Monday, May 31, 2010

Garden Duo

A walk after the morning rain, a bright Oriental poppy and a lovely blue iris.

By the Creek

A stroll by Cayoosh Creek, just minutes away from our campsite. A yellow butterfly I now know as Papilio rutulus, or Western tiger swallowtail. River water swirling around rocks.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Colors at Home

Back from camping... it has been raining and raining, but today there is no rain! I went out walking this morning, saw the droplets on the peony, and had to run home to grab the camera!

Colors of Camping

A couple of pictures from our camping trip at Lillooet last weekend. This is our second visit there, last year we did a one day stop over, click here, here and here to see. More pictures to come!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Xian Diary Day 8 The Public Square

We continue on our China journey today! You can see all posts here.

Day 8 was our last morning in Xian, since our flight was not until 1 PM we decided to visit 2 venues before we leave. There is quite a few things to share on this busy morning, I am splitting them up into 2 posts.

Earlier in the week, we were awakened by disco music from the public square located across our hotel. Since then, we welcomed our 6:30 AM wake-up call and enjoyed the view while we ate breakfast, click here to see. After a couple of days, overwhelmed with curiosity we headed down for a closer look.

There were different activity groups, we were drawn to the crowd below because of their colorful fans, such pretty colors. The fanless lady in red looked like the instructor, she stopped the music a couple of times and repeated some moves before moving on to other steps. Everyone seemed to be having fun, they smiled and laughed at times. Some even held handkerchiefs in their left hands, we noticed there was also a man in the group. We wondered what the name of the dance was, there was no one to ask, everybody was too busy participating we hesitated to interrupt.
This group featured velvet handkerchiefs in both hands and was very energetic and coordinated. The dance looked so happy and was to a different tune than the fan crowd above. I was instantly reminded of my dance classes in Singapore, my teacher was very strict with how we moved, but boy did we ever look good as a group.
The classical music by the fountain caught our attention, several couples were ballroom dancing. Before our China visit, we saw documentaries where people gathered to dance at night and had no idea we would experience this activity at day time. How romantic and delightful!
A tai chi master in action, I like his costume and his shoes. Not included in the picture was the group of students behind him, they followed his every move.
Moments before I captured the lady in red, she stood on one leg while the other was lifted close to her head, a sign of her expertise in the martial arts. She looked formidable even in this posture.
Another group practiced tai chi, or could this be Qigong? Nearby a record played, a woman's voice instructed their every step, even when to breathe in or out.
We were thrilled to see this small group of elderly working out! They looked to be in good health, their swords looked heavy yet were moved about with ease.
A neat row of bicycles parked at the edge of the public square, no doubt the people's preferred method of transportation.
The locals went about their daily routine, this man looked like he was on the way to the produce market.
Yet another cyclist rode in the same direction as the man above. His colorful bags filled with various root vegetables, potatoes and yams of different kinds, even green onions. We wondered where the market was.
Against the oncoming traffic below, the same cyclist weaved in and out. On the right a street cleaning machine had just finished sweeping the road. Every morning of our stay in Xian, we could hear the vehicle hummed a cheerful children's tune and missed this terribly when we left.
Below, a lasting image of Xian. A man practiced Chinese calligraphy on the sidewalk outside his gallery shop as his wife looked on.

At the public square that morning I saw a much older man working on his calligraphy the same way, brush in one hand, a small rusty pail of water on the floor. He shared with me a phrase from his book of poetry: I have gone through all kinds of hardships, I can get through another trial if I were to endure a little more, a little while longer... True words of wisdom.

He then read me the letter from Mao Zedong to his comrade Zhou Enlai, who had died and Mao was unable to attend his funeral. He expressed his regrets and revered him as a friend, a husband and most of all, a nationalist. In the short time we were in China I noticed the Communist values were deeply ingrained in the people. Elders would be offered seats on the bus, strangers were addressed respectfully as Big Brother and Big Sister.

We noted the people at the square were an older generation. As I chatted with the old man, a young man with a labtop bag walked by, totally oblivious to his surroundings. Is this where China is heading?

We had spent over an hour at the square, it was time to leave and head on to our next venue. We bid farewell to the old man and walked towards the bus. Until next week, our China adventure continues!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Thank You and Spring Magnolias

Thank you so much for your lovely comments on My First Book! It means the world to me to get so many nice feedback on my work, I am deeply honored and appreciate this very much.

Last week, we made an impromptu decision to escape for the weekend and have just returned yesterday. I'll post more about our little getaway and am sharing these magnolia pictures with you to express my sincere gratitude.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Xian Journal Day 7 The Great Mosque

Hello Thursday! We go to China today! Day 7 in Xian turned out to be quite a journey around town exploring different venues and... we finally made it to the Great Mosque. Yay! Click here to see all posts on our trip.

At the entrance, we were greeted by a worshipper who chatted with us in English and French as soon as he heard we were from Canada. Thank goodness for high school French lessons, I knew enough to get by with bonjour and au revoir. Just past the ticket office we came across this magnificent roof structure. We were blown away by the intricate details of its Chinese design and the rich color of the wood.
The setting Autumn sun cast a golden glow on the mosque grounds. We quickly realized this was no ordinary mosque, there were no domes nor minarets and found the Chinese influence on the architecture most enchanting. In the middle of the garden, a pagoda, typical of an Eastern Chinese mosque.
A man's voice filled the air, the worshippers were asked to gather at the main prayer hall. Several men appeared from various corners of the mosque, I caught a few of them strolling past, they all wore the Taqiyah and the Changshan. We found this combination of Islam and Chinese attire fascinating.
We decided to follow them to the prayer hall and walked past a small collection of penzai, a feature of classical Chinese gardens.
We were told non-Muslims could not enter the prayer hall, so we wandered around and recorded the architectural details with our camera. The evening light brought out the intense colors of the glazed roof tiles. The roof decorations were similar to the ones on the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda on this post.
A close up shot of the roof framed with a fruit bearing tree, this portion of roof tiles were stripped of its glaze.
The men prayed in Mandarin but the tone was similar to an Islam prayer, it sounded interesting. As they prayed, I thought about the times in Jakarta when the whole city stopped to perform this daily ritual. It was a peaceful and calm atmosphere, a feeling I again experienced at the Great Mosque. Delighted with this memory I stumbled upon a pavilion and a decorative Chinese scholar's rock, two more characteristics of classical Chinese gardens.
One of the bigger pavilions on site posed as shady resting spots and was strategically placed to have the best views. The one below is hexagonal, it faces one of the smaller prayer halls.
A moon shaped doorway, just like the one I saw at Dr Sun Yat Sen Chinese Garden in Vancouver's Chinatown.
One of many stone relief designs, each one is unique and decorative. The one below illustrated the lotus in its bud, blossom and seed cup stage.
Right above the doorway a piece of Islamic calligraphy carved in stone, an attribute of Islamic architecture, one of the few we noticed.The prayer session ended, the men left the hall and strolled through the garden, the two below wore turban like headwear.
A final shot before leaving the site, old bicycles basked in the evening sun. It has been 2.5 years since we were in Xian, somehow this picture in my mind. We enjoyed our visit at the Great Mosque tremendously, I wished there was more time but alas, like every travel story, we move on... until next week, the China adventure continues!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Colors about the Hood

Some colors of Spring on my walk earlier this season. There are very few flowers on the trees now, the heather bushes are still full. The daffodils are long gone but the rhododendrons and azaleas are still blooming.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

My First Book!

Remember this? There were weeks of exploring ideas and refining drawings followed by hours of painting and... last week I shipped off the final artwork for the children's storybook I was working on! There will be a few more weeks before the books are printed, I can't wait! So until then, here's some to share with you!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Xian Diary Day 7 On the way to the Great Mosque Part 2

It's... the time of the week where we escape to China! Today we carry on with Day 7 of our China trip, see all posts here.

We were in the Muslim quarter in search of the Great Mosque. Surrounded with curious sights and smells, we wandered deeper and deeper into the district as we looked high and low for the sign to direct us towards the mosque.

A typical family owned restaurant, the store sign proudly displayed the family name and their specialties. This one said persimmon cakes and roast chicken, a strange combination but the shop was double the size of others, it seemed popular and established.
An eatery on wheels, the lady turned to say "chicken" to me as we walked by. A few seconds after this picture was taken, passersby purchased all the grilled goodies while she cooked more, a tempting aroma filled the air.
A drive-through convenience store Xian style, complete with great customer service. The client was smartly dressed, cotton navy blazer paired with jeans in black high heels. Her bicycle was in excellent shape and kept clean and polished. I felt somewhat out of place with my baggy t-shirt, khaki pants and old running shoes.
Traffic jam in Muslim district! We heard honks blaring, some local vehicles were trying to pass. They appeared out of nowhere and everybody wanted their way fast. On the side of the road, a paper cut business, its artwork spilled over the sidewalk. We were amazed nothing was damaged. As quickly as traffic piled up, the next few minutes witnessed them dispersing. I wished congestions would be over so quickly in Vancouver!
The shop owner worked away at the sheet metal with his welding torch while his wife read the daily papers. Filled with stores and trades of all types, the Muslim neighborhood is a fully functioning community in itself.
At the restaurant equipment company, an intense negotiation went on, the business owner in the black leather jacket completed the sale on her cell phone. The shop was overflowing with kitchen supplies for large scale cooking of sorts, she was not the only customer in view, a couple more managed to squeeze into what little space there was inside the store.
Three ladies chatted with one another as they strolled along. There was a lot of visiting among the neighbors, everybody seems to know everyone else. We felt safe exploring the close-knit community.
A young lady rode her bike as she walked the dog. As China's economy grows, some Chinese could afford luxuries like owning pets. Pure canine breeds like Collie amongst others were seen throughout our China trip, pet supplies and dog grooming services were lucrative businesses too.
Two young boys shared a friendly joke, the red scarves around their neck indicative of their school uniform. The warm autumn sun was setting, we had roamed the area for over an hour now, where is the Great Mosque?!
As we continued the streets got quieter, we thoroughly enjoyed our neighborhood visit but the mosque was our intended destination. We stopped to ask only to realize we had gone too far and had to return the way we came!
Near the entrance to the Muslim quarter, a bakery owner displayed her freshly made honey buns, they smelled so good. The man was one of her first customers, a few minutes later, most of the buns were gone. It seemed the locals were very supportive of their business community, it was no wonder most shops had been around for ages.
Another kind stranger pointed out a shortcut to the entrance of the Great Mosque. The way was lined with religious clothing shops, we knew we were close... Day 7 will continue next week!