Posts Tagged With: children


The Summer Palace sits majestically over a lake. It is still used by the Empress Dowager and we didn’t go into the buildings but it was the favorite place of  Empress Cixi Putz, pronounced sissy-putz, who died in the late 1800’s.

We were ferried over the man-made lake by dragon boat to a landing where we waited in line to cross the seventeen arches bridge.

I am guessing that later construction in China did not obey the multiples of nine as in older buildings. The Summer Palace,  while still used officially, is a huge tourist attraction with boat rides of all types on the lake, beautiful gardens and in short, a lovely way to spend a day and picnic.

You enter through this beautiful gate.

As always, I had to take a picture of the ornate roof of the gate.

Our group stopped for a picture in front of this beautiful gate. The site is now designated a UNESCO site for its unique beauty and features.

The side of the gate is lined with the stone lion guards. Peeling paint is being scraped; the site repainted in preparation for the Olympics to be held in China for the first time in 2008.

Two  interesting  features of the Summer Palace are the Marble Boat, seen only in the background behind these people and the Long Hall which is not a hall, but a long covered walk way for the Empress to use.  On the Marble Boat, the Empress entertained guests  with a banquet as though they were actually traveling to some exotic place.

The Long Hall is also beautifully decorated. You can see the roof trusses beneath the picture.  The hall has many pictures depicting Chinese History, or famous storied fables to entertain her and her guests. It is lined with benches to rest often since the Empress, (and all women then,) had bound feet. The royal Empresses of old were confined to their Peaceful Garden and Long Hall since it was difficult for them to move about.

It would be fun to hear some of the stories these pictures represent. We were free to wander around the gardens and lake.

There are many bridges of great beauty. Chinese tourists love boating here.

Every bridge is guarded by those marvelous stone lions.

When we first arrived on the Island, we saw workers disembarking from a boat. This woman carries her own big metal “dust” pan and straw broom. The thermos we expect is her lunch. The dust pan can obviously hold discarded paper cups, napkins and other large debris dropped on the walkways and gardens.

These two little girls were well dressed and obviously having a good time. The one child per family edict resulted in more surviving males, by design. Women would line up to have sonograms and abort girl babies. Men grew up and couldn’t find a wife and had to go to Korea, Viet Nam, Indonesia,  or elsewhere to import brides. The sonogram “factories” have been closed and now, through education, people revere and prefer girls, especially in the big modern cities.  Farm families are allowed two children.

Since we couldn’t read Chinese script, we have no idea what significance this beautiful sculpture of a cow had.

At lunch, Viki explained to us that her own grandmother had bound feet, the cruel tortuous practice instigated by the Emperor’s favorite concubine who had tiny, tiny feet and danced for him on a drum. He considered them so beautiful and dainty, that aristocratic women made their own daughters emulate that beauty by binding their feet.  Vicki called it five hundred years of cruelty and crippling of women. Her grandparents were political, meaning outspoken, and were banished to the high country of China near Tibet. She remembers as her grandmother aged how painful her feet were and her inability to walk properly or very far.

All restaurant meals  are served on this giant turntable that takes up the complete center of the table.  We had delicious meals in China  that typically  included sea weed, cabbage, always bok choy, chicken, beef, cucumbers, soup, little meaty hors’ dueovres. Meat is in small quantities with many vegetables none of us recognized; always fish, normally cooked whole with head, eyes and fins attached. Everything came in a tasty sauce. Rice in good restaurants and affluent Chinese homes, is served last. It is only to fill you up if you didn’t get enough primary foods. We all wanted rice WITH our meals and of course, we were accommodated.

For more information about the summer palace, click the following link:

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It is an early October  morning and our tour bus takes us to the Temple of Heaven, another UNESCO site. We see buses with people on their way to work, like these women catching a cat nap. Vicki, our guide,  tells us Chinese laborers put in long hours for low pay.

This orange hooded stand is a telephone booth, simple, protected from the weather, low-cost.  You have to respect the design. Although, like the US, cell phones are seen  all over China,  more than in my neighborhood.  (Remember this is 2006.)  The street scenes are so interesting here but  I was using a new digital and still taking pictures as though each picture would be developed and being very conservative, not knowing how many pictures would fit on the sandisk. At that time I hadn’t heard of a cyber album where I now keep my pictures.

We entered the complex through a park with many squares. Our first encounter was a group of people doing ball room dancing. We watched for a while.  A single man asked me and another woman from our group to dance. This is very common in China, morning exercise with a huge group.

The next square held a group of people line dancing.  Wanning Determan, in red and my partner Michal joined them. What an enjoyable way to start the day.

This group was performing a kind of fast clapping exercise designed for mental alertness. In between the clapping they make foot figures and turn around and start again, sometimes hands raised above their heads.  Quite tricky and challenging. Like line dancing, they follow a leader in this exercise that also has music to it.

This group, at a distant square,  practices a graceful flag dance.

This group is doing Tai Chi. I’ve tried it since my China visit, and it is harder than it looks. Great for balance and coordination.

This group was doing a type of  Tai Chi with paddles and balls, very difficult Vicki informed us. I was quite taken by the vast amount of people who exercise. It is easy to see why you rarely encounter an overweight  person in China.

We finally arrive at the entrance gate to the Temple of Heaven.

Before passing through the gate,  I grabbed a picture of the ornate decoration under the eaves and you can see the parade of  protective lions on the roof.

The Temple sits on vast square all the way around it.  It is the tallest round building in the world.  At one time animal sacrifices were done here and the meat cooked and eaten  in a great kitchen/dining room.

You enter by way of this huge marble staircase.

Each newel post is carved, each one different.  The rails have decorative carvings. This stairway was meant to last forever.

The unique building is highly decorated with the typical colors of the day. The Chinese people love the color red and you see it in their special places.

Inside, the building is held up by a series of beautifully decorated columns. They all have gold leaf. Magnificent and irreplaceable.

A close-up of the dragon on the roof.  It is no surprise the temple is a UNESCO treasure.

On the way out we passed through the Long Hall which is really long. Without the measurements, I would guess it is the length of a city block.

It is kind of fun to observe the Chinese people.  We are curious about them and they are open and friendly and curious about us, as well though we can’t speak their language, this mother was obviously enjoying all the fuss over her cute little girl. The wooden stroller is unique.

Instead of a cloth sling, this woman carries her baby in a bamboo slat basket.

As we left, a lone woman was practicing her banner exercise.

As we left the temple, we passed the last remaining gate from Mongolian times hovering above the Ring Road that replaced the feudal walls and surrounds the city. Mau was smart enough to preserve it for posterity. It was through this gate the people, dignitaries, and the privileged few passed to have access to their leaders and protection from enemies.


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I watched a documentary about Kevin Klash,  who dreamed of becoming a puppeteer on Sesame Street when he was a young child. Klash is an endearing subject, who followed his dream and grew up to become a now famous puppeteer. How is it that some children seem to know exactly what they want to be when they grow up?  When a teacher would ask my classmates what each one wanted to be when  he/she grew up, most of them didn’t have a clue. I just wanted to be myself. My grandson Theo is certain he wants to work for Lego and become a designer.  My experience tells me he will have changed his mind several times about his  chosen occupation before he grows up. But, in the meantime, he is very serious and he owns, with a brother, a mountainous collection of legos. (Hidden under his bed.)

Click on the link to hear the budding engineer describe his passion:

His brother, Owen, has been chosen from among his peers to be a demonstrator for karate.  They encourage others to try their craft and only those who are very proficient are chosen to go on demo gigs. He is practicing  one particular move, and showed me that move:

One of the great joys of being a grandma, is not carrying pictures around, but uploading their feats to youtube and sharing on a blog.  I still have people ask me, what’s a blog?  It is a web-log.  Thus blog.



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Austin and I left the temperate valley and breathed the mountain air where it was cool and beautiful at the cabin. He is a city boy and has few chances to enjoy nature as in catching his first lizard with a net.

And later with his bare hands, carefully caught, so it could be released in good shape.

Looking trepiditiously at a swimming polliwog. Unbelieving that he could actually catch one and that it really, really, really turns into a frog.  He was familiar with “tadpoles” from tv but this is real life. It’s a transition we don’t think too much about for a child.

Waiting for the water to clear. This is fun!  He soon became an old hand at catching polliwogs in every state of development, with and without tails. Some practicing to breathe air bobbing around the shallow pools of creek water. Others just growing leg nubs. He had the advantage of teacher/biologist  Aunt Virginia to explain the way they grow, and then show him how to catch the small gray, gold and green chorus frogs without injuring them.

He spotted a very prehistoric looking lizard all puffed up and trying to defend its territory.

We spent the morning and afternoon hiking and exploring. At the end of the day, Austin made a list of those things he’d seen. (In the afternoon, we forgot the camera.) He spotted a gopher snake swimming across the river which we later cornered on the opposite bank for a good look.  He found a live clam and crayfish, scads of minnows, bullfrog polliwogs, which are huge, of course;  hard to catch.  He saw several different birds, flowers beautiful butterflies, and various insects. The larvae of dragon and damsel flies. He learned to skip rocks and we called it a day.

He built a fort out of the couch while we cooked dinner. We learned that Austin is quite adventurous. More tomorrow.

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Pardon me if I don’t get it. I’ve been eating and enjoying strawberries that I purchase at my local grocers for a long time. Beautiful, delicious, enjoyable, good for you. What more could you ask of a fruit?  There is one thing, please don’t let California growers pour a bunch of toxic chemicals on strawberry fields.  I know the chemical companies like to sell their stuff, and some of it has been beneficial poisons, but not methyl iodide. As a consumer, the first thing you can do to prevent this, is begin to ask your grocer if the strawberries you are buying are treated with methyl iodide. He/she may not know what it is, but will immediately be on the alert that customers know about it and are watching. Tell your neighbors.

The Environmental Protection Agency is going to take another look at methyl iodide, a chemical approved during the waning years of the Bush administration over the protestations of more than 50 scientists, among them six Nobel Laureates in Chemistry.
Methyl iodide is a known human carcinogen, as well as a neurotoxin and disruptor of thyroid function. It can be especially damaging during fetal development, and it has no business being used as a fumigant in our farm fields — especially when there are safe alternatives. Even the strictest regulations on application cannot prevent exposure of workers, surrounding populations, and drinking water to this hazardous chemical.

If you love strawberries, and you love your kids and grand kids, contact the EPA and protest this lousy choice. To make it easier, I’ve copied the above information and an address where you can sign on and protest this decision before it becomes approved for strawberries.

If this link doesn’t work, copy and paste it in your browser.
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