Tuesday, October 23, 2007

chinas different

no kidding, right? but, i mean really different. sure, theres a subway and cars and we stayed at a 5 star hotel and ate at fantastic restaurants, but its just way different than what i had imagined. beijing is a fast paced ginormous city with lights and shopping and way too many people without the illusion of 'clean' that some american cities manage to have. i had a great time with an uneventful flight, (with the exception of the person next to me taking pills to help her fly that she seemed unwilling to share or even discuss) great friends, worlds best tour guide, ming li and a nice driver we named joe. we shopped and sight saw from 8 am-11:30 pm every day and became down right experts at handling our time sans children and husbands. there are a lot of highlights from this weekend but i will keep it to a few notables::

1. china is a communist country (this is for people like tricia who i know dont have time for real news in their life). this is a fact that is easy to overlook until you realize that amid all of the stores you can shop at, there is not a book store or even book in sight anywhere. or magazines or newspapers with the exception of one paper monitored by the government that very few people were reading. they have limited access to the internet and ours in the hotel was conveniently not working while we were there. on our tour of tienanmen square, we were given a brief history of the communist regime, how its the largest square in the world, how many celebrations are there..blah blah blah. what i, in my admitted naivety was waiting for was a brief mention of what the rest of the free world immediately thinks of when we hear 'tienanmen square'. can you say heart wrenching image of young man standing in front of a tank?? since ming li, who is university educated and in her mid 30's didnt volunteer the information, i asked. her answer was astonishing. those students willing to die for democracy were in fact paid pawns by an opposing political party to disrupt the communist government. i guess what she said next was what i found most surprising...the image of the young man and the tank that has been permanently seared into millions of minds (mine at the tender age of 12) has never been seen by ming li. nope. not a snapshot, not a tv clip, nothing. she has NEVER seen it according to her. without that one conversation, i could have almost forgotten where i was visiting and the power and control that the chinese people live under.

2. we have great toilets in america. if you have never experienced a squatty potty, you have truly never lived. i experienced only one, as i was more than willing to take my chances with a bladder infection rather than risk peeing on myself, my jeans or standing in the filth generously left by those before me. suffice it to say, it was worth hiking the great wall preoccupied with the thought of needing to pee if it spared me from the squatty potty that i could smell 100 yards away. enough said.

3. chinese acrobats are cooler than cirque de solei. if you are triple jointed, 85 pounds, and missing enough vertebrae in your back to bend in highly unnatural ways, you may have a future in chinese acrobatics. truly on the edge of your seat amazing. you cannot go to beijing and not see the show. it was second only to the great wall and my burberry cashmere scarf. :)

4. shopping in china is like a crash course in the art of arguing with a splash of bull s*** and a heap of patience. let me splain...picture a 5 story home depot with 8 aisles across no wider than a grocery store aisle lined on each side with craft fair size stalls. the upside is that instead of americana crafts and porcelain dolls, you have stalls of cashmere, purses, luggage, northface, rolex, polo, silks, etc. the monotony is that in spite of the overwhelming vastness of the place, it is the same 10-15 items throughout the entire building. the superfun part is that as you attempt to walk down the aisles you are shouted at continually by vendors trying to get you in their stall. they are aggressive and annoying and once you are in their stall, they will maneuver their way in front of you to keep you there for the duration of the negotiating process. im telling you, the only thing worth doing this is the possibility of a northface winter coat for $20 or any number of the other treasures that i was willing to work so hard for. i got some amazing deals, but trust me, it was not without significant effort and patience. this is how the process goes...they shout things like "hey pretty lady, you like coach?" while occasionally grabbing you. fun, i tell you. when they get you in their stall, they ask what you like at which time you act like you like nothing, but you may be willing to negotiate for a particular item. they explain that it is 'best quality' (i heard this everywhere i went, so i began just saying it to them first, hoping to just cut out a few seconds of the dance) and try to get you to name a price. of course, you dont offer a price and make them start the process instead. they type in an outlandishly high price like $230 for the north face, and then because they want to give you 'good deal' will let you buy it for just $160. so you type in the calculator an offer of $15. they say things like "youre killing me" "your crazy" "i make no profit" and on and on and on. so they come down to $140 and continue the arguing for awhile longer until you offer a final price of $20 followed by promptly walking away. at this time, they chase you down, grab your arm and sell the jacket for $20. im telling you, it was no nordstroms. it was work that required some serious patience, but it was at times hilarious and the deals were most definitely worth the effort. there were some particularly amusing stories from these shopping days i may share at a later time, but i think you get the picture.

5. the great wall is better than great. i could easily go back to china and just spend an entire day at the great wall. i took a gondola ride to the top with only a minor panic attack and hiked down late in the afternoon under perfect blue skies and a setting sun. the only thing that would have made it better is if patrick was with me (which since he wasnt and since some of you are wondering why...he checked the great wall box years ago when he was stationed here before and has no desire to return. his exact words were something like, 'no thanks, china just doesnt do anything for me'). its hard to explain it in words that dont sound super cliche and tour guidish. suffice it to say, i think every person who can go should go once in their lifetime. and be sure to use the restrooms at your 5 star hotel, because the great wall squatty pottys are not great at all.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

im not spontaneous

so you can imagine why im having some significant anxiety about my spur of the moment decision to go to china for the weekend with some friends on a major shopping trip, err visit to the great wall. i have lots to post about...a recent day trip to a place called rosary hill (even snapped pics that i will post), a word i wish i hadnt said in front of georgia that she proceeded to repeat no less than 15 times, my manicure that ended up with my nails painted a pink that only beachtime bimbo barbie would be caught dead in and so much more. but, alas, because of my spontaneous decision, i must pack and spend quality time with my better half and peach. when i return (say a prayer that all goes well....i HATE flying) i will post and post and post until im tired of posting and you are way more tired of reading. promise. oh, and i joined a book club. more on that to follow. cheers.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

ahoy matie

do you ever look back at pictures and wonder what pill someone must have slipped you to have made you wear such a ridiculous item? or maybe wished you had invested in a full length mirror sooner? or had married someone just a little more metrosexual so that some fashion input could be trusted?

i really try hard to avoid most fashion trends. i believe most of them to be viable enemies with the skinny jean emerging straight from the depths of hell and the empire waisted shirts being a girl fight waiting to happen...they make everyone look pregnant. i am pretty much a breathing advertisement for all things plain. and brown, grey or black. i avoid prints, stripes and all things floral. im even a bit envious of a new friend who is known for her 'beautiful shirts in gorgeous colors'. who knew even within these strict and boring parameters i could manage to find myself navigating my way through laughable fashion waters.

i had a function the other night and needed something fairly conservative, figure forgiving (i have been living on chips, guac, white rice and wine) and of course somewhat fun as this was an evening out. i started with black pants...my favorite alternative to the almighty denim and then selected a fairly new gray top from a trusted store that will not be named but is named after a fruit and where i am currently living (sort of). anyway, the top has a scoopish neck, blousy 3/4 sleeves and a gathered waist. i grabbed strappy heels, some giant hoops and i was out the door. it was not until i caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror that i had to stop and laugh. i looked like keira knightly in pirates of the carribean sans sharp clavicles, gorgeous hair and waif like figure. basically, the hoops with the top looked just like pirate couture. better half said i did not look a lot like a pirate...right, because i was missing the eye patch and hook, but im telling you, ive got my halloween costume nailed.

im also thinking its not 'ahoy' either...isnt it 'aaargg'....either way, this pirate is ready to sail come october 31st.

Monday, October 01, 2007


i have spent the last few days horrified and haunted. sickened and saddened. outraged and enraged. full of rage if im willing to be honest. i, like most of you have seen the news about the little girl in vegas, who at age 3 had her repeated rapes by a monster videotaped. and i cannot for the life of me stop thinking about her. about her past, about her present, about her future. about the scars, wounds and nightmares that she will carry with her every moment of every day for the rest of her life. about what she must think of men, of God and of herself. how the horror of what has happened to her will be the lens that she sees the rest of her life through. how every experience and every emotion will be tainted by the pain of her past. and i know our God is the great healer. and i know His power and His love can cover and heal her, but it cannot take it away from her and it cannot bring back the child that existed before that day.

my heart is heavy and my stomach is weak as i pray for this little one. and the millions of little ones who are daily victimized in the same way globally and i wonder if it will end. and i wonder if i can do something. anything. i can lift up my prayers to a God who listens, who compassionately hears what i am begging Him for. i can pray for His protection, for His intervention and for His justice. and there will be a day for His justice and there will even be a day for His grace, His mercy and subsequent forgiveness, but for now i want justice for this precious and broken little girl. i want this animal who is still on the loose and on the run to feel hunted and consumed with terrifying fear every second of every minute of every hour of everyday until he is found. i want him to be sick with the anticipation of what his justice will look like and when it will arrive. and i know that we are all capable of being redeemed and that no one is beyond His loving reach, that when He had nails in his hands and feet and blood on his beaten, broken body that it was for all of mankind, for even this man who was created by Him in His image, but i cannot stomach his sin and i cannot see beyond it. i want to have a heart that forgives, that offers grace and mercy and love and extends it all with the hope of being a glimpse of Christ to those who need Him most. but this? i seem to have found where my boundary is. the place where i cannot seem to go any further with this grace that has been given to me. maybe in time, God will soften and change me, make me more like Him, but that day is not today.

today at this moment, i simply desire justice, peace, healing, hope and protection for this angel and for the millions of victims of sexual abuse around the world and up our street. God is here and there and waiting for the moment when we are willing to be His hands and their voice and rescue them from their hell on earth and i am waiting and wondering what i can do besides lift a heartfelt prayer from my knees on behalf of these children from the safety and luxury of my home where i am healthy and secure and comfortably, conveniently removed. or so i think. what i really know to be true is that while this abuse happens in the shadows, there are shadows everywhere and until there is light willing and able to shine and save, it will continue to happen next door and thousands of miles away. and lives will be broken, childhoods lost, lies told, secrets kept and cries ignored until we are all willing to admit we can do something and indifferent is no longer who we are.

the Lord is close to the brokenhearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit-psalms 34:18