Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Sea Turtle Family

Something about sea turtles are mysterious and create a sensation of wholeness for me. So I'm working on a sea turtle quilt. This is the first of several that will soon join the family. It's very easy, done free hand, and very funky. This is going to be one fun quilt when it's done. :)

Monday, August 18, 2008


Phil and I cruised from one end of the Olympic park to the other today. It’s ENORMOUS! Long lines preceded entering the Olympic park, Olympic super store shopping, and ordering dinner at McDonald’s (the only food choice by the way). However, we had a BLAST!
We managed to make our way down to the almost front row seats for the “Women’s Final Pole Vaulting” competition (not our original seats). We got to see an amazing Russian athlete, Isinbaeva, earn the gold medal in the sport as well as set a new world record for vaulting 5 meters and 5 centimeters. It was incredible to be a part of her process conferring with her coach and managing her level of nervousness. It was a total rush to be surrounded by so many people with Olympic athletes performing long jump, pole vault, steeple chase (I’d never even heard of this before-very similar to hurdles and involving water), discus, 200 meter prelim, 800 meter run, 100 meter hurdles, 400 meter hurdles, and I’m sure I’ve already forgotten something.
The buildings were fascinating and unique. The Olympic Park subway station was artistically framed in red lights and decked out red and white drums that sort of look like white caviar to me. The Water Cube continuously changed colors while the Bird’s Nest was consistently red. Armies of Olympic workers kept things running smoothly. And at the end of the night, they lined up military style and marched in step out of the building as all of the visitors left.

Jamaica Mon’

Based on a last minute invite by 2 of my yoga retreat students, Phil and I dashed off to Beijing last night to watch the men's 100-meter dash for the Olympic track and field event at the Jamaica House. Jamaica House is where the country of Jamaica holds it's swanky events for athletes and their families during the Olympics. We thought it would be an open event. However, when we arrive at what we thought was the designated time, a large sign informed us that it was a private party. A bit nervous about barging in and obviously NOT being Jamaican, we decided to use our foreigner status as a tool for inquiry. We didn't even make it in the door as a young women intercepted us and informed us that we were too early. Period. no negotiation. In somewhat disbelief, we headed off to procure some Indian food-the first non-Chinese cuisine of the past 2 months. It was good, but I still like the authentic Chinese food better. After dinner, we went back to the Jamaica House. Walking in as if we belonged, we looked around and clearly saw that the race wasn't on and that there were very few people. We were informed that things would not begin until about 10:00pm. Phil asked the waiter for is name, Eric, and we headed out to Beijing's only designer bar. We managed to make it for Happy Hour. It was a trip as it totally catered to westerners. So we all ordered mojitoes. Talk about a cross-cultural evening! After a drink, we decided to give Jamaica House a final try. Again, walking in like we owned the place, we encountered some Chinese-speaking people who Phil informed that were invited by 'Eric'. Then we met the ladies with the guest list. In quick loud English, Phil shared his invitation from 'Eric.' Carefully examining the guest list, the ladies asked, "Erin?" Phil nodded, they crossed someone named Erin off the list, and all four of us quickly entered the Jamaica House. Things were going full swing! Chinese, Jamaicans, British and Americans were everywhere. Relatives and well -known Jamaican musicians were being interviewed by multiple magazine and television reporters and video cameras and photographers worked nonstop. Unlimited wines and mixed drinks were flowing free of cost. The only thing we had to pay for was water! And it was expensive! Life music, dancing, mask wearing, and Olympic viewing-awesome!

Monday, August 4, 2008


I have no sense of time living in China. I have a vague awareness of days of the week because weekends are set up differently than weekdays and Monday is supposed to be my free day. But dates have completely blown passed me. Phil and I got our tickets to the Olympics today. We were so excited that it’s all going to work out. I looked the date on them and realized they are two days before we return to the U.S.A. Then I had to find out what day today was. So we just realized that we only have about 2 ½ weeks left here at our private Shangri-La. How quickly the time has gone by! It’s going to be so strange to go back to a ‘regular’ life of work, deadlines, scheduling, no mid-day naps, and no cook in the house! (Although Phil may beg to differ on that point.)

I am looking forward to things like air-conditioning, cold water, cold hard cider, salads, eating fruit with the skin on it, fewer mosquitoes, having the shower separated from the toilet, and a dryer for our clothes. But I will miss the popsicle flavors, the crazy variety of fruits and vegetables, the slower pace of life, the naps, the sound of the cicadas, the birds of happiness, the amazingly detailed paintings and artwork at temples, and seeing how babies are so doted upon with total love an adoration by everyone in the family.

We had quite an adventurous night last night. A yoga teacher ran and got Phil and me from our room because a snake had appeared in the reading room. Everyone was freaked out and didn’t know what to do. Phil’s response was hilarious. He said to me, “And what am I going to do about a snake? Get you?” I am the animal control person in the household typically. It made me realize how hard it must be to be a parent when your child runs in with some emergency that you have no idea what to do about. Whew! Anyway, we went in armed with brooms, a really (I mean REALLY) long soup ladle, and a large cooking pot (I couldn’t find a sturdy enough bag or pillow case) ready to do battle. We couldn’t find any trace of a snake. So we ended up pulling apart 2 couches and looking in and under every object in the room to help calm everyone. I was quite glad that we weren’t successful in finding the critter since they described it as a more yellow than black snake about 4 feet long with the circumference of a garden hose. Of course, we put on a good show though. At breakfast this morning, Phil reveled in freaking out everyone with stories about how my dad used to catch snakes and cook them up for breakfast. He got some great reactions. Even better, I understood the story he told in Chinese! Hurray!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Mountain Water

I'm still living it up at the Buddhist temple. Generally, the noises of the day are amazingly loud cicadas chirring (if that's the correct noise for them), birds in conversation, and the chopping of vegetables from the kitchen. Yesterday, the idealic peace was momentarily disturbed by a loud shriek from our housekeeper (and cook, etc. who just happens to be about 75 year old) and I saw her spryly leap over 2 feet of woven mats and zoom across the walkway. I knew immediately that it had to be a snake or a giant spider. It was a snake. Our housekeeper wasn't bitten (thank goodness), but she was totally shocked, horrified, and scared almost to death. With no 'real men' around, she ventured outside our gated temple to find someone. She brought back a small, bare chested, older gentleman who arrived with a shovel in hand. With multiple grunts and harsh whacks of the shovel's edge, the snakes adventures among the mats where brought to an end. I don't think it was a poisonous snake, so I said a little prayer for it's transition onward.

Later that afternoon, we all (2 yoga teachers and 2 guests) decided to go for a hike. As I headed for the group at our doorway, I was surprised to see our 'housekeeper' also in attendance. Keep her age in mind, she was outfitted with a backpack (with a water cooler jug in it) buckled around her waist and chest and holding two empty water bottles. I knew our meandering walk was about to take on a new path. We had been carefully avoiding the pathways in the woods due to the mosquitoes (vicious blood suckers that they are!) and the scratchy, thorny brambles along the way. Instead, we'd been taking the very civilized and well paved road that wound it's way up and around the mountainside. Well, our delightfully energetic and tiny 'housekeeper' took the lead and headed right into the brambles up the rocky pathway straight to the heart of the mountain. Fortunately, I'd dressed for the occasion with long sleeves, long pants, and my trusty baseball cap. She set a pace that we were all challenged by. Aren't we supposed to be the young fit ones? Ha!
We were on a quest for a mountain spring. I'd heard about this spring where the water rushed out of the mountain that people walked significant distances to in order to get the 'sweet' mountain water. So we trekked up the twisty, rocky, hot path. Eventually, we make it. What a surprise. I had imagined a deep crystal clear creek flowing rapidly down rocks with dragon flies and flowers all around. Instead, a white PVC pipe was poking out of the hill with a thin trickle of water flowing into a mucky, muddy puddle. My first thought was, "How are we going to get a huge jug of water down that path without breaking our necks?!" However I kept it to myself and began helping to fill up the smaller bottles and transferring the water into the large jug. Mosquito kamakazi flyers attacked, occasional pebbles crashed to our feet from the mountain top, and our own thirst mounted. It was a HOT day! How I longed to gulp that cold mountain water. But I knew if I did, I might be bathroom ridden for the rest of the trip (maybe a slight exaggeration). So everyone took long drinks, I was strong-somewhat of my own personal martyr- and we filled all of the jugs and bottles. By this point, several other locals were waiting in line behind us to fill their own jugs. Still wondering how on earth we would manage the jugs safely, our 'housekeeper' began to climb into the backpack. I complained loudly only able to say, "I can! I can!" To which she replied, "I can, too! I can, too!" When I entreated my colleagues, they shrugged their shoulders and just stayed close to her. Apparently, she had made up her mind. However, I was greatly relieved to see that there was a much wider, smoother, and flatter path for the way down. Additionally, after about 3 minutes, our housekeeper sat down, unstrapped herself from the jug laden backpack and let another person climb in and strap down. Everyone took turns carrying the monster backpack back to the temple.
Happy to be back, everyone grabbed their cups and began slurping the good mountain water. I, on the other hand, went to fill up my cup with the boiling water from the thermos that we normally use for drinking water. I got a couple of strange looks, but no one comments on my steaming cup while there was finally a cold beverage available.

I still can't help but think back to my 4th grade science class when we talked about why it's not a good idea to drink out of mountain streams. Fortunately, I'm learning to keep my mouth shut (some of the time anyway), and I haven't seen anyone suffering from digestive issues. I on the other hand, have finally begun to experience the need to stay very, very close to the restroom. Any movement in the abdominal area sends me sprinting to the privacy of my own bathroom. I'm so grateful for antibacterial soap and running water. I have a 45 minute car ride back to the Fragrant Hills retreat tonight. Yes, I am wondering how I will manage. I think I'm going to look up the words for, "Pull over now!" :)

More pictures to come.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Inhale Yoga Exhale Yoga

With Phil off galavanting around China, I've been at the Buddhist retreat teaching yoga English and conversational English with students who are like puppies when it comes to learning yoga. The first day I got here started with lunch. Every other sentence began with, "Rachel, what's this?" Lots of requests for me to provide the English words for lunch. Lunch lasted for about 2 hours due to our nonstop conversation. Don't worry. I'm also getting the Chinese words. It's pretty funny. I have an okay food vocabulary in Chinese, but my conversational skills leave a great deal to be desired. :) Hey, it's the priorities in life. :) One student keeps pulling out crazy advanced poses and saying, "Teacher, please help me." She's been doing yoga for about 4 months and assumes I'm a sage yogini. I explain what I know and tell her when I don't know. She seems to have some crazy yoga teacher that stands on her, squashes her up against walls, and uses what I consider forceful means to get her into poses. Being very safety conscious, he sounds like a nutty yogi, but I guess it takes all kinds. I think she's expecting me to lay on yoga teacher hands and magically transform her into a famous and beautiful yogini. I wish!

I love the food here. It's all vegetarian where I'm staying and wow, are they good with tofu! Very exciting. I've discovered that I'm not really a fan of dumplings in any variation. I'll eat them, but I don't look forward to them. I've also discovered that I like Chinese breakfast. I've never liked breakfast for most of my life. Cereal is boring and I'm hungry 20 minutes later. The Chinese have this great flat bread that looks like a combination of Indian nan bread and tortillas. But it's infinitely better than either. They also make a kind of rice soup with some sort of brownish red rice and a tiny bit of sugar. Since nothing else is sweet here, it's very exciting. I am planning on making Chinese breakfast foods when I get back home. No more food crashes at 9am for me!:)

So I can tell time in Chinese (for the most part), ask what things are, say I'm full, say I'm going to take a nap, and I'm learning the body parts (critical for yoga). Why else would you need to know the words for heel and ball of the foot, palm, and diaphram? Anyway, I'm having a great time. Languages are a delightful puzzle. The Chinese are always shocked when I pull out one of my phrases on them. They don't expect me to speak any Chinese. Then I have to quickly explain that I speak very badly. Then they stop babbling at me. Whew! I'm making progress though.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Tienneman Square & The Forbidden City

Yesterday Phil and I went to Beijing for a day of tourist activities. We visited Tiennemen (sp?) Square and the Forbidden City. Apparently Tienneman Square is a large empty square surrounded by government buildings. One of them supposedly has Mao perserved under glass. However, it wasn't open yesterday.
The Forbidden City is HUGE! We could spend a week there enjoying everything. The detailed painting on the outside of the buildings is amazing to me. None of the insides of the buildings are on display. Phil got a shot of me doing a yoga pose where I put my feet to my head in one of the tiny pagodas in the complex. I was a bit worried I'd get yelled at, but instead, I became a huge Chinese tourist attraction with many random people coming up to take my picture. Keep in mind that a lot of Chinese parents make their children pose with Westerners because it's unusual and exotic for them.
The subway was an experience all of its own. I'll write more on that later. Just think SARDINES. Yikes!
The best part of the trip was when Phil and I were in the taxi back to the retreat and he taught me the Chinese direction words for: straight ahead, left, and right. I was able to direct our cab up the twisting and turning and unmarked lanes back to the retreat. I felt very successful!
Based on my limited experiences trying to learn German and Chinese, I realize how much easier it is to learn a new language that that I am familiar with my learning style. It's made a huge different for me. I can't believe such information is neglected in official language learning schools and programs. (Sorry, personal soapbox there.)
Anyway, I'm going to try to go somewhere on each of my days off so that I am forced to speak and practice my tiny amount of Chinese. Very cool!

Hat Fun!

Hat Fun!

Great Wall View

Great Wall View