In late June, when Spider was only three weeks old, I took advantage of a beautiful morning to drag the entire group – wife, M-I-L, son, and puppy – to the nearby Xiangyang Temple for some fresh air.
Xiangyang Temple （向阳寺）, literally “Sun-facing Temple”, overlooks the southwestern reaches of Qipanshan lake. You can see the temple and surrounding area for yourself via Google Earth if you input the following coordinates in GE’s search bar:
41°55’52.75″ N, 123°38’41.75″ E
According to the temple’s own history, it was built around 500 years ago. I declare that unlikely on the grounds that this part of China was very sparsely populated during the time claimed. Things didn’t start really happening around here until the Manchus declared Shenyang their capital in the 1600s. Furthermore, whatever structures may have existed by the 20th century were almost certainly destroyed during the Cultural Revolution as part of the “Four Olds” campaign by the Red Guards and other associated geniuses. That all the buildings on the grounds look brand-spanking new (and probably are) does not in any way detract from the experience, however! The architecture is still lovely.
I spent last weekend in Cat Tien National Park, Vietnam. While an all-around awesome trip, it proved to be the last dying breath of my trusty Nikon Monarch binoculars. With the threads on both eyepieces jammed solid and the focus differential knob out of sync, they were done. Saturday morning I dropped them off at the Nikon Shenyang Authorized Service office (“We don’t really do binoculars, we’ll have to ask Shanghai next week…”) and this morning took Spider down to the Hun River to do some scoping.
It was only 15C when Spider and I set out. Shenyang embraces Autumn without hesitation! Migratory species are already beginning to pass through Liaoning province in fits and starts, within another two weeks they will become a torrent.
My daily commute takes place almost entirely upon the Third Ring Road of Shenyang. If you overlay the ring road on a clock face, our home is at 3 o’clock, my son’s preschool at 12 o’clock, and my workplace at 9 o’clock.
So it happened that on Monday morning after dropping off my son, I was somewhere between 12 and 11 on the clock face speeding SW on the ring road when I noticed a towering black column of smoke arching up into the otherwise blue Shenyang sky.
Your first instinct is always to wonder what it could be? What’s around that area that would be capable of producing so much smoke?
Unfortunately, what immediately came to mind was the military airfield located in that part of town. The PLA airforce runs training flights into and out of that airfield every day. Given the quantity and acridity of the smoke I figured either a jet had gone down with lots of fuel on-board or an entire apartment building was going up.
Last Thursday the mother of a cherished friend and coworker passed away. She was 70 years old, but the sudden illness that struck her down caught everyone by surprise. On Friday the same fellow, now out of the office on bereavement leave, invited me to attend the funeral on Saturday morning.
What follows is a descriptive record of that event. Photography, understandably, is not welcome during such events so please forgive the lack of imagery. Also, this being my first such experience I have very little insight to offer into the rituals I am about to relate. I must focus on the what, perhaps another time we can find resources with which to cover the why…
One year of Shenyang weather features Winter facing off against Summer, with a smattering of Spring and Autumn lasting about two weeks each. On Thursday all the peach trees around town started blooming. Spring had arrived! And about a week later it’ll be Summer! Quick! Better get outside and enjoy it right now!
So this afternoon Huilin’s maternal grandfather (“Laoye” in Chinese) came over and we went to the park!
Sometime during the past few weeks, I’m not exactly sure when, my wife withdrew my dinner cooking privileges. I’m not sure what I did to deserve this, but Ma Li flat-out refuses to let me cook dinner anymore… which can be a real pain because she ain’t no The Flash in the kitchen and sometimes I’m pretty hungry by the time anything is done!
Determined to break the culinary blockade, I resolved to fire up our seldom-used oven and bake something.
I awoke this morning to the sounds of a gentle rain, and of the security guard for the factory grounds adjacent to my apartment complex beating his German shepherd.
Humans have an enormous capacity for cruelty, particularly towards animals. It is heartbreaking to lay in bed and hear the anguished cries of a confused and scared dog coming in through your open window.
“What can we do?” asked my wife.
“We can do nothing…” was the reply.
In China, these sorts of people cannot be reasoned with. They have a view of animals, a perception of the human/animal role, that cannot be altered. They can only die off, and – hopefully – be replaced by a generation compassionate towards all beings, not just those which walk upon two legs…
Such is life in one of the world’s oldest, and proudest civilizations…