Archive for April, 2008

Of rain and ropes

A very wet Kennedy family portrait

One of the newest and most exciting parts of our company is a world class high and low ropes experiential education site in a village about 3 hours north of our mega city. Chinese companies using our training services can bring their employees to the site for team building, character building, life-stretching and spirit renewing retreats.

Our local team went to the site last Sunday to catch a glimpse of the amazing facility that has been built – and to dedicate the course, the land and the leaders. We learned the history of the land – a place of centuries old idol worship, a place decimated by the Japanese in the 1930s and 40s, where many villagers lost their lives – is now a place of healing and growth and new beginnings.

Our day began and ended in the rain, so the photos do not do the site justice. We will bring our Inner Mongolia team to this site for 3 days of training before we board the train for the 26 hour trip north, so hopefully, we can post better pictures in June. Til then, here is a glimpse …

Looking into the valley – the tall posts in the bottom center are the high ropes course elements

A closer look at the high ropes coursestill at quite a distance


Our ever adventurous TCK (third culture kids) eaters – Zach and Noah enjoying roast goat for lunch


I am 34 and learning to write my name

There are lots of things about living in another country that are humbling. Every Monday I am reminded of this. Every Monday from 8 am to 10 am I have my classroom-style one-on-one Chinese lesson with a Chinese teacher at the international school. We work on everything from pronunciation to grammar to recognizing characters. While her English is quite good and she is quite patient, by 10 am I am wiped. Then every Monday night from 7:30 pm to 9:30 pm Sara has her Chinese lesson in our home with a Chinese gentlemen (we have written much about him and his family – they are wonderful!). Similiar stuff with a bit more flexibility. His English is more limited so we have to use our limited vocabulary to ask questions when we don’t understand (and several good English-Chinese dictionaries). I also sit in on these. Now at 10 pm, I have no brain cells left and find myself rather unable to speak either English OR Chinese.

To further humble myself, I have begun studying Chinese characters. There are literally thousands (the average Chinese learns about 20,000 in early schooling). And because I am a glutton for punishment I have asked to learn how to write these characters as well. They are not just pictures to mimic. There is a VERY specific ‘stroke order’ that must be followed to have the look correct. Where to start? Come with me…

The two pages below are my scratching from tonight’s lesson. I am rather embarrassed by it because it looks like a 2-year old’s work – but that’s not far from where I am starting (and frankly most of you won’t know the difference! 🙂 ).

This page is mostly my Chinese name, Kang (pronounced more like Kong, than Kayng). Our teacher not only tried to show me how to write it properly, but also how to do quickly, like a signature. Whoa nellies…


Next we go to counting 1 through 10 (across the top) and the character for the Chinese currency, the yuan (this is their $ sign). And because it is good to study things you care about, I began learning how to write Starbucks Coffee (you can see scattered about). I also tried to give our teacher background (in Chinese) on the name (it comes from Moby Dick) and share the difference between COFFEE and a CAFE (to a non-English speaker, these sound very similiar).

one through ten.jpg

Bound to be a student for life….



Portrait of a Family


Favorite new Kennedy family portrait

March 2008


Exclusive Interview: Zach Kennedy on China

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We could share all day about our perspective on China, but it is entirely a different thing to hear it from the perspective of an 8 year old. As part of an assignment his cousin Sam had for his school in Virginia, Zach helped out by recording this interview for him today. The questions include:

  1. What kind of food do you like and how is it different than what you ate in America and how is it the same?
  2. How are the cultures different and how are they the same?
  3. What are stores like in China? Are they the same or are they different?
  4. Does everybody live in apartments or do some live in houses?
  5. What are the sports like? Are they the same or different?
  6. What are the parks like? Are they the same or different?
  7. What is the music like?
  8. What is your school like?
  9. Is it easy or difficult to make friends?

The interview is posted on YouTube in two parts:

Part I (
Part II (


Tomb Sweeping Day

Today is Qingming, or Tomb Sweeping Day for Chinese people around the world.  Here in mainland China, Tomb Sweeping Day became a national holiday just this year.  Schools and offices are closed for the day – as people pour outdoors to enjoy the coming spring, honor their ancestors and fly kites.

According to Wikipedia, for the Chinese, it is a day to remember and honour one’s ancestors at grave sites. Young and old pray before the ancestors, sweep the tombs and offer food, tea, wine, chopsticks, (joss) paper accessories, and/or libation to the ancestors. The rites are very important to most Chinese and especially farmers. Some people carry willow branches with them on Qingming, or put willow branches on their gates and/or front doors. They think that willow branches help ward off the evil ghosts that wander on Qingming. Also on Qingming, people go on family outings, start the spring plowing, sing, dance, and Qingming is a time where young couples start courting. Another popular thing to do is fly kites (in shapes of animals, or characters from Chinese opera).

With such a long history (Qingming is believed to have begun in the 8th century), why is it just now a national holiday?  The government, correctly assessing that China’s infrastructure (roads, trains, stores, etc) simply cannot bear the load of 1.3 billion people traveling to visit relatives during the two major holidays of Chinese New Year and October Holiday (commemorating the October 1, 1949 declaration of the PRC), has decided to shorten the official holidays at these two times of the year, and add one to two day traditional celebrations scattered throughout the official calendar.

We celebrated by having the kids’ hair cut, eating at McDonalds, watching an episode of the Cosby show and playing outdoors.  Kites are flying, cherry trees are blossoming – despite the wretched pollution and construction, it really is a lovely day and we are so thankful to be out in it!


Just Life

Thought we should post a few pictures from the last month or so. Enjoy!

Ferris wheel at our local park. It was not the most beautiful day, but the kids enjoyed taking pictures from the top.


Zach and Noah at the top of the ferris wheel. The Kennedy girls were in the next car (singing Amazing Grace to keep mommy’s nerves at peace)


What’s behind the plastic? A HUGE demolition project in our apartment. We took a wall out of our living room, reducing the number of bedrooms, but really opening up our family room.

The inevitable paint project that followed.


Sweet sisters in matching Korean style dresses.


Our Easter eggs this year – chicken and quail!


Christmas cards from friends in the States. Thanks so much! It was great to have your smiling faces with us through the long winter.