Tag Archives: park

NYC5 – That day……

When my hubby asked me if I wanted to go to NYC for our anniversary, “yes, please,” was all I could muster before I pushed my sweet children out of the way and rushed off to pack my bag. I had been to NYC but it’d been so many years that I didn’t remember anything much about the place.

We decided to drive because we could spend more quality time together I absolutely hate flying. One of the many reasons I don’t like to fly is because about 11 1/2 years ago planes fell out of the sky.

We all remember our own details of that day. I was pregnant with my youngest. When I heard the news, I filled my car with gas, got money out of the bank, and rushed to the store to buy Krispy Kreme donuts and milk. Apparently my prenatal self thought donuts could ward of evil. It didn’t work. Evil still exists. Luckily, donuts do too.

Before we set one foot in the direction of NYC, I had my post about the 9/11 memorial half-written. I was mad and shaking my finger at the computer screen, “How could they do that? Why would they do that?” I planned to spew anger at seeing the devastation first hand, and, dear readers, I was ready to walk you down my own spiral staircase of loathing to rant against those who could devise and then carry out such a plan.

My neighbor tried to settle me down by telling me how calming the memorial was. She promised, “it’s really peaceful. You might be surprised.”

But not I. The pen is mightier than the plane and I was fully prepared.

Until we got there.

Our first view of the site was from a helicopter.

I was in awe. The holes in the space were gaping, impossible to miss. But something strange happened. I wasn’t furious. I didn’t wave my fist in the air. I just stared. It was horrific and serene.

The next morning we went for our tour at the memorial. It turns out you need tickets/visitor passes – they are free – but you have to register for them in advance. You can do that here.

We signed up for the 10am slot and lined up at 9:30am. As we were waiting, we heard the people around us telling their stories. It seemed like everyone knew someone who didn’t make it out. Just a few knew of someone who did.

One woman solemnly said, “It is only right that they memorialize those who lost their lives. I am glad they didn’t rebuild office space on the site.”

The man she was with quietly answered, “Please remember, they did not simply lose their lives, they were murdered.” His friend, a firefighter, died that day. Agony.

Those words choked my heart. I had to swallow to jump start it. I started talking to my husband because I just couldn’t take any more stories.

Finally, we presented our tickets and went through security and somehow were second in line for the grand gate opening.

When the gates opened, the first thing I saw was these men.

These men who stand watch over a monument dedicated in part to those uniformed men and women who rushed into buildings that were falling down for no other reason than to save lives. Other people’s lives. Agony.

And then we saw this.

Tranquility. Beauty. Rebuilding.

(If you can get there early, do. We only got to see this view because we got there early. Within minutes, seconds really, hundreds of people were milling about and it felt very different. More urgent.)

I walked around the entire park. The only way I knew to honor the memory of those who died on September 11th was to try to read every name. It quickly got too crowded in the park for me to read all the names, but I did try.

Some of the names looked familiar to me because I love people who share those names. It didn’t, it won’t make any sense that people could hate other people so desperately. People they have never met. That anyone would give up his own life to destroy the life of another. It didn’t, it won’t make sense who was chosen. I wondered, “why them?”

“Why did that Ellen die and not me.” I selfishly thanked God but wondered why again and again as I connected with name after name.

And then I saw this.

And her unborn child.”

Debilitating agony.

Throughout the morning, I read that phrase six more times. There may have been more but parts of the wall were crowded and it was hard to see around the people.

Overwhelming sadness gripped me. No anger. Just devastating sadness because of such unnecessary loss. The promise of so much obliterated by unearned hatred. It made it hard for me to hate back. I was just so very, very sad.

I will never find the exact poetic words to tell you how beautiful this memorial place is. I just love that they built waterfalls flowing from near ground level into the holes the collapsed buildings created. The designers captured the devastation and America’s defiance of that ridiculous hate magically. The running water is calming. The sky is wide open. It feels like God is watching us shine.

I can feel his pain ………… unexpected connections…..

Today we went to see the new Karate Kid movie. If you have not seen the movie, you might not want to read this yet. It’s predictable – you already know what happens, so I promise I am not ruining the ending – but I am all full of opinions about this and I might taint your viewpoint. Better to see it first then tell me how wrong I am.

At one point in the movie, the 12 year old boy who was forced to move across the globe has a mini-tantrum and tells his mother that he hates it in China and that he just wants to go home. After the movie, Bear said that he could totally feel his pain. And then he laughed. And we marveled that we had already been gone a year and a half and that we are now back home. We all agreed that the experience was amazing but we could totally relate to the main character wanting to get the heck out of there – even if the ice cream is really good.

One of the beginning scenes was at the airport and they showed this statue.

We all simultaneously looked at each other and laughed. Several parts of the movie were filmed in places in Beijing we had been – the markets, Olympic Park, the Forbidden City, the Great Wall, and Tiananmen Square, etc. That was bizarro. I knew the movie was filmed in Asia but I didn’t realize it was filmed in Beijing where we had just visited not too many weeks ago. We went out for a little family bonding time in front of the big screen and behind bags of popcorn and we found some tremendous unexpected connections.

Right before we left for India, Slumdog Millionaire came out and that was really my first introduction to India. It’s wasn’t a warm and fuzzy “how ya doing” introduction – it was a “holy crap you want me to move where and take our children with us – yeah, that sounds like a great idea” kind of introduction.

And then, when we return, Karate Kid comes out. That is about as full circle as it gets. And as much as the Indian population was not that impressed with Slumdog, I don’t think the Chinese people and mothers in general are going feel the l.o.v.e. for Karate Kid.

It missed the boat on a number of fronts. The bottom line is that a father has apparently died and a mother moves her son from Detroit to China for a job. But knowing how tough this decision really is, I was disappointed that they just started the movie with the move. A move that they made too simple and too uncomplicated. There weren’t really any tears – the family just picked up and left with a few hugs in the rain as Dre’s (the Karate Kid) best friend gives him his skateboard and they knock knuckles. That just is not reality. When you move around the world, you are tearing yourself away from just about every little level of comfort you know – especially if it is your first international move – and even if you don’t love everything about where you are leaving – you at least mostly know what to expect. Anytime you move, you are leave people you care about and routines and just a life that is familiar. Surely, there is a thrill in the new adventure but it just doesn’t begin with a hug in the rain.

Those of you who know me will probably laugh when I say this – but I also simply cannot believe that a widow can take her 12-year old boy to Beijing and let him just run about town. He spent a good deal of his time unattended. Let me say this about Beijing. We wanted to take a cab from our hotel to the Hard Rock Cafe and back to get my brother a hat. The hotel “strongly” discouraged us from doing that because most people in China don’t speak English. It’s not easy to navigate a big city even as an adult and even when you can speak the language and can read the signs. It is totally unrealistic to think that a 12 year old could find his way around that town alone and that a mother would be comfortable with that happening. I know you are supposed to suspend reality when you watch a movie. But I think that when people put together a movie that they want you to believe in – they should make attempts to make it believable. A woman alone with a child in a completely foreign environment just would not give her son so much freedom. I could not get past that. Every time Dre was walking somewhere alone, I could not help but think that he should not be doing that.

After the movie, I asked Bear what he thought the chances of me letting him roam around Beijing by himself would be. He laughed that I would probably let him do that before I would let him delete a text message from me and then not respond. Oh yeah, that happened too. Dre’s mom was looking for him and he just hit “delete” after receiving the message. Excuse me? But she was on his arse about not hanging up his jacket. Huh?

At one point, the boy and his instructor take a train ride to train at the Great Wall. Seriously? She’s going to let this total stranger take her son on a train? So, the mom might win an academy award for this movie (but don’t bet on that) but she certainly will not be getting mother of the year honors.

Anyneglect, then there was the whole issue of Dre making friends. On the day he arrived, the Karate Kid met a boy about his age and played some basketball with him. Then he saw a cute girl and went over to meet her. Enter the bullies who were unimpressed. He got the crap beaten out of him. Frankly, it was a little much. I certainly do not claim to be an expert on the Chinese teenager – but this seemed so out of character for what I have experienced. Five or six boys ganged up on the new kid and pummeled him. Exit the new friend. This blond boy is never seen again in the movie. Again, really? Not even at school, not even once? Really, Chinese teenagers would pummel a foreigner within hours of his arrival in the country. It just didn’t all add up.

When Dre’s mom saw his black eye – and not until the next morning by the way – she accepted his “I ran into a pole” excuse to avoid having a discussion in front of the school administrator. Again – not gonna happen. You realize your son has been beaten up, you did a little deeper. You don’t leave him at the door with a “I love you, honey” and send him into the wolves den. Guess who some of the first kids he saw at school were? Bingo!

It was never clear what type of school the boy was going to. But it seemed to at least be an international school. They have this new student thing down pat – they usually assign a “buddy” to kids to help them navigate through their first few days. Didn’t happen. Dre did run into his “crush” at the cafeteria but the bullies didn’t like him talking to her and turned his tray upside down on his shirt – right in front of the school administrator. She just sent them on their way in opposite directions and did not address the conflict at all. Huh?

The boy got bullied a few more times and then finally saved by the maintenance man (Jackie Chan – lucky to have him as the maintenance man). Jackie Chan agrees to train Dre and they become fast friends.

I also had a really tough time accepting the bullying nature of the group of boys in the story. Everyone I know who has their kids in some sort of martial arts touts the discipline the art teaches. It is not about the fighting but about strengthening the mind and the body and learning focus. You become strong so you do not have to fight. But the motto of the teacher of the bullies was basically if you have any mercy, you are weak. Fight until someone cannot get up. Yes, you remember that correctly. These boys are 12.

I guess, it was possible to believe that the fights on the street got nasty. But even in competition these boys were giving blows to the face and trying to maim their competition. They were more like MMA fighters than 12 year olds learning martial arts and competing in a respectful manner. It did not give a great impression of martial arts training in China. Dre’s teacher did say that there were no bad students only bad teachers. But still. The whole premise of the fighting was that these boys were out for blood and trained to be so.

There were just too many missing pieces in the plot. Not enough of a front story. Not enough of what we loved about the first movie – the training sessions and the growth of the character. And a very predictable ending – which had to be predictable because it is after all a remake of the Karate Kid. I can forgive it the ending – and, no, I was not crying at the end. The theater was extremely humid.

Beijing – Olympic Park and Panda Bears………

While we were in Beijing, we wanted to see Olympic Park. This was an interesting thing to accomplish.

I don’t know if all tours are run like this in China or if we just got some bad tour mojo….. but …. yikes. Our travel agent planned an itinerary for our day and a half in Beijing. We asked to go to the Great Wall – the section that you walk up and luge down. That did not happen. We went to the wall and walked up but we also had to walk down. That was a big bummer!

He also coordinated visits for us to see the Summer Palace and Ming’s Tomb. I ask you – why would we go to stuffy ole Ming’s tomb when we could see where Michael Phelps made history? Duh? And why would we go to the Summer Palace when we could see the Panda bears. I mean, really. Honestly, if we would have had more time, we would have so gone to Ming’s Tomb and the Summer Palace but time was short and we were traveling with three younguns who love to swim – so priorities, right?

When we got on the tour mobile, we asked to make some changes to our original schedule. OOOOOOOppppps. Apparently that is not acceptable – well, it can be acceptable if you are willing to pay more. Huh? We wanted to change two sites for two other sites. In America, we call that a “no-brainer” – in China it is apparently called an “increase in fees”. Got it.

We were also told that we were going to be charged more money because we were not going shopping. You read that right – n.o.t. going shopping. Huh? We did not ask to go shopping. And, shopping was not on our original schedule. But, now we were going to pay to not shop. Hmmmmmm.

Oh, and our tour guide was happy to take us by an ATM machine so we could pay in cash. Yeah, how do you think that worked out for her?

So, very long, very frustrating story short – we made the changes and only had to pay extra for the zoo fees. Now, that makes more sense.  And hubby had sense enough to suggest insist that our travel agent in Delhi be billed by our guide’s travel agency directly in Beijing – no cash transactions, thank you very much. So nice of you to offer though. tee hee. (Now you know I did not just marry hubby for his good looks.)

We quickly put it all behind us and walked in awe through Olympic Park. It is a pretty cool place. Most of the signage in China is in, well, Chinese – so it was fun to see this sign that we could actually read.

The bird’s nest was huge and fabulous…

And then, of course, the water cube. Unfortunately it was not open – but we used our imagination. 😉 I could easily imagine Bear, Flower, and Angel diving off the same block that Michael Phelps used. Can’t you?

And the fun mascots…

And how can you go to Olympic Park and not take a picture of the rings? You can’t, right?

There were some pretty awesome statues throughout the park. And if you stand at angle with the sun in your eyes and lean to the left and lift one foot up, this guy absolutely resembles Michael Phelps.

Her, not so much…

Not too sure what this symbolizes – but it looked cool enough…

Maybe he was trying to envision the swimming statue as Michael Phelps, too? What? He could be. Or, maybe, it’s just hard to hold a sailboat with no arms.

The sign wasn’t much help either…

Sure, it’s nice information to know, but it didn’t so much help on the interpretation side of things.

Travel in China is different than what we have experienced in the rest of Asia. Truly, not many of the people we encountered spoke English. This lady and her sister were so kind to help hubby negotiate with a vendor for a better price on the stuffed mascots. If you plan to visit China, learn from our mistakes, you’ll want to know this about shopping with vendors in Beijing (and perhaps all of China). It is wise to have money in smaller denominations. Otherwise the vendors are likely to give you counterfeit bills as change. Wanna know how we know that? Go ahead. Take a guess.

We tried to buy her sister a set of mascots too but the only thanks she wanted was a picture with our family.

Next, we headed over to the zoo. Fun Fun. We have seen a panda or two at the zoo in Washington, DC, but the Beijing zoo has at least a dozen of them. And here was another sign we could read.

And these guys were fabuloso!


The pandas also had this wonderful playground.

But this guy was just too tired to play. So cute!

Anybear, we did have a wonderful afternoon and hope to go back some time and see more of the historical stuff.

Doctor Fish and Butterflies…………..

Do you know about this? It is called a fish spa. You put your feet in water and these fish eat your dead skin cells. I know it sounds really icky – but it is very relaxing! And you leave with smoother skin – it is a pedicure a la fishies.

The little fish come nibble on your toes and feet and calves. They create a vibration sensation. The spa will serve you tea and you just sit back and relax. It is good to know that the tanks hold different size fish and they all feel a little different. The larger ones were my favorite. It does tickle a little at first, but you get over that quickly.

I am sure it is all hocus pocus jibber jabber – but it was fun to try it once. Here is what they claim…

We did this while we were in Singapore. I understand these spas exist all over the world. I will definitely do it again.

We also went to the Butterfly Park on Sentosa Island. It was magical – very large butterflies flitter and flutter by you and might even land on you.

There were also other creatures like turtles, birds, lizards, and even some snakes (in cages).

There is also a tremendous insect collection inside the park. They are all pinned to boards – which sounds mean – but these are some big arse bugs – you will be v.e.r.y. thankful they are not alive and cannot move. And FYI, if you live in Colombia or Brazil, you might want to invest in some industrial strength bugspray and be very careful where you walk.

Prickly………..

There is a Cactus park in Delhi – maybe it’s Cacti park – whichever – there’s a park with prickly plants in it. Flower’s class recently went there for a field trip and I got to tag along. It is a pretty cool place. I clearly don’t remember the exact name of it – maybe someone who reads along will remember. I know you are probably thinking, “didn’t you get  a hand out or something?” The answer would be yes – and I lost it. So, no help there. Apparently I walked away with the handout from the teacher too that I wasn’t supposed to keep – lost that one too. So, nope, I won’t be able to identify any of the specimens for you. Sorry.

Yes, I am sure to be fired soon.

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If the students don’t listen to the teacher – they have to sit here.

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Now that is a pathway Peter Pan would have loved.

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This was a lovely Buddhist thing – I am honestly not sure if it is a temple or a shrine or just a statue. But whatever it is, here it is. Tres cool.

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And another very fun bridge. Did you notice that neither bridge has water running under it – do you notice a theme here? Does anyone know why it doesn’t just go straight across? I am guessing just because – but if there is a more scientific explanation, I am all ears.