Interesting, as I thought about what I miss at home I started to think about what I will miss from here! The lists have interesting similarities.

10. The fresh dumpling wrappers that I can get anytime I want to make homemade dumplings. I need to find some Asian grocery stores near home!

9. I will miss meeting people from all over the world and learning about their cultures and lives.

8. Being successful using a new language.

7.  The extra travel/ vacations we have been able to take.

6. Walking everywhere. Especially to the bakery across the street to buy fresh bread!

5. The school, although there are some things about the schools at home that I miss, there will be very cool things about the kid’s school here that they won’t get exposure to anymore.

4. The food. We love the local Sichuan spicy food!

3. The Ayi. Let’s face it, I am the maid at home and having a break from laundry and the floors has been great!

2. My husband having breakfast with us every morning and his shorter commute.

1. I will miss the people. Our new friends are wonderful; we are so lucky to have a group of fantastic people in Chongqing.

So it confirms that in life it all comes down to the people, not “things.” I am always happy spending time with good friends and now we just have a longer list of them!

Some days are better than others…

I have four drafts started for new blog posts, but today I’m just grumpy so I thought I would write about some recent thoughts….

This city is unlike any in the world…

This assignment cannot end soon enough…

Where the heck is my blue sky, my sunny day…

Everywhere I go it is cold, my house, the school, stores…why does everyone here leave every window and door open?

Why would people want to eat meat they have hung outside for days in this environment?

Why would a woman ever hold her child in a squatting position and allow her to pee on the floor of a plane?

Are my kids getting everything they need educationally…and what if they are not…?

And of course, WOW are my kids getting an education!

Please stop staring…

A driver and a maid are not all they are cracked up to be.

This language barrier is giving me a headache…

I cannot wait to eat all of the seafood and vegetables I want care free…

Please everyone, STOP SPITING! Oh and blowing your nose onto the street…stop that as well!

I cannot wait to drive myself to the market…

This city is so hard at times…

Please someone stop that dog from barking!!!

There are too many hoops to jump through…

Who’s idea was this??

I would just like to go to one store and buy all of the products from the companies I know…

Living in a transient environment is hard for everyone at different times…

The internet here is miserable!

Thank goodness, tomorrow is a new day…

 I have written blogs like this before and then I never post them. I don’t like to complain,  but today this is my reality. I will be better tomorrow and remind myself how much I have to be thankful for and how fortunate we are. Of course I could write a large list of all of the positive aspects of this journey, but I am not in the mood to write that one today!




Ella’s English Speech…

There are many things that impress me about the kid’s school and one of them is the two opportunities a year the kids have to write and recite a speech. The first speech in the fall is the English Speech and in the Spring is the Chinese Speech. Each grade level has a theme. The students I am teaching (first graders) created their own stories based on the adorable books by Laura Numeroff, “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” or “If You Give a Moose a Muffin.” The secondary kids have very controversial topics such as sexual equality, euthanasia, cyber safety, and the sacrifice of one to save thousands. The kids do an amazing job writing their speeches and then have a few weeks to memorize them. Each grade level has different time limits and expectations. The children first compete in their classrooms individually and three to five kids are then selected per grade level to go to the finals. The finals were everyday this past week from 8:00 to 8:30 every morning. Ella earned a spot in the finals and it was announced the Friday before. She was excited about her speech until Sunday night when her nerves were getting the best of her and she really didn’t want to be in the finals anymore. On Monday morning I am not sure who was more nervous, her or me! She was ready.  She had memorized her speech over a week before and had practiced everyday. The topic for her grade level was infomercials. She had decided to sell her brother. At breakfast I could tell she was incredibly nervous, so after a few encouraging words we decided not to talk about it.

The entire school funneled into the Great Hall.  When everyone was seated there were over 200 people there to listen to the speeches,  including students, teachers, and parents. When the Principal invited the four students from Ella’s grade onto the stage to show them the podium and the microphone she looked more relaxed than I expected. When she got up to say her speech I was behind my iPhone with the video ready and my own heart was beating out of my chest. She said the speech exactly as she had practiced it! She used humor, expression, intonation, pauses where appropriate, and she didn’t forget a single word! The crowd laughed and clapped loudly at the end!! I have to say the competition was tough, but in the end she WON! She was awarded the coveted glass trophy she so wanted!

The judges, three fantastic teachers!

     Ella Houghton~English Speech

Have you ever wanted a brother? Well now you can have one! My brother would be happy to be your brother! He is really nice and always helpful. He is great with young kids and babies love him! He can do your chores or help with your homework. This would be money well spent! If you like to laugh, then you’re in luck. He tells a lot of funny jokes. He recently asked me “Why is 6 afraid of 7?” I didn’t know.  He replied “Because 7, 8, 9!” Ha, Ha, Ha! He would be happy to be your maid. He is very good at making his bed and keeping his room clean. If you needed to go shopping he could take you. His favorite place is Hong Ya Dong. He could also help you barter for the best price! He also likes to play games. He is even better then me at Hide and Seek. He can also teach you how to play Minecraft. If you need him to he can bring his own laptop. Will can also teach you how to play soccer, baseball or if you need to get into shape he can take you running. If you are too lazy to make dinner, he could make it for you. Will can make yummy cinnamon toast!  He can also teach you tricks. His latest trick is doing a handstand and pushing himself back up. He is really strong. He is so strong he could give you piggyback ride whenever you want. This comes in handy when you have been out walking around Chongqing for a while and you need a little lift.  You may even find out his special secrets. Once you get to know him of course! He is the best brother in the whole entire universe! But, if my brother is being mean to you just tell him to stop and he will. He isn’t mean very often though, so you don’t have to worry about that. These are all of the reasons why you should buy my brother. Just call 86-03537-1204 and for only $20 you can have a brother. Will can be delivered right to your door. You too can  have the best brother in the world! Wait a minute…maybe I don’t want to sell him!


Will’s busy fall…

One year ago November 1st we told the kids we were moving to China. If you recall the disturbance that day in the atmosphere then you remember their reaction. Well we reminded them on November 1st about that day and one year later we have made it! We are all ok, and even doing quite well. Will, has had a great Fall. He enjoyed a week away at secondary camp where he rock climbed, zip lined (600 foot long suspended wire crossing over a valley over 200 feet below), ran at 5am every morning and so much more. It was Will’s first week away from home ever and of course it was in China! They learned a lot about their own strength and the strength in numbers! The group stayed in a local Chinese hotel sharing each room with four other students. It was so fun talking with groups of kids when they returned. Will was also excited to share the details of the week. His favorite thing was the zip line and his least favorite thing was the food (all chinese). They all had a great week and adding to the excitement was the fact that Will was named the MVP of the camp!


Will rock climbing at Secondary Camp.

  This past weekend was the SCISAC Soccer Tournament. Will’s team has been practicing all Fall, but because there are no other international schools close by they hadn’t actually played any games until this past Thursday at the tournament. There were schools from Hong Kong, Macau, Chengdu, Xiamen and each team brought a boys and girls team. Our community opened their homes to give all of the kids a place to stay. We had two boys from Chengdu, the closest school to Chongqing in the tournament. They were the only team that came by train. The kids started playing games Thursday afternoon and Will’s team won one and lost one that day. Chip was away this week in Beijing and Shanghai so I decided to take the boys out to dinner Thursday night. The two boys, Cole and John were from the US, but Cole just started his third year in China and John just started his fifth year and he spent three years in Western Africa before China. They were great kids and it was fun getting to know them. They were a great match for us as Will and them hit it off!

Will, Cole and John.

On Friday we didn’t have school so the day was spent at the tournament. The boys teams played three games and by 5pm both the boys and girls team from YCIS finished third overall. I think third was quite impressive being that they were the only school that hadn’t been playing matches all Fall. I was super impressed with both teams. The boys and the girls played hard and really gave it their all. From no games to 6 games in three days was impressive!

Friday night the school hosted a barbecue for all of the players and their host families. After the barbecue all of the kids went to the Great Hall for a dance. When was the last time you went to a junior high aged dance? It was cute, entertaining and equally painful! I wouldn’t relive my 7th and 8th grade years if you paid me and really not much has changed! The kids danced away to Gangnam Style and then there was a dance off. The kids created a huge circle for two students to dance in the middle. Will and another boy were pulled from the circle. I was shocked and thought Will wouldn’t do it. Not only did he dance he won! He had moves he didn’t even know he had! I couldn’t believe it! At the end the kids cheered for the winner and Will won and was lifted up by about 20 students and carried off the dance floor. Prior to coming here, Will would have never done this!!! I had to leave the Great Hall and immediately call Chip. Neither of us could believe it and I was so glad I witnessed it!

Sadly Will’s team lost their final game on Saturday and within hours Will had spiked a fever and was so sick! We took him home and had to pack up the two boys that had stayed here. We thought it was best not to expose them to Will so they spent the last night at another family’s house. Will also could not attend the Awards Banquet Saturday night where he was awarded the All Tournament Player for his team! We were so proud of Will, it was still overall a fabulous weekend for him and all of the kids that were able to participate!

Will and Will!



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