Ana and I have been visiting the beach nearly every day to find sea glass. Her new room (wherever that ends up being) will have the colors pink and aqua. (I've already started on a quilt.) So we've been looking only for clear or aqua pieces. (We're going to cover a picture frame with it and then put a picture of her at the beach in it.) There are tons of GREEN (Tsingdao beer bottles are green---a lot of those here!), but you have to really look for the other colors. It reminds me of I Spy, but just with a pile of rocks. Yesterday it was warm enough Ana got in the water! I realized, while staring at rocks, that Ana has lived her whole life on an island or right by the ocean. (Isn't it amazing the insights you have when your mind is free to think!) Not many kids can say that!
I think it's so nice of God to put such beautiful things in nature! If the colors are this fabulous here, I can't wait to see heaven!
I was looking at houses online. Ana was voicing her opinions on one I was looking at and then she said, "...and we can live there until I go to college and NOT MOVE EVER AGAIN." It made me realize how hard transitions are on children. Yes, they're resilient. BUT, moving is a high stress time. Pray that this thought stays in my mind and that I can stay understanding for the next few months!
Here's one of my new Chinese paintings--hope I can get all the wrinkles out :)
So, Matt's trip consisted of the 10th grade class. This was his homeroom--he also had most of them in Chemistry. (He was originally put on another trip, but the class sent some representatives to the principal to ask if he could be switched to their trip.) Here they were doing a cooking class.
Matt especially wanted you to know that these were his jiaozi!
Another activity was rock climbing and..
rappelling. One good thing about working with kids--they keep you young!
There were so many little areas in the Forbidden City that it makes it virtually impossible to upkeep it all. Here's what all those beautiful wall/ceilings would look like unpainted. I wonder how long it takes to paint a square?
Beautiful color contrasts...everywhere. Would I put these colors in my house? Nope, but still very pretty in its own way!
Unused gate--love it!
This was the fire station. Water was stored in these big copper vats. Many of the buildings were built with a lot of wood. With all that paint covering them, it's no wonder they burnt quickly.
The kids were so tired at this point that we started to walk back. (I actually burst a blood vessel in my toe we walked so much.) Beijing is an amazing city--go see it for yourself!
Matt wanted to skip the treasure rooms, but I'm glad we paid extra to see it. Here's a crown. Poor girl must have had such a headache!
Beautiful drinking vessel inlaid with gems and pearls. (We were AMAZED at how dusty everything was--it all needed a serious cleaning! Obviously the cases weren't air tight!)
Loved the color of this piece. It was pretty small, but still had some extremely intricate carving on it.
This was a large piece. The kids were getting very antsy, but we played I-spy by this piece for a while. There was so much to see in the carving.
Here was a beautiful belt dripping with pearls and other gems. If we ever come back I would love to go to the museum to see more "treasures!" I recommend paying the extra 10 yuan to see all the fun artifacts--esp. if you don't have kids :)
To get to the Forbidden City was an easy walk from our hotel. This was my favorite of the four places we visited and I would have liked to explore it more!
What was funny to me is how many gates you had to go through to actually get in the Forbidden City. Seriously would have been hard to get to the Emperor which I guess is the point!! We'd see a massive gate and I'd think--this is it, but no. (And by this time I'm guessing we'd walked around 15 miles over the two days we'd been there--we were a little tired!) You know you're close when you see masses of people. (What was interesting to me is that there really weren't that many foreign tourists--it was mainly Chinese tourists!) The last admission is at 4 pm and we arrived around 3--so there were lots of other people trying to buy their tickets before time ran out!
Even when you got in there were vast plazas to cross before you could even see anything. Some of the stones were in a more original state (i.e. difficult to walk on), but they had made a path of smooth stones you could follow if you wished. Many things were undergoing renovation--so that's why you see all the netting.
Just to give you some perspective, here's Matt and the kids standing outside the "main gate." B.I.G!!
-Paperwork for shipment is almost done--lots of delays!
-Matt has three interviews this next week--all very different jobs but dealing with education in some way.
-Matt gets back Saturday morning at 1am. (He's been on a spring trip with the 10th graders. They are biking/hiking/climbing. We'll see if he can walk when he gets back!!) This has been THE LONGEST WEEK OF MY LIFE! I have a new respect for my mother that kept us quite often by herself :)
-Less than three weeks and we'll be on our way to the States!!
-Ana has two major field trips this week and has been waking up with the sun at 4:30--hope she can sleep in on Saturday!!
-I've been scrubbing windows, floors, and cabinets for lack of anything better to do--the flat will be clean for the next person!
-I ordered some Chinese prints/paintings/paper cuttings for our home and they came yesterday. Love them. I'm so glad we can take a small part of our life in Asia with us.
The compound for the Temple of Heaven is massive. We rented a informational player and it said it was 10 times the size Tienanmen Square. It has lots of big gates, very old cypress tress (pictured one was supposed to be 500 years old!)
There were smaller Temples that served different purposes, but were just as ornate. The line on the sidewalk here was for God. Not even the emperor was allowed to step on it as he walked to the main temple.
The top picture was the place of sacrifice. It was basically a set of rings and at the top would have been the altar--no longer there. There was lots of greenery and people doing very interesting things from playing kicking games, to practicing their skills with a whip, to doing calligraphy with water to dancing to 50's music to fan dances with traditional music. The Temple of Heaven had it all. I wish we could have had a whole day for each of these places. There is so much to see it's worth it!
Lions traditionally were mythological creatures. They were put in front of entrances as it was believed they had the power to ward off evil spirits. They were almost always in pairs (male and female). You can also tell what dynasty it was from by the decoration and how big the muscles are.
It seems they were usually carved out of stone, but there were also metal examples.
I loved this one carved out of coral in the "Treasure" section of the Forbidden City."
This one is my personal favorite. He looks so happy... until you notice that he's holding a squealing little lion under his sharply clawed paw. I guess nobody really ever wanted a friendly lion guarding their gate.
On Saturday morning--early--we headed for the Temple of Heaven. Our hotel wasn't too far away, so we walked. The big problem--The grounds are enormous and surrounding them is a large wall. There are only four gates to get in--so it takes some effort just to make it inside!
The temple was constructed in 1420 and was used by the emperors to offer sacrifice and offerings to the One True God in order to receive blessings on the country's crops. Of course, practices changed with different emperors, but there are arguments that these offerings/sacrifices mirrored Jewish practices.
The main temple is a work of art. No nails were used and it is extremely ornate. It underwent some serious renovation in the early 1900s, but I'm sure the beautiful paintings on the exterior have to be redone frequently. The sun and dust filled wind could fade/strip the paint fairly quickly.
Again, I was amazed at the level of detail in the painting, stonework, and ceramics. Even the roof tiles were beautiful. I've been in breathtaking cathedrals in South America, intricate Hindu temples in India, and stunning Wats in Thailand. It is amazing how much effort men put into honoring their gods/God. What is sad about this building is that it is no longer in use--just an amazing relic of the past.
We enjoyed exploring all the Chinese food in Beijing. We ate at the base of the Great Wall--"country food" as the tour guide described it. Lots of oil and fried foods. The even batter dipped tree leaves and fried them. I especially liked the green beans.
For breakfast we ate at the end of our little street. This lady had fresh, steamed baoxi (bread with filling), jiaoxi (dumplings), porridge with fried bread dough, and fresh soy milk. All that for about 4 US dollars. I really enjoyed having such a delicious, inexpensive option. Plus, it filled up even our two bottomless pits!
We tried the candied fruit (and had the whole street watching us!!) It was very good, but really sweet. Basically it is a hard sugar coating over strawberries. At least we avoided McDonald's ice cream for that night!
I loved this horse seen on an add in the subway. (It will probably get printed and put in Ana's room!) This chalkboard wall would be fun in a kids bedroom using their favorite foods, activities, etc.
The mirror and sink in our bathroom was my favorite! For the mirror all you would have to do is paint it and add the Chinese corners. The sink was a bowl placed on top of a Chinese cabinet. Should be easy to DIY--provided you can find a bowl! If only we had more suitcases I would buy one here!!
We stayed in a Chinese neighborhood that has converted some houses into hotels. It was also very close to the Forbidden City and a great little shopping street. How fun it was to stroll down the "road" and see real life going on. (It was esp. interesting to us as where we live in Qingdao is so Western.)
The rooms were fine--nothing to write home about, but I loved the ambiance! The girls room was right on the courtyard (very noisy at night), but Matt and China stayed upstairs. Can't beat the price and the location.
Directly after the Great Wall we headed to the Summer Palace. Thankfully the kids slept in the van because this place had a lot of walking too!
It was commissioned in the 1700s. It's amazing to see so much history in one spot. There were lots of beautiful things to see. To be honest though, it was difficult to enjoy them as there were literally tens of thousands of people. (AND 1/4 of them wanted to take pictures with the children! It's very rare to see an African here and well Ana has always had her picture taken. At the end of this day though she was saying "bu yao" don't want-- a lot!)
Because so much of the area is taken up with the lake, the park felt a lot more crowded than any other place we visited.
I loved all the details here. I was totally amazed at the carvings and paintings that were EVERYWHERE. (I've decided I would like to be a restoration expert here-would never be out of work.) Every beam is painted and a lot of the stone work is hand carved.
It would have been nice to have spent more time here, but we had to take the subway back to our hotel and feed the starving children. Maybe someday Matt and I can go back and take more time!
Surprisingly both of these pictures were taken with our little Canon camera. (I did take my big camera, but kept the big lens on it--AND it worked--a minor miracle.) This was a very old, ornate door at the Summer Palace. Love the colors!
This picture is also a back gate at the Summer Palace. I had to photoshop the ladies out, but I think it is lovely--esp. since it was just a quick snapshot as we were walking!