Bye bye Beijing…

July 1, 2011.  End of the road.  What an adsventure it’s been…

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Yangshuo: part 2

After the “grueling” (the girls would call it) karst hike, we went over to the ancient town of Fuli for a few hours to see how silk fans are made.  When in Rome, right?

But probably the nicest thing that happened to us in Yangshuo is that we discovered kayaking and realized the girls are almost old enough for this sport.  Hooray!  A new family sport that gets us onto water.  Cece is bigger and stronger and handled the oar really well, so she and Art were a good team, paddling in sync.  Elle is still a bit too small to handle one, so we deemed her “empress for the day” and I paddled for the two of us (great core workout).  Looking forward to more of this when Elle’s a little older…

And now… I think I’ve come to my last blog post as there’s simply no more time…

At the fan shop in Fuli...

A lesson...

Thumbs up...

Chinese fans...

Cooling off again...

Back in Fuli... this time for kayaking...

Vested...

Just go "that way" for an hour and a half... and stop when you see the 4th water buffalo...

Peace...

Nature...

The empress enjoyed her ride...

Life is beautiful...

Old town...

Farmer's restaurant...

History...

Quilt image 19...

Built in the Qing Dynasty...

Red...

We went through two caves in Yangshuo. This one was the Silver Cave which stretches and winds for a good mile or two. Nice to be in a cool, damp cave on a hot afternoon. Note: the Chinese do a lot with psycodelic lights inside caves...

Cool...

Lots of talk about stalactites and stalagmites...

Cool kids...

Our last street food: chestnuts...

Goodbye Yangshuo...

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Yangshuo: part 1

Yangshuo will likely be the part of our time in China that lingers longest in my heart…

We went because we needed to see the “other” China… and wanted something a little off the beaten path… with no more temples, walls, parks or tourist attractions to drag the girls through.  We totally got it.  A three hour flight to Guilin, then another hour by car and we arrived in Yangshuo.  This is a rock climbers paradise with hundreds/thousands of limestone karsts to climb.  It’s what you see on National Geographic when you catch a slice of “wild China” and we LOVED our time there.  We rafted down the Yu Long River, rode bikes, hiked, then more rafting, and even kayaking down the bigger Li River… explored a couple of caves, and swam in the river.  Plus massages!  (Cece had her first massage!  A 30 minute kid version.)  It was a magical week for us, and exactly what we needed after all these urban months in China.  We even saw stars in the night sky for the first time since leaving California…

Arriving at the Yangshuo Mountain Retreat...

The Yu Long River...

Art and Elle in the lead...

You can see how we immediately relaxed...

I don't think the girls believed us until we were there...

Water buffalo cooling off...

The "eco-hotel" where we stayed... on the river about 10km from the town of Yangshuo...

Riding bikes... (click to enlarge and you'll see Art and the girls)...

You can see the humidity...

Moon hill...

Oh I wish it would rain...

Lush...

The town of Yangshuo...

The Karst Cafe... (best not to go to Yangshuo if signs like this don't appeal to you)

Take it easy...

Lazy afternoons...

The famous Yangshuo light show (600 dancers, on the water, surrounded by karsts). The show was created by Chinese director Zhang Yimou, who also created the opening ceremony of the 2008 olympics...

Lunch break. Yes, we let our kids do this. Frequently while traveling...

A different ride down the larger Li River, on a raft made out of PVC pipe...

Rafting with the Gerstl/Pepin family who were also in Yangshuo...

This goes on...

For hours...

Cormorants used for fishing...

Rafting fun...

Island girl...

Cooling off...

Along the road as we watched for the trailhead...

Country life...

This hike was exhilarating. Though the girls would describe it differently...

So quiet...

This land is her land...

Hikers paradise...

Ran into some of these guys...

We made it out...

Cushion covers in the sun...

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Water Cube

June 30.  11:45pm.  And we’re packing for our flight home.  Scrambling.  So much remains unsaid and unposted here.  Will try to get a few more things up before the van arrives tomorrow afternoon to take us to the airport… including notes and pix from our time in Yangshuo last week.

Earlier this week the girls had their last play date in China: a trip to the Water Cube. Remember… the place where Michael Phelps won all those gold medals at the 2008 Olympics.  It’s been transformed into an indoor water park.  We had to do it once, and the girls had a blast…

Just to note, the Water Cube sits just across the parking lot from the Bird’s Nest, the 2008 Olympic stadium, designed by the “dissident Chinese artist” Ai WeiWei.  Mr. Ai was held in jail for 3 of the 5 months we’ve been in China.  He was released last week…

Last play date in Beijing: Cece, Annie, Jasmine, Karen, Elle and Celine

The Water Cube...

Again...

Nearing the end of our marathon...

Future olympians...

Only Art...

Where Michael Phelps made history, winning 8 gold medals...

The aquatic center portion of the cube...

Pure China style...

Elle...

Peach...

Fun (but maybe more fun if it were in open air...)

Cece, you did it!

Friends...

Celine and Elle... they've been so good for each other...

Cece loved dancing to the tsunami...

Safe?

Art rode the radical slide. Naturally...

Just swim. Just swim. Go on with your story… (D. Roshi)

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798

One of the most energizing areas of Beijing is the 798 Art District.  Like many of the best things in Beijing, it’s far from where we live (too far), and I didn’t get enough time there. Lesson learned.  Next time we live in Beijing, we’ll make a point to live closer to it…

Over the last 10 years, the 798 district has taken over an area of the city where 60 years ago communist military factories were cranking it out in Beijing.  Most of the factories were built as cooperative projects between the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic… and it’s quite refreshing now to see them in use as creative spaces.  In block after block of great old buildings of form and function are hundreds of galleries, studios and living spaces.  Art and I hit 6 or 7 of the galleries on this day, most notably the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Galleria Continua, and MR Gallery.  Thrilled to feel something different than the vibe I often feel in China which is actually a sort of non-vibe.  An absence of yearning

My favorite work was in Swiss painter/sculptor Not Vital’s show Full On.  Haunting gauzy-blurry self portraits (at the Ullens).  The one or two examples of his paintings from this show that I can find online do no justice to the sum. Who is this man?

Also liked South African artist Kendell Geers’ show Fin de Partie.  And then, because it strikes my heart… the photographs of archives of Chinese orphans by Jiang Jian.

A few snapshots, mostly as we wandered outside…

798 man...

Why does the mere presence of grafitti make me so happy?

Life...

Art walks through art. Multimedia work by Chinese artist Li Hui...

Made in China...

Tongue in the Ullen's lobby...

The artist life...

In repurposed factory space...

My space...

More great space...

Helmet man...

Look...

Alley life...

Pork...

Geers 1

Geers 2

Geers 3

We went from Geers' show...

To Jiang Jian's...

Jiang Jian 1

Jiang Jian 2

Jiang Jian 3

Jiang Jian 4

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Sundays with Art

Everyone should know by now that Art is endless, inexhaustible energy… wanting to do and go and see and listen and question All. The. Time.  His enthusiasm is infectious, and we love him like crazy for it.  Though I have to admit, at this point, he’s wearing us down a bit…

Still.  I’m glad we’ve not wasted a minute of our time here in China.  There’s always something to see, and Art always makes sure we’ve got an itinerary.  One Sunday in May (the day after the international festival at the girls’ school) we covered both the hills of Jingshan Park (where the last Ming emperor hanged himself on a tree) and the imperial garden and lake of Beihai Park… then rounded out the day over by Houhai Lake tracking down Hutong Pizza.  A walnut & brie salad waiting for me at the end of a long weekend. Coincidence or bribe?

I continue to look up...

A rock show at Jingshan Park on this day...

Art prefers to get right down to business...

From a high point in the park, looking into the backside of the Forbidden City (note: you can also see the top of the "Egg" shining at about 2 o'clock)...

Photo by Cece...

The Chinese are really fond of making the peace sign (constantly) in photos. I've grown so tired of it...

At times so endearingly sweet together...

... that I forget how much they fight...

Bamboo, yellow glaze and pretty girl in matching dress...

Market man...

Dry goods...

More...

Likely the last paintwork picture I'll post on this blog...

OK... just one more...

Doubles...

Old drainage tile in wall...

Another...

On the wall near the White Dagoba...

The White Dagoba. A "dagoba" is a Tibetan style "pagoda"...

Deities...

She was here...

The captain has found another boat...

Sweet little lake for a Sunday afternoon. That's the white dagoba/pagoda in the distance...

My quiet Daisy Jane...

Finally... we are heading to dinner...

I am more in love than ever with Chinese food. But when we find a place like this, I can't help myself...

Best pizza in Beijing every year for at least the last 6 years...and...

Tomorrow I will eat cabbage. On this day: brie...

Hutong mailbox... because I know you're as interested in these kinds of things as I...

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Forbidden City

[Still scrambling to finish this blog before we leave.  This is from a month ago...]

In a city of more than 20 million, it’s unlikely to run into someone you know from home, but on the Sunday morning after we saw Tosca, that’s exactly what happened.  As we were passing through the second gate at the Forbidden City we heard calls from behind from my colleague Keith and his wife Karen.  You know.  My colleague from California. Unbelievable.  I knew they were in Beijing as we’d intentionally seen them earlier in the week.  But what were the chances we’d bump into them again among the hundreds (thousands?) of people filing into one of the biggest tourist attractions in one of the most crowded cities in the world?  Wild.

The Forbidden City (essentially a series of palaces) is a “must see” if you are passing through Beijing.  It’s impressive because it’s so big, though mostly what Cece and I were thinking is: oh my God, this place goes on forever.  About 180 acres worth of forever.  24 different emperors lived there over the course of two dynasties (Ming and Qing), until China’s last emperor, Emperor Puyi, was overthrown in the early 1900′s.  It had a major facelift just before the 2008 Olympics, with lots of new paint, a little sandblasting here and there, plus the permanent removal of Starbucks from inside the “city.”  Someone on the Olympic oversight committee apparently realized the conflict of having that notable American symbol inside of one of Beijing’s most iconic spots.  Anyway.  By the day of our visit, I’d grown tired of taking pictures, plus I needed to chat and catch up with Karen. And so, if only for the sake of noting “we were there,” here are a few pix from our visit…

Vivid morning at the entrance to the Forbidden City. This is just across the boulevard from Tiananmen Square. (note: the girls now recognize Mao everywhere...)

With Keith and Karen Roberts...

First big plaza. After this one, the "city" continues on, and on, and on...

One of my favorite images from 2005 is a picture of Cece and Hannah Winslow in just about the same spot. And now, Cece and Elle together...

Glazed animals on roofs. I actually never tire of this...

Cece and turtle...

In spite of how crowded it was at the entrance, once inside, there's this: a spot with hardly anyone around...

Favored animals from Chinese myths (phoenix, dragon, lion, sea horse, etc); meant to bring luck. The number of animals on a roof reflects the seniority of the person in the building...

Throne inside the Hall of Supreme Harmony...

Glazed wall...

Old wood...

For a series of palaces with nearly 1,000 rooms, the emperor's living quarters were fairly spartan...

Another interior shot (taken through a smoky window; no one is actually inside any of living areas)...

Fam shot...

Another glazed wall...

Empresses...

Looking for an escape...

Elle never tires... (note those big brass bolt heads on the doors; in the Forbidden City they are always in 9 rows of 9; a lucky number)

So serious...

A change of hat on our way out...

Art has plans for us to hit the Forbidden City again this week, for another “quick” pass through (ha!) and to see the Hall of Clocks and a few other buildings we didn’t get to…

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