Monday, November 28, 2011

Beijing The Great Wall

You know how there are things that you say, “Someday I’ll do that” or “Someday I’ll go there.” The great wonders of the world, the home of someone famous-- things that are far away and on the edge of being too hard to believe that they would really actually happen to you in your life. I realized in the little grey van that weaved in and out of Beijing traffic that I was heading to the Great Wall of China and that today it wasn’t “someday” anymore it was TODAY, November 5, 2011 that I would hike the Great Wall of China. The wall that can be seen from space. The wall that was in all those travel channel films we watched in Mr. Earlings’ 9th grade Geography and World Civilization class. The movies that I was glued to the screen for the entire 80 minutes while the rest of the class spent the time hiding their cell phones up their sleeves so the teacher wouldn’t see the light of their text messages. The same Great Wall that’s on all those postcards, calendars, T-shirts, Chinese scrolls, along the edges of chopsticks. It’s strange to be in a place where when you ask people if they’ve seen the Great Wall and they answer “Of course.” It’s a “scenic spot,” as our tour guide Lee called it, a spot nearby that the locals move and live around. Kind of weird.

This is us with Lee, our tour guide. She is awesome and afraid of heights, which isn't the ideal fear to have when you have to take tour groups up the Great Wall.

We started the hike on a dirt path in a tiny Chinese village. After an hour of hiking we got to the unrestored section of the Great Wall. You can only walk on these parts if you do a private tour, which is what we did. It was a lot of rocks and old towers and very pretty. Lee was impressed that I knew that they used rice mortar between the bricks when they built the wall. You would be surprised the ways rice can be used haha.

Here’s us at the beginning of the hike, not yet to the restored section

Then the unrestored section

In one of the towers, we found a group of Chinese tourists cooking noodles over a kerosene lamp. I think you can do tours where you hike the wall for a few days--sleep on it and everything. They must have been doing something like that. We also ran into three guys from Salt Lake City. Weird to meet fellow Utahns on the Great Wall.

This is the restored part

Painters on the wall

I loved this plaque at the end of the hike

After five hours of hiking on the wall we were happy that this was the way to get off the wall: Tobogganing. The signs made it clear that this is "an adventure sport" and that using an umbrella during the ride may cause injury to the passenger or fellow passengers--we're not sure which. It was also unfortunate that they have guards posted every 2 feet or so, so playing bumper cars with your roommate in front of you isn't the best decision.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


Being in China has given me a few more things that I’m thankful for this Thanksgiving.

Chinese Children



My roommate Dayna

Livre de Mormon (63% of the way done)


The Dayna and Ashley Playlist

Warm running weather

Street Market Noodles

Baby Bums (pictured below)

English to Mandarin Dictionary (I have no idea how to say those words I just point to the Chinese character..... which has come in handy many times)

Yogurt Milk (also pictured below) I could probably drink a carton a day

Squatters (yes, I will miss mine)

Being a celebrity everywhere. I love attention.

My Kindle

My new SLR camera

Pictures of Ginny and Home

Family and amazing friends

Traveling through China…..going to Xi’an tomorrow!

Living in China

P.S. You have no idea how hard getting baby bum pictures turned out to be.

Diapers aren't a commonly used item in China. So baby pants have big slits up the back so they can squat wherever they are. This is a common site:

Both these pictures were taken during the two hours we spent at the Nanjing Zoo. I am impressed with these mothers, though, who are very in touch with their baby's bodies. I don't think American mothers would be able to pull this off without training haha

Happy Thanksgiving!

It was kind of strange today--Thanksgiving Day-- to be in a cafeteria eating rice with Chinese teachers instead of cutting celery for crab salad or sitting at the kitchen counter smelling bubbling pecan filling and watching pie crusts so they don’t burn in the oven. Even though the food wasn’t too bad today, chow mein for dinner, for some reason it just didn’t feel like Thanksgiving.

But, I actually already had Thanksgiving last weekend! When I went to Nanjing a couple weeks ago, the Nanjing branch announced that they were having a Thanksgiving Dinner. Which sounded glorious. We technically aren’t in the Nanjing Branch but I got the email address of the Relief Society and so you better bet that I emailed her and we invited ourselves to the party. They were happy to have us—they even said that they had all the food covered so we didn’t have to bring anything. (We weren’t sure what we would have brought because Changzhou supermarkets don’t have a lot of “Thanksgiving” ingredients)

The main question that we debated all week was if they would have real turkey there. You can imagine our happiness when we saw a whole row of (the above pictured) turkey! There were a few other delightful surprises:

And you know that because this was hosted by Mormons there had to be green jello.

My favorite part of the green jello was the BYU spoon sticking out of it. Sometimes home feels really close even in China when I see things like this.

And of course BYU Brownies….

Where people found ingredients for these in China, I have no idea. Miracles happen that’s for sure. They didn’t taste quite like they do at home but they were pretty close. I was impressed.

Everything was so yummy. Especially the turkey. Even if the head was still attached when they brought them in. Yes, I am still in China.

Proof I can use Chopsticks

For some reason my family had no idea I was eating every meal with chopsticks. I think I’ve used a fork twice in the last three months.

I only have one month left in China. It’s kind of crazy. I will be home after 4 more Fridays. One math-minded girl in our group calculated that we only have 51 more bowls of rice left to eat.

Good news! I was able to change my flight so that I’m now going to Hong Kong for 4 ½ days! I can’t wait. We’re going to Hong Kong Disneyland and the Temple! I’ll be flying home December 23, so everyone pray that the weather will be good and my flights won’t be delayed and I’ll make it home for Christmas.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Time Shall Come

It’s been hard with all the traveling I’ve been doing on weekends to try to get caught up with General Conference. And every time I have time to watch some of it, the internet won’t cooperate-- it’s really annoying. But my favorite talk so far has been Elder L. Whitney Clayton’s talk during the Saturday morning conference. It’s beautiful. I think I loved it so much because the promises that he talk about in this talk are things that have suddenly become part of my life living in China. It’s been very different living in a country that doesn’t have the church. It takes a lot of work and a lot of travel to be able to go to a branch here and the branches are only for foreigners. I’ve thought a lot about what it’s like to live somewhere where there are rules against attending churches and there’s barriers against beliefs. I know that China will open up one day, even if it seems impossible right now. There are thousands of good people here who are ready. I think this talk was so powerful to me because I listened to it while sitting in a country that isn’t open to the gospel yet—there are thousands of miles of country with millions of people who are barred from having the fulness of the gospel right now. People who can’t get married in the temple or have the blessings of the priesthood in their home yet. To think that one day EVERY “nation, kindred, and tongue” will have these blessings in their lives is an incredible promise. I love that President Whitney says “Every year the Church spreads farther and farther across the globe. . . This work of the Lord is indeed great and marvelous, but it moves forward essentially unnoticed by many of mankind’s political, cultural, and academic leaders. It progresses one heart and one family at a time, silently and unobtrusively, its sacred message blessing people everywhere.”

Someone told me once that they didn’t think that the church was ready yet for China to open up. Our entire missionary force would be swallowed up in China alone and it probably wouldn’t even cover the whole country. I believe there’s some truth to that. There is a field ready to harvest in China. The church will spread like wildfire here. The Chinese people have taken care of me the entire time I’ve been here, everywhere I go. They stop to point directions and write addresses for me in Chinese characters, they ask me why I’m here and how I like China. Our tour guide of for the Great Wall told us, “You picked the right country” when we were telling her about why we are here. They are kind and respectful and loyal. Two girls on a train to Nanjing tried to give Dayna and me bracelets they had just bought from their weekend trip. One couple in Suzhou stopped us when we were walking down the street just to see if we needed help finding somewhere to eat. One boy ignored the bus he needed to get on so that we could use his cell phone to get directions. There are good, good people here.

I loved how President Clayton ended the talk, “I testify that Jesus Christ is the Savior, and with you, I stand in awe as this work moves forward miraculously, marvelously, and irresistibly. Indeed, “the time [has] come when the knowledge of a Savior … spread[s] throughout every nation, kindred, tongue, and people.” I bear testimony of Him, the Savior of all mankind, and of this work.”

I hope I will have the chance to see China open up in my lifetime. It seems impossible now but I will “stand in awe” like President Clayton if I get to see the blessings of the gospel come to the people of China.

President Gordon B. Hinckley observed:

“It was said that at one time the sun never set on the British Empire. That empire has now been diminished. But it is true that the sun never sets on this work of the Lord as it is touching the lives of people across the earth.

“And this is only the beginning. We have scarcely scratched the surface. … Our work knows no boundaries. … Those nations now closed to us will someday be open.”

Beijing Part One

Getting to Beijing was lots of hours on a train. We only had four days and so we had to travel overnight to get there. We left at 9:30pm and loaded this nice train (4 "beds" for 6 girls) and arrived in Beijing at 7:30 am the next day. It was actually a good way to travel. We were tired but I was so excited to be in Beijing that it was worth it. (I have no idea what we were all laughing about when we took this picture sorry)

This is us right after we got off the train. A little tired and cold but very excited to be in Beijing!
Our first stop was Tian'an Men Square, which was a five minute walk from our hostel. It was Dayna's 2nd time here and she was excited to see everything again and take us around.
Tian'an Men Square has a lot of history. There have been several student protests. In 1989 hundreds of people were killed.

Our first stop was the Mao Mausoleum. This is where the embalmed body of Mao Zedong is on display for the public. It was kind of a strange experience waiting in that line of Chinese people, most of them with flowers to show their respect, and walking through the silent building to see Mao's dead body. His face was glowing because they shine a red light on it and his skin looks waxy. They don't let you take any cameras in so I don't have any pictures, sorry.

This is the Monument to the People's Heroes. It's a monument for China's revolutionary history. We spent a lot of time in front of this monument because groups of Chinese tourists kept coming up to us wanting pictures with us. Sometimes I feel like I'm a monument too with how many people want to take pictures with me.

When we finally escaped our celebrity photo shot we went over to see the Great Hall of the People which is the seat of the Chinese legislature.

Right across the street is the Forbidden City, which is the where the Old Emperors of China lived. This is the entrance.
It took us awhile to get into the Forbidden City because of the amount of Chinese people who wanted pictures with us at the entrance haha They were really funny though. I think these were my favorite people, especially the man on my left. He kept making faces.
The Forbidden City is really beautiful. It's kind of amazing to think how old these buildings are and to think that all those Emperors of the Dynasties lived here.
It is also really huge!

I got a little distracted at one point and started taking pictures of monks who were standing near me. I love this monk with his sunglasses on his head. The monks figured out that I was taking pictures of them and not the buildings (it's harder to be a good stalker with my big camera now, it's a little less subtle you know.... ) The monks started pointing at me and watching me so this was the only good shot I was able to get without them laughing at me.

The next morning we went to the Summer Palace. This was where the Emperor went during the Summer when it was too hot to be at the Forbidden City. I thought the Forbidden City was big....the Summer Palace is beautiful. This was our first glimpse, literally four steps in:
It is full of big decorated gates, we stopped for posing for pictures at each one after awhile. Here's one of our model shots:
Cool Pagodas

And the big beautiful Lake in the middle of the gardens. This is the famous seventeen arch bridge that connects an island to the mainland. It has seventeen arches because when the Emperor stood in the middle there was always nine arches in both directions and the number nine is the lucky number for royalty.
We also had to do our Chinese photo-taking duty on the bridge. This guy was hilarious. I really love his winged bangs haha

Dayna got a little romantic with our Chinese friend…..just kidding. Just an awkward picture.