Monday, August 23, 2010

Ramblin' Rosie


I watched two triathlons yesterday. Lia competed in the Ramblin' Rose. It's a cool event - a women's only triathlon - sprint distance. Lia did great, finishing 4th in her age group! The course was set well, so we could cheer for her multiple times, provided we jogged. It just so happens that I, along with Ron Burgundy, have been trying out this new fad called jogging or yogging. It might be a soft J. I'm not sure but apparently you just run for an extended period of time. It's wild.

In the car on the way home, Anna Rose asked if she could have her own triathlon. "Sure," said Lia and I simultaneously. "I'll set up the course during your quiet time," I said. I didn't really, figuring she might forget about it. Nope. She was in her bathing suit and holding her sneakers when I opened the door.

Here is the pre-race interview:
video

The race:

video

She finished in 3 minutes 10 seconds. Here is the post-race interview:


video

Her best time was 2 minutes 26 seconds! Go goRamblin' Rosie! (We cut her off after three go arounds.)

Congrats to both my girls.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Emei Mountain


The Beautiful Mountain. This is where we spent our fourth night in China. On top of this 10,000 foot peak that overlooks the other side of the world. It took a hair-raising 2 hours of breakneck serpentines up to the three-quarter point, a sprint to the cable car (the last one of the day...we made it by seconds), and a short walk and there we were: in the middle of the clouds.

Lia and I climbed the stairs to one of the most eerie scenes I have ever witnessed. The centerpiece: a 70 foot tall (it may be taller) golden man/woman buddha that disappeared into the fog.
We were told that the next morning, if we were lucky, the clouds would settle, and we would be able to watch the sun rise through the clouds. I have seen something like this on an airplane, but never with my feet on the ground. It sounded spectacular, but I did not want to get my hopes up. It had rained off an on since we arrived in China. And we had seen more clouds than sun. But we were game. Anyway, sunrise was really 6:20pm for us. We would be wide awake anyways...

As it turned out...we were lucky...





It was truly one of the most amazing sights - God and man-made - of my life.

Charlie and Nicole told us that we were not the most lucky. If we had been the most lucky, there would have been a single flat line of clouds and the sun would have poked through in one place to light them all at once. That does sound pretty awesome. But I told Charlie that I felt we were plenty lucky...after all, there are more wonderful things than sun and clouds...

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Old People



If you know me, and some of you do. It doesn't take long. Anyway, if you do - and if you don't, now you do - know this. I love old people. I love them. I can't get enough of them. I could hang out with them for hours. It's their voices, their stories, their wrinkles. I love their gray hair, their gray teeth, the way their eyes still light up. I love their skin, their wiry muscles, their noses and ears that never stop growing. Most of all I love their heart, their perspective, how things that seem so difficult and burdensome to me - are but small trifles from their pasts.

We discovered they have old people in China. And they are just as wonderful as the old people that we have here in the good old U.S.of A.

The woman in the picture above is 100 years old. We met her on the trail down from the Wannian Temple (first build in 4th Century A.D., reconstructed in the 9th Century (speaking of old)). This woman was selling incense to the folks who were into that kind of thing. We are not those kind of folks; however, what she didn't know was that I was into her! After a short greeting, I asked if I could have my picture taken with her. (This is not too forward, I learned, because everyone in China likes to have their picture taken.) To no surprise, she said yes. What I did not tell her was that I was also going to try to steal a kiss! That may have been a bit too forward. But I was like, hey, when's the next time I'll be this close to a 100 year old lady? Lia won't turn 100 for 68 more years. That's a long time to wait, and that's also assuming the not-so-likelihood that I'll still be alive. Anyway, I took my shot while I had it. Rejection-city...but from the picture, I think I got a smile!

You would guess that a 100 year year old lady selling incense on the side of the mountain would be the most impressive, at least the oldest, person that we would meet on our trip. But you would be wrong. The most impressive and oldest person was our friend, Chu-kuh's, 107 year old monk. They kept telling us that he was almost 108 (as if 107 was not old enough). Before the lady, I'm not sure if I ever met a 100 year old. I had definitely never met a 107 year old. He had been a monk since he was 7 years old. You got it right. This man has been a Buddhist monk for over 100 years!
Chu-kuh made the arrangements for us to meet him. When we arrived at his office, he was smoking a cigar while going over the plans for the temple renovations. (He smoked at least two cigars while we were with him.) The guy was awesome. We were given a book with some of his poetry in it. We were also given bracelets that he blessed for us. The blessing was quite an experience. Charlie went first to show us how it was done. He bowed face to the floor three times, then the monk tapped his head three times. I went next. I bowed to the floor, but when I got up, about to start my second, the monk smacked me on the head. He grunted. His lip snarled like Elvis. I lowered my head just in time for him to smack me two more times. Then he did it again! Again! Then he paused and I was about to get up when he smacked me again! Six times! I'm not sure how many of them were blessings, and how many of them were "you idiots." It felt like at least half of them were the latter. I guess I'll never know. Regardless, the dude was awesome. He blessed all of us. Then we took pictures.
He and my dad spoke some in Chinese. I spoke a bit with the fellow who is going to be the next head monk once 108 year old monk floats to Nirvana. I asked him what advice he would like me to take back with me to America. He said to cherish your family and friendships and to be kind and generous to all. That sounded like pretty good advice to me. And now I have shared it with you!

Food



Lia and I ate a lot of different food during our stay. The area we were in is famous for SPICY! which, to me, could be characterized by two. The first is red pepper - you know the kind of pepper you get at a pizza parlor that you can sprinkle on your pizza. That pepper was included by the mound in nearly everything we ate. The second is this spice that we called "numbing spice." It looks somewhat like a cross between a clove and a miniature cherry bomb. It was in practically every dish as well. And you would know when you ate one because at once your entire mouth, teeth, tongue, lips, and esophagus would tingle. It was actually quite nice!


This is me after rubbing my spicy pork joint in a vat of chopped up red peppers. It was on a bet. I won/lost.

The famous style of cooking/eating is called Hot Pot, which is basically like fondue with Spicy Spicy Oil...It's pretty tasty. Plus, I like the experience of boiling up my own food. Though, I promise you, you'll feel it in the morning! Here's my parents partaking:

Generally speaking I would rate the quality of eating in this order:

1) Home Cooking
2) Roadside Hole in the Wall Restaurants
3) Super High End Restaurants
4) Really Nice Restaurants
5) Hotel Restaurants


On the plane ride home, Lia and I composed a list of the craziest and best food we ate:

CRAZIEST!

- Pig Intestines
- Pig Stomach
- Pig Joints
- Fish Tails
- Fish Heads!
- Everything in Between Fish
- Rabbit
- Chicken Feet
- Peacock
- Snake
- Eel
- FAT! Straight up!
- Baby Squid
- Giant Oysters
- Bird Eggs
- "100 Year Old" Eggs
- Pork "Parts"
- Beef "Parts"
- Rabbit "Parts"

I don't know what "Parts" means. Other than it does not include muscle, intestines or stomach because I know what those look like!

Our craziest eating experience happened on our last night. We had dinner with one of my parent's friends, Lisa, and her 3 year old daughter, Sunny. We ate at a Roadside Hole in the Wall that sold fish. So we knew it would be good. However, we did not know that you got to pick out your fish! That is, we didn't know until we had to pick it out. We chose this 3 pounder from the bucket. Then, all of the sudden, this guy with no shirt on (the waiter) reaches in, grabs the fish, it slithers and slides and slings itself free and lands on the sidewalk. The waiter chases after it as it flops toward the road. He picks it up. And slams it into the pavement. Twice! I took this picture of the poor fellow as he was about to be filleted. You may want to look away, this is a bit graphic.



BEST FOOD!

- Kung Pow Shrimp
- Kung Pow Chicken
- Peking Duck
- Sticky Ribs
- Eggs with Veggies...(like a Scrambled Omelet) probably what Egg Foo Yung is supposed to taste like.
- NOODLES!!!! so good. All kinds.
- MSG!
- Numbing spice
- Streetside Fish
- Pork with sweet red peppers
- Bowdzah! (don't know how to spell it...so good...)
- This funnel cake like stuff...oh man!
- Warm Soy Milk
- DUMPLINGS!!!!! boo-yah
- Winter Squash
- Lotus

I can say in all honesty the food in China is great! As stated, the best food that we ate was prepared at home. (Same as in America...that's my opinion). However, the restaurants had their pluses as well. The service was unbelievable. The nicest place we ate was in a place in Chengdu called Wu Yuan...translated I think as Garden of Deep Meaning. It was a tea house extraordinaire. Dishes were like pieces of art. It was remarkable. I've never seen anything like it. And the best part was it tasted as good as it looked! Take this rabbit dish for example:


One final note: Lia used chopsticks the entire time! This is rather amazing because the day before the trip was Lia's first day ever handling them. On that occasion she had to stop because of hand cramps! By the end of the trip she was a pro! Here's a photo of chopsticks set out to dry in order to be reused...hmmm....



Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Name Calling

On our second day, we met up with two of my parents' students. Their English names were Charlie and Nicole. I could not pronounce their Chinese names. (I cannot pronounce very many things in Chinese.) So I was happy that they chose to respond to names I could pronounce.

They are college students currently studying abroad in America! I think my parents were conspiring to make us friends - which took all of about five seconds. Because they are awesome!
The ever-evolving, ever-elusive "plan" was for Charlie and Nicole to serve as tour guide and translator for us as we bumped around Sichuan Province. The "plan" more or less worked - not accordingly, but better than any of us imagined. It was a magical couple days. But before I get to the magic, a bit about names.
Our first stop was at the Panda Research and Breeding Center just outside of Chengdu. As you can guess, we saw pandas. And as you can also guess, they were cute. We saw everything from a 9 day old to a great grandmom. Other than the X-Rated video we watched, it was a swell time. Somewhere near this No Strinding sign (no idea what Strinding means...I think I might have to devote an entire blog entry to things lost in translation) Charlie and Nicole decided to give me a Chinese name: xiao xiong mao - which is what they call the Red Panda. I think it literally translates Little Red Bear or something like that. It's hard to understand these things. Anyway, I became Xiao Xiong Mao.
Throughout our stay, I introduced myself as such to the laughter of all. Not sure what the laughter meant, but we learned that this naming thing is universal. Many Chinese want an English name. It was quite fun and quite an honor when you think about it. And, tempting as it was to name someone something like LiverLips or Kumkwat or Bart Simpson, we, for the most part, gave names to be proud of. For instance, we named Charlie's dad "Chuck" to keep it in the family.
"Chu-kuh!" as Chuck said it. We told him it was the name of a king. We did not mention that Charles of England was beheaded. We did mention that Charlemagne was the Emperor of all of Europe. Chu-kuh liked that.
The same meal, we named his friend Leo. We explained that that was the word for lion, and lions are the kings of the jungle. Leo liked that as well. It was also easier to pronounce than Chu-kuh.
Above is Leo with his daughter Lucy (Lucy already had an English name)

My father eventually became known as Big Panda. Ta Xiong Mao. Or something like that. It's hard to understand these things.
One thing that was easy to understand was that naming is fun. It's cool that of all the jobs God could have given Adam, he gave him this one: Namer. Namer was the first job in the history of jobs! (Genesis 2:19) It makes you think God really wanted the best for him. It makes you wonder if God might really want the best for us, too. Like when he gives us a job - it's supposed to be meaningful and fun. I need to chew on that...

One more thing that was quite apparent to me: English name or not, over the last two years, my parents have gotten a lot more Chinese. Here's a picture: tell me what you think.

Leap for China


I just got back from my second trip to China in two months! This time, Lia came along. What a trip. Although we did not come close to the 635 pictures that we took on our trip to Mexico. We did take a solid 257, which is pretty impressive since not one of them is of our children, of whom we take about 90% of our pictures.


As usual, at least as usual for me, I'm experiencing the challenge of trying to put in words a trip that was unbelievably great without just saying it was unbelievable and great. I also don't have the time or energy to put down every memorable and meaningful experience. There were simply too many. (On top of taking 257 pictures, I wrote more than 30 pages of journal.) I'm also ever-conscious of coming across like "look at us, look what we did." I have no interest in tooting my own horn.


Or gonging my own bell, so to speak.

So with these few entries (I don't know how many there will end up being), I hope to convey my appreciation and affection for the people of China. It is a beautiful country with beautiful people. Their hospitality is over the top.

Here I am learning how to drink tea like a Buddhist.

Just one example of how I was treated far better that I deserve, far greater than I'll be able to return if given the honor. (I did invite practically, no, every Chinese person I met to come to our home for as long as they wanted. I imagine not everyone will be able to take me up on it. If they do, I'll be in trouble! But hopefully, at least a few will.)

I've written too long...I haven't begun.