Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Alpha and Omega

           Wow. It has been a really long time. So much has happened that I'm not really sure where to begin.

Let's start with this. We've been in Sioux Falls now for seven years. That's the longest we've lived in one place! Empty nesting now, I've gone back to school and am in year number two of Seminary. Every day I get to practice being a Pastor. God is so good.

I have so much to tell you. One of the coolest things is that when I went back to school David took over all of the grocery shopping duties AND the cooking! I just heard him say, "two minutes till dinner!"

Before I go I'll tell you about the picture. It's from an abbey turned retreat center. Blue Cloud Abbey in Marvin, South Dakota, built in 1950. The stained glass windows there are beautiful.

More soon! Glad to be back!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

China Act Two....is mostly about food

 Broccoli and Winter Melon, NOT cheese sauce on top
 Pickled radishes, Lotus root and sticky sweet rice, pickled walnuts
 Chocolate covered Purple Yams and fruit loops!
Shrimp, celery and peanuts
  Now Act Two opens. We are still on the work part of our trip, but we've switched companions from Mary and Johnny to Paul and Tom. In Act Two we will still be visiting with factories. I didn't take many pictures of the factory visits because the machines and things were not that interesting to me...and I didn't want to seem too touristy!
     For me Act Two was about the people that I met who work with David. Paul Higgs and Tom Zhue were our contact points now. It could be that because both Paul and Tom are a younger team than Mary and Johnny that I felt less hurried during Act Two. Or, I suppose it could have been that because I'd been in China for a few days and was now used to this other side of the world. I'm not sure really. Oh, maybe it was because we didn't eat any KFC during Act Two! Let me begin Act Two, Thursday  the 27th of September with the story of our arrival in Han Dan City.
     Act Two, Scene One: Our flight from Shanghai to Han Dan City was an hour delayed in leaving, so an hour delayed in arriving in Han Dan City. There is only one flight per day, so you take what you can get when traveling in country. While we sat in the airport, David, Stephanie and I, we chatted about nothing in particular. And, in our chatting, lots of people watched us. I think some of them were trying to understand what we were saying...some of them did understand! And, some of them just thought it was strange to see Anglos in a Chinese airport going to a very Chinese city away from touristy places. 
     As we waited we met a young Chinese boy who said to us, "Have you got any money so I can get something to eat? I'm really hungry. I'm an exchange student home from Canada. I can trade you my Canadian money." I thought this was pretty strange. But, we were in a very safe airport, so I knew he wasn't trying to panhandle us. David gave him a few dollars and asked him where he was going. Now, mind you the boy was speaking English, but when he answered David it sounded like he said, "I'm muffin top." He really said, "I'm going back home." But David did not hear it that way. For some reason, I think because we were pretty tired from a very long day, this "muffin top" comment made us laugh. We did wait until the boy was gone to get some food before we laughed. Poor guy, he became known to us as Muffin Top!
     We began to watch the crowd grow bigger at the gate of our flight, and the frenzy of lining up to get on.  In China there really is no such thing as a nice orderly line. You know how Southwest Airlines has their sign markers for lining up by number and how crazy and rude that can get? Well, this is a million times worse than that! The gate agents were even yelling at people to get back. At least, we think that's what they were saying in Chinese. They would make an announcement about the flight delay, in Chinese of course, and then repeat it in English. It's a good thing I was on the trip because both David and Stephanie never could understand the English bits. I had to translate the English for them! It was pretty funny.
     Finally we arrived in Han Dan City an hour and 1/2 later than we were supposed to be. It was about 9pm. All we were thinking about was where we would be sleeping tonight. However, we were whisked from the airport straight to a HUGE traditional Chinese dinner....at 9 pm!! Everyone from Max Health, along with Paul and Tom, had been waiting for us at the dinner place. We found out that they had asked the chef to stay late just for us! For this dinner there were eleven people; Dixon and his wife Wendy--the owners of the factory that we would tour the next day--a cute couple whose names I do not know who work for Dixon making rollator seats, Tom and Paul, Jenny and Vivian, Stephanie, David and me.  This dinner would be our first traditional Chinese dinner.
     Act Two Scene Two: The restaurant was actually in a hotel in a sort of banquet room with VIP on the door. There were lots of these rooms where other dinners were in progress, but mostly finishing up since it was so late!
     There are a lot of interesting traditions involved in this type of dinner. The first one is about the table. It is round and very big. In the middle of the table is a lazy susan that is about the size of a normal round dining room table. All the food is set on the lazy susan and passed by turning. The food kept coming and coming in no apparent order. We started with some cold veggies, miso soup, hot tea, a very interesting warm beverage made from a kind of nut that I didn't catch the name of, cold chicken with bones, and Mao Tai--also known as Chinese wine.
     Another tradition is to make special toasts with this Chinese wine. It is really strong and served in tiny shot glasses. The idea is that you drink the entire portion with the toast to show respect and appreciation for the toast or the person to whom you are toasting. The portion was about an ounce. Mao Tia is really strong, so it's not a good idea to drink too much of it. I had read all about the toasting in on of the China travel books before we left, so I was prepared to pretend drink. I sipped mine unless there was a challenge issued by the toaster to drink together the entire drink. There were lots of toasts, "to our gracious and generous hosts" , "to our American friends",  "to good business", etc. I did offer a toast to the cute couple after I found out they had only been married for seven years. Everyone we had been meeting kept saying that David and I were such a "cute couple". So, in my toast I said something like, "To the real cute couple, long years, happy children, and a good life." They giggled at me and responded to my toast by smiling and toasting me back. It was kind of fun to engage in the tradition of Mao Tai.
     The food at this dinner was very traditional. David would try to tell me what things were. I finally just said, "Don't tell me! I want to try everything, but if you tell me what it is, I might not want to."  I tried jellyfish because I thought it looked like ceviche, which I do like. I was surprised that it was very crunchy. After I tried it, David said, "That was jellyfish!" eeeeww!! We also had yummy fish with the head, tail and fins still on. You don't have to eat those parts, but some people do like them. There were no forks, knives or spoons...all chopsticks!! I did pretty well.  Actually there were big serving type spoons that most people used to eat their soups with. I used mine to serve myself from the dishes, otherwise you would use your chopsticks to grab what you want. Eventually I did that because it was getting too difficult not to do it that way.
     These are the things I remember eating:
     Yams...which were white and had donut sprinkles on top! They tasted like sugary Thanksgiving sweet potatoes.
     Sushi salmon with cucumbers...delish!
     Chinese tacos, little steamed dough things that you put a piece of beef, cucumber sprouts in the middle of and then ate with your fingers. I learned later that this is the traditional way to eat Peking Duck too.
     A thick fishcake which seemed like it was fried, not sure what type of fish it was. The base of the fishcake was something strange and crunchy, served warm. Later I would learn that it was lotus root at the base of the fishcake.
     Almond fishcakes which were skinny compared to the other ones. This one was made on a base of nori (seaweed paper) with chopped fish sprinkled with sliced almonds, also served warm.
     Watermelon....something I love and which was very easy to find at every meal!
     Noodles with a light sauce, broccoli and excellent shrimp.  This was hard to eat with chopsticks, I had to use the funky Chinese soup spoon to hold the noodles still so I could grab them with my chopsticks!
     Some kind of fried dough that Wendy really liked.
     Poppy Seed dumpling...a dumpling that was stuffed with poppy seeds....way interesting.
     Something that was called, "fruit soup". I believe that the true ingredients of this soup were lost in translation because there were no fruits in the soup! It was red beans, carrots and some other vegetable in a curry broth and served warm.
     I have to say that I really liked all the food I ate. I was pretty full when dinner was over!
     Things I did not eat:
     Duck--because it had bones in it and, I had eaten goose at an earlier meal and really, really did not like it.
     Silky tofu--mostly because it kept getting spun past me!
     Pork steamed buns--because I was getting too full.
     Plain steamed broccoli--again, too full!!
     This was all at ONE meal! We didn't finish until about 10:45pm. There was so much left over food. No one asked for a doggie bag, and no one offered one either! We slept very well that night. It was a lovely meal and I felt truly as though I had been the guest of honor at the home of dear friends for the evening.
     Act Two Scene Three: We went to Dixon's factory in the morning and toured all eleven buildings before meeting in the conference room to talk about current business. At about lunch time we learned that we were going to eat lunch as the special guests of the local Government Officials. This would be my second Chinese traditional meal, which would be less like eating a meal with friends and more like eating with Officials. We were told that the invitation to lunch was, "Because Stephanie and Sarah are here the Government Officials want to meet with us. So, we go there for lunch!" The last time David was in China he had the honor of meeting and eating with the Officials. We hopped in the car and drove a couple blocks to the Government building, kind of like a City Hall. We were greeted by the door by the secretary of the Official. She took us into the building and up the stairs to a room very much like the one we had eaten in the previous night. The food was much the same...as was the Mao Tai toasting...only these toast were more along the lines of, "thank you for coming and honoring us". Somehow I was served red wine instead of Mao Tai...which was fine with me. Once your glass was empty, someone was at your elbow immediately filling it up again! There was never a time when you could say, "oh, sorry, I can't drink the toast" because you always had something in your glass! Every time a new Official came in the room to meet us, more toasts! It got to be a little comical! It was Friday and we figured that the Officials were drinking their lunch more than they were eating it! Conversation got a little silly at one point when we started talking about Chinese signs and who was what. I was born in 1968, the year of the Monkey.  Any year with an eight at the end is a Monkey year. I learned that I was one of four other monkeys in the room, and the only girl monkey. So, I toasted all the Monkeys! It was pretty silly stuff which I really hope doesn't go on too much in US government lunches....but it probably does! It was very interesting to get to be a part of this very official and traditional lunch. On the way out we Americans were saying that we were glad that the only room in the very large Communist Government building that we got to be in was the lunchroom....none of us wanted to begin to imagine what goes on in the other rooms.
     Tomorrow I'll give you Act Two Scene Four: more about the people I met.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Some Chinese Nature

 Petite wildflowers at the Great Wall, the Remnant Section of Badaling
 The most beautiful "stink bug" I've ever seen. The contrast between the bug and the leaves made me smile.
 Why is it that weeds can be so pretty!? These were also at the Great Wall.
 I've never encountered a two colored Praying Mantis before. There are several legends attached to this beautiful insect. One legend is that it is bad luck to kill one.
 These animal prints were in the cement on some of the bricks on the wall. Watchtowers on the wall would use smoke from fires burning to signal the next watchtower. The fires were said to be made of wolf dung.  I imagine that the wolf dung made really nice, thick, black smoke. Could it be that these are wolf tracks from ancient times?
 At the Ming Tombs I found a tree growing out of the side of a wall.
 Also at the Ming Tombs were beautiful Lotus flowers.
 I thought that this tree looked like it had camouflage bark. The tree was in a park we visited.
 This unusual tree was really two trees in one! I took a picture of the sign which explains what happened. The Bai Sheng Sang tree was in the Imperial College in Beijing.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

China Intermission

     In theatre there is not usually an intermission between Acts One and Two.  However, I need to tell you about the toilets in China and I really don't want them to have an entire act to themselves. So, I'll call this part the intermission.  Don't you usually get up and go to the bathroom during the intermission anyway?
     Oh, where to start! I think I'll start with the fact that my friend, Malinda Hamby, gave me very excellent tips about traveling in China. She and her husband had gone a few months prior to my visit.  Malinda gladly gave me all the shopping tips she could think of, complete with business cards of her favorite merchants! LOVED that! Malinda is an excellent bargain shopper, so her tips on bargaining were valuable. But, perhaps the best thing she did was send me not only all her China travel guides, but a "China Survival Kit". Which had bug spray, Visine, and several little packs of tissues and a couple packs of antibacterial wipes. I was a bit shocked, frankly. Why did I need tissues and antibacterial wipes!? They proved to be mandatory for any potty stop in China!
     It is hard to really picture what that means when you haven't been there. I'd been to the toilets in Brazil, France, South Africa, London, and some other places that might be considered a little "backwoodsy". So, I had a feeling that I kinda got it.  But, nope. That knowledge will only come to you with your own visit to China. You see, the toilets are more like urinals that are not mounted on the wall but are actually flush with the floor. Can you picture that? It's really just a porcelain hole in the ground. Now, there are a few places (mostly nice hotels that are Western) that actually have a toilet like we Westerners are familiar with.  However, those are not the norm at all.  Even really nice restaurants, like the famous Peking Duck restaurant we went to in Beijing were we had the pleasure of dining with 400 other people at once, even these only have the hole. I hate to say that I have almost as many potty stories of China as I do fun touristy tidbits to share! I kept saying to my traveling mates, "I HOPE this trip does not turn out to be only about the potties!!"  I will share only one of the dozen stories of the glorious potty.
     We were on the train to Ningbo, a three hour ride from Shanghai. We all used the potty at least twice if not three times before leaving our hotel. We found that the train station in Shanghai is big enough that the bathrooms there were not too bad even though they still only had the hole. (As an aside, the term "bathroom" is so confusing to the Chinese when you say that in English. I really don't think they understood. Finally, I just would ask for the "toilet", which they understood.) Once we got on the train we all agreed that we'd just have to wait until we got to Ningbo for any facilities. By the time we got to Ningbo we all agreed that we should at least try for a potty before going to a factory which would be guaranteed not to have Western potties. We were a bit surprised to find pretty decent toilets in the train station, not the norm! But, this train station is brand new! As the three of us headed to the bathroom I began handing out the tissues while we all chuckled about that. I had noticed another Anglo on the train with us. It looked like she was on a work trip too, the only woman with a group of four business men. Fate would have it that she ended up in the bathroom with us. She was a charming Brit who bravely asked, "I just need to know which way to face on these things." She was quite serious. We all laughed together and said that it really didn't matter as long as you don't fall in and don't flush any tissues. Above all, do NOT touch anything and try not to let any of your garments touch anything either! I think we shared tissues with her too.  There are usually not sinks with soap either. So, the antibacterial wipes were way handy. Poor girl. She really looked a bit shell-shocked. In the train station before we left I found her again and gave her a pack of wipes. She sheepishly thanked me and looked like I had just given her gold.
     I will spare you the story of the hotel lobby toilet that was computerized! Or the one Western style potty at the Palace of Heaven that was so unheavenly I turned around and left as quickly as possible. Or of the one potty stop where my friend tried to get me to use the one Western potty that was supposed to be for handicapped ladies! I didn't take pictures of the potties because it was just so sad. When I was a teenager on a trip in France, I did take pictures. I will say that I had packed mostly skirts because David had asked me not to wear jeans for Act One and Act Two. He had no idea that it would be such a good idea because of the potty situation.  I had even asked him ahead of time if he had any China potty advice! Of course because he is a man, he had no clue. He did say that he doesn't think there is much hand washing in China. Sigh.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

China Act One

     At the end of September and into October I went to China with David. David goes to China every quarter for work. On this trip, I got to tag along. The first half of the trip was business stuff and the second half was touristy.  I was so glad to have been able to go on the trip with David. At first I really wasn't looking forward to the trip that much. But now as I look back on the trip, I can hardly wait to go again!
     David described our trip like this, "This trip will have three acts, like a three act play! The first act will be visiting factories with Mary Valentine and Johnny her business partner. The second act will be visiting more factories with Paul Higgs and Tom Zhue, his associate. The third act will be our fun time in Beijing." It was fitting to describe our trip like that because it really did have three distinct bits to it. You would think that the third act would be the best because it was the "fun" stuff. However, I'm not sure that the "fun" stuff was really the best part!
     Visiting factories in Shanghai and environs is how Act One began.  My impressions of Act One were that we were always in a hurry! Johnny is Chinese while Mary is Anglo-American. Johnny is the in country guy. It was Johnny's time schedule that we went by.  I'm still not sure if the man ever eats. When we did eat with Johnny and Mary, we had KFC.  Yes, Kentucky Fried Chicken. In China. The first day we had KFC I was so hungry by the time it came I didn't care much. The very familiar box of KFC was surprisingly not full of familiar KFC! I always order the extra crispy original recipe! What I had in my box was various chicken pieces coated in what must have been buffalo sauce? Not sure really.  It was spicy hot and greasy. I noticed that the chicken pieces were not cut the same way we cut a chicken. At least I didn't have any chicken feet in my box, which, I am told, is not unusual! Chinese people really like the feet of the chicken! There were fries, which were tempting.  But, I only ate one bite because they really didn't taste like any fries I've ever had. To drink we were offered Coke right out of the can at room temperature, or water. I went with water. Oh, and no biscuits! KFC in China is super popular, you'll find one in every town. But woe to you if you think going there will taste like home!
     The second time we had KFC with Johnny and Mary was a more interesting story. We were on the way to the train station thinking that we weren't actually going to get lunch that day. We were really booking it to the train because we were running a little bit behind schedule. So, when our driver made a U-Turn there was a little bit of panic in the car thinking that we were lost and surely going to miss the train. Imagine, then, the extra panic when our driver got out of the car and stood in the middle of the busy intersection!! At this point we were told that our lunch was coming to us.  Suddenly we understood. The food was going to be hand delivered to our driver...in the intersection! It felt like we were in the middle of a crazy drug deal. Lo and behold, a car came buzzing up to our driver who was then handed a bag of KFC. We laughed so hard we cried. This time we had "hamburgers", which translates to chicken sandwiches. I think this was probably the closest to American KFC that we had. We took our food bag to the train, which we did not miss, and ate on the train. There were five of us. There were about eight sandwiches though. Mary tried to give them away on the train but only got stares of confusion.
     I'll share Act Two with you tomorrow. I didn't take many pictures of Act One. Stay tuned....

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Crafting with Friends and a wreath

 Ducky "hello" card
 Meeow is cat talk for "thank you so much"
 A tin in which to save your pennies for a rainy day!
 A can for pencils adorned with embellished clothes pins.
Christine and I had so much fun with new friends yesterday. We made three cards and a pencil can. I made a box since I only had three cans! Same idea though, just use your favorite paper to cover the tin or can. The clothes pins are basic ones which we covered with paper and then embellished with more paper. We had lots and lots of fun.

This wreath is one I made a few months ago. I had gotten an old out-dated atlas at my local library's free-please-take-some-pile. I cut out the pages, rolled them up and assembled them into a wreath. When it was all together, I painted the edges with glue and then dipped that into glitter. The center of the wreath is another page of a map that I fan folded to make a sort of medallion. Yes, I painted the edges of it with glue too and then dipped into green glitter.
 It hangs in my bedroom now.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Summer Handiwork

   Christine and I have had so much fun learning some new jewelry making techniques this summer.  Here is our handiwork.  We have decided that we'll go in to business together and sell our wares! Here is our first "internet trunk show"! We hope you'll see something you like. First you'll see wire wrapped pendants, a necklace and then earrings. Happy Shopping!! Email me if you are interested in purchasing anything. I do take paypal and personal checks are welcome too.  Click on any of the pictures and you'll get a slide show of all the pieces.

This pink pendant above is wire wrapped with silver tone wire by Christine. You'll need to add your own cord or chain.$10.00 SOLD

 Here is another wire wrapped pendant by Christine. It also will need a cord or chain. $14.00

 I made this pearl bauble necklace on gunmetal chain. It has lots of heart charms as well as smoky and clear crystal baubles to go with the pearls. $10.00

 I call this pendant with cord, "Fire". It is wire wrapped with antiqued bronze wire and three orange beads. $15.00
This is my favorite pendant. I think it's fire agate. It is wrapped with silver tone wire and needs a chain, cord or neckwire. I put it on a silver choker and it looked fabulous! $14.00

 After we learned how to wrap wire, we learned how to make earrings. These green ones are called, "Cinq Pomme", made with green crystals and green furnace glass polka-dot beads. $10.00

 Christine made these dainty turquoise blue earrings.  The very top has a Sworski crystal butterfly. Click on the picture for a close-up view. $8.00

 I call these, "Grapevine". They are made with purple Sworski crystals and purple fancy beads. $12.00

 "Cranberry Ice" features red Sworski crystals, red glass beads, and silver tone beads. $12.00
"Snappy Apple" is a shorter version of "Cinq Pomme". $8.00