Today we took the subway into downtown Beijing. Here is what the tunnel looked like at one of the northern stations:
It is Chinese New Year’s Eve day, so its a wonderful day to be out and about. The air is clear, the roads are much emptier than usual, and the atmosphere is relaxed and happy. Our first stop was the National Museum of China, which is located at Tiananmen Square. It is free to enter and enormous!
We spent about an hour and a half touring the ancient China section. There is so much more to see! For me, it was interesting to piece together information about the different dynasties, and to see some of the larger pieces, like this boat.
Then we headed to Dongcheng District to Wangfujing Dajie. Lunch was marinated eggplant, rice noodles with pork, sautéed vegetable plate, and sautéed potato strips. All of us had our little bowl of mifan (rice), of course. Brian said we had to get snacks at “snack street”, so off we went. Here are the delicacies served there on sticks:
Hollis immediately wanted the corn on the cob, and Sophie chose a type of soufflé served on bread.
We are just about one week away from the start of the Chinese New Year! (and firecrackers going off every night for 10 days) Decorations are everywhere! We will probably get a lantern or two and we have the traditional couplets on either side of our front door.
Temple fairs are where the fun takes place. We went to one last weekend at the Beijing City International School downtown. The girls were able to watch a shadow puppet show. Hollis painted her own red lantern, and Sophie bought a dragon puppet with her allowance. We ate dumplings and glutinous rice balls. We saw a man making honey candy shapes. It was very similar to glass blowing. He softened the honey candy with his hands and then inserted a tube.Then he blew into the candy and sculpted it. It looked so pretty, but I just don’t think its too hygienic….I didn’t see anyone buying any!
Earlier this week, Hollis was home sick from school and we got out our paints. She fingerprinted twelve paintings, and I made a first attempt at Chinese painting. The last time I practiced Chinese brush painting was during college. This time, I have my own set of materials and plenty of time. The ink can be liquid or solid. I have a solid stick, which needs to be ground into water in the ink well. It takes about three minutes to make the ink. I practiced all the different brush strokes, but need to work on the “leaf” so that I can paint bamboo. This is the traditional “first painting” that you work on. The book that I am following lists the six basic tenets of brush painting according to one of the great masters, Hsieh Ho:
1. Enliven the painting with a sense of spirit.
2. Use brushstrokes as a means to suggest character.
3. Understand the natural form of the subject.
4. Apply color that is appropriate for the subject.
5. Create a skillful arrangement of objects and empty space.
6. Copy and pass on the methods of past masters.
It was quite relaxing and I plan to take time each week to work on it this semester. Hopefully I can live up to those hefty expectations!
My youngest child is now 3 1/2 years old. She still asks to be carried sometimes, when she is tired, or at the end of the school day, or when she’s sick. I usually start off by distracting her, to see if that will work, but sometimes, I give in, realizing that soon enough, I really will not be able to carry her. As it is, I shouldn’t be carrying her, as it throws my hips off balance and makes my lower back ache. I know a lot of loving caregivers out there that carry babes all day. Soothing newborns, rocking little ones while out and about with older siblings, caring for feverish babies,etc. Every baby wants to be held differently, whether its facing over your shoulder, or baby’s back to your belly, looking out, or even laying tummy side down on your arm. All this love takes a toll on our caring bodies!
This post is for you. Here are a couple poses to do while the little one is napping. It only takes ten or fifteen minutes, or more, if you can! These are my favorites to release tension in the back and shoulders. Try them, and indulge in them. You deserve it!
The shoulder release is so easy, and is great for everyone. Just stand up against a wall and stretch your arm out behind you. Try to keep it shoulder height, and press your weight against it. Breathe into the tightness in your shoulders and stand up tall. Hold for as long as it feels good. This is great for anyone who does heavy lifting, or after traveling.
This variation of Warrior 1 is excellent for releasing tight shoulders. Be sure that your front knee is over your ankle, and push into the outer edge of your back foot. Draw your shoulder blades together to open your chest. Keep your shoulders away from your ears. You can either keep your back straight, as I do, or you can bend forward towards your knee and relax your head down towards the floor. Do what feels best for your back and neck!
To get into the Eagle Balance, start in Mountain pose. Bend your knees a little, and lift your right foot up while balancing on the left. Cross the right leg over the left and possibly catch your right toes behind your left knee. If this is not possible, its ok to just cross the legs. Now stretch your arms in front of you and cross the left arm over the right. The crossed arms and legs are opposite to each other. Stretch your shoulders wide and lift the upper arms so that elbows are perpendicular to the floor. Hold for as long as it feels good, then unwind slowly, rest in Mountain Pose, and repeat to the other side. If you have knee issues, avoid this one, or just cross the arms and experience the shoulder release.
This one is great to release tension in the hips. Relax onto your mat and bed the one knee. Place your ankle below the opposite bent knee. Reach your arm through the legs and hold behind the bent leg. Keep feet flexed and bent leg parallel to the floor. You can gently move the knee you are holding to the right or left slightly, and you should feel an increase in the stretch of the hips. You don’t need to overdo this! Small movements are best. Hold for a couple minutes, gently release, and repeat with other side.
Finally, end this mini practice by aligning your mat up to the wall, or a sofa. Scoot your bum all the way up to the wall and rest your legs up the wall. Get as comfortable as you can, maybe with an eye pillow to relax your eyes, or a blanket over you. Relax and rejuvenate!
We wanted to go somewhere warm for Christmas in this part of the world, so we headed to our dream location of Australia. The flight there from Beijing is significantly shorter than flying from the US. It was a three hour flight to Hong Kong, with a recheck through HK security, and then another eight hours to Sydney.
The entire population of Australia is about 24 million, which is the size of the city of Beijing. The terrain was surprisingly mountainous around Sydney and along our drive from New South Wales into Queensland.
The Aussie response to “thank you” is “no worries”. On the road, you “give way”. Put your “rubbish” in the “bin”. If you need medication, you must go to the “chemist”. Nearly all the restaurants serve some version of “fish and chips”.
In the early 1900’s ocean rock pools were built along many of the beaches, as the riptide was too strong for most swimmers. These are still there, free to the public, and filled with free flowing ocean water.
We went to the Taronga Zoo in Sydney to get a closer glimpse at the native animals. Did you know that koala bears sleep for up to twenty hours a day? No wonder I could never spot one in the bush!
Kookaburra do spend a lot of time singing in gum trees…as the song goes.