Against the Wall

I first posted this photo to my blog ten years ago, when there were probably only a handful of readers, so I thought it would be OK to bring it back around.

One afternoon I grabbed my camera and headed downtown on my new bike to run some errands and take pictures. I ended up at the Forbidden City, one of my favorite spots in town. At the time I was taking an on-line Digital SLR photography course, and had a shooting assignment.

This wall/tower section was my destination, but I got lucky with this old man sitting against the wall soaking up the warm sunshine.

forbidden city wall

The Forbidden City was the home of Chinese emperors for 600 years, and was, in traditional  Chinese thinking the center of the Middle Kingdom—the point around which all the universe rotates. Not just figuratively, but literally. The emperor was the earthly representative of Heaven (God). These massive high walls were what separated the emperor from his subjects, and were designed to remind the masses of the gulf that existed between ruler and ruled.

The man sitting against the wall captures that distance, and the smallness of the commoner in relation to the emperor. And if he’s more than 80 years old, he can remember the day when an emperor (albeit a young boy) was in residence behind those big red walls.

Related Posts:

Beijing — The Forbidden City

A City in Fast Forward

Teeny Tiny Beijing

36 Hours in Beijing

Beijing Time-lapse

Get Your “Four Comprehensives” On

The Chinese Communist Party is at it again — promoting it’s own awesomeness with an animated rap video (with a side of Beethoven).

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Here’s a sampling of the lyrics:

“Listen to me: four comprehensives, four comprehensives, building a moderately prosperous society is the goal;

Repeat after me: four comprehensives, four comprehensives, reform is the impetus;

Repeat after me: four comprehensives, four comprehensives, ruling by law is guarantee;

Repeat after me: four comprehensives, four comprehensives, party-building is the key.

And here is full video, in all it’s glory….

(Email readers: click here to see the video)

Image credit: South China Morning Post

Related Posts:

Reviewing the Year in Rap

Thirteen Five

I Love a Parade

Chinese Dreaming

Happy Year of the Monkey

Today is the first day of the New Year in the traditional Chinese lunar calendar. According to the Chinese zodiac, this is the Year of the Monkey. If I were still in my Beijing apartment, this is what I would be seeing outside my living room window.

(If you are reading this by email, please click on this link to see the video.)

But I’m in Minnesota now, so the only thing I’m seeing out my living room window today is blowing snow!

Here’s a round-up of recent articles about Chinese New Year.

Spring Festival Treats – A Laowai’s Adventure (The World of Chinese)

Chunwan (春晚): CCTV New Year’s Gala (What’s on Weibo)

Aerial: 30,000 Stranded at Chinese Train station (China Real Time)

Friday Photo: Sterility Hospital

I stopped dead in my tracks when I spotted this sign at a Beijing bus stop. Wait a minute, I thought…that can’t mean what I think it means.

sterility hospital

I read the Chinese and sure enough, it was a poor translation. The wording made it clear that the hospital specializes in treating those who are having trouble becoming pregnant. It’s just the English that makes it seem like it specializes in the opposite! Me thinks they meant to say fertility hospital!

A Tribute to My Father, 2016

Fifteen years ago today, my father died. Below are the words that I spoke in farewell and tribute to my dad at his memorial service on January 25, 2001, in Roseville, Minnesota. Standing before a crowd of 600 people to deliver these remarks was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. The first part of this tribute was written at 30,000 feet above the North Pacific Ocean as I flew back to the States from Thailand.

Posting this on my blog is my annual tribute to him.

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The call you dread and fear and never expect comes. It’s mom. “Joann, your father died this morning. Please come home as soon as you can. I need you.”

Like an arrow out of no-where, somewhere, it hits first the head, then the heart, and slowly the pain sinks into your bones.

One day you’re relaxing on the beach, washing off the stress of a difficult term, and 24 hours later you’re wandering in a daze around international airports—Phuket, Bangkok, Narita—all jammed with people, and yet feeling so incredibly alone.

The words keep shouting in your soul. “Joann, your father has died,” slamming against your bones and your organs and your skin like a bullet ricocheting around a steel cavern. You try to drive them away with polite conversation, with reading, with hymn-singing, hoping against hope that driving the words away will drive the reality away as well.

But then the words and reality force their way back and the pain starts again.

“Joann, your precious father stepped into glory this morning.”

“Joann, your wonderful father went home to be with his Savior.”

With every fiber of my being I believe these words, but don’t want to believe them at the same time. He was a precious father, but now he is lost in wonder, love and grace in the presence of Jesus.

Yet here at 30,000 feet above the Pacific Ocean, I feel just plain lost.

Lost in sadness.

Lost in pain.

I know he’s with his Savior, but I want him here with us.

How will I get through the next ten hours on this plane? How will I bear to see my mom and sister and her family at the end of this long journey?

One hour at a time, one grace at a time.

“He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater; He giveth more strength as the labors increase. To added affliction, He addeth more more mercy; to multiplied sorrows, He multiplies peace.”

Then it hits me.

Despite the pain, I too am lost in love and grace. Sustaining grace.

John Piper describes it like this: “Not grace to bar what is not bliss, nor flight from all distress, but this—the grace that orders our trouble and pain, and then in the darkness is there to sustain.”

Will the sadness and the tears and the pain ever go away?

Probably not. But then again, neither will the grace.

So, my beloved dad is gone. What to say?

The words that scream loudest from my soul are simply, “please come back.” I know he’s in a better placee, but I still want him back here. There are too many words and no words. But following are a few—just a few of the special things I remember about my dad.

He had a sense of humor. He loved to laugh and make others laugh, and he was never in danger of taking himself too seriously.

He was a servant. He would do anything for anybody anytime anyplace, from bringing coffee to my waking mom every morning to fixing church roofs to shoveling neighbor’s driveways.

He was humble. In a stuffy academic world, he was just himself.

He was generous. If there was a financial need, he gave. His giving to us seemed limitless and it gave him great joy.

He was compassionate. His heart was tender and easily broken by the pain and suffering in the world. Last month in Beijing, we visited a clothing market that the government was ready to close down. The peddlers were selling their goods at rock-bottom prices. In a crowd frenzied over the best bargain, he kept asking, “what will happen to these poor people?”

He loved Jesus. Quietly and simply, he ordered his life grounded in that love.

He was a wonderful father and I miss him so very much.

Perhaps the greatest tribute I can give will be when I come to the end of my days and people say of me, simply, “she was just like her father.”

Goodbye Dad. I love you and miss you more than words can express.

Jo

If you knew my dad and have any special memories, please feel free to leave a comment.

Read more posts about my dad:

Pittman Hall

Pinch and a Punch

Happy Birthday, Dad

It was Chicken! It was Chicken! 

Evacuation

Evacuation, Part 2

One More Photo

Karachi Memories

 

 

Please Don’t Ask

Once I began studying Chinese, I fairly quickly became fluent at answering the following questions:

  1. Where are you from?
  2. Why are you here?
  3. Are you married?
  4. Why not?

I can’t say that I dreaded the questions (OK, maybe I dreaded #3 and #4 a little), but I certainly knew that they were going to be asked of me over and over and since practice makes perfect, I mastered the answers.

familymeal

As people in China prepare to head home for the annual Chinese New Year celebrations, many are dreading the questions that their relatives will pepper them with.

The website What’s on Weibo recently ran a post highlighting some of the most dreaded questions for Chinese New Year. Here’s the list, but be sure to visit their site to see the explanation of each.

  1. How did you score on your final exams?
  2. How much money are you making?
  3. Did you find a boyfriend/girlfriend yet?
  4. Do you have a house and a car?
  5. When are you finally having kids?

In fact, question #3 is such a daunting one that there is a cottage industry of people renting themselves out as boyfriends or girlfriends for the holidays. The Globe and Mail has an in interesting story about this:

For many young women, showing up at home with a pleasant-looking, well-behaved boyfriend – even if your family never sees him again – is better than enduring two weeks of questions about why there’s no marriage or kids on the horizon. (China can be a deeply sexist society – women who are unmarried past the age of 30 are often referred to as “leftover women,” even in official media.)

“There are all kinds of reasons” that women contact a rental boyfriend, Mr. Zhou explains in an interview via instant messenger. “Some are divorced, some want help getting rid of another boyfriend, some don’t want to go to a wedding by themselves.”

But most, he adds, “just want someone to go with them to their hometown for three days, just to meet their parents and let them know they have a boyfriend.”

What questions do you dread?

Image credit: International Business Times

Related Posts:

Happy New Year, Beijing

New Year Celebration Photos

Happy Niu Year!

If I Were in Beijing This Weekend

Red Underwear

The Battle of Beijing

An Ode to Minnesota

On a morning when the (real) temperature is Minus 11 (or 11 below, or negative 11, or however you want to say it), this poem pretty much sums up life in Minnesota in January.

minnesotapoem

(I do not know the origin of the poem. It seems to have been published in a local city newspaper, then posted to a Park District Facebook page, then picked up by a Facebook friend of mine. That’s how the Internet works, I guess!)

Related Posts:

Snapshots from the Polar Vortex

Minnesota Ten Commandments

A Chinese Football Fan

Snow Sculptures

Friday Photo: Dog Sledding

Death of a Snow Bank