The Big Blue Continues!

Beijing has broken a 60 year record for having no snow this winter, a phenomenon that has not happened since 1951. I can hardly believe that everyday I have been here I have seen the blue sky, and the weather is suppose to warm up slightly next week. The warmer weather will be great for all the outdoor festivals Mark and I will be attending the next week.

Hong Boa

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Aren’t these little envelopes the cutest things you have ever seen. Red envelopes of cash to give as gifts to children and employees.

The practice is thought to originate in the Qing Dynasty when coins on red strings were used to ward off evil spirits. It is important that the cash value does not include the number four. Safe amounts are 88, 168, 800.

It was fun filling some envelopes to give to my cleaning girl, Grace at the front desk, and some of my favorite security guards. Will have to get pictures to show my new friends.

Open the windows

Another superstition is to open my windows, so any spirits lurking indoors will be pushed out. Actually Mark and I have been sleeping with our bedroom windows slightly open as sleeping in 78′ heat is just too warm. I might have to keep a few lights on to scare away the malignant spirits like the Nian Monster…

My cleaning girl Xia Man advised me on the corrections needed for my CNY decorations. I had two of the paper cut out decorations on the family room window, and she said only one should stay so I moved one to the bedroom. The little rabbits should be hung on the window, so we moved them there, and little children could be added so I bought a couple today.

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This rabbit I had on a lower shelf, needed to be up high near a door. So we moved it to my front hallway.

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Here are a few pictures from the apartment lobby.

It is the year of the rabbit (Jin nian shi tu nian)

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Rabbits (tu zi) hanging on the trees.

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Many royal children, big and small.

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Update:

School went well. Learned days of the week, (would have been more fun learning them to a song), month, year. Looking forward to my week of vacation.

The lights around Beijing

Last night Mark and I walked down to Solana (our local mall) to eat and see the lights. We were going for Mexican but the restaurant was booked for a party, so we had Greek instead which tasted good.

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This turtle giggles and sings when you move in front of it.

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This fountain runs year round, so you can see the hill of ice behind me.

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The lights on lucky street.

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It was an enjoyable night to walk around as it wasn’t windy, but still very cold.

This morning Mark and I went to church, or should I say a huge auditorium in a hotel building. We joined in with the congregation of around 2,000 foreigners for the Celebration Service in English. As an international church in China, the local authorities have given permission for foreign photo ID holders only to attend, one of 18 congregations, in nine languages at three locations across the city.

It was an amazing experience for me and one I plan to continue. Most of the 90 minute service was singing which I just loved. I have missed singing in church and in my classroom while in China. The words were displayed on a huge screen so easy to join in, and sing along with  guitar and drum accompanists. The songs were folk Christian songs with great rhythm, clapping and some body movement. They even sang “Jesus Loves Me” with the chorus in Chinese, which was so fun to sing. My next project is to memorize the chorus and sing it when I get home. Next a minister gave a sermon on a couple different Bible verses, which was thought provoking.  Unfortunately Mark and I had to rush out when it was over to meet a couple colleagues for lunch, so next time we will stay and visit and check out all the BCIF 21st Century has to offer.

Our lunch at my favorite Italian Restaurant was superb. We actually just sat and talked and could not believe that 3 hours had passed. Next we joined the gym which has an amazing pool and then we picked up a few groceries and walked home. A full day, I love Beijing!!

More Chinese New Year Superstitions

Bad luck Chinese New Year Superstitions:
Buying a pair of shoes is considered bad luck amongst some Chinese. The word “shoes” is a homophone for the word for “rough” in Cantonese, or “evil” in Mandarin.

I am not planning on buying a pair of shoes since I just got a new pair of “red” boots while in Australia. I ordered them while I was there and just received them. Red symbolizes flames, which will scare the evil away. Traditionally, people wore red shoes, but today it is underwear.

P1000179I am all set to scare away the evil spirits.

The Nian monster tells the story of the origin of the festival. The fearsome Nianshou is a mythical beast who has a taste for human flesh. Nian, also a homonym for “year”, used to roam wild at the start of spring, terrorizing villages and devouring townsfolk. (Reminds me of the story of Abiyoyo) One year, an old man fought off the creature with firecrackers, loud drums, bright lights and red banners. That old man set the CNY stage for a millennia to come.

I am ready to jump into the tradition, with my new red boots, will have to buy some red clothes, watch some fireworks, and embrace 15 days of the loudest, wildest cultural festival on Earth. I don’t know if it can get as loud as it was in Changzhi when the guards were setting off what seemed to be sticks of dynamite (huge huge firecrackers) at 7:00 in the morning. Will let you know.

Rabbits in my apartment

Some of the following decorations I purchased from a small local store. The big rabbits were given to Mark and I by the building management.

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At the local flower market baby bunnies of many varieties are sold year round. Since it is year of the rabbit, lots more rabbits are being sold as pets. One lady said last year she sold about 10 a week, this year between 20 and 30 a day.

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Mark brought this bunny piggy bank back for me from Changzhi, as one night he ate at the local “Dicos” chicken restaurant.  It is so cute when you put a coin in the back it giggles and says “I love you” in English.

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Everything you always wanted to know about the Chinese New Year, but were afraid to ask.

It might be difficult to get through Chinese New Year (CYN) without getting nagged by someone for breaking a superstition. I have learned that Chinese people are very superstitious, so here are a few.

Snip snip: According to tradition, you should not get your hair cut during the first lunar month. You’d cut away your good luck for the year and put a curse on your maternal uncles.  Washing your hair is also considered washing away your good luck. I wonder can I go a month without washing my hair?!?!?!

Brand new threads: Wearing newly bought clothes raises spirits and adds to the festive atmosphere, but don’t wear black or white, black is a symbol of bad luck and white is the traditional Funeral color.

Watch your tongue: Trash talk takes on evil connotations during CNY. Speak badly during this period and it will haunt you for the year ahead.

Clean house: A new year means a new start. Having a good sweep-out rids your home of evil spirits, just don’t do it on the first day or you will sweep away all your good  fortune or luck.

Will write more tomorrow.

School update:

Today I had a great conversation with the cabbie, asked his name, family name, how many children, was he cold, hungry, tired, thirsty, did he like Beijing, told him my cell phone number, where the building was. He was probably ready for a break when I got out of the cab.

Then I was the only student in the class for the first 40 minutes.  Nervous Nelly I was. She tested me on some numbers up to 1,000 and only made one mistake, so then we practiced some dialogue and then the Mexican couple showed up. Class got a little easier. I am ready for the weekend.

Year of the Rabbit

Zodiac gift items available at the Gallery Shop

1915, 1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999

People born in the Year of the Rabbit are articulate, talented, and ambitious. They are virtuous, reserved, and have excellent taste. Rabbit people are admired, trusted, and are often financially lucky. They are fond of gossip but are tactful and generally kind. Rabbit people seldom lose their temper. They are clever at business and being conscientious, never back out of a contract. They would make good gamblers for they have the uncanny gift of choosing the right thing. However, they seldom gamble, as they are conservative and wise. They are most compatible with those born in the years of the Sheep, Pig, and Dog.

Next week will be the start of the Chinese New Year (Spring Festival) which will continue for 2 weeks. The actual day is Feb. 3rd, which is determined by the lunar calendar. This is the only vacation for many people and almost all the migrants who come to Beijing to work, so the city is being cleared out as they go home to visit with family. People stand in lines at the train station for days trying to get tickets for the overcrowded trains and by the time they reach the window the train might be sold out/ so many disappointed  faces.

Mark and I will stay in Beijing and do some exploring since the crowds will be gone. He gets the week off and I get the week off of school so a real vacation for us.

So for the next week I will show pictures of decorations in my apartment and around town and will let you know of some of the traditions that take place around the Spring Festival.


My dish dryer

I miss my dishwasher. In China it is rare to find an apartment with a dishwasher, as most people who can afford to live in a nice apartment have hired help to do the dishes. I had a dishwasher in Changzhi because Mark and Simon outfitted the apartment and made sure we put one in.  What I have learned is they have a sterilizer in the kitchen to clean the dishes. David showed me how to use it, so I have put it to work the last few days since I have actually been doing some cooking.

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I wash the dishes and put them on one of the two small drawers.

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When it is full, I push the button and in two hours they are clean, dry and sterilized.  The other two functions are to freeze items, or sterilize  fruit. Hard to believe this machine can do both , so will give it a try another day.

School update:

I asked the cab driver his name, and he answered me. He asked where I was from, and I said Canadian living in US :) Got out of the cab feeling pretty good. Actually did well in class as it was mostly review and Grace and I worked on that vocabulary for almost an hour yesterday. She is very thorough as she makes me do every exercise in the workbook. Today learned how to say NOW I am hungry.  “Wo  e  (the sound of getting punched in the stomach) le.Sentence Wo e le.

I mentioned the sentence to Grace when I got back and she understood, so having a good day today!

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Piano stairs

I just discovered these steps in the building next door to the office building that houses my Chinese classes. It was fun to watch the young girl play on the steps.

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Seeing these balloons on the way to class in the mornings, just puts me in a happy mood.

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I do miss having a car here and all the independence that offers (although I would not want to drive in this traffic), but the best part is that I never have to get into a cold car. Getting in a warm taxi on a freezing cold day feels great. I haven’t had to get into a cold car, or scape a windshield in weeks.

I have noticed how much quieter it is in our apartment as compared to our place in Changzhi. I remember standing in the kitchen and talking to Laura on the phone and her thinking I was standing outside. Part of the reason is much better windows, and not residing on a main street. I just recently noticed the loud tick of the clock that we have in our kitchen, never heard it in Changzhi, but I can hear it at the other end of our family room. I like the quiet.

Mom and dad are famous

Patricia and Tom had a photo booth at their wedding reception. All the guests were able to dress up and get their pictures taken, so Trish and Tom would remember who attended their special day. Last Saturday Laura and Trish went to a bridal show as Laura is thinking of having the same booth for her wedding. Imagine their surprise when they saw a picture of grandpa and grandma (my folks) on the advertisement. The gal said they have so many people commenting on their “cute” photo that they are going to enlarge it. I checked out their web site and there they are with Trish and Tom  beside them. When mom sees this she is going to be so surprised.

P1000163Not the best photo as I took it on the computer screen, but you get the idea. For a better look google: Rockstar Girlfriend Photo Booth.

Update:

Yesterday I went for a manicure and pedicure which means I was there for way over 2 hours, so lots of time to practice. It actually was quite fun as I know the girls, and out of the 3 one spoke a little English. I could tell right away when I was saying something  incorrectly as no one would answer me. With a slight correction of my pronunciation, I received some answers. Needless to say there were lots of laughs with Mark asking  a few times what were we talking about. I also wanted my fingernails to be painted red, but she said “No” when I asked. She thought they looked too pretty with just a clear coat on. I don’t think that would happen at home.

Got up early this morning to go to a local restaurant to watch one of the NFL football playoff games. At home it would have been Sunday afternoon, but here 7:00am, so instead of eating pizza, the bacon and eggs tasted good. Lucky for me the school is only a 20 minute walk from the restaurant, so I had to leave at half time to be on time. Congrats to Pittsburgh !

In class we were talking about family members and I wondered what I said when everyone started laughing. There are 2 different ways to say husband, of which I am more familiar of the one. So I thought I was saying I had 3 classmates, but what I said was that I had 3 husbands. Lots to learn yet, but feeling more comfortable in the class with what were we talking about. When I  got home I asked the apartment cleaning lady her name and she answered me :)

Foot print in the dust!

The  other morning Mark stepped out on our balcony!

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Update,

Mark and I enjoyed a delicious dinner at a Japanese Restaurant.  The friend that was suppose to meet us had to stay at work late, so I just brought out my school book and asked our server who spoke some English a few  questions. She was more than happy to help, and even gave me her phone number to call if I had some questions.

Today off for a manicure and a pedicure so going to take my book again and practice.