The people in my life; Part I

The other day I had an idea to interview some people that I interact with regularly here in China. The first person I interviewed was my tutor, since I needed her help in translating my questions. She has also started sharing some interesting stories about her family with me. 

*note, I don’t seem to have access to appropriate accent markings for Mandarin on WordPress, so I apologize to Summer for leaving them out. 

My tutor, Summer

What is your name?

Li Yan Hui which means “Colorful morning sunshine”. 

Li, my last name, means “plum”. The meaning of my last name comes from the plum tree. Many generations ago, someone in my family worked for the government. He did something wrong and was banished to the country. It was harsh country, but the family was able to survive by eating plums that grew freely. My family changed our name to “Li”. 

(Yan Hui uses the English name “Summer” for her students.)

How old are you? 


Where were you born? 

In a town called Zhang Jia Jie, in the Hunan province in southern China

Who are your family members? 

Father, mother, myself, and my meimei (younger sister) who is 27. 


What can you tell me about your education? 

Most people in China have six years of elementary school, three years of Junior High, three years of High School, and four years of college. I went to a “crap” college, only three years, and got a Bachelor’s degree in basic finance. Then I had an internship at a bank. I regret not working harder in high school, because I couldn’t get into a better college. I went to a community college. My instructor couldn’t solve a hard equation I asked him to help me with. 

Did you get educated in Beijing? 

No, in my hometown. 

How did you get into Beijing? Are your parents here?

No, my parents are in my hometown. I came here because of my sister. My father paid a lot of money for my sister to go to a top art school in Beijing. She worked for top fashion designers here, and then she quit to try to make her own business. Its complicated though, and now she is not working. 

What is the best place to go to in China? 

The national forest park in my hometown of Zhang Jia Jie. The movie Avatar was based off this place. It was very crowded in the summer, and I waited in line for two hours.

What is your favorite restaurant in Bejing? 

I can’t remember the name of it, it is in the Village, on the 2nd floor. It serves food from Hunan Province, but less greasy. 

What is the best place to go to in Beijing? 

I like quiet places to think. The Confucius Temple is my favorite place. It is not crowded and it is only costs 30 RMB ($5) to get in.

What do you do in your free time? 

I like to watch movies, listen to music, read, and hike. My favorite movies are Lost in Translation, and Life of Pi. 

If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go? 

I would go to Machu Picchu.

Where would you like to visit in the United States? 

I would rent a car for a road trip across the U.S. I really want to see the Grand Canyon. 

What do you like to eat for dinner? 

Hunan, Korean, Japanese, and Mexican food. I like them all because they are spicy. 

What is the best thing about China? 

Everything! It is my mother country. 

What is the worst thing about Beijing? 

The air, and the houses are too expensive for us.

What is the best thing about Beijing? 

It is an international big city, and multicultural. It is “open” compared to the rest of China. It has the best universities and libraries. 




My new green machine

This week I got my new ride. The ultimate in Beijing transportation. Its a tuk tuk! Completely fume free, rechargeable battery operated, outfitted with enclosed rear seating and seatbelt for the girls, hand warmer mitts to protect against bitter Beijing winds, butterfly headlights and flames on the sides. What more could a girl want? The only sad part about it was that I got my tuk tuk because its former owner moved back to the States…She sold it to me for a mere $250. Dad, you don’t need to worry about safety. The top speed is “putt putt” and I actually got stuck on one of those square speed bumps the other day. I pedaled my rig over.




Here is a photo of the sunset tonight…DSC_0248

and Christmas lights in Sanlitun:

Oh, one more thing…if you are reading this, please comment occasionally. I like to know that I’m writing to someone!

A Peaceful Wish

This past week our family learned about the migrant worker population in China, and especially in Beijing. The girls were asked to bring in a gently used toy from home to wrap and donate to a child their own age that attended a migrant children’s school. Sophie, who is in the school choir, participated in the Carols for a Cause fundraiser last Sunday. Choirs from several international schools in Beijing gathered to sing at the first annual event of this kind. We were also treated to a mini concert by the migrant children themselves, who sang Christmas songs in English for us. They were SO happy to have such a grand excursion to a hotel with treats, trinkets, and an audience. It really rounded out the meaning behind the donation of the toys. These children don’t have much free time or toys and non-school books to read. Their parents pay quite a bit of money for their child/ren to attend migrant children’s schools. There is little left over. 

Beijing has about 700, 000 migrants from rural areas living without a hukou, or permanent resident registration. Since 1958, the government has been limiting the number of people who can be residents of Beijing. (or other cities in China) Without a hukou, people do not have access to the Beijing education system, healthcare, and social security. Those that we were able to help through our school are sponsored by a charity run by the Migrant Children’s Foundation, based out of the UK.

More about migrant children here:

I wish that I was able to do more, but unfortunately, we need to work through sponsored organizations like MCF through officially sanctioned projects. It is an ongoing cause that my daughter’s school supports, and we do what we can in this capacity. 


Thanksgiving must go on!

To say this week was difficult would be an understatement. Wednesday night a stomach virus hit our youngest. Since she is only three, it meant holding her all night with a trash can to catch her throw up. All night. Until 5am. The next day was Thanksgiving, and the international schools are in session on that day here. We were glad we didn’t plan anything for that day, because my little one was still feeling tired and not able to eat much. 

We did have plans, made several weeks in advance with good friends of ours from Cary, NC. We were going to have a feast at their house on Saturday. Brian was going to make pies, I was bringing my favorite quinoa dish and a gluten free apple crisp. I already made special gluten-free cornbread. We were REALLY looking forward to it. My oldest daughter was missing home and family, and frankly, so was I. 

Friday night, the rest of us were really thankful we have three bathrooms in this house, because that’s where we were all night. I was also really thankful that Hollis was already in bed! It was really hard telling Sophie that we couldn’t go to the feast. We were all so sad and I was mad that this illness took away something from home that we needed.

In Beijing I have learned that you have to pick yourself up and move forward quickly. Our sweet friends delivered a meal full of leftovers, with all the necessary ingredients to round out our cornbread, pie, quinoa, and brussel sprouts.
So here we are, a few days late, making our own Thanksgiving Day, thankful for friends, family, food that reminds us of home.
Oh, my gluten free cornbread came out great!

Carving the turkey
Carving the turkey

Cranberries and stuffing too!
Cranberries and stuffing too!