Thursday, April 29, 2010

Planting Rice

This trip to Yangshuo was different from our last in part because of the state of the rice fields. When we visited last, it was autumn and the rice was tall and ripening. This time, the fields were just being planted. We saw rice farmers hard at work on a number of occasions, planting the tiny rice shoots in the flooded fields. In the first photo, a woman is pulling the tiny rice plants out of the diveted trays where they are started and putting them into the bucket to take to the field to plant.
These second two pictures show the painstaking work of planting the tiny rice shoots, one at a time. One of our guides on our trip told us a Chinese saying about the life of a farmer~ "Face to the ground, back to the sky." Seems to be pretty accurate for these rice farmers who are still using traditional methods.
The work is hard, but the view is amazing! This scene was at the beginning of a half day hike we took through a group of karsts. We were fortunate to get to walk through some old villages and farms along the way.
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Lost in Translation

I think they meant we should be careful when climbing the steep stairs, don't you?
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Cormorant Guy

An image of the old cormorant fisherman down by the river in Yangshuo...

Have you read the classic children's book about Ping, a little duck who lives on a boat on the Yangtze River? When Ping strays from his boat, he meets strange dark birds who dive for fish that they bring back to their master. Cormorants! These fisherman still exist in Yangshuo and you can go out on a boat and watch them work with their birds. For 2 RMB you could pose with a fisherman and his cormorants, which we did, but I think this picture just of him is pretty cool.
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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Yangshuo with M & J

We're in Yangshuo with Mary and Justin, the land of rice fields and karsts. It's as lovely as it was the last time we were here, and we're having a great time sharing the experience this time. We're staying at a village farm complex turned guesthouse way out in the rice fields, which feels so authentic... meaning the beds are suitably hard to really be Chinese! Today, my 41st birthday, we spent on a four hour bike ride through the countryside and many little villages, and then later at cooking school in an old farm house. We ended the day back at China climb headquarters where I was surprised with a cake. What a wonderful way to spend my birthday! We're all wiped out now... looking forward to more adventures tomorrow. :-)

Friday, April 23, 2010

Justin's Snack

Justin, Mary and I had a great time today exploring the labyrinth of little alleyways that make up one of old style local housing areas. Lots of laundry out to dry everywhere on one of the first sunny days this week, people talking in doorways, women comparing progress on knitting projects, children playing. I love be a part of this, of course only as an observer, but it's so neat to see what is probably a disappearing way of life.

We also decided to plunge into the street food scene and each pick something to share for our noon meal. We started out with Justin's choice of an appetizer... not sure how well you can see in this photo, but it's a whole duck head. I have to say that not much eating happened. Justin took a few tenative nibbles, I barely licked it, and Mary wisely chose to abstain. It was served cold and was quite spicy. After we took a few pictures, Justin offered the duck head to a few locals, but finding no takers, it went in the trash.

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Paint with Water

Had a great day with M & J. Shopping on DongTai Rd, visiting the pet market, yummy Chinese lunch with Scott, Ji'an Temple and Ji'an Park. On our way out of the park to head home after a full day, we happened upon a gem. This older gentlemen was practicing his calligraphy on the park sidewalk with a unique homemade instrument that seemed to consist of a pointed sponge and water bottle attached to a cane. He quietly created one beautiful character after the next while a small crowd watched. In his left hand he held two additional bottles of water as refills. Love it! We only wished we knew if he were writing random characters or a message of some kind.
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Wednesday, April 21, 2010


An hour on the neighbor's trampoline with Uncle Justin this afternoon wore this girl out!
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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Tomb Sweeping

Qing Ming, the tomb sweeping festival, was celebrated on the Monday after Easter in China this year. As our kids had the day off for the holiday, we took a family bike ride out to the shore with the Allens. On the way we passed a dozen or so of these "swept" tombs. They were by the side of the road, not in any type of marked cemetery but in this unofficial burial ground. The mounds appeared to have been literally swept or raked clean, and decorated with streamers and flowers. A couple had incense burning on them.
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Sunday, April 18, 2010


Just about to leave to take my cousin to the airport after a wonderful week together... while I'm there, I'll pick up Mary and Justin! What fun to go from one visitor to the next set!

Haven't taken many pictures at all recently, though I am still behind in posting some from our Xi'an trip. I'll try to get to that soon, but will be busy taking Mary and Justin to places they can photograph!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

She's Had About Enough of Me...

Credits for this picture of my cousin Tamara and me, me and me go to Seth. We had a fun little photo session tonight in the living room, and then Tam and I watched in awe as Seth adeptly altered the picture in iPhoto in about five minutes to end up with this final product.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Reflections From Two Days in April

There were tears, of course. Lots of memories shared, at the funeral home, at the grave site, at lunch afterward. One of the comments made about Grandma was that she made each of her grandchildren feel as if they were the most special one. It was true. How did she do that?

There was lots of time sitting around going through old photos, laughing at hair styles and outfits in years past, smiling at Grandma's antics with her friends when they were all 17. Was she really 17 once?

A flowering tree was planted in Grandma's honor. Thank-you notes were written to all the lovely people who brought food for our crowd. My mom, sister, cousins, aunts and I lovingly fingered Grandma's many bracelets and each chose one we would wear to remember her.

There was silliness in many forms, including all of us trying on Grandma's old plastic rain hats for the camera... so good to laugh with these people who we may not see nearly often enough, but whom we are forever linked by our love for the one who's life we'd gathered to celebrate.

It wasn't her in that coffin. The shell that rested there had familiar looking hands, and wore the bracelet with the grandchildren's names on it. The dress had been worn at a grandchild's wedding. But our Grandma was gone. Gone from the body and present with Jesus. She got there in time to have the ultimate Easter celebration, as my cousin Ruth noted.

The two hour drive to the cemetery was so beautiful. Grandma had been saying for a while that she hoped for a pretty day for us to make that drive, and I'm certain God chose this one on purpose. The red bud trees in bloom contrasted with the green lace of all the new leaves on the other trees on the rolling hills was stunning against the blue sky.

After the cemetery and lunch, we drove to Kaskaskia Island to see her childhood home. Still standing, that white brick house was once flooded up to the sills of the second story windows by the mighty Mississippi. The current owner of the house graciously allowed us to pose for photos in the yard. Amazing to get to do that and within hours be looking at tiny old black and white photos with that same home in the background.

Now I'm back in China and it's all over. I've relived the conversations and memories we all shared, rolling them over and over in my mind. We're back to our daily lives, but we are all changed a little from our precious days together.

Thank you, Grandma, for bringing us all together again. We love you.

Saturday, April 10, 2010


In the Chicago airport, just about ready to head to our flight back to Shanghai. Thinking lots about the last couple of days with my family, celebrating Grandma's life. Getting my thoughts together. So good to be with everyone~

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Seen on the Street

Just when I'm thinking that Shanghai is really not all that different from Chicago, I see a live turtle hanging by his shell from a bike handle. Go figure! :-)

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

There she goes...

So today is the day. Madelyn is at school at this moment, her first day in the classroom. She was beyond excited for this day to come. She tried on her uniform options last night (there aren't many!), packed her backpack, and made her lunch. She dreamed about being at school again last night. We walked across the street together this morning, but she said that tomorrow she thinks she'd like to go on her own. Whew.

I can't believe this day has come. It's been such a journey with this girl, a wonderful journey that has afforded us many delicious hours together and some challenging hours as well. I think what I will miss the most are our lunch times together. With math behind us for the day, we'd fix our plates and take them to her bedroom, where we'd lie on the floor on our stomachs, plates in front of us, and I would read aloud to her as we ate. Loved that hour in the middle of every day.

God has been gracious to me to fill this first month with Madelyn in school with lots of things for me to do. Today and tomorrow, it's Gwen at home from her school, on spring break. She and I have had time today to learn and play together in ways we don't always make time for when everyone else is around. Tomorrow afternoon Scott and I head to the US, and return home on Sunday to visitors for the rest of April. What will May hold?

It's nearly 3:20. Time to walk to meet Madelyn. I can't wait to hear her impressions of the day!

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Easter Photos

Madelyn and home school friends painted eggs at our Easter co-op gathering on Friday. The girls carefully poked holes in both ends of raw eggs, blew the egg out, and then painted the shells with acrylic paints.

Our neighbors had the girls over to dye eggs yesterday morning. Heads together, Gwen and Sophie work together on their masterpieces.

Caleb wasn't especially impressed by the package of wet wipes he found in his helmet-turned-Easter basket, but he was pretty pleased with the edible items.
Seth serves up jelly beans on a utensil of Twizzlers. My neighbor had a friend of hers bring us both Easter candy from Target to use for our kids' baskets.
Madelyn and Gwen reading books they found in their Easter baskets. Have you read any Kevin Henkes books? Not Easter themed, but these books are really clever and so funny! Gwen's school recently started to offer the Scholastic book orders, so I was able to buy this bundle of six Henkes paperbacks.
The silly face Easter picture of the Liptak girls...
... and the nice picture!
Madelyn's baptism after our Easter service this afternoon... she was baptized along with a dozen other children and five adults. What a special time! Check her blog (Imagine That, in my side bar) in a day or two for her take on it and some more pictures.

April 2010

It's been a wonderful Resurrection Day. Our church's brunch, worship and egg hunt this morning at a nearby hotel; Easter baskets, relaxing, and watching some of "Jesus of Nazareth" early this afternoon; then our church service with Madelyn's baptism (I'll let her post about that on her blog!) late this afternoon, followed by dinner at an Indian place with our dear friends the Allens and their five children.

Tuesday is Madelyn's official first day of school at Concordia! She's super excited... I am so happy for her! She knows quite a few of the girls in her class and from the short visit she's had with her new teacher so far, she already thinks Mrs. Kent is wonderful. The uniforms and the backpack have been waiting for months. She's already considered whether to buy lunch or pack it on her first day. She knows the class Easter party is on Wednesday and she's so happy that she'll get to be a part of it. Smile, smile, smile. :-)

Wednesday afternoon Scott and I will head to the US to join my extended family in the celebration of my grandma's life. What a gift to be able to be able to be a part of this gathering of remembrance with everyone. I'm so grateful to my Shanghai friends who are taking our children into their families for the days we'll be away. My thoughts drift to the Heavenly City where Ruth Erdmann now has a new body and is in the presence of Jesus... what is it like for her?

The day we return to Shanghai, my sister-cousin Tamara is arriving for an unexpected visit. I can't believe our good fortune, to have this time together! What will we do?? There are so many possibilities! A few days after she leaves, Scott's sister Mary and her husband Justin are arriving for a visit that we've all been anticipating for months. Can't wait to show China to them! What fun we will have. :-)

And that's April. God is so good to me to fill up my first month with Madelyn in school. I won't need to wonder how best to use my time. I'm excited about the possibilities for this shift in where my energies should be directed for the hours my children are learning elsewhere. But my time in April is filled, with us visiting people we love who live far away, and bringing people we love to us from far away.