Saturday, October 03, 2009

Rock Climbing

At our school, every year there is a Calleva trip, where you get to do different activities. This year, I chose to go rock climbing.

We all got on a bus at school and set off. On the bus ride, we sat with our friends and anticipated the cliffs.

After arriving, we put our harnesses and helmets on, and began to walk to the climbing cliffs. On the way, we took a look at some men painting pictures of the Potomac. After that, we took a path to the rock face.

One look down, and I knew I was going to have the time of my life! At the top, before we repelled down, we saw the group of students who were going white water rafting. After shouting to them, we began our descent. One by one, we made it to the bottom.

Then this dude harnessed us to climb back up and down the wall. The first time up and down was the hardest. You couldn't slip, and on the way down, the scariest part, you had to trust the belayer (the person holding the rope).

After everyone had climbed once, we had lunch. We ran around the rocks by the water. Then I went back to try the hardest cliff. This cliff had a big bump and no hand holds. It took forever to find a way to go around it. Then it was easy climbing.

We had a couple of races, which were fun, and the dude showed me how to tie the knots. Then he let me tie my own knot. Later, when I was talking with the dudes, they were telling me about rock climbing programs I could do with them. They told me that one day I could be a professional climber.

After walking back to our big bus, we went to pick up the rafters. On the ride back, we shared stories and had fun.

~Z

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Bruce Springsteen Is Older Than China

Only real aficionados (read...me!) would actually know that, on September 23rd, Bruce Springsteen turned sixty years old. Sixty years is certainly a big milestone for all of us, including a rock star who hangs off microphones and slides across the stage on his knees.

But what about for a country? Why, on the occasion of its sixtieth birthday, would a country close some of its most important historical landmarks and essentially lock down its capital city? Why would a country carry out a carefully scripted parade that showcases its culture and military might?

(By the way, no preparation can be considered too small to be overlooked on an occasion this grand. Take raising pigeons, one of the favorite pastimes of middle-aged and older men in Beijing. The ubiquitous flocks that are released for exercise over the city's hutongs have been grounded for the duration of the National Day festivities. As one Beijing resident put it, “I don’t know what kind of stuff you have in New York. But people could strap all sorts of minibombs to pigeon legs.”)

A part of the answer perhaps has to do with the Chinese zodiac. (I have also heard that sixty years is especially significant because the number six is considered lucky in China. And there is the fact of the matter that China is wealthier and more powerful than ever, so it's a particularly good time to show off!) As we all know, there are twelve animals in the Chinese zodiac, each symbolizing a single calendar year. (Desi and I are sheep, Julie is a pig, Z is an ox.)

It is much less well known that there are also five elements in the Chinese zodiac--wood, fire Earth, metal, and water. Each of these elements corresponds to particular two-year periods. Currently, we are in the midst of the second year of a two-year Earth cycle. So anyone born between January 26, 2009 and February 13, 2010 will be an ox who has Earth as his/her element.

Put all of this together and you are left with an overall sixty year calendar. Each one of us is placed into this calendar by the combination of our animal and element signs. (Actually, there is much more to it than that...look it up!)

So congratulations, China, for making it through your first full cycle of the zodiac!

This cycle, of course, was kicked off on October 1, 1949, when Mao Zedong stood at the rostrum at Tian'anmen and proclaimed the birth of the People's Republic of China. At that moment, seven thousand miles away, Bruce Springsteen was eight days old...

~Steve

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

I'm A Chinese Speaking Latina!

One of the first things we did when moving back to the United States was get four (yes, four!) cell phones.

Little did I realize that my new number would be my window into a life I didn't know I was living.

My name is Maria. I receive phone calls in both English and Spanish. My Washington Gas bill is past due and I really need to do something about it. I am involved in various community organizations, such as the Girl Scouts

In the beginning, my strategy was to ignore all of those calls coming in from unfamiliar numbers. Lately, though, I've taken to picking up and making it clear that I am a changed man!

~Steve

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Our Night At The Museum II Adventure

Many of you know of the movie Night At The Museum II. This is a movie we have fun watching, starting when we were living in China, because of hilarious scenes like when Larry (the main character) and a security guard, Brunden, are arguing over how to say Brunden's name, and when General Custer tries to say Sacagawea's name.

So, after a forty mile bike ride, Dad and I decided to stop at the Smithsonian Castle, the setting for the scene with Brunden. After parking our bikes, we went inside. In the movie, the inside has a hard wood floor, many halls, and glass exhibits. The real building has carpets, a few rooms, and open spaces.

To our luck, in the middle of the room was the actual pile of loot (from the real movie set!) on which the Egyptian Pharaoh who was trying to take over the world sat. After taking a few pictures, we went around the sides of the building to see if any other entrances were the ones Larry went in, but none were it. I guess what we have to do now is go and see all the other museums where Larry Daley went!

~Z