Wednesday, October 31, 2012


"Shan" is the Chinese word for mountain.  We hiked the mountain where Taoism (Daoism) was born.  There are plenty of temples along the way, burning incense, with cushions for prayers and monks who ring a bell when anyone kneels there.  We went on a beautiful, sunshiny day in Chengdu.  We took a high-speed train out to the suburbs, and a short bus ride to the "entrance".  The rest of the day was spent climbing stairs to the top!  No nature trails here--it's all cement.  And women are hiking it in high heels!  Amazing!  It took us 4 hours to hike up to the peak, and there were many people out enjoying the day, so it's not quite the relaxing nature walk you get in the US.  But we met some students who had fun talking in English with us, and we enjoyed the wonderful architecture of the temples and pagodas along the way.
I love the small statuary on the roofs.

This mountain is the "setting" for Kung Fu Panda II. 

Chinese/English translation--"Since being the guest of Mt. Qingcheng you shall not split here."

Tall trees!

Jessica and the Masons went with us.

Would YOU go hiking in these pink stilettos?

One of the Temples

Yin/yang in the middle with signs of the zodiac around it.  This was in the center of a temple courtyard.
Can you see the cleft?  This area was hard hit in the 2008 earthquake.

I'm tired, but we HAVE to keep hiking up to that pagoda!!

Or I could get a ride like this man!

Notice there's a man in back, a man in the middle and a man in the front (you can see the poles to the right).  You can hire these guys to carry you up or down the mountain!  The man in the middle is in a little sling with a pillow at one end.  I would be absolutely terrified in that thing--the trails are not that smooth, and we saw a girl slip and fall down some steps.  Oh well, there's no OSHA requirements in China! 
This is actually an amazingly CLEAR day in Chengdu!

We Made It!!

Love the mossy roofs.

We decided to take the cable car down.  It's a German one, so it's safe!  We didn't want to miss our train.

There's a lake along the way.

Sometimes I'm a pretty great photographer!!

Not the longest hike we've ever taken (maybe 5 miles), but we were out of practice.  And the high speed train is so smooth, you can sleep all the way home!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Chinese Halloween

The Chinese don't celebrate Halloween, but many of them have lived abroad or heard of the holiday.  I taught a lesson which included all the fun aspects of Halloween, as well as the scariness and the decorations.  The students were quite interested.  They especially loved when I played Halloween Bingo with them.  When the student with a bingo would shyly say "Bingo" (a game the Chinese don't play), I would encourage them to shout it out!  When they did, I would hand them a Dove chocolate bar, and the rest of the class roared in jealousy.  Then I knocked on the door and made them all say "Trick or Treat?" and I brought out a bowl of candy to give them.  Then they roared and applauded!  It was lots of fun to teach, and good listening practice for the students as I called out the Halloween words I used for the bingo game.  I even had a music video of the Monster Mash that a former BYU Teacher had made.

One of the other English teachers in our building hosted a Halloween party and invited the children to come for pumpkin carving, pinatas, and trick-or-treating.  We joined in the fun and invited a family we had met who lived for a while in Minnesota.
Pinatas for Halloween--thanks Rob for making them all!


Xiaoping Ji, our little friend who lived in Minnesota

Happy Halloween wherever you are!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The old Silk Road - Day 7 - 'Home' Again

The Xi'an Branch of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
After another wonderful American-style breakfast, we headed to Church which met in a former hotel on the Xi'an University campus.  It was testimony meeting, and tears stung my eyes many times as I listened to my co-teachers testify that what we are doing here is the Lord's work.  We are serving the people of China and helping them to live better lives.  It made me feel invigorated and encouraged to press forward with faith.  This Silk Road trip has been a blessing in my life to help me overcome the 'culture shock' and recommit to my work.  It was great to compare stories with other teachers and in the end, I'm glad I got my assignment and not theirs.  Blogging is always about the good times, the exciting things and the fun activities, but I have had as many down times, frustrations, and Can I Really Do This for Ten Months? questions.  I came here thinking that it would be easy for me because I've lived and traveled abroad so much in my life.  But after you've acquired a comfortable home and surroundings, it's hard to revert back to the meager small apartment stage again, especially with no bathtub or oven!  And working a full-time job teaching!  And no car!  And no familiar food!  And even when Lehi and Sariah went off into the wilderness, leaving everything they owned behind, at least they got to take their families with them!!  I was especially touched by the sign we saw outside the window at church:
This translation the Chinese got exactly right!
We enjoyed a delicious lunch in a beautiful restaurant with the fanciest, cleanest, nicest bathroom we've yet seen in China.  Then we were off to the airport and back to a rainy night in Chengdu.  We were refreshed and renewed and ready to work after our memorable trip down the old Silk Road. 

Friday, October 26, 2012

The old Silk Road - Day 6 - Xi'an

Bacon, eggs, cereal, toast and juice!  A real American breakfast!  What bliss!  It was a wonderful reminder of home.  Then, on to the Terra Cotta Warriors!  But first, a message from our sponsor...
Terra Cotta Mosleys

We had to stop first (before we'd even SEEN the warriors) at the factory where they make the REAL replicas!  They suffered us to sit through a spiel about how they were molded and baked and kiln-fired and painted and stamped authentic.  We watched the same routine with the porcelain figurines, the lacquered furniture and the other products that were conveniently for sale after the "tour".  We were warned that these figurines were the only ones we could be sure weren't painted with lead paint, so we went ahead and made our purchases here.  Be sure to read your receipt before signing it (when using Visa) because I had talked them into a lower price, but they charged me higher.  I didn't discover that until later when I got out my glasses.  That spoiled the day for me, as I felt cheated.  That's why I don't like shopping in cultures where you are expected to barter.  I never feel like I do it right! 

But we finally made it past the holiday crowds and shoved our way to the front of the pit where we could gaze down at the famous Qin Terra Cotta Warriors.

I was surprised to learn that almost all of the warriors were found smashed when they were discovered in 1974 by some local farmers trying to dig a well.  (This farmer lost his livelihood when the government took over his farm, so now they let him work in the gift shop autographing books and selling his photo!)  Many of the statues you see are only reproductions.  But there is a huge "hospital" at one end of the enclosure where the pieces of the warriors are being painstakingly reassembled and prepared for display.  The armies originally were painted in bright colors which faded after only 4 minutes of contact with oxygen.  There are still huge pits which have been left unopened until such time as they can learn a method to protect the artifacts from the oxidation which will destroy the paint.

Emperor Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China, put 720,000 people to work on this army (and the Great Wall) to protect him after his death, and give him people to rule over.  (One-fourth of these people died in their efforts.)  He was also the originator of the Great Wall, meant to protect his Empire from invaders.  Qin (pronouned "chin" and where the word "China" originated) died at age 49 because he was drinking mercury-laced elixirs thought to bring eternal life.  You can read more about it on Wikipedia!
Bronze chariot for escorting the dead to the afterlife.

With my hands on the kneeling archer.
 This was the only warrior so far who was found still in one piece.  He's a kneeling archer, but his bow has long since deteriorated.  You can tell what rank the men have by their uniforms and hairstyles!  Each warrior is unique in appearance because they made separate pieces, assembled them in different patterns, then added extra clay to create differing facial features.

Of course Kirk wanted to pose by one of the 8 generals who have been found so far (even though Kirk's only a Captain).  There are a total of about 8000 terra cotta warriors in all.

Xi'an has an old city wall built in 1370 that is still completely intact with a moat around the outside.  Unfortunately, we were so long at the warriors (because of the mobs of people) that we didn't have time to rent a bike and ride all the way (8-1/2 miles) around the wall.  But we did walk along and see some lovely sights.
Yes, that's air pollution clouding the views.

The wall was meant for protection, of course, and has some beautiful Chinese pagoda-style buildings along the ramparts.  It's quite wide so there was plenty of room to march a whole army along the top of it (40-46').  No stairs, though, as on the Great Wall of China; only those that you take from ground level to the top.

Watching the Chinese people is always an interesting pastime.  Heartstrings are tugged when you see some of the more destitute.
Some kind of "garage sale" on the dirt.

See the woman just above the yellow box?  I don't know if she lives here or what?
Then again, there are some tender mercies when you see something that reminds you of a loved one or brings you back closer to home.
My Dad walked just like this the last years of his life.
   We went downtown to the large fountain near the Buddhist Temple and the Big Wild Goose Pagoda.  It was fun to see the Chinese boys enjoying some familiar long board skating.
Hey Mark & Caitlin--what do you think?  Want to join them? (Big Wild Goose Pagoda in the background.)
We enjoyed hearing the music and watching the fountain show, but had the most fun talking to the Chinese youth and watching the little children.  Everyone is so excited to talk to the foreigners, and they all want their pictures taken with us, making the traditional "V" with their fingers.
Largest Musical Fountain Show in Asia

Mmmm, cotton candy!

Little Tang Princess

Trees lit up after the show--red, of course!

Our new friends in Xi'an