3.25.2013

WE♥ZJ


A couple o' snapshots from our trip to the beautiful, majestic, Zhangjiajie of Hunan, China
Enjoy // 享受
doing what we do
locked&loaded&in love
on top of ze world! 
Standin' on ma hands
Standing tall
oh zhangjiajie, you get me every time 

mr. smith, looking fine in the morning
together, forever
Bailong Lift - the worlds tallest, free standing elevator
just awe-some, that's awl.
Chinese-cheesin'
dope 'n fresh
lots of stairs, one hour of them approximately 
misty mountains, red lanterns, squinty boy - so china-esque
de-lishious noodles from the heavens, above. or the food cart on the corner
Charades!


> > > > >> ♥ ♥ ♥ << < < < <




3.24.2013

Oh baby, Zhangjiajie


We have just returned from our adventure within an adventure! While teaching here in China we get the opportunity to go on a few holidays (the word vacation is never used) our first one was this last weekend. We all did research and found some cool places we wanted to go. The winner was a national park in China that the floating mountains in the movie Avatar were based on. After seeing the mountains I understand why they inspired them. But first we had to get to Zhangjiajie and really first we had to learn how to pronounce it. The closest we can figure it is Jong-jeeya-jee which was quickly replaced by just calling it the avatar mountains. 
So our journey began with a 2 hour bus ride to the big city of Guangzhou, half our group were able to fit on the bus before us so we were cutting it close with about a half hour buffer to get to our train. We arrived at the train/bus station as a group of about 30 and were overwhelmed by the sea of asian people, this train station is a pretty big traveling hub for most of China so there were A LOT of people which was so cool and I wish I could have people watched more but we were running around trying to find our train. Luckily China is home to some of the most friendly, helpful people and a few minutes of wandering around a man came and began helping us. He didn't speak any English but we are getting pretty good at communicating through hand signs a a few chinese words. So after communicating what we needed we followed this helpful guy all over the place which included getting yelled at by a man with a megaphone which was funny and than being told to follow another Chinese woman who spoke no english but was riding the same train as us. Luckily we found our train about 10 minutes before it set sail. 
That in itself was a fun adventure and it was great how positive and proactive everyone was being. Any who our train ride there was 14 hours and most of us got sleepers so we had beds to lay in which made the trip fly by. We arrived in Zhangjiajie the next morning and set off to find our hostel. Through more pointing and sign language we found a bus to take us to our hostel. It was about a 40 minute ride and was very lovely, it was cool to see a different part of China. The bus dropped us off at another little bus station in a small mountain town which was not where our hostel was but luckily this lady began yelling to us from a bus and motioning for us to get on so naturally we listened and that bus took us straight to the hostel. 
After settling in we decided to go explore the park a little bit. After a short bus ride we entered the park and we had to be careful not to trip on each others jaws because they were all on the ground. The park was amazing! The limestone mountains shot hundreds of feet into the air and they almost look like rough pillars going into the sky. We walked around for a bit and decided to take a gondola to the top of a mountain and walk around there. The Gondola was insane and once we were on top of the mountain we realized how truly incredible it was. We were basically on the top of one of the pillars it was just wider than the rest of them and it was about a 2 hour walk around the whole thing with random views out into the beautiful park that were on platforms that was sometimes hanging over the edge of a huge cliff. It was like nothing I have ever seen. 
After wandering around for a good time we wanted to head back to our hostel. It almost seemed as if you had to ride a Tram up to the mountain because all the sides were so steep but alas we found stairs that kept going down and down and down annndddd down. They were a crazy array of switchbacks that went down the mountain it was one of the most beautiful walks I have ever done and the most exhausting. It was straight stairs for 1 hour my calves are still aching. But not to mention the beauty of walking down but as we were walking me and Konner spotted some Monkeys up in the trees and that made the whole walk worth it easily! After we finally popped out by one of the entrances to the park (keep in mind this national park is huge and full of high and low points it, you could very easily get lost and there is not really any park staff or anything like that.) so we were very happy to realize where we were. We than negotiated with a random guy to take us to our hostel in a van. Back at the hostel we went and got some awesome noodles and slept the night away. 
The next day we woke up early and planned out our whole day and set off by 9. We rode a bus on a very beautiful route up the mountains to the Bailong Elevator. It is the tallest outdoor elevator in the world (according to wiki) and it is pretty intense. I knew the view from the top would be cool but it was out of this world incredible. After we got to the top it was again just lots of cliff walking and exploring but this day had a new feature which was sheets of rain. We were all so taken back to care one bit about the rain, we quickly bought some very flattering ponchos and set off to see the beauty. We saw so many great things and we were loving every minute of it. 
Eventually it began raining even harder and clouds rolled in, which made for a very different experience. You would walk out to these platforms and just see white in every direction. Some would be disappointed but it was just a different kind of wonder. after some exploring with the clouds we all decided we were a little to soaked to keep going. There was only one problem, we had no clue where we were. We began jumping on different busses trying to communicate we wanted an entrance and finally a tour guide who spoke pretty good english told us to follow her! And follow her we did! All the way to the top of the mountains. We were entirely confused when we got to the top but it suddenly became clear that we were to ride a tram allllll the way down which sounded very cool. By this time the clouds had cleared and we rode the insane tram all the way down the mountain and quickly found our way to the exit. 
After getting back to our hostel we went to a street that had little food carts everywhere and a bunch of us got stir fry noodles which instantly became my favorite food in china. And then we went back to the hostel to relax. The final day of our vacation came and it was still raining pretty hard. We explored around town a bit and than headed back to the train station to prep for our 14 hour ride home on a seater train. The seater trains are quite compact and a bit less comfortable. I am very grateful for the experience and it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be but I admit its not easy sitting on a train for 14 hours while men are smoking and hawking loogies every 5 minutes. It was definitely a unique experience and I know I will always cherish it! The last 6 or so hours everyone tried to sleep and some people got very creative. Amanda was my favorite because they don't turn off the lights so she got out our umbrella and curled up in a ball underneath it on our seat. I also saw people sleeping on stairs and in the squatting position. It's inspiring how creative people get when they are sleepy. 
Finally our train rolled into town and it was just the final 3 hour commute home. We arrived home at noon which means we travelled for 18 hours. Amanda and I both collapsed into bed and are now just enjoying our sunday evening. Welp that was a very long post and I hope it was enjoyable, we mostly do this blog for our reference but we really do hope you all enjoy reading our life adventures! Now I am off to relax for the night we love you all, stay positive, love the Smiths

A long way down
exploring our options for comfort this is the Bubba and Forrest.
Amanda doing a pose at the top of the world.
Going up the Tram on the first day
My personal favorite, this was one that we saw after riding the elevator.
we were desperate for sleep...
Amanda's cocoon.
Both of them dead asleep, I was extremely worried the little guy was gonna roll down the stairs.

We have so many photos from this vacation and these are just a select few from my phone. Amanda is going post with more photos from our camera very soon so keep your eyes peeled.

3.18.2013

photo ketchup

Life lately - as told by our iPhone and iPad


Preston and I went on a date last weekend to a nearby city called Xioalan. We didn't really go with a plan in mind so we ended up getting an address to a large shopping center  from a boy we met on the bus and decided to give these motorcycle taxis a try 
It was a blast! Here's the deal though, we felt slightly offended, they made us ride on separate motorbikes even though other motortaxis had up to four asian people plus the driver! Preston and I together equal at least four asians.
On the bright side, this photo would never be with out Preston riding in front of me, doesn't my driver look like a happy buddha? 
Not at all an uncommon sight
WE LOVE PINEAPPLE! Especially, on a stick! 
Movie theater style popcorn!!
We found an Americanized diner just around the corner that serves a little bucket of popcorn with your order! Now anyone who knows me understands the special place in my heart and my stomach for this magical buttery substance.
bike rickshaw, what an adventure 
Preston took this lovely shot at the reservoir that is nearby 
We seldom have pictures together, so sometimes mirror shots are necessary.
The Green Smoothie lives on in China
We are loving the babies here
There is beauty all around this Chinaland



Love P and A Smith

xoxox

Oh my Guangzhou

Well gang we are not doing so hot on our goal of daily blog posts but we are busy bees and as soon as our lives slow down a bit I am sure we will find the time…So it has been a week since we last spoke. We had a full week of teaching last week and it is getting better and better. One of my lessons I am particularly fond of was cameras made out of jello boxes! It was fun and I was able to sneakily take photos of all the kids so I will post some of those pups on the blog. We also explored around our city more and found a HUGE reservoir about a mile away from our apartment its very pretty and cool to get out of the city. Speaking of cities, the highlight of this week was definitely our trip to Guangzhou. We were invited to our branch conference for church in guangzhou. Amanda and I were able to charter a bus to take out group of 42 to the conference. Our bus was supposed to drop us off 15 minutes before the conference and instead we were about an hour and 40 minutes early which was a-ok. The city is huge and there is a ton of cool architecture. After we arrived amanda and I and mckay and jenna all went on a walk along this huge river. On our walk we saw a bunch of old ladies dancing and an older woman with a sword. Needless to say it was worth the walk. Eventually we ran into a big crowd of people waiting at a gate so we decided to wait with them and suddenly the gate opened and everyone flooded into a giant area in front of a HUGE stadium. We found out it was the site of the 2010 Asian Games opening ceremony (Fun fact: Amanda was in last in China when the games were happening) and it was pretty epic. We walked around there for a bit and took some photos than we walked back to the hotel where our conference was. The Conference was insane. It was so weird to be in a giant room with a bunch of people who speak english, and are talking about religion (because we have to be very careful to never talk about religion around other people besides our group.) There were many speakers and it was so cool to hear about everyones lives and hear their testimonies. I especially enjoyed one kid who spoke who was 16 and had a very thick accent I want to say slavic of some sort but I don't really know but he just had a great testimony and after he spoke he got off the stand, walked out into the congregation to his dad, and kissed him on both cheeks then walked back up and sat on the stand. It was so cool to be around so much culture. After the conference we hopped on the bus and he took us to the house of the Guangzhou branch President where we were having lunch and a fireside. He lived on the 35th floor or a very nice building. When we got to his floor we couldn't believe the view. You could see all of the city and than some. It was incredible. The other incredible thing comparable to the view was the food. Don't get me wrong I have loved the food in China but rice is rice and sometimes something different sounds good. They had homemade chili, homemade whet bread, homemade jam, pasta salad brownies and the list goes on! It was so awesome to have a taste of home in china. The presidents wife was named Rosie and she was such a sweet lady when we tried to thank her she would just say, "for what?" as if she hadn't just fed 50+ hungry americans. In other news after the fireside Amanda and I received callings! Amanda is the relief society coordinator and I am the group leader which basically entails caring for our group of 50 and assigning lessons and following up on home teaching and visiting teaching. We are so excited for the experience. Well that about sums everything up. We have a vacation this week that I already know will lead to a very juicy blogpost so look forward to that one. Meanwhile, here are some photos for your viewing pleasure.

One of many market streets
I was taking a group photo and this lady rode by, don't be deceived by the photo, she was going like 20mph.

At the top of a huge pagoda in a huge park

For some reason older people here are always with kids. We have concluded that it's because both the parents need to work so the grandparents babysit the kids all day, because really most old people will be holding a baby.
Marvin and Lucy

Zhongshan(only a small part, it takes hours to travel throughout this city)
Performers, this is the huge stadium we got to walk around.

Very cool tower

The FOOD
Don't Jump! This is the view from the branch presidents house.
Alright Thats our week, we are loving China so much! We want anyone and everyone to come visit us because nothing short of being here can describe how different and great it is! We love you all and miss you, stay positive and have a wonderful day!

3.11.2013

Women's day gno


So earlier last week one of my girls Chloe suggested that we have a girls night out, a good old fashion GNO if you will. We planned to have it on Friday, March 8th – when it finally rolled around we realized that March 8th was national Woman’s day, how purrfect! 
We did Woman’s day right by going down town to get our nails did – 25RMB for a manicure (that’s $4) and 88RMB for shellac (around $14, cheaper than home!). We accidentally took over the small nail salon as there were eight of us versus the three of them - but they graciously worked away even though I am sure we kept them later than their normal open hours (oops).
It took nearly three hours to get all 80 nails manicured and painted but it was worth its weight in girl talk!
After nails, we were starving, naturally (sitting for that long is hard work, right?) so we walked ourselves down the street to a bustling 24 hour Muslim noodle shop. Have I written much about the noodles here yet? Well, I love them! They are soo, sooo very good. One heaping plate of delicious noodles is no more than 14RMB – that is a whole meal (that could easily be shared, too bad I am a stingy eater) for $2.25! Oh boy. Noodles will be the death of me here!
ANYWAY.. moving on. The owner of the shop set us up a table out in front, which was perfect because the inside was packed and the weather outside was lovely. We (as English speaking American folk) love restaurants that have their dishes pictured on the wall, because ordering is as simple as pointing, however, when special requests are made such as ‘No meat’, this is very complicated to communicate! Luckily for us, a sweet Taiwanese woman was walking by when the ordering confusion was at it’s peak, she asked in very clear English if she could help us order, so I said most definitely and pointed her towards the girls in our group who were struggling!
People here have been so kind to us in every way, especially when it comes to the language barrier. Already in the two and a half weeks we have been here, we have encountered so many locals who know enough English to help us out whether it be ordering food or getting on the right bus. It’s a blessing both ways because we receive much needed help and they get a chance to use a language they have studied so hard with a native speaker.
Chinese people are great!
After stuffing our faces, we paid, waiting for the Kaiyin bus, and arrived home just before midnight!
A GNO done right. 

OH - I was surprised by a sweet little gift from Presto – a happy woman’s day plant! I love all things that grow and if we were to stay in China any longer I would have one of those apartment balconies you see that are covered with all sorts of flowery and viney greens. Thanks baby!


















(Also thanks to McKay and Konner for the treats!)



Love, Amanda