We took a day off from our studies to head inland to enjoy a day with the elephants. Each of us had the opportunity to get on the back for a few minutes. (That’s a scrub brush in my hands as we were supposed to scrub clean the back of the elephant.) Even though the elephants appeared to be treated humanly they each had a metal chain around one of it’s legs and it seemed that they were limited to how far they could roam. I felt bad but not bad enough to pass up the opportunity. Sigh.GOPR0628.JPG

Afterwards we had some delicious home-cooked Thai food and then headed off for some white-water rafting.


I fell into the boat when we began and slipped on the rocks when getting out but did NOT fall out of the raft as we headed down the rapids. A Pyrrhic victory.

Boot Camp

The two older boys will be taking the Independent School Entrance Exam (ISEE) in late November. To fully prepare them for the exam with the least amount of distraction, we headed off to a villa near Phuket, Thailand. We are calling it “Boot Camp” as we are doing little else but exam preparation: 3 to 4 hours in the morning and another 1-2 hours in the afternoon. Grueling. “Cooped up” in a beach-front villa.


The only thing distracting us are the magnificent sunrises and sunsets.



Xi’an China: Final Days

Breathe, breathe in the air
Don’t be afraid to care
Leave but don’t leave me
Look around and choose your own ground

Pink Floyd “Breathe” from Dark Side of the Moon

I didn’t go outside on our final day. The pollution was deemed highly unacceptable, and I was tired of the headaches, watery eyes, and distinct feeling that I had swallowed an ashtray.

The day before the pollution hadn’t been as bad and we enjoyed the city’s sites. We started by visiting the Xi’an City wall; 14.2 km of a continuous wall; large enough to walk or ride bikes. It was fascinated to see what was going on below: Tai Chi classes, Ballroom dancing, and something?

We headed over to Da Fa Chang, one of Xi’an most excellent dumpling restaurants and feasted on a 17-course dumpling lunch. As with most of the food experiences, I don’t remember to photograph the food until after we are done eating.

We headed over the Muslim quarter, a long street filled with street food and vendors. The smells, sights, and tastes made this one of the most captivating single streets I’ve ever been on. Not to be missed if you’re ever in Xi’an.

Afterwards, the entire family and I were treated to foot massages although it was closer to a total body massage.

Xi’an China: Day 2- Terra-cotta Army

Today we visited the Terra-cotta Army located about 45 minutes from the center of Xi’an. The weather was perfect and the pollution levels were quite low. Our guide spoke nearly perfect English and her knowledge of the history of the terra-cotta warriors was amazing. She added stories, creation myths, legends, and history of ancient China making this one of the most enjoyable tours of the trip.

The Terra cotta Army is often considered to be the 8th Wonder of the World and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

There were no written records of the 700,000 laborers and artisans who built the warriors nor of the 35+ years they toiled to complete the task. Just a mention of a tomb prepared for the Emperor Ch’in, the first emperor of China in 221 B.C. (It’s where China gets it’s name as he was the first emperor to unify the Chinese people. He is also responsible for the first iteration of The Great Wall).

The warriors were to be his army in the afterlife.


In the 1970’s, one of the warriors was unearthed accidentally by some peasant farmers ¬†and as archeologists ¬†began digging, the scope of the site became clearer. The site contains thousands of warriors, chariots, horses, etc., though only some have been excavated and restored.


Xi’an China: Day 1

After an intense morning of math, reading comprehension, and vocabulary practice exams (the two boys are gearing up to take the ISEE exams in late November), the crew heading off to the Wild Goose Pagoda, a Buddhist structure originally built in 652.


We ended the day by heading over to the north side of the shrine where there is a nightly water and light show.

Beijing, China: Final days

After our expedition to The Great Wall of China we head off to the Summer Palace. W


On our final day in Beijing we began by exploring the Temple of Heaven. Our tour guide was magnificent, giving us insight into the typical Chinese person. More on this in a future post.

A visit to a traditional Chinese home.



A rickshaw to lunch.


And dinner at The Night Market. Street food where one can buy baby pigeons, crickets, slugs, squid, and many unknown foods.

But the highlight were the scorpions. For starters they were displayed alive. And although I couldn’t down one (yes I wimped out), Annika, who is totally fearless, downed them without a problem.