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Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas

Dear Family and Friends,

I posted this picture on Facebook this week, with the comment "It's been a tough year. Now it is time to let go and spread peace and love.

We do not have cable, so we do not watch TV.  I occasionally check the news from the U.S., but that is getting to be less often because it makes me feel unsettled.  The fact that my family and friends in the U.S. are so divided from each other makes me very sad.

The lovely thing, for me, about living in Cuenca is that my world is as tranquil as I want it to be.  It is easier for me to feel love and peace here.

Speaking of that, here are some pictures I took yesterday at the Christmas Eve children's parade.
Hoping that they put a smile on your face and love in your heart.  

The excitement, about getting ready for the parade, on this child's face is so special to me.

This is Reina de Cuenca, "Miss Cuenca."

Maybe he is supposed to be a Wise Man, not exactly sure.

Here is a little shepherd and a little Chola (Indigenous Lady)

This whole family dressed as Indigenous people.

Cute clown...

Three Wise Men...

A view from the bridge on Unidad National Avenue.  You can see the cue of participants waiting for the parade to start moving for them.  This might be about one fifth of the participants.  The line starts way before here and goes all the way to downtown.

Ho Ho Ho...Beautiful Santa Ladies.

Precious little shepherd.

Another cute Chola. This is a very popular costume in the parade. I think it is because the Chola is very unique to the Andes and Cuenca.

Not sure about this little one, but he is precious....

Another cute Chola..

As we walked back to our condo, we saw this guy bringing his kid and his decorated horse to join in the parade.  They were walking the path along the river.

I am hoping that 2017 can be a year where we stop believing everything we read or hear, and we all can become more tolerant of each other, embracing each other's uniqueness. It is time to be quiet, listen to 
our hearts, not the ranting that is going on around us.

It is my time, and I hope yours too, to make this a peaceful, loving world.


Friday, December 23, 2016

Shanghai, China

Dear Family and Friends,

We flew to Shanghai, arriving in the evening.  We were tired, it was rainy and we pretty much fell into bed.

The next morning we awoke and I looked out our hotel window.  Below was a school and the school kids were filing onto the school ground for their morning exercise. They got into neat rows and were following a leader in a routine of stretching.   

After breakfast, we all got on the bus for a day of sightseeing. First we went to the Bund. The Bund is right next to the Huangpu river and has been the symbol of Shanghai for hundreds of years.  It divides the city with old Shanghai being on one side and Pudong (new Shanghai) being on the other.  In the picture below you can see Pudong with it's iconic Oriental Pearl TV tower.  

This is a view back towards the old Shanghai. This area was built by the UK in the late 1800's and early 1900's. It was the financial and political center of the city.

The Bund is most likely the number one tourist spot in Shanghai.

After that we went to see hand embroidery and hand carpet weaving being done. It was very interesting to watch this lady with her fine thread creating this picture. 

The picture below is all done by hand embroidery. Awesome work and, of course, it was all for sale.

The lady below is weaving a rug by hand. We have seen this done in Ecuador much the same way as she is doing it here.

Here are some examples of the hand woven rugs that were available for purchase. They were all beautiful.

We went to this modern day replica of an old Chinese shopping district. It contained stores for tourists. When I say tourists, I do not mean only foreigners but mostly Chinese tourists.

The shopping area was fun because it gave you the sense that you were in old Shanghai and not the modern city of skyscrapers that Shanghai is now.

We even saw this guy making money with this old peep show contraption.  He would tell the story as the viewer watched about 3 minutes of action. Apparently, you sit and look through the peepholes and watch some sort of primitive flip pictures.

That evening we told all of our family and new friends goodbye.  They were all leaving the next morning headed back home.  

The next day, Chuck and I had a free day to wonder around the city.

As you know, the Chinese have had a one child per family policy since 1979.  Starting last year that policy has been changed to allow two children per family.  However, I got the since from our guide that most families do not want more than one child now days.  They say it costs so much to raise and educate a child that one is enough.

Well, looking at things like a grocery store with only food for children and other specialty shops around the city, I do not doubt that it is expensive to raise a child here.

Chuck and I spent the day wondering around the city and that evening we packed our bags to be ready for our flight to Zhangjiajie the following day.

Zhangjiajie is in southern China. Most first time visitors to China do the tour we just finished. Southern China is not visited often by foreigners, but thousands of Chinese tourists visit there. I am looking forward to sharing this beautiful part of China with you.

I am going to take a break from posting to the blog during the Holidays.  I will return to our travels in early January.

Have a wonderful Christmas and New Year filled with peace and love.


Thursday, December 22, 2016

Cruising the Yangtze River - The Three Gorges

Dear Family and Friends,

We boarded the boat, Century Sun, in Chongqing in the late afternoon.  Our tour of about 38 people were the only people on the boat until the next morning. We had a marvelous dinner on the boat before we settled down for the evening.

All the state rooms had balconies.  We watched the comings and goings of the river traffic.

Dinner cruise boats...

even into the night.

The next morning the other guests arrived and we started our cruise.

Our first stop was Shibaozhai Temple.  

It was built in 1650, and the legend is the higher you ascend the more your prayers will be answered. I looked up from where I was standing at the base, handed Chuck the camera, and asked him to please pray for something great as he climbed.

He took this picture as he was on his way up.

He made it and here is his picture of the top of the temple as proof.

The next day we took these small boats up the Shennv Stream.  The trip took us on a scenic journey through the canyon.

Here is our view as we were entering the first of the Three Gorges, Qutang Gorge.

We had a great view of the cities that had been built to house the people who used to live below, before the river was flooded by building the dam.

Below, I think this is the Ghost City, known for it's Taoist, Buddhist and Confucianist ties to spirits and the afterlife. Due to flooding from the dam project most of the original city has been relocated to higher ground.

Gorge two, Wuxia Gorge

Our last gorge was Wuxia Gorge.

Our trip ended with a tour of the dam.

Beautiful scenery and a beautiful trip.  

We disembarked in Yichang, had lunch and then flew to Shanghai.

Next post will be about our visit in Shanghai.


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Cruising the Yangtze River - The Boat

Dear Family and Friends,

We were driven by bus from Chengdu to Chongqing. Even though we had never heard of this city, it is number 3 in most populated cities in China. It is more populated than Beijing. The metropolitan population, not counting the surrounding urban area, is just a little over 30 million people.

Chongqing is where we embarked our boat to cruise the Yangtze river. 

Here is a picture I took over looking the Yangtze river in Chongqing before we got on the boat.

I am going to split the trip into two posts. The first post is about the boat. We did not know what our boat would be like since this was a first time trip for us.  I am sharing this information with you in case you have never cruised the Yangtze and are curious about the boats.

The second post will be about the actual trip and what we saw.

This is not our actual boat but one very similar. There are dozens of these boats cruising in both directions and they all look very similar from the outside.

These photos are in no particular order.  This photo is of the private common area our group enjoyed on the boat.   

This is the photo of the top deck.

As you can see, the boat had quite a bit of Chinese decorations.  This is the stairs that go to each floor.  I think there was a total of five floors.  There were also two elevators.

Our dining room.  All meals were served buffet style and the food was very good.  

I did not take a picture of our stateroom, but it was very nice.  All rooms had a balcony.  

As I said, we had no idea what to expect, but we were really impressed with the quality of the boat, the staff and the service.  

Next post I will tell you about the adventures we had while boating down the Yangtze.