Dongyue Temple

On September 12th, China’s National Holiday, “Mid-Autumn Festival”, we went to Dongyue Temple.  The kids were not too enthused about going to our neighborhood temple only 3 blocks from our apartment.  They had more adventurous ideas on their minds.  But little did we know that it is Beijing’s most morbid temple!  The kids ended up being mesmerized by all the scary creatures….

Ancient Samurai Warrior greets us.

Life size plaster figures representing the Chiefs of Departments.

The temple is populated by hundreds of amazing life-sized plaster figures.The figures make up the “73 Chiefs of Departments and 18 Layers of Hell” offer protection from harassment in the netherworld in return for devotion and a suitable offering.

Just a few of the hundreds of scary creatures we saw.

It is still a working Taoist temple, Dongyue is dedicated to the God of Taishan (one of China’s five holy mountains).

Max at Mother and Father temple of good fortune for children.

Temple official walking the corridors.

Sepia at spiritual tombstone area.

Temple Courtyard showing high rise buildings in the background.

An overwhelming number of prayer tags left at the Department of Morality for Officials.

Ancient relics.


Jingshun Park

One beautiful Autumn morning, Shane and I went to Jingshun Park after sending the kids off to school.  At 8:30am we were exploring this amazing park. Jingshan Park (Jingshan Gongyuan) was a part of the Forbidden City until the early 1900’s when the walls were pulled down and a road cut through it destroying several gates and buildings between the park and the rear entrance of the palace. The hill was created in 1420 using earth from the moat and the expansion of Beihai’s lakes.  This hill, in fact, was a Ming dynasty dumping ground as well.

S & S at Jingshan Park.

We enjoyed the climb up the hill on such a clear day and had spectacular views of the Forbidden City and Beijing. The best view of Beijing is from the Pavilion of Everlasting Spring (Wanchun-ting) perched on top of the middle peak, which used to be the highest point in the city.

Sandra at Pavilion of Everlasting Spring.

Northwards, one can see the Drum and Bell Towers, a traditional feature of old Chinese cities.

To the northwest, the two slabs of water of the Shichahai and Beihai Lake are intersected by Di’anmen Dajie. To the south, the golden roofs of the Imperial Palace can be seen stretching into the distance.

There is an old but fallacious story that an emperor kept supplies of coal hidden under the hill, hence its other name, Coal Hill (Meishan).

At the base of the hill was an Apple Festival being held.  Here are some apples that were on display.

Chinese signs on apples skins.

Sepia Shoe Commercial

In mid October, Shane saw an ad on “The Beijinger” (Foreigners living in Beijing Website) asking for foreign kids to send photos and acting experience to audition for a TV commercial. Twenty kids were selected to audition and Sepia was one of them.  Sepia and Mom were picked up by the talent agent and taken to the studio.  Thankfully, the talent agent spoke English so she was helpful.  The assistant director took some photos and videos of Sepia.  After it was over and we were heading home in the taxi.  Sepia shared with me that she thought she did really bad.  Of course, I said she did great!  I reminded her it was her first audition and the massive lights on her and the director only speaking Chinese made it definitely challenging.

Two weeks later, the talent agent called and said, “Sepia has been selected for the commercial.”

Sepia at the filming of the commercial.

Two days later, on Saturday morning(6:30am), we went to the filming of the commercial. at 6:30am – 12:30pm.  Sepia was so excited!  She was asked to wear athletic clothes and basketball shoes, and bring school clothes for another part of the filming.

New kid's athletic shoes!

The commercial was for a new type of kid’s athletic shoe which are supposed to help your posture and play sports better.

Getting in position.

There were 4 other boys that were selected to be in the commercial, as well.

Two African Americans boys who are sons of Embassy Ambassadors(and two friends came to watch), two Russian boys, and Sepia played basketball in a gym that was part of a college campus.

Sepia and the boys. The star performer is wearing black and red and holding the basketball and his friend in the green shirt was in the commercial, too. The other two only came to see the filming.

One of the African American boys was the star who had to do a special basketball move.

An American man was a expert scientist(actor) stating all the technical benefits of the shoes.

Filming the shoe commercial.

Walking for the right shot.

All went great with the filming and in about one month the commercial will be launched on Beijing TV, and maybe throughout China.

Sepia was thrilled to be in her first commercial and she even got paid 500 RMB ($80USD).

Max and Chinese

Max is favored here in China.

Mainly because of his blondish brown hair.   A week ago, when we were walking home from the bus, Max decided to stop at the corner exercise area and jump on the teeter totter for a few minutes.  Well, the moment he hopped on, so did…….

Max with locals.

Normally, Chinese stop Max when we are out and about and ask to get a photo with him. At first, Max was perplexed and looked to us for approval, now he says, “对” (yes).

Max with the patriotic local.

This took us by surprise….

Max and Mom were on the electric bike driving home when a taxi flagged us down with Chinese shouting various things.  I thought they needed directions or something…?  So I stopped.    They waved their arms and poked the camera out the car window, pointed to Max and took some photos.  Would you believe they only wanted a photo of Max.They said he was “很漂亮” meili nanheir (very beautiful boy), which Max told me after they drove away.  He is very humble.

Birthday Lost in Translation

It all started at 8:30pm, when Sepia pulled out the Birthday party invitation from her backpack.  It was only the second day of school and she was invited to a Birthday party. She did not know the boy’s name, but we were happy that she was invited.  As we had a closer look at the invite details we were unable to read anything but a couple things.

The Birthday invite

Birthday invite details in Chinese.

Date: 9/ 3

Time: 9am – 6pm   (we were surprised by how long the party was….?)

Location: a map showed “CBD” with a star on it. (The Central Business District is about 15 minutes from our apartment). We thought that would be fine, being so close to home.

Driving directions to Birthday party in Chinese.

So with hopes of Sepia making new friends we agreed to take her to the party, the next morning.

Because of a previous appointment commitment, we arranged to take her to the party an hour and half later, and tried to contact the parents to let them know, but were unable to speak with them because they only spoke Chinese….so I then, contacted another parent and left her a message about arriving a little late.

At 10:30am, we all jumped in a taxi to take Sepia to her party.  We quickly handed the taxi driver the Birthday party invitation and Map with instructions on it.  He looked at it and was confused.  We pointed to the map and gave hand signals to please take us there.  The taxi driver was more confused….  We said, “”Wo bu dong”(I don’t understand). We called the parents hosting the party because they only spoke Chinese and immediately gave the phone to the taxi driver.  He communicated various points with the host, which of course we had no idea what was being discussed.  The driver hung up with the host and had an expression that he knew where he was going now, and said something in Chinese.  We, of course responded with “Dui, dui, dui” (yes, yes, yes) in Chinese and nodded our heads in approval.

So off we went to the party.

Driving, and driving and driving and many panic attacks like where in the world is he taking us, plus Sepia feeling car sick.  Looking at the taxi meter ticking over was maddening.  The most we had paid was 45 RMB for taxi fares so far.  Finally, after one and half hours, 4 phone calls to the hosts, because the driver was totally lost out in the country, and one call to Shane’s assistant who translates most information for us, and only half demolished buildings around us along the roads…We arrived at the party destination!

We finally made it to the resort.

A little resort in the mountains with river running beside it.  We paid the taxi driver the fee:  300 RMB.(Equivalent to $50 USD).

In the foothills of the mountains.

The hosts, the other party guests, and lots of kids who spoke Russian, Chinese and only a tiny bit of English, greeted us with open arms.  We were so happy to be there.  The host pointed to the luxury coach bus which he hired for all the party guests to travel in.  We laughed and shook our heads!

The pagoda where we had lunch.

Birthday Lunch at the resort.

They showed us to the pagoda where they had a beautiful lunch prepared.  Poached cod, sautéed tofu, haw fruit mold, sautéed bok choy, baked chicken, blanched peanut salad, seaweed salad, roasted chili peppers, and steamed rice.  They served Shane and I wine and the kids iced tea.

“GAMBAI” (Cheers!) We all toasted.

We were excited to try everything.  The kids too were so hungry.  After eating for 20minutes, they motioned to Sepia and Max to hurry up so they could go play with the kids.

We finished eating then walked for about 15 minutes to another part of the resort, only to find a war zone of trenches and adults in full camo gear.  Yes, the birthday boy age 9 along with 15 kids (age 8 -11)were getting dressed in full camouflage gear, to do PAINTBALL!

Sepia getting the gear on.

The Paintball owner was giving the kids tons of instructions.  Of course, all in Chinese!

There were two teams preparing for battle.

Everyone Ready!

This was serious PAINTBALL!

Max ready for Paintball combat.

The compressor paint guns were heavy and the balls had a powerful punch.  Two seven year old girls came to the safety zone crying because they were so terrified after playing for 15 minutes.  Max played great, but was totally wounded in battle.  Accidently, his own team mate hit him only 5 feet away 4 times on the back on the head.  Ouch!

I'm Hit!

Sepia's battle wound.

Sepia was wounded as well with a red welt on her arm that split the skin.  In the United States, you must be age 18 or older to do paintball, we now know why.  Once they played for 1 1/2 hours.

Delicious cheesecake for birthday cake.

The kids got out of their red paint stained gear, we then had birthday cake.

We boarded the bus for Beijing.

The Birthday Bus.

We had some dinner when we got back to the city, then arrived home at 8pm.

It was a day to remember.