Beijing, again and again

There was a trip to Beijing in March.  In addition to our spectacular morning at Panjiayuan, we also ventured to 798 Art District, Lama Temple, and the Drum Tower.  Wow!  I love an exhausting day of walking and discovering in a big city.

Enjoy.

Oh, You Are Lovely

Panjiayuan is a fantastic spot in Beijing.  I love it.  I love looking and talking and not understanding half the conversation.  I love it when they courteously compliment my negotiating skills when they still have made money off this foreigner.  I love not knowing what everything is, like a lot of places I go in China.  This visit to Panjiayuan, I thoroughly enjoyed with a fellow pottery/porcelain/curiosity lover.  We looked – we asked – we wondered – we loved – we bought – we love.  Thank you, S, for a morning memory I will carry with me a very long time.  Enjoy.

So Many Things

I’ve written about Luyuan Market before.  It is always such an interesting experience, with so many things to see.  I love asking, “what is that?” and not knowing the answer.  I love thinking of those people long ago who belonged to those shoes, that jacket, that bowl.  We think of who wrote that scroll and who read it.  Who will read it still?  We think of who will buy that tiny wooden cage for a cricket.  I don’t suppose I shall ever know.

I sit beside the fire and think
Of all that I have seen
Of meadow flowers and butterflies
In summers that have been

Of yellow leaves and gossamer
In autumns that there were
With morning mist and silver sun
And wind upon my hair

I sit beside the fire and think
Of how the world will be
When winter comes without a spring
That I shall ever see

For still there are so many things
That I have never seen
In every wood in every spring
There is a different green

I sit beside the fire and think
Of people long ago
And people that will see a world
That I shall never know

But all the while I sit and think
Of times there were before
I listen for returning feet
And voices at the door

J.R.R. Tolkien

Thank you, Tolkien.  Enjoy.

 

 

 

The Water Towns

We had avoided many destinations in China during the Spring Festival (Chinese New Year).  We had heard and seen the throngs of people who travel during that time.  This year, being perhaps our last in this big country, we have quite a few cities left on our list.  So we took a chance and got lucky.

Suzhou is a city in Jiangsu Province, just west of Shanghai.  It is in the Yangtze River Delta, which lends itself to beautiful views on many canals and ponds.  It has more than two thousand years of history and is sometimes called the Venice of China or Venice of the East.  The meticulous gardens are, together, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, along with those in the other water towns along the canals.

It was a quick trip down to Shanghai, then a full day along the canals, and a trip back to the tundra the next day.  On our water town excursion, we spent a rainy morning and midday in Suzhou, then went on to an overcast Tongli and, finally, some sunshine in Zhouzhuang.  It is a touristy area, yes, but lovely, just like all the pictures I’ve admired for so long.  And, because it was the weekend before the Chinese New Year, perhaps many other travelers were with their families.  I hope they had a lovely time because we certainly did.

Enjoy some of our views in the water towns.

Thank you. You’re welcome.

One of the lessons I had to learn during my personal happiness project was how to really say thank you and you’re welcome.   Oh, and mean it.  Sincerity was, perhaps, the more difficult lesson, I’ll have you know.  That’s embarrassing to admit, but I know I’m not the only one.

Someone pays you a compliment or gives you a gift, and sometimes we pass it off like it’s nothing.  “You shouldn’t have.” or “where did you find this?” are not the same as “thank you”.  “It was nothing.” or a shrug of the shoulders are not the same as “you’re welcome”.

It is at this point in the post when I could write that I was never taught how to do this, but in fact, I was.  I still believe in the power of a thank you note though most of the world doesn’t make the time.  That’s thanks to the 86-year old woman who still writes to me every week.  Recently, she even wrote to thank us for a gift that we didn’t send her.  (I’m sure that ruffled some feathers.)  You can be taught how to say thank you and how to write a thank you note, but I believe the sincerity is a hard lesson we learn on our own. And we must.

Friends, I understand that we have all been given a gift or two that we didn’t really care for.  I get it.  I’ve received them.  I’ve given them. I know.  Our satisfaction with the gift doesn’t change the effort with which it was given.  It doesn’t change the sentiment, so I believe it should not lessen the sincerity of our thank you.  Suck it up, and say it/write it/text it/message it.  If you choose to re-gift after the fact, be sincere it that too.  No judgments here.

I want to mention that I learned these lessons about thank you and you’re welcome in a country that doesn’t really say those things.  As I have been told, in the Chinese culture, friends are supposed to help each other, without question and without thanks.  It’s a beautiful idea.  My friend, Grace, helped me order something online last month and when I expressed my appreciation, she said, “no thank you.  Don’t say that.”  Without question and without thanks.  This can be difficult when gift giving because there is no comfort in the recipient’s satisfaction level.  When you give someone a gift and there is no response, you might wonder if they liked it, hated it, re-gifted it, never received it, didn’t give a shit about it, put it in a closet, etc.  That’s not just China though.  I get a 50% thank you rate on gifts among family and friends usually.  BUT that doesn’t change the sentiment.  It doesn’t change my intention.  Actually, it’s not a true measure of the satisfaction level either.  I visited someone last fall who had a gift from us displayed proudly on their desk, but they had never acknowledged receipt.

It took me a long time to learn that, while thank you is polite and important, it’s not necessary for me to hear it.  In the past, I would be frustrated and resentful if I didn’t get a thank you.  “I’m not giving them a gift anymore if they don’t know how to say thank you,” says someone I know.  When a family member doesn’t acknowledge you, that says something about them, not you.  I’ll continue to give their children holiday gifts whether they say thank you or not.  I will be happy to give whether I hear thank you or not.

This lesson is not about other people or other cultures, nor are the other lessons I learned and continue to struggle with.  My lessons are about me and the person I am.  I cannot blame others if I lack politeness or sincerity.  Stop making excuses.  I’m forty-four years old and I need to own my shit.  Talk about a hard lesson.

For the love of gifts, click on the pictures below.

Cups
Cups
Turkey
Turkey
xiexie
xiexie

For those who enjoy the brilliance of TED, take a look at what Laura Trice has to say on this subject.  http://www.ted.com/talks/laura_trice_suggests_we_all_say_thank_you?language=en

Blue Sky in Beijing

I love a blue sky.  On a recent trip to Beijing, we were lucky enough to have a few days, including one on the Great Wall.  Living in China, or anywhere, one must appreciate the blue sky when you’ve got it.  #gooutside  Enjoy.

Check this or this to see how pollution is effecting China.  For a different perspective on Blue Sky, check out this from South Carolina.

– Nice hotel close to NanLuoGuXiang – Beijing Traditional View Hotel.  Also try the Indian restaurant and visit Pottery Workshop just steps away.

Every Day, and again tomorrow

Three years ago, I was in a bad place.  I was scared about a situation going on in our lives and I couldn’t see the end.  I was stuck in the mud and mire of not knowing.  Well, Yoda was right.

“Fear is the path to the dark side.  Fear leads to anger.  Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”

I was scared and angry, and my life suffered.  I think back to things I said, things I didn’t say …  I have moved on and yet, as I sit here thinking back to those spring days a few years ago, I can still feel a weight.  It’s a reminder of where I don’t want to be.

When you’re going through a hard time, you still talk, laugh, eat, eat again, live.  But there is always that weight.

What was my reason for the fear?  It won’t matter to you.  What matters to you is YOUR reason.  What matters to you is your fear and anger, your mud and mire.  Regardless of things you say, things you don’t say, what you do and the way people react to you and your situation, YOU MATTER.  That’s the first step out.

Sometimes what leads us to the first step is a light, and we find the light in so many different ways.  I remember my first glimpse of it.  I remember it exactly.  I remember the feeling of knowing again.  There would be an end.  And that was the beginning.

I held that light and it helped, but it took me months to figure out what to do with it, how to build it into something else.  Coming off a loss and a few hard lessons, it was nine months later when I launched into a personal happiness project.  There are many versions of it thanks to Gretchen Rubin – 30 days, 100 days, meditation, laugh therapy.  I decided that mine would be every day, no matter what.  I would think happy thoughts, create something, share it with the world, take it into my soul and believe it.  The next day, I would do it again.  It wasn’t full proof, but it worked for me.

Yes, I have slipped.  I am sorry for those times.  Happiness is a work in progress.  It’s a learning experience too.  My key was finding the light every day, and finding the light again when I slipped.

I want to share some of this journey with a few who might read this blog.  Share some thoughts and perhaps a rant or two, lessons learned.  There will be sunny, happy thoughts, a curse word or ten (you are warned), thankfulness, beauty, simplicity.  This is my project, a part of the simple adventure.  I truly hope you have found or will find yours too.

Part of my project were these photo creations that I shared on a Facebook page called The Simple Adventure.  They are still there, though I have stepped away from the page for a while to make changes to this blog.

The next part of my project is to change this blog a bit.  We’ll still share travel and stories, as well as life lessons from one who has found happiness in the world.  Read if you will.  Enjoy.