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Saturday, November 30, 2019

Friday Night Supper - Snowflake - Tesla Dealer - Heavy Metal Cab Driver

Friday night - we were home alone in the apartment. It seemed empty after sending Mimi home to America on a plane. Our guest room seemed very empty - since that will be the last we will be using it. After doing dishes and laundry all day - I asked Lulu if she would like to have supper out. I said I would go anywhere as long as it was American food. 

She picked a Western Restaurant at the Westin Hotel - we took a bus - but I insisted we take a cab home afterwards. The air felt a little wet and heavy. When we got to the Westin - the restaurant was not open. So we used our phone and went on the hunt for an American restaurant not too far away. The phone said TGIF was a block away. Lulu swore she felt snow flakes as we bundled up and shivered down the street. 

TGIF was nice. I got a bacon cheeseburger - she got enchiladas. Best thing is they had free soda refills - rare over here. It was a nice meal and we could look out on a city park from the second floor window. There was a fancy mall across the way - Gucci - Dior - Louis Vuitton - etc. Also we could see big flakes of snow falling through the fancy lights. 

We crossed over to the mall. To our surprise there was a Tesla dealer in the mall. No one was there except two sales people. So we crawled all over a Model X and a Model 3. Electric cars are very popular here. I am sure there are some big tax breaks to have one in the city. 

The blue Model 3 - is the cheapest Tesla. They say you can get one for $35k - but I have not seen any under $46k. There was also a red Model X - which is a 6 seater SUV. 

Both cars have very powerful electric motors. Both are super fast - and have a long range of 300 miles. I liked the cheaper Model 3. The Model X looks very faddish with Batman type gulf wing doors. Also the 2-2-2 seating seemed very. tight. 

I love Tesla cars and might buy one. But it is a big investment. The owner of the company Elon Musk is worth billions - like 50 billion - a real billionaire with proof. He does some very strange things that affect the stock market prices. The whole Tesla idea of great cars and charging systems is amazing. They also make a line of giant home batteries called the PowerWall. With the PowerWall - you can charge the battery at night at lower rates - and then use the power in the day. Also- if there is a power failure - you have about 3 days of electricity stored - over a week with no AC. 

As I get older - I take less risks - especially with Lulu's money. I am much older than her and she has longevity in her family. Lulu likes the more traditional Mercedes. 

Since it was snowing - we got a cab. The driver was so proud to pick up two Americans. He told us he was a heavy metal guitarist and he loved American music - Kiss - Metallica - Nirvana - Eric Clapton. He kept playing us songs and rocked us all the way home. The ride took 30 minutes thru the snow - cost $3. We shook hands as we left. I honestly cannot tell you a story about the Chinese treating us badly. This morning we woke up to about an inch of snow. 

Mimi made it home - 24 hours from door to door - layover - first class seat - car at airport - etc. 

Large computer screen in Tesla X

I like the red color but not the white leather

Let's take one home

The model 3 seems more practical and cheaper

Our Sunny Cold Trip to the Great Wall of China

Mimi - HeHe - Lulu facing west
Note parapets on north side

We walked all of this wall down to Badaling

This cat was looking for dinner
I told him be careful - he might BE dinner

I like this guy's Red Army hat -
I am wearing my custom made red army khakis -
I had black sweat pants on underneath

When Lulu told me that she was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to teach in China - the first thing I envisioned was walking on the Great Wall. The Wall is one of the Wonders of the World. After years of teaching about it - I was going to visit it. 

When Jan came - our first visitor - we hired a guide and a car and was hand held through a hazy and windy trip to the wall. It was great - but you know me. If I was there once - I am an automatic expert and am ready to lead a cheap field trip. Our last guest - Mimi - wanted to go. She picked Wednesday because the weather forecast was clear and cold. 

Instead of hiring a guide and car - we took the city bus - Express 877. For less than $1 - in about an hour we were dumped at the base of the wall. We went to the ticket window and to our surprised 65 and older can climb the wall free! But if we wanted to ride the cable car to the top - we had to pay $15. The ride to  the top of the mountain - where the wall is - was fast - maybe 5 minutes. 

The Great Wall is about 25 feet tall. It is about that wide too. It is really two walls with dirt packed in between. The top of it is paved with stones and steps. About every 1/3 mile there is a watch tower. About 30 soldiers were housed in each watchtower. There are a total of 13,000 miles of walls. They started building it as early at 700 BC and built many sections as late as the 1300's AD. There is about 5000 miles of the modern Great Wall left. The Great Wall would easily cover the USA/Canada Border and the USA/Mexico Border. 

The wall was built along the Chinese old northern border. It was to keep out the uncivilized Mongols. It also made the Silk Road taxable - you heard of the stories of Marco Polo. Funny - Marco Polo never mentioned the wall in his writings. 

There is a myth that you can see the Great Wall from the Moon. Untrue. It would be like looking at a human hair from 2 miles away. You can see it from a spacecraft flying overhead at 200 miles up. The Moon is 240,000 miles away. 

Today - the Wall has no value except to tourists. Thousands of them crawl all over it - everyday. 

Since we took the cable car to the top - it was a much easier climb than last time. Although it is rough going - at least it is downhill. It is so much fun meeting all the different walkers. Lulu and I wore our Great Wall hats. We bought them for $2 at the mall. On the hat it is supposed to say "Great Wall" in English and Chinese - but I am guessing mine said "American A-hole" because many people had a good laugh when they saw me. They also wanted pictures taken with me. 

We found a place to eat right before the cable car. Fortunately for me it was KFC. The girls wanted something exotic. After our lunch - we had a good bathroom stop - then up to the top we went. The blue sky was gorgeous. I could see easily for 10-20 miles. 

I would say we walked maybe 3 or 4 miles. At the end was a nice little village where we shopped and shopped. Finally we walked back to the bus depot - we found another Express Bus 877 - hopped in - paid using our city card - and all three of us fell asleep on the way home. 

The section of the wall we walked was built about 800 years ago. It is the closest to downtown Beijing. It is called Badaling. So a person 65 and older - can visit the Wall from downtown for $1 - bus and admission. China residents 65 and older - can ride the bus and subways free. So many people go there just for a walk - they even carry a lunch. I was born in 1948 - Red China was born in 1949. The more things change - the more they stay the same. 

5000 miles of Ming Wall winding east and west

Lulu and Mimi on a smoother section

The Wall winds over the mountain tops

The center is compacted dirt -
covered by stone

It was around 4 PM and sunset

We were walking slowly

Steep slopes are easier going down

Smooth pavement here

Thanks Fulbright

Lulu in her Terra Cotta Warrior down jacket - $30

We all had Long Johns on.
Mine were just sweat pants underneath

30 soldiers stayed in each watchtower.
25,000 watchtowers. 

Watchtower had fireplaces to send smoke signals

Old heavy cannons with iron wheels

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Mimi - Melissa Johnston Leaving China

Mimi - Melissa Johnston  - in and out like the wind

Mimi flew in on Delta last Thursday and now 8 days later - she is gone. Melissa is a library science professor at the University of West Georgia. She graduated from the FSU School of Library Science. She travels all over the world doing presentations.

While she was here - she was very busy. She toured Xian - saw the Terra Cotta Warriors there and a traditional Chinese Cultural Show. She climbed the Great Wall. She explored the Forbidden City. She made a presentation to the students at Beijing Normal University - Lulu's class. She did a lot of shopping. 

But best of all she provided much needed English speaking - library science talking - Christmas shopping - friendship for Lulu. It is an honor to us that our friends offered us their time (and flight money) to come spend time with us. 

Check out the car - a Borgward. They were a great car in Germany up until 1961 - then they closed. Now someone in China is using the name. My buddy Bud Smulligan in Tamaqua had a Borgward for years. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

NIU Appears To Be An Excellent Electric Scooter

I have seen a lot of electric scooters over here. This one is the most impressive to me.

It is an NIU - pronounced Ni - yu. It has a powerful 3000 watt electric motor in the rear wheel. It has a range of over 100 miles on a charge. Just plug it in at night and it is good for the next day. It can travel up to 45 mph.

It has two disk brakes that are anti-lock. They also function to re-generate power - when you brake you are re-charging the batteries.

It looks like it is made with the best components. It is made in China and costs about $1200 here.

In China - you are allowed to park them on the sidewalk. I have not driven one - only because I do not want to ruin Lulu's Fulbright Scholarship. I do not want her to bring me home in a box.

The Temple of Heaven - Beijing - China

This is the Disneyworld EPCOT
version of The temple of Heaven
This is the real Temple of Heaven 
in Beijing China
Back in 1980 - I worked as a security guard at DisneyWorld. We were living in Orlando while Lulu was earning her Masters at UCF. I worked nights. My job was to guard in and around the construction of EPCOT. I was amazed at the round construction of the Temple of Heaven in the China section of the World Showcase. When I am building stuff for myself - I usually pick plain designs. But that does not prevent me from enjoying the other complex designs of the world. Every time we are at Disneyworld - I cannot pass up China without taking a picture of the Temple of Heaven.

Yesterday - after being in China four months - Mimi asked me to take her there. Lulu had to work on her lesson plans for today - so we hopped on the bus and subway for a trip across town. It was bright sunny - with clear air - windy - and cold. As long as we stayed in the sun - it was not bad. Pretty soon we were avoiding shadows. I was able to get into the park for free because I was 65+. Mimi had to pay $2 or $3. 

The park is big - and we certainly did not see everything - but we got to see The Temple of Heaven. For being 700 years old it was in excellent shape. It appears a night trip might be in order because of the many lights we could see. 

After that - we caught two buses home. One went to the train station - then we changed buses - the next bus went right to our apartment. 15 cents each. 

I know absolutely nothing about the religions of Asia. China no longer encourages practicing religions. You may have been reading about concentration camps for Muslims here. I do know that when I went to Bethany Church in Tamaqua - they were constantly collecting money for missionaries in China. The main character in the movie - Chariots of Fire - spent his life as a missionary in China.

Richard Nixon is held in high regard in China. They are happy he recognized Red China and started all the trade. Only anti-communist Nixon could have pulled it off. Compared to the stuff of today - Nixon was a saint. 

With the building of the amazing temples - churches - cathedrals - a lot of people suffered hardships. The same way with the Pyramids of Egypt and Mexico. Closer to home - slave labor was used in the South to build public structures. Visit Mount Vernon and Monticello. It all confuses and amazes me.

The altar inside

Indoor ceiling work

Gargoyles on the roof

Magical tablets behnd glass

Over 700 years old -
before Columbus

A giant park and many side buildings
A smaller version of temple

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Harry Home Alone In Beijing Apartment

The Limo to the Terra Cotta Warriors

Lulu dressed for the dinner show

Lulu and her Lehigh Valley connect
through the cousins

It was 4 AM on Friday morning - and things were buzzing in our 10th floor apartment - but I was trying hard to pretend I was sleeping. Lulu and Mimi were all packed the night before but they were fluttering around just like Santa's elves preparing for Christmas. Then it got silent.

They caught a cab to the train station and soon were in their first class seats zooming south and west to Xian. It would take them 4 hours and 700 miles to the walled city of 8 million people.

Now for the connection. Lulu's cousin is friends of some Chinese students in the Lehigh Valley. Their parents live in Xian. when they found out Lulu was here - they wanted a visit. They met Lulu and Mimi with a black Mercedes sedan - and took then to a show and dinner. They also took them to the site of the Terra Cotta Warriors - about 40 miles away.

Lulu said it was the best of shows and a great dinner. The hosts were so gracious.

I stayed home and listened to and watched the Tamaqua Blue Raiders beat Wyomissing in the Pennsylvania State Football Playoffs. Two more games to go. all the time I was typing updates ot Lulu.

They are staying in the holiday Inn Express downtown on the main square. We stayed there a month ago - and Lulu liked it - so they are back there. It is only $50 a night. They are like two college girls on a lark to Asia.

Xian was the center of the Ming Dynasty in the 1400s. It was a perfectly rectangular walled city and the wall is intact. It is a 7 mile walk around on the top. It looks like they had nice 50s weather.

I am so glad they got outside of Bejing. There is so much China out there and so little time. Add to that - trips to Vietnam and next to Japan - fill the schedule. We also have a big surprise for Christmas.

Every day is a new learning experience. There is always something new and different. Today - the air quality index was up to 230 - the highest we have experienced. It really makes you appreciate back home. I also am looking forward to Lulu and Mimi coming home tomorrow.


Lulu said it was the most elegant show ever.
Not Billy Elliot?

Mim and the Terra Cotta Warriors.

The train station at 5 AM

The ladies know I love these paddy wagons.