Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Deluxe Hugs--$2.00

This is one of the funniest videos I've seen in a while. You've got to check it out.


Monday, April 27, 2009

China recap--segment 5 and final (Summer Palace, Acrobats and Misc.)

Here is a typical lunch for us. Notice the sweet and sour pork that I had to order with just about every meal--just so that I had "something" that I could for sure stomach. To be totally honest--most of the things that I did taste were pretty decent tasting. It all just LOOKS so unappetizing. The soup was actually called, "balls in broth". Jeff just had to get it to taste. Can you see the fork? After fumbling around quite a bit with my chopsticks the waitresses took pity on me (after having a good laugh) and brought me out a fork. I'm still not very good with the chopsticks.

We had our rickshaw driver take this picture of us during our tour of the hutong area. These guys are RELENTLESS. At one point on his "tour" he stopped and told us to go into a little hutong house that was to show us tourists what the inside of the hutong houses were like. Of course it was for an extra fee. Jeff and I didn't neccessarily feel the need to do this so we said "no thank you". He did not take no for an answer. We literally argued about it for about 5 minutes with us saying, "no, no thank you" and he replying, "no, really, you should go in. You will like it." I finally realized that it wasn't worth it to resist anymore. He wasn't about to let us get out of there without going inside--otherwise he wouldn't get his kickback. Good thing we were on a bicycle and not in a car cause he was drunk as a skunk too.

This is the Drum and Bell towers. The Bell tower is on the left and the Drum tower is on the right.

We made it to the Temple of Heaven late in the evening and just missed being able to go inside. We had been too busy haggling over all of the treasures at the silk market.

This is at the Ming Tombs. It is called the Hall of Eminent Favor. 13 of the 16 Ming dynasty emperors were buried here.

Anyone know what these buildings are????

I can't quite remember which building this is. I think it was one of the little temples interspersed within Bei Hai park.

Maybe I should have put this picture with the last post when I explained how backwards they still are with regards to utilizing technology to make life easier.

This is the White Dagoba Temple. It is on an island in the middle of Bei Hai park. It was built to honor the visit of the 5th Dalai Lama in 1651.

All of the little pagoda's everywhere are pretty cool. The colors have all been recently repainted and were vibrant and pretty. the only thing is that they were all pretty much the same--same colors, same designs--same styles with minor variations. Not a lot in the way of variety.

This is called the Nine Dragon Screen. It is an 89 foot long free standing wall made of colorful glazed ceramic tiles and depicting nine intertwined dragons. The dragon is supposed to be symbolic for protection and good luck. The wall was designed to obstruct the pasage of evil spirits who are only able to travel in straight lines.

This is at the Chinese grocery store. Hungry anyone?

One of my favorite places that we visited was the Summer Palace. It was built as an imperial retreat from the stifling humidity and heat in the Forbidden City.

This is the very picturesque "Seventeen-arch Bridge".

Click on the picture to reveal what the sign says. (The English translations were often pretty funny.)

We took a fun dragon boat across the lake to get to the Summer Palace.

I don't remeber the name of this bridge. I just thought it was very pretty. You can see that the visability wasn't that great on this day. The bridge wasn't actually that far away and it wasn't foggy out but that really is what the air quality was like.

It cracks me up the lengths they go to "preserve the relics". I guess the railing just weren't enough. They had to wrap the entire piece in chicken wire too.

These are the steps on the way UP to the Temple part of the Summer Palace. The views from the top were worth the climb up.

The worshippers at the Lama Temple. All of the smoke that you see here is from the incense that they burn. Each time they say a prayer at one of the Budha idols they light an incense and let it burn in one of the big ol' incense burners that they have sitting just outside the alters. (And there are A LOT of different idols in each of the buildings all around each of the 5 different main buildings and courtyars.) This adds up to a bunch of freakin' incense.

This is what I call the "Mother of all Buddha's". This is the idol that stands in the 5th and final building of the Lama Temple complex. It is 80 feet high and is made out of a single piece of sandalwood. It is crazy huge. I think the building had to be constructed around the statue. I wasn't supposed to take any pictures plus I couldn't get it all in one shot anyway so I sneakily took a little video instead.

Did anyone ever see the you tube video of the time that George Bush tried to walk through a door and couldn't figure out how to get through it. That video took place during a news conference in Beijing at the same hotel that we stayed at. This is the actual scene of the crime and these are the very doors that caused all of the trouble. Here is Jeff doing his best GW.

We went to a super fun acrobat show one night. They did some amazing stunts. I didn't get all of it video'd but here are just a few little snippets to give you a general idea of some of the tricks that they did.

Well------There you have it. I hope you enjoyed the posts of our trip. It was a great experience and I can't wait for the next one.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

China recap--segment 4 (Tian'an Men Square)

I think that the most striking thing about going to China was the total confirmation that what we have here in the United States is indeed special and something to be cherished and protected. This is a CHOICE land--not in an arrogant, we-have-it-all way, but in a total realization that what our Founding Fathers gave us was brilliant and of divine origin.

They gave us the opportunity to prosper and thrive without all of the entanglements that are choking the life out of the world right now. They allowed people to reap the harvests of hard work and enterprising ideas. They could better their lives through hard work and sheer tenacity. The ingenuity of people striving to improve their way of life and better their surroundings was unmatched. We as a people were always looking to figure out a, "better way of doing things." It hasn't been until fairly recently that, in my opinion, because of the beauracracy of government restrictions and excess of regulations and taxes, that the influx of unique products, ideas, and processes have begun to dry up. I don't think that is because the ideas are not there--rather that the incentive to engineer, produce and market those ideas is not worth the cost of fighting the restrictions and regulations.

So! You ask, "what does that have to do with China?" The proof of what I'm talking about was all over the place in China. Yes, it was fairly clean, but it was also frankly, pretty ugly. No one took the time or effort to beautify or improve their space. Plus,the only space they had to call their own was a teeny tiny apt in a highrise building. You could almost hear them saying in their heads, "why bother?" The general mindset was, go to work, do your job, collect your paycheck and that's it. There is no reason to do anything more than the bare minimum. You can't really "move up the ladder." You can't just work hard and figure out a better way to do something because frankly--they don't care! They don't want the people to be anything more than just workers. We did not see one single "power tool" while we were there--except for a few cranes at some of the big building sites. If a ditch needed to be dug--there were 7 or 8 guys with shovels digging the trench. If the streets needed to be swept--there were 2 men sweeping it (with brooms), 1 guy walking the bicycle with the box on the back for the debris and 1 guy walking along watering the trees along the side of the road. In the grocery store there was 2 to 4 employees on almost every single aisle. Everything was manual labor.

I include these thoughts in this particular segment because as I was walking around Tien'an Men Square I couldn't help but think about things like this. My mind was drawn to the horror of just a few years ago when the Chinese government ran over its own citizens with tanks right here in this square simply because they wanted to voice a different opinion than the one held by the government leaders. It saddens me to no end to realize that our own amazing government, instead of embracing the ideals and principles that have brought us to our current wonderful way of life, has opted to, through years of manipulation and machinations, completely shun the founding principles upon which the whole of American life is built. The socialization of this country has been occuring for quite sometime and the vast majority of our current problems, both economic and otherwise is in DIRECT result of that socialization. It scares me how far afield we have been led. Just the other day, Janet Napolitano our Homeland Security Secretary came out with the profile of a terrorist. According to her, we should consider as a terrorist all "rightwing extremists" concerned about illegal immigration, abortion, increasing federal power and restrictions on firearms." ---Basically anyone who loves the Constitution (which she swore to uphold). I don't know if that scares anyone else but it scares the crap out of me. She is labeling ME an extremist who would kill, bomb and terrorize other people. Again, How far we have come. It doesn't seem so unlikely anymore that something akin to the Tien'an Men square massacre might happen here in the US when your own Homeland Security Sec. is more worried about law-abiding, America-loving, life-affirming citizens than the real terrorist threats to this country. Thank Goodness for the Gospel. It keeps one focused on always doing what is right--no matter where you are--no matter who is in charge--and no matter what circumstances you might find yourselves in.

Now, with those thoughts in mind--I hope you enjoy these pictures of Tian'an Men Square. For me, as I was there I was a little in awe at the thought that I was really there, but I had a hard time seeing any beauty in monuments dedicated to a man who slaughtered literally millions of his own countrymen and doomed them to lives of drudgery and slavery.

So, the moral to the story is: Don't take for granted the freedoms that you have been given. Don't allow the leaders of today to throw away the principles that have guided and led us to an overwhelmingly wonderful way of life. I have seen the results of going the opposite direction and I promise you, you won't like it.

Just a little note: I do not typically dwell on the negative and although this post is not particularly filled with "happy thoughts" I have felt a real need to share some of these feelings and ideas with "whoever might read this". For me this aspect of our trip was one of the most important parts. It has literally kept me awake at night numerous times since coming home, wondering how to share some of these thoughts with you in the best way. I do hope that you read and think about some of these things and I also promise that tomorrow's post will finish up our trip on a much happier note.
Thanks! Julie

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

China recap--segment 3 (The People)

This post is dedicated to the Chinese people. This trip was filled with some cool sites yes, but for me one of the best parts about the trip was learning more about this unique culture and becoming more familiar with its people. Overall, we found the people to be very friendly, quick to smile, helpful and contrary to my previous opinion--not shy and demure in the least. (As this post should give ample evidence of.) I might also add relentless to that list of character traits--especially if you are dealing with salespeople hawking their wares.

I was told that the Chinese love Kareoke and now after watching them belt it out right in the middle of the park with literally hundreds of other people watching them I believe it. No shame!
This huge-long covered corridor at the Temple of Heavan Park was filled the entire way with groups of people playing cards--seriously hundreds of them just playing, chatting and laughing.

These people were just chatting among some of the card players--sitting directly across from this sign--just laughing and having a good time. Notice the cigarette in his right hand. We decided that we just had to get a picture with him. He had no idea that we strategically placed him next to the no smoking sign. They just thought it was great fun that the whitey's wanted a photograph of them. :)

This girl sold us a bunch of ties for Jeff. She was at the Silk Market. The market in and of itself is a huge adventure--but I just had to grab a quick picture of her in particular because she just happened to be wearing a BYU pin on her vest. Go-figure. I should have gotten a closeup--maybe if you blow it up you can see it better.
We were a little tired of Chinese food towards the end of the week so we decided to hit up Mickey D's. I think that might be the only time that we will ever be waited on at a McDonalds. We actually had someone show us to our seats, take our order, bring our food and clear everything away when we were done. We also got a kick out of the fact that they actually deliver. We couldn't resist taking a picture of the delivery guy hangin' with Jeff and another Jones rep. Aren't the helmets great? They actually have a delivery pack--like the pizza ones--that straps onto the back of their bicycles, and away they go.
I thought the ribbon twirlers were fun. I tried to find some of the ribbons for the girls. I thought that they would have loved them but I never could find any to buy.

We saw these "split pants" for the first time on the first day we were there. Evidently they are very common among the toddler set. I guess it makes for "easy access". They are definitely more "free and open" with the potty training than we are here in the states. Usually they just wear the diaper under the split pants however some friends saw one kid with the diaper on TOP of the Pants. (Can you say Eeeewwww!) Jeff and I were walking down the street and came across a mom holding up a baby to a tree so that he could pee through the opening. Then another time as we were walking we walked past a baby laying down in a baby carriage without the diaper even on. He was just freeballing it--hangin' loose with his little thing just flopping through the opening. We both did a double take and quickly checked with each other to make sure that we had seen right. We had! We had a bit of a chuckle over that one.

At one of our dinners one night this man was there drawing Chinese characters. You tell them the name that you want and he translates and does the characters in the Chinese calligraphy. We had the girls names done and our last name. Not sure what we'll do with them but they are kind of fun.

This lady was cutting the most intricate designs out of paper. It truly was impressive how detailed and ornate she could make those things.

Jeff and I both had our fortunes read by this man. You pick two of the thingamabobbers and he turns them over and puts them together then writes it all down. The girl to his left translates the answer. My fortune said something like my family life and career would peak in about 4 years and that it would be hard but that I was supposed to take heart in the meantime. I can't remember what Jeff's said. I'll have to ask him and insert it in here later.

Where ever we went we constantly had chinese people asking us to pose with them while a friend took our picture. Sometimes they asked to take the picture with Jeff and sometimes with me. Usually when they took one with their camera we would have them take one with ours too--just for fun. Who knows, maybe we'll make onto someones refridgerator door and be the famous "American friend".

Think Mary Poppins--sort of. Remember when Burt was doing the chalk sidewalk drawings? That is what this guy is doing--only he is drawing with just a paintbrush and water. These are true water paintings. When he looked up and saw the white American watching he chuckled and after re-wetting his brush started to draw the picture of me. Yes, that is me and no, I'm not grabbing my breast--I was holding my camera across my chest video-ing him while he painted me. Kinda cool huh? A bunch of chinese park goers gathered around while he was painting and one woman started jabbering in Chinese to me. I had no earthly idea what she wanted me to do. She wouldn't rest until I figured out that she wanted me to take a picture of it.

I guess instead of crazy Chinese--you have a crazy American who just couldn't resist rubbing the Budda. Could you?

This is a fun Chinese Hackey-sack game. The hackey is made out of some washers stacked together attached to some feathers to slow the decent a little bit. They play it in the parks all the time. This couple asked Jeff if he wanted to play a bit and so he did. He had a fun time with them. We bought one to take home with us. Maybe you'll see us at the park this summer kicking it around.

We were wandering around Bei Hai park and thought we had found the greatest spot to just kick back and relax for a bit when all of a sudden these two "musicians" broke out in song. Yikes! It's a short segment. I didn't want to subject you to their full rendition. I am not a fan of Chinese music--I definitely like my music to be played on pitch. It just cracks me up that they just sing it out, right there in the park. I'm telling you--no inhibitions.

These guys were practising the chinese yo-yo's. This guy was fairly decent. We saw some girls do it at an acrobat show a few nights later and they were awesome. They would throw them about 20 feet up to themselves and also to each other--not one miss. They were also a bit more elaborate with their tricks. Pretty cool aye?

Tai Che anyone?

I had no idea that the Chinese people love to dance so much. They dance all over the place. This is some sort of aerobic-tap type. People just join in whenever they want. There is some sort of leader--I wonder how she is chosen. Does she just show up with a boom box and start the music and dancing and people just join in or is there more organization to it than that? I don't know. All I know is that I got a kick out of the fact that in every park we went in--there was a group of dancers dancing--aerobic, ballroom, by themselves, with partners--you name it.

I'm tellin' ya, the fun never stops!

Check out how fast this girl can string and knot this pearl necklace. It's crazy fast!

Well, there you have it! Some of the interesting and fun things that we witnessed. We had such a fun time being able to see some of the character traits and amusements that make the Chinese people unique and different from us. Hope you had fun seeing a small sampling of what we saw while we were there.

I think I'll have a few more segments to add in the next couple days. I wanted to show you some from the acrobat show and probably some Summer palace pictures as well as Tienenmen Square and some other random stuff. Until then!