Saturday, June 30, 2007

Week in Lanzhou

I will describe the four days spent at Ruth's apt. and going to her school by topic rather than day by day. This will cover Tuesday morning until Friday noon.

One of the main activities of the week was going to Ruth's Oral English classes. She was giving final exams to her eight classes. The students had been given a choice of doing a group presentation or having an individual test with Ruth. The group skits were first and they were so fun to watch. Some were variations on fairy tales such as Cinderella or The Three Little Pigs. Others were original skits about family relationships or finding true love.. There were some that were presented as a short debate on topics such as whether there should be a TV in the college dormitories or whether good deeds should be rewarded. Next Ruth would take part of the class to her office for the individual testing and I would talk with the other half. Niel had gotten together about 25 photos before I left and these were the basis for my talk. I shared about my family and the types of activities we do. It was a lot of fun and afterwards I would usually have a small group come and talk more with me. I got some of the most reaction when I explained that my husband and sons also help cook. Niel working for IBM also often got a reaction.

During one morning Ruth had no class. I stayed here in the apt. and helped with domestic chores. It was interesting but time consuming to do laundry as her machine has separate agitator and spin portions and doesn't work quite right so I had to hold a button to agitate. Ruth's sun room has a clothes line so I could hang the laundry there. The fresh fruit here is wonderful! However, it takes a while to to get to eat it after buying it from a street-side vendor. First, the fruit is soaked in bleach water, then rinsed in water that has been boiled, and then dried.

One afternoon, Ruth arranged for a student to show me around town. Roma brought two friends to help and we had a nice time crossing the Yellow River at the Iron Bridge and exploring White Pagoda Hills Park. The students were protective of me and did a good job as tour guides. I observed a ceremony at a Buddhist Temple in the park. The students said that since I was a Christian I could just watch while they lit incense. There were women in robes chanting. It was quite interesting even though I really didn't know what was going on.

Two evenings involved going to fancy restaurants. One was the official farewell dinner for the foreign teachers which I got to attend also. There were about a dozen people and we were seated in a separate room with a couple of attendants who tended to our every need. We were seated at a round table with a lazy susan in the middle. The dishes were presented so beautifully. Some dishes I liked quite well and others not so much. The other dinner was one that Ruth gave for the young Chinese teachers. It was similar to the first dinner but not quite as fancy. I have found that I really like Chrysanthemum tea.

I have had no trouble with stomach or intestinal problems. I try to be careful and am especially cautious about the water. I have eaten food from street vendors but it is always cooked right in front of us.

All for now. My next entry will tell of a visit to a village in the countryside.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007


Today I turned down an offer to have a student show me around a part of Lanzhou as I wanted to write in this blog, prepare my Bible study presentation for Sunday, and just let things soak in. I feel like so many interesting experiences are just stacking up and I hardly have time to process them.

In my last posting I basically covered my first day. I will try to summarize what I did during the rest of my visit to Beijing. On the second day, Saturday, we had "errands" to run such as check out the train station we will be using later, make our reservation at the hostel and print out the info Ruth still needed for her visa. Of course, doing all this in a huge city is quite a process. We rode the bus and taxi. I was always looking around taking in as much as possible. In addition to the type of buildings we had already seen, we saw big high rises that could perhaps be seen in any large city. For lunch we thought it would be fun to try one of the fast food chains from the USA that have come into Beijing. We had seen KFC, Subway, Burger King, and MacDonald's. We went into MacDonald's. It was very crowded even though it would be too expensive for most people. It looked very much an American MacDonald's and I ordered the small hamburger. It tasted just the same. When I went to the bathroom, it was very clean but it was a squat toilet so I knew I was in a different part of the world!

In the afternoon we went to visit The Temple of Heaven. It is a beautiful park which features a circular temple that has been restored. The colors on the building were so pretty-blue, green, red and gold. It was also nice to walk around the peaceful and cool parkland. In general, Beijing was hot and humid. Fortunately, our hostel was air conditioned as were some of the taxi cabs.

In the evening Ruth and I went to a performance of the Beijing Opera. It was interesting but neither of us felt we needed to go again.

Sunday was our trip to the Great Wall. We hired a car and driver and left first thing to keep the trip as cool as possible. We drove about two hours to get to a section that neither Ruth nor Daniel had seen. It was interesting to get outside of the big city and see some countryside. The terrain changed from flat to hilly. It was very thrilling to come around a corner and see the wall snaking across the mountainside. This section is not one of the main places that tourists go. We paid the land owner a small fee to hike up through his land. When we got to the wall itself, we climbed a ladder to get on top. Part of this section had been restored and part was original and in need of some work. We walked along the top of the wall and went into one of the square tower sections. It was one of the times I felt I needed to pinch myself to see if I was dreaming. We had wonderful views and took many pictures. I hope to get some pictures posted eventually. We had lunch on the way back at a restaurant where we had several good dishes and a tea that is good for hot weather.

On Monday we had planned to fly to Lanzhou in the morning but Ruth needed to stay because of the hangup at the Russian Embassy on Friday. Daniel needed to get back so he left early. My ticket could be changed and Ruth just had to bite the bullet and get a new ticket.

It was a little scary having our translator and helper gone, but Ruth is an intrepid traveler and we just carried on. She arranged for a car and driver through the hostel rather than us trying to take taxis alone. The driver first dropped off Ruth at the Russian Embassy and then took me to the Summer Palace. This large park which used to be just for the emperors' use was even bigger than the Temple of Heaven park. I strolled along taking in the beautiful grounds around a lake and looking at beautiful bridges, pavilions, and buildings. The driver returned for Ruth and we met up around 1:00. We had a designated meeting place but cell phones helped us get together earlier. I am glad to report that Ruth got her Russian visa so the last half of our trip can continue! We continued to look at other parts of the Summer Palace including the marble boat. We did a lot of walking and saw many Chinese and international tourists. We met our driver at the gate and he took us to the airport.

Our flight to Beijing was very nice. All the announcements were done in Chinese and English even though I think Ruth and I were the only ones who needed the English. We were served dinner on this two hour flight. Ruth and I chose mulberry and mango juice to drink. When the flight attendant saw us sampling from each other, she gave us two more glasses so we each could have a glass of both kinds. Everyone was offered a newspaper and we were given the English edition of China Daily.

After we arrived in Lanzhou we caught a bus from the airport to a downtown hotel. Daniel was there to meet us and had a bouquet of flowers to welcome me to the city. We then took a taxi to Ruth's apt. It was very nice to get a shower and fall into bed!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Sunday, June 24

This is my first entry from China. I am writing from the Far East Youth Hostel where we are staying during our time in Beijing. I hope I am successful because all the prompts and directions are in Chinese. I just try to remember where I pressed keys when I did my practice blog while visiting in Washington state a couple of weeks ago.

Since my arrival at 4:30 am Friday it has been a whirlwind of new sights and adventures. I am really glad we scheduled some down time this afternoon and evening so I can process what has been happening and get started on this blog.

It was really great to see my sister Ruth and her Chinese "son" Daniel walk into the Beijing airport. The first new adventure was driving into Beijing from the airport. Because it was so early, traffic wasn't bad but I have seen some mega traffic since. It was interesting to see the mix of buildings. There are many concrete boxy looking buildings but mixed in are some old neighborhoods, called hutongs, where there are small one story buildings with courtyards and very narrow streets. The hostel is located in one of these areas and it is very interesting to walk through seeing the small shops, living areas, and mix of transportation. On these very narrow streets there are taxis, cars, three wheeled motorized trucks, and bicycles.

The first day Ruth worked on her visa at the Russian Embassy while Daniel and I toured the Forbidden City. It was much bigger than I realized. We would see one impressive palace and then walk past it and there are several more stretching off in the distance. There were lots of tourists from all over the world. We were looking at a stone carving when some soldiers shooed us all away and some dignitaries were whisked in for their own viewing. A ring of bodyguards stood around them and then away they went to the next sight.

We also experienced an internet cafe and ate supper in a park where we could sit on a bench but not walk on the grass. I managed to stay up until 10:00 and then slept very soundly. Jet lag has not been a big problem.

Even though I have only reported on one day I will close and see if this actually posts.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Beth is on her way

Kenny and Niel saw Beth off Wednesday afternoon. She phoned home as she waited to board Air China flight 984, non-stop LA to Beijing. Beth arrived in Beijing over an hour early and had made it through customs by the time Ruth and Daniel arrived to pick her up. When Niel phoned Beth (cell phone roaming works in Beijing also) she, Daniel and Ruth were heading for their hotel to drop off luggage before a day of sight seeing (for Beth and Daniel) and Russian visa paperwork (for Ruth).

Until July 29 Beth can be emailed at Ruth's email address:

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