Autumn in China

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESGinkoa Biloba leaves blanketed the courtyard outside the high school classes where I teach English near Shanghai, China.  This colorful display cheered my students and me.  Later we went to Starbucks to celebrate a strange kind of Thanksgiving with a student’s birthday cake and flavored coffee.  Half of the students paid attention to my speech about Thanksgiving, and the other half played with their mobile phones.  Such is life in China.  If you like my blogs, please check out my books.

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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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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

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

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 Valentine’s Day

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This year, Valentine’s Day in China was on the same day as the Lantern Festival which marks the last day of Lunar New Year’s celebrations, so everywhere there were fireworks, red lanterns, and big bouquets of flowers.  Read more about how the Chinese celebrated on Digital Journal.  I hope you had a wonderful Valentine’s Day.  Even if there was no romance in your life, perhaps you experienced true love!  See how I did in my newest book, Fire and Ice.

China’s Forbidden City (yellow tiles)

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I went to Beijing for the Chinese New Year and toured most of its famous historical and other amazing places in 3 long days of walking and taking photos with a group of Chinese tourists.  Most Americans could not have kept up with them!  Inside the Forbidden City (where the Chinese Emperors and their families used to live), I saw amazing colors in the walls and roofs.  Here is one photos which features yellow in tiles, building edges, and people’s coats.  I did not often see yellow as there was so much red (with occasional green and blue).

Read more about my adventures in Beijing (with photos) at Digital Journal.

If you like my travel adventures, check out my book Fire and Ice.

Silver

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A Maori boy in New Zealand wears a “Lord of the Rings” Gondor helmet and holds a Frodo “Sting” sword and a silver shield.

Silver is a semi-precious metal and a color.  I prefer wearing silver jewelry to gold because silver is softer, like moonlight on a mountain lake, not glaring like the gold-wrought sun over a desert.  I like wearing royal blue clothes with silver highlights.  Silver is a pure metal, and in Medieval times, it was thought to protect against evil (for example, silver could kill werewolves and vampires).  In Medieval times, only royalty could afford silver spoons and cups, and little flakes would break off and be eaten, so rich people were often healthier than poor people (it also helped that they had dry, warm houses, nice clothes, and a good diet).  We say, “He was born with a silver spoon in his mouth” to refer to a rich kid.  Today, tiny pieces of silver suspended in water can actually be drunk as a natural antibiotic.  You can buy “colloidal silver” at a health food shop.  I’ve used it; it really works!  Also, in World War II, the U.S.A. used silver-plated airplanes to protect pilots from radiation.

Anyway, I always use silver in my fantasy novels.  In “Selah of the Summit,” a slave girl fights off her evil master and his witchcraft with a silver pendant and (later) a silver sword.  As a Christian, I believe I shouldn’t fight with a real metal sword.  Jesus said, “Love your enemies and do good to those who persecute you” and “Those who live by the sword will die by the sword.”  So, if I wear armor like a helmet, breastplate, and shield–with a sword–it is only a symbol of a kind of spiritual warfare, like good fighting against evil.  Selah fought an evil wizard and his soldiers who enslaved people.  After she found freedom and journeyed to the top of the mountain, she returned to the desert to free others.  Life is always a battle.  What evil forces do you have to stand against–or advance toward–for the sake of helping someone?

Read more about Selah and her silver adventures here.

Read about my true battle with cancer (18 years ago) here.

My Christmas Adventures Overseas

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My first Christmas away from America was spent in snowy Russia, 2010

Some of you may have read about my tragic childhood experiences of Christmas.  On a lighter note, you may enjoy reading about my recent Christmas adventures in Russia, Turkey, and China.  See how my life has progressed!

Still, as I spend my 4th Christmas teaching English overseas, I miss my children in California and wish I could get back to them.  Let’s all hope for a Christmas miracle and reunion with our families!

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Saint Anthony’s cathedral in Istanbul, Turkey, 2012

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A mall in Beijing, China, 2013

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Sky above a Castle by the Sea

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In Alanya, Turkey, on the Mediterranean Sea, a castle rises atop cliffs as the sun shines through feathery clouds.  In the distance, the Turkish coastline curves westward toward Antalya, the ancient port where the Apostle Paul once journeyed with a message of Christ’s love.  Enjoy this Mediterranean moment with me, as a southern wind blows away your cares in the fairy-tale land of Turkey.