Tag Archives: travel

#Travel Woes 

24 Jun

It’s official – my name is too long for China 😭 They took my boarding pass away and had to get special approval for my name 😂 Finally (after deliberation) they officially agreed to just write it on the pass. 😜

It’s Just So Pink!

23 Jun

#OMG this Adult Pink tricycle is the CUTEST thing ever!

#TMI – So Much Fun! 0_0

20 Jun

Had my annual #physical for the #Chinese residence permit & #Visa! 😷

Managed it alone without a #translator – quite a feat! Look at my bold self go 😜

For #China 🇨🇳 you need: Blood Analysis, Urinary Analysis, X-Rays, Ultrasound, ECG/EKG, and Blood Pressure.

 The X-Rays 📷 are competely #Topless with other people (men included) waiting in the room 😱 for their turn – no protection. 😓 The ECG requires baring it all in front of a major, street level window with no curtain and a ferris wheel🎡 right outside❗ Goodbye dignity, hello #crosscultural oversharing! 😂
 

Blog Official ~ I’m #Moving!

19 Jun

Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s time ⌚to make the official blog 🖋announcement📣 – I’m moving again!  I’ll be staying here in China🗺, but after 3 years in central Henan I’m going North. Way north. As in Arctic Circle ❄ level north!  

We will be moving to a city called Changchun in the province of Jilin.  For those of you living in China, it’s up by Harbin – land of the ice sculptures. For those of you who have no idea what those words even mean – it’s up in the arm of China that is surrounded by Mongolia (great! Horses 🐴!), Siberia (Brrrrrr💂), and North Korea (0_0)❌❗.  

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See the blue circle in the map up there? That’s Changchun.  I’m moving clear up to the land of Winter Olympics⛷🏂⛸, Forests with wild Bears 🐻 and Tigers, and Deer Antler soup. 😵 Craziness I tell you!

No, actually it looks like it will be really nice.  😀 The university 🏫 is called NorthEast Normal (NENU) and I will be working with the joint program with Rutgers University 🏫.   I will be teaching Economics 💹 and International Business 📈 this semester.  Economics and maybe some other classes next semester. The hours are a bit more than at my current university, but the pay is better, the students are of a higher academic quality (1st tier univ. instead of 4th tier univ.), I get most of the same benefits🚪, and it’s a new adventure 📷 awaiting me!

I was delighted to find out that one of my students and good friends 👭(Simon and his girlfriend Alice) live about 15 minutes away from my school. They are moving home and already invited me to BBQ.  Such a relief to have someone in the area!  I have two students👩👩 from Mongolia that I am hoping to get a chance to visit, and the train goes from Changchun directly to Moscow💂!  🚉 Course it takes a week one way, but still – I think I can get up to see Russia.  Not taking time to see North Korea ❌ – I’m sure it’s lovely, but not my cup of tea. Still, that’s a lot of new open doors 🚪 waiting to be checked out!  😀

I’ll keep you up to date on the details as I go.  My schedule 🕔 this week is insane.  Tomorrow I leave at 7:30 for the city (one hour) to get a Physical 😷done (surprise! wasn’t expecting this – just found out this afternoon). Then on from there a 3 hour trip to Beijing 🚝 (+ 1.5 hour subway ride to my stop) for some government paperwork on Wednesday.  Then back to school 🏫so I can give Final Exams on Thursday. Friday, back to the city to pick up my physical 🏥results. Back to school 🏫to grade and get signatures.  Then on Saturday, entering grades into the computer. Sunday off to Changchun ✈to get all my paperwork complete. Monday back to school 🏫to pack and get ready.  It’s a wild ride, but I am so excited to welcome the new year! 

#Strawberry ‘Betterfiles’

18 Jun

The name was ‘Betterfiles’ but I think it was supposed to be ‘Betterflies’ 😜

Tastes #Divine!  Small restaurant in the new CityOn Mall in #Zhengzhou called “Strawberry Forever”  —  all the deserts are strawberry! 🍓 

Zhengzhou is really growing recently – the #Mall is HUGE and has #Forever21 #Zara #sephora and more.  So nice and lovely! 

Gateway to your #Heritage

16 Jun

I ❤ #China!  Driving down the street, ran across this gorgeous old #gate.  So beautiful!

#TBT – #China Style

6 Jun

This is how we do homecoming in China! We go WAY back to the ancient alumni era 😜

Life in China ~ #Ivacy #VPN

5 Jun

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Hey guys!  I’m about to test out a new VPN called Ivacy.  I’m curious to see how it works. I’m downloading it today, and I’ll put it through it’s paces. Then I’ll let you all know how it goes!  Can’t wait to see how it compares to Vypr and Astrill!  I’ll also be posting a 2017 update on Vypr in the next couple weeks! 

So much going on in the VPN department!  Exciting! 

*yes, I am a nerd – these things excite me 😛

#Art I Love ~ The #Buddhist Goddess of Mercy

1 Jun

Obtained from ThaiYogaUp.com. Original Artist – I’m Not Sure

The Goddess of Mercy in Chinese Buddhism is named Guanshiyin  (观世音菩萨 — Guān shì Yīn Pú Sà) or Guanyin for short.  The name means “one who always hears the cries of the world. While many of the Buddhist deities are rather frightening (as seen in their paintings and depictions), Guanyin is actually very highly respected for being merciful to her followers. 

There are many legends surrounding the lovely lady.  Apparently, the original story (stemming from India) had her as a man called avalokitasvara. He was extremely kind and worked non-stop reaching out to those who cried out for help.  Some actually claim he was the most powerful of all the Buddhist gods, and certainly most agree he was the nicest. It wasn’t until the Song dynasty (960 – 1279) that the deity was changed into a woman. The Indian name was translated into Guanyin, and the uniquely Chinese feminine version was born to become mother to the world. 

In China, the story is that she was a human who eventually became immortal through her good deeds and worthy heart.  According to one story, she was holy and kind enough to find herself at the gate of Heaven. But, upon hearing the weeping and tragic cries of sorrow and pain from those suffering on earth, her heart was moved. Turning back from her place in the joyous realm, she returned and devoted herself to helping those in need. Thus her name — she always listens to and helps those who call out to her. 

Another story comes from 827-840AD (the Tang Dynasty) in the city of Xi’an.  According to the legend, the Emperor at the time was a man called Wenzong.  Now, Wenzong had the unfortunate love of clams, asking from clams day after day, three meals a day! But, if you’ve ever lived in Xi’an, you would know that it is very far from the sea–so clams were hard to find.  And of course, he was not happy with any clams – they had to be fresh and delicious! So, every day before the light came up, the poor fishermen in Zhejiang’s ports would collect up clams and rush them inland.  Then, finally a miracle happened! One of the clams they found was HUGE (20x the normal clam size).  All agreed, this clam must absolutely go to the emperor.  But when they tried to open it, they found that the clam was shut up and would not budge. When he heard of this strange even, the emperor himself came to see it. At last! Right before his eyes, the clam shell opened and inside was an elaborate carving of Guanyin.  Looking into the statue’s eyes, he heard her beautiful voice echo in his ear — “These poor workers have sacrificed much to satisfy your simple pleasures. You are abusing your people and wasting their money.”  The people had prayed for someone to save them from the painful, meaningless labor and the goddess had responded. The emperor learned his lesson!

As a Buddhist deity, she seems to be an all around lovely person. She is known for reaching out to those who are ill, lost, abandoned, elderly, orphaned, and just generally in a tough spot.  She is recognized for having eternal, unending love for people and the kindest of hearts.  She is often a fertility goddess who gives children to those who need them.  Always there to help, she is the supporter and defender of the unfortunate.  She also helps guide the lost and missing, and has become one of the “sailor’s” deities. The fact that legend has her living on an Island in the South of China has contributed to this theory — thus the frequent depiction of her with pearls from the ocean or rising from a shell or lotus blossom like Venus. Even here in Xinzheng, Henan we have a statue of her–you’ll find them scattered all over China. I’ve been told both the Shaolin Temple (China) and Kiyomizu-dera (Japan) are dedicated to her. 

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My good friend Harry in front of a Statue of Quan Yin in the Zheng Garden.

Most images of Quan Yin show her in bare feet with ancient Chinese-style thin, blowing in the wind kind of clothes.  They always bring to mind the lovely ladies of wuxia (Chinese historical) dramas or the old films. Lithe, graceful, elegant — an all around perfectly kind, beautiful, and gracious woman inside and out.  Usually, the pictures show her alone or with two other people. Sometimes she has a child in her arms. At other times, it is two soldiers who defend the faith. The first is general Guan Yu, a real man made famous in the fictionalized story “The Romance of the Three Kingdoms.” Honored for being very loyal and virtuous, he is still prominent in the Buddhist faith. According to the believers, he not only fought of enemies of the country, he defended the righteous from demons as well. The second is Wei Tuo, a young prince who proved faithful to Buddha by protecting the holy relics. Together they stand guard as the goddess works her wonders. 

Sometimes you’ll see the goddess of mercy in a different way, with several heads and hundreds of arms.  There are several versions of the story as to why she has so many arms and heads. You can read one version here.  Another version says that she dedicated her life to helping people in need, promising that she would not stop until she had helped everyone. Eventually, she realized that no matter what she did, there were still too many people. Frantically thinking about all that was left to be done, her head finally exploded into eleven parts.  Concerned, one of the buddhas came to help her and ended up offering her eleven heads to hold the eleven parts.  But now, hearing the cries so much better with her 22 ears, she became even more upset–pulling herself in many directions trying to read everyone at once.  Reaching. . . reaching . . . finally her arms just shattered.  Again the buddha reached out to the poor, good-hearted goddess and offered her one thousand arms to hold all those pieces so she could help more people.  Thus the statue in Kaifeng has 1000 arms (although they follow the first version of the story instead of the second)!

Mercy

The Goddess of Mercy statue in Kaifeng, Henan

Whistling Through the Vines

1 Jun

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The province of Henan resides in central China, and is home to the largest population here. Although the modern day center is the famous Beijing, China’s history has to a large extent actually centered around Henan itself. Of the six ancient capitals in the country, three of them are in Henan.  If you’ve ever watched some of the popular Chinese martial arts films, you will have heard the names “Luoyang,” Kaifeng,” and “Shaolin Temple.”  I now can proudly say I’ve been to all these places and more! At this point, I’ve visited:

  • Anyang
  • Xinyang
  • Nanyang
  • Pingdingshan
  • Zhoukou
  • Zhumadian
  • Zhengzhou
  • Xinzheng
  • Kaifeng
  • Luoyang

and more! 

This past weekend, I got the opportunity to add a new city to my list — Gongyi (巩义市).  Gongyi is a small city about 1 hour from Zhengzhou (the capital).  On one side you have Mount Song and many hills (beautiful!). On another, it is bordered by the Yellow River, one of the 2 most famous in China. 

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The entire trip for us was planned by the Henan Tourism Organization (the provincial tourism committee), so we didn’t actually have to pay for anything. However, the cost wasn’t bad at all even if you did pay.  

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The bus ride up there costs about 10RMB ($1.50) and was extremely interesting just on its own. We passed the lovely shrine/temple shown above (I’m not exactly sure what that was – we didn’t stop), but even more awesome were the hundreds of Cave Homes we passed!  Here in Gongyi, many people actually still live in caves dug into the cliffs surrounding the area.  Although most westerners think “oh poverty!”, this isn’t actually true.  A lot of these homes are really nice and awesome!  They have running water and electricity, drive up roads, yards and gardens in the front, elaborate front doors, etc.  They are really nice, just inside a mountain. I wasn’t able to get excellent photos since we just drove past them, but sometime I want to go back. 

When you arrive in the city, you’ll see a lot of things dedicated to DuFu (杜甫). DuFu lived in the Tang Dynasty (700s) and is considered perhaps China’s best poet!  According to the Chinese, he was born here and is still revered as seen through the statues and monument decorating the city.  According to the tour guide, the Chinese consider him the #1 literary person to know and he has often been considered the “Chinese Shakespeare.” His ancestral home is here too!

 

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Once we arrived, we had a small trek to our restaurant so we walked through the Imperial Mausoleums of the Song Dynasty (960-1279).  Also called the “Song Tombs”, this area is where all but one emperor of the North Song Dynasty are buried.  They include Tai Zu (Zhao Kuangyin), Tai Zong (Zhao Guangyi), Zhen Zong (Zhao Heng), Ren Zong (Zhao Zhen), Ying Zong (Zhao Shu), Shen Zong (Zhao Xu) and Zhe Zong (Zhao Xu).  🙂 

This part was free (it’s just a giant city part area where you can walk around) and was huge for a city park. A great place to take your kids for a picnic! Up towards the tombs themselves are a long row of stone statues that were really interesting. 

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After lunch, we got back on the bus and took about a 20 minute ride to the Kang Mansion (Kangbaiwan – 河南巩义康百万庄园).  “Baiwan” means Millionaire, so this is the home of the Millionaire Kang family.  Considering that they lived hundreds of years ago, that’s a pretty big claim!  

 

The family originated with Kang Ying-Kui in the Ming Dynasty, and its fame lasted more than 400 years (that’s 13 generations!).  According to a monument inside, the family was famous not only for its wealth, but also for its honor. The monument is a plaque written by an emperor honoring the Kangs for having 8 generations of “good, noble, honest sons.”  Apparently, they were loyal, fair, honest, and not corrupt–well worth honoring!

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Kang Ying-Kui came to fame by suppressing Bailianism (a so-called the White Lotus Religion– mixed Buddhism with Taoism and worshipped a goddess Wusheng Laomu).  The group didn’t fit in with the accepted religions of the time and allowed men and women to “interact in a shockingly free manner.” 😛 (Apparently they brought a bunch of “groups” together and were a threat of rebellion.  Anyway,  the Kangs were really fashionable and already pretty rich from their own business (river transportation and agricultural products).  There was some sort of phrase like “if you travel 1000 miles you’ll still be on Kang property).  This brought them to the notice of the royal family who helped raise them up even further. 

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Inside, there are 19 different parts and about 65,000 square meters.  There are 53 multi-story buildings, 97 “bungalows,” 73 cave homes, and approximately 570 rooms in total.  It was built in the 17th – 18th centuries (1600s-1700s), and the architecture is in the form of the North China “Loess plateau” style.  Basically, that means it was in the era’s feudalistic form (many small buildings with hundreds of carvings and art in the wooden, brick, and stone beams.  It follow strict formality and traditionalism–“building face the street, ports on the river, cave dwellings in the mountains–everything according to its place and order.” In the 1960s and 1970s, their home was one of the 3 largest in China–today it’s the only one of the three that is open to the public. 

Admissions: 30RMB (about $4.50)

Anyone 60 years or older get 1/2 their tickets (I think?).  People 70 years or older aree free.  Full time students can have 1/2 price and children under 1.4 meters are free. People with disability cards are free, as are servicemen and disabled veterans. 

Opening hours: 8:00-18:30

Transportation
2. Take NO.11 bus in Gongyi city to terminal station (1 Yuan) and then transfer to Kangdian town by minibus (1 Yuan).
 
Website: Here

Gongyi Grottos

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Fabulous! The Gongyi Grottos is a Buddhist temple created around the Northern Wei period of 479-499 AD.  The statues though are as old as 384 – around the 600s AD.  There is the nearby Longmen Grottos in Luoyang, but the Gongyi set is somewhat more well preserved (although not quite so large). 

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To be honest, a lot of the younger people were quickly bored here — but as a historian and cultural student, I found the place truly fascinating.  They have one very elaborate, colored and painted temple area with a tall statue surrounding by the various Buddhist deities on either side.  All set in beautiful painted depictions of myths and stories. 

 

All in all, it was a lovely day full of awesome art, history, and culture. My favorite kind of trip!

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