Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Heaven on Earth

Beau and I rode out to the Temple of Heaven last Sunday. This was by far the best tourist attraction I have seen yet. We met Rahman there and hung out for the afternoon.

After the temple, we took a detour to Tienanmen Square to look around and take pictures with Mao (unfortunately, even Tienanmen Gate is being rennovated.)

On the way back home, we stumbled across an old Catholic church which was built in 1901. The grounds-keeper let us in through the side door and we spent the better half of an hour exploring the neo-gothic style church and taking pictures. We even met the priest!

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Late Night Chinese Dance Party

I got lost yesterday... twice.

Beau and I were out riding around town last night when we heard drums and cymbols. We followed our ears to a large crowd of Chinese dancing in an old courtyard. I couldn’t tell you where we were; we had been trying to find Ho-hai lake, the largest lake in Beijing, but somehow we managed to pass it – twice.

So anyway, we were who knows where watching a crowd of Chinese workers and their wives/girlfriends dance up a storm. These people probably didn’t see too many white guys before, because every one of those Chinese who saw us just stopped what they were doing and stared. Beau completely gave us away when he took a flash picture; heads turned and suddenly we had at least a hundred Chinese faces staring at us. The first thing through my mind was that none of the men were over 5’4” 120 lbs so I could probably take about ten of them if they rushed us.

Then, a friendly little woman rushed up to us and asked us to dance. Beau needed little encouragement; he threw himself into the thick of the dancing/moshing Chinese almost before she finished her sentence (which was in Chinese, only every other word of which I understood.) I hung back to take a few more pictures (and to make sure we were safe) before diving into the local culture head-first.

All eyes were still on us, though many other people were also dancing. This time though, there was scattered laughter as we taught them our moves and they taught us theirs. It was a really fun time for us! So the moral of the story is: when in China, get lost sometime! We had far more fun last night than we could have planned for!

We never did find that lake... Maybe next time!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Change of Scenery

This is the view from my hotel window:

This is how the weather (aka pollution) looked for most of June, July, and August when it wasn't raining. However...
This week has seen four of the most beautiful days yet strung together. I hope the trend continues. (Above) The first time I ever saw the mountains from my window.

This sunset was even better in person.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Morning Exercise

The most interesting cross-cultural phenomenon I have yet witnessed is the older generation’s morning exercise regimen. In each park in our area from about 5:30 – 8:00 every morning, elderly Chinese men and women come out to practice tai chi, different types of dance and yoga, and what I will call sword dancing – for lack of a better word. They fill the parks, and one has to really watch where he is going to keep from being stabbed by an errant fist, or a sword. What I cannot capture on camera is the slow, deliberate movements which all of these people are making. It is as if they are in a trance; the exercise is very spiritual, in a sense.

These morning rituals are very strange for me to watch, because I know that the Chinese state is officially atheist, and that most Chinese profess atheism, when asked. But the sword dancing, tai chi, and yoga are all very meditative, and seems quite out of place in an atheistic society. Philosophy aside, it’s pretty sweet to watch.

Bike Beijing

Beijing is called the bicycle capital of the world; the city has more bicycles per capita than any other metroplex. It does take more than a little courage to brave the chaotic streets of Beijing, but these cars are accustomed to bicycles weaving in and out of traffic. If cyclists rode in the states like they do here, they’d be fender fodder in less than a week. But in two months, I have not seen a single bicycle accident. These are some pictures from my last two trips across town, to the Forbidden City last week, and last night to Grandma’s Kitchen, possibly my favorite home style restaurant anywhere in the world. I don’t know who taught Chinese chefs to cook a good country-fried steak, but it is delicious! This is also the only place we have found that can make good milk shakes.

My friend Beau “pumping” Kyle to the internet cafe on our way to the Forbidden City, Kyle was only with us for about three minutes of the fifty minute ride out.

The Forbidden City at night.

Oddly enough, there was dancing in the courtyard – this is me trying to get into the rhythm.

Saturday, August 12, 2006


Feel free to comment on my blog! My sister found a way to get around China's filter and I am able to read your comments now. Thanks for keeping up!

Going in Deep

Maybe the biggest reason that I came to China – besides the pay check, traveling the world, eating Asian food (two months ago, I used to really love Chinese food) and learning a new language – was to escape the pressures and comforts of home; to discover which interests, character, and values would survive when I was cut off from everything and everyone familiar. Reader, be warned: the following paragraphs are deep and soul-searching.

First and foremost I can attest that Christ is sufficient even in – especially in – China. My relationship with the Redeemer is the only anchor which I still have which has carried with me overseas. Granted, I still call my parents every week and keep up with people back in Houston and in College Station through Facebook, but I cannot commune with my family and friends daily here; I can unceasingly with Christ. So it is Christ, the Rock, upon which I have built my life in China, and everything else follows.

I am growing stronger here. No, my bench and squat press have not risen in the past two months – probably the reverse because I have not been weight training regularly – but I am able to endure and have become more physically, mentally, and emotionally tough.

Don’t confuse tough with calloused. I have developed calluses on my hands and on my feet, but my emotions have not become hardened and unfeeling – quite the opposite actually. I feel joy, sorrow, gain and loss very deeply, but nothing shakes me up anymore because my foundation is still deeper. I have learned what it means to be completely content, no matter the circumstances. Whatever my lot, He has taught me to say: it is well, it is well with my soul.

I love going out and making new friends. I like to shop, eat, and explore Beijing with the people I have met here. I hate being drunk, but I do like to be loosened up by a few drinks and I always have fun hanging out late with guys and girls who can be all different shades of drunk and sober.

I have also learned what makes some friendships deeper than others. The best kind of merriment is the kind, as CS Lewis said, which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously – no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. Even the dullest and most uninteresting person, or the wildest and craziest, could one day become a being whose cloths will shine like the sun and who will walk the golden streets of heaven, basking in the glory of our God. I want to see the people around me as Jesus did when he gave himself, not for what they are able to give to me.

I have an unfocused desire and a longing which I thought might wane in China, but to date has only grown stronger. This desire has a few peripheral focuses: I desire to find a girlfriend who will someday become a wife, my help and my best friend, with whom to share the joy of living; I desire to strengthen and enrich friendships which already exist, both at home and abroad; I desire to have a home to call my own next year, so that I can decorate and entertain guests; I desire to visit exotic places and to have outrageous experiences, which I am doing in China; but I have discovered that this desire is really just an appetite for life. I desire for more than fine, more than just ok – I want life at its fullest – and I hope this desire stays with me for the rest of my days!

Life is amazing.


A day in the life

Apologies for my long absence, we had to work last Sunday, so I really didn't have a day off in the past 13; this has been a long two weeks. God knew when he was doing when he commanded us to rest on Sundays - it is for our own good!

The following post was inspired by a facebook message from one of my good Aggie friends: exactly what do you do all day anyway? Well, right now I am sitting in Subway, eating a roast beef sandwhich and using the wireless internet.

Yesterday was an interesting day, here was my schedule:

5:40 AM Wake up, fall out of bed, get half dressed, and exit the hotel room.

5:50 AM Stumble into the hotel resteraunt for a breakfast of bacon, sausage, eggs, strawberry yougurt, rice, dim-sum, leeks, cantalope, watermelon, and bran cerial (to make sure the intestines run smoothly today.)

6:20 AM Return to the room and brush teeth, finish getting dressed, and exit hotel room.

6:25 AM Return to the room to retrieve my work ID and my bike keys, which I forgot, and then exit room for the last time.

6:30 AM Exit hotel, get my bike out of the hotel’s shed and ride to work, weaving through bikers, incompetant car drivers, and pedestrians along the way.

6:50 AM Arrive at workplace, get hardhat and gloves from my locker, and go through security.

7:00 AM – 5:25 PM Work: tie rebar, haul rebar, bend rebar, climb rebar all day.

12:30 PM – 1:15 PM Lunch on site. Today’s was uncharacteristically good: chicken (?) strips, ham and maynnaise sandwhiched, broccoli, salad, and jello.

5:25 PM Hop on my bike and cycle to the “Crawfish Hole” for dinner. This resteraunt has a Chinese name, but we call it by this one because of the cajun-style prawns it serves. I had sizzling beef (18 RMB) vegtibles (6 RMB) and a .5 litre bottle of Tsing Tao beer (3 RMB.) 27 RMB comes to about $3.40 US.

6:40 PM Cycle to the cleaners to pick up my cleaning, find out that I mis-communicated with the owner and that my two dress shirts would be ready tomorrow, not today (My limited Chinese language skill was at fault here.)

7:10 PM Cycle to the nearest clothing store to buy a dress shirt (80 RMB) because I am going out dancing this evening.

7:20 PM Return to the hotel, lock up my bike, take a quick shower, get dressed, and leave my room.

7:40 PM Return to my room to get my camera (which I forgot) just in case of good photo ops.

7:45 PM Meet one of the guys which I am going out with, fortunately, the other three are also late.

7:50 PM Another of my friends meets us downstairs.

8:05 PM We get tired of waiting for our fourth friend and leave without him.

8:20 PM Beijing Taxi drops us off (28 RMB) at Salsa Carribe for free beginner Salsa lessons. Unfortunately, the rythem for salsa is not much like Texas country dancing – I felt like a fish out of water. Dancing is still fun though, and there are plenty of Chinese dancers here worse than I.

10:15 PM Leave Salsa Carribe for the hotel.

10:30 PM Arrive at the hotel, put away my laundry which was done for me, change and brush teeth.

11:00 Go to sleep.