Saturday, May 24, 2008

Sichuan Quake Relief

Sichuan Quake Relief

Please click on the above link to make a donation. 100% of your donation will go to the people in the affected areas. Both Jonny and I are volunteers for Sichuan Quake Relief.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Earthquake in Chengdu

Here is the letter I sent out after the earthquake that affected our area.

Dear Family and Friends,

Thank you so much for your emails and phone calls we really appreciate you thought. I just wanted to make give everyone an update on our situation here in Chengdu. As many of you know on Monday we experienced a 7.9 earthquake just 60 miles north of here.

Angus and I were at our house on the 3rd floor. I was in our home office and Angus was taking a nap in his room. Gemma was at school and Jonny was at work. I was just sending my last email before heading to Gemma's school to play basketball with the high school girls when the wall of my office started to shake. My first thought was my ayi (helper) was really going to town with the cleaning, but then the bookcase on that wall started to shake. I then thought it was the construction next door, so I went to check on Angus. The house then started to shake and I realized it was an earthquake. I went and grabbed Angus who was still sleeping and my ayi and we laid on the floor next to Gemma's bed. The house was swaying back and forth and we could here things crashing from the other floors (we have a 4 story town home). I kept thinking the roof would definitely come down on us. My ayi kept praying and I just kept saying "please stop". After what seemed like an eternity, it stopped. I went to the window and say someone I knew and she told us to get out of the house. We went out to the main street in front of the compound and everyone was on the street dazed and confused. It was such a shock and none of us could believe what had just happened.

The phone lines were down, so I didn't know if Gemma and Jonny were ok. It took about a half an hour before I knew that the kids at the school were ok and another hour to find out Jonny was ok. Gemma returned home about an hour and a half after the earthquake. It was just stressful trying to decide what to do as the management office of our compound told us not to go back in our homes. We ended up in the common area of our compound and everyone started setting up camp. Jonny was finally reunited with us at 8 pm, which made me feel a whole lot better.

We slept outside on the Monday, which was fine. There were several aftershocks, but nothing huge. Everyone was extremely stressed and on high alert. The kids slept great, but of course we had a very restless night. Tuesday it started raining and continued on through the entire day and night. We decided to move back in the house and have slept in the doorway for the past two nights. We have been lucky to have lots of friends all around us and we have opened up our house to everyone. Our friends Ingrid and Paddy have friends visiting from Sweden and they are sleeping with us at the house until they can get a flight out of here on Saturday.

We have decided to stay in Chengdu for the time being. We will leave if there is an issue with water or food supply, but right now things are good. Jonny is busy getting the Intel site open and I am staying busy playing hostess at watching the kids. Gemma is going back to school tomorrow and thing that the worst of the aftershocks are over. Today I went to Metro, the Costco type grocery store here and ran into several of my friends. Everyone is pretty shaken up, but seems to be trying to get back to normal.

Please keep us in your thoughts and we will keep you posted. More importantly, please keep the Chinese people that are just north of us in your thoughts. There are many sad stories and there are so many children trapped in the rubble of their schools. If you are at all interested in giving aid to the people of this area, I can get donations to organizations that can directly help and not take your administrative fee off the top. We are willing to do it through our bank and eat the cost of the exchange rate and service charge.

Below is an article from the Omaha World Herald. They called me for a phone interview yesterday.
Look forward to seeing you in the summer!
Much Love,

Nebraska native, son 'rode it out' in China

As a Nebraska native in China, Kim Dallas didn't immediately think "earthquake" when the shaking and roar began in her home in the city of Chengdu, 60 miles from the epicenter of Monday's quake.
Maybe it was construction next door, she thought as she headed to check on her 3-year-old son, just down for his afternoon nap. The cause of the rumbling only dawned on Dallas as she reached little Angus' room.

"I realized it wasn't stopping; it was an earthquake," Dallas said by telephone Tuesday night, or this morning in China. "I grabbed my son and my helper. We lay down next to my daughter's bed, and we just rode it out."

Three frightening minutes that felt like hours followed. The house rocked back and forth. Crashing sounds came from other rooms. She thought the ceiling would fall. But it held.

An anxious 30 minutes passed until she learned that her daughter, Gemma, 6, was safe at school. Then another half-hour or so until word came her husband, Jonathan Dallas, was OK, too.

The family spent Monday night outdoors for fear of aftershocks; some strong ones, including a 6.0-magnitude tremor, hit Chengdu, the provincial capital. They slept little. Kim Dallas said they felt less jittery this morning as they banded with fellow expatriates. But they worried about people closer to the epicenter of the 7.9 magnitude quake.

"It's horrific what is happening up there, children smashed in schools," Dallas said. "They're trying to pull people from the rubble, and I'm so impressed with what the Chinese government is doing. But the roads are really bad into where some of the worst damage is."

Dallas, 38, graduated from Cedar Bluffs High School and the University of Nebraska at Kearney. Her parents, Steve and Kathryn Snelling, live in Woodcliff Lakes, near Fremont. Kim has lived in Chengdu for three years with her husband, construction manager for Intel's Chengdu operation.

Just before the quake, Kim Dallas had reached out to friends in Cambodia, hoping to aid relief work in Myanmar.

Dallas loves Chengdu. But she's looking forward to visiting Nebraska this summer.
Thirty University of Nebraska-Lincoln students also were in China when the quake struck. The students felt tremors in Xi'an, China, where they are participating in a four-week study program.
The epicenter was about 500 miles away. But it shook a small bridge and splashed water out of an ornamental pond at Xi'an Jiaotong University, where they were taking photographs.

In a cell phone interview at 4:30 a.m. today, China time, Kent Campbell, 22, of Lincoln said the Nebraskans didn't grasp the quake's scope when they first felt tremors about 2:30 p.m. Monday.
It was only later that the students realized the terrible scale of the damage, Campbell said.
"We thought it was something localized. . . . We didn't realize all the implications it had," he said.
None of the Nebraska students was injured. Chinese news reports indicated that 50 to 60 people died in Xi'an, a city of 6 million where the Xi'an Jiaotong University is located.

Peter Levitov, UNL's associate dean of international affairs, said there were no plans to cut short the Nebraska students' study program. They are scheduled to return to the U.S. on June 3.
Kim, Jonny, Gemma, and Angus

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Leaving Kota Kinabalu

The morning of our departure we had breakfast and tried to wear the kids out a bit for our journey to Bangkok where we would over night before heading back to Chengdu.


Gemma enjoying the swings! We definitely take swings for granted as they are very hard to come by in Chengdu.



Jonny and Angus on the teeter-totter. Angus couldn't figure out why he couldn't get the darn thing to go down!


We had a fabulous vacation and we were very happy to visit this beautiful island. I really felt well rested from this vacation and ready to tackle my hectic summer travel schedule. I

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Last Night in Kota Kinabalu


Gemma excited for the party!

On our last night of our vacation Gemma attended the Kid's Club party and Angus had a babysitter in the room so we could have a peaceful dinner together.


Jonny posing.


Jonny and I went to the Sunset Bar to watch the sunset. We were not disappointed and had a beautiful view. We also ran into the new friends we met who also opted for the kids club party and babysitter for their two sets of twins.

Jonny and I had a very nice dinner in the Italian restaurant in the hotel which I wished we had tried before our last night. We went to pick Gemma up around 10 pm and this is what was going on when we arrived.


Gemma having a ball!

When we went to pick Gemma up they had a magician and the kids were not fooled by him, but they were having a blast trying to figure out his tricks.

Kayaking in Kota Kinabalu


Gemma and Angus on their kayak.

On our last full day in Kota Kinabalu we decided to take a page from our Vietnam adventure and take the kids out on kayaks. This time it was nice and warm and the water was very swimmable. Here are some pictures from our ride.


Angus and me


The kids and me.

We kayaked out to this little uninhabited island which was about 20 feet by 20 feet. We got off and took a little swim in the water and had a bit of a rest. One thing we did discover on our little kayaking trip is that we really enjoy kayaking and would love to have more of an outdoors type of camping and kayaking vacation in the near future. The kids love being on the water and it is quite a good work-out for us.


Jonny and the kids.


The kids and the kayaks. You can see our hotel in the background.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Snorkeling on Manukan Island


A view of the beach on Manukan Island.

We took a 10 minute shuttle boat over to the small island of Manukan for some snorkeling and lunch. We were hoping to get the kids used to snorkeling on this trip and also get sometime in ourselves. Here are some pictures from our day on the island.


Lunch was too tempting for us. They had a huge BBQ with tons of seafood and of course we couldn't resist. Here is the BBQ station.


There were a couple of gorgeous cats hanging around the BBQ station and the kids were intrigued by them.



Gemma and me at lunch.


Angus loving his special treat of Sprite!


Now for the exciting part! Gemma was able to over come her fear of snorkeling! We were all over the moon! Here she is looking for fish with her Daddy.


She looks like a real pro here!


Angus was happy enough to hang out on the beach and play in the sand and in this kayak. He would have been fine with the snorkeling, but his mask was too big for him and water kept getting in his eyes.


On the boat on the way back to the resort. We had a great time snorkeling and can't wait to get the kids in the water again.


Thursday, May 01, 2008

Rasa Ria Orangutans


Gemma and Angus getting ready to hop on the bus.

Yesterday the kids and I headed over to the Rasa Ria Resort to check out the Nature Reserve located inside the resort. Little did I know that we could actually bring our swimsuits along and enjoy the swimming pool and other activities at this beautiful resort. I ended up having to buy Gemma a swimsuit and watch the kids from the edge of the pool. I was able to take some great pictures of them though, so it was definitely worth forgetting my bikini. Here are some pictures of our day.


When we arrived there was a man playing this musical instrument. As you can see a couple of the kids (of course Angus was one of them) tried to accompany him on his song.


Angus spotted a sprinkler. As you can tell by his grin, he wanted to run through it!


Angus enjoying the pool.


Angus enjoyed the pool a little too much and ended up in this chair for a little break from the pool.


Gemma loved the pool and her new suit!


We met another family who was also staying at our hotel. They have four kids, twin boys and twin boy and girl! Here the kids are with the two boys in front of the Nature Reserve.


The tour of the Nature Reserve was quite quick. We just walked up to one of the feeding stations to watch the ranger feed the Orangutans. We could stay as long as we wanted and snap pictures. They were quite active, but I only got a few great pictures.

Here is a little information about Orangutans I found from the Nature Reserve's website:

Orangutans (from the Malay phrase Orangutan, 'man of the forest') live in Southeast Asia, on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra. 10,000 years ago, Orangutans ranged as far north as China, and as far south as Java in Indonesia. Now they are only present on the islands of Borneo (estimated population: 22,000) and Sumatra (estimated population: 5,000).

Why are they endangered?
The greatest threats to Orangutans is habitat loss due to mechanized logging. Agriculture is the most obvious threat presently facing Orangutan populations. In addition, Orangutans have a slow reproductive rate: female Orangutans have only one baby every 7 to 8 years.

What can be done to help?
Rehabilitation Centres, such as those in Sepilok, have been set up to accommodate confiscated pet Orangutans. The aim of the rehabilitation centre is to guide the young Orangutans through their development and ultimately return them to the forest.


Gemma and Angus were definitely more interested in the other kids. Gemma's new nickname should be the Baby Whisperer. The baby twins absolutely loved her!


Another happy Orangutan, climbing trees.

After another dip in the pool and lunch for Jonny who met us for the tour of the Nature Reserve, we headed back to the hotel to get ready for the dinner at the Sunset Bar along with a Traditional Malaysian Dance performance.


Angus with other musician in the lobby of our hotel on the way to dinner.


At dinner with the family. Gemma just couldn't keep her eyes open for the pictures.


Here comes the dancers!


Gemma loved it!



Gemma coming back over to us after the performance. Unfortunately the weather got bad with high winds and then rain, so the performance was cut short. We did really enjoy ourselves and had a ton of yummy food.