Monday, December 30, 2013

Philippines Whale Sharks

I'll let Yangmei write this blog since it was a life-long dream of hers to swim with whale sharks.

Mark isn't as thrilled with his breakfast of fresh mango and sticky rice with beans
 as Mike and I were.  It was served a tiny cup of strong chocolate to pour over the rice.

Look at that fabulous shape in the water next to me! Look at the size of him!  

Most of the whale sharks were approximately 9 meters long.  I did get to meet one even larger after he bumped into my back.  I turned around, thinking that I'd drifted into a boat hull, but found myself looking down the mouth of one that was at least 10 meters.  He was huge!

Mike and a friend.

Will didn't want to get out of the water.

The canoe that took us out to the whales.  Dagny was afraid of the waves, since it was a little choppy on the water.  She watched from the boat.

It looks as though I'm touching it, but I'm not.  
We weren't allowed to touch the sharks.   They didn't get the same instructions, though, so occasionally they bumped into us or gently pushed us with their fins.

During the "pre-whale shark viewing training," we were told to stay at least 4 meters away at all times.

During our dives, our guide, who was in the water with us to take photos, kept saying, "Go down!  Get closer!  Go!  Go!  Get right next to the sharks!"

Sounds good!

Will said he could feel the current of water rushing into the shark's mouth.
Did Mark just get slurped inside?
Nope, there he is!  Phew!
And did I mention that we saw mermaids, also?
Taking a moment to rest on the outrigger.

Don't get sucked in, Will!  Will the Krill!
There's our guide/photographer.  Two sharks with us.  Two happy swimmers.

An amazing lunch which we had after the shark swim and waterfall visit.  Our table sat on a beach of worn coral, under a bamboo pergola overlooking the sea.

Fish Ceviche
Grilled Fish
Fried Chicken
Spicey Chicken Soup
San Miguel Beer
A gorgous, chilly waterfall.  The kids are standing on the stump of a tree that they found under the water.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Christmas in the Philippines

This year we decided to do something different than open presents in the comfort of our home.  We packed up an went to Cebu, Philippines to stay at the very kid-friendly Shangri-La Mactan.  Like usual the flight to the Philippines was nasty.  We left Shanghai at 1:30, made it to Manila by 8:30 and had a 5:00 am flight the next morning (our original flight was cancelled).  To get some sleep we decided to get a hotel.  The 'hotel lounge' booking office at the airport had us talk to a 'local' hotel.  We agreed on a price and off we went for the 10 minute, $9 shuttle ride.  When we got there the price was not the same and we were in the middle of a war zone, not feeling safe.  So we got back into a real taxi, yelled at the cabby in order to put down the meter (changed price from $7 to $1.50) and we were back at the hotel to sleep in the lobby for the night...
Kids sleeping on metal benches at Manila Airport

Mama trying to get some shut-eye.

When we got to the hotel it was still before 7 am so we had breakfast and played at the resort.   The first day felt like 3 days since we did so much.

We get our Chinese Mangos from Cebu, where we were.
The mangoes for breakfast each day were like candy!

On day 2 we played around the resort and made a poor mistake to take the hotel shuttle into the mall.  It ended up being about 3 hours in the shuttle for a 5 mile ride with about 1 hour in the mall.  The traffic was really bad.

We traveled through the real city on the way to the mall.

The local bus system.  Packed into these privately owned buses.

Happy Hour drinks on the water
Sunset at the beach.  

There were a bunch of ghost crabs at night.

I'll keep this blog about the trip getting to the resort, the resort and other stuff.  The Christmas Eve with the Whale Sharks will be the next episode.

Friday, December 20, 2013

JP Morgan 2013

This was the second JP Morgan race that I did and the third for our JV.  It was a nice day for the race.  Not much to write about but a racing event prior to the marathon event.  This was in mid to late October.


Ziad, Goldman and me.  

Post race meal at a soup place.  This was
chicken feet soup.

...and there's the foot!

This was a whole chicken or duck or something with its
head looking at us.

Thanksgiving & pre-Christmas Activities 2013

Thanksgiving was not much of an event this year.  We had a work, expat dinner and then a lunch at Concordia since Yangmei is now teaching there.  The lunch was much better than the work dinner for food quality.  A great turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and cranberry - Yum!

Turkey Lunch at Concordia

Satisfied eater.

Even Mark loved it.

Lunch with 100 other people, many we know.

This is the Concordia cafeteria.  It is very nice.

The day after Thanksgiving saw the rising of
Christmas aisle at our local grocery store.

The kids are all in piano lessons so we went to a concert
with their teacher.  An awesome show but too long for them.

Concert show.

This is Mark and his two best Shanghai friends (Cole and EJ)

He was a sheppard in the school Christmas play/concert.  He
had a couple of lines to say into the microphone.  He did very well!
For Christmas we are heading to Cebu, Philippines.  We will be there from 21 - 28 December staying on the beach and hopefully, swimming with the Whale sharks!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all those who read this.  We miss all of you especially around the holidays.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Shanghai Marathon 2013

Like any big city, Shanghai sponsors a marathon event.  And since I don't have to spend my spare time caring to the needs of a yard, a pool or an old house in need of repair then I have time to exercise.  For anyone needing a goal to motivate them to get out of bed in the morning, a race is a great focus.  Ok, so a marathon is not a normal goal but I decided that it would be for me.  

I enjoy running for the exercise and the ability that it allows to be close to a city and the people.  There were many events that I witnessed on my long weekend runs through downtown (e.g. prostitutes ending work at 5 am, 50 workers packing into a pick-up truck heading to work) that very few people would have seen.  

My training started in August and by November 1st my knee was sore with tendinitis.  Sore enough that I had to stop running about 3 weeks before the December 1st race.   But the since I had paid my 200 RMB ($32) I thought I would go get my t-shirt, number and other free-bees.   The knee had felt good over the last week so I decided the night before to run the half.
Pickup the day before
Find you name on the poster amongst
35,000 others
The wall of names, mostly Chinese
History of running in China

The race day was a perfect temperature but the air-pollution index was above 200, which is defined as, "very unhealthy, Protection recommended".  This is above the "Limit outdoor activity" level.  But hey, it was only 13 miles.
Air Pollution App just before the race

I started the race with a local friend and the knee felt great.  At the 12 km point I had recalled that there was a turnoff point of the marathoners from the rest and after 5 km it would connect back up with them.   So I called home to confirm.  The worst case would be that it would hurt and then I would limit my run to about 16 mi.

To make a long story about a long race short, I my knee felt good so I kept going and finished the full marathon.  It is a week later and my muscles are still sore and maybe I have done permanent damage to my body but hey, I can say that I finished the race without stopping to walk!  

Pre-race band.  Many supporter along the route
were chanting "China, china".

Port-a-potty, it was a hole in the ground for

The starting mob on the Bund.

I was about 200 meters from the start.  We had
chip time so it didn't really matter.

I started the race with a friend.  He did it in 3:30.

Off we go, it took about 2 minutes to cross the
starting line. 

This was a photo at the finish line area.
I was too tired to think about taking photos.