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The Great Wall – Beijing
Tiananmen – Beijing
Temple of Heaven – Beijing (This is probably my favorite structure in Beijing. It is around 600 years old and built without a single nail).
Terra Cotta Army- Xian (They were a lot bigger in size and numbers than I thought. These are around 2000 years old)
Five Pavillion Bridge – Yangzhou (This is the symbol of my hometown Yangzhou. Built in the 1700s by salt merchants on the Slim West Lake)
Bird’s Nest & Water Cube – Beijing (We didn’t get to stop and go into these, but they were quite impressive and looked even better at night)
CCTV tower – Beijing (A really weird looking building)
Runyang Bridge on the Yangtze River – (This bridge connects Yangzhou & Zhengjiang and its southern section is the 4th longest suspension bridge in the world)
Pudong Skyline – Shanghai (These new buildings east of the Huangpu river sprung up in the last 15 years.)
Speed counter of the Shanghai Magnetic Levitation Train (It’s going about 260 miles per hour for you non-metric folks).
There is not much to say besides that you have to see it to believe it all.
To be continued…
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Anyway, here are some of the funnier “Americans in China” moments:
1) We met a lady named Irma from Los Angeles at the airport who was travelling with her nephew. She happened to be on the same tour as us. On the first day of the tour the bus took us close to the Olympic Village in Beijing and as we passed by the Bird’s Nest and Water Cube a Chinese bus slowed down right next to our bus so we were face to face to its passengers. Irma was so excited that she started to wave frantically at the local Beijing folks in the other bus and took out her camera to take pictures of them. The people in the other bus were quite amused and also took out their cellphones and cameras to take pictures of her. The hubby and I were cracking up at this scene because Irma was so excited and yelled “HELLO!!” After the Chinese people took out their cameras she said, “they must think I’m some crazy American lady!”
2) Our tour took us to the home of a local artist in a “hutong”, which is a word describing the older courtyard style dwellings in Beijing. One of the ladies asked the artist, “how do you do your laundry?” The artist answered, “I have a washing machine” in Chinese. Since I understood Chinese I laughed out loud before the translator translated what the artist said. Another lady asked, “how come your dogs don’t bark?” The artist, translator, and tour guide all cracked up at that question and answered, “I don’t really know”.
3) Many public Chinese restrooms still have “squat holes” where you do your business by pulling down your pants and squating over a deep hole. Some of these restrooms don’t have doors so you can see people squatting down. One of the ladies went into one of the restrooms and saw an old lady squatting there and she ran out of there in horror. Then she told everyone what she saw. I thought it was pretty funny since those kind of restrooms were pretty standard when I went to elementary school. They are actually slightly more hygenic since your skin doesn’t touch anything.
4) We also visited a Chinese elementary school. In Chinese elementary schools you have to do everyday and supposedly they keep your eyes healthy. So when we visited the school the kids were in the middle of these exercises. The Americans were quite bewildered and wondered why the kids were rubbing their faces and brows. I said that they were eye exercises and did a few of them. The tour guide thought it was pretty funny.
Now, the Chinese also have their quirks that the Americans found funny or crazy.
1) One guy visited the Beijing Zoo on his own to see the giant pandas. He said that the Chinese people didn’t care about the pandas, but instead they were crowded around the common squirrels. He found it funny because we have squirrels running everywhere here in America.
2) The public parks are filled with people singing songs, playing games, dancing, and practicing Taiji. My husband asked me, “how come Americans don’t use parks like this?” The tour guide explained that people in China retire much earlier than Americans. Women generally retire at age 55 and men retire at age 60 so a lot of people have nothing to do but to enjoy themselves. Chinese people are also very social so they like to get together to play in public places.
3) Chinese people don’t really adhere to traffic laws or stand in line. The traffic in Beijing was quite orderly, but once you get to Shanghai, then you’ll see people creating lanes out of nowhere and busses coming dangerously close to crushing other cars.
4) Some Chinese people have never seen white people before, and some of the people in our group became tourist attractions themselves. Several people received requests from random Chinese tourists for pictures because they had blue eyes or red hair. They got quite a kick out of this.
Okay, now onto the most bizarre being we encountered on the trip.
Our group took an overnight train from Beijing to Xian. Each couple had their own room on the train and the tour guide told us not to open the doors for anyone at night because sometimes there can be thieves on the train. So everyone went on the train warily that night. Around 1 am, I got up to use the bathroom while the hubby stood guard by the door. When I came out of the bathroom a creepy white guy was standing in the hallway blocking my path. He had very pale skin, beady green eyes and reddish hair. He stared at me for a couple seconds and I said, “excuse me”, and he let me pass back to my room. My hubby looked out some more because he thought that guy was quite creepy. He didn’t want to go to the bathroom while leaving me alone in the room so he waited for the guy to leave. After ten or fifteen minutes the weird man still didn’t leave so the hubby locked our door and started to press the “Attendant” button. Suddenly, we started to hear loud pounding on our door and the cabins next to ours. The man also tried to open several people’s doors. According to the hubby that man stared him down while I was in the bathroom, and he reeked of alcohol. The pounding went on for about 10 minutes and we heard some doors opening and random people speaking. We simply hid in our room and slept until morning.
The next morning, the ladies next to our room started to talk about a “psycho killer” that came knocking in the night. Apparently, one of the ladies really needed to go to the bathroom so she opened the door and the man stared her down and then stuck his tongue out at her. The man also peed all over the floor of the bathroom in our traincar. Another couple apparently didn’t lock the door so he actually got into their room. The man in that cabin pushed the guy out. One of the ladies speculated that the man is a French boozehound, and my hubby and I started laughing because one of the songs on Rock Band 2 is Psycho Killer by the Talking Heads and that song has French sprinkled throughout. The hubby also expressed that it was ironic that all of these foreigners were expecting some Chinese thieves, but instead the psycho was not Chinese at all.
Later when we got off the train the hubby really wanted to find the crazy guy and snap a photo of him, but we didn’t see him. However, a lady in our group spotted him in a group waving a French flag. This experience certainly brings new meaning to the lyrics “Psycho Killer Qu’est-ce que c’est?”
To be continued!
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I am so glad that I will be leaving on a jetplane tomorrow because I just need to get away from this crazy country for a while and escape to another crazy country. We will be watching the presidential election through the filter of CCTV. The hubby already voted early on Saturday, so he is all set.
I will be back early morning of November 14th, but there will be an excellent guest post by in a couple days. Stay tuned!
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Half Moon Bay is a coastal San Mateo city about 20 miles from where we live famous for the yearly Mavericks Surf Contest and the Pumpkin Festival where the worlds’ most enormous pumpkins compete. We set out on Saturday morning and arrived in Half Moon Bay in about 30 minutes. We stepped in a small local restaurnt called The Flying Fish Grill and got some lunch, and then we headed to our hotel. Unfortunately, our room wasn’t ready yet so we went to Poplar Beach after checking out the kayaks at Pillar Point Harbor. Poplar Beach is one of many public beaches along Half Moon Bay and it has a small free parking lot. If you go to the main beach a block over it has a parking lot that charges a fee. At Poplar Beach we spent about two hours looking for beach glass. Before we got married we went to that beach once and I started looking for beach glass. The hubby never heard of this before and said, “why are you picking up garbage?!” I explained to him that people collect beach glass for fun and make them into jewelry. Then it turned into a bit of a competition and he helped me collect glass. Funnily enough we saw another couple collect glass, too, and the whole time the hubby was saying he couldn’t believe people liked garbage. After we got home on that trip I made some of the glass into pendants and sold them for around $50 at a church craft fair. So this time the hubby thought of looking for beach glass as a treasure hunt. After two hours of hunting, we found a small pocket full of browns, greens, and white pieces. I also found a tiny cobalt blue piece and a quarter from 1965.
We returned to the hotel and took a bit of a nap since the kayaking event was at 7pm. After waking up we walked down to Pillar Point Harbor again. Unfortunately, it was quite overcast so we were unable to see the full moon. There were a group of about 10 people and we were instructed to put on many layers of stuff. There is a jacket plus a skirt that stretches over the kayak and also a life jacket. The kayaks held two people and were a bit larger than the kayaks we used in Kauai. The hubby sat in the back to steer and I was in front. We paddled towards the breakwaters and we saw hundreds of pelicans and seagulls. Some people paddled a bit too close to them and they flew towards us and plopped in the water. Some of the pelicans were still shedding their baby furry feathers. A couple harbor seals also popped out their heads above the water.
After paddling for more than an hour, we cleared the last breakwater and we were in the open ocean. The sea was quite calm and the waves bobbed the kayaks slightly. It was quite dark and the glow sticks on our paddles indicated where the other kayaks were. It was very quiet and we could hear people speak quite clearly. We were only in the open ocean for a little while and then we headed back into the harbor. On the way back we made a stop at Mavericks Beach. This is the beach where the annual death-defying Mavericks Surf Contest is held. The spot where landed had several giant carved pumice stones. The guide explained that they were monuments in remembrance of those who died surfing there. It was quite dark so we couldn’t see much, but the guide explained that this was a dangerous place to surf. The waves could reach more than 25 feet during the winter and there are sharks in the waters.
We left the beach and headed towards the harbor. It was getting quite dark, but with every paddle a plume of green light glowed in the water. I have seen this before at Stinson Beach so I knew that it was a kind of microorganism that glows when you disturb them. I tried to get the hubby to look at the glow but he thought that they were bubbles and I couldn’t quite convince him that something in the water is giving off light. Finally one of the guides said, “I love this bioluminescent stuff!” Then I said that my hubby doesn’t see it and other people started to paddle to show him. Then he sort of believed that the green glow wasn’t just bubbles. After three hours of paddling we landed back at the harbor and walked back to the hotel. We were quite hungry and the hubby called the concierge to see if any restaurants were still open. Apparently a Mexican place called Tres Amigos is open until midnight so we went there and filled our tummies. Then we returned the hotel and fell asleep.
The next day, we ate a little bit of the complimentary breakfast at the hotel, and went back to our room to nap some more. Finally we checked out and headed to Sunday brunch at the Ritz Carlton. The Sunday brunch at the Ritz Carlton’s Navio restaurant was beyond our expectations. First of all, we didn’t know that it was a buffet because the hubby booked it after seeing a review somewhere that said the Sunday brunch was good. I also didn’t know that the restaurant overlooked the greens of the golf course and the blue ocean. There was a huge selection of foods all over the world including sushi, caviar, dimsum, and prime rib. The small appetizer sized dishes were presented in the most delectable and appealing manner. Our favorite was a small plate of roast duck breast served upon steamed bokchoy. The dessert station was also amazing. There were half a dozen types of chocolate truffles and fruits and many beautifully presented tiny desserts. I heard one man there say, “I want to take this to our table and just look at it!” There was also a dessert with gold flakes on it and I laughed a bit because the hubby joked about how pretentious people who eat gold are. Anyway, I took about six or seven desserts and just indulged in the decadence. After four plates of culinary delight, we couldn’t eat anymore, but we really wanted more. The funny thing is that I had a dream a couple weeks prior about an extremely fancy buffet with chocolate truffles and meats. I told the hubby, “this is the buffet of my dreams!” and we sat there laughing like idiots for a bit.
After the food we walked to the back of the hotel and followed a path down to the beach. The beach is public so you don’t have to be a hotel guest to go there. The beach was extremely small and we combed it for about an hour for beach glass. Unfortunately, all the pieces we found were quite small. The hubby said to keep them anyway because he wants to fill a spaghetti jar with sea glass. We were quite tired after that and walked back to the valet for our car. This is where the hubby remarked, “why is every car here so expensive looking?” Indeed, all the cars parked in front of the hotel were Mercedes, BMWs, and such. Then we saw a Toyota van pull up and I realized that they park the cheaper cars at the larger parking lot. So I said, “see not everyone here drives an expensive car, they just park the most expensive looking ones in front!” I guess the Ritz needs to look ritzy, but we definitely had a great time there without the need to look rich.
So that’s my weekend of adventure and gluttony. It’s great to get away from computers for a while to bond with the hubby and the great outdoors. It certainly wasn’t cheap, but it was completely worth it and I hope we can do it more often.
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In the winter of 1992, I received an acceptance letter from Kap’iolani Community College. Since I was an international student, I did not qualify for the inexpensive in state tuition. The rate for international students was more than $1000 per semester. Registration was due on 1/13 and classes started on 1/18. When I was about to start school, two events happened. One was a good thing, and the other was not.
First let me explain the joyous event. When Helen was in college during the late 1970s she was a translator for a group of American educators that visited China. Because of this she met an elementary teacher from Pensacola, Florida named Betty. Betty’s husband was a retired military man of the United States Air Force. At that time Betty was more than 60 years old but she was extremely interested in China. After she met Helen she was quite interested in Helen’s education and life. They became penpals for many years. Even after we were married they kept on writing each other. After Xin was born Betty was quite interested in Xin’s growth and education. Everytime Xin had a birthday she would send some books and gifts. When Helen arrived in Hawaii, the person that came to pick her up from the airport was Betty’s good friend.
After Xin and I came to America, Betty wrote us a letter saying that she is preparing a surprise for Xin. Right before Christmas we received a letter from Los Angeles from a woman named Lynn. In the envelope there were three roundtrip tickets from Hawaii to LA and three tickets to Disneyland worth 56 dollars each. The letter said that we were invited as guests of the Presbyterian Church to a Christmas in Los Angeles. Later we found out that this was the surprise Betty was talking about.
This was our first Christmas in America. Lynn had a Ford, and she drove us from the Los Angeles Airport to her home. Lynn is also a elementary school teacher, and her husband is a professor at UCLA. They have two children, one boy and one girl. The boy is the older child and his name is John. He just graduated from college and his major was English. However, he joined a fishing company and worked on the oceans as a fisherman. I heard from Lynn that being a fisherman is hard and dangerous work and the pay was not spectacular, but John was young and wanted to broaden his experience. His parents thought that it was a good idea and did not protest. At that time, I honestly didn’t understand the mindset of American parents. I always thought that when children graduate from college they should go to graduate school and join academia, and I would never allow my child to do such hard and dangerous work. However, after being in America for a while I understood more of the American educational system. I think perhaps this type of hard labor is a lesson American parents hope that their children could learn. Perhaps in those dangerous waves, John could receive the inspiration Hemingway had when he wrote “The Old Man and the Sea”.
That week, Lynn’s church had a volunteer to drive us somewhere every single day. We went to Disneyland and Xin was extremely excited and had a wonderful time. Additionally, we toured Hollywood and went to many different museums. Nevertheless, that Christmas we were extremely happy. I wanted to thank Lynn and her family for being such gracious hosts so I bought a chicken from the supermarket and made a Chinese style roast chicken. I put many different ingredients and also sticky rice inside the stomach of the chicken and baked it for three hours until the skin was crispy and brown. Lynn’s family tasted my chicken and praised it quite a bit, and said that I should visit them more often.
We could never forget that event and Betty’s love for our family. A little over five years ago I and Helen visited Betty in Florida. At that time, she was more than 80. I cooked several Chinese dishes for her and when she heard that we both had great jobs and Xin was studying at UC Berkeley she felt very relieved. Today, even though Betty already left us, her smiles and voice is still often remembered in our family.
Addendum from Xin: I still remember that Christmas really clearly even thought it has been more than fifteen years because it was beautiful. The funniest moment I remember was that Lynn’s family sat down to pray over the food, and my dad didn’t quite understand it. So when they said something like, “Thank you for this food”, my dad blurted out something like “no problem!” because he cooked the chicken. My mom was embarrassed and then explained it to him later. It’s still pretty funny when I think of it.
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