How the Cookie Crumbles

An irreverant view of life after SIXTY-FIVE


Shaolin: Kung Fu Training and Shaolin Temple

Image Courtesy of Sally Cronin

Already I was confused regarding the day. My iPad said Thursday but its calendar highlighted Wednesday. My laptop also showed Wednesday. Sheesh, different time zone. The reason for my disorientation was our itinerary had been flipped and I could not keep the changes straight.

This is where we slept the previous night. Pretty swanky hotel, but we saw no other guests.

© All Rights Reserved. Used by permission of RJ, a member of English 8.

© All Rights Reserved. Used by permission of RJ, a member of English 8.

From the hotel, we drove to the Shaolin School of Kung Fu. Our guide, Lisa, told us the attendees were 95% boys with 5% girls. I saw no girls.

Lisa wore the same clothes as the day before: red track pants and a red quilted jacket. Too warm for the humid weather.The forecast for the day: 20 degrees.

© All Rights Reserved by Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

© All Rights Reserved by Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

© All Rights Reserved by Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

© All Rights Reserved by Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

We sat inside for a thirty-minute-plus Kung Fu performance. The place was run down inside and out, needed paint and refurbishing. I took a couple of videos but deleted them because they were too blurry.

The little guy in white, the youngest but a rapidly advancing pupil, demonstrated clutching a bowl-shaped object to his midriff by muscle control. To prove authenticity, a pole inserted through a hole in the object (was it a bell?) allowed two young men to lift it shoulder length and carry the boy as he hung firmly attached, belly-up.

© All Rights Reserved by Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

© All Rights Reserved by Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z4-s8TBB6dw  (4.49 min) A peak at Kung Fu training.

Quick Facts:

  • Shaolin Home of Shaolin School of Kung Fu
  • Established 495 A.D.
  • 10,000 students
  • Ages 3 to 18 (complete education here, equivalent to finishing high-school)
  • 95% boys / 5% girls
  • Half-day school / half-day Kung Fu training
  • This is a private school (parents pay for room, board, and tuition)
  • One month holiday in February during Chinese New Year
  • Parents can come to visit on weekends
  • Costs (10,000 Yuan) under $2,000 U.S. per year
  • Attending this school is good for finding a job later
  • Can open own Kung Fu school in other countries instead of finding a job
  • Famous personalities from this school: Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan

Pagoda Forest / Shaolin Temple

A short distance away we visited the Pagoda Forest. Rain drizzled as we walked around. Young girls giggled and stared, and begged to have their picture taken with the foreigners (‘the big noses’).

© All Rights Reserved by Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

© All Rights Reserved by Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pagoda_Forest_at_Shaolin_Temple

This is what the tombs look like. The size depended on the monk’s life achievement and the number of  financial contributors.

© All Rights Reserved by Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

© All Rights Reserved by Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

© All Rights Reserved. Used by permission of RJ, a member of English 8.

© All Rights Reserved. Used by permission of RJ, a member of English 8.

Quick Facts: 

  • Graveyard with 248 tombs for important monks
  • Depending on life’s accomplishments = size of tomb
  • Depending on number of supporters (donations) = size of tomb
  • Tombs built during an eminent monk’s lifetime, not after death, and added to till he died

Some highlights at the Temple

© All Rights Reserved. Used by permission of RJ, a member of English 8.

© All Rights Reserved. Used by permission of RJ, a member of English 8. (The well is picture below)

© All Rights Reserved. Used by permission of RJ, a member of English 8.

© All Rights Reserved. Used by permission of RJ, a member of English 8.  (This is the preserved well.)

Protectors of the Temple

© All Rights Reserved. Used by permission of RJ, a member of English 8.

© All Rights Reserved. Used by permission of RJ, a member of English 8.

© All Rights Reserved. Used by permission of RJ, a member of English 8.

© All Rights Reserved. Used by permission of RJ, a member of English 8.

An Altar

© All Rights Reserved. Used by permission of RJ, a member of English 8.

© All Rights Reserved. Used by permission of RJ, a member of English 8.

~ *~

Next on April 28:  Xian

© 2017 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

FYI: This is a re-blog of the best parts of my trip in 2014.


Luoyang Part 3 – Dinner and Stories

Image Courtesy of Sally Cronin

At 5:00 p.m., it was still 25 degrees Celsius when we left the Longmen Caves. All around us, the Chinese people dressed in sweaters and wool leggings. Our tour guide, Lisa, wore red sweat pants and a fleece jacket. We foreigners sported shorts or cargo pants and short-sleeved tees because we were hot. The boulevard back to the bus was again another l-o-o-o-n-g walk and the air was sticky.

Our driver turned into a pot-holed dirt road in the middle of no man’s land. What? I don’t recall buildings or much of anything that looked like civilization for a short while. We rounded a tight corner on the bumpy road and like an oasis in the desert came upon the strangest sight–at least to me. Two long buildings materialized meeting at right angles at one corner. I can only describe it as a motel—with a second story.

© by permission of RJ, a member of English 8 The building is in the back. A lovely bridge and flower garden decorated the middle courtyard.

© by permission of RJ, a member of English 8
The building is in the back. A lovely bridge and flower garden decorated the middle courtyard.

Dinner was served through Door 111 in the front room barely large enough for a round 6-foot diameter table and us squeezed around.

IMG_0351

IMG_0352

Dinner:

  • Noodle soup
  • Fritters
  • White rice
  • Cauliflower
  • Sweet and sour chicken
  • Scrambled eggs and chopped tomatoes
  • Cooked sliced potatoes and ground beef
  • Pork and scallions
  • Garlic sprouts with sliced red peppers and fungus
  • Greens

This time we were served—count them—two baby glasses of drinks. I had beer. Twice.

© Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles No doors

© Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles
No doors on outside washroom

The bathroom was an open-ended building across the yard with six or eight stalls. No outside doors or plastic against the elements did I see at either end. All were squats but someone had taken a card chair, removed the seat and stuck a toilet seat on it. I opened the door and slipped inside. Afterward, Sue grumbled because I had lucked out somewhat with the only ‘throne’.

Along the way to the facilities after dinner, we passed two young ladies with a plastic container filled with cutlery (forks). I saw no soap in the water, no sponge or wash cloth. Agitation seemed the customary /accepted practice to clean the flatware.

Maybe this was a restaurant after all. At the end of the building opposite the facilities, we heard kitchen noises and a teen in a not quite pristine kitchen jacket appeared. He ran to the washroom and out again without stopping at the open sink. Had he touched our dinner?

Another man (not from the kitchen) washed his hands with the liquid Palmolive soap before entering the facilities and washed them again on his way out. Sue and I gaped at the scene and then each other.

© Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles Five outdoor sinks and Palmolive liquid soap. No towels.

© Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles
Five outdoor sinks and Palmolive liquid soap. No towels of any kind.

A large fat bug floated in one plugged sink, legs pointed heavenwards, sunning himself, unaware he was dead.

I asked Lisa about the building. The year before, she had brought a tour bus of visitors when only the ground floor had been finished. The second floor had just been added and was just a decoration. What did that mean? I noticed a couple of large windows revealing cardboard boxes stacked high and wide inside.

I asked her again what we call this place.

“A restaurant. A different type of restaurant. I think this is a different experience from other restaurants.”

What? Never mind.

We arrived in Zhengzhou a couple of hours later. The time: 7:00 or 7:30 p.m. in early spring. Is this how dark it is at home in the spring? The hotel was attractive but appeared empty and quiet. The interior design cost more than the building. We dragged out luggage inside. Lisa went to the desk with our passports to get our room keys.

© Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles Old furniture decorating hotel lobby

© Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles
Old furniture decorating hotel lobby

I asked why the furniture was so big since the people were not. Answer: It was a sign of wealth and prosperity.

© Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

© Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

Quick Luoyang facts:

  • Population 2 million
  • This is a tourism city
  • Copper mining, glass factory
  • Heavy industry: tractor, first built in 1959
  • The Peony is the city flower (blooms in April)
  • This is an old capital city
  • Buddhism  popular

~ * ~

 Next on April 21:  International Shaolin Kung Fu Training Center and Shaolin Temple

© 2017 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

FYI: This is a re-blog of the best parts of my trip in 2014.


Luoyang, Part 2: Longmen Caves

Image Courtesy of Sally Cronin

We were supposed to visit the Terra Cotta Warriors, but our schedule had been switched.  Our new guide, Lisa, met us at the airport in red sweats and a quilted  jacket. It was warm (forecast 25° Celsius). Our luggage loaded on the bus, we headed for the mysterious Longmen Caves.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3QdYUkvT19g  (length 4.37 min)

OR

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nf_ZzgwxrmI  (length 30.12 min)

We walked a long way from the bus to the grottoes. The day was humid with a hint of rain. I wore flip-flops until we got off the plane. Yes, those cheap dollar store kind to wear in the hotels, proof of how little I’ve traveled. We had slippers at every hotel. Duh. Had I known I’d be wearing them out, I’d have packed my fashionable pair. I switched to my runners on the bus. Soon my blistered and bandaged toes, although wrapped in three bandages each, growled and complained.

Bridge at Long Corridor © by permission of RJ, a member of English 8

Bridge at Long Corridor
© by permission of RJ, a member of English 8

The area we walked was a long and wide to accommodate hoards of people. It was a well-maintained park setting with flowers, trees, surprisingly pristine, alongside the River Yi. Again we saw no wrappers or garbage anywhere. No empty water bottles lay around either. Recycle containers were everywhere and well-used.

River Yi at Longmen Caves © by permission of RJ, a member of English 8

River Yi at Longmen Caves
© by permission of RJ, a member of English 8

So much destruction had occurred to the caves and carvings over time: vandalism, smashed faces, missing heads and time/weather-wear. Stolen pieces had been mysteriously secreted to museums in various parts of the world, but are slowly being returned.

Our tickets to Longmen Caves allowed a choice between a postcard and a pack of peony seeds. I chose the latter as a souvenir because peonies are the city flower. There is a natural rock in this area that looks like it’s covered in peonies.

Peony Stone © by permission of RJ, a member of English 8

Peony Stone
© by permission of RJ, a member of English 8

I hadn’t planned to climb to the top as my feet balked at the hundreds of stairs (thousands?), but curiosity changed my mind. When would I have the opportunity to see for myself what I’d traveled so far to see? Going up wasn’t too bad. I don’t think anyone noticed how I gripped the railing with both hands. Coming down was another matter. Heights and I are not on friendly terms.

© Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles A few caves

© Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles
A few caves

Would you guess the biggest Buddha is 17 meters tall?

© by permission of RJ, a member of English 8

© by permission of RJ, a member of English 8

This is a close-up of the largest Buddha, Losana, or Mona Lisa so-called by the locals because of the smile.

© by permission of RJ, a member of English 8

© by permission of RJ, a member of English 8

Below the many stairs are shops with tourist trinkets of all kinds and postcards etc.

© Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

© Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

By the time I’d walked, photographed, snooped in the shops and sat to rest my feet, my tummy reminded me it was starving. The humidity continued and the rain stayed away. Soon everyone gathered together. There was no more to see. Dinner awaited somewhere. I hoped we didn’t have far or long to go.

~ * ~

For an in-depth history, you may like to check http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Longmen_Grottoes

 

Next on April 14th, Luoyang, Part 3 – Dinner and Stories

© 2017 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

FYI: This is a re-blog of the best parts of my trip in 2014.


Luoyang, Part 1 – Domestic Flight

Image Courtesy of Sally Cronin

So far, our English 8 Gang has traveled from Toronto to Chicago to Beijing, approximately 7,041 miles (give or take). This does not include the bus trips in the three days since our arrival in Beijing to Tiananmen Square; Forbidden City; Temple of Heaven; The Great Wall; Ming Tombs, Summer Palace, and old Beijing Hutong.

IMG_0792

The night before we scrambled to assemble our suitcases and sort out what we’d need for the morning and left our bags in the hallway for pickup as instructed. It seemed odd the next morning when the bags were in the lobby–sitting there looking abandoned and crammed together for protection. We could have brought them down when we met in the lobby after breakfast. What a headache for nothing. No tour was planned for the morning.

Bikes galore

                                                                            Bikes galore

We were off for the first of our domestic flights to Luoyang. Robert, our guide, came with us to the luggage drop-off and as far as Security, which made it easier to find our way through the airport.

Someone brought up tipping (the tour guide) at dinner the night before but no conclusion had been reached. A new tour guide waited in Luoyang. Before Robert said goodbye, there was a scramble to cross his palm with Chinese money.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luoyang_Beijiao_Airport

I stood behind Sue at the Security Check and was yelled at to step back behind the yellow line. Scared me silly. Okay, unnerved me because I don’t understand Chinese. When my turn came, the (young) clerk looked so stern, I was nervous, but I also felt she was milking it. You know, a power trip? I waited while she took her time before returning my passport and boarding pass. Once through, the body scanning wand went off. What’s going on? Deep breath. The problem:  my purchased-in-Canada-made-in-China earrings.

Russ waited in line behind his wife who cleared in no time though she has knee replacements. She carries a letter in the event the Gong Show starts. We waited and waited for him in consternation. Finally, we watched him being escorted to another Security Desk. When his carry-on had been x-rayed, they couldn’t figure out what set off the alarm. Turned out, he had a camera charger which wasn’t labeled with voltage information (there is a maximum allowed) and it had to be turned in. The security guard, who escorted him, laughed silently. I saw his animated face and shaking shoulders. Even the fellow at the desk, taking possession of the charger, was apologetic, but rules were rules.

Our arrival at the airport was 10:00 a.m., too early for 12:30 boarding. Take-off was 1:00. Would you believe we were given a meal on such a short flight (about an hour and a half)? Then again, it was time for a mid-day meal. The boxed lunch consisted of rice with scrambled egg mixed in and a piece of chopped ham; a dried fruit bun; coffee; water, and cookies. A lot of Chinese were on our flight. One guy, I watched across the aisle, wolfed down his food as if he were starving.

We arrived around 2:30 p.m. I estimated we’d flown 420 miles on a ticket worth about $143.00 USD. We did not pay this. Our trip was all inclusive.

Another new home

                                                                   Another new home

 

Lots of fantastic pictures next time.

Next on April 7, Luoyang, Part 2 – Longmen Caves

© 2017 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

FYI: This is a re-blog of the best parts of my trip in 2014.


Beijing Part 11: Special Peking Duck Dinner

Image Courtesy of Sally Cronin

When the bus dropped us off, we stumbled to the restaurant down an alley and a weird sidewalk, up-heaved and unfinished, or maybe under construction. We entered a shopping mall and took the escalator to the second floor. The women wanted to look around and shop. We hadn’t been in a Chinese mall yet. Again, no time. I didn’t care about actual shopping, but I wanted to compare a mall in the east to what we knew at home. From our rushed escort, I’d say they are comparable.

Fancy caving of Peking Duck

                          Fancy carving of Peking Duck. Check out the wine glass on the table.

Our heads swiveled as we ascended, but Robert whisked the English 8 into the most upscale restaurant we’d been to so far. All the restaurants thus far wouldn’t be mistaken for anything but Chinese. Excepting the staff, we might have been anywhere in the world. Our table, tucked in a quiet corner with no other patrons around, put the idea into my head that we’d been bad. (small joke)

Asked for our drink preferences, glasses were blessed with a splash—my guess—an ounce of wine. (Proof positive: Don’t do this at home, kids. Today I ran a test. I measured an ounce of water and poured it into a similar glass. I was right. Sometimes I amaze me.)

Appetizers

  • Thin beef slices
  • Radish
  • Salad (didn’t write what kind)
  • Vegetables

As expert as a surgeon

                                                                    As expert as a surgeon

The opened bottle waited on the sideboard. All meals and tips were inclusive but not extra wine. At least when you buy a bottle of wine in a grocery store or liquor outlet, you can haggle over the price. You don’t ask the price of wine in a restaurant and then decide not to order. Right? What a group we are. No-one jumped to order another ounce of wine. Was it good? It wasn’t memorable.

The duck presented with a flourish was carved by an expert carver, every cut precise. We all tasted it but what a disappointment. We were embarrassed to leave so much uneaten. Okay, I’ll tell you why: it was dry and tough. My apologies to the chef. A buildup for nothing.

  • Rice
  • Beef and onion + red and green peppers for color
  • Sweet and Sour chicken (familiar, almost like home)
  • French fries and shrimp (yes, together)
  • Chinese cucumbers (the teeny tiny ones)
  • Chicken and tomatoes
  • Soup (a mystery kind)
  • Pulled duck meat and onions
  • Something like a tortilla for the duck meat

 IMG_0325

Wouldn’t you know, the one night we had an early evening, we ended up in a traffic jam but not for long. My feet were killing me but felt better than the previous day. These new shoes for which I paid mega bucks were comfortable but my feet perspired like fish in a steamer.

I needed bandages for the blisters. Couldn’t find the ones I KNOW I packed. Lucky for me we had a drugstore next to the small variety store on one side of the hotel. What an experience. Neither the druggist nor the cashier spoke English. I shook my head a lot and the druggist showed me a roll of gauze suitable for a bullet wound to the chest. Pantomime, hand signals and short of removing my shoes, we finally found regular bandages. Bows and wide smiles followed.

On my return to the hotel, I slipped into the variety store next door and for $3.00 U.S. bought a large can of Chinese beer–you know, to celebrate the bandages and yes, it hit the spot.

CCTV station in the background. Looks like a pair of pants.

                                  CCTV station in the background. Looks like a pair of pants.

 

Some Quick FACTS about WORK:

  • Average salary $1,000 per month in major cities / less in smaller ones
  • White collar workers $1,700 per month
  • Working for government, same salary but allows discounts for detergents, soap, condos,
  • Working for government has good healthcare and other benefits even if salary low
  • Late to work once, maybe twice, 3rd time you’re fired
  • Unemployment rate 4 – 5%
  • 70% of companies are privately owned
  • Big imbalance between the rich and poor
  • Lots of floating population from rural areas and outside the city try to move to Beijing
  • Both parents must work
  • Grandparents live close by and look after child while parents at work

Family:

NO matter how many young children we came across—not hordes—not once did any one of them flip out, scream, cry, cause any kind of fuss. How does that work here? As well, lots of grandfathers and young fathers interact with the young child. By far, most of the children have been boys.

  • Babysitter for newborn good paying / competitive job = $1,500 / month
  • Rather hire grandma/grandparents who live close to help with childcare
  • Maternity leave is 6 months with pay
  • Second child penalty 60,000 Yuan ($10,000)
  • Twins or triplets are considered one pregnancy and not penalized

~*~

Next on March 31, Luoyang Part 1: Domestic Flight

© 2017 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

FYI: This is a re-blog of the best parts of my trip in 2014.


Beijing Part 10: The Hutong and a Rickshaw Tour

Image Courtesy of Sally Cronin

After the disappointment of Olympic Park, the day became more interesting. We visited The Hutong, once the old walled city. The buildings were ancient, many were decrepit. We drove through the shopping district but did not stop. As the bus meandered through the old town’s narrow streets, we learned a new subway station is planned for the area; buildings are being torn down and replaced. Renewal is everywhere.

Our first stop: a rickshaw ride.

That's a lot of rickshaws. This is still a popular draw in the Hutong.

                          That’s a lot of rickshaws. This is still a popular draw in the Hutong.

I had been worried about runners pulling us in traffic, as in cars. I suppose I’ve seen too many movies. Ricksaws had progressed to pedal power.

Sue and I not sure what to make of this. We're not exactly featherweights.

                Sue and I not sure what to make of this. We’re not exactly featherweights.

The roads are bricked and narrow. Other customers other than our Group 8 had come for a ride.

Someone else enjoying a ride. It's a wonderful day for it.

                                     Someone else enjoying a ride. It’s a wonderful day for it.

The alleys were full of contrasts: falling buildings and new cars  You wouldn’t believe the electrical boxes and the plugs inserted in them helter-skelter.

An artist's work on display

An artist’s work on display

We all know alleys are a playground for wandering, stray cats.  I saw none, nor any dog either.

Restaurant tables and chairs. Too simple. Let's bring all of the inside out.

Restaurant tables and chairs outside. Simple. Let’s bring the inside out.

Sue and I whispered behind the driver’s back how guilty we felt having this not-so-young man peddling for all he was worth. We had been instructed to tip him, but no more than $2.00 USD.

The driver wasn't young but he must have been in good shape for all that heavy peddling.

The driver wasn’t young but he must have been in good shape for all that heavy peddling.

 Our driver,  a warm and generous guy, was happy to have a picture with Sue and me.

We weren't sure if he understood anything we said to him but he gave off happy vibes.

We weren’t sure if he understood anything we said to him but he gave off happy vibes. That’s the man-made lake in the background. How many people and how long did that take?

The things people throw out. I didn’t see anything wrong with the girl’s two wheeler, but I also didn’t jump out of the rickshaw to inspect it.

Looks like home. All ready for garbage pickup.

Looks like home. All ready for garbage pickup.

I cannot recall if this is a restaurant or a temple.

Not a great photo because of the narrow street and my amateur photography.

Not a great photo because of the narrow street and my amateur photography.

A video you might enjoy on more hutong background  (29.05 min).

 

Next on March 24, Beijing Part 11: A Special Peking Duck Dinner

© 2017 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

FYI: This is a re-blog of the best parts of my trip in 2014.


36 Comments

Obstacles

Friends, neighbors, and fellow bloggers:

A truckload of obstacles we call life has dropped at my door. I need to sign off for an indefinite period. No, my health is not involved. I will miss you and our daily chats and plan to return. The question is when.

All the best.

Tess


46 Comments

Beijing Part 9: Olympic Park

Image Courtesy of Sally Cronin

The Olympic Park

The Olympic grounds had been built on razed farmland. We were told all the displaced farmers had been given jobs and a better apartment than the farmhouses they’d lived in. Everyone’s happy; a win-win.

To get to the entrance of the Park, a busy four-lane highway had to be negotiated by foot. The bus had been parked on the other side. Although busy, the hazards of crossing presented less chance of being run over than in the midst of the city if you timed your jaunt.

At long last, we were free to wander the grounds. I found our time there boring, however. The sun smirked overhead. Paved walkways, expansive stone-tiled, and bricked thoroughfare stretched miles ahead, too bright and stripped of any shade. Thank goodness for hats and sunglasses. It felt a clear day and I noticed no smog to date.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GtjogMtnrjw  (published Feb. 2014, 2.53 min)

or

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=12e3c6mAzfQ  (published May 2014, 9.45 min)

Notice the tents with trinkets for visitors. In the background is the 25-story IBM building (in the shape of Olympic torch)

Notice the tents with trinkets for visitors. In the background is the 25-story IBM building (in the shape of Olympic torch)

 I recall hawkers in the open and sellers of tourist knick-knacks in stall, after stall, after stall, along one side of the center road. These were actually white tents four or five feet wide with a flap raised on some as a sunshade. At intervals, empty stretches separated one cluster from another. The disappointment lay in discovering they all carried the same products! Every one.

One of the last ones, a larger tent, provided a digital photo opportunity for a mock emperor and concubine, or possibly his queen. Ernesto and Lorena, known for their carefree style, donned the costumes provided and had their royal photo taken. One size fit all as the ‘costumes’ tied in the back like hospital gowns.

Another frustration: no open exhibits.

As we left the Park, the ladies inquired about washrooms. Somebody spied one and pointed. “No, you won’t like that one,” Robert said. “See there? That’s a good one.” We’d heard a similar declaration several times now. I wondered in what way it might be different and not to our liking.

The Birds Nest National Statdium

                                                         The Birds Nest National Stadium

No matter what was served at any of our meals, I would never starve. It struck me, though, lunch and dinner dishes were quite similar, with lots of repeats. Time will tell.

Lunch was served at a restaurant not far from Olympic Village. From where we sat, I saw back-to-back orange hoods / like half pods or huge footballers’ helmets and wondered what they were. Phone booths. Say what? Two by two they appeared on the sidewalk, back to back, closer than girlfriends. Migrants and low-income workers use these Public Phone Booths.

Notice the water glasses, which vary in size from restaurant to restaurant

             Notice the water glasses, which vary in size from restaurant to restaurant. 

Lunch:

  • White rice
  • Tea (always hot and ready)
  • Pork meatballs
  • Chicken with cabbage and carrots
  • Kung Pow chicken
  • Rice (with duck meat)
  • Deep fried pork
  • Cucumbers with chicken
  • Deep fried battered fish
  • Egg drop soup
  • Sliced watermelon for dessert

Some Quick Facts about Telephones:

  • Everyone has a cell phone, sometimes two
  • Use text message vs. phone because it’s cheaper
  • Use’ You Chat’ a lot
  • Two providers: China Mobile and China Unicom
  • Phone fee 200 Yuan per month or $40

Housing:

  • Apartment rent 2 bedrooms: $1,000 per month (all USD)
  • Condo rent good location: $1,600 per month (depending on that location)
  • Condos, 2-bedroom, 1,000 square meters, 1 toilet
  • Condos cost $6,000 per square meter
  • 1,000 metres = $600,000 per condo
  • A house and garage, minimum price 30,000,000 Yuan or FIVE million U.S. dollars

Up Next on March 17: Beijing Part 10: The Hutong

© 2017 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

FYI: This is a re-blog of the best parts of my trip in 2014.


56 Comments

#ShortStory

I confess sci-fi is not me. No way am I up for this week’s #BlogBattle prompt. Instead, I offer this short story for your weekly entertainment.

 

Heart Burn

I never understood her—my mother: blonde, a goddess, svelte and self-assured like my older sister. I was the dark one, the disappointment. How had that happened? I could not be more different from them: neither as smart nor as trim. They chummed together like girlfriends, leaving me out in the cold.

***

She promised to meet me at Starbuck’s Saturday morning. I arrived early. My heart pounded and the acid in my stomach burned like the searing edge of a hot knife churning pirouettes. She breezed in like she owned the place. The shop almost empty, I was easy to find.

“Mother,” I said, “new suit?” She always dressed well. She had the figure for it, of course.

“Are you all right dear? You appear flushed.” She reached across the table and checked my forehead with a cool hand as if I were a child. “I’ll get the coffee.” A pat on my shoulder and I watched her heels clickety-clacked across the stone tile floor.

I gulped air in hopes of calming down, but she returned too soon.

“Still black, I take it. Thought we’d splurge with a couple brownies.”

Brownies. One minute she told me to lay off the sweets and the next she offered them. Either I was losing my mind, or she was. I took the lid off my coffee cup to cool it quicker.

“It’s clear to me, dear, you’re upset about something. Man troubles? School?” Flawless, penciled brown brows rose to perfect peaks.

“You came.” The words popped out before I realized I’d said them aloud. I clamped hands to my mouth.

“Yes. You invited me. Remember?”

“I’m surprised you made it—so busy with all your clubs—and Melissa.” I watched her face. None of her thoughts showed.

She had the decency to blink, false lashes aflutter. Her flaming pink mouth worked like a fish out of water. “What is wrong with you? I love you both the same.”

The audacity of the lie. “I’m not in the least like you or Melissa. I don’t match—don’t fit.”

“How old are you?”

“You don’t know?”

“I mean at 21 you’re acting like a six-year-old.”

“You and Melissa—always together, joining clubs, chapters this and that, whispering, laughing.”

“Do you like or enjoy these groups and societies?”

“Well, no—but you never have time for me.” Bile fought to strangle me, but I fought back. “Then you send me away to school. I wanted to attend college in our hometown but no, it had to be university.”

“Lily, dear, what’s this about? You’re fifty miles from home and in your last year. Are you taking your medication? You’re not yourself.”

“How would you know? Here’s the other thing, my coloring is so much darker than anyone else in the family. Melissa is like you. I’m nothing like you two, I’m loose fat…” I swallowed the howl threatening to undo me. I will not cry. I will not!

“You take after your grandmother, Esther Maria, on your father’s side. You know this. What a Spanish beauty—you look exactly like her, same thick hair and smoky eyes.”

“Right. A fat beauty with fat hair. Am I adopted?”

“Nothing about this conversation makes sense.” Mother picked up a napkin and fanned herself. She scanned the half-empty coffee shop with ice blue eyes.

I almost heard the gears in her head grinding, devising lies. “Easy to tell me whatever you want. How did you find time to visit me at last?”

Her look made me squirm. “I told you about the obligations I couldn’t break. I’m here now. Look, sweetie, your grandmother died before you were born. You’ve seen her pictures and heard the stories. This is crazy. ”

“So now I’m crazy?” I wanted the talking to stop. I didn’t like it anymore.

“Have you had headaches lately, or trouble sleeping?”

I shrugged. What had that to do with anything? “You love Melissa better, don’t you?”

“Take my hand. I have five fingers. Which one shall I cut off because I don’t need or want it?”

“What?”

“Which daughter means less to me than the other?”

“You’re always talking in riddles.”

“Tell me which one and I’ll chop it off.”

“No. you won’t. You’re just saying that.” I slouched in my chair but did not break eye contact.

She stared me down. I flinched. Her chair scraped the floor. An iron grip clutched my arm. “Let’s go.”

The End

Images courtesy Pixabay

© 2017 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles


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Have You Met Luna Saint Claire?

Horns blare! Drumroll, please. It is with pleasure I introduce guest Luna Saint Claire who today shares background information about her début novel The Sleeping Serpent.

Luna is a costume designer and author residing in Los Angeles with her husband, a philosophy professor. She loves blues rock and Indie music, often setting her Pandora station to Damien Rice. Her personal style can best be described as eclectic bohemian. Though she now enjoys running and yoga, she spent years of her youth in the ballet studio. Her part Native American heritage informs her work as a designer and influences her storytelling.

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 Thrilling as The Girl on the Train, twisted as Gone Girl, and tortured as Wuthering Heights.

 

Losing Myself

by Luna Saint Claire

Vampires are real. Not the paranormal kind with blood and fangs, but rather emotional vampires—the ones who use manipulation and compulsion to seduce. Charming and magnetic, they appear to be perfect—the answer to your prayers. Truth is, they have targeted you.

I think we have all been there on some level. When you meet someone who you connect with—someone who seems to know who you are, and what you need. It happened to me when I met a charismatic healer. I was hitting middle-age, mourning my youth and beauty, and bored with my conventional and circumscribed existence. He had a keen ability to quickly identify my vulnerability—often called the inner wound—and hook me through my lack of self-esteem, vanity, and fears. He made me feel beautiful and important to him, and gave me confidence, opening me up to the possibilities surrounding me. Being married, I, fortunately, didn’t have a romantic relationship with him. Yet, he still had influence over me. He was a shaman and yoga master who used the power of Kundalini for the dark side of self-interest—his desire for wealth and fame.

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A dark healer hooks their victim in the chakra that holds their wound—where they are weakest. In the seduction phase, he showered me with his attentions. He made me feel a part of him—of something larger, and somehow more alive. Before I knew it, I was caught in the spider’s web, struggling for survival, craving the drug that was his flattery, approval, validation. Then slowly and methodically he began tearing me down. It may have started with an argument where he lost his temper and then apologized, excusing himself by saying he was frustrated or had a stressful day. Over time it escalated to berating until I barely registered the verbal abuse. If I was unavailable at work or didn’t pick up his call, or couldn’t respond immediately to his demands, he would threaten to end our friendship. When he flew into a rage, I would be the one to apologize for causing his distress. He played a cat and mouse game of pushing me away and then reeling me back in. I couldn’t bear the thought of abandoning him, but I no longer recognized myself. I had become a shadow of my former self and my self-worth had been shattered.  

I wasn’t the only one bound to him. As a successful healer with his own celebrity, he possessed an entourage of beautiful, successful Hollywood women. He ensured we each believed we were the most important person to him.  I excused his behavior, saying he was nervous with a fear of abandonment, but I didn’t know about narcissistic personality disorder. Persons with this disorder do not have the capacity to love, treating others as an appendage. They operate on instinct to procure what they need, though they will never feel gratified. Just like in a vampire story, a narcissist drains another’s life force in the attempt to fill the echoing emptiness within. His affliction was the cruelest inhumanity, and his pain and suffering could never be assuaged. The extreme drama he created when his demands were not met were a plea for validation and stemmed from his fear of abandonment. The rages and meltdowns provided a euphoric high empowering him in the face of feeling worthless. I felt compelled to fix him, even though I knew I couldn’t.

How much longer and at what cost could I continue to open my veins to quell the storm that tormented him? Like many of the other women who had become ensnared in his cannibalizing web, I was faced with the choice of bleeding to death or reclaiming my life. I learned from a friend in 12 Steps about chasing the high, trying to regain the elation once felt in the initial phase of a relationship, be it with a drug or a person. Getting it back had become my obsession. The craving, desperation and painful longing—that was the addiction talking.

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Once I disentangled myself from him, I reflected on what had called the relationship to me. It had been my fear of aging—of becoming invisible—no longer having heads turn when I walked into a room, no longer feeling desired. Weathering this personal storm was a valuable experience that made me stronger and wiser. It is only through such an eroding experience that I believe one can transform. Whether by free will or fate, my encounter with a narcissistic sociopath provoked a storm that shattered my perception of identity, duty, morality, and self-worth. The storm didn’t blow in from the outside. I was the storm. Its turbulence forced me to confront the darkness, uncovering my secrets and my pain. 

Purchase ↓ Available on Amazon (booklinker) myBook.to/SleepingSerpent

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Contact Luna:   Website   Amazon  Facebook   Twitter   Goodreads   Pinterest   Instagram   Tumblr   Spotify

 

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