Ni Hao is Joe Doing?

Anecdotes from my time in China.

Spring Break: The Philippines

I’m tan.  Along with four of my classmates, I spent eight days in the Philippines; we got to experience the bustling city of Manila, the mid-sized but no less culturally rich Coron Town, and the smallest—but most amazing— village of Maricaban.  We saw a LOT throughout the week, and had some incredible experiences.  I will give a brief recount of each part of the trip, but I will try to let the pictures do most of the talking.  I may add more pictures in the upcoming week as we consolidate our cameras.

The first day, we landed in Manila, and were picked up from the airport by Nicole’s aunt.  We got to try some Filipino bread (delicious) and take a nap at her lovely home in the city.  After a couple hours of much needed sleep, we hopped on a one-hour flight to Coron.  The Coron airport was small but charming, and it was there that we met up with Tomas, our ‘guide’ and representative of the AirJuan typhoon relief movement.  We took a van to Maricaban (a VERY small coastal town), and set up at Ate Vicky’s, our waterside lodging.  

The next couple of days in Maricaban were incredible.  We met tons of fun and very social kids, and provided them with some new toys (frisbees, jumpropes) , and subsequently ended up playing with them for hours on end.  We danced Zumba, tried the local cuisine (lots of meat and seafood, my favorite), and even sang karaoke and drank with the men of the village.  During the day, Vicky and Valerie (the coolest little girl in the world) took us on a boatride to a private beach; it was there that I had the opportunity to get the first of my awesome sunburn.  I should mention that, before we left for the trip, Nicole organized a fundraiser at HNC, and we were able to raise a solid amount of funds that we put towards buying much needed school supplies for the children of Maricaban.  (much was lost in the typhoon)

After some incredible days in Maricaban, we took an hour long van ride to Coron Town, a much more developed (but still charming) seaside hot spot.  This place catered a bit more towards tourists, but that didn’t mean that we weren’t riding tuk tuks (a motorcycle converted to fit six people) and sweating it out; it was incredibly fun.  We did some shopping, we jammed out at Marley’s restaurant (I got to play drums with the musicians there), and we went island hopping.  You know those postcards that have the unrealistically beautiful green mountains, islands, and pools?  We went there, and it was that beautiful.  Though I don’t have a picture, we went snorkling over some coral reefs, and it was very reminiscent of Finding Nemo, i.e., the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen.

When our few days in Coron Town were up, we flew back to Manila for the tail end of the trip.  We did some shopping in the Mall of Asia (one of if not THE biggest mall in Asia), and met up with some more of Nicole’s family.  The following day provided an unexpected but nonetheless incredible opportunity.  One of Jace’s frat brothers is the son of the CEO of the largest (essentially only) provider of fresh milk/greek yogurt/cheese in the Philippines, which is a de-agriculturalized country.  He sent some vans to pick us up from our hostel, and we drove an hour and a half out to his farm/estate.  He had a beautiful home, and personally gave a tour of his facilities, fields and factories, AND served us lunch and breakfast.  He was incredibly generous and kind, and I now feel like I have a much better understanding of what it means to operate and manage a large scale dairy farm!

That was the trip in a nutshell (obviously, there are many things that I neglected to mention for fear of writing a novel).  Below are a bunch of pictures from the trip (keep checking back for a while, because I will probably keep adding more, and it takes a while to post them!)


Back Again (Again)

It’s been a little over a month since I’ve returned to Nanjing, and I wasted no time getting right into the action.  After a very nice but VERY snowy winter back in D.C./Stamford, Nanjing’s currently moderate climate was very nice to return to (the pollution has even gone down!)

We started off the semester with a few birthday celebrations. For Kevin and my combined party we made a huge excursion to a Teppanyaki restaurant (similar to Hibachi, because we just had to get Japanese food in China.) For Amanda’s birthday, a bunch of us went bowling; I’ve never seen a bowling alley so crowded.

Last weekend was Shanghai career day, and event where many different HNC alumni from various career sectors in China come and participate in Q&A format informational panels.  It was a great networking event, and I even ran into Hugh Sullivan (a Gonzaga grad and assistant director of development for HNC, based out of the D.C. SAIS office) and Jeremy Friedlein, my program director from CET Shanghai.

Now that my foot is no longer in constant agony, I’ve been able to play rugby again.  The Rockets are a powerhouse this season.  The day after career day, we had a tournament in Wuhan, where we took on Wuhan and Hangzhou.  We have historically been pretty even with Hangzhou, and Wuhan has always slaughtered us.  This time, we made Hangzhou look like children, and were actually UP 2 tries to nil against Wuhan at the half.  In the second half, there were some calls by the ref and plays by Wuhan of severely questionable morality, and the manged to come back and win it 3-2.  Needless to say, we were disappointed, but the fact that we played a better game shows that we absolutely can —and will— beat them next time.

The HNC dragon boat team had it’s first meeting last week (led by yours truly, the team captain.)  We have spring break coming up this week, but upon return we plan to have frequent and rigorous practices.  The big race is May 31st, and the participants include boats from the Sheraton hotel and different businesses/clubs from around the city.  Over 30 people showed up to the meeting, so I have high hopes for the team. This season.

Off to the Philippines for a week for some spring break relief work/fun on Thursday.  Will take many pictures, and will return with many stories.

Here are some pics to illustrate the above.

Some Teppanyaki action shots:

I believe that I’ve started a burpee (and Crossfit) revolution at HNC:

Bowling and more bday fun:

Shanghai career day (and me with Hugh Sullivan):

Rockets in Wuhan (10 hour sleeper train from Shanghai first):

MIsc. Nanjing/ school:

Model of HNC (in our front lobby):

Next post after the Philippines.  Now, to stock up on bug spray and sunscreen…



My home away from home.




Half-developed chicken egg; a Nanjing specialty and, yes, I ate it.


HNC Ambassadors game.

imageOur digs in Beijing.

Smuggler’s bar, where we spent many a Friday night during my Beijing semester.

Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Everything In Between

A month and a half seems like enough time between postings; so much for keeping the blog well updated.  Anyway, I’ll try to use the pictures I took over the past several weeks to help me keep everything in order.

We had a week off for Thanksgiving break, and several of us spent the vacation time in Beijing.  I hadn’t been back since my time two years ago, but it felt as familiar as always (the only difference being that this time, the weather was beautiful; no smog in sight!).  We did a bit of sightseeing (visited some old favorites like The Forbidden City and Jingshan Park), and met up with some old friends, notably Cici and Zhangda, two of the Chinese roommates from my semester in Beijing.  Zhangda even joined our group for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner at an expat operated bar, and later that same evening, brother Jack and some of his friends met up with us for a night on the town.   Overall, it was a fun week and successful break.

In the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, there were several fun events, ranging from a class field trip to a retirement home on the outskirts of Nanjing to the first ever Nanjing hosted rugby tournament, which featured teams from Nanjing, Fuzhou, Wuhan, and Hangzhou.  I also finally got around to seeing the Nanjing Massacre Museum, which was quite a powerful sight and a respectful tribute to the victims.  I’ll let the pictures fill in most of the story.

Finally, Christmas.  The Center did a pretty good job of putting on a nice Xmas dinner and maintaining a good sense of holiday spirit.  Christmas movies were shown in the lounge, and  we had a nice meal on Christmas eve, followed by a happy hour with Christmas cookies (I of course ate inordinate amounts of the fudge.)  On Christmas morning, we got together to open our ‘secret Santa’ gifts; I got some fancy chocolates.  Later in the day, John (Nanjing Rockets team manager)  cooked us an incredible Christmas dinner of French onion soup, roasted potatoes, stuffing, turkey with latticed bacon, pork, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, strudel and pudding.  I went to sleep at 6:30pm that evening.

Now, I’m in the midst of final papers, exams, and presentations (sort of an excuse for the delay on this post, but not entirely valid…), but we have one last ‘hurrah,’ which is our New Year’s party in a couple of days. We reserved a room on one of the highest floors on the tallest building in Nanjing, and the guest list (Center students and friends) is around 70 people so far.  Should be an epic night, and I’ll actually report on that one a couple days after it occurs… Only two weeks until home!


Chugging Along…

When I’m in China, the time seems to slip away, and before I know it…my blog needs an update.  The problem with waiting so long between posts is that I tend to forget little details and events that seemed important at the time they occurred.  Oh well, here goes a brief recount of recent happenings (the pictures tell a better story anyway…)

For those of you who don’t know, I badly sprained my foot in early October, and have since then been unable to play rugby, or walk properly for that matter. I’m just now starting to be able to get around, as the pain in my foot is virtually gone; still, it will be a few weeks before I’m ready to put my foot to the test against the impact that is unavoidable in rugby.  I’ve been attending the games and supporting the team, especially in the social events. (see pictures from Shanghai tournament several posts below.)

Halloween and alumni weekend happened to coincide, and it made for a fun and crazy couple of days.  I met some great HNC alumni, including one who went to my high school, and another who was one year ahead of me at Holy Cross; seriously small world.  MENergy (my band) dressed up as characters from Journey to the West (probably the most famous Chinese folktale) and played a great rock show at the Center’s Halloween party. 

As for this past weekend, and now that I can finally walk, I took a trip to Xuanwu lake, which has a beautiful park trail; it’s one of Nanjing’s major sights to see.  The weather was perfect, and we made a day out of it.  Hopefully that weather continues into this coming weekend; we’ll be having our first home rugby tournament on Saturday, and I’ll be leading the cheering section (while wistfully watching the uninjured play….) I can’t wait to get back out there.

Classes are going well (finally starting to get the hang of learning different subjects in Chinese).  I feel like I’ve been at the Center forever, but as I mentioned before, the time is flying by.  I’ll try to be better at posting pictures and keeping the blog updated.

Econ midterm tomorrow, so it’s time to study.


Xuanwu lake, part 3

Xuanwu lake, part 2

Xuanwu lake, part 1