Tag Archives: Photos

India: Faces

I have been home from India for four days and I have yet to post.  Honestly, I’m a bit overwhelmed by thinking about what to even say about India.  It was an amazing trip, it was spiritual, moving, uplifting, eye-opening, and, surprisingly, even relaxing.  I have been really stressed and confused in life the past couple months, but after a minor break down at the beginning of the trip, I was given this peace, a stillness in my mind, in my heart that allowed me to just BE.  It allowed me to be present in India, to relax and take in the moments.

Taking in the beauty! On the road leaving the orphanage. Not a bad shot considering it was taken while reaching my camera around someone else to take a snap out the window of a moving vehicle!

There was a bit of a cultural adjustment while we were there, the eight American adults all with a love and a drive to go-go-go were not always keen on the relaxed, we will get there when we get there, I know we said 4pm, but it will probably be more like 6pm or maybe 7pm culture.  There was a lot of waiting, a lot of sitting around being served tea and coffee when we wanted to go DO SOMETHING.  But through it all, I was relaxed, I was less impatient than I think I have ever been in my life (okay, with one or two exceptions).  I was soaking up being there!  And soaking up a bit of the sunshine.  I was enjoying the company I was in, conversations, laughs, and just getting to know the group I was traveling with.

India is full of color.

From the first day, one of the things I loved about India was the people.  Not only are they amazingly friendly, hospitable and kind, but they are beautiful.  The dark skin, dark big eyes and brightly colored clothing make them incredibly photogenic.  But it goes deeper, their lives are written on their faces.  The hard lives they live, their stories, their struggles and their burdens.  They appear older than they are, even the children sometimes look like they have so much history, so much experience and maturity but they are stuck in a child’s frame.  They are full of character, of life, of stories and of beauty.  I was in awe of the radiance I saw in each face, I longed to take a picture of every person just to capture the unique features, wrinkles, colors, and emotions distinctive to each individual.

I would love to hear all the stories behind their faces.

It wasn’t always appropriate to take a picture and sometimes I didn’t when I wished I could have.  But luckily the children were always more than willing to have their photo’s taken, at the orphanage they would beg and beg, pleading with me to take just one more shot!  With a lot of my people pictures I made a quick video to share. I have uploaded this video to Facebook, but you can access it from the link below. Please check it out to see some of the beautiful people I met in India.


Boys at the orphanage

A typical scene: sheep, a child and mom in front of their house.


1999 Taiwan

At 1:47am on September 21st 1999, a 7.6 magnitude earthquake hit Taiwan.  It killed over 2,400 people, injured over 11,000 and caused over US $10 billion in damages.

Why am I telling you about something that happened in Taiwan over 10 years ago when there are so many natural disasters striking other parts of the world on a regular basis (for instance the huge earthquake that just hit Turkey a couple days ago)?  When I was in Taiwan, I visited Jiji, a small town in Nantou province which was the epicenter of the earthquake.  Twelve years later of course, you don’t see the destruction the earthquake caused.  However, Jiji still has one reminder of the powerful earthquake.

The town has left one building, a temple, in the condition that it was in after the quake.  If you have never seen the power of mother nature it is quite the sight to see.

The town is building a new temple which is not yet completed, in a site right next to the old temple.  This is the new temple – and apparently the old temple was just as tall (about 3 stories).

May and me in front of the new temple

Behind it is the old temple.

The three stories of the old temple basically just collapsed onto the first floor.

The temple crushed by the earthquake.

You can walk all the way around the temple, see how the building fell and also the cables and ropes that have been added to keep the temple from continuing to fall apart.

Notice the concrete columns essentially broken in half

When you walk around the back of the temple, it is amazing to see up close the destruction from the strong force of the earthquake.  The concrete columns between the first and second floor of the temple have completely bent in half, as the top of the temple moved forward and collapsed down.

The concrete column between the first and second floor, crushed and the reinforcing (steel?) rods bent in half.

Another view - the second story - laying flat on top of the first story.

The statue in front of the temple

This is just one building that was affected by a 7.6 magnitude earthquake that struck 8 kilometers underground.  I can’t fathom the original destruction caused by this quake, or the destruction caused by many of the recent quakes of an even larger scale.  This temple serves as a reminder that the destruction, loss and terror caused by mother nature doesn’t just go away with the news reports or when there is another story that hits the front page.  The disasters caused by mother nature can be indescribable, the healing and recovery can last for years.

My friend, Doug, who is living in Japan, wrote about this in his blog (http://www.dougbonham.com/) after he had the life changing opportunity to go volunteer with clean-up in Japan – six months after the tsunami.

Beijing – A love/hate

Beijing and Shanghai are different worlds.  When I first came to China, just to visit, with the MIM program in 2010, I enjoyed the history, historical sites and tourist attractions in Beijing.  But when we got to Shanghai, I was blown away.  Shanghai is an awesome city.  Even at that time, after spending only about 5 days in each city, I said, “If I were to even live in Beijing or Shanghai, I would live in Shanghai.  Beijing is great to visit, but I would rather live in Shanghai.”

The Temple of Heaven! A rare shot without a million other tourists.

Well, fast forward 18 months, I’m living in Shanghai and when M&M (mom and Matt) are in town, I take my second ever trip to Beijing.  Another 4 days in Beijing and I draw the same conclusion.  I much rather be in Shanghai.

The air was awful in Beijing, not that I can hold that against them – chances are if you pick four random days out of the year to visit Shanghai you won’t be blessed with blue skies either.  Foreigners aren’t as plentiful, which isn’t a bad thing while living in a city – but I think Beijing gets enough foreign visitors who don’t know anything, that everyone assumes you can just screw over and rip off every foreigner you see.  In Shanghai, there is such a large expat community, with people from all over the world that LIVE here.  There are plenty of laowai (foreigners) in Shanghai that have been here for 3, 5, 10 years, who speak Chinese, who know what they are doing.  I don’t think Beijing is as used to that large of a community of foreign residents.  So taking a taxi, for example, becomes a major headache unless you look and speak like them.

I hated taxis in Beijing.  The worst cab riding experiences ever!  And if you think you can top me, just tell me this: Have you ever had a cabbie stop to get gas (when their tank was half full) AND go take a leak while you were on the meter?  Plus, he was coughing like crazy and spitting constantly, he told May he had been sick for the past few days but was back at work because he needed the money.  I love taking cabs in Shanghai.  I hate taking cabs in Beijing.  Even if you can manage to flag one down (empty cabs drive by and just ignore you constantly), it doesn’t mean they will be willing to take you to your destination, or they don’t want to rip you off by bargaining a price and not using their meter.

Do I need to say where this is? It is at 慕田峪 actually.

This being said, everyone – if given the chance – should visit Beijing (and eat the roast duck).  The Forbidden City, Tiananmen, the Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace and the access to many locations on the Great Wall are fantastic, beautiful and historic sight seeing opportunities.  Even with hazy skies, you can get stunning pictures.  The culture runs deep and history surrounds you – unlike the westernized, modern, metropolitan Shanghai.

Obligitory Forbidden City photo

My favorite part of Beijing though – was not at the historic wall to keep out the mongols, it was not in the palaces and forbidden gardens of past emperors which survived the many dynasties. My favorite part of Beijing – the part of Beijing that I loved, that I wish Shanghai had – were the huotongs.   Hutong (胡同 – translation alley or lane) are small, old alleys, passageways of historic homes and buildings that make up large areas in Beijing and have been protected by the government so they are not torn down and replaced by skyscrapers and tall apartment complexes. I thought it was just one area of town when I first went to Beijing, but I quickly learned there are hutong all over Beijing – each a huge network of these small alleys, waiting to be explored and full of treasures to discover.

Wandering thru a 胡同

I loved walking around in, getting lost in, finding new places in the hutong.  May and I went to a bar one night to meet a friend of hers from the UK – he gave us instructions on how to get there.  As we turned off the main road into this teeny, dark alleyway, about the width of a car, we wondered if there was actually anything down there.  It was about a ten minute walk down this alleyway to the bar.  At one point we saw some neon lights and signs of restaurants, but the bar (Yes Bar or 好吧) was not there.  A few more minutes of dark houses and no sign of anything that looked like a place of business we found it – a little teeny bar, stuck in the middle of an seemingly abandoned hutong – with a selection of beers from all over the world.  We went back again the next night.  In the two nights we were there, we were the only customers  and we just hung out and talked with the bartender from Xinjiang, China (the far northwest province in China).

Way back tucked away in another hutong – in a nearby part of town – is another killer find for any beer loving American tourist. Thanks to MJ, brewmaster at my all time favorite, Boxing Cat Brewery, I knew of this little treasure in Beijing.  A microbrewery run by a bunch of Americans that has been brewing and selling beer out of a location in a Beijing hutong for less than a year.  Great Leap Brewery was one of the top things on our to do list in Beijing.  It took some time to find – both times we went – but it was well worth it.  With 9 freshly brewed, local mircobrews on tap, a killer garden setting to sit and relax in, and the owners there to chat with you can’t complain!  Oh, yea – and the beers were FANTASTIC too.  If you are ever looking for beer in Beijing, I highly, highly, recommend checking them out!  (see link here – they are also on Facebook.)

We found it! The door to the best beer in Beijing!

The view from the door of Great Leap Brewing - this isn't on some big, busy street!

The menu - 9 delicious beers on tap! (Actually, I think I only tasted 6 of the 9)

BEER! I believe this was the Danshan Wheat, a wheat beer brewed with tea leaves for a very unique but refreshing flavor.

The hutongs are old houses, communities. Not big fancy houses but little small rooms (which now can be extremely expensive to rent or buy) where Chinese families grew up and many still live.  Things are simpler in the hutongs and things like, well, your own bathroom, aren’t necessarily available.  My mom was shocked with the number of public toilets everywhere in China – but especially in the hutong.  After I witnessed an older woman coming and dumping a bucket with her days “waste” in one of the public toilets, we inquired about it.  My friend (and fellow MIM alum) Junyi, who grew up in a hutong near the Yes Bar, confirmed our suspicions.  Most homes within the hutong don’t have their own bathroom.  They use the public toilets and probably bathe in a sponge bath manner.  Some of the nicer residences, with the help of a larger income and lots of official paperwork, may have added bathrooms to their homes.  The majority, however, even the businesses and restaurants, rely on the public toilets.

Life in Beijing takes place in the hutong.  I would go back to Beijing, despite my many frustrations with the city, just to explore hutongs.  And of course, take more pictures.  Below are a bunch of the shots I got of life in a Beijing hutong.


A front door

We wandered into this little area - several families probably live here.

Front gates left open allow you to see into people's lives.

Sitting on the roof, watching the birds

Playing in the street

Selling a variety of eggs

Veggies on the street

Along a touristy/popular hutong


Here are a couple pictures of the kids we are helping (see my last post: Love One Another).  They are amazing children and a blessing to hang out with even if we don’t always understand each other.  The older girl is so pretty, the younger one (with a shaved head) very, very shy but slowly opening up!  The boy is sweet and all three of them beam with happiness and excitement with everything we do.

Today was their first ever trip to McDonald.

The older two at McDonalds with their toys

The younger girl and her father

We learned quickly that the children get very sick in cars and on the plane.  So getting around Shanghai by car or taxi is no longer an option.  Today, I accompanied them on their first subway ride – we only went two stops, but luckily there were no problems!

First ever ride on a subway

We took the subway to People’s Square and they got to see the big fountain and play in it a bit.

Loving the fountain at People Square

Soaked, but delighted!

Precious girls!

They then went to the Shanghai Museum, but I had to leave to come home and go to work.

The three students, a teacher and the younger girl's father in front of the Shanghai Museum

The older girl’s conjunctivitis is already improving.  There is no way to restore the eye sight in the left eyes of the other two; however, they will both have surgery on Monday to receive prosthetic eyes.

Around China

I love taking pictures and I love traveling.  Whenever I see pictures or videos of someplace I have never been, I long to go there and see it for myself.  That is part of the reason why I did the Masters of International Management program at Portland State University and that is partially why I came China.  There are so many fascinating, beautiful and unique things to see in the world, I don’t know how anyone ever has the time (or the opportunity) to see them all.  I have only seen a few of the spectacular things in the world that I would love to see.  When I experience these things I want to share them with everyone I know!  That is part of the reason for my blog – and that is why I love taking photos.  However, sometimes I wish my photography skills (and my camera) were of a little higher standards.

A friend posted this link to The Atlantic’s In Focus with Alan Taylor and I had to share it.  The photography is amazing and, coincidentally, is it all capturing China – various scenes from the past month around the country I am living in.  Take a look here: Scenes from China – Alan Taylor – In Focus.

There is so much to see in China!  I have been here for over four months now and in that time I have only ventured outside of the Shanghai city limits once.  Work and school has consumed so much of my time that I haven’t had much time to travel.  Plus, Shanghai is so huge! There are still many, many parts of the city that I don’t know about or I’ve never seen.

The one day I did venture out of Shanghai, I went to Suzhou – it is about a 30 minute ride on the bullet train or an hour on the slow train.  It was just a half-day trip when we had a 3-day weekend for the Chinese Labor day a few weeks ago.  It was an amazing trip, I saw some interesting things and met up with a fellow MIM alum – but never blogged about it.  I only got around to posting pictures on Facebook – if you want to check them out: Click here

The leaning tower of Suzhou - Yunyan Temple Pagoda at Tiger Hill

Soon I will see a bit more of the country (and I promise to blog about it!) as I am heading to Qingdao (home of Tsingdao beer) in June for a couple days with friends.  Another Chinese holiday (the Dragon Boat Festival) is the perfect excuse to travel – unfortunately, it means everything is CROWDED  as all 1.3 billion of us are off work, out and about!

The Suzhou train station after a 3 day weekend.

Until next time…

Valentine’s Day

This post has absolutely nothing to do with Valentine’s Day; however, it happens to be the day I am posting it and perhaps it got your attention. If you are planning something for the commercial holiday, make sure you aren’t in Malaysia.

One link to an interesting article I read in the “Shanghai Daily” this morning: Devastation

Just a few pictures from the past week. starting with a little spelling error.  A common theme amongst signs written in English.

Wonderful Spelling on Wonderful Street.

How do you know you’ve found the right place to go for meat on a stick?  Well, if the line into the middle of the street doesn’t give it away, I’m sure the trash can will!  I didn’t stop to have any, but it sure smelled delicious.

Check out the trash can!

I have to say, 99.9% of the time I disagree with PETA.  Obviously, considering my previous comment about delicious smelling meat.  I think they go a little over board.  On the other hand, I wasn’t 100% in agreement with the idea of piercing a bird through its chest in order to leash it down and sell it…

In front of a pet shop

On Saturday, I randomly had a day off work.  Classes were canceled, all of the Chinese teachers had training and I spent a beautiful & sunny Shanghai day wandering around Yu Gardens with a friend.

Prestine day in 豫园

After a touristy day, I had a lovely dinner with Xiaoping Ma (Dr. Ma, from Shanghai, worked at Casey Eye Institute for a year and is now back in Shanghai) and her family.

Dr. Ma's daughters (Betty is 14 and Amy is 6)

And no one guessed what I was drinking in my last photo blog post.  Here is me before buying the drink, munching on it.

Sweet and a bit woody

And the sweet old man who sold it to me juicing it.

Old man making juice


For Sale in 上海

Anything you want is for sale in Shanghai (上海)  Here are a few things I noticed as walking through beautiful streets of traditional architecture near Yu Yuan in Shanghai today.

Between the “Everything for 1oRMB” store (equivalent to a dollar store), the Haagen Dasz on the corner and the expensive jewelers…

Red Lanterns for your New Years decorations

An inflatable rabbit on wheels - on every childs wish list for the new year!

Rare & Old Books

Some artifacts, however, won’t be as easy to get home.   Even if the government let’s you take it out of China, will it be allowed into another country?

Carved Ivory Tusks

For the garden? A Buddha statue might be nice...

In search of entertainment?

Games & Toys

A noisy plastic parrot

Your favorite pirated DVD

In Shanghai, there are silk scarfs, traditional Chinese dresses, shoes, jeans and accessories galore, but every fashion addict needs…

A Chinese Army uniform or a Los Angelos SWAT vest

More hungry for food than material goods?  Try this…

Meat, tofu or a mystery on a stick

A dumpling full of soup - to drink with a straw

More in the mood for something sweet?  Have some fruit!

Sticks of fruit coated with sugar

Not sweet enough?  What does Julia drink?

What is this murky drink? Guesses?

Might want to wash it down with a bit of tea…

All the tea in China - when was the last time a flower grew in your tea?

There was so much more… but when you are there with 3 million of your friends it can be exhausting!

Watch your pockets & purses!! Some friends might want to "borrow" some money...

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