May 27, 2008

A Portrait of China

-Guard. Tiananmen. China.-

-Slow down. Great Wall. China.-

May 24, 2008


-A bicycle parking lot at the Temple of Heaven, Beijing, China.-

While in Beijing there were two things that I noticed.

One, air quality was so horrendous that looking down a city street you could see about half a block before the smog started to choke out the view. Even on a cloudless day, skies in China's capital are not distinguishable as blue. And, at night, Chinese only imagine what stars look like.

And two, on a more positive note, of all the roads and of all the places we visited in Beijing, we noticed that bikes had their own lanes. Now it might be a little late to start enforcing or encouraging bicycles in order to clean up the air for the Olympics but it is definitely not too late to start cleaning up the air for good.

So after all of this rambling my question is, are we simply standing around and judging China or are we making ourselves open to learning from China's mistakes and triumphs?

May 22, 2008

The Heart of China

-China's young and old. The Temple of Heaven, Beijing, China.-

Standing at the Temple of Heaven, or even Tiananmen Square, or craning my neck up to look at the mind-boggling Forbidden City Gate will never cease to amaze me. As I stood there I wondered if anyone could really ever comprehend all of the history that had been lived out right there, right where we were standing. Existing there in silence I could not help but feel the whispers of all of the ghosts of ancient times. Creepy. Ernie. Overpowering. And, strong.

- A store just outside the gates of the Forbidden City . Beijing, China.-

- He seemed to be enjoying whatever it was that was in his pipe. Underground passage between Tiananmen and the Forbidden City.-

China's history has been one of force and weakness, unity and brokenness, accomplishments and set backs. Yet, witnessing the change of China with my own eyes, even in these past two years, has baffled me. Taken from Hutongs, slum areas, to world-class architectural feats, Beijing's skyline has truly made itself into a kind of modern day Cinderella. But, what of all of those people who have lost their homes, their cars, their jobs and more recently their lives and all for the face of the Olympics?

-Being a bicycle repair man must not be the most appealing job in China. Tiananmen Square, Beijing, China.-

May 18, 2008

長城 - The Great Wall

-Dad hiking the Great Wall of China. Notice the great MEC backpack!-

Stretching over 6,700 km in total, the Great Wall is one of the most recognized structures on Earth. Built between 200 BC and1600, its intent was to protect the northern borders of the Chinese Empire from unwelcome invaders.

-The Mutianyu Section of the Great Wall, China.-

-Mom and I posing by an old canon that was used to ward off enemies from the north.-

It is said that at one time the Wall was guarded by more than one million men. It is also recorded that an estimated 2 - 3 million Chinese died while pursuing the completion of the many sections of this magnificent wall.

-The top of this section of the Great Wall. Look how steep the stairs are!-

-The Mutianyu Section of the Great Wall, China.-

After a two hour drive from Beijing's city center, we were excited and filled with anticipation as we reached the base of the lofty, rugged mountains on which the Wall is perched. As we stepped out of the taxi we were greeted by hundreds of desperate vendors. We pushed on to the gondola, amidst the commotion, and looked up to see the ancient Wall stretching as far as we could see.

-Mom and Dad standing on the Great Wall of China.-

-The Mutianyu Section of the Great Wall, China.-

None of us were disappointed. Unlike other over-touristy areas of the Great Wall, Mutianyu was relatively unvisited. Once reaching the Wall and leaving the noisy sellers behind, much of the day we hiked in relative solitude. We found the day to be an amazing time to take in where we were and what we were doing.

-The Mutianyu Section of the Great Wall, China.-

-The un-restored section of The Great Wall.-

Mutianyu, the section that we visited, began in the southeast and snakes on towards the Northwest for approximately 2.25 kilometers. While most of it has been restored, the end section at the peak of the highest mountain has been virtually untouched for hundreds of years.

-We figured that they would build both sides of the wall and then fill it with rubble. This would account for what you see in this picture.-

-One of the few vendors, who was actually on the Great Wall, packing it in for the night.-

Wikipedia: Great Wall of China at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_great_wall

May 16, 2008

The Whirl-wind that was China!

-Mao, a Chinese soldier and a monk posing in front of Tian'an Gate, Beijing, China.-

A few weeks ago I was handed the opportunity of a life time. While sitting in a Red Mango, a Korea frozen yogurt shop, one of my co-workers, Matilda and I began to talk about my parent's fast approaching trip to Seoul.

Upon learning that my parents would be visiting Beijing, China right when our school was set to have mid-terms, Matilda devised a plan to have me released from my teaching duties so that I could join them on their travels. Much to my delight early the next morning she promptly proceeded to ask the principal and vice principal if I could have the time off to voyage to China with my parents. And, by the time that noon rolled around I had a ticket to China, a visa in process, a hotel to stay in and a permanent smile on my face.

-A hotel near Tienanmen Square, Beijing, China.-

Needless to say, I was elated! What a change from last year's work schedule when we worked every Korean national holiday and some Saturdays too. I love Korean public schools and I especially love Beijing in the spring!!!!

May 12, 2008

Ma and Pa's Fantastic Asian Trip

Ma and Pa Olson here...

We left our cool Saskatchewan climate on April 29, destination, Thailand and South Korea. Flying time to Phuket, Thailand was almost 23 hours with a night stop over in Singapore. Singapore was a beautiful city and we wished we had booked in for a couple more days.

-Going for a dip in Phuket, Thailand.-

Thailand, on the other hand, was hot, very hot. We did a couple tours, the first was a speed boat tour to Phang Nga Bay, James Bond Island and Khai Island. We also did the touristy elephant ride which we really enjoyed.

-Cashews in the trees on a Farm in Thailand.-

The rest of time we spent taking in the culture in Patong and surrounding areas, it really was a culture shock. We enjoyed the food and restaurant in Phuket but it’s debatable whether we would go back.

The next leg of our journey was Seoul, South Korea to visit with Trevor and Rachel. What a huge city, but so different from what we expected. The city is a mix of old and new and everywhere you turn is something different. Even back allies are lined with little shops and different smells, some better than others.

-Posing at the royal palace, Gyungbuk Gung, Seoul.-

Trevor and Rachel kept us busy with all the different attractions that the city has to offer, we weren’t sure if where we were going was for food or to a tourist place. They took us to a traditional theatre, it was amazing, and also to a performance called Jump. We went to markets, palaces, and to the down town area where there was lots of activity.

- Trev and Rach eating dalk galbi, a kind of spicy stir-fry.-

It’s hard to pick a highlight it was all great, but Dr. Fish was definitely the most unusual, imagine hundreds of little fish nibbling your feet, and paying for them to do it. All in all, it was a wonderful visit and a great time. Thanks Trev and Rach, we had a blast.

-Oddest pedicure, Dr. Fish, Seoul,-

Favorite Places: Cheon-gye Cheon and Chong Dong Theatre.
-Taking in the paper lanterns on Chung-gye Cheon, Seoul.-

Least Favorite Thing: Crowds!!!!
-The crowds on this holiday weekend, Buddhas Birthday were incredible.-

Favorite Food: Dwaji Galbi, BBQ pork.
-Delicious marinated pork wrapped in lettuce leaf.-

Favorite Goofy Korean Pose:
-Posing at Gyung-buk Gong, Seoul.-

May 9, 2008

A Little Taste...

-Temple of Heaven, Beijing, China-

Recently, our blogs have been few and far between. Apologizes.

-The Great Wall, China-

We have been on the run. On and off planes like their taxis, in and out of tourist attractions like we live there and we've had visitors coming out our ears. As we still do not have time to give you the full update that we want to and will... eventually, here is a teaser; a small taste of what we have been up to. Enjoy.

-Halla Mountain, Jeju Island, Korea-

-O'Sulloc Tea Fields, Jeju Island, Korea-

-Azeleas, Jeju Island, Korea-

-Halla Mountain, Jeju Island, Korea-

May 1, 2008

Wild Adventures of the Fifth Grade

- The Korean version of a ladybug. -

There we were... six teachers and four bus loads of kids.
Introducing them to dirt and bugs, something they have never seen in their concrete life.
This was not a pursuit to be taken lightly as the following pictures indicate.

- Jae Won and a friend. -

- Grade 5 boys -

- When the talk on the species of trees get a little dry... -

- Yet, some find entertainment in anything. -

- Fishing for tadpoles. -