Monday, March 31, 2014

beijing de gushi: day one, part two.

so day one of our beijing adventure continues! it was a good long day packed full of lots of sights, but it also meant our feet were dying & we pushed through our exhaustion. as evidenced by this photo taken during one of our many subway trips (we were prepared to get a driver for the week, & a few people recommended doing so, because we weren't sure how good the subway system would be [& you can get drivers for pretty cheap], buuuut the beijing subway system is really clean, really efficient, & really good! so that worked out well, & we saved some money not having our own drivah, dahhhling):



heading into tiananmen square with all its joys. how do you like our face masks? no worries, we didn't stick out at all - so, so many people wear face masks there! i'm pretty used to wearing face masks, actually - the last month or so of my mission, i started getting really sick from car exhaust fumes (i guess that's what a year & a half of biking down crowded city streets will get you?) so i started wearing a face mask while i biked. i had two: a neon green sparkly one, & an ivory one with tiny black hippopotami. they were delightful, & i'm pretty sure the hippo one is still in a box somewhere in the garage at my parent's house :) 



just some statue cheeriness in front of a bare-bones building at tiananmen square. tiananmen square is actually pretty bare - a wide, wide space surrounded by these similar warm & inviting soviet-era facades:


ah, that gaze of chairman mao. he's like george washington on the dollar bill - no matter where you stand, he's always watching you! haha:



me & mao, mao & me:


ben & mao, mao & ben (ben got really good at that mask face chin-tuck):


check out all the guards standing 'round!:


after passing through a hallway under the photo of the chairman, you walk through that tunnel behind ben's head:


keepin' us safe:


quick side note: i was loving this guy's pants SO MUCH:


something cool about beijing is that there are the high-risers & the neon lights, the olympic stadiums & others, but tucked in the streets between the tall buildings are little neighborhoods & alleyways called hutong. that's where you get a really great feel for the spirit of the people of beijing, & where i felt like beijing most echoed my beloved taiwan. 



down a street of the hutong:


we climbed the steep, steep stairs of the drum & bell towers. back in the olden days they would ring the large city bell to help people keep time. our guide said something like they would ring the bell 108 times an hour every day?! can you imagine that happening at, like, 3 am? haha. here we are climbing the bell tower, & the stairs were so steep. this picture does not even do it justice, but it was actually really scary climbing them - going up, i was afraid i'd fall backward & tumble down at any moment, & going down, i was worried i would stumble, fall forward, & just fall all the way down. so for how rare it is for one to feel afraid while climbing, maybe that'll give you a give idea of how steep these stairs were...?


the view from the bell tower. the bell & drum towers used to be the highest points of the city!:


this guy:


here's a cool fact: the bells & drums were used as timekeepers in beijing until 1924! you can see that red rod above my head - so chinese bells are different in that they would be ring by striking from the outside, as opposed to bells that have that little dinger inside of them:


we appreciated this incredibly helpful sign that told us where the stairs were. haha:


the steep stairs of the bell tower:


having a rest at the top of the drum tower & munching on these loves while waiting for the scheduled drum performance:


said drum performance (that higher middle one was loud. makes sense since the purpose of these guys was to be heard all over the city):



this is one of the drums that has been preserved for several hundred years: 


outside deck of the drum tower:


the view from the towers was amazing. here is a view of one of the city-within-a-city hutong:


in terms of city layout, the forbidden city is kind of the center from which a lot of the roads and landmarks stem. so like all one axis you'll find the forbidden city, the drum tower, the bell tower, & more. while we didn't see the forbidden city from the towers, this picture kind of gives an idea of how all the roads line up in straight lines:


beautiful!:


while in the ("a"? i'm actually still not sure of which word to use, because you could pluralize "hutong" to "hutongs," i suppose, but that's not exactly how the chinese language works, but i'm not sure how western-ized/english-ized they're made the word "hutong"...so i'm not sure) hutong:


are you getting a feeling for the hazy, muggy weather from these photos?:




as seen on the streets:




haha this photo is great. i had ben walk out to the bridge over the water, & you can see a fellow "waiguoren" (foreigner) in the background observing the strangeness:


spotted on a bridge:


spotted in front of a door:


spotted down a road:


okay! that concludes our day one. we grabbed peking duck & chicken that night at a place near our hotel, so with that in mind, i leave you with this image of THE CHICKEN HEAD FOUND IN OUR DISH:


sweet dreams tonight! :/

beijing de gushi: day one, part one.

we're back! we're back in 'murica. it was kind of a crazy time getting back - so our flight home for saturday was cancelled. i mean, completely cancelled. they rescheduled our flights for, like, two days later, & it was pretty hectic & stressful there for a few minutes as we called the airline [on skype, because our cell phones don't work there, because CHINA] & tried to hurriedly rebook flights that would actually get us home on time for work & school to start again on monday...anyway we were able to reschedule, but it was close there for a few minutes. my blog is completely blocked in china (i'm such a rebel!...actually they block all blogspot websites, because CHINA), as was pretty much any website you'd want ever, kind of, so we've felt out of the loop on all kinds of news, both social media-wise & current events-wise, for the last week. i'd love to say that it felt cleansing to get away from the world for a week, & i'd love to say i came back not wanting to even start checking, you know, the facebooks or news sites again...& for the first few days of china it was fine. we didn't even notice. by day five or six it started getting rough. so it's good to be back & feel connected & in-the-know again. one example: i found out one of my dear friends from several years ago got married a few weeks ago?! they didn't announce it, & kept it very quiet for several weeks (she tends to be a private person), but she just announced it to everyone on the facebooks last night for the first time, like suddenly the flood gates opened & she made this big announcement & posted all these beautiful photos & things, & i would have never known. so sometimes the facebooks can be good like that. anyway, WHOA. UNPLANNED SEVERE TANGENT. let's get back to china, because it was amazing!

so let's start with day one, part one. now don't get nervous now - not all our days will be broken up into two separate blog posts. we (i, mostly) just happened to snap a TON of photos on the first day, & then the next day were less photos, & then less, & less. it's like how parents take pictures of the first kid the most, & then the number of photos drops a little bit with the second kid, then even more with the third...i'm kidding!...unless this was actually true in your family, which if that is the case, MIDDLE CHILDREN UNITE.

day one, part one! here is the first photo of our trip, taken in our elevator on the way down in the morning. so something about china (& taiwan, & japan...) is they have talking elevators. we stayed on the fourth floor, & our elevator kept calling it the "first floor." i love china.


ben BEING SO CHINESE. here we are at the temple of heaven park, & he was posing for this photo just standing there, & in the last second before i took it, i said, "throw up a peace sign!" unsure if he would actually go through with it. & then i snapped the photo, & here's what i got. i love this guy:


& then me, no prompting of tossing up a peace sign required:


we passed this older gentleman who was writing out characters with this huge paint brush, but instead of paint he used water - so the earlier characters had started drying & fading, while the later ones were still really dark. it was beautiful. chinese calligraphy is so, so good:



chinese dancing & exercise teams are a thing of wonder. they practice out in a park or something every morning. a vivid mission memory i have is jogging at 6 am around a high school track every other morning (going on morning runs were a hard-&-fast rule in my mission), while in the middle of the field a team of grandmas would be dancing. they were an actual team - they had a routine they would work on to a specific song, & they'd go & compete & everything. i mean, check out the gloriousness:



so we've established that there are lots of elderly people in parks in the mornings. some dancing, others stretching...& here in china they do a bit hacky sack. who knew?! we were watching a few hack the sack (i am completely aware of the fact that that might not actually be what you call it) & then one of the guys came over & started playing with ben. i was cracking up. you can see the little guy flying through the air - they put feathers on the end which actually made it fall a lot slower, & therefore it was much easier to get a good rally going. so funny:



all of this hacky sacking, dancing, & stretching happened with this beautiful misty scene in the background:


we then walked through this nice open corridor. on the ledge there on the left was a row of people doing all kinds of random things: crocheting, selling little trinkets, & playing really intense games of cards, mahjong, & other stuff. something i love about chinese & taiwanese culture is that it's a very outdoors culture, if that makes sense. just like you & i would sit & chat or have get-togethers on couches, in an apartment, or around a table, chinese people take that all outside. they'll take a ton of stuff i would normally think to do indoors & go outside. in taiwan, i taught lessons outside, like in a park or on a bench, wayyyyy more often than i did inside. i just love that that's how it is. these next few pictures illustrate this fact really well:


here is one such card game. THAT AMAH (grandma) SMOKING:



these people:


THAT AMAH'S SIDEWAYS VISOR:




a shot of the temple of heaven from the park:


& a shot from the inside. those rows of white stone walls went all the way around the temple. so the temple of heaven is cool because it was built so emperors could pray to heaven - not to a specific, named god, but more just to heaven & the god of heaven in general. kind of cool, right? just a really pure, almost non-denominational worship. now it's kind of been incorporated into daoism & confucianism, but you can read about heaven worship here


more around the temple of heaven complex. you'll start noticing that these beijing sites like temples & other things are in complexes that are wayyyyy spread out with lots of room. quite different than new york city, where sites tend to be pretty squished together & tall buildings kind of encroaching on every side.

coordinating peace signs:




you'll start to notice too the, uh, sometimes questionable air quality, shall we put it. my friend sent me this video about it all & it's pretty funny. 


the bright colors! aren't they lovely in these next few photos?




i was loving the open space, & the lack of huge hoards of people, so i couldn't help but bust out this joyful POWER POSE:



a pretty corridor:


we were lucky enough to spot beautiful blossoms all week long. ben took these photos!



part of the reason the temple is blurry in the background is the bokeh, part is because of that, uh, air quality :)


here's that infamous pear photo some of you might have already heard about. so after walking around all morning, we sat on a ledge & had a few bites of lunch, including this pear. we were just sitting & chatting, & in the downtime i took a picture of the pear because i liked the color. i didn't even think i would save the photo or put it on the blog or anything, but then after i took the photo, this guy next to us was just staring at us. i kind of looked over, & he finally asked, "what country are you from?" i said, "america!" a few minutes later, when he & his girlfriend got up to leave, he held back for a few seconds, then asked, "do you not have pears in america...?" i responded, "yes, we do! i just thought it was a nice color?" he gave me the weirdest look, & then they walked away. the end. so here's the photo that brought about all the confusion:


i guess it was good he wasn't around when i took the photo of my one true food love i smuggled into the country a few minutes later, because china & the u.s. maybe would have had to call some international summit, or something. (:


this cute little kid:


we struck up a conversation with this lady about her cute, CUTE grandkid. a funny trend we noticed in china was that all the babies were outfitted in these darling hats with bright colors & pictures on them & usually one of those helicopter-y things on top. but the real kicker is that they're always sideways. ALWAYS. the caps are never straight on, or backwards. sideways. SO funny & cute:




more pretty photos of NATURE! (goulet):




these awesome, awesome gnarled trees (this is all still at temple of heaven park):


hashtag artistic:


probably my favorite angle of these sorts of temples: pretty much right underneath, so you get the curve of the roof, all the design underneath it, & beautiful colors all in one view:


we loved this little hobbit entrance. there was a guy coming up behind us about to pass through the door, & we were like, "you can go through before we take the photo!" & he said, "no, you take the photo first!" this went back & forth a few times until we were finally like, "okay, sure, whatever." so there's a random guy hiding behind the wall behind me to the left. so there's that awkward element to add to the lore of this photo:


phew! thus concludes the end of our beijing trip, day one part one! part two to follow soon.

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