Saturday, January 26, 2013

Touring Beijing More (B.J.)

Today's events were much like yesterday's in that we started off with a filling breakfast and then headed out for some sightseeing and cultural tours.
We first went to a jade factory.  Prior to arriving, George explained the historical significance of jade to Chinese culture.  Similar to the silk factory yesterday, we took a brief tour to learn about jade.  Following this, we were able to make some purchases in the store.  Both the silk factory and this jade factory were government run providing some assurance, according to George, that the quality of what you are purchasing is better than a street vendor.  One Chinese tradition is that on her wedding day, a bride receives a jade bangle from her family.  I had learned this earlier (not sure when) and thought this would be a great cultural tradition to carry over for Liliana and was in hopes of finding a bangle for Liliana.  Two things prevented me from doing this though: the prices of the bangles was high and I was concerned about getting the right size.  Somewhat disappointed, I decided to continue looking.  What I did find was some jade bracelets much more reasonably priced and since they were bracelets they were much more forgiving in terms of wrist sizes.  So, I chose one out and plan to tuck it away for that special day.  Perhaps by then I may take her out to go bangle shopping anyway, but I will still give her this bracelet since it comes from her homeland of China and now holds some significance in that her Daddy was thinking about her future even back then (which currently is now).

A cool statue at the jade factory
Also at the jade factory, I found what is called a happiness ball.  If you recall from my blog post yesterday about the meaning of happiness in Chinese, this ball fits well with it.  It is a solid jade ball that has holes cut through it similar to swiss cheese and carvings on the outside.  However, inside, a second ball can be found also with holes.  Inside this second ball, a third ball can be found.  Depending on the size of the first ball, you may have many balls inside of balls.  Each ball represents a new generation within a family.  So the outside ball represents the parents.  The second ball is the children.  The third ball is grandchildren, and so on.  The visual of seeing the generations wrap each other and hold one another close is beautiful.                                                                                                
More statues at the jade factory
I ended up purchasing two of them: one for my  home and one for my office at school.  I have found that throughout my teaching career, I have spent, and continue to spend, a lot of time talking about family life and the importance of raising up the next generation.  The Bible talks so much about the importance of the family being the context for raising children (Deuteronomy 6:6-9 is one example).  Yet in today's fast-paced American culture, the family is being torn apart.  As much as I love what I do each day at school and see where it has value for families, the reality is that family life needs to be the center of a family's focus.                                                                                    
The section of the Great Wall I climbed...if you start at the green roofed building in the lower right corner with the gold outline on the roof as well

A section of the Great Wall (the less steep side I did not climb)
When we finished up at the jade factory, our bus took us to a section of the Great Wall.  We had a lot of time to explore the Great Wall.  I was able to climb a decent amount though even only a few steps was tiring due to the incline.  I took a lot of pictures while I was there, and one picture I am sending Rachel to post with this blog entry is a picture of where I started and looking up towards a tower where I climbed.  It was steep going up and down, and the stairs were well worn and not built to code.  When I reached this tower, I spent some time up there enjoying the views and soaking up the history (along with catching my breath).  Mom took things slow and steady and eventually joined me at this point. This was the steeper of two possible climbs.  Some in our group went to the flatter side.  Others in our group tried to go as far as they could.  Though I would have liked to have gone farther, I wanted to spend my time taking in the experience rather than rushing through it.  I guess for someone with a different personality, climbing farther is the experience.  Throughout the climb I could not help but think of Rachel's brother Jeremy.  He would love the climbing, and he would capture some amazing pictures.
Another view of the steep section I climbed
After the Great Wall, we headed to lunch for another authentic Chinese meal.  So far, meals have not included anything all that crazy.  Though we were warned by George not to eat any of the food from the street vendors because the grease they cook with would give us the runs.  Some of the street vendor foods were quite crazy ... name the animal or animal part, and you could probably find it friend and on a stick on this one road near our hotel.
Following lunch, we stopped by the 2008 Olympic Stadium (the Bird's Nest) and walked around a little.  We then returned to the hotel.  A few people are going out tonight to see some Chinese acrobats.  Most of us are staying in for the night and preparing for tomorrow.  Mom and I are both feeling good but tired from our busy day, and I imagine it will be an early night for us.  Tomorrow morning we fly to Liliana's province (Henan), and then Monday (Sunday evening EST), we get Liliana.

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