Iowa Vacation

After our NY trip, Mark and I rented a car and drove to Iowa to visit his family.  We haven’t been driving much nowadays, since we don’t own a car.  So it felt like we were making up for that by making it all the way to Iowa in one day, a 17-hour drive!  It’s always fun to go to Iowa.  Mark’s family is never short of activities for us to do.  At the same time, it was so relaxing to be out of the city for a while. 

Mark’s sister Laura and her family are back in the States this year from South America.  It was great seeing them (minus the brother-in-law who was out of town) again and getting to know her and the kids a little more.  Our nieces and nephew are growing up fast! 


It’s good that Mark captured this moment, because it was the only time Avianna allowed me to hold her.  It took a while for her to warm up to us.  Also in the picture are Joyce (Mark’s mom), Olivia and Makayla.


Mark’s parents’ neighbors have a mini-zoo.  They have animals from stinky goats (they REALLY stink), pigs, horses to baby bobcat, baby owls and baby hawk.  The peacocks are now supposed to be in a cage.  But this tricky one has not been captured yet.  In this picture it’s roaming freely on the barn roof.


We had a picnic at Red Rock Park.  The kids had a blast playing in the water.  Joyce is a cool grandmother.  She plays in the water with the grandkids, she even picks up snakes on occasion to show the grandkids.


Yes, I gave fishing a try.


Avianna found quite a few dead little fishes in the water, and they kept her entertained the whole time.


We spotted this mother and her tiny new baby on Mark’s parents’ farm.


New York, New York

New York City is seriously one of my (Jennifer) favorite cities in the world.  I’m so glad that it’s not far from us – only a 4-hour bus ride away!  I cannot have enough of it.  So about 2 weeks after my trip to NY with my friend, Mark and I went back for a day trip.  We left real early in the morning.  I mean really really early.  And we didn’t get back to DC till that night.  Needless to say, we were exhausted.  But we had a great time of course!  What made this trip even better is that we arrived at Chinatown in the morning, so we had some Chinese breakfast.  Then we went back around noon to have dim sum for lunch!  And on the way back to DC we bought carry-out Chinese food for dinner!!  Oh, did I mention real good bubble tea?







Ellis Island



Boy, I’m so glad that immigration is not nearly as hard now as it was back then!



Central Park



Inside St. Patrick’s Cathedral


NY and Boston

Jennifer writes:

It seems that the Traveling Stams have been on the move again lately.  Mark and I have taken a few trips, together and separately, over the past month.

Back in May, a friend of mine with whom I had been spending time for a few months wanted to visit the East Coast before she had to return to China at the end of May.  I was so glad when she asked me to go with her!  Linqin has become a good friend, and I had a great time with her on the trip.  She is now back in China, and I miss her a bunch!

We took the bus to New York first.  We spent one afternoon and one morning there, not as much time as I’d like in one of my favorite cities in the world.  Then we took another bus to go to Boston, and stayed there for a few days.  Boston is a charming old city, with a lot of old buildings and winding cobblestone streets.  We explored the Freedom Trail – it might have been more fun if we possessed more knowledge of American history.



We stayed at The Pod Hotel.  It was possibly the smallest hotel room I’ve ever stayed at in North America.  What you see in the picture is pretty much all there is in the room.  We shared bathrooms with the whole floor.  With that said, I did enjoy my stay there very much.  It was new, clean and trendy.  And you can’t beat the location, right in the heart of Midtown East.



St. Patrick’s Cathedral



Central Park



Linqin and I






Mr. John Harvard himself

Panda bears and their friends

Jennifer writes:

At the end of May Mark and I finally went down to the National Zoo.  Mark, being the avid animal lover, was very excited about the visit.  The zoo did not disappoint.  We had a great time visiting the panda bears, elephants, cool reptiles (according to Mark – I tried to avoid the reptiles), apes, orangutans and more.  The only less-than-satisfactory part was the tigers.  Having been to the tiger park in northeast China last year, where they had hundreds of Siberian tigers in their natural habitat, the 2 lazy tigers laying around by the pond in the zoo were just not that gripping anymore.

Here are some highlights from the zoo.



The panda bears were given by China, and this is one of the containers the pandas came in.


Silly orangutan was playing with his blankie.


These alpacas have just been shaved.


The anteater trying to get the sweets with his nose/mouth.