Friday, June 10, 2011

No Foreigners Allowed!

So there we were yesterday, finally closing in on a place to stay for the summer. A great location, right in the middle of Haidian Huangzhuang. A bit on the small side, but nothing we couldn't handle.

Everything was in place. We were ready to have a Beijing friend go over and deliver a cash deposit. And then I received this email from the current tenant, whose lease we were going to finish out...

I am sorry I have bad news for you. The agency said i cannot give contract to foreigner cuz you need to register in beijing. If you were Chinese I could give you without problem. the problem they cannot register you. Becuase the time periiod is too samll.

Put aside for the moment that this is exactly the kind of transaction we negotiated without any problem last summer, for the same amount of time in a very nearby complex. So it can be done.

Yes, gang, there still are barriers to foreigners in China, even right in the heart of the university and technology district of Beijing. Wow!


Thursday, June 09, 2011

June 4, 2011

A very special day for the Ballas!

Happy 8th grade graduation, Z!

Happy Sweet 16, Julie!

With love!

~Mommy and Daddy

Wednesday, June 08, 2011


Memorial Day weekend was amazing for me. You are probably thinking that us Ballas went on a trip, found a new bike trail, or discovered a hotpot restaurant. But I spent the weekend doing something completely new and amazing.

It all started a few months ago when I heard an announcement for a leadership seminar called Hugh O'Brian (HOBY) at a school assembly. Always wanting to improve my leadership skills and impressed with the reviews of the experience by those who have gone before, I decided to apply. A few weeks later I learned that I had been selected as Holy Cross's representative at the conference.

As the weekend trip approached, I had no idea what I was in for, but I was really excited. The seminar was to take place from Friday morning until Sunday afternoon at Mount Saint Mary's University in Emmitsburg, Maryland. After spending hours on Thursday night packing the prescribed business casual wardrobe, as well as blankets and a pillow for dorm living, I awoke early Friday morning, full of adrenalin, ready for the 55-minute drive to Mother Seton's old grounds.

Now, keep in mind that all I heard about this weekend beforehand was that it was a seminar for sophomore representatives from schools all over Maryland who are aspiring leaders. So you can imagine how nervous I was as Daddy and I followed the signs for "HOBY Ambassadors" toward a group of confused and groggy looking sophomores at 8:oo a.m. on Friday morning. The great thing was that, since everyone was from different schools, nobody knew anybody. I was immediately thrown into a group of people who I knew nothing about but shared a love of leadership with. I was amazed by how many people you can meet when you don't know anybody. In no time, I had a group of friends and a new HOBY family.

From start to finish, HOBY was an amazing experience that I will never forget. We did so much from morning until midnight each day that I can't even remember or explain it all. The highlights included the motivational speaker, Chris Bowers, a service project at Cunningham Falls, Google's Travis Mason, a hunger banquet, a fallout shelter exercise, a talent show, an awesome dance, many, many more speakers, and crazy chants and cheers started by the Team Alumni that I will never forget.

Thank you to my HOBY family for such an outstanding weekend and a special shout-out to Group 22!

With HOBY Hugs,


Monday, June 06, 2011

On The Eternal Battle Between Crows And Mockingbirds

For many years now, we have casually noticed mockingbirds pestering and chasing crows throughout our neighborhood and the surrounding areas. It's kind of a funny scene...The much smaller mockingbirds (sometimes alone, sometimes in groups) clearly on the offensive in what (to our uneducated eyes) should be a mismatch the other way around.

Is this one of those cases where, to paraphrase Oscar Martinez, a mother lifts a car to save her baby?