We started out the sixth day very pleasantly and slowly. While I was taking a shower at Lu’s house, I heard his Dad playing the violin. It was very lovely, and reminded me of back home in Oklahoma, where all day long our house was filled with music, either my mother or brother practicing the piano, or me or my father singing. I knew one traditional Chinese song, and sang it for them, and they were really surprised. They gave me two CDs, one of Chinese violin music and one of traditional Chinese folk songs. I’m enjoying them very much. Over breakfast, Lu and I chatted about our childhoods and the pets we had. I didn’t know he liked animals so much. It was fun comparing popular pets from two different countries and what we called them. (America seems to have weirder pets than China; Lu almost freaked out when I told him my family keeps a pet snake.)
We finally left the apartment about 10:30 and went to the food processing plant of Lu’s dad’s friend for lunch. I have no idea why he invited us; I guess people in China are just really nice and do that sort of thing for each other. We waited for him a very beautiful room filled with vases. Here it is:
And this is a traditional Chinese tea set on the table. This frog is a traditional good luck charm for a business man. It has a coin in its mouth, but, a rather funny detail Lu told me, it has no buttocks. So money can only go in, not out!
Then we had a very nice dinner, one of the best I’ve ever had, with the business man and his colleagues. All of it was food from their plant, mostly smoked. Smoked pork, smocked vegetables, smoked chicken and beef and all manner of traditional soup. The best was the smoked peppers and shrimp, though I avoided the smoked pig intestines. They ate traditional Chinese style with a revolving table top. When the food you wanted passed you, you took some. I’ve only had that once before, at a Chinese restaurant in Malawi, and it’s a very good system. I think the Chinese like food a lot more than the Japanese. At least they know how to cook it right. The Japanese have all these great ingredients available to them, fresh fish and rice and sea weed and all manner of fresh fruits and vegetables you can’t get in the U.S., and what do they do? They boil and pickle the heck out of them. I’ve told you about how shocked my students are to see me eating fresh vegetables, right? It’s like they’re poison to them. They eat raw fish, for goodness sake, why not raw vegetables? So sad. Anyway, here’s a picture of the revolving table and dishes, so you can get an idea:
Then Lu and I went to the National gardens. When we first arrived, there was a lady dancing and singing opera. Here she is:
She asked me if I could sing. I sang for her some of my favorite traditional Christmas songs. She knew some of them, and we sang together. I really miss singing. I do it in my apartment all the time when I’m alone, probably much to the annoyance of my neighbors, and I get to sing at church of course, but I miss singing in a choir and really performing. Our church is too small to have a choir. When I get back to the U.S., I would really like to be a church choir director. That’s a fun, artistic job that will also give me lots of time for writing. Between my two passions, music and writing, I think I could make a living for myself. Either that or go to seminary. So many choices…
Then we went into the arboretum. Orchids seemed to be their specialty. Here’s a picture of a rare one I’ve never seen before. Beside it is a classic Venus flytrap:
There were lots of brides getting their wedding pictures taken, all in traditional Western-style dresses, though not all of them white. I guess that’s the place people go to get winter wedding pictures taken, since the flowers outside are all dead.
That reminds me, Mom, I keep forgetting to tell you! You asked if there are any flowers still alive in Japan. Actually, there are. There are these really pretty bushes covered in pink flowers that bloom year-round, and pansies, just like in America, can survive even the hardest freeze. So can violas and Johnny jump ups. And it stays green; the bushes and grass don’t turn brown like in Oklahoma. So it’s actually not that bad. Normally I get a little depressed during the winter, but when I feel down here, there are plenty of places I can go to get my “flower fix,” so this is a good place for people with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). Honestly, I’d call the climate in central Japan “borderline subtropical.” There are palm trees, and they never go brown. It snows every week now, but it never sticks. Not so in China. Everything’s been dead there for awhile, and it’s extremely dry.
And here are some replicas in the garden of terra cotta statues found in the Qin tombs, from back before Christ was born. They found thousands of these, and each of them with its own distinct features, as if they were real soldiers! They were to protect the emperor in the afterlife. Isn’t ancient China amazing?
They were selling whole, giant coconuts for only $2, so I bought one for a snack and drank the milk. Here’s a picture:
Wofu temple, or the Temple of the Sleeping Buddha, was also located in the National gardens. Very interesting. There were many beautiful, colorful statues of the Buddha guards (he is asleep, after all; you wouldn’t want someone sneaking up on him and doing him in unawares— so much for being all-knowing). The statue itself was huge, cast of a single hunk of bronze and covered in silk and velvet blankets. Actually, it was covered so much you could barely see the actual statue. Sorry I couldn’t take pictures; not allowed. The one picture I did get was of the bell tower. Every temple has a bell tower and a drum tower; their name explains their function.
There were a lot of cats playing around the temple; I enjoyed watching them for a bit. Unfortunately they wouldn’t sit still long enough for me to get a picture.
There was a lot more to see in the park, like butterflies and cemeteries, but it closed about 4:30, so we had to leave. Lu said it is most beautiful in the spring and summer when the outdoor gardens are in bloom. I guess I’ll just have to go back some day!
On the way out, we saw a lady doing a sword dance. Here she is:
Then Lu took me to a very famous modern street in Beijing to do some shopping. I bought a few small things for myself and souvenirs for my family. Everything was so cheap! Here's the gate and the traditional Chinese buildings all with modern businesses inside.
Here’s the silk shop. I had no idea there were so many different kinds:
I really wanted a silk scarf, but that shop was too expensive. The next one we went to was so pushy! The lady saw me looking and kept shoving one after another in my face, saying, “very cheap, very pretty! Matches your eyes.” I almost bought one, but Lu said we could get one better and cheaper somewhere else, so I handed the scarf back to the lady. She was so mad! She almost made us pay for it, chasing us out the store and yelling at Lu in Chinese! I can only imagine what she was saying to him.
There were a lot of statue advertisements along the road. Here’s one for Levi Jeans; I have no idea what a horse and buggy has to do with Levis, but here I am in the buggy.
And this is me in a traditional hand pulled rickshaw:
And for some reason there was a whole lot of steam coming from under the street. This is me pulling a Marilyn Monroe pose.
This is a more traditional, narrow barter street. I got the best prices there. Always be on the lookout for those interesting side streets; they’re worth a peek, even if you don’t plan on buying anything. Watch out, though. The peddlers are pushy!
For dinner we ate at Kentucky Fried Chicken. I was curious to see what it would taste like in China. The chicken sandwich is better, but the cole slaw’s no good. KFC is really popular in China; I bet they changed the name from Kentucky Fried Chicken to KFC for the foreign market. Anyway, it seemed to be the foreigner hotspot. I heard Mandarin, English, French, Turkish, and Japanese while I was there, and those are just the ones I recognized! Sorry, no Spanish.
On the way back we ran into a lot of beggars. Of course, you can’t tell who’s legitimate and who’s not, but I’m such a sap. You just don’t see that in Japan. Maybe the needy are there, but are too proud to ask. The Japanese would rather commit suicide than ask for money from strangers, and often they do. Japan has the highest suicide rate of any country in the world, and a high percentage of what’s called “self-inflicted shut-ins” or people who never leave the house EVER simply because they can’t face the world outside. They’re not sick, they’re not old, they just can’t deal with life. And according to a recent Gallop poll, 30% of Japanese people wish they had never been born. Now THAT’s sad. Talk about a country that needs Jesus. The thing is, they think religion is just another weakness. They don’t want God, so they think they don’t need Him.
China, on the other hand, while it has more problems on the surface, seems more willing to admit them and is quicker to realize their need of a savior. Christianity is just exploding in China right now, and I’ve never met a Chinese person who wasn’t at least curious to learn more about it, whereas many Japanese just nod politely and in the most unobtrusive way possible tell me I’m wrong. Not all. There are many Japanese who are curious too, especially young people. The world is changing. We’re in the midst of the first world-wide Great Awakening. Korea, China, Mongolia, Africa, South America. I pray that it’s only a matter of time before we can add Japan to that list. I just hope that someday, when I’m old, I’ll be able to look back and say I was a part of God’s plan, like Jonathan Edwards or C.S. Lewis. That would be a life well lived.