Friday, March 30, 2012

Cactus League Baseball Spring Training–Texas Rangers vs San Francisco Giants

I think that going to the Old Ball Game is almost as relaxing as sitting on the beach.  There is just enough action to make it interesting but just enough lull in the game for you to be able to sit back, relax, and enjoy the cool night air.  Spring training baseball is even better because you can get much closer to the action!
We were lucky to be sitting right on the edge of the 1st base line where the Texas Rangers players walked back to the locker room.  Many players walked by but only Josh Hamilton and one other signed autographs.  I enjoyed watching the excited fans get autographs as much as I enjoyed watching the game.  And I have a lot of respect for players who will take the time to greet their fans.
Poised to get an autograph
Excitedly waiting for players ……… But no luck this time.

A loyal Texas fan

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Holi Festival Color Throw Sequence









Krishna Dancing at the Holi Festival (Festival of Colors)

I saw many beautiful expressions of joy at the Holi Festival at the Krishna Temple in Spanish Fork, Utah but none compared to the joy I saw on the face and in the body of this dancer.  When I saw her, there was already a large crowd gathered around her.  She was both fully experiencing joy independent of the crowd as well as being aware of the joy she was bringing the crowd through her expressive dance.


Her dance was a mixture of traditional hula hooping, moving her body through the hula hoop, and hand gestures.  I searched the internet to see if I could find more information on the meaning of this dance.  I found several YouTube videos but no specific information about Krishna dancing with a hula hoop.



I was able to find information about Krishna dancing in general on this site It says that Krishna dancing is called “kirtana” and “There is no motive in performing kirtana. It is the song and dance of ecstasy, the dance of the soul. The soul is dancing; therefore, the body is dancing. “



I know very little about Krishna beliefs and practices beyond what I have heard preached between color throws the two years that I have been to the festival but much of it seems to be about being your best self and living with joy.  Certainly ideas that most of us could benefit from integrating into our own lives.  It is odd perhaps to compare Dave Ramsey’s teaching to that of Krishna but I heard both talk about not wasting time on trying to make your weakness strong but rather work on making your strengths even stronger.  Because you will never excel at your weaknesses but you will be able to excel at your strengths.  I also heard preached at the festival the law of attraction.  The Law of Attraction is basically that you attract to you and go toward those things that you think about, be they positive or negative.  I personally believe that it takes a lot of hard work to get the positive outcomes that you want but focusing on the positive outcomes rather than all of the barriers to achieving them certainly makes it a lot easier to keep working towards those outcomes.


Here are some additional pictures of the dance.





Thursday, March 22, 2012

Tuesdays with Morrie

I just ran across a paper which I wrote for a class I took during my Occupational Therapy program called “Death, Dying, and Bereavement.”  The assignment was simply to write a reflection paper about a book about death and dying.  I was reminded of the power of Tuesdays with Morrie and wanted to share my reflections.


I first read this book several years ago, just after I had written a paper on Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).  I chose the topic for my paper, because of a comment my grandmother had made about a friend who had ALS.  In her frank manner she simply said, “that is the worst disease.”  I find it ironic that the effects of the same disease, affecting a man who saw beyond the demyelination of his own nervous system, could bring so much richness and beauty into the world.  It is certainly a book which has affected me as well as countless others who otherwise probably would not have picked up a book about dying.

I first read the book on a Thanksgiving flight to North Carolina.  It was a powerful book in my life then.  I began it again on a Thanksgiving flight to Boston – Morrie’s home – and finished it as I returned again to my home in Salt Lake City.

I must admit that I had a certain amount of fear in reading this book again because I knew that it was about right living and I knew that I was not especially happy with the way that I was living.  When I started to read the book, I was so astonishingly amazed that there was no pain in it.  There was no condemnation, only a compassionate arm placed around one’s shoulder with a gentle nudge of love to show what living can be, what living can mean.  The book was very healing for me.  It made me grateful for the mighty internal struggle that I have gone through this semester because it has made me a better person, a more focused student, and much more appreciative of every moment and much more careful with every moment I am alive.

I think that it is hard for one not to love Morrie.  I felt this way as I was reading the book.  I think that the love that I felt for him – and the connectedness with the story that I felt as I was flying into the city that was such a part of the story – made me feel so much more love and appreciation for the friend I was visiting in Boston and for the two friends who would also be flying in on a later flight to Boston.  How could I not love them, how could I not cherish them when every moment is so important.

On the return flight home, as I was nearing the middle of the second to last page of the book, my eyes were filled with tears, my nose was running, the airline steward was asking me if I wanted pretzels, and my friend sitting next to me was asking me a question.  My instinct was to hide my face and tears with a diverted look and a short answer and to finish the last paragraphs of the book in which I was so engrossed.  My heart told me that I could not read a book such as Tuesdays with Morrie while ignoring a friend.  I raised my face to her, answered her question, which involved solving a “puzzle” out of her business administration text book.  We continued to work on puzzles out of the book and continued to have a fabulous conversation about a lighthouse we had seen the day before.  We spoke about life and that living it required not only the what (i.e. school, family, work) but more importantly, the how (i.e. quality, right living, etc).  I concentrated on being present with her, in that moment and I appreciated the opportunity which Morrie had given me – not to escape into this beautiful world – but rather to enjoy a wonderful friend in mine.

Morrie served as my guide on this trip to Boston.  Knowing that I was so near to the geographical details – and even the temporal details – of this last months chronicled in this book helped me to hold his beautiful perspective near to me and made me appreciate so richly – yet without holding desperately onto it – the time that I had to be with three very dear friends.

Thank you Morrie!

Sanmenxia Underground Houses & Yellow River

A unique feature of the area around Sanmenxia is that the land is made of a very fine mud. Because of this it is very easy to dig into the earth and build structures. The orphanage director took us to a tourist spot outside of town where there were many houses/rooms built underground.  The rooms are wonderfully cool inside.  While there we ate a traditional meal cooked in outdoor earthen oven.  As with all meals in China is was delicious and way more food than we could eat.


The stairway into the underground houses.


Looking down into the underground houses from ground level.



Detail of a window at the underground houses.



The Yellow River also runs through Sanmenxia. There are two major rivers in China, the Yellow River being one of these. The Yellow River is of significance to Chinese people because it is a place from which their ancestors come from. They made the an analogy of these people being similar to an ancient native culture such as the Mayans. So being able to go to the Yellow River is like being able to go back to your roots.


Sanmenxia – 3 door gorge – 三门峽

Sanmenxia is the city where we worked in the orphanage. We were very delighted to find that it is a less humid, less hot, and less polluted city than much of China. When asked at the end of the trip by my Chinese colleague who had invited me on the trip which city was my favorite I told her that I enjoyed each city for different reasons. I enjoyed Sanmenxia because I felt like I had the opportunity to get to know people there, see what normal (not tourist) life was like, and the people were so friendly and nice to each other and to us. Sanmenxia had a small town feel where people still felt connected to each other. At 300,000 people it is considered a small city by Chinese standards.

As I’ve stated before, the occupational therapy work at the orphanage was very intense. Intense because of the long hours and intense because of the wide range of strong emotions. The orphanage has requested confidentiality standards not dissimilar to what my employers in the States require so I can’t show any pictures of our work there. Our work consisted of a needs assessment, training through treatment, and formal trainings. Our main focus was to bring more activities into the daily routines of the kids in order to foster development (cognitive, motor, etc).

We also had a bit of time to tour in Sanmenxia.

One morning I needed to go to the store before we went to the orphanage but found that it was not open so I took a walk up to a pagoda park not far from our hotel.


View of the pagoda from below


Looking back at the city from the pagoda


Everywhere you look in China, something is under construction. I was lucky to happen upon a Grand Opening celebration with a drum group performing. I was talking to someone in broken Chinese & English while I was watching the drummers. He kept asking me, “What is this”?” and then he would say “beautiful”. I finally realized that he was asking me if I thought the music was beautiful. I was glad to finally be able to answer his question in the affirmative.

Sanmenxia has a city square that seems to be more in a downtown area. It was much busier than the area of town we were in. It was a lot of fun and I took several videos of the people doing group dancing and of a man doing Chinese calligraphy with water.

Just after I took this video one of the dance groups finished and a HUGE mass of people came toward me. I was about 15 feet from the rest of my group but it took a great effort to maneuver through all those people walking between us!


I loved this mural. It was right by one of the grocery stores that I frequented. I love the motorcycles parked beneath it, the Great Wall at the base, and the cuteness of it because the Chinese people love cute =).

The Great Wall

“A Chinese saying goes that ‘he who has not climbed the Great Wall is not a true man’” (Badaling Great Wall museum)


As you can see from the picture, we were not the only ones to become “true men” that day. We arrived early to the wall and there were many many people when we arrived but by the time we left there were so many people that I literally had to squeeze through the towers! The crowd however was far from a nuisance, the energy of every person’s excitement to be at the Great Wall just made it that much more special to be there.

Many times while I was in China I wished that I had a time line of the dynasties and emperors (you probably will too after reading the quotes from the museum in the following paragraph!) Chinese history is vast and complex. It was amazing to be there and to grasp even small pieces of it.

“The Great Wall started to be built in the Spring and Autumn period over 2,500 years ago, and continued to be built in many dynasties afterwards it was constructed by various peoples.” “The Qin Great Wall was built by the first unified multi-ethnic feudal state in Chinese history. The Han Great Wall was the longest in length in Chinese history” “From the Wei and Jin Dynasty to the Song and Yuan dynasties, northern nomadic peoples established regimes in the Central Plains. Among these, the Northern Wei, the Eastern Wei, the Northern Qi, the Northern Zhou, and the Liaojin all built Great Walls” “After it was founded, the Ming Dynasty built the Great Wall to reinforce its reign. The Great Wall was built almost incessantly during the 200-odd years of the dynasty, when its length reached more than 8,800 kilometers. The Ming Great Wall surpassed the Great Wall in any other dynasty in the time and extent of construction and the completeness of defense system and structure.” (Badaling Great Wall Museum).

One of the most fascinating things that I learned about the Great Wall was that not only did it serve as defense against Northern tribes, it allowed for “political, economic, and cultural development” because it allowed for a safe communication East to West across the dynasty.


(A Ming Calvaryman delivering official documents)

It goes without saying that they Great Wall was built by man power. As you look at the pictures and all of the individual stones that make up the Great Wall remember this and it will give you even more perspective on the wonder of the amazing construction.



The sign below this sculpture in the museum says, “During construction, working people accumulated much valuable experience. The most important was ‘building forts suited to terrain.” I don’t know why they chose the path they did for the wall, it certainly wasn’t the most convenient path. I would imagine that they looked at the landscape and chose the places where nature and wall put together would provide the best defense.




As you can see in this picture, this tower is larger, both in footprint and in height, than the other towers. I read that some of the towers were used for houses for the higher ranking officers and this tower is perhaps one of these.


Detail looking into a tower


Detail of stairs on the Great Wall



Far across the landscape you continue to see the Great Wall


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Forbidden City

On our first day in China our flight to Sanmenxia (the city where we worked at the orphanage) was cancelled and rebooked to later in the day so we had some time to go into Beijing center.

We walked through a beautiful park and then into Tian’anmen Square of which the Forbidden city is a part.


The Forbidden City is the former palace of the Ming and Qing dynasties (the Qing was the last dynasty in China). The emperor who had it built had a Buddhist advisor who had a dream that the emperor should build a palace in a northern capital. The Chinese characters for Beijing, 北京, mean “Northern Capital”. In the times of the dynasties the people paid taxes to the emperors and would have never been allowed into a palace. For this reason the Forbidden City is a symbolism of the benefits of Communism because it is now the people’s palace rather than being excluded from it (per the movie “China and the Forbidden City” made in the 70’s).




The sculpted ramp in the middle of the picture is a dragon sculpture. It was believed that the emperor was descended from the dragon and that the emperor had direct communication with deity. No one was allowed to step on this sculpture and the emperor was carried over it by people walking on the steps on either side. Even now the area is gated off but perhaps more for preservation than the area being sacred.


The yellow roofs are the emperor’s colors and the design of the roof line was repeated in the the other imperial palaces. The two pictures below show detail of the roof. There were always dragons on the corner of the roofs.




Detail of dragons on Forbidden City gates



This is the footpath in the gardens of the palace. I saw intricate “mosaics” like these all over the other palaces that I visited as well.