Trip to Guilin and Yangshuo(桂林和阳朔)

On China National Day, our family joined a few friends on a trip to Guilin. It was one of the most beautiful places we have visited so far in China. The mountains all around were very dramatic limestone formations. The cave we visited took 2 hours to meander through, where we started at the bottom and gradually found ourselves high above the rock and formations we had just seen. I hope these pictures help to give some idea of what it was like.


Recent Trips in China

Capped Off with Yellow Mountain

Since returning from our holiday trip during the Spring Festival, Lester Alemayehu and I have visited a few more interesting spots in China. We thought you might like to take a look!

Heng Dian

The first stop was Heng Dian a small town 4 hours out of Hangzhou. This town is famous for it’s movie sets as it is the largest of its kind in Asia. You can visit famous sites like the Forbidden City or Hong Kong streets all in one day! We chose the local temple and garden grounds for this weekend’s haunt.

Hangzhou Wetlands Park

The city of Hangzhou and our new home has an amazing botanical garden as well as a great wetlands park and some amazing tea tree hilltops, all quite large and spread out in comparison to the small size of the city. We went with some friends to visit the wetlands on a sunny spring day. Their son Danny was born the day after Alemayehu.

Hong Cun – Hong Village

The next location was the our most picturesque stop in China to date. WWe took a school trip with Lester’s workmates to Hong Village and Yellow Mountain about 5 hours drive away. I really enjoyed this particular trip, and despite the incredible crowds, I still think it was totally worth it!

Yellow Mountain

Last but not least, the amazing Yellow Mountain. Our timing was perfect. The weather was gorgeous, and the clouds delicately wrapped mountain peaks, making for excellent pictures.


3 Countries, 2 Beaches and 5 Cities

IMG_2627Lester, Alemayehu and I went on an exciting tour of Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia over the Chinese New Year Holiday. The best document of the trip is on Facebook, click on the albums.

We have been traveling around Asia for 5 years now, and this last trip was our most ambitious yet. From Hangzhou, China to Malaysia. First Kuala Lumpur, then Pangkor Island and Melaka, We could use one word to describe Malaysia… SWEEEEEET! We then took a bus to Singapore, and Lester had quite a harrowing experience at the border. Alemayehu and I with our American passports were allowed in without question, but no-one had heard of Guyana, and after learning where it was, they apparently could not figure out why he would want to travel all the way to Singapore. We were shocked and disappointed at this treatment, especially as it was Lester’s second time in the country. He represented Guyana at an international Commonwealth Youth Parliament event. After 3 nights in Singapore at the home of my friend and teacher Cai Qing, we finally moved onto Indonesia. It had been a lifelong dream of mine to visit Indonesia and learn more about batik. In Yogyakarta, I spent a day creating my own batik design with some professional batik artists. We then flew to Bali and spent a few thrilling days on the beach there. Alemayehu learned to swim in the pool of the hostel! He had been on the brink of swimming by himself after swimming in the pool of our last apartment and on our last trip to the Philippines. We finally coaxed him into taking the plunge! Our last stop was Jakarta where we did some shopping for gifts.

It was an amazing trip, and we learned a lot about Asia, this sort post really does not do it justice at ALL. If anyone would like more details, let me know.

Her Hair Must be Fake AND The Shanghai Biennale

Educating the Masses on black hair

Educating the Masses on black hairThe grand opening of the Shanghai Biennial is fast approaching. The main curator organizing this massage production is also the main adviser for my masters degree program at China Academy of Art, Professor Qiu Zhijie  (邱志杰). The biennial will be in the brand new museum for modern art in Shanghai, the first exhibition held in this space. The existing factory space has been renovated and the new work is currently being installed.

The biennial’s framework has also been expanded this year for the first time to include several project outside the museum space, such as, the City Pavilion project and the Zhongshan Park project. In professor Qiu’s opinion, representing one’s city in this exhibition carries even more significance than representing one’s country and yet doesn’t present as strong of a political statement.

There will be about 28 cities represented, and I will be helping to build the Pittsburgh pavilion. Tomorrow the heavy work begins. I’ll update you on the progress.

The Shanghai Biennial is the reason I am away from home and free to write this blog post, but weather in Shanghai or Hangzhou, my experience walking on the street in China remains a constant challenge. Today as I stopped to buy a snack from a man selling wraps on the street, I lamented the fact that everyone constantly comments on my hair. The problem is the inevitable question and often belligerent and incorrect answer: “Is her hair real or fake?” “Of course it’s fake! It must be fake!”

It really maddens me that everyone believes my hair is fake. So much so that the question is rebuffed as a stupid one. And then there are the constant giggles and comments about my skin color. Women in China go to extreme lengths to prevent their skin from getting tanned. They prefer pearly white skin as a status symbol.

One of my friends in the art program, a tall and handsome white  man from France pointed out that the issues of hair and skin are prevalent also in the black community. He says he always has to deal with people commenting on how tall he is. I don’t think he gets it. I guess I’ll have to take him out for a 30 minute walk one day. When people see two of us walking together as a couple, I’m sure he’ll begin to understand the depth of the problem.

I of course talk with tons of people everyday about where I am from and let them touch my hair. Today a woman in the restaurant where I ate dinner counted out my dreads. Apparently I have 220 dread locks. That was a fun interaction. On the 15 minute walk home I told myself that I should just focus on things like this and ignore everything else. It worked for about 5 minutes. A few people passed and stared, the usual question rang out. Ok, I can handle it. Then a couple passed by. The guy said, “Oh a black women.” After a few seconds they started to laugh loudly. I just can’t understand why that was so f—ing funny.


China’s Written Driving Test

If there is anyone out there in internet land who can explain this question to me, please, please, don’t hesitate to send me a tweet, an email, a tout, something! I am studying for the Chinese written driver’s license test and there have been some baffling questions, but this one is by far the most frustrating. I don’t think Master Yoda himself could not unlock its mysteries. Someone please tell me, what does it mean?!?!


Could the meaning be lost in translation? My limited knowledge of Chinese leads me to say HELL NO. School me someone please.



Here are a few more of my favorites. Two of these are false and one true. Can you get them right?


1. When a vehicle turns right through an interchange, it should pass the interchange before turning right.


2. When a vehicle turns left through an interchange, it should turn right and turn right again before passing the interchange.


3. When a vehicle turn left through an interchange, it should pass the interchange before turning right, entering the ramp and turning right again.

1. Answer: Wrong        2. Answer: Wrong        3. Answer: Right


Ok… This one is the kicker.

When there many wounded persons, those who should be sent to hospital last are the persons ________.

A. Suffering cervical vertebra damage

B. Suffering massive haemorrhage

C. Suffering breathing difficulty

D. Whose intestines and veins are exposed

       Answer:  A

I wonder who should go first?

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Boracay,Philippines (菲律宾)

Lester and I are sitting in our hotel room porch, enjoying luxuries banned in China like facebook and cable TV. (Ok Vincient, our trusted Chinese friend pointed out that, technically cable TV is not banned in China…) It’s just like Barbados here, the weather, the beach, the laid back culture. Some would even say the beach itself is better than Barbados and they may have a good point, except for the streams of tourists everywhere, and hundreds of locals trying to sell you everything … food, massages, clothes, boat rides, island tours… Everyday at least 40 people ask us to buy something. We realized that we haven’t learned how to say hello in Filipino, I think it might be, “Hi Mam… Hi Sir…massage?”

But, the beach makes it all worth it. The beach, the weather and the laid back culture. I had a wish to go to the beach. My husband is a good man, he heard me and made my wish come true. As I walk past all the bags, key chains and trinkets that say Boracay, if I squint my eyes it looks like they say Barbados. Except we don’t have that many things to buy on the beach.

The tourist here are from all over the world, lots of Chinese, Koreans and Japanese as well as people from other places in Philippines. Then thre are Europeans, Australians and Americans. Not so many blacks though. The three of as are still too much of a spectacle to be totally comfortable. It’s really hard to get used to the stares and giggles. Yes we are black. No I am a woman. Look again, and you cannot deny that I am beautiful.

I hope you like the pictures, we worked hard on them. We want to remember how nice it was here, and make the memories last a lifetime, cause there are too many wonderful places to visit in Asia, so although we love you, changes are we won’t be coming back to Boracay Island.

We’ve got one more delicious day… but here is a sample of the pics. For more, check out my google album, formerly picasa, now on google plus!