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Friday, September 12, 2014

Chinese pregnancy taboos

In every culture, there are protocols and traditions surrounding big events in one's life. In the Jewish tradition, the couple stomps on a glass during the wedding ceremony; it has become more and more popular to incorporate "jumping the broomstick" in weddings of all types, though it is a traditionally African notion.

We often are blind to the perhaps arbitrary or outdated source of some of our practices when they're in our own culture. It's easy to forget that we, too, have a culture, and our ideas come from somewhere. It's also easy to think that others are the ones with culture, or that they are just "doing it wrong," when in fact, their reasons are probably just as valid for doing things differently than ours once were.

One really interesting thing about being pregnant in a very different culture is all the various do's and don'ts that I've heard. I mentioned before that a few of my friends were pregnant last year; they're Chinese nationals, and went through the Chinese medical system as well. While I may not believe in or practice these traditions, my purpose with this post is not to poke fun, but instead to consider some of the things that we may take for granted in our own cultural practices surrounding pregnancy. My tone is of course humorous, but it's fascinating nonetheless to consider some of the things that it's said you can't do during pregnancy here:

  • Sex is absolutely out of the question! 
It's how you got here. Now you should never do it again until at least 3 months after the baby is born (preferably 6 months). The reasoning is that it can cause spontaneous abortion, it can hurt the baby, etc. All the old wives' tales apply.
  • Don't wear makeup! 
I never got an explanation for this one, but the rational part of my brain tells me it has something to do with absorption of chemicals. However, I was laughed at when I told my friends (now with babies in arms) that I didn't want to keep playing music at smoky bars because of all of the health risks associated with 2nd and even 3rd hand smoke. This makes me question my "absorption" explanation. They said "The first three months doesn't matter!" -- right after telling me the following tidbit:

  • Don't ride your bicycle! (Or do any exercise, especially for the first three months.)
Basically, it is believed that pretty much anything you do during the first three months is bound to make you miscarry or will permanently doom your child. You should just lay in bed and put your feet up until the first trimester is over.

  • Don't go outside after 7 pm!
I don't fully understand this one (okay, I'm not sure I fully understand any of them), but I've heard that it has something to do with a "harmful wind" that can touch you and the baby at night. I think it's a belief in bad spirits that can somehow infect you and your child. On a similar note...

I've never heard this one personally, but Brett found a great website with some common Chinese pregnancy taboos. This one is similar to the previous one: there's an idea that the place may not have been properly "spiritually cleansed," so you and your baby may be infected with bad spirits.

  • Don't eat fish, dog, soft-shelled turtle, crab, plums, pears, dark foods if you want a light-skinned baby, light foods if you want a dark-skinned baby, or food that has not been cut up with the proper care!
Again, see the website for full descriptions. Basically, each of these foods is thought to affect the outcome of the baby, whether developmentally, physiologically, or even behaviorally: Fish will give your baby scales; Dog will make your baby more likely to be aggressive and want to bite people; Soft-shelled turtle will give your baby a short neck; Crab will make your baby breech, as well as blow bubbles out of his/her mouth after birth; Sloppily cut food will make for a child who has a "careless disposition." And so on.

  • Don't use scissors!
There are all kinds of superstitions regarding sharp objects and their use, especially in bed, as this may cause physical deformities, or may even cut the umbilical cord in utero.

There's a lot of emphasis placed on not cutting or chopping things up in bed, which may sound like a bizarre thing to do in the first place. In traditional homes, especially in the northern part of China, the sleeping area is called a kang 炕, or "bed-stove." It's made of cooked bricks or concrete, and is hollow . There's a pipe that connects from the kitchen area, and you can regulate the temperature by keeping hot smoke circulating through it. Typically, it is used for sleeping at night; during the day, the blankets are rolled up and put away, and it is used for other activities, such as preparing and eating meals.
This picture shows the structure of kangs and ondols alike (the Korean version)
During the day, when the bedding is put away and it's become a table and general sitting area
  • Don't wear clothes that are tight on the belly (especially pants)!
This is likely to cause pressure on the baby during growth, which will cause it to have deformities, or may even cause a miscarriage. You see a lot of billowy, form-eradicating, muumuu-type affairs on otherwise lovely young ladies. Overall-style dresses are especially popular:

  • You must stay at home, in bed, without bathing, for one month after the baby is born!
Again, I don't really know the tradition behind this one. Unlike some of the others, this is one that is still rigorously practiced. From what I understand about Chinese traditions, it could be anything from the fear of infection by bad spirits to a more practical worry about infection (the water can't be drunk unless boiled here). I'm just not sure.

Needless to say, there are things that I'm doing (including riding my bicycle to and from work every day, though visibly pregnant) that get me straight-up stared at. I've had quite a few people, with genuine concern, tell me that I'm not supposed to be doing these things. We usually end up having a laugh when I tell them, "I know, but we Western women do things a little differently! I'm a bad Chinese!"

There are all kinds of other interesting traditions and superstitions, a few of which Brett and I will likely partake in. For example, we'll probably have a "100 days" celebration for the baby, as all of our friends did. It's the "coming out" party, so to speak, for the baby, as well as a traditional celebration to wish the child long life.

As with many Chinese traditions, the 100 days celebration centers around the linguistic similarities between different words. Remember, in Chinese, one phoneme can have up to 5 or 6 different meanings, depending on the pronunciation of the tone. The number "four" (sì 四) is considered bad luck because it sounds like the word for "death" (sǐ 死, or sǐ wáng 死亡). In much the same way, the pronunciation of the word for "tassel" (suì 穗) is the same as the word for "year" (suì 岁) in Chinese, so at the celebration, the baby should wear pants with a very long fringe of tassels to symbolize long life.
This baby is wearing his traditional "100 day" clothes, as well as the long life pendant (they make smaller ones that are more fitted to the baby's size now)

Are there any traditions in the US or elsewhere surrounding pregnancy and birth that seemed normal, but now seem strange to you once you think about it? I'd love to hear them, if so!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The First 4.5 Months

*Disclaimer* As this post covers pretty much the beginning of time to the present, it runs a bit long. If you're here for progress pictures, scroll on down to the bottom and skip all the blathering!

Today, I'm at the 18 week mark - 4.5 months through the pregnancy. It's admittedly a bit late to be starting an online journal now, but thankfully, I've been taking pictures along the way! My goal today, therefore, is to share the first half of our journey...

Brett and I got together in September 2009, and immediately were serious. For those of you who were in grad school with us, you saw how quickly we became inseparable. Nothing has changed in the past 5 years! When we married in October 2011, we talked (and talked and talked...) about what our future together would look like, and whether and when we wanted to have children. Brett's refrain during this time was always "Just give me until I'm thirty!" 

One of the cool (and sometimes frustrating, for our families) things about our time in China is that it has given us some distance from "the real world," so to speak, to let us slow down and really plan out our next move. We're both dreamers, and have tons of interests, so our talks over the past 3 years have been basically hashing out various future roads from our "now" - there are no doubt many iterations of Brett and Liz out there in the multiverse from the variety of plans that have been hatched and subsequently discarded during this time (much to our parents' and siblings' chagrin!). 

One definite future path we chose was to start a family. We didn't exactly have a time frame in mind, but we knew we'd want to get started sometime in 2014/2015. 

(It's not a coincidence that this October, Brett will be turning 30...)

So since I had been on the Pill for about a decade, I knew that I'd have to give my body time to readjust to a natural cycle and start ovulating again. For most women, this takes anywhere from a few months to a year. In May, I stopped taking the Pill and started tracking my temperature and secondary fertility signs, just to get a baseline for when my body would be back to normal. This is also a great method of birth control in and of itself, once you know when you're ovulating (and thus when to AVOID impregnation!)

Well, I still don't know what a normal cycle for me looks like post-Pill, because within 2 weeks, baby Tingley was on the way! Talk about wham, bam, thank you ma'am! In hindsight, we probably should have been a little more careful, but hey - it took the decision-making out of our hands, which can be a very good thing! 

Barbara and Paul, little did we know that I was already a few weeks pregnant during our trip to Hangzhou at the end of May!

We found out at the end of June, just before we were to come home for the summer, and, while both of us were initially shocked, we quickly became excited. We waited until we saw our families in person to tell them - that has been the most difficult thing about this whole process so far! - and they were by turns surprised, worried about us staying in China, and, of course, overjoyed. 

(I didn't take any explicitly "pregnant" photos during this time, as I obviously wasn't showing at all until much later.)

We talked exhaustively, and decided that we would remain in China for the duration of our contracts with our current school, which are finished in June. We have excellent, full-coverage insurance provided by the school, and we've found a great Western hospital not too far from us. We'll have our baby there, with all the comforts of home, surrounded by doctors and midwives trained in Western medicine and traditions. We just wouldn't be able to afford having the baby uninsured in the US, as well as having to cut our contracts short and incurring all of the costs of moving back home - things that our employer will pay for upon completion of our 2 years. All in all, I feel very comfortable with and confident in the medical care we're receiving, and I'm not the least bit nervous about delivering here in China!

As a side note, one thing that we've found so wonderful about life here is the way that children are viewed and treated. While it may seem at times as though children are allowed the run of the place, there's no shaming of parents or exclusion of children anywhere. Children, and especially babies, are universally adored, and there's no taboo about showering affection on a total stranger's kid. Our Australian friends who have 3 young boys warned us that sometimes, women will just pick up the youngest and take him over to their families for a while when out in public - it's very open! We have plenty of friends who have had babies in the past couple of years here, and crowds literally form as people want to stop and adore the children. One thing's for sure - this baby will have no shortage of attention!

Next time, I'll write more about our plans for delivery, and our experiences with the medical system here. For now, I'll wrap up my long-windedness and post a few pictures from when I started documenting little bit Tingley's growth. 

Thanks for sticking with me this long to get to the pictures! (And if you scrolled down and skipped the wall of text, I don't blame you in the least!)

11 Weeks

Head on the left with the arms up, legs on the right, crossed. Baby Tingley's just kicking back and relaxing!
This is the week when we first met our doctor, the wonderful Dr. Sarai Nietvelt from Belgium. Here's our first picture of baby Tingley in all of her/his peanut glory! As you can see, s/he was very small at this time.

12 Weeks

We first documented baby Tingley on a trip we took to Thailand at the end of July/beginning of August
As we are book people, we have quite a few books on the whole pregnancy and birth process. One that has been interesting as a simple week-to-week description of what's going on with the baby is What to Expect When You're Expecting, the old stand-by. It's not the most comprehensive text, but it does allow us to have a slightly better picture of what's going on developmentally each week. They use common foods to compare your baby to for relative size comparisons.

Here, at 12 weeks, the baby was weighing in at a massive half-ounce, and measuring about 2 1/2 inches from crown to rump. For comparison, the baby this week was the size of a large plum. 

13 Weeks

Also in Thailand - please excuse the underpants!
At 13 weeks, the baby was the size of a peach, with the head taking up about half of that girth. The vocal cords and bones were forming at this time, and the digestive tract moved into the body from the umbilical cord. 

It's been helpful to picture what's going on in there during these first few months, as it's hard to believe there's really a baby growing in there! I have had absolutely no morning sickness, and other than steadily getting bigger, I'd never know I was pregnant so far!

15 Weeks

Back at work, taking pictures in our office and in the bathroom mirror
Just before 16 weeks, I felt the baby move for the first time. For those of you who have had children, you know how difficult it is to describe those first movements. They're so slight, it feels as though it might just be gas bubbles or the gurgling of an empty stomach. But there's also a fluttery, whirring kind of sensation that's a little unlike any other feeling. It's almost like having the butterflies when you look down from a great height, or when you're thinking about that first crush. It's surreal, to say the least! I wish Brett could experience those little motions as well!

During this week, the baby had grown to a whopping 4 1/2 inches - the size of a navel orange! 

16 Weeks

Weird angle.

At home in our bedroom. The baby looked super high that day, but I think it was a weird angle. I'm not carrying as high as the first picture would have you believe.

At the beginning of my pregnancy, I was carrying around a few extra pounds (ahem *beer*). In the first few months, though I wasn't having any morning sickness, I lost a bit of weight, largely because I cut out alcohol and sweets, and have been paying more attention to eating a well-rounded diet. I also found myself with a generally smaller appetite, but would get hungry more often.

At 4-5 inches long and weighing 3-5 ounces, the baby this week was the size of an avocado. We're just working our way through the fruit section!

17 Weeks

Again, in our office. The view from Brett's desk. 
I feel like this is the week that growth really ramped up for both me and the baby. My appetite has certainly grown, and I can feel my body stretching to make room for the growing baby. I was still feeling great in this week as well - no complaints yet!

This week, the little nugget was the size of a pear, and hiccuping, although I haven't yet felt that much movement.

18 Weeks (today)

Growing like a weed!

As I lay on the couch over our long weekend, I could feel all sorts of little fluttery movements and stretching sensations of my belly. This is the first week that it seems as though I can actually feel the baby and myself growing. I've trimmed down all over except for in my belly, which is where it certainly counts! I'm still looking forward to some real, for sure movements - ones that Brett can feel, too! 

Again, to keep our fruit theme going, this week, the baby is about the size of a sweet potato, likely weighing in around 6-7 ounces, and measuring between 5 and 6 inches.

As a bonus, here's a comparison picture of me in the same dress, with 5 weeks of growth in between. 

We've got an appointment for September 30th (the day after my birthday) to have the all-important anatomical ultrasound. We'll most likely find out the sex of the baby then, and we couldn't be more excited to be able to start picturing who we're addressing.

While we will share what we're having with family and friends, we're going to keep the names we've chosen to ourselves until baby Tingley is born. We'll tell you this much - we'll be using family names either way!

If you made it with me this far, thanks! I promise the posts after this one won't be nearly as exhaustive (or exhausting, depending on your point of view). Love to you all!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Back again (finally!)

Okay, I admit it. It's been a very long time since we posted. Please don't actually do the math. It's that embarrassing.

Just because we stopped writing about our adventures in China, it doesn't mean we've stopped having them, by any means! After our first year teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) at the Foreign Language School, we took up employment with the school next door, an international school which participates in the International Baccalaureate (IB) program, of which both Brett and I are graduates.

This is our second year at that school, and Brett and I have jumped right in with lots of classes and responsibilities.

- IB English - Grade 11 Higher Level (HL), Grade 12 Standard Level (SL)
- IB Music - Grade 11 SL
- Theory of Knowledge (TOK) - Grades 11 and 12
- Pre-IB English - Grade 10
- ESL - Grades 7,8, and 9 in the Korean Stream
- Head of the English Department for all grades, Primary to High School

- IB English - Grade 11 SL, Grade 12 HL
- IB Film - Grade 11 HL
- Pre- IB TOK - Grade 10
- Creativity, Action, and Service (CAS) Advisor
- Extended Essay (EE) Coordinator
- TOK Coordinator

As you can see, we've got a lot going on, not to mention that we're preparing to bring a new member into our family in February 2015!

I found out I was pregnant while at work during our last week before
the summer break. I know, how magical!

Okay, I admit it: that's the main reason why I've decided to fire up the ol' blog again - being across the world from our dearest friends and relatives, I have the luxury of Facebook and Whatsapp to keep in touch with some of you, but there are many others with whom I'd like to share the progress of my pregnancy who aren't as wired as others.

Thus begins my pregnancy journal. I'm currently in my 17th week, and I plan to update at least once a week with pictures and information. I'm behind already (I know, sorry!), so my first pregnancy journal post thingie will include some pictures beginning with week 12, which is when we started documenting (I wasn't really showing before then).

Let's get this train on the road!*

*Yes, I realize that's a mixed metaphor - it's a pretty solid representation of how well my "baby brain" is currently functioning, however, so I'll let it be.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

平遥 Pingyao: Ancient Walled City

Hello blog readers,

Once again, we're in a hostel cafe enjoying some coffee to warm up and updating all of you. We're now in Qufu, the birthplace of Confucius. The walled town features Confucius' residence (a sprawling 500-room mansion), one of the best preserved Confucian temples, and the Confucian family tomb - a walled forest filled with cemeteries new and old.

We came to Qufu from Kaifeng, about which we'll blog later in the day or week. Kaifeng is one of the ancient capitals of China, and was the seat of the Song dynasty. Today it's a bustling modern Chinese city, with all of the good and bad that accompanies modernization. But, as we said, we'll blog about Kaifeng in the next day or two as we get our pictures uploaded.

We're both worn down from traveling and a little sick - the air in Pingyao was so thick with coal dust that you could almost chew it. Nevertheless, Pingyao was mesmerizing.

Pingyao's history goes back almost 3000 years, and the intact city walls are nearly 1000 years old. The architecture and layout of the city within the walls has remained unchanged since the Ming and Qing dynasties - going back nearly 400 years.

The best part of Pingyao was simply wandering the winding alleyways or exploring narrow side-streets. Within the walled city, there was no car traffic, no loud music, very few neon signs (aside from the tourist traps), and plenty of thousands-year old temples and residences.

We feel the best way to describe Pingyao is with the following slideshow we put together. We hope you enjoy it. (Watch  below or use this link for a larger and better version on YouTube:

As our trip winds down, we'll get another post up of our last few cities. Wright, Nanci, and Emma are set to arrive on February 10th and stay for 10 days, so we're very excited about seeing family. Being so far away from loved ones is the worst part about being here out of only a few bad parts.

Love you all,
Liz and Brett

Monday, January 28, 2013

Běijīng and Tiānjīn

Hello all,

Once again, we’re sitting in a hostel waiting for our train to the next city. We’ve just spent nine days in or around Beijing, and it’s been a dream.

Beijing was far more amazing than we thought it would be. We explored some older parts of the city, ate the best food we’ve had in China so far, got some shopping done (English language bookstores!) and saw many of the most historic landmarks of the country. The best part by far, though, was the new friendships we made.

We were hosted in Beijing by Zack and Annie, who we knew only through a mutual friend and had never met in person. They invited us to stay with them the whole week at their gorgeous apartment in a very international part of the city near many of the embassies. They are the most gracious hosts two travel-weary backpackers could ask for (and great cooks), and the four of us became quick friends.

They showed us many parts of the city we would not have otherwise seen, and introduced us to their favorite restaurants – Chinese and Western – that we would not have found on our own. If you guys are reading this, we cannot thank you enough for the time we had in Beijing, and we are planning to come back soon.

Writing about food has made our mouths water, so let’s get that part out of the way first. In Beijing we tried the obligatory Peking kao ya, or roast duck. While we’ve had this dish before in China, the imitations we get in the South pale in comparison to the real deal. Historically, this dish was only served to royalty; now all it takes is a reservation.

Fresh out of the oven, being sliced table-side.

Served traditionally with thin pancakes, spring onions, cucumbers, and hoisin sauce. Delicious.

As we’ve mentioned before, we really enjoy trying Chinese street food. Beijing had some new offerings for us to try – insects, burrito-like snacks called bings, and great baked goods.

Brett's eating scorpions, Liz is showing the wing left on her tongue from a grasshopper. Not bad.

Aside from Chinese food, Beijing, due to its international status as the capital, has a dazzling array of Western restaurants. We had the best pizza we’ve had in months (the slices were each the size of two normal ones!), real American barbecue, sushi, German food, and burgers. Beijing truly is a food-lover’s paradise. We can’t wait to come back; we just need to give our stomachs (and wallets) a break.

Real Eastern American barbecue. In Beijing. Very unexpected.

German schnitzel, brisket, greens, and potatoes.

The first full day we were in Beijing, we were invited to an event called a “Schnapps Hike” hosted by the German embassy staff. The 60-or-so participants divided into teams of 10, took a wagon full of German schnapps and various balls and toys, and walked around a lakeside park completing challenges and playing games. It was a blast, and quite an international experience. Afterwards, we were fed a dinner of German sausages and brisket. 

Each team started by sharing a celebratory schnapps together.

As you can see, we were the youngest participants (and not the heartiest drinkers. Germans...)

The carts containing our games, rules, and schnapps.

Chilled but happy.

At the post-hike dinner. We got a ribbon for each challenge/game we completed.

We concluded the night walking through some old hutong (old-style alleys) with Zack and Annie trying street food and shopping in quirky boutiques. We were even taken to Beijing's own microbrewery, Great Leap Brewing. Not a bad first day.

Typical Beijing hutong.

Been there, drank that, got the t-shirt (thanks Zack).

On the third day in Beijing, our hosts borrowed a car and drove us to the Great Wall. We’d been looking forward to seeing the wall since we got here, and it did not disappoint. Like many things of great magnitude, words fail at describing the experience. We can say that it was much steeper and more difficult than we thought; the wall is built directly on mountainsides and steep ridges, making it quite an athletic experience. The views it offers as a reward were well worth it though.

Chair lift to the top.

The climbs were brutal, but worth it.

The wall went on in both directions as far as the eye could see.

The section of the wall we saw is about an hour northwest of Beijing in an absolutely beautiful mountain range. It’s staggering to think about how the wall was built in such a remote area, or what it was like to be a guard on the wall in the dead of winter. 

Quite a steep climb.

Finally at the top - at an off-limits unrestored section. 

After descending the wall, we had spicy donkey for lunch – a first for us. It was delicious, as expected.

Throughout the rest of the week we saw many of the iconic Beijing landmarks – the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace, and Tian’anmen Square. They were all incredible.

The Forbidden City was the palace and headquarters for Chinese emperors and empresses from 1420-1912, throughout both the Ming and Qing dynasties. While it’s been raided and burned several times by foreign troops in various conflicts, it is now restored and an official museum.

The view from the front gate. The size is impressive.

Front door.

The Hall of Supreme Harmony.

This female lion protecting her cub symbolizes the unbroken royal bloodline.

Inside the Forbidden City you can view many imperial treasures and artifacts, and even the throne used by many of the Qing emperors and empresses. It’s staggering in size – truly fit for the Chinese imperial courts of old. Hopefully our pictures can do it justice.

The royal throne of the Qing dynasty. 

The large vats were historically filled with water to fight fires.

The Nine Dragon Screen, built during the Qing dynasty sometime in the 18th century.

On this throne the emperor or empress would rest during the voayage to reach the inner palaces.

It got quite cold and smoggy at the end of the day.

Next, we visited the Summer Palace – the imperial vacation home used by the Qing dynasty. It’s a bit north of Beijing and in a very picturesque setting. It was by far the most beautiful landmark we’ve visited yet.
Cloud Dispelling Hall at the Summer Palace.

Like the Forbidden City, the sheer size and scale of the Summer Palace is hard to believe. It wraps completely around a lake and is filled with temples, hundred-meters-long corridors, gardens, and a massive marble barge with stained glass windows (the empress at the time used money earmarked for the navy to renovate the palace, and the boat was a kind of thumbing-her-nose gesture regarding the source of the money). It has to be seen to be believed.

Detail inside the aptly-named Long Corridor.

Everything you can see is part of the Summer Palace grounds. 

As we were leaving Beijing, we visited Tiananmen Square. Initially a gate and ceremonial corridor that led into the Forbidden City, the square as we know it today was commissioned by Chairman Mao to be a symbol of the Chinese Communist Party’s power and scope. Many of contemporary China’s iconic events have happened here over the last century.

Where it all went down.

Big Brother is in full effect in Tian'anmen.

Today it houses Mao’s mausoleum, several national monuments, and a few museums. Again, like a lot of the landmarks we mentioned above, the size of the square is breathtaking. Unfortunately, due to some past events, the square is full of police and cameras today. Traffic in and out is carefully controlled, and all visitors are screened and security-checked. Still, the square is beautiful in many ways and an impressive sight, not to mention historically significant. We were wearing our heavy packs and had been for a few hours, so we didn’t stay long.

Yo dawg, I heard you like backpacks...

The Soviet influence is plain to see here.

One of the few bad parts about Beijing is the air quality – some days the level of air pollution can be over 100 times higher than that of New York or London. We happened to be there in a mostly clean week, aside from one of the days. Just look at the difference in the pics below.

A good air day in Beijing.

A bad air day in Beijing. This is looking down upon where the above picture was taken.

Even with the masks, we woke up each morning with scratchy throats and black boogers.

After leaving Beijing we headed southeast to Tianjin, Beijing’s closest neighboring city. Tianjin saw its share of conflict and turmoil during the colonial wars of the 18th and 19th centuries, which led to the city being established as an international port. Today, that history means that there are many older European-style buildings still standing.

European-style buildings on the riverfront.

We forewent those to instead tour the city’s Old Town – an area that has been preserved as it was in the early 20th century. While restored and quite touristy – like all Chinese Old Towns – it was nonetheless an interesting weekend. We stumbled across a fascinating museum full of dynastic artifacts, a street food street, and a 3-block antique market where we picked up some neat trinkets.

Inside the Tianjin Princess museum.

Mosaic made from Qing and Ming dynasty pottery shards.

Close up of the maker's seal.

The sleepy Tianjin antique market. Quite fun.

Tianjin old town; full of souvenir shops, noodle joints, and Chinese New Year lantern vendors.

Gold hat from the Liao Dynasty (907-1125), who crafted amazing treasures from gold.

Gold shoe.

Gold glove.

After Tianjin we faced a grueling, sanity-testing 16-hour hard seat ride (they were out of sleepers) to Pingyao, which by far is our most looked forward to part of this trip (the city, not the train ride). 

The ancient part of Pingyao has a 3000-year history, and is purported to be one of the best-preserved ancient cities in the world. We

We’re staying safe and warm and taking care of each other. We can’t wait to come home and tell you about our journeys in more detail.

We love you all; stay safe until we return,
Liz and Brett