Channeling China : Beijing’s Bricks

After a day and a half off, and surviving Bangkok, Thailand, my stewardess roster brought me to Beijing, China.

Beijing, or Peking, the capital city of The Peoples Republic of China, is incredibly populated and is the second largest metropolis in all of China according to its density, and is three times the size of Hong Kong.  Beijing is home to 19.6 million people!

Wanting to get out of this density with its smog and thick pollution, car horns blaring and chaotic traffic, I decided to venture to the Great Wall. With a thirty three hour layover, time was on my side to see some sights, get some exercise and gain some culture. I booked an early shuttle from my hotel to first, the Ming Tombs and then the Great Wall; or a section of it at least. 53533040-the-great-wall-in-the-mist-china

Built originally to protect the northern borders of the Chinese Empire against intrusion by various nomadic groups, it wasn’t formally stated, but this refers to the Mongolian people, the Great Wall was expanded and reconstructed time and time again with each new Emperor that came into power. In its entirety, it has been concluded that the structure with all its branches delineating  Inner Mongolia, stretches 5,500 miles.

Built at a great cost to human life, The Great Wall consumed hundreds of thousands of workers, perhaps even up to one million. As my new friends and I were passing through a tunnel, I could swear to you that one of these workers- past,  gave me a ghostly tap on the shoulder. It could have been the breeze, or perhaps it was the very putrid fragrance from the stink weeds nearby that were getting to my head.

The Chinese Emperors kept concubines with them in the Forbidden City. By the Qing dynasty there were around 20,000. They served a dual purpose – to ensure the Emperor a very good chance of producing an heir and, of course, limitless opportunities to indulge his more licentious instincts. There was also a very convenient Daoist theory that helped the Emperor justify requiring the favour of 20,000 different women. According to the theory, the Emperor represented the extreme of Yang, and so therefore it was essential for the harmony of the cosmos that he have sex with as many women (women are yin) as possible.

Sacrifices: Men and Women Alike

It was not just men who were dying in masses. Women sacrificed themselves by the thousands in honor of their Emperor. Ancient Emperors would take thousands of mistresses; some as young as twelve years old. These young concubines would participate “willingly” in a suicide offering themselves to their Emperor. They would ceremoniously tie a noose around their neck and take their own life. I am confused as they were ordered to do this, but it was themselves who took their own life; it would be a sin otherwise. Murder disguised. Religion and its cultures can be quite manipulative and continues to be.

I traversed a large section of this beholding and immensely breathtaking fortification, called, Juyongguan Pass.  Also known as Badaling. Most of what we see today was reconstructed, extended and repaired during the Ming Era forward. Interestingly, as recent as 2009, 180 miles of undetected portions of the wall were discovered. The sections had been submerged, over time, by sandstorms.

The terrain was treacherous and not what I expected as there were parts where you had to pull yourself up using the side of the wall; it was incredibly steep.  I looked around  in awe of how well the elderly Chinese people near me were faring so well in the heat.  I sat down to catch my breath. An elderly woman sat down beside me.

Wine and Women

In an attempt to be friendly and inviting, since she practically sat right on top of me, forgetting not everyone in the world speaks English, I said to her something referencing my knowledge on the Ming Dynasty and that the stones and brick we were currently sitting on was built in the Ming Era – Seven centuries ago! Regardless whether she understood me or not, I felt the need to express my appreciation out loud. She caught me off guard by stating there were many Emperors who had their “days with the wall”.  She told me some were bad Emperors and they just wanted wine and women. They did nothing for China, she said, Ming was good. She smiled, exposing blackened teeth, and then she waddled away.

I was swarmed a few times. Tourists; Chinese men and women stopping me to have their picture taken with myself. Sometimes not asking, just snapping away.  The Chinese call my hair “pale hair” and as it was charming , I complied, holding up the peace sign and grinning with random, shy and pleasant fellow- wall walkers. I really should have touched up my darkening roots 😉

Finding My Way Back

After only a few miles on foot, it was time to meet up with my hired shuttle back to my hotel and catch three hours sleep before the long flight home to Dubai, and dammit, we were running very late. Rush –hour traffic. The shuttle had three more stops before my hotel and I asked to be let off, right there on the chaotic street. I had to find a taxi very fast as the three hours rest I had planned  was now “out the window”;  wake up call for my flight was in less than an hour. I had no idea where I was and thank the heavens or perhaps just sheer luck, my room key had the hotel address, in full, inscribed on it. It was a mistake to leave my hotel without having business cards, address and phone numbers in case of an emergency.

After trying desperately to flag down a cab for half an hour, I began to worry. Out into traffic I went, tapping on occupied cabs, asking if I could please jump in. It was a difficult task without an ounce of the native language. Beautifully, moments later, a man came running towards me, through a sea of people in the crowd, from up the block! In very broken English he spoke something and motioned me to come join his commute. Down the block was his waiting taxi. I thanked him non-stop for his rescue! My new young friend, Lewis (English name, of course!) was very chatty en route to my lodgings and although I was stressed and exhausted, I was entertained and felt at ease now that I was certain I wouldn’t be fired. I learned that Lewis is a DJ and seemed very excited we are now friends as he would like me to teach him English. He said I would make a very beautiful teacher. Slightly blushing and amused, I am laughing right now as he was very sweet. I am not sure what I just entered, here, but I did give him my email address as I was so thankful for his rescue. He has emailed me seven times. Oh boy…

Motherhood, Plus Benefits

Home now, I must book my flight to Munich, Germany. If I can find accommodation I will spending three wonderful days off experiencing Oktoberfest. Cheers!

 

Positive Discipline for Toddlers

Unfortunately, young toddlers do not have much of a conscience. It hasn’t begun to develop quite yet. So what do you do when your toddler bites or hits you? Or throws your iPhone in the toilet, or throws a clay potted plant down the marble staircase?

Positive Reinforcement

Before I share some thoughts on discipline for young toddlers or infants, let’s first consider deterring naughty behaviour in the first place. Positive reinforcement of good behaviour goes a long way to assist in encouraging our young ones to feel a healthy pull to look for guidance from caregivers and eventually learn to make decisions on their own on how to behave well. Young children require parents to teach them what good behaviour is. Children love to accept praise for behaviour displayed and therefore repeat acts based on the feedback parents and caregivers provide.

Ok, this is a good premise for an older toddler who has the capacity to wonder about consequences or rewards in advance. Positive reinforcement warrants a whole separate post. For now, I will focus on practicing positive reinforcement and insisting on consistency.

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Tips: How to Discipline One and Two Year Olds

As our babies turn into toddlers we begin to think about discipline. No wonder; they start to get into everything at an alarming rate! We want to keep them from harm and also begin to teach our little ones what is right and what is wrong.

Unfortunately, young toddlers do not have much of a conscience. Conscience hasn’t begun to develop quite yet. So what do you do when your toddler bites or hits you? Or throws your iPhone in the toilet, or throws a clay potted plant down the marble staircase?

From the time around your baby’s first birthday, he is capable of understanding what the word “no” means. Your command of “no” may only be accepted at that very moment and may be forgotten later on. With repetition, your wishes will be absorbed, slowly, and your little one will understand in days, or weeks, or maybe even months. Consistent repetition is key. Say, “mommy doesn’t like that,” or “not allowed, dangerous,” or “that is not allowed, but you may have this, what does this do?”

Babies are mostly in favour of cooperating on a level they may not even know yet, but he is not ready for hard consequences and doesn’t understand your anger. Your child is not quite able to learn anything useful from your punishment so even if you are infuriated with your little one’s behaviour, if you are running late and he has decided to run and play chase, or even if your smart little person has figured out how to take his seatbelt off and you are on the freeway, yelling, harsh scolding, any loss of temper or even hitting of any kind will have no bearing on him. He does not understand any of your eruptions or relate the outbursts from you to any bad behaviour that you deem happening.

At this young age it is better to be clever and have a win-win scenario with your toddler. You can create the scenario. Tantrums are better to be avoided, if you can, until wee ones can get a better handle on understanding their emotions. At this stage, life can be very frustrating and everything is so very new to your infant. I recommend that you DO NOT try for absolute control and pick your battles. Perhaps life issues can be organised so that it seems like your little one makes a choice you can accept.

Foreseeing possible obstacles and areas that may bring you to the “red zone” with your toddler and instead leading him or her to the result you want and guiding him into behaving as you want him to behave can be achieved. See the rocks and steer around them. How do I do this? Distraction. Healthy distraction. I do not promise treats, nor do I give in to things I do not want to offer. No sweets, no extra time on electronics, and no, he cannot have everything he wants. I am armed and ready with alternatives.

For example, I know that getting my little one to leave the park is sometimes difficult, so I am prepared with his favourite blanket and a bottle of milk. I go to the park almost daily a couple hours before his nap. He is ready to leave the park and volunteers to sit in his stroller to enjoy his refreshment. It has worked so far and is a routine that is comfortable. He is tuckered out and welcomes the wind down.

Another example; after playing with numerous toys from my son’s toy boxes there is a massive mess to contend with. I want to teach my son to help me and pick up his things when finished playing. If I insist that he pick up his blocks, he will not. If I make a game of it and be creative, I can start to instill the habit of what comes after play and what behaviour is to be expected.

There is going to be trial and error, there are going to be lapses, moodiness and defiance. With calm, yet stern guidance and clever “manipulation” on a very consistent basis, you will find battles lessening and your child will grow up learning lessons quickly. Be prepared to repeat the same instructions in very few words as possible and let the little things go at this point.

Remember

  • If we are late for work, late for the cinema, or late for ANYTHING, it is not our child’s fault and our toddlers don’t understand that they need to provide extra cooperation and quit taking the shoe off you just put on.
  • If we throw all sorts of toys around and muck around dumping out crayon boxes or blocks on the floor, it might be that our little one may throw spaghetti on the floor, as curiosity does get the best of toddlers as part of their discovery and learning.
  • Monkey see, monkey do. If you yell obscenities at the driver in front of you for having absolutely no skill behind the wheel, whisper under your breath or try and just think what you’d like to say as your little one will be quite proud to learn a new word.
  • Keep at it – you will start to see results and the payoff is priceless! You are doing amazing!
  • If you get very frustrated and are overwhelmed – YOU ARE NOT ALONE. It is ok. It will pass. Walk away. Take a breath and tell someone how you are feeling, when you can. Let your toddler get upset and cry. Just keep them safe and take a minute if you need. Do your best and learn from each situation.
  • You and your son or daughter will have a lifetime getting to know one another through the changes that are life.

Growth is Important

Let your child have this time, and times to come after, to learn and develop. We can provide a healthy, nurturing environment. I wish to teach my child to ultimately think for himself and learn what is right and what is wrong. When it comes time for your child to decide when to be good and when to be naughty on purpose, which one he decides will depend largely on how he feels about the adults who are special to him and have power over him. If at the next stage of growing up he or she feels that you as their caregiver and parent are loving and approving and on his side, he will want (for the most part) to please you and he will behave as you wish (with lapses). Of course, do not mistake unhealthy giving – in and lack of discipline a way to show love or approval. It is in the best interest of the child. Be gentle, and compromise where it makes sense, however, never feel badly about a decision to say “no” where you need! You are the boss and as a leader you can listen and be attentive, AND make a final decision for the good of the toddler.

 

Tour De France, Of Sorts

A brilliant layover trip to Paris, France!

It was a “PG” sort of trip; I travelled with my new friend Jale (Juh- lay), and her beautiful mother, Helene. Jale and Helene are of Turkish descent and Jale was born in Australia. Helene was wrapping up a summer trip to Turkey and joined her daughter in Dubai. Jale and I operated the flight from Dubai to Paris where the lovely ladies would continue their mother- daughter visit. I love them both and thank them tremendously for sharing my day – or I should say, for allowing me to share their day! They got along so lovely and I miss my Mom so terribly, so it was sincerely quite beautiful to be in their presence.

We arrived to a beautiful day of 29 degrees celsius, in mid-afternoon. Nine of us crew piled into a cab to set out for the city. What to do, and where to start – and who to do what with who?! We talked of champagne below the Tour Eiffel (named after Gustave Eiffel) in the Champs de Mars, leaving the Trocadero district we would join a bus tour followed by a Siene River boat cruise to save our feet after working a long flight, and finally, a formidable dinner!

Jale, Helene and I set off on our own. Our afternoon began at Pont Neuf, which means “new bridge,” however, it is the oldest standing bridge in Paris. For the first time, I saw the River Siene and it was amazing to see the history built all along its banks! This grand canal, with its mouth being the English Channel, its basin countries Belgium and France, is arched with over 120 bridges, linking districts to one another and giving Paris a mosaic of flavours and CULTURE! Take away a few hundred thousand tourists and I would think even Parisians would love their city – more than they already do, of course!

I dutifully listened to the guides, as much as humanly possible after working a long and full flight. I mentally took notes of what to research a little more in-depth at a later time… and then I just quit. Be there and take it in, I told myself. It was a beautiful day, the breeze atop the double decker was very much welcomed and the sights breathtaking. There was so much to absorb! (By the way I am usually “near- against” double decker bus tours in any city and this is the first one I utilized. No, you don’t have to be in your fifties! Besides, bring along some Chablis and you’ve got a booze cruise.)

Paris is Huge, Busy and Exciting:

And always beautiful, no matter what time of year and the tranvestites are something to behold, even in their pink glory at four o’clock in the afternoon.

Which takes me to the Quatier Latin. The Latin Quarter of Paris is in the 5th and parts of the 6th arrondissement (district), situated on the left bank of the River Siene. It is known for its lively atmosphere, bistros, higher education establishments and therefore, the best public houses. They are not called Pubs – this is not England or Ireland and don’t EVER confuse the two or compare. Big snobby riots will break out 😉 There is nothing “Latino” about the district and the area was named for its international language of learning during the middle ages.

The Theatres and Opera houses are structures I now remember to be something of a stage. But not literally, here, I just mean that they seemed “staged” or a facade. I am meaning that I cannot comprehend what I was seeing. I discussed this once, recently, with a dear male friend I travelled with to Spain and Italy. We agreed that there was so much beauty and we were filled with amazement with every new architecture we witnessed that we took the “little guys” (smaller structures) for granted. The sights became overwhelmingly too much, quite simply.

Opera de Paris Bastille, Madeleine (Magnificent theatre), Comedie Francais, Palais Royal…  All beautiful with their gardens and more than grand entrances! I vow to see a production, show, ballet, or concert of any kind in ANY of these facilities at some point in my young or old life!

Of course, the museums!

The stunning Pantheon (means ‘Every God’), which is actually a secular mausoleum and up until 1922 housed ‘The Thinker’,  Rodin Musee (‘The Thinker’, and my favourite, ‘The Kiss’), Musee du Louvre.

Let me pause at its greatness; Musee du Louvre. Built in the 12th century, like much of the trandescent landscapes of Paris, 35,000 objects reside, from prehistory to the 19th century. None of that surprises or impresses a layman like me. What does impress is the history; the controversy, the seizures, court cases and war. There it stands today with works that have endured all of that! Imagine! And the bloodshed! I could write an entire essay here, but my brightside won’t allow for that at this moment.

Interestingly, I just read that the Musee Louvre announced opening a Louvre Museum in Abu Dhabi. Construction will be completed next year. This is a 30 year agreement, signed by the French Culture Minister, Renaud Donnediue de Vabres and Sheik Sultan bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan – costing 1.3 billion…. etc, blah blah…. It was designed by a french architect and the roof will resemble a flying saucer. Like the French, I have opinions about that. If you have money, they will build it? The UAE is younger than me! Only 33 years old. Perhaps “The Great Louvre” could find a more nostalgic home? Forgive me and my ignorant view, but… Anyway, 200 – 300 works will be rotated over a period of 15 years. Shukran – (Arabic for thanks) – I can see some works in my own “backyard sandpit”.

Tour Eiffel, etc.

tidbits: During the German Occupation, Adolf Hitler was embarrassed when the swastika flag blew off into the city and when he attempted to erect a new one he found the cables to the lifts cut. He immediately ordered the tower be destroyed and General Dietricht Von Choltitz disobeyed. I like ole cold titz 🙂

Also, it takes 70 tonnes of paint every 7 years to coat the “Iron Lady” to prevent the old lady from rusting. What a job! In my funny – to – me- mind, I picture hundreds of beret’d men in striped shirts painting away with little brushes. Artistes. . Kim, stop…..

Oh, and ‘The Thinker’ – it is Rodin’s sculpture depicting Dante pondering poetry over the Gates of Hell and represents intellect – duh! ‘The Kiss’ is a sculpture capturing an Italian woman kissing her husband’s brother and committing adultery! Very sinful. I love Rodin’s story. He married his life-long partner, Rose Beuret, in the LAST year of both of their lives. If you don’t get married for ever and ever – but you do right before you die – wow – Finally gave in – but the point is he gave in to his beloved companion and it was meant to be. If I wasn’t romantic – I am now!