the scoop.

We are feeling relaxed & rested - and truly enjoying this warmth. The littles (AE&S) are full of energy as we explore the glorious outdoors, and they sleep great after a full day of adventures. We are quite busy - but hope to post more when we return home. Right now - we are attempting to apply for F-Visa's (exploratory business) and hoping for some good news. In the meantime we are sampling as much gelato & ice cream as we can (strictly business, right?). So, that's the scoop (couldn't resist).


beautiful feet

Standing in airport lines, carrying luggage and kiddos in arms, walking streets of cobblestone, along the promenade, tiptoeing around koi ponds, climbing steps and crossing bridges, tripping on my shoe (ouch!), jumping onto a ferry boat, dashing onto elevators & escalators – a favorite ride. Taxi rides & hotel floors, and finally to the SAND!!
Tentative yet fearful steps, only to retreat with nervousness. By day #3 we greet the sand with joy and love the feeling between our toes. Sand, shells, crabs and sea….all these things have been beneath me. Splishing, splashing, stomping, leaping….will this beauty end? Running, digging, charging waves with bravery, trampling sand castles, and building again, in horse stirrups along a bumpy beach, and chasing after an elephant! Jumping in the waves, or jumping over scurrying hermit crabs....my feet have been exploring! Beautiful feet, and hand in hand - fun family adventures.

Did we mention that these fake-Crocs are quite comfortable?


maCOW moments

Eden quote: "Dad, lets go maCOW exploring!" Yes, she thinks that the island of Macau must have some cows to see!!

The first leg of our Family getaway began with 2 flights across the country & a ferry to the island of Macau! Everything went without hitch, and the girls were amazing travelers. I don't think we can take credit for any of their sweet attitudes or their flexibility, but they certainly have been amazing us. They really do enjoy seeing new sights, and packing their toys into a tiny backpack.

Macau is a great place - it is still part of China, but extremely different from the mainland. The culture is a wide mix of influences. Macau was colonized by the Portuguese, so there is a lot of Latin feel & Portuguese on all the signs, as well as English. We noticed more Catholic flavor, with Bishops, churches and even shrines to certain saints and historical figures. The area we stayed was the gambling/casino area of town - with huge highrise buildings and flashy lights. We noticed lots of sporty cars, fashion & expensive goods. The architecture was amazing too! Mandarin speaking people were less common, and the accent harder to understand.

Our favorite part was exploring the harbor and all along the coast. The smells of fish & seaweed were welcome reminders of our motherland, and we tried to soak up all the sights & smells as best we could. On day #2 (while exploring the walking streets) we met an 80 year old Macau resident who was once a Bishop of Macau - back in his prime. He sat with us while we ate lunch & gelato - sharing stories of his culture, history of the city & life on the island. It was incredible to meet this patriarch of the city.


a valiant effort

Today we came to the realization that our business application will not be approved in time for us to change over to a business visa on this trip out of the country. We are a bit bummed, yet we know we gave a valiant effort to do all we could in the process. We have exhausted every option, but won't be able to get it done in time. I (Justin) feel a bit defeated in this as we have been working so hard in hopes of finishing our registration before this trip, but alas, we will just have to finish when we return. What this means is that we will need to leave the country again this Spring sometime which may push back our opening date a bit. We will see.

I told Ali that this whole process has me feeling a bit like a rabbit being chased by a fox down an unfamiliar rabbit hole. The FOX = time, and the unfamiliar RABBIT HOLE = the maze of Chinese laws & procedures that nobody seems to be able to tell you until the last possible minute you need to know (or after the fact).
We are still confident that this business has incredible potential and are hopeful that we will find just the right place when we return, finish our registration and open in time for the Summer season. It will just take a little longer and cost a little more!


the funk* of winter

The winter can be very dreary out here. I don't mean to complain - but it gets kinda depressing. The air outside smells of coal plants and the skies are hazy & gray. I personally get headaches & sore throats when I am outside for a long time, so I know it can't be that great for my health.

Hence, I am feeling a bit of funk*. I figured it out yesterday that this weather just brings on the funk. It's so ugly, polluted, black-coal-smoke-and-soot, depressing, you're homebound, hibernatory, suffocating in hot apartments, deadness, gray snow, smoggy, blurry skies, monotonous and stir-crazy kiddos (all the descriptive words I could think of). Not the best combination for this momma. Its easy to feel like a prisoner in your apartment, with no views of life & nature, difficulty to connect with the outside world - because everyone pretty much stays put, unless they HAVE to go out. I have a few New Years resolutions that are keeping me reading good books, which might be the only thing keeping me sane. :) Oh - and the beautiful fact that we are leaving in 5 days for warmer weather, and somewhat clearer skies. Asia says, "Five more sleeps Mom!!," which is how she gages time.

We have been planning a family getaway for some time. We will be visiting friends near Bangkok - and staying near the beach!! Its not the pristine white sandy areas - but beach nonetheless! I hope the girls will overcome their fears of water & sandy toes, and that we can relax along the seashore for a bit. My albino whiteness is crying out for sun!! I can't wait to sit IN the water: float, swim, submerge, soak, and melt away the funk. Maybe I will just camp on the sand. :) Not to worry - we have heaps of 30+ SPF, large brimmed hats, and we don't consider ourselves sunbathers.

We also need to visit doctors, dentists, and eat some spicy Pad Thai. Initially this trip was planned to change our visas over to Business (Z) Visa....but things might change. These details are up in the air as of today! This week will determine.
*FYI: the funk is not only cured by beach getaways.



This picture made my day. Precious.


noodles 101

Today we made Lahgman (McNabb style) - noodles topped with a spicy assortment of veggies & chicken. Most often Lahgman is made of mutton, peppers, other leafy veggies - with a tomato base flavor. We love it! This dish is considered to be a Uyghur dish, but the Chinese & other minority groups have similar flavored dishes too. There really isn't anything new under the sun. But I (Ali) love making the noodles from scratch. I get so excited to help knead the dough, roll out the sections, stretch them, weave them around your hands - and then stretch them again. Its a very tedious process, but very worth the work.

Asia enjoys the end result....but plain. At least she's getting some chopstick practice.



The business world is rough. We have officially come up against some challenges in our path, but we are not giving up. What's a little bump in the road? The past week has been one "adventure" after another, with requests from officials - only to be changed last minute - and new requests made with little time to spare. Justin has missed 2 days of class to run all over town fulfilling his duties to successfully launch this business and meet requirements. Today he spent 7 hours walking all over the downtown area (almost got frostbite!) to find a new location.

There are lots of requirements (that tend to change often) regarding the location, the investment amount, name of the business, size of our company, etc. We are often having to scurry around in attempts to adjust our plans to clear each hurdle. Keeping on schedule with this will save us time & money, so we are pressing on.

Justin put together a nifty Business Plan, and even created his own Break Even Analysis. Finally - his high school algebra skills being put to use!! He's been crunching numbers, looking at every angle to see how it would work in each circumstance. We have so many options, but the most critical factor is that we FIRST get approved by the Officials.

We are realizing (again) that many of the things that might seem simple or straight-forward, can be 100 times more complicated or labor-intensive, because the system is so different. There is a definite learning-curve, and a go-with-the-flow mentality that is quite challenging to maintain. Everything requires such patience and perseverance. The entire system is not so friendly to new start-ups, especially foreign ones. If anything, this has given us greater resolve to stand strong in our convictions and find ways to display character. We are excited to see what will come.

If only they would TRY our ice cream, I think we'd have instant fans...and approval.


wedded bliss

A few days ago I received a call from a new Uyhgur girlfriend. I have only met her in person twice. She is wonderful - really friendly & outgoing. The first time we had her over for dinner we clicked right away (She is the same girl whose father had some heart issues during Korban). Anyhow, she called to tell me she was engaged! ....oh, and getting married on Tuesday night! Quick engagement, yet a nice way to bring in the New Year I imagine. So, we made a fun card and bundled up last night for her wedding. I was quite excited to have the honor of going to a cultural affair like this (just Asia & I). It was below zero outside, so we wore many layers, trying our hardest to look "nice" for the wedding. My camera battery died within a few minutes, so here are all the pictures I got before it died (sniff sniff).

Here is a few ladies at my table. They were all decked out in furs (long coats, hats, shawls, muffs, and more), with beautiful sparkly head coverings & shawls. Everyone had bright makeup and tall leather boots. I wish I had more pictures to show ya. And yes, this young girl has crimped hair. Maybe that is why her mother is staring at her. She was quite fashionable. We sat and ate bread, sangzi, fruit, nuts & sweets until the bride & groom made their appearance.
Here they are!! A man there told me that this was not a very traditional Uyghur wedding, but more a formality. I guess with only 1 week to plan, its hard to pull off a major event like this. I can't imagine planning my wedding in one week. My friend was so beautiful! Her husband is neat too - very talkative and kind. They both speak great English, so we look forward to seeing them more. This picture does not do the guy justice, but this is how they pose for photos. Men do not smile much for picts. :)
This is a special photo of the bride raising her veil. Isn't she cute? Her entire gown was beaded and edged in lace. Her hair was dyed black, and sprayed with heaps of glitter - topped with a wreath of silk flowers.

And because my camera died...all I have is one picture of Asia plugging her ears because of the loud Uyghur music. There was a full band playing all the incredible Uyghur instruments with live vocals. It was pretty extravagant and festive.

If any of the guests danced they were given a doppa hat or scarf (men & women). Asia loved watching all the glitzy glam, and especially the cultural dancing towards the end.

And here is a sweet little one, dancing on the dance floor all by herself - twirling and moving her arms with such precious care. Too bad she saw me snap this picture. I am so glad Asia got to be part of this special event too.