Sunday, November 19, 2017

You Had WHAT for Lunch?

Would you eat this? I'll bet the restroom floors smell like noodles. This was found in a large, professionally done, hardbound menu at a very nice restaurant in Beijing. When we saw it, we laughed and laughed. We were at the restaurant with Tim and Leslie Pelton, and Todd and Sherae Forsyth. 

Drum Tower and Bell Tower in Beijing

We met up with two LDS Charities volunteer couples--the Ashtons and the Sheffields--who are based in Beijing. They work on various projects with Chinese NGOs to do various humanitarian projects in China. We see them once a week, but wanted to spend more time with them, so we met up to tour the famous Bell Tower and Drum Tower in the heart of Beijing. The tower square is located directly north, in a straight line from the Forbidden City, and at one time was included within the Forbidden City. They were built in 1272 AD, so their relatively "recent" creations.

Drum Tower, used to tell time in ancient times. 

Bell Tower, used to tell time in ancient times.

Drums at top of drum tower

Various time-keeping devices--many of them based on the burning of incense sticks.

Time-keeping devices.

More time-keeping devices.

More time-keeping devices.

Time-keeping by using water. As the water flows from one tank to the other, and finally into a barrel, it raises a stick on which is found the markings to keep time. 

Laraine with Ted Ashton (maroon jacket), Terry Sheffield and Rick Sheffield (blue sweatshirt)

Across the courtyard at the bell tower, this caption is found. 

The bell is struck by a giant wooden "fish"

The Great Wall was . . . well . . . Great!

Our university (China Foreign Affairs University) hired a couple of buses and took us on an excursion to the Great Wall at Badaling (There are countless locations from which to see the wall). The Great Wall is only about 90 minutes from our apartment and the trip was wonderful. However, everything seemed to go wrong on the way there, including a sudden gastro-intestinal need to find a restroom in the middle of Beijing at an early morning hour when everything was closed. Our bus driver kindly found a hotel and I ran in, took care of business, then ran back out to the awaiting buses. Both buses waited for me. I was quite embarrassed and thought to myself, "The way things are going, I'll probably get to the Great Wall and accidentally lean against -- making it fall down."

Measuring the wall is tricky because there are off-shoots, natural "wall-like" barriers, etc. Altogether, it measures more than 13,000 miles and is considered one of the greatest architectural feats in the world's history.

Looking up at the wall as it winds around the mountainside. 

The Chinese flag proudly waves over the area. Great wall in the distance.

Laraine walks the great wall with our university colleagues and dear friends--Mike and Ruth Ann Martin, from South Africa. 

Walking the wall 

The view back towards Beijing from the Great Wall. 

Every once in a while there is a beacon tower from which ancient warriors signaled relayed messages to others along the wall via smoke during the day or fire at night

Approaching a signal tower

Two comrades enjoy the wall's history together
We've gotten to know the Martins very well. They teach us so much about South African culture, and we've found that we frequently have to struggle to understand their English, as it differs from our "real" English. Of course, we have a constant "battle" about which is the "real" English.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Bike Accident and Bei Hei Park

It was bound to happen--a minor bicycle accident on one of our cycling excursions. This time, Laraine and I were on the way to a beautiful, historic park in the center of Beijing called Bei Hei Park (literally means North Ocean or in this case--large body of water).

So what happened? We were traveling north and were still about 10 minutes away from the park. I came to an abrupt stop because the road ahead was blocked by a van being unloaded. It was then I heard a crash and felt a shove forward. I had been back-ended! In all the chaos of bike riding in Beijing, I got rear-ended by the only American in sight. It was a woman with a very familiar-sounding name--Laraine. Yes, THAT Laraine! My own wife rear-ended me. She got her handle bars stuck in the basket on the rear of my bike. No harm done, but it was pretty hilarious that of all the thousands of close encounters and near misses happening literally every few seconds, the only person to actually hit me was my wife.

So we met up with Sharae and Todd Forsyth, who are teaching at Beijing University. They traveled by subway to meet us at the park. We were absolutely blown away by what we saw there. Enjoy the pictures below:

We found a very serene area of the park--With a legend about two philosophers who were once in this section of the park.One of them looked in the water and saw the fish. He said, "That fish is certainly very happy." The other philosopher replied, "How do you know he's happy?" The first replied, "You are not me. How can you know I don't know how fish feel?" Apparently, this was a famous happening at this part of the park. 

Crossing the bridge to Jade Island.

On Jade Island, a beautiful shrubbery display and entryway to the Buddhist Stupa in the style of Nepal's religious buildings. 

Same spot with both of us. 

We love the integration of art and architecture

At the Nepalese Buddhist "Stupa" reminiscent of Quetzlcoatl (winged serpent deity) in South America.
Not the typical Buddhist structures you see in China. That's because this was built after the Buddhist traditions in Nepal.

Various temples highlighted our descent from the main temple on the top of the hill. 

Most imperial buildings have a bell tower and a drum tower, to tell the time by night and by day. We are sitting in one of those. 

Various grottoes on the descent from the top temple.

Having fun up and down stairs.

Brilliant yellow flowers on bridge over to "round house"

A look back at the Stupa.

Sharae Forsyth posing

Winding down our Bei Hei experience

Surprising find -- the "Studio" (office area and palace just for those who worked anciently in the office) of the main palace

Another section of the "studio" or office area of the palace. All of this area was part of the studio.