Unexpected China

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China always surprises me.  I find the most unexpected things in the country where I’ve been teaching English for the past 9 months.  My life often feels surreal, like I’ve wondered into another universe.  When I was walking by the Songhua River in Jilin Province (northeast), I spotted these giant fake flowers that were left over from the Dragon Festival.  They were near the entrance to the dragon boats.  See more photos and enjoy the serendipity of China with me.

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Amazing Chinese Rooms

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I’ve always loved exploring hotels.  They have endless hallways and so many different types of rooms, nooks, artwork, and cafes.  See various rooms from hotels all over China, like the elegant blue one (above), where you can relax with a cup of tea; and the techno red KTV room (below), where scantily-clothed women will feed you nuts and alcohol while you sing and dance to music.

See more Chinese hotel photos here and explore more rooms.

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Freedom Is Fleeting in Turkey

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I lived and taught English in Turkey for 2.5 years.  I fell in love with that beautiful country and even married a Turkish man.  When the Gezi Park freedom protests began a year ago today, I covered them first-hand, writing articles, taking photos, and uploading videos.  I even got attacked by the Turkish police, and my Turkish husband was tortured by them.  We left Turkey days before police showed up at our old apartment near Istanbul to arrest me for a photo I’d published.

Of all the photos I took in Turkey, this one defined a turning point.  I was in Antalya, watching some high school students march with the Turkish flag even though their Islamist Prime Minister had forbidden any parades.  I stopped being just an American English teacher and became part of the Turkish people when I witnessed how much they want freedom.

Read my tribute to the Gezi Park protest anniversary here:

http://www.digitaljournal.com/news/world/a-year-after-turkey-s-gezi-park-protests-freedom-elusive/article/385149

Songhua River Walk in Jilin, China

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This colorful metallic boat is nestled along the Songhua River walk in Jilin City, Jilin, China.  Jilin City is located in Jilin Province, northeast China. I have been teaching English at a high school there for the past 9 months. The high school is near the Songhua River that stretches from Russia, through China, to North Korea. After teaching, I often walk along the river and enjoy the buildings, trees, parks, and interesting people. After dark, the river reflects colorful lights of buildings andbridges. Walk with me here and get a glimpse of China you may never have seen before.

See more photos of this amazing place on Digital Journal:

http://www.digitaljournal.com/news/world/photo-essay-songhua-river-walk-in-jilin-china/article/384535

China’s Ming Tombs

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We, the living, are often fascinated by tombs.  We can’t resist the chance to tour them, view mummies, and read about possible curses associated with disturbing the dead.  Enjoy my story of reflection as I toured China’s Ming Tombs:

Even though it was winter, the valley looked beautiful. It reached from a lake, past fruit trees, and toward several hills below mountains. Laid out in the harmonious “feng shui” design by the third Ming Dynasty emperor Yongle (1402–1424), the Ming Tombs are just 26 miles northeast of Beijing and definitely worth a visit.

Emperor Yongle moved the capital of China from Nanjing to its the present location in Beijing. After construction of the Imperial Palace (the Forbidden City) in 1420, Yongle selected his burial site and created his own mausoleum. The valley features tombs of 13 of the Ming Dynasty Emperors, some Empresses, and a royal eunuch. The tombs are spread out across the valley, many on top of hills. A great red gate marks the entrance to a road lined with huge stone statues of guardian animals and officials. Stone and waterways are strategically placed to guard against bad winds, according to Feng Shui, and create a balance between humans and nature. Continue reading

Beijing’s Stone Gardens

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After an exhausting day of climbing the Great Wall of China and wandering around the Ming Tombs, our Chinese tour guide ended the day at Yuan Ming Yuan Gardens on the outskirts of Beijing. Luckily, we were given rides in electric cars to a gate where we wandered through the Western Mansions section of what was called the Old Summer Palace, where only Qing Emperors and their royal courts could live and conduct affairs of state (the Forbidden City was used for more formal affairs).

At first I wondered why I had to explore the ruins of stone fountains and great halls by twilight when I just wanted to fall into bed, but as I walked across broken marble and listened to the tour guide tell its story, I began to understand the significance of Yuan Ming Yuan to the Chinese people. Yuan Ming Yuan means “The Gardens of Perfect Brightness,” and in its day, it must have reflected the most glorious mix of old-style Chinese temples, pagodas, and galleries with Tibetan and Mongol architecture. In one corner, European-inspired mansions rose above dancing waterfalls, rivers, bridges, and forested hills. Thousands of priceless artifacts such as ancient Chinese vases, gold figurines, carved jade, and intricate paintings once filled the now-ruined complex. Continue reading

Inside my Apartment in China

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In Russia I lived with a Russian family. For six long, cold months I stayed in a bedroom on the eighth floor of a 12-storey apartment building in Samara, near the frozen Volga River. It was crowded with three kids and three adults, yet surprisingly lonely. I took long walks through the snowy landscapes, alone. When my Russian boss wouldn’t pay me, I flew across the Black Sea to Turkey and lived for 2.5 years, mostly near Istanbul where I had an old apartment in Kocaeli. With increasing political problems in Turkey and danger to me as a part-time journalist, I took a job in China. My new company provided a free, all-utilities-pad, elegant apartment in the northeast. Wood floors, comfy furniture, modern appliances, and even a roof to walk out onto were some of its amenities.

 
Since China was having problems with the Turk-like people of its northwest Xinjiang province, my Turkish husband felt pressured to return to Istanbul. My young adult children are in California. Although my spacious apartment seems empty at times, I add homey touches and wait for someone to visit. I’m proud to have earned my People’s Republic of China Foreign Expert license and such a nice apartment. When my contract ends in June, I plan to return to California, at least for the summer. I’m trying to find a teaching job in America. If I don’t, I may come back to China next September. When you see these photos, you’ll understand why such an offer can be tempting.  See more photos of my Chinese apartment on Digital Journal.

 

Climbing the Great Wall of China

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On a cold, windy day I joined a group of Chinese tourists to climb the Great Wall of China.  It was difficult, but the views at the top were amazing and gave me new perspectives into Chinese history.  Read more about my Great Wall adventures and see photos here.

By the way, Justin Bieber had his bodyguards carry him, but this Chinese grandma climbed the wall with her cane!

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Walk with Me in Turkey

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My “Walk with Me in Turkey” eBook came out today after 1.5 years of working on it.  I started by doing photo essays for “Digital Journal” of places I visited and photographed in Turkey (thanks so much to Editor David Silverberg).  One of my photo essays, “Faces of Turkey” even won an award.  Thanks to my friend and editor Jeremy Gotwals of Holon Publishing, who helped design the eBook’s cover using one of my photos, my book is now available in Kindle format.  If you don’t have a Kindle reader, you can download a free one for your computer, smart phone, or tablet.  For only $2.99 you can see the beautiful, historic places of Turkey, read about their culture and food, and enjoy my adventure stories!  What a lot of work (sigh).  Hope I find some readers :)

Here’s the official book summary:

Walk with me through ancient temples, churches, castles, mosques, and palaces of Turkey where I spent 2.5 years teaching English and exploring that beautiful country.  I learned the language and culture and even married into a Turkish family.  Stand with me at the spot where key battles defended the land from invaders and where Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, was buried.  See archeology opportunities with Greek and Roman columns and tunnels directly at your feet.  Tour Istanbul, a city built on 7 hills and divided by a waterway that separates Europe from Asia.  Get caught in the rain by the Black Sea, feast on shish kabob in Kocaeli, dance the horon at a Turkish wedding, explore Kar Tepe’s mountain forest, and swim in the Mediterranean Sea.  With my vivid photos and stories, you’ll feel as though you walked in Turkey with me.

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Since it costs so much to print so many color photos, my book will probably remain in electronic format (with links to other Internet sites for more information).  Let me know if you enjoy it!  Find it here.

China’s Treasures

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The Empress’ throne room inside Beijing’s Summer Palace

I went to Beijing and saw some of China’s greatest treasures, royal rooms where Emperors and Empresses sat on gold and silver thrones that were surrounded by statues of cranes, lions, dragons, and the elusive phoenix.  After touring the Forbidden City and the Summer Palace, we went to a fancy Chinese restaurant that recreated the Emperor’s throne room.  Here I am, sitting among China’s treasures and realizing that the greatest treasure is love, the human heart, and God sending His only Son down from Heaven’s throne for us.

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