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Our Final Days in Beijing


our long weekend in Beijing

After getting settled in at our hotel and freshening up, we went exploring the area around our hotel to find a place to eat dinner. We found a Pizza Hut that looked great to us - a place where we could order for ourselves and get food we recognized! We were amused to see a phenomenon that Ruth had told us she's seen at other Pizza Huts - people stack melon neatly around the edge of their salad plate to make almost a bowl in which they can have a bigger salad than would ordinarily be possible. I pretended to be taking a picture of my wife to capture the scene below. I wonder if the woman knew I wasn't really taking a picture of Becka....

Where did you get that salad bowl?!

Saturday evening we took in an acrobatics show - Cirque du soleil. Incredible! If you ever get to Beijing, this is something you *must* include one evening! The kids looked like they ranged from maybe 9 or 10 years old through the young 20s. They did flips, mounts, juggling, balancing, and all sorts of other feats. Still pictures cannot adequately convey the marvels we saw, but that's the best I can do until you see a show yourself. Below is a picture of some boys who juggled three hats each. Each hat is a different color or design so that the audience can better see what they're actually doing as they juggle the hats off and on their heads. After doing flips as they juggled and even juggling from person to person in a line, they did a mount. Each level of boys was juggling the three hats from head to head in one direction and from one boy's hand to the next boy's hand in the opposite direction to keep the supply going.

boys juggling hats

One routine was boys climbing two poles, flipping from one pole to the other, flipping or sliding down the pole and catching themselves just before hitting the floor. Here's a shot of four boys who were holding themselves in place with their thighs.

4 boys on poles

The finale of this act was three boys hanging from wires with one or both feet, each one having around his neck a strap from which another boy was hanging and spinning around.

the pole boys finale

Not all of the acts were fast-moving athletics. One was a girl who could balance umbrellas on feet and hands. I struggled with envy as I considered how much trouble I have sometimes controlling just *one* umbrella with both hands! Below is a picture of the girl on her back, balanced on the feet of the boy on his back on the floor. If you can see the umbrellas well enough to count them, you'll see five!

five umbrellas on three appendages!

Towards the end of the whole program was an amazing group of girls on bicycles. First some girls rode in a fast circle around the stage.

girls riding fast in a circle

As their act progressed, other girls came out and jumped onto the moving bikes. Then the riders would switch positions while moving. Then the number of bikes diminished as more and more girls jumped onto one bike.

more and more riders on one bike

But we learned that that was not enough! They finally ended up with about a dozen girls on one moving bike.

a dozen cyclists on one bike!

Sunday morning after a sumptuous East-meets-West breakfast in our hotel (we decided that our breakfast would become one of our main meals of the day since it was an all you care to eat buffet included in the price of our rooms), we went back to one of our rooms to listen to an mp3 of one of our favorite speakers from back home. Afterwards we set off by taxi to visit the Temple of Heaven. We had heard that in this place where the emperors worshipped the One, True God. I have not yet studied this place sufficiently to know all the of biblical symbolism that it includes. Some of the parts of the Temple of Heaven that we would have liked to visit were closed for refurbishing, a common activity in Beijing right now with the recent influx of foreign tourists and in anticipation of the 2008 Olympics. What we could see, though, was beautiful - it had already undergone refurbishing. Below is a view of the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests.

the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests

We went inside to inspect the Hall of Prayer more closely. Here's a shot of Yvonne and Jean on the steps on the way up.

 the steop to the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests

Upon closer inspection we saw the great beauty of this temple.

the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests up close

The inside of the Hall of Prayer is equally beautiful.

inside the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests

In addition to the famous ancient cypress trees, we saw some interesting trees that we called "camouflage trees."

camouflage trees

After our visit we went to some shops to the east of the Temple of Heaven. The sign in front of one shop we passed caught my eye with its "Buddhism stuff" advertised. Seemed a bit lacking in reverence....

Buddhism stuff?

On Monday we visited a small part of the Great Wall called Badaling. It has been refurbished and was quite impressive. We learned that the Great Wall is 4,000 miles long and that some parts of it are crumbling badly. I'm sure that those parts are not readily accessible to tourists. Since it was raining, the weather was cooler and there were probably fewer visitors. But also the rain made our visit rather unpleasant and climbing the wall more difficult. Below is a picture of my wife and a "hole in the Wall."

Becka and a hole in the Wall

Because of the altitude, rain, and angle of the sidewalk, the three ladies ran out of steam in short order. I climbed a little higher and could have gone on, but from any place I could see little more than from where I'd already been. To continue on would have been selfish of me since the rest of the group would have been just standing in one place under umbrellas. Here's a picture of the ladies. You can detect the angle from the way they are standing to remain upright.

ladies on the Wall

On Tuesday we flew back to the good ol' USA. Our flight from Beijing to Chicago took us over Siberia, the Arctic Ocean, and Canada. From my window seat I saw a *lot* of uninhabited (uninhabitable?) land and the cracked ice on the Arctic Ocean. Below is a picture of the ocean below.

cracks in ice on the Arctic Ocean

The climate below our plane was a stark contrast to the tropics where we had lived and taught for three wonderful weeks!


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The End of Our Stay in Haikou


We arrived safe and sound back in the good ol' USA last Tuesday evening late, August 1st. Here's a little bit about our last day of classes and our flight to Beijing.

We were sad to see our time at Hainan University come to an end. We all enjoyed our classes so much this summer. I am putting pictures of each of us below so that you can see us in action. The students were placed in our classes not only on the basis of age, but also on the student's individual language ability. I will put pictures of our classes from the oldest students to the youngest.

Yvonne taught the university aged students, but several younger students were in her class because their English was so strong.

Yvonne's university class

Jean taught the class of mainly high school aged students.

Jean's high school class

I taught the middle school aged students. Since I had always enjoyed this age group in my early years as a teacher, I was happy to teach kids of that age again. We probably enjoyed ourselves far too much.

Rob's middle school class

Becka taught the youngest children - ages 7 to 9. In case you wonder what she's doing in the picture below - her kids loved to sing the action songs she taught them. 🙂

Becka's children's class

Becka had as one of her main themes "animals" and had many fun craft projects for the kids to do. Below is a picture of some of her students' paper penguins.

paper penguins

We left on Saturday, July 29 to spend several days in Beijing. Even though we left our apartments at 6:30 a.m., we were surprised and pleased that some of our students from this year and last year came to see us off. Below is a picture of those who assembled to bid us farewell.

big send-off

On our flight from Haikou to Beijing I was very surprised to see one of my students from last summer on the plane with her parents. Though my class last year was mainly university-aged students, this middle school girl named Nancy had by far the best English in the class. I was sad not to have seen her on campus this summer since she was not able to take classes from any of us; therefore, this was a very pleasant reunion for us both. Below is a picture of Nancy and her parents. The three of them were going to Beijing for several days since her dad had to go there on a business trip.

Nancy and her parents

One of Ruth's Chinese friends had asked us to carry some frozen Wenchang chickens to a friend of hers who lives in Beijing. This friend agreed to meet us at the airport. Since we did not know her, she held up a sign with our name on it. This was actually the fulfillment of one of Becka's dreams - to have someone at a foreign airport holding up a sign with her name on it.

Becka's welcome

I will do another blog entry in several days to show what we saw while we were in Beijing.


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Only in America


We thoroughly enjoyed our time in China, but it is certainly nice to be back at home in the good ol' USA too, believe me! Every country has its cultural peculiarities. My students this summer decided that Chinese people and American people are more alike than we're different, yet we truly are very different. Today's iv points out some cultural pecularities of Americans and life in the USA.

Only in America

You can get a pizza to your house faster than an ambulance.

There are handicap parking places in front of a skating rink.

People order double cheese burgers, a large fry, and a diet coke.

Hot dogs are sold in packages of ten and buns in packages of eight. Go figure!

We use answering machines to screen calls and then have call waiting so we won't miss a call from someone we didn't want to talk to in the first place.

A citizen of America will cross the ocean to fight for democracy, but won't cross the street to vote in a national election.

We yell for the government to balance the budget, then take the last dime we have to make the down payment on a car that will take 5 years to pay off.

We demand speed laws that will stop fast driving, then won't buy a car if it can't go over 100 miles an hour.

We get upset that we're spending over a billion dollars for education, but spend billions of dollars a year for cigarettes.

We whip any enemy in battle, then give them the shirt off our backs.

We know the line-up of every baseball team in the American and National Leagues but mumble through half the words in the "Star Spangled Banner".

In the office we talk about baseball, shopping or fishing, but when we're out at the game, the mall or on the lake, we talk about business.

We applaud our free press even when they convict innocent people in print.

We're supposed to be the most civilized nation on earth, but we still deliver payrolls in armored cars.

We have more experts on marriage than any other country in the world ....and still have more divorces.

We tie up our dog while letting our sixteen year old run wild.

We will work hard on a farm so we can move into town where we can make more money so that we can move back out into the country.

We're the country that has more food to eat than any other country in the world, and with more diets to keep us from eating it.

We leave cars worth thousands of dollars in the driveway and leave useless things and junk in boxes locked in the garage.

We'll spend half a day looking for vitamin pills to make us live longer, then drive 80 miles an hour on slick pavement to make up for lost time.

divider

updates...

It feels kind of odd - after getting "re-oriented" four weeks ago, we're now suddenly "disoriented" again! This morning I'm *truly* disoriented as my internal clock is still trying to be hungry and sleepy at all the wrong times. I'm glad I got the bulk of this ready back in our apartment in Haikou! My thinking is rather unclear this morning. Hope the rest of this personal update makes sense. 😎

As seems to be typical of international air travel, we experienced delays and missed connections. Our pilot of our flight out of Beijing told the passengers he was actually going to leave about 10 minutes early to beat an approaching storm but was delayed by the tower because of those same weather conditions. The resulting half-hour delay plus the airline's extremely slow handling of the baggage everyone had to reclaim in order to clear customs caused us to miss our connection to GSP. Since United did not have another flight to GSP until this morning, they tried and were able to get us on an American Airlines flight that would still get us home last night. Phew! It was already a very long day and we did not want to have to find and pay for a hotel in Chicago in our state of brain-deadness! We know that many interceded for us yesterday as we traveled. We have much to do to get settled back in here, but I will try to get a blog entry up in the next few days so that people can see what we enjoyed in the Beijing area. Our couple of days there was a nice mix of relaxation and new adventures.

quotation...

"In America you can go on the air and kid the politicians, and the politicians can go on the air and kid the people." - Groucho Marx

=^..^= =^..^= =^..^=
Rob

Americans are getting stronger. Twenty years ago, it took two people to carry ten dollars' worth of groceries. Today, a five-year-old can do it.


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Our Summer Housing


As I promised, here is an entry about our housing this summer. If you go back into history in the Asian blog entries, you will see that our apartments this summer were a definite up-grade from last year's and that we are far from suffering. Our apartment last year was one of the ones where they house their foreign teachers. It is in one of those that our friend Ruth lives. Apparently none of those was available this year, so they found Chinese staff members who would be traveling on their summer break and subleased their apartments for us. My wife and I have been staying in the apartment of a married couple who teach here. He has a doctorate, and so their apartment is quite nice. Below are two shots of the living room in our apartment, one from each direction.

living room

living room

The kitchen is also very nice. Below are two shots of the kitchen. The first one shows the counter on which is sitting the bottled water we must drink since tap water isn't safe.

kitchen counter

This picture shows the one side of the kitchen where we have a microwave, dish sterilizer, and refrigerator. (We don't know how to use the dish sterilizer, so it is just for dish storage. It helps keep the resident ants and roaches off the clean dishes.

kitchen appliances

Our bedroom is quite comfortable and beautiful with a bed larger than ours at home.

bedroom

The bathroom is quite nice too, as you'll see below.

bathroom

There's an office with one wall completely lined with books. On the other side of the office is "IV Central."

IV Central

Becka has especially enjoyed the laundry facilities this year. Below are two pictures - one of our washer and another of our "dryer." And it's all on a screened-in balcony.

our washer

our clothes drying facilities

From that balcony, we feel like we're in a real-life version of Alfred Hitchcock's thriller "Rear Window." We can observe and hear the goings-on of the 18 apartments across from ours. We hear piano practice, singing, arguments, and you name it. Last Saturday we were awakened for the first time to a rooster crowing. We didn't hear it the next morning. Now, where could that rooster have gone??? Here's a view from our "rear window."

rear window

In addition to the roaches and two kinds of ants, others share our apartment with us. Most notably are several geckos. It's really weird and scary when they scream for no apparent reason! Below are two pictures - one near the ceiling and the other silhouetted on a window.

gecko near the ceiling

gecko in silhouette

Jean and Yvonne stayed in our apartment for the first four nights until a dean left on vacation. They insisted that Becka and I take the bedroom and they would sleep in the living room. Below is a picture of our living room where Yvonne slept in mosquito netting on foam on the floor and Jean slept on our couch. This shot is Yvonne trying to get the fitted sheet onto the foam.

Yvonne getting in tent, not intense

So when they moved into the dean's apartment, they were *really* upgraded! However, since the dean's forte does not seem to be housekeeping, we are not able to show as many pictures of their place. Below you will several rooms of that apartment so you can see how beautiful it is. First the living room, complete with a huge plasma TV.

the dean's living room

Here's a peek into the kitchen....

the dean's kitchen

Here's a view down the hall leading to the three bedrooms....

the hallway

Here's a shot of the master bedroom....

master bedroom

I will probably not be able to add an entry about our classes until after we're back home and I have internet access again. Tomorrow is our last day here, and I will not have time to do any blogging. Fortunately, there will *always* be time for blaguing.


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That’s Amore!


People sometimes ask me how I choose what to send each week. This week's thought process was really quite complex. For those of you interested in getting into ivman's pysche a little, here ya go....

Today's iv is the coming together of three threads of recent life here. The first is that my middle school class just finished watching Princess Bride on Monday of this week. They *loved* it! The boys loved the action and adventure, and the girls were really tuned in to the "true love" theme in the movie. The second inspiration for the sending of this particular iv is that on Monday evening I tried eel at a restaurant. Eating eel reminded me of something in my files that mentions eel. (By the way, the eel was quite tasty, and I would order it again.) Come to think of it, one of the scenes in Princess Bride was waters infested with shrieking eels, so maybe there's even more cohesion to the inspiration than I had thought! In fact, I'll treat you to a picture of the eel before I enjoyed it.

my eel dinner

The third reason was actually the thing that originally brought the thing in my files to mind. Last week at the apartment building next our ours we saw a blanket hung out to dry that was emblazened with AMORE in huge letters. (For those of you from Rio Linda, "amore" is Italian for "love.") Today's iv is a number of variations on the song "That's Amore." Some are better than others, but hey, I didn't write this! I don't know who did, but several of the variations indicate it could have been a Canadian, eh? 😎

That's Amore

(the original wording...)
When the moon hits your eye
Like a big pizza pie
That's amore.

When an eel bites your hand
And that's not what you planned
That's a moray.

When our habits are strange
And our customs deranged
That's our mores.

When your horse munches straw
And the bales total four
That's some more hay.

When Othello's poor wife
becomes stabbed with a knife
That's a Moor, eh?

When a Japanese knight
Used his sword in a fight
That's Samurai.

When your sheep go to graze
In a damp marshy place,
That's a moor, eh?

When you ace your last tests
Like you did all the rest
That's some more "A"s!

When your boat comes home fine
And you tied up her line
That's to moor, eh?

When on Mt. Cook you see
An aborigine,
That's a Maori.

Alley Oop's homeland has
A space gun with pizzazz,
That's a Moo ray....

A comedian-ham
With the name Amsterdam
That's a Morey.

When your chocolate graham
Is so full and so crammed
That's s'more, aye?

When you've had quite enough
Of this dumb rhyming stuff
That's "No more!", eh?

divider

Yet another time of mixed emotions is fast approaching! We're in our final week of classes here at Hainan University. Our classes have been very enjoyable, and we have grown to love our students. Parting truly is sweet sorrow. This Saturday morning we fly out early for Beijing where we'll spend several days. While there we hope to visit several places we've heard are quite nice in the city, as well as taking a day trip to see the Great Wall. On Tuesday, Jean will fly to Cambodia to spend two weeks with her daughter and her family who live there. The other three of us will fly back to GSP, via Chicago, seeing the Arctic Ocean on the way. It's weird that, if our plane is on time (and why would we *ever* assume that?!), we will arrive in Chicago timewise slightly before we left Beijing. (Things that make you go, hmmm.)

I will not be going online again after this Friday 6:00 p.m. (Greenville time) until I'm back in my home again. So please do not send anything from July 28-August 1 to which you need an immediate answer, 'cause you won't get one! I sent a quick email to our kids from Beijing when we arrived, and it ended up being a pretty pricey "service" of our hotel. I'll forgo that amenity this time around.

quotation...

"What we do shows what our heart desires." - Dr. Randy Jaeggli

=^..^= =^..^= =^..^=
Rob

Invertebrates make no bones about it. (After some of our dining adventures here, I'd say that maybe invertebrates merit further consideration.)


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