Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Temple of Heaven

August 6, 2008
Today I went to the Temple of Heaven to find that it was closed for the Olympic Torch relay. So I went to the Lamasery, a temple that is open for worship and touring. On my way there I stopped to get some lunch and this cute Chinese girl asked me in English to share my table. As we chatted, I found out she was headed for the Lamasery too and she would love to be my "guide" for the afternoon. Her english name is Janet and she was back in Beijing after finishing her master's degree in England. Her mom was recovering from surgery, so she was going to the Lamasery to offer up prayers of gratitude for the speedy recovering process.

Janet is on the left in the photo below. It was great to have lunch with her because I could ask her what I was actually eating in my meal, and how to eat the mini shrimp with shells.
On the street of the restaurant were lots of shops selling incense to use at the Lamasery. Janet already had hers, so we bought me some and we were on our way to the Lamasery. The Lamasery has 6 different rooms or quarters that you can see in this diagram of the temple. In each part is a Buddha that you can pray to for a specific thing: family health, education, financial success, posterity, protection, etc. This is the first room. Always step over the threshold, it represents the Buddha's shoulders and is very disrespectful to step on it. The next few photos are the process that you repeat in each area for each different Buddha.
First you light your incense in the little candle box. You always burn the incense in groups of three.
Then you stand behind or kneel on the bench and talk about yourself: who you are, what you are doing, why you are there, your life situation, etc. Bow three times.
And stick your incense with the burning end up in the ash pot. Then you enter the room of the Buddha and kneel on the prayer bench and offer your prayer to the specific Buddha and again bow three times. If there are multiple Buddhas in the room, you always pray first to the main one in the middle and you can choose to pray to the ones on the side or not. Then you move on to the next room.

A Buddha sits on a lotus flower in this room
On the way home we passed a flower shop with these irresistable flowers. I saw many women carrying huge bunches of these stargazer lilies in the airport and on the subway from their boyfriends and such. Janet said that it was impolite to enter a store and ask to see the merchandise without purchasing anything, so I bought a stalk of the pick stargazer lilies with four gigantic flowers on it and we enjoyed the fragrance in the apartment for a whole week.

Tonight Mand and I watched "Meet me in St. Louis" and snacked on trailmix.

Tian'anmen Square

August 5, 2008
Today the reality set in that I was not going to be able to go to the Opening Ceremonies and be there in the Bird's Nest. I found out yesterday that my ticket was fake and the whole company was a scam. I did all I could to find another ticket, but the cheapest one I found was $21,000. And it just wasn't worth that for me. I had many hard minutes today of disappointment and worry. My biggist worry was the validity of my research. I felt that the biggest part of the foundation of my research was eye-witnessing the opening ceremonies... that is the reason I came to Beijing. As I watched the base of my research dissolve before my eyes, I cried.
But... as with everything in life, there is always good news. I looked hard to see it in this situation and it took a little time, but this is what I found. I found a deeper trust in my Heavenly Father because He knew this would happen and He knows how much this research means to me and He cares deeply about me and my life. He gently reminded me to trust Him; to trust that He has prepared a way for me to complete this research I am here to do in Beijing. I felt like Nephi when he went in to get the plates not knowing beforehand the plan of action. I too had to get the plates (research in China) and when my first plan didn't work, I gathered confidence choosing to rely on the spirit and Heavenly Father for guidance each moment as Nephi did.
I was processing all of this through tears sitting on the curb in Tianan'men Square and in that moment I knew that this was the point of miracles. If I chose to move forward in trust, I knew that I would witness miracles unfold before my eyes during my time in Beijing. And looking back on my time in China, I did. The more I share this experience, the more clearly I see the spontaneous miracles that occured daily.
I experienced the difficulty of being an independent researcher. I came home one day and exclaimed that to Curtis. He just nodded and smiled... (I ain't seen nothin' yet). What I found difficult was the ability to be prepared and ready at any moment to gather information and conduct research. I quickly learned that I could not wait for the ideal situation to conveniently learn at a luxurious pace because I did not have days to spend with that one person or at that one museum and my video camera didn't always work. So I learned to be present in the moment to glean what I could and be satisfied with what I learned.
I also learned how to tap into the memory storage of my body, it was sometimes the only memory device I had working in some moments. One of my favorite things I did was absorb China into the cells of my body and bask in the experience of being there. When my technology tools didn't work I learned to listen more intently, see clearly, make connections, ask the questions that were in my mind, reach out to meet people, and be present to experience the moment. As a result of living in the moment, I am satisfied with my experience in China, and I learned to trust that the memory of my experience will be there when I need to recall it even if it wasn't on camera.
Today I went to see Tianan'men Square and the Mao Memorial.
Around the city are floral arrangements of Olympic stuff. In Tian'anmen Square was a big "One World, One Dream" display with the Bird's Nest, and athlete figures.

I thought of mom everytime I saw an irresistable Chinese baby. This one's for her... the photo, not the baby.
This one too!
Multiple ladies walk around with damp cloths on their heads to combat the heat. This woman looked especially great.
The Mao Memorial. Inside is where he was buried.
The people's monument or Monument for the People.
On the other side of the square from the "One World, One Dream" display was another display with what looked like tourist sites around the world. There was something that looked like the Golden Gate Bridge and the St. Louis Arch, with a little Chinese flair like in this photo.
In the middle of the square was a big display of the "Dancing Beijing" emblem with flowers and fountains and lights for night. I learned that this figure resembles a runner/dancer and the Chinese character for "Jing" (means capital) which is short for Beijing. And the weight of the figure is forward, so it symbolizes that Beijing is moving forward.

This woman was so excited to hug me and take a photo with me. And I love the "One World" in the back. It was a joyous experience for me to connect with these people.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Dear Friends

July 31, 2008

I had dinner with Ken and Mary Bonczyk, who I stayed with in Brockport, NY last summer while I attended the Bill Evans dance workshop. Mary is a Stampin' Up-er, so they were out here for the Stampin' Up workshop in SLC. We ate at the "Himalayan Kitchen". It was a triumph when we made it through ordering. Very good... and very different... food like pickled cauliflower and pureed eggplant.

August 1, 2008
Beijing or Bust! Carl graciously took me to the airport to meet my 6:06 AM flight to LA where I connected to San Fransisco and then on to Beijing. The whole flight was 18 hours, but the longest stretch was 11 hours. It was the fastest flight of my life, I slept and read and just soaked in the thrill of being on an airplane and dreaming about my destination.

I sat next to the physical therapist for the US Olympic cycling team and a sweet Chinese lady. My seat was the last one in the back and behind me was floor space, perfect for stretching my long legs periodically throughout the flight. As I got more bold and creative in my stretches during the flight, I got some pretty curious nonverbal feedback from other flyers.
Here is the gate I boarded for Beijing and a picture from the sky.

I stepped off the plane and all the signs were in Chinese except for "baggage claim" and "toilet". As I negotiated the airport and picked up my luggage, I had a... a moment... where am I going to find Curtis? The one side of the aggage claim was blocked off, so I went the only way I could and was enthusiastically greeted by his waving hands above the crowd after what seemed like the longest jaunt through any airport not knowing how long it would be 'til I would see his familiar face.

Along my airport travels I stopped to pose with one of the "Five Friendlies", one of the Olympic mascots that represents a set of the Olympic sports.

And to dance next to the "Dancing Beijing" Emblem constructed out of roses and other flowers.

When Curt and I arrived home, we calculated that I had been up for 27 hours so I took a luxuriously cool bath and went to bed.

August 3, 2008
Today was Sunday and I was pleasantly surprised to find that the singles ward meets simultaneously with Curt and Mand's ward. They split for Sunday School, but they meet combined for Sacrament meeting and Relief Society. It was great to introduce myself and meet the other 20 young adults. And to find out that they have activities and time together after the block for lunch and throughout the week. After church we taxied to the Wilcox's apartment (Logan Wilcox is the 2nd counselor in the branch presidency) and had fajita's. The rule is that the Wilcox's provide the food and the young adults cook and prepare it. So I sauteed the peppers and onions and cooked the chicken. Delish! And chatted with the young adults. The first question that starts most of our conversations is "so what are you doing in Beijing?" And most of them are here to study Chinese or for internships and other work for the summer.
It was so great to connect with these people. It was a refreshing experience for me to hear about what these people are doing with their lives, it is extraordinary. I left nourished in every sense of the word with twenty new friends I will remember for the rest of my life.

In the evening we went for a family walk and ended at the gazebo gathering circle place right by the apartment. Mand and I took turns dancing with Nell.

August 4, 2008
Today we went to the Forbidden City (The Imperial Palace). Its traditional construction is overwhelmingly beautiful combined with the heat and humidity of Beijing was thrilling for me, but not for Nell. I whipped out the video camera and Mand and I couldn't resist bursting out "let's get down to business, to defeat (crash, crash) the Hun's..."
The Imperial Palace has a lot of dragons on the rooftops and artwork that signify the power of the Emperor.
The architecture is beautiful, it is what I think of when I think of traditional China.

Behind me is the female lion guarding the entry to the palace, on the other side of the entry is the male. The difference is that the female has a cub under her paw and the male has a ball. It signifies where they have influence or power. The male has influence in the world and the female has influence and power in the home raising the children.
The throne in the throne room.

The figures on the rooftop signify the rank of the room they are atop of. More figures means the room is ranked higher in importance. Some rooms have 10 or 12 figures while some rooms have 4 or 6. I also learned that most of the roof corners of the buildings have a lion head. It is the head of the figure that calls forth the rains and protects from fire. (Curt... I hope this is correct:)

This is how Nell felt about the Imperial Palace. This is the face she pulled as Chinese women gathered around to take her picture.

This is how I felt as I walked passed this couple on my way out of the city. It was a gloriously burning Beijing day.

It was so fun to see a pomegranate tree.

After our outing to the Forbidden City I crashed for nap before I went swing dancing. Each Monday night there is swing dancing at a little cafe downtown with a free lesson and then free dancing til midnight. I laughed when I thought of sharing with my parents that on my first night in Beijing I went swing dancing at a bar. It was so fun. I am not much of a lindy hopper, but the guys are fantastic and confident in their leading skills. Come to find out... they don't know what they are doing either, so it was a blast. It was fun to be at a dance where the guys ask you to dance, lead you on the floor, and have fun.

Thank you for surviving my first attempt at blogging... I am done trying to fix this post.