In September 2010, a friend and I spent a week in Mongolia. We travelled to Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia by train — across mountains, grasslands, deserts, and more grasslands. It was one of the greatest rail journeys I’ve ever done (and I’ve done a lot).
I recently ran across a gorgeous video of the the journey, produced by factoria, and posted on Vimeo. It brought back some great memories…
Nobody in our little group could remember when the tradition started, but they all traced it back to my niece, who issued the first invitation a few years back to go to a Lenten Fish Fry Dinner. Since then it has become an annual trek, and since this is the first time I have been in Minnesota in the spring since 2004, tonight was my first time to join the gang.
Friday night fish fries during Lent are a grand tradition in the Twin Cities , which has a sizable Catholic population. Most of the dinners are served at area churches, but our place of choice, for some reason is the Gallagher-Hanson Post VFW in South St. Paul. Part community center, part neighborhood bar, the place was bursting at the seams this evening with people lined up out the door to get their fried fish, boiled potatoes, baked beans, mac and cheese, and cole slaw.
To Minnesota — Land of 10,000 Lakes and YELLOW FOOD!
While I may not be a huge fan of fish, I certainly enjoyed the cultural experience.
In February I had the joy of hosting 3 Chinese friends in the Twin Cities. It was a whirlwind 4 days, trying to see all the sights and meet all my friends.
One afternoon I took them to visit the Minnesota State Capitol, which sits on a hill overlooking the city. It’s a gorgeous building, designed by Cass Gilbert, the architect who designed the United States Supreme Court.
As we walked up the steps towards the main entrance, they couldn’t believe that we were going to just casually walk into a government building. “How can this be?” they asked. I told them that since the building belongs to the people and that “we the people” are the bosses of the elected officials, then the building had to be open. They shook their heads in amazement.
They were really taken aback when I took them to the gallery above the House of Representatives. The House was not in session at the time, but I was able to explain to them how things work, and that when they are in session, anyone can come in to watch and listen.
As we exited the Capitol building and walked back to my car, I pointed out to them St. Paul’s Cathedral, which sits on a slightly higher hill about a mile away.
When I explained to them that the cathedral had been built on the higher of the two hills that overlook the city to symbolize that God’s authority is higher than the government’s authority, the one friend who is a pastor in China jumped up and down and shouted, “YES!”
Sometime during my first year of language learning (back in 1990), our teacher tried to teach us the various terms used to describe family relationships in Chinese: mother, father, brother, sister, son, daughter, etc. It was useful stuff, since we were all anxious to talk about our families in Chinese. We usually did fine as long as things were confined to the immediate family.
Then came the day our teacher branched off into relationships further out (cousins, in-laws, grandparents). Our eyes glazed over and our brains shut down. Watch this video clip to see why. ( “The Complicated Family Tree,” from OfftheGreatWall)
In China’s sprawling smog-blanketed cities, life can sometimes seem a little grey. But Chengdu’s officials hit upon an easy solution to cheer up their city’s appearance: specifically, a chemical solution called Top Green Turf Greening Agent.
Chinese reporters filmed workers from Chengdu’s municipal landscaping department as they busily painted the grassy verges of the city’s roads with a fluorescent green spray.
“Two workers were spraying the grass, turning the yellow grass into green. Were they painting the grass?” said He Tao, a Chengdu resident, to the China Dailynewspaper. “Wouldn’t that pollute the environment?”
Not according to Mr Yang, a salesman for Top Green, the makers of the dye.
“It is absolutely not toxic. It is just a green dye. We have been selling it to the Chengdu government for at least five or six years, and we have lots of other government clients, like the city of Tianjin, and many north western provinces. And we also sell it to golf courses,” he said.
I laughed out loud because it brought back memories of February 2001 when Beijing was pulling out all the stops to win its bid to host the 2008 Olympics. The IOC was coming to town for it’s final inspection tour of the city and everything was getting spruced up. Buildings along the Ring Roads were being painted (the sides that were visible to the road, anyway) and factories had been shut down to clean out the air. Making a good impression on the committee had become the government’s top prioirity.
In the week before the IOC came to town, I was with some friends at the Tiananmen Square, and we thought it odd that, in the middle of a cold Beijing winter, the grass in the Square was green. So we walked over to check it out, and sure enough, it had been painted. As we made our way out of the square, towards the west, we also noticed that the grassy areas along the road had been painted as well.
The next day I jokingly mentioned to a Chinese friend what I had seen — spray painted grass — and her response was “how clever.” We looked at each other in mutual incomprehension.
We all know that 5 months later the IOC chose Beijing to be the host city for the 2008 Olympic Games.
Yesterday as I was eating lunch with my mom and sister, a friend called from Arizona, asking me if I would be willing to fly to Las Vegas immediately (as in later in the day). He was planning to drive his parents’ car from there to Minnesota, but had just gotten a call that his dad (who had been taken to MN by air ambulance earlier in the week) might only have a couple of days to live. If he drove their car, he might not make it back in time; instead he was driving to Las Vegas to catch the first flight out.
So…last night I flew into Las Vegas and went to the hotel where he had left his parents car (along with the keys, of course).
And now I’m fixin’ to set out on a three-day road trip. I get to drive across my favorite state, Utah!