Innovation on Earth

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Archive for the tag “People”

Faces of Beijing

Who are the people of Beijing? It’s hard to trust official statistics, but there are definitely more than 20 million people who live here.  Some are modern independent businessmen, and others are struggling to make it on less than $200 per month.  Some embrace traditional Chinese values and Communism, while others choose a Capitalistic approach.  Many are only children, having grown up with China’s “One Child Policy.”  Even though most people in Beijing look “Chinese” in race, there are a lot of other ways that they are a diverse population. I’m no expert, but I can share some of my observations about the people that make up this huge city.

Everyone has a cell phone. Today, I saw this little girl crying over cell phone time.

The subway is always packed, and always a fun place to people watch. This guy had a shirt giving facts about Elvis, which he probably doesn’t understand.

There are many older people who collect bottles and get little amounts of money to recycle them.

It’s always fun to see all of the unique artists who sell their crafts on the street. Some are traditional, like Chinese knotting, but some are more modern, like this guy selling wire sculpture.

It’s always a treat to see street musicians, and it’s even more sweet to see that they often aren’t asking for money. They just want to share their talents.

There’s poverty everywhere, and it can be hard to walk by and see this.

It’s very common for men to lift their shirts here and walk around in the hot weather with bare bellies.

Smiles are universal. There are some ways to connect without any language at all.

Some of the fashion that I’ve seen here is pretty amazing. The arm bands are popular, maybe for sun protection? And Chinese people are not afraid of color.

Want to buy a kite? Haggling here is an art. They say 40 kwai, and you should say 10 kwai. In China, building relationships is important, so bargaining is a process of building trust between the salesman and the customer. It’s rare to start haggling with one person and end up buying from someone different.

Most people in China say they are non-religious, but many still go to Buddhist temples and pay their respects with incense and bowing down to statues of Buddha.



Club Time at Temple of Heaven

Early in the mornings, the area around the Temple of Heaven is packed with people. It’s not only filled with tourists like me who want to see this sacred space where Chinese emperors used to pray.  Even more common is people meeting up to practice together.  They get together and do all sorts of things: dancing, tai chi, acrobatics, Chinese chess, writing Chinese calligraphy in water on the stone tiles, playing music, and more.

This morning as we walked around the park surrounding the temple, we were amazed by the focus, fun, and sheer diversity of interests represented.  Here’s a little video showing some of the activities.  See if you can tell which are our students. It’s amazing how many different types of recreation exist all over the world!

Speaking of recreational activities, we invented a new game at dinner tonight.  Shall we call it, “Pass the Peanut?”




Goodbye Cappadocia

I’ve been in Istanbul for two full days now, but the rocks of Cappadocia stay with me.  Marina and Jaques, the couple that I met from Belgium, told me that they’ve been back more times than they can count. This is no ordinary place, but also these are no ordinary people.  Marina and Jaques showed me the area as only a “local” could.  When we encountered a steep rock, and there was a newly installed ladder, they complained that the new tool ruined the fun of climbing. Despite the fact that Jacques was old enough to retire from his job, he deftly climbed the toughest rocks and lent me a hand over the biggest ones. When I scraped my elbow, Marina said, “Yes, we always return from our trips with scraped elbows. And we say that we had a great trip.”

I keep thinking about this — that sometimes you need to get a little scraped up in order to have the best experiences. I never would have met Marina and Jacques if I hadn’t ventured off into the wilderness on my own, even though it was a little scary and lonely.  Not only did I end up with wonderful hiking partners, but they then showed me back to town to meet their local guide, Hassan, and his family. I made them some balloon animals and hats, and they insisted that I have tea at their home. I’ve barely noticed the elbow scrape.

Here’s to Cappadocia — this little film is just a draft, because I could spend hours sorting through my footage — but I hope it gives you a sense of what a special place this is.

Istanbul Smiles

Istanbul is growing on me.  I’m getting to know my way around one area, Sultanahmet (the old city). While Ukrainians aren’t quick to smile at strangers, Turkish people are big smilers!  In fact, they seem insulted if I don’t chat with them as I pass on the street.  They all want to know where I am from and how I like their city.  I had been warned by fellow travelers that Istanbul is crowded and salesmen are pushy.  It’s true that they try to sell their products, and get you to by a carpet or whatever else.  However, today I wandered through the grand bazaar market without any problems. It was really fun haggling for lower prices and chatting with all the shopkeepers, and much more calm than I expected.  It can be hard to negotiate prices, since we don’t do that in America, but it is an interesting part of the Turkish culture. My favorite purchase of the day (which I’m sure I paid too much for) was fresh squeezed pomegranate juice.  Delicious!

I did a lot more than shopping today.  In the morning, I visited the Blue Mosque, which dates back to the early 17th century, and the Basilica Cistern, which is an early water system from the 6th century. In the evening, I went to a Turkish cooking class!  I learned a bunch of new recipes, and look forward to trying them out when I get home.   I hope to do a blog entry on Turkish food soon too.

Turkey is a country with a lot of ancient history, but it’s also very modern.  This makes it really fun to explore — sometimes I turn the corner and see something totally unfamiliar, and sometimes I run into an American chain store.  People are very open to diversity here, as the locals come with a variety of religious backgrounds, skin colors, and styles. I look forward to my first Turkish school visit tomorrow!

Note: I’m having some technical difficulties with the blog and it’s taking me a very long time to upload movies and photos. I have a lot more of them to share, but I’m not able to get them posted.  I will try to resolve the problem so that I can add more soon.

Scrub-a-Dub Hamam

A visit to a Hamam is an essential part of any trip to Turkey, because it is central to the Turkish culture. Many friends who had been to Turkey told me that I absolutely had to try it out. A Hamam is also called a Turkish Bath, and they’ve been popular in Turkey for thousands of years, literally.  People didn’t used to have bathrooms in their homes, so they’d go out to a central location for bathing.  Roman baths were also popular back in the day, but the way it’s set up in Turkey today comes from the time of the Ottoman Empire.  Hamams generally have three rooms: the hot room (sauna), the warm room (steamy room with hot marble to lie on and old people who scrub you with suds), and the cool room (for relaxing with a cup of tea).

I had a long day exploring Cappadocia under the hot sun, so I spent the evening relaxing at a Hamam. The man at the front desk helped me to explain to you about this special Turkish tradition:

I wish I could share my photos and videos from my day exploring the mountains, rocks, and caves of Cappadocia, but the internet is very slow here and I need to go to sleep.  There are many tourists in the area now, and I did an organized tour called the green tour.  I met people from all over the world.  For example, I had breakfast with a Brazilian guy, lunch with a Bosnian guy, and dinner with a Japanese woman.  The sights were gorgeous, even though I felt a little like a fish swimming in a sea of hundreds of other tourists.  We walked on the tippy tops of cliffs, looking down at the scenery. We climbed up rocks and explored caves in the sky. We drove zigzags around mountains. We went underground and ducked through tunnels that were built at least 1,000 years ago. We sweated through the heat, the sun blaring down on us. We walked along a canyon as the rain began to fall (and even caught a glimpse of a rainbow). Stay tuned for more visuals tomorrow.

Also, some exciting NEWS: I was interviewed by a really fabulous website,  Check out my interview here!

Visit to Khortytsya Island

Zaporizhia’s most famous landmark is Khortytsya Island, which sits in the middle of the Dneiper River.  The city of Zaporizhia is on both sides of the river, around the island. The island has a rich history, including that it was a base for the Cossaks, the warriors of the region. People lived there way back, thousands of years before American history even began.  Also, during World War II, when Ukraine was occupied by the Germans, some important battles happened there.

Since today was Saturday, our host teacher, Lydia, and her husband, Sergei, took me and Carol to the island.  We had a fabulous visit. There’s an area like Plimoth Plantation, with a recreation of a big fortress and the whole settlement.  It’s interactive like Plimoth, and I got to try shooting an arrow and making my own coin.  Check out the video to see how similar it actually looks!

We also trekked around the island, along the coast and into the woods. We even saw a HUGE wild boar, which I didn’t get to photograph.  I was too worried about getting trampled to take out my camera!  It was very cool to see though. At the end of our visit, we had a picnic and I taught Carol and Lydia a few balloon tricks. What a wonderful day! Check out the video to see it for yourself:

A few more favorite pictures:


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