Friday, May 23, 2008

The Meeting of the Bears!

This is a picture of cute Kara and dad at The Summer Palace. The Summer Palace is another must see when in Beijing. The cold and calculating Empress Dowager Cixi rebuilt this palace in the 1800's and used it during the summer months to escape the humidity in Beijing. Note the first photo of her on the above link. Twenty five years ago we walked into the room where this painting hangs and I have never forgotten it! (Today, you cannot go into any of the rooms!) Her fingernails were deliberately cultivated to that length, as it was a symbol of high status. In fact, she even had gold fingernail covers crafted to keep them protected! She also employed 128 chefs to prepare approximately 150 dishes for every meal. Some of the dishes were for smelling, some for looking at and some for tasting. It is said that she would only take just a few bites from several dishes and then have the food taken away. Now I know there is a sermon in that story!

This picture is of the famous Marble Boat. (thats right...Marble!) She had diverted the monies earmarked for the Imperial Navy to renovate the Summer Palace and build this boat. The upper level was a tea house...of course she didn't have to worry about spilled tea in a boat that 'stands it's ground' so to speak!

This is The Long Promenade Of Thousand Steps Corridor! It is spectacular! It showcases over 8000 paintings on the beams and side panels. Check out this closeup...

This must have been a sight to behold--watching the artists create these paintings.

When we first arrived at the palace, there was a man holding two large calligraphy brushes--one in each hand. With water as his ink, he would simultaneously draw the Chinese characters! It was fascinating to watch and he was delightful to chat with....

Would you like to see some of his work close up?

Now remember, each brush is creating its own masterpiece in concert with the other hand!

After we were through with the Summer Palace, Dad asked Kara if there was anything that she wanted to see. Her response? "Well, I have always wanted to see the panda bears!" Dad said that he would love to take his Bear to see China's famous bears. So we paid the admission price to the Beijing Zoo just so Kara could see her bears! What fathers won't do to make their little girls happy!

However, before you can witness the meeting of the Bears...please observe the following...

Together at last!

Now a funny thing happened on the way to the bears...apparently we were going to pass by the Olympiad Park. Our guide asked us if we would like to stop and see it. With our resounding Yes!--he tells the driver to take us to the park. As we are driving along on the freeway, we could see the famous Birds Nest Stadium off to the side. The driver pulls off on a side road and stops. To our complete amazement, we, along with other tourists climb up an embankment and walk on the shoulder of the freeway taking pictures of the famous structure! In a country where their is a multitude of police everywhere you go, there was not one to be found on the freeway to keep us from being a potential traffic hazard!

The cars were whizzing by at freeway speeds!

Last, but not least, I want to share with you a cultural gem that resonated with me...In every village, or palace structure that we saw in China, the doorways always have a riser built across the threshold, causing the person to have to step up and over to get into the room. I asked my Chinese friend, Athena, why this was so and why were some threshold risers taller than others. She said that this was done to give the person entering the room an opportunity to be reminded of the respect that was to be shown to the occupants of the house. The taller the riser, the greater respect. Wouldn't it be wonderful, if when entering homes or places of worship, that as we step over the thresholds we figuratively step up, giving us pause to think about whose house we are entering--and then act accordingly!

Friday, May 16, 2008

A Single Act...

After Shanghai, Kara and I headed off to Beijing. We met up with Dad and he had one day free so we could explore the city together. I was thrilled to be going back to the Forbidden City. When we were there 25 years ago, I can remember it as though it were yesterday. Mr. Liu, the communist party member guide, was very solicitous of Grandma Hallstrom. He was constantly hovering over her. He would take her arm and help her up the stairs or down; over rough patches and smooth...making sure that she was never in jeopardy. (Grandma was not too thrilled with the constant individual attention!) The Forbidden city covers an area of about 200 acres. Twenty emperors have lived through the years. It was started in 1406 and finished in 1420. It took 100,000 plus artisans working steadily for 14 years to complete it. The number 9 is considered to be a very lucky, and it is found throughout the palace in decorative fact, there are 9,999 rooms! How is that for good luck? Twenty five years ago we were allowed to go into the rooms and envision an age that had past. Today, no one is allowed to experience that--we could peer through windows and look through open doors, but that was all. We couldn't even walk on the Emperor's pathway like we did 25 years ago! Still, it was fun to be there with Dad and Kara. Here are some of the highlights!

Here we are beginning our excursion into the Forbidden City by having our photo taken at Tiananmen Square with the Gate of Heavenly Peace behind us. That picture of Mao has been there for the past 25 years...somethings never change!

This is an amusing anecdote. Kara and I were sitting down waiting for Dad to take our picture. A Chinese man came rushing up the stairs and gestured to us that he wanted to take a picture with us. Kara and I stood up to stand with him, and he immediately gestured that we needed to stay seated and he would be the one to stand. I am still trying to figure out if there was a cultural significance to that request!

The Forbidden City is filled to overflowing with beautiful details. Mini paintings, elaborate tiles and roof ornaments are some of the beautiful things to appreciate. Note the lovely colors and roof tiles in this picture. It makes me wonder why we didn't go with more detail on our roof!

An amazing natural stone formation is found in the Emperor's Garden located in the rear of the city. The door behind us was only for the Emperor or Empress to use. This rock formation is called The Hill of Accumulated Elegance. Every year, on the 9th day of the 9th month, the Emperor and Empress would enter here and climb to the top to view the scenery. Absolutely stunning... But what I really loved was the wisdom shared on the sign in front of the door!

No sermon necessary here!I could post more about The Forbidden City--but I think this gives you a taste. However, do not despair, we still have The Summer Palace and some odds and ends to cover--plus a another quip!

Friday, May 9, 2008

The Torch Comes to Wan Chai!

On Friday of last week, May 2, the Olympic Torch made it's run through Hong Kong. One of the exciting things about the route was it was going to pass right by our building! Irene and I, along with all of the senior couples and employees were excited to participate in this event. The government had asked everyone to wear red in support of the torch...Irene wore red...I, however, I wore coral!

While googling to find out what time the torch was to pass by our building, I discovered something interesting about the torch that I didn't know. The torch relay is a modern event. It was begun for the Berlin Olympics. Noted Nazi Joseph Goebbels instigated the torch relay as a means of promoting the ideology of Nazism throughout the world! Thankfully, I don't think many people realize that when they are viewing the torch relay.

Early in the morning of May 2, the overpasses next to our building were cordoned off with police...allowing no pedestrians or onlookers to use them. About 11 am, the sidewalks and open areas along Fleming Street began to fill with people wearing mostly red or carrying red flags. I found out that the torch was not going to be passing our building until around these were dedicated torch watchers!

As for us, we decided that the side balconies of our building were the perfect venue to view the torch, as they overlooked Fleming and there would be no obstructions. When the torch finally made its appearance, the crowds would cheer as the runner passed by. I have to admit, we all cheered as it passed by our vantage point.

Looking down on the event from our balcony...

Looking up at our vantage point--I am on the 4th floor balcony!

Side Note: After we were through watching the event, I stepped back into the room from the balcony. Our DTA, Terry Oakes said he was relieved that the balcony hadn't collapsed! I laughed...he laughed. Funny man! Later that night when Dad came home, I told him about the torch. He asked where we had watched it. I told him that we were all on the little side balconies. Dad said, "Really?" Those balconies are not built for load bearing...only for decorative design." Apparently Terry was really laughing from relief...not so funny after all!

Monday, May 5, 2008

This is for Laurel...

So Laurel tagged me. This is not why I blog, but, I always enjoy reading about details revealed when someone is tagged! Although this feels a little strange, I am doing this because Laurel is not just the friend of our three daughters, but my friend as well! So here it goes!

8 Things I am passionate about:

My Husband.
Our family.
Living the gospel.
Serving in the Church.
Reading a great book.
Spending time with friends.
Teaching and discussing the scriptures with anybody, of any age, any time!
Having new adventures.

8 Past books I have read--only 8? (this is in addition to the scriptures)

A World Lit only by Fire by Michael engrossing read about the advent of the Renaissance
Fire in the Bones by Michael S. Wilcox--read this book and introduced to about 25 or more people--Deseret Book should thank me!
The Plan of Salvation and The Infinite Atonement by Tad Callister--Superb!
John Adams by David McCullough: inspiring and enlightening!
1776 by David McCullough: this was a borrowed book...when I get my own, I shall read it with a yellow highlighter pen!
Strapless by Deborah Davis....this is about John Singer Sargent and the painting that almost ruined him and how it destroyed the life of the woman he painted. Wonderful!
The Inkheart Series by Cornelia Funke: a delightful imaginary tale about a girl, her father and their love of books. Can't wait for the third book to come out in October of 2008!
The Jan Karon Series about Father Tim: Funny and inspiring!

Things I often say!
That is stunning! (Said mostly to Irene!)
BJ, Airee, Bear, Breezy
It's raining cats and dogs...I am lovingly referred to in our family as the Queen of cliches!
What is there Not to love about Hong Kong?
You have to have that!
Anything new in your life?
Let me do that for you.

8 Things I look for in a friend?
Sense of humor.
Teaches me.
Opens my world to new adventures and insights.
Loves to share on any subject!
Opens their heart to yours.
Always ready for an adventure!

8 Things I want to do before I die.
Live in Europe.
Write my personal history.
Take our personal family file to the temple.
Visit the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
Take cooking lessons.
Visit the historical sights on the East Coast.
Take a Cruise.
Visit the Holy Land.
8 Things I have learned this past year.
Studying and teaching Isaiah for 8 months was life changing.
The gospel brings light and joy to families in the most challenging of circumstances.
Senior Missionary Couples are gifts of gold to those they serve.
It is more blessed to give than receive.
Count birthdays by friends, not years!
Being a 'Nana' is sublime!
Making new friends brings joy and greater insights into my life.
Shopping in Hong Kong for children or adults of any age is pure delight!

Friday, May 2, 2008

Bunds and Rats and Bear--Oh MY!

When Kara was here in February I knew that I wanted to blog--or at least make the attempt. Kara convinced me to do it and then helped me set up the blog before she left for London. I have been waiting for Kara to post about the rest of her China trip, but with all of her Internet challenges, I don't think she will be revisiting the rest of her time here with you. So I have decided to share a little more of what we did together. Side note: It was wonderful to be mothering again and it sure didn't take Kara long to adjust being mothered!

We decided that we would take a trip to Shanghai and Beijing. Kara had not been to Shanghai before, and it had been 25 years since I had been, so we were excited to go. This is a picture of me in a newly renovated upscale shopping district. It used to be an old housing neighborhood. However, the upper stories are still tenant occupied...check out what Kara is pointing to....thankfully NOT for sale! Pretty Funny!

Now what are the odds of Kara, Shaka and Maui (I am ignorning the second half of the name)coming together in Shanghai?

We went into one store and encountered this very large and contented cat. Couldn't resist the photo...the eyes were mesmerizing!
In this newer shopping district, we were bombarded with festive Chinese New Year decorations. They were plentiful and colorful...making "The Year of the Rat" most appealing!

Later that night, we were dropped off across the Huangpu River to view "The Bund" in all its night time glory. This is supposed to be one of the most spectacular waterfronts in the world. We were told by our driver that he would pick us up in one hour. Kara and I wandered down to the waterfront and looked in vain for 'The Bund'--as we were not 100 percent sure what we were supposed to see. Unbeknown to us, Shanghai over used their electricity quota and had begun to economize by NOT lighting up The Bund--or at least on the night we were there. Just our luck! This is what we were supposed to see.

Instead, this is what we saw! Sad...

To keep from freezing to death (since our driver was not coming back for at least 50 minutes), we entertained ourselves by taking pictures. Meet the frozen banditos! We were so cold and had nowhere to keep warm!

The next day we went to the countryside. We visited an old Chinese water village. It was a quiet and peaceful glimpse into what life must have been like hundreds of years ago. Thankfully the sun came out, making it a beautiful day to browse!

We took a water tour of the village and our oars person happened to be a lady! About 5 minutes into the ride, she asked if she could serenade us--to which we enthusiastically said "YES"! People were stopping on the bridges and sidewalks to watch her row and sing! Simply delightful!

We had a wonderful time in Shanghai. I would go back again if given the opportunity. When we went there 25 years ago, we were told that we would never see that China again. It was true...the China I saw those many years ago has been absorbed into a new China...different, but still fascinating. Now we're off to Beijing! Who wants to come?

PS: The Bear in the title needs no explanation to those in the know!