Chexercise

I often hear people talk about how Chinese are slimmer than Americans. People usually cite the vegetable-laden diet and plenty of walking as items that keep the Chinese fit. While those features exist, we should also note that Chinese are ever-active. This is particularly true of older Chinese, especially after retirement. Chinese value, respect, and honor the aged. Retirees are commonly found practicing morning tai chi, especially in public parks.

Yesterday we visited the Temple of Heaven, at which the emperor would seek the likes of good harvests from the heavens. A large space located within Beijiing, the Temple hosts not only some interesting buildings, but also gardens and open spaces that double as a public park. We arrived in late morning and found an astounding number of people—most elderly—not just exercising, but also engaging in panoramic play.

This guy was playing with a popular toy that is apparently hard to master. One uses a string to get the plastic "gyro" rotating, then one carries out a set of acrobatic tricks with it. The toy makes a sort of low whirring sound; hearing a bunch of them at once creates an interesting ambience. Maggie, our guide, is to our left, while Carol and Father observe.

He's going at it. The movements are artful.

This guy was nearby. People were even playing "volleyball" with the toy!

Nearby was an outdoor gym with hundreds of people in it. Folks were stretching, lifting, and doing isometrics.

And then, the ultimate: a random woman chided Father into playing a Chinese version of hackeysack. Though she later sold the "shuttlecock" to Father, she clearly enjoyed teaching and playing with him.

When the game got tough, Father ripped off his jacket and got down!

!!

This may have been Father's greatest joy from the trip.

You cannot tell from here, but the park was filled with sounds from dozens of boomboxes and makeshift PA systems. This couple was randomly dancing along the walkway.

These folks were doing a sort of line dance to traditional music…

…while these, along with many others, played cards. This entire surface continued for hundreds of feet, with all sorts of activity taking place. For example, the man in the background was part of a throng of people enjoying Karaoke, which is immensely popular here. Karaoke bars are common, and they feature private rooms that allow groups of friends to have their own Karaoke party. The one near the Beijing Center is called: "Party World"!

This guy is working his pipes out on the lawn.

I cannot recall what was going on in here, but it was attractive. You can see here how the older Chinese indeed get out…and get involved.

Here, Carol (my spouse) and Father Roberto Ribeiro, Director of the Beijing Center, go through another park—this one, the Temple of the Earth, opposite the Temple of Heaven, geographically, on the way to a lunch with Carol's Beijing colleagues. Though Beijing is bustling beyond belief, it indeed features locations of respite.

At the end of the day, we gathered with the Beijing Center's Jesuits for Mass in Father Anton's room. Father Anton is at the right, with Francisco and Chris at the left and middle. (I do not recall their last names.)

Here, Father is with Father Gene Geinzer, formerly the Rector at Loyola.

Last but not least, the masters of the East: Chen and Father Ribeiro.

And: as promised, here we are with Loyola's very own—students and alumni!

See you back home!

Tim

 

 

Great

Yesterday we played tourists and visited the Great Wall and the Summer Palace. We followed this with dinner with the Loyola students and two of our alumni, John Hanrahan and Brian Marana, each of whom is a graduate of the Beijing Center program (and of Loyola!). Both of our alumni have stayed in Asia to work—Brian in the Phillipines and John here in Beijing.

Father and I were impressed with the students, who were gracious hosts. Most impressive was their orientation in the large: the way in which they approach their lives. They are reflective, aware of their trajectories and possible futures, and informed of the world at levels that are well beyond what one might expect from persons their ages. Though the topics ranged greatly, conversation centered often on issues associated with human cultures, expectations, communication, and difference and commonality. Much of what the students have learned here, while seated within and about Asia, will translate well to our “world” within the United States.

The students are here for different reasons. Some seek knowledge about Asia that will help them in their future careers (e.g., in Asian business, commerce, language, or culture); some are here for reasons of identity (having Asian heritage); others are here for personal and global exploration.

Though Beijing is known for its swift growth and modernization, much of what goes on here remains distinct, hence it requires a certain bravery, which all of these students possess. That said, I know that many of them did not arrive with the comfort and wisdom they now exude. They spoke positively about how the Beijing Center welcomed and oriented them, offering a seamless bridge for those who arrived with trepidation. No matter what their paths, though, the students, to a person, expressed joy over their experience here. When they return to Loyola (most will return following the fall semester), they will be available to discuss their experience with anybody seeking to know more. (Were I a student, I would come here in a heartbeat!)

Father has the camera with the evening pictures of the students; I am guessing he will post that soon (if he has not already!). Here are a few shots from the tourist jaunts.

Enjoy,

Tim

Charles was our guide today.

Father and Charles climbing atop the Great Wall. About a third of it remains intact. This section has been restored.

This lends a sense of the sort of climbing one can do on the Wall. If you zoom in, you can see the (relatively tiny) people upping the stairs in the distance.

Father and Charles—not a cakewalk!

Ditto!

Not a Sherpa guide-Carol, my spouse!

Father's time in the FAC has paid off! : )

Father took the cable car down the mountain. He sat in a special car. : )

This is a sort of art shot I took in one of the buildings in the Summer Palace—a seasonal getaway site for the Ming imperial court.

This detail gives a sense of some of the art that surrounds one when in China. These are protective monsters that are roughly nine or so inches tall.

The temples and dwellings of the Summer Palace also required no small amount of climbing…

...up and down...

...and with plenty of angles through all three dimensions.

Bye!

Sunday afternoon in Beijing

Hi, this is Father Linnane again. Tim has a post ready to go and should be up before too long. He had hoped to send his post from the looking internet coffee shop this morning but experienced a computer glitch. Ah, the joys of international travel!

After Mass we had lunch at a local noodle shop a few steps away from the church compound. They know their clientele because the reception area of the restaurant was filled with pictures and statues of the Blessed Mother and the Sacred Heart. Once fortified with noodles and broth and pigs’ ears and a few other things Chen ordered but refused to identify (all very tasty!) we headed to the “Dirt Market,” a huge flea market (note to my friends from ABAC, the Chinese claim that the Dirt Market is largest outdoor market in the world but I feel confident that the market we went to Bangkok is larger; nonetheless the Dirt Market is enormous!).

Here you can see something of this open-air market including the huge crowds, me with “Young Brother” Chen who proved—once again—to be an excellent guide and fierce bargainer!, and a local woman taking her purchases home.

Next stop was to the 798 district, an old industrial distinct in Beijing that is now a center of contemporary Chinese art. Father Ron and Chen were relieved of their tour guide duties for the day and Father Roberto took over for the art scene. We stopped in this Soho-like area and visited a few galleries before attending an exhibit at the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA) www.ucca.org.cn The show was called “Breaking Forecast: 8 Key Figures of China’s New Generation of Artists.” I am not the biggest fan of contemporary art but I must admit that this exhibit gave me a great deal to think about. It was also fascinating visually. I had to return time and time again to a few arresting installations.

Take Sun Yuan & Peng Yu’s smoke installation (Each person thinks of one thing, when putting them together, an expressive relationship will be built in between). An enormous black box produces this ring of smoke with a great rumbling sound (left) and it floats across a darkened room under spot lights only to activate a feather fan which then dissolves the smoke ring (right). Most of the artist seemed to be critiquing the materialism and attending spiritual aridity of contemporary China (I realize that such interpretations are above the pay grade of theologian/administrator!). In addition, there was a persistent critique of US foreign policy (a model of Git’mo made of rawhide, for example). This, too, seemed to be a way of criticizing China’s international ambitions and perceptions of repression within China. We had a lot to discuss over dinner that evening! (special thanks to Dr. Snyder for his great patience and artistry in getting the smoke machine photos) I encourage interested readers to check the web site and for Loyola students coming to Beijing for the spring semester, the show runs until February 28 and is free for students with a valid ID.

As you can imagine, Sunday was quite a mixture of the traditional and the (post) modern!