Day 7: Traveling back home and Reflections

I am at the Beijing airport, having started my 20 something hours of travel time in the air and on the ground, and I’m thinking about my trip. When I was first invited to take this trip, I was having doubts as to whether or not I should come. China is so different and so far away. I did not know anything of the culture or geography or history, and I was afraid that I would not know what to do and stay trapped in my room.

As you can see from the blog entries, I was totally wrong about my fears and doubts. I have to say that it brought tremendous peace of mind to have hosts that were intent on taking care of me and making sure I had a good time. I am forever indebted to Siu Tong and Wei-Shan Chiang and his wife, Jill for showing such interest in my well being. They made me feel comfortable in this strange place. I daresay that I think I could come back on my own, perhaps even to show someone else around.

I don’t know whether or not it will be possbile to come back. With one exception, I’ve not travelled internationally for vacation, only for business. It takes much time and money, which we usually save for other family priorities. So I leave Beijing a little sad, wondering if I will ever see it again.

I was also a little sad wondering about the future of Beijing. My driver today told me that he has been driving in Beijing for 20 years. When he started, there was only 30,000 cars. Now, there are 3 million cars. The population presently is some 15 million people, which is about 1 car for every 5 people. If Beijing ever reaches American proportions, there will be more than 15 millions cars here, and that’s assuming the population doesn’t grow. But I know it will. Construction in Beijing is every where you turn, and the city keeps adding freeway loops that encircle the city. There are 6 now. Traffic is a problem, and so is pollution. What happens when there is one or more cars for every household? And this is only Beijing. There are other large cities, and then there are the 1.3 billion people in general in the rest of China. What will this city and this country be like in another 20 years?

But I am glad I came, and it has been fun documenting my trip in this blog. It forced me to learn more about my sightseeing that is usually the case, especially the history of the places I’ve been. I borrowed a book from my hosts that I will have to return, but I think maybe I will get my own book as a another way of remembering the trip. See you at home!

Day 6: Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven and Summer Palace

Forbidden City

   Today I had booked an English speaking tour that normally requires a bus. However, I learned when I met my tour guide that I was the only one who signed up. So I got a private tour guide, and he hired a car and driver, and off we went.
   The first stop was the Forbidden City, the Imperial Palace of the Ming and Qing dynasties. This was built in 1406 and is also built on the city’s north-south axis. There is a path of specially laid stone that runs through the axis of the Palace, and through all the halls. One of the benefits of having a private tour guide is that he knows all the tricks and finds it easier to work with just one guest. This resulted in a real treat this morning, as I was the first tourist to step foot into the Forbidden City today! After days of being part of the crowd, it was very special to be the only ones in the Palace for a while. We had the courtyards all to ourselves, and I didn’t have to crowd against anyone for a picture or a good view.
   The Meridian Gate marks the south entrance to the Forbidden City. There are five entrances, one soley for the Emperor(the one I walked through by myself), two one either side of that for court officials, and two outboard of those for others. After passing the Hall of Supreme Harmony, which was under renovation, we climbed the staircase to the Hall of Middle Harmony. There are three flights of stairs with nine steps each. Nine, I learned is a royal number, because 10 is a divine number. Therefore, the 10th step would take you to heaven. Nine steps got you as close as possible, reserved for the emperor. There are 380 gold plated pots in the Palace, and got to touch one of them for good luck. I also got to touch a dragon carving on the outside of the hall for good luck to my kids for studying. This is a Chinese tradtion, and now I have to touch my kids on the head to pass on the good fortune. Inside this Hall is a golden throne with jade jars arranged around it, and huge wooden pillars, each carved from a single tree. There is a huge jade carving of dragons and clouds that splits the staircase and weighs 250 tons, and also on each step is a carving. I took pics of these, too, but alas, no cable.
   Next was the Hall of Heavenly Purity, with two huge bronze lions standing guard(I am finding the lions all over the place). There are marble carvings all over the grounds that delineate the passages from Hall to Hall. I found a sundial that divided the day into 12 portions, which is what they used in the 15th century. I also found a dragon turtle, whose tail I touched for 88 years of good fortune. Inside this Hall was another golden throne.
   After this was the Hall of Harmonious Union. This was was for the empress to receive greetings on her birthday from officials and concubines. Apparently, the emperor had thousands of wives, but only one empress. Next was the Palance of Earthly Tranquility, which holds the royal bridal chamber. Behind that was  the Imperial  Garden, with trees older than 300 years. One was a special tree that my guide told me I could take a picture of but not be in until my wife returns here. Married couples are supposed to have their picture taken here together, else it is bad luck. So I am not in the picture. It is actually two trees with intertwining branches arranged in a manner similar to what happens when the bride and groom have their first drink at the wedding head table.

Temple of Heaven

   The Temple of Heaven was also contructed in 1406(well, they began building it then anyway). It was used by the emperor to pray for good harvest before the season began, to pray for rain in case of drought, and to give thanks for the harvest when the season was over. The temple rests on a platform that also has three flights of nine steps each, again, reserving the tenth step for heaven. The layout of the temple is built on a north-south axis, but not the same axis that runs through the other structures in the city.
   The main structure is a round one 104 feet high and 78 feet in circumference called the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest. It has three umbrella-type roofs, one atop the other colored with blue tiles, blue representing heaven. The roofs of nearby structures are green for earth. Inside are 4 inner pillars and 12 outer pillars supporting the roofs. The 4 are for the four seasons, while the 12 are for the twelve months of the year and the twelve time periods of the day(remember the sundial in the Forbidden City?). Pictures to come later….

Summer Palace

   The Summer Palace is a relatively recent structure, originally built in 1764, then looted and burned in 1860. it was rebuilt in 1888 at the request of Empress Dowager Ci Xi for her birthday, using money initially meant for the Imperial Navy. It took ten years, was looted again in 1900, and restored in 1902. That’s a complex history! It was meant as a summer residence, but the guide told me that the Qing dynasty liked it so much they actually ruled from there for a while.
   It resides next to a large lake, along which is located the Long Corridor, an open hallway with only railings to separate it from the elements. This corridor is 728 meters long(about 2400 feet, nearly half a mile), has 273 sections, and is decorated with 8000 individual paintings. I walked most of it, then returned to our starting point by boat.
   I took my last pictures of the corridor before running out of memory on the still camera. Incidentally, I also ran out of disc space and battery on the camcorder at the same time. I guess it is time to come back home.

Day 5: Shopping and Tian’anmen Square and Host Dinner


   I braved shopping in the famous Yansha and Silk Street districts today. They are night and day from each other. Yansha is  a spacious 5 story shopping mall kind of a place, selling what I consider to be western goods that I can get back in the States. Clothes, watches, china, luggage, electronics, etc. Nothing that says “I got this in China” until I got to a small corner of the fifth floor where I found some cool little trinkets for Arianna and a small, glass plaque I got for myself commemorating my trip to the Great Wall. I later learned from my hosts that this particular store, also known as a Friendship Center, is the original store where the Chinese government directed foreign visitors. After the cultural revolution, the government issued special currency to foreign visitors that was only accepted at this store. Now, of course, they issue normal currency and visitors can go where ever they wish.
   Silke Street is not for the faint of heart, nor one who can’t barter, like me. I had a tough time in there. It is crammed with at least five floors plus a basement of mostly clothes and trinkets, these more authentically Chinese. The stores are side by side, back to back, like a flea market. I got literally grabbed by very aggressive salespeople who dragged me into their little tiny shop trying to convince me I wanted to buy an Armani suit or ties or whatever they were peddling. “No thank you” doesn’t seem to carry much weight in there. I did find a nice shop selling what I was looking to get Cyndi and Arianna, and I found another shop with a good selection of what I wanted to get the boys. I sure hope they like them because I think the salespeople got the better of me and I paid a pretty Yuan for it all. I must have ‘sucker’ written all over my face. My hosts explained at dinner later that night that I needed to simply walk away, and then they would drag me back asking for a lower price. Ah, well. But I really do like the gifts I got, and I don’t think you can get them anywhere but China.

Tian’anmen Square

   After lunch, I decided to go to Tian’anmen Square. For some reason, I felt I really had to go there to pay my respects to the students who suffered there in 1989-1990, whenever it was they staged their protest for democracy and were crushed. The place is huge; they say it is the worlds largest open ground area in a city. I started at the southern end where two sets of gates are located, large, multi-colored-roofed buildings with a brass compass set into the ground marking exact north, south, east and west. The Square lies directly on the north-south axis of the city of Beijing. I walked through the gates to the Memorial Hall of Chairman Mao Zedong, which was closed due to restoration. I headed around the Square on the east side, alongside Museum of Chinese History, which is a long walk indeed. Near the northern end I found the Monument to the People’s Heroes, which reminds me of a miniature Washington Memorial, and then across the Square to the Gate Tower of Tian’anmen. Dang, I wish I could load pictures, but it will have to wait until I get back to the States.

Dinner at the Bai Jia Da Yuan

   Dinner was a real treat by our hosts, who took us to a very famous restaurant called Bai Jai Da Yuan. According to the brochure and our hosts, the restaurant is set in the Yue Jia Garden, which was the residence of Prince Li of the Qing Dynasty centuries ago. It is attended by people in costumes from the same era, who all bow and utter an ancient Chinese phrase meaning “Good luck to you” as you pass. The women all wear clothes of royal Chinese hue, namely yellow and pink, and of interest are the strange shoes they wear. The shoe is elevated from the ground in the middle by a 3-4 inch platform, not really a heel, since it is in the center of the sole. It is amazing they can keep their balance as they serve.
   After walking through the peaceful garden, we were treated to another multicourse meal of a dozen or so courses, tea, and Chinese beer. Everything was delicious, and beautifully presented, starting with the rose petal/parsely/onion salad with a hint of vinegar. We even took pictures of some of the food, it was so pretty! There was much story telling and laughter between the guests, and some singing by the guests from Sweden and our Chinese hosts and one Japanese guest. They asked me to sing, but I told them the only drinking songs I know are engineering songs, and they aren’t really suited for dinner. The founder of the hosting company laughed in agreement, since he has a degree from MIT, too.
   After dinner, we another another walk in the garden, now lit up by paper lanterns, took some more pictures and said our goodbyes. Everyone separates on their own way tomorrow and Sunday. Although I have one more day of touring, it was sad to leave them. They’ve been so wonderful to me and made this trip a real pleasure.

Day 4: The Address and some rest

   Today was my big presentation. I was nervous, especially in a conference in a foreign country. The person translating for me is the Chief Technical Officer of my hosting company, and we had rehearsed for about 1.5 hours Tuesday night.
   We shared the podium and were able to work as a team using body language. We decided that I should speak a single sentence and have him translate it before I spoke again, so that we weren’t both speaking at the same time. This required that I write out all my thoughts on paper and send to him in advance. It took him two days to translate it, which is a lot of work. This also meant that I could not speak off the cuff as is my usual style. On the one hand, it helped to have detailed notes, but on the other hand, I could not make good eye contact with my audience because I had to keep track of where I was in my speech; otherwise, I would lose my place and my translator.
   The speech went off with little trouble.  We were smooth and professional, and my hosts were happy with the content, and I think they got the visionary stuff they were looking for. We ended exactly on time, 45 minutes, which is a long time to be standing at a podium. Afterwards, I had some discussion with a few folks who understood the technical content and asked some good questions. I even met a person who spent six months at Ford with a close collegue of mine on an exchange program. So after the adrenaline rush and lunch, I am getting tired. I’ve been going nonstop since I arrived, so I think I will stay in my room and crawl into my shell(a saying I borrowed from Cyndi) and get some rest before dinner and reception tonight.

Day 3: The Great Wall of China and Ming Tombs

The Great Wall

   Today I got to see and walk one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Great Wall of China. The portion of the Wall we visited is called the Badaling section, somewhere north of Beijing. I read that the Wall began as separate portions built by warring states around 7th century B.C., which were linked in 214 B.C., then repaired and extended during the Ming Dynasty between 1368-1644. No matter when you  start counting, this is very old man made stuff, built without machines in pretty challenging terrain.
   On the highway out of Beijing towards the mountains to its north, I spotted the Wall a few miles away. There is something erie about noticing on the mountain a hairline of a structure that you know mother natures didn’t put there. As we got closer, I realized that the thing crawls up the mountain sides at a very perilous pitch, and seems to cling to the top of each ridge. If you’re gonna build a wall, this is way to do it using the most material possible and in the roughest terrain around. We finally arrived, got out, got our tickets and begain our trek.
   The Great Wall is a long fortress, sort of the opposite of a moat. It is nearly 28 feet high and over 18 feet wide at the top, both on average. Every 500 yards or so, a watchtower straddles the Wall, where smoke fires could be lit one after the other to form a chain of warning all along the Wall. There are no steps to reach the top of the fortress, so I imagine warriors used ladders. Only the north side of the Wall has a brick fence, like a parapet, with narrow slits to see and shoot arrows through. This was the side intended to keep out the Huns and Mongols. The Wall is built right on the ridge of each mountain it traverses. I guess if you’re a Hun, first you have to scale the ridge, then at the top you find 27 feet of sheer brick and stone, atop of which is a parapet with arrows flying out at you. Might as well stay at home!
   Judging by all the tourist traffic on the Wall, and most of them native Chinese, I gather that the Wall is something of a pilgrimmage to make. I was amazed at the number of elderly folks climbing it. Climbing it? Yes, in the region where I met it, the Wall climbs the ridges up and down from one mountain peak to the next, however steep natures ascents and descents were to begin with. The walking surface is mostly flat stones, and only in the steepest parts do they give way to actual steps, some of them huge by American building codes. So the surfaces is constantly undulating, and is often steep. Yet the part I climbed is not the steepest; I was told there are steeper parts, where tourists have been killed trying to climb back down. Don’t worry, Mom, I didn’t go there(but I wanted to because I like climbing).
   I have trouble estimating distance and height, but we climbed out for about an hour, which might mean we walked about 3-4 miles to reach one terminus. The Wall doesn’t really end, but that particular watchtower had its passages plugged so you could not walk through it. At that point there is a sign saying that we are at 2886 feet, though I don’t know if that is altitude, or what we climbed from the parking lot. It sure seemed very high. On the other side of that watchtower, the Wall keeps going. And going. At one point, the Wall actually stops because nature provided a sheer cliff. At the bottom of this cliff the Wall starts again and keeps going. And going. I took what will probably turn out to be boring video trying to show you just how the Wall keeps going and going, till it cannot be made out with the naked or aided eye, even on full zoom. I read that the Wall is over 4000 miles. What a feat of human accomplishment.

Ming Tombs

   I learned that several of the emperors of the Ming Dynasty were buried at the foot of the mountains north of Beijing. There are a total of 13 Ming Tombs. The one I visited was called Dingling, the tombs of Emperor Wanli, who was on the throne from 1573-1619. The tomb was discovered in 1956 when they found a tablet describing where the tomb is located deep under the surface. There are several chambers, in one of which were found his coffin and those of his two empresses. In others were found gold, jade and precious stones. The chambers together are over 280 feet long, and the total floor space is some 12,600 sq feet. The chambers are also tall, and are made of stone slabs with no support beams or pillars. I was impressed by the amount of excavating that must have been done to prepare these chambers underground, again, with no modern machines. There are amazing marble doors that guard one end of the chambers; they are huge. I took mostly video of the Tomb, and pictures of the pretty structures out on the surface.

   Well, that’s my report for today. I wish I could post pictures from China, but as I mentioned below, I did not bring the right cable. I also took some pictures of Beijing as we drove back into downtown. There is lots of construction going on. We passed one site with six(!) high flying cranes erecting something. A few miles later, there were more cranes finishing a building. Then we passed Olympic headquarters, finished and presumably full of people organizing the remaining year to come. This place is going to be crazy with tourists and athletes at that time.

Day 2.5: Beijing at last!

   Safe and sound I landed in Beijing. First thing I notice is that the airport is not as nice as the one in Seoul. Looks older and a bit worn out. Getting through customs is always nervewracking for me, always nervous they are going to stop me for something, not sure what. I get through the first checkpoint and wait for my luggage, and YEA there it is on the carousel. Thanks again Adam for lending me your new suitcase. I change some money and go through the second checkpoint and the big glass doors and look hopefully for my escort. There she is, and her driver, with a sign printed out just like in the movies. I’m so glad to be in friendly hands I can’t describe it.
   We step out into Beijing. I can tell it is warm and humid. The sky is hazy, and I can’t tell if it is due to pollution or just the weather. Lots of cars, even for an airport. Being an automotive engineer, I notice that most taxis are Volkwagons from about two generations ago, and also Hyundai’s, and, get this, Buicks. We drive out of the airport, go through a toll and hit the main freeway.
   Ok, I have to disconnect my eyes from my brain: the driving style here is different, as in lacking discipline. People sort of wander from lane to lane with little use of signals. It is nerve wracking for me, but I sense there is some order in that no one quite hits anyone else. Later in the day, we add bicycles to the mix…
   We drive by the site of the 2008 Olympics, and I wish I had my camera out of the trunk. Wow, the Olympics. I can see the Village going up, all three high rise apartments, and the athletic center, and some sort of weird basket weaving like sculpture several stories high where the gymnastics will be held. Right smack in the middle of the city. Local word is that they are ahead of schedule. It sure looks like it with all this going on with one year to go. The amount of construction is pretty amazing.
   Check into hotel, make arrangements for rehearsing my keynote speech later tonight, get a shave, and meet my host for lunch, the founder and president of iSIGHT, the company’s whose conference I will address in a couple of days. Lunch is pleasant, and I learn to eat spicy shrimp without taking the shells off. Also served is Peking Duck(not very good example, according to my host), Shark Fin Soup, rice noodles, and Jasmine tea(no tea bags here, just raw leaves in the cup). I get a few tips for shopping and sightseeing, then up to my room to brush teeth(the bathroom warns you not to drink the tap water, and there are several bottles of water on the shelf) before going back down for my first sightseeing tour.
   I take a Hutong tour. A driver takes me through downtown Beijing to the tour launch point. Here is where we add bicycles to the mix. Holy Cow! You know those old pictures and video of hundreds of bicycles on the street with a handful of cars? Simply replace about 80 percent of the bicycles with cars and buses. On the same streets, crossing the same huge intersections, and not a single rider is wearing a helmet. And people in cars and busses are still wandering through the lanes as if they lane markers are only suggestions. Everytime I think we are going to hit someone, or crush a cyclist, we don’t.  I can’t believe what I am seeing, but again, no one seems to get hurt, at least not while I am watching.
    We arrive at the tour lauch point, and I meet my guide, Jessie. She’s a full time tour guide, which she does to improve her English. We meet two more guests from Australia and walk to the Bell Tower and Drum Tower(here is where I want to post pictures later, but I can’t because I brought the wrong stupid cable!). Both were originally built in the 13th century, and rebuilt in the 15th. So I am walking on and inside of things humans built over 600 years ago. This always instills a sense of awe in me, to be around structures like this built without modern machines. Both structures are about 50m tall, over 150ft. In the Drum Tower are, well, huge drums, including the largest in the world, and a very old one that is 700 years old. A few minutes later, we are treated to a drum concert by 5 drummers. There is also a water powered clock. We walk around the outside of the Drum Tower to see Beijing and the Hutong area, and I notice that there are lots of small roofs attached to each other at strange points, and some seem to be in the process of being demolished. Our guide says that the government wants to demolish some to make way for larger streets…
   In the Bell Tower, we are treated to proper Chinese tea, which I learn is not served with boiling water, but water at about 80 C. We are introduced to lots of kinds of tea, and get to sample two kinds, one with rose petals that is very sweet. I scarf up the first souvenirs, some large tea cups with cool designs on them.
   Then we take two rickshaws to tour the Hutong up close. ok, now we’re the folks on the bikes trying not to get run over by cars and buses. The streets are amazingly small, even for bikes. We are given a tour of the outside of a ‘rich persons house’, and told how to recognize certain signs around the door that mark the wealth of the owners, including the number of cross beams, the fancy paint(pics would be nice here, huh?), and the two cool lion statues standing guard over evil spirits. Then we visit a normal house, and walk right in on its residents, two retired persons. Although the footprint is very small, there are lots of rooms(not lots of room) and the residents share the house with at least one of their sons and his family. It is very modest, and consists of a small, open courtyard surrounded by the tiny rooms. This explains the odd way that the rooftops from each room meet, which I saw from the Drum Tower. There is a coal fired stove for winter heat, and a tiny two burner gas stove for cooking. The residents are very gracious, and tell us that this house has been in the family for 150 years. It sure does feel awkward to be part of a tour that goes right through someone’s modest home.
   We take the rickshaws to another home, this one belonging to someone a bit higher up on social status. The layout of the house is similar, but the decorating and state of the structure is clearly where someone spent some money. This one is feels weird for a different reason. Still, it was good to get a glimpse of real life, in a real neighborhood, with real people. Taking the rickshaws through the narrow streets shows you all kinds of things the tourbuses probably don’t show you. There are lots of repairs going on, and suddenly I realize that things are probably getting cleaned up for the tourists coming to the Olympics next year. My fellow guests have been to Beijing before, and they indeed tell me that things are far cleaner than they used to be. So what I have seen is then some reality that is in the process of being modified to not look so glum, yet interesting enough to draw in the tourists. Hmmm.
   Ok, I need to freshen up and grab some dinner, then off to rehearsal and perhaps an early bedtime. More tomorrow!

Enroute to Beijing, Day 2

   ok, that was interesting. We boarded buses in order to take us to the plane, and it seemed very chaotic, with hundreds of people waiting to get on. I was relieved to make the plane and finally sit down. Then, that was a loooong flight across the Pacific. I managed a fitful sleep of 8 hours or so, then read the book some more. I don’t know how long I was in the plane, part of me doesn’t want to know. Breakfast was nice, multicourse meal, and I was surprised to learn that they serve Tabasco sauce with the omelet. We landed at 5:20am local time in a total fog. I think we are about 11 hours back from Michigan time. I was able to see out the window as we descended through the cloud bank, not far from mountain ranges that were poking up through the clouds. This made me nervous, and I looked out the window to see if I could make out things on the ground. Turns out we did not break through the bottom of the clouds until moments before the wheels touched down. Makes you wonder what this would be like without all the fancy avionics to guide us to the ground. I guess we wouldn’t land at all.
   The Seoul airport is amazing, and looks like it was built yesterday. I know this isn’t much about Asia, but I’m also trying to pass the time. My flight to Beijing leaves in three hours…

Enroute to Beijing, Day 1

   Flying in the US tonight. Well, I hope my luggage gets there. I learned that when I arrive in LA I need to visit the ticket counter and get my remaining tickets due to change in airlines and no partnering between them. They assure me, however, that my luggage is checked all the way to Beijing. Flight was ok, nice to fly first class. We had dinner and a little wine. I read one of the books I brought, which I borrowed from Kate McCutchen. It is sort of a history of our understanding of the cosmos, from the B.C. Greeks to about 1988. Hard to believe that is nearly 20 years old. I love this kind of book, and mildy surprised that I got it from Kate’s bookshelf. I’ll have to discuss it with her when I get back.
   Anyway, arriving in LA I had to leave the terminal and find the ticketing counter for the second airline. Leaving the secure area and knowing I needed to wade through security again was enough, but wow, did my cultural microcosm change and quick! Lots of Asians in line for planes to Asia, as in hundreds of people. Sound obvious, but I didn’t expect this sea of humanity at 9:30pm local time. I also noticed that people are carrying LOTS of luggage, including large cardboard boxes. Apparently, night flights to Asia are so popular they get their own ticketing area here in the airport. I noticed lots of 747s docked at the gates as my plane was taxing, so I should not have been surprised, but I was. My plane leaves at 12:30am. I have time to head for the business class lounge, where I grab a drink and a snack and try to logon to the wireless network for a blog update(I can’t, so consider this ‘recorded earlier’ material).
   I immediately notice that the business class lounge is much more diverse than the ticket counter because Asians no longer dominate the landscape. And there are fewer families and couples. Makes me wonder about class(financially speaking) and all those poor folks flying coach back at the terminal. And I also wonder why there are so few Asian’s flying business class. I would have thought there was plenty of high powered work for them as effective interfaces for business between Asia and the States, but this doesn’t seem so. I feel lucky yet guilty for flying business class. I am already dead tired, so I have to not fall asleep until I get on the plane. Then I hope to fall asleep. Right. I am thinking big nap when I arrive in China, but first, a short stop in Seoul, Korea after flying some 6000miles across the ocean. Man!

Aaron’s trip to chicago

    I had a field trip to Chicago last week. Every year there are special field trips for each grade in the upper elementry. The fifth graders go to Chicago for three days, the sixth go to Washington DC for four days, and the fourth graders go to Rock Glen for one day.

To get to the story, the first thing we did was go to the Museum of Science and Industry. There was some pretty cool stuff there. One of the things i found particularly interesting was the tour of the inside of this submarine that was captured in world war two. After that, I can’t remember the order of the things we did after that these are some of the other things we did:

  • The Sears Tower
  • Alder Planetarium
  • The Field Museum of Natural History
  • Shed Aquarium
  • Imax: Hurricane on the Bayou
  • Imax: TimeSpace
  • Buca Di Beppo(a restaurant)
  • Ed Debevic’s(another restaurant)
  • Architecture cruise
  • Millennium Park

    And there was probably a lot more but I can’t remember.And if you are thinking “why the heck does the BLUE MAN GROUP look that way!?” wonder no more. It’s because the BLUE MAN GROUP was the best thing I’ve ever seen in my life!!!

Aaron’s artwork makes the home page

   I finally found the perfect family picture to use on our family’s website. This is a piece of art that Aaron did for his class at the beginning of the school year, in September. He and his classmates were assigned to draw their families, and then during open house, the families were invited and had to pick out which family drawing was theirs. I remember after scanning through dozens of pictures, this one clearly stood out as our family, and clearly stood out as Aaron’s style. I grinned and asked Cyndi if she found it yet, and after a moment, she just burst out laughing. Yup, she found it. To see it, you have to visit our home page .

   I can’t help but point out a few details that Aaron really keyed on. First, there’s Adam. I guess nothing more needs to be said to those of you who know him, but this is why I grinned and Cyndi laughed. Then, there’s me and my shirt, which has Maxwell’s equations on it(can’t see from the image, which was scanned and reduced). Then there is Aaron’s bushy hair and one of his favorite shorts and shirts, which says “It’s my brother’s fault.” Then there is Cyndi with her bandana, black  biking shorts, and her shirt, which is a Life is Good shirt, showing stick figure riding a bike(her shirt really looks like this). Finally, there is Arianna and her camouflage shirt(she was really into camouflage then) and matching skirt. This is one of my favorite pieces of his art.