Sunday, February 26, 2012

Just north of Beijing

(This is a guest post from the husband of the blogger.)

Last week I attended the 7th International Strawberry Symposium, held in Beijing. Of the seven, I have only missed one. This one was the largest (~1000 delegates) and probably the most interesting from a scientific as well as cultural standpoint.

The site of the conference was building #16 of a resort complex. It had over 1000 rooms and three very large halls. There were lots of security people (Beijing Police, military, etc.) around to keep us in line and to prevent us from photographing the hotel. This image was from the bus as we were leaving.

The hotel lobby from the third floor.

These gals escorted dignitaries and posed for ordinary folks just wanting pictures.

In advance of the conference, a strawberry-themed exhibition centre and "theme park" were constructed.  Money seems to be no obstacle to showing who is #1 in world strawberry production.

Our tour guides awaiting us.

Production is mostly in these (passive) solar houses.  There are thousands of them north of Beijing.

The north brick wall is about 70 cm thick.  It absorbs heat during the day and releases it at night.  Even though the outside temperature may be -10 C, the inside temperature doesn't drop below about +8 C. Would this work in Nova Scotia tucked into the North mountain?

This experimental vertical system would go well in my kitchen.

A street scape viewed on our trip to the Juyongguan pass of the great wall.

Sixteen tour buses parked behind this arch.

The wall at this pass was designed to keep out invaders from the north.

It was a smoggy, hazy day (very common in the vicinity of Beijing). The wall climbs the mountain with watch towers at the peaks.

I walked up to the first tower. The stairs were uneven in height and very steep.  A good cardio workout!

Proof that I am not making it all up.

Very steep!

Normally, the wall wouldn't have this many people on it.

Detail on the eves of the Cloud Terrace.

The wall climbs the mountain on the opposite side of pass as well.  The great wall is a sort of pilgrimage site for the Chinese. From rural villages around the country, people desire to visit the great wall once in their lifetime.

Some old-school weapons.

Looking from the wall into a village.


Tourist shops.  Note the red banner which welcomes the Strawberry Symposium delegates.

Very ornate!

You have heard of a wall-flower, how about a wall-cat.
After leaving Juyongguan pass, we headed for the Ming tombs. Ming Dynasty emperors starting about 600 years ago built some fancy burial places for themselves and their favourite gals (who were interred at the same time as the emperor) along with some other possessions. There were 13 Ming tombs.  We visited the Dingling tomb which has been excavated and restored. All of the tombs were located in an area chosen for its favourable feng shui.

Approaching the Dingling tomb, you can just see the soul tower which is just before it.

The tree of choice is the Imperial Cypress. A closer look at the leaning ones in the distance show...

... that the leaners are actually made of concrete. Many of these cypresses are well over 200 years old,  ...

... and they even grow out of the walls.

The soul tower, contains a sculpted obelisk...

...which has a series of...

... dragons encircling it.

Descending 75 metres into the tomb...

... you pass through several arches which have doors of copper...

... then jade, each with 9 x 9  knobs which likely have some religious significance.

There were thrones, just in case his spirit needed a place to sit.

And finally, the final resting place.  The emperor would be in the biggest one.  Apparently the builders of this tomb would have been executed so they wouldn't tell others where it was located.

On a lighter note, a couple of humorous signs.

This was just below the shower head in my hotel room's bathroom.

Self explanatory in any language.

Thanks for sticking to the end.  It translates "I Love Beijing".

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Reading and Realism

During these cold blustery winter months, my reading list gets shorter as I tend to do more reading this time of year. Before Christmas I really needed something a bit lighter than 'Radical' by David Platt, which I had just finished. So I read 2 books by Francine Rivers. I have always enjoyed her writing and her recent series of 'Her Mother's Hope' and 'Her Daughter's Dream' fit the bill nicely. These two books follow the dreams of a young Swiss woman determined to give her own family a better life. I would highly recommend these books to anyone raising daughters and knows the challenges and joys that can bring.

I have just finished reading 'Grace for the Good Girl' by Emily Freeman. This book was recommended on an excellent daily blog that I follow written by Ann Voskamp - author of 'One Thousand Gifts'. This is a book that I feel I could have written; it so accurately describes my disposition and personality. She writes about the masks we daily put in place to give the illusion that our lives are 'okay'. The book is very honest and revealing and was one of many affirmations that prompted me to resign from my part time position as ministry assistant at our church. This was not an easy decision, but I know that it is the right time.
One of many great quotes from this book ~
"You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head." (Psalm 139:5 NLT) Imagine a hero who not only leads the way but also brings up the rear and holds your hand all at the same time. I can't imagine a safer place than that.