Saturday, December 24, 2011

Zhenda ma?

On our way into Christmas Eve brunch at The Orchard, Parker found a
Liberty nickel in the parking lot...this is a very strange occurance!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Sheng Dan Kuai Le!

Parker said this week that he wasn't sure if he was more excited for Christmas coming or for Granny's arrival on the 30th.  The rest of us feel the same, but certainly over these last few days Santa's arrival is of premium concern!  The boys have been off from school this week and we have spent most of the week relaxing at home with an excursion to the clubhouse pool and a little Christmas shopping mixed in. Also, I completed my third week of one-on-one Chinese lessons; fe cheng hao!  Depsite the fact that most Chinese don't celebrate Christmas, and if they do, it is it only the "santa" part, Li Laoshi and I spent this week's lessons discussing the vocabulary of Christmas, and yesterday she concluded class by asking me a question, "When do your children find out that you are lying to them about Sheng Dan Lao Ren?"

"Well," I said, "I mean this may be Parker's last go around with believing in him the way you are thinking, but we don't really think of it as lying.  We try to instill the spirit of giving into our boys and that Spirit is like Santa, you know?"  

She winked at me incredulously, "so they find out at 11 that you are lying?"    

We both laughed and I said, "Mei guo ren Zhong guo ren bu yi yang."  She laughed in agreement that Westerners and Chinese are just not the same. Nonetheless, I wished her Sheng Dan Kuai Le, and she did the same.

The plan is for Santa to come on Sunday morning, and Bennett has been busy noodling the way that Santa is going to land here 13 hours before heading to his cousin's houses in America.  Hopefully Santa will deliver some new snowboards for the boys and over the next two weeks of vacation we will check out the local ski mountains at Nan Sheng and The Olympic Green.  

Tonight Joanne and I will wrap by the fire after attending an open house down the street. While we would normally be spending the time with our loved ones up and down the East Coast, we are here and making the most of it with new friends who have also foregone a trip to the beaches of Thailand or Vietnam to stick around River Gardens for the holiday.  Likewise, tomorrow after we enjoy the morning by the tree we will venture to another friend's house and have Christmas dinner with the Marines from the embassy.  

Much like Thanksgiving this is the toughest time to be away from home, but we are going to have a wonderful couple of days of it together, and if you like we can send you an early warning message if in fact Santa does show up this year!

Sheng Dan Kuai Le!

Paul Koch (@pkoch9999)
+151 1692-2787

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Another Dragon Award!

So proud of Parker for this! He earned it for showing empathy when
another child, whom he did not know, fell off the playground
equipment; Parks helped the kid out. He didn't know he was being
watched, but an observant teacher referred him for the award.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Let's Burger

We happened upon a new restaurant right down the street from the
house. It appears that it could be dangerous...

A Snowy Day in Beijing

Subbing in a 4th grade class today.

On the few minutes of break I had in the morning, I had the chance to
explain that this dusting of snowfall would have most likely closed
schools back where I come from.

"Really, no way? Where are you from?"

"Well, DC area, but a little further out, Fauquier County."

"Excuse me?"

"Fuh Kyer County," I said.


"Is that really what it is called?"


"Mate, can you get me some shirts that say that?"

Monday, November 28, 2011

Spinning Dunking Dragons

At halftime of the high school basketball game in The Great Wall
Shootout, Parker and about 50 other students performed in the Spinning
Dunking Dragons. To qualify the students had to demonstrate that they
could spin a ball on their finger for at least 1 minute continuously.
The students worked in two groups, one spinning and one dunking on a
low rim with a trampoline, and then they switiched. Bad pics, I know,
but cool show!

Parker Throwing Down!

That's him in the background with the blue hair!


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

Awakening to another crisp and cold, but blue, morning here in Shunyi
District. I'm thankful for every blue sky I see when I take the first
peek out in the morning.

I am also thankful that Joanne's office is closed today(and so is
mine;) and we get to spend the day together. She has worked crazy
hours these last few weeks and deserves some needed rest.

We plan to drive the boys to school, maybe with a stop for coffee on
the way, then I am playing on a team in the "turkey bowl". It's an
embassy organized football tourney which is being held at ISB. I think
it sounds like fun but some of these dudes seem to be taking their
1-day-a-year flag football careers pretty seriously, so more to tell
later I am sure.

Following the games, jojo and I will go by Jenny Wang's grocery store
to shop for today's meal. We are sharing Thanksgiving with some
friends from the neighborhood and collectively we will attempt the
standards: Turkey, stuffing and all the fixins. A friend is making
the turkey, but otherwise, it feels a bit helpless not to have all of
these items filling our pantry and kitchen days in advance, but there
is no rush on it I guess. When I told Li Xiu Lan that she had the day
off she was a bit amused and smiled. When I told her that it was
"Thanksgiving in America", she laughed and said, "bu shi zhong guo".
She meant, not in China, but I am sure she was thankful for the day
off nonetheless.

On days like today I miss all my family and friends back home, and the
memories of how Thanksgiving has been for exactly the other 38 tries
before this, but I'm thankful that my family, friends, and mostly my
wife and sons, have supported me on this journey. While there won't
be any NFL games to watch until early Friday morning, we are going to
eat and be thankful together and it seems like it will be a great day.

I am thankful for my loving wife and family, the opportunity I have to
spend so much time with my boys, the protection provided by those who
serve the United States of America, and the many opportunities that
my God has laid out before me.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sent from the iPhone of
Paul R. Koch

Friday, November 4, 2011


Fwd: Devon is our Dragon Award winner

Sent from the iPhone of 
Paul R. Koch

Begin forwarded message:

From: "Mary O'Reilly [STAFF]" <>
Date: November 4, 2011 1:02:27 PM GMT+08:00
To: "" <>, "" <>
Subject: Devon is our Dragon Award winner

Dear Paul & Joanne,

On behalf of Mr. Sohi I am very pleased to let you know that Devon has earned an ISB Dragon Award this week!

Dragon Awards are given to Elementary School students to acknowledge their strengths or recognize significant improvement in one of the following areas:
1.    Academic achievement (This includes all subject areas and all aspects of the curriculum)
2.    Social Interactions and citizenship (This includes interactions inside and outside the classroom)
3.    Presentation or performance (This includes regular classes and special events)

This Dragon Award has been presented to Devon for his calm and polite manner, his self-control, and his ability to get the big ideas. This is an accomplishment that your whole family can be proud of!

The ES principals invite your child and this week's other Dragon Award recipients for a celebratory breakfast of juice and muffins at Dragon Bites, in the ES cafeteria, next Thursday morning from 8:00- 8:15.

The Dragon Award will be displayed in the classroom for a week and then in the Elementary School reception area for the following week. Please feel welcome to come and see your child's award displayed in this area.

Attached is a photograph of your child receiving the Dragon Award this morning.

Dal Sohi & Mrs. O'Reilly

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


"Mate, watch fah cahs," Nick announced while reaching out a protective hand in Bennett's direction as we approached the main road into Capital Paradise - a neighboring compound housing many of the boys' friends and quite a few teachers from ISB. Our new found Aussie friends (well Tassie as they refer to themselves indicating that they are more specifically from the Island of Tasmania) invited us over for Tim Tam's, coffee, and Halloween festivities, even though this was only their "third go round with Halloween, mate."

The cars rolled by and then Nick repeated, "Bennett, look again for cars, mate."

Benne looked both ways, then turning to look back in Nick's direction, laughingly repeated,"Mate, watch fah cahs," in his finest Tassie accent.

Despite the lack of Halloween experience for many folks living around here, we did spend much of the weekend Trick-or-Treating around Shunyi with our kind friends and Bennett honing his accent at every opportunity. "Hey mate, look at that tree." "Mate, what's for dinnah?" "Mate, you wanna play Wii?" "G'day, I'm watching football today mate."

Speaking of football - oh and not the Aussie rules kind which Parker is now learning at school, or the kickball kind which is popular here and written like futbol, but the NFL kind, you know, American Football as it is called here - this Monday I tuned into the Eagles live at 8:20 AM. In spite of the hour of day and the fact that instead of sipping a cold Yuengling I was holding a cup of morning coffee, I attempted to maintain some viewing normalcy, jumping up and yelling at the TV when the Eagles went in to score, or letting out a "Pick it" every time Romo dropped back to pass. Coffee and the NFL – doable, though certainly different from our Sunday procedure back home in which we "jerseyed up" the boys and focused all Sunday activities around the kickoff time for the game. We actually get quite a few games in live broadcast here thanks to AFN. When dad was here we watched the 1o'clock game live at 1:00 AM following a little evening nap. Next week it looks like I'll be able to try the morning routine again when I can catch the Eagles/Bears Monday night football game live on Tuesday morning.

Prior to our trip home for R and R we stayed pretty busy on Sundays, but since our return we have opted for a new Sunday routine: fire in the fireplace, boardgames, maybe a movie to see us through; or we play softball with the Marine detachment if the weather is decent. Decent days, however, may be running out. The weather has been bad lately, and since our return we have seen only a handful of blue days – a bad sign if the Winter proves, as professed by those with more China time than we have, to be bitter cold and smoky.

We did have a marvelous swing home. Spent dad's 70th with him, and Joanne ran her 8th marathon in Albany, but generally we were fortunate just to spend time with the people whom we miss most while living abroad. I got a chance to re-walk the halls at FHS and speak to former students and classes about our experiences. It felt great to be back in front of the class, but man, while talking to those kids in Mrs. Duggan or Miller's, Parks' or Lorber's class, I felt changed. They looked at me with inquisitive faces, and as they asked questions in turn about life in China, I could not help but think that a mere 8 months ago I was asking the same question - I had no clue what China would be like. Man, have I changed. China is on me now. China is on my family and children now. I know that sounds funky, and believe me, if you consider the pollution indexes( we have been seeing since our return, having China "on" you is a reality. Nonetheless, I am proud that my children have China on them from a cultural standpoint; I am proud that, thanks to my beautiful bride, I have this chance too. I think it took going home, and then coming back "home" - yeah, that's what I called it – to feel like we've settled in. I caught myself the first time I said it, recounting to Ted or Justin, Derrick or Luke, Alex, Darren or Robbie what our scheduled itinerary was while stateside. I'd list the destinations in order for our East Coast tour: Reston, Arlington, DC, Richmond, Philly, Back to DC, Warrenton, Ashburn, back to Philly, New York, Springfield, back to Philly, DC, Dulles - but then I'd say it - "then we go home." It was easy to say, rolled right off the tongue making it an even more shocking revelation just how quickly things change.

The boys had a little jet lag when we returned to Beijing, but not too much to deal with – been there, done that. They went right back to school, reunited with their friends from Australia or China, Israel or America, got to fall asleep hugging their little Chinese mutts once again. Joanne returned to a full schedule at the office, team mom duties for the Marine softball team, work outs, and making sure her boys are all safe and sound. I returned to baseball. A clinic for Sports Beijing on Sunday then the APAC tournament during the week. Our ISB varsity team finished 3rd in the tournament, and much like game 6, you know THE game 6, that I once again found myself watching on the treadmill and then over coffee on a Friday morning. Our Dragons team tried our best to lose the 3 versus 4 consolation game in the tournament. We made some awesome mistakes(including the worst baseball mistake I've ever seen, EVER*), but got bailed out when our 8 hole hitter launched an extra-inning, walk-off homer onto the rugby pitch about 400 feet away. I wouldn't have guessed that Dan could even hit a golf ball that far; nonetheless, the dog pile ensued(minus the shredder) and I felt, well, baseball! I wasn't sure I'd feel that again for quite some time when I said goodbye to the Falcons and went wheels up for China.

I sub a few days a week at ISB for a PE, Math or Humanities class; I hold tutoring sessions in writing and revision to please hovering tiger moms; I throw BP; I manage and run baseball clinics on Saturday afternoons; I've made some friends; I watch the NFL.

Yeah, I've changed a little in my world view as I discovered in front of those kids in Warrenton; moreover, I'd say it took the return trip to America to even identify this change in myself at all, but what I see more than anything is that this change isn't a bad thing, it is not a strange thing, not a scary, surprising, or even a rare thing, it is just one indicator that we have settled in.

Here is another -

"Hey, nice to meet you. Where are you from Bennett?"

"I live in China, Mate!"

*Following his game tying RBI double a player to remain unnamed attempted to steal third with two outs and was thrown out. As bad as getting thrown out at third to end the inning is on its own, if only this vapor lock of the brain had occurred one pitch earlier, our big boy would have hit to start the next inning, but no, it was the 4th pitch of his intentional walk.

Paul Koch (@pkoch9999)
+151 1692-2787

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Although Halloween is not practiced regularly in China, it will be
observed at River Garden 1201! All preparations are underway.

Monday, October 10, 2011


As we drove our rental car through the mountains of New York on our return trip to Philly from the marathon in Albany, I thought about the woman sitting next to me and this incredible accomplishment. Say it out loud with me...8 marathons.
Marine Corps
Marine Corps
Virginia Beach
Marine Corps
In the very quick 12 years I have known Joanne, I have seen her run 8 marathons. Amazing; oh and toss in the two triathlons and the half over the Great Wall(duh, not to mention bearing and raising three boys and working full time). I am sitting next to an incredible superstar! I love to see her run, and on race day it is important to me to pack the boys into the car and run them around the course map all day, just so that we can get a thirty second glimpse of her coming towards us down the road. Every time I see her coming into sight, the boys huddled around my legs, heads cocked, trying to see around the other spectators, I am overwhelmed by a feeling of pride - pride in her for being so tough, pride in her strength as a runner(and a mama and a person), pride in her smile at mile 20 - she smiled the whole race yesterday.

Sent from the iPad of
Paul R. Koch