Day 599 OUT OF Beijing: Pier 24 Photography


PIer 24 and traintracks.

Pier 24 and long unused train tracks.


Jill and I headed to our 1 pm appointment at Pier 24 to get more information for SF Tourism Tips.

We arrived a bit early and hung around outside and enjoyed the gorgeous sunshine.

We are still getting used to having sunshine and fresh air every single day and being able to go out of the house whenever we want without fear of getting sick and having to wear a M95 mask to breathe safely.

It is a joy that we will never forget or take for granted.  Sadly, the first thing we would do when we woke up was look at my phone, check the Air Quality App and decide whether we would go outside or not.  It truly controlled that much of our daily lives.

I suggest you think a bit on your ability to breathe freely and not have to wear masks, drink bottled water, or worry about where your meat came from a few times today.

We had to do that for 1.5 years.

It gives us more to love and enjoy whatever we are doing in the SF Bay Area.

As the clock ticked down to 1 pm, we walked back to the gallery and pushed the “click to talk” button beside the door.

They told us to come inside and we entered.

There were four very nice people behind the desk and they told us about the show, called Secondhand, about re-attributed photographs, and a book that explained how to enjoy the gallery and not get lost.

The reason I mention not getting lost is that it is a huge gallery and it has about 20 or so rooms.  Some are tiny little alcoves but it could take a long time if someone got lost and confused and wanted to leave quickly.

I am not sure I like re-attributed photographs but I understand the idea: someone (not sure I can call them artists at this point) takes someone else’s photographs, manipulates them in some way, and then calls it their own.

I guess, in a way, this is sort of like “sampling” in music but there may be almost no difference at all.

In fact, say you found my family album at Goodwill and decided to buy it.  You could them frame my pictures and sell them as your own because you framed them and made them yours.  This is a simplistic example but there was work there that was basically just that: someone had found a person’s family album, bought it, and then took the pictures they liked, photographed them again, printed them out and adjusted the colors, and then it became, “their art.”

As a budding artist/photographer, and a person who has a mom who is definitely an artist, I have some issues with this.  I’d hate for someone to take my photographs, change a few things like color or brightness, and then sell them as their own art.  It seems somewhat unethical and immoral but maybe that is just me.

There was one specific part of the exhibition that I truly enjoyed: Eric Kessel’s 24 Hours.  It is a room full of photographs that he asked to have downloaded, and then printed, of everyone single person that posted their photographs to Flikr within a single 24 hour period.  I believe there were over 1,000,000 photos all laid out on the floor, and up the walls, and it was very powerful to stand in the middle of all those memories.

Eric Kessels 24 Hours.

Eric Kessels’ 24 Hours.

As we walked up to the exhibit room, one of the staff told us we were welcome to walk inside it and view it from the center of the room and see how we liked it.  We both picked up some photographs and looked at them.  Many were very disparate but there were still some that were obviously of the same kid or baby and had not been scattered yet.

Interesting enough, I really didn’t like any of the other parts of the exhibition by Eric Kessels as they seemed to be more like the ones I wrote about above and made me feel very uneasy regarding who is the artist and who deserves credit for these photographs.  I liked seeing other peoples’ histories and stories, but I’m not sure it quite sat correctly with me and that he would be getting credit for what they’ve actually done in the past.  Then again, Eric Kessels did manipulate the photographs and, if he hadn’t make these exhibits, they’d be lost to space and time.  Again, a tough question to figure out regarding right and wrong.

The different photographs that have been re-attributed.

The different photographs that have been re-attributed.


We also saw a photograph of the famous 1911 Hebron, Nebraska tornado that someone had taken.  Jill is from Nebraska so she knew of it immediately and it is a beautiful photograph.  Just utter desolation and very powerful.

As we left the exhibition, we were a little unsure whether we liked it or not.  We both feel strongly about artists doing their own art and having credit given to them.  However, a lot of this art would have been lost to the dump if not for these artist that found them, changed them, and kept them alive.

Is this really art?

Questions without answers.

Day 593 OUT OF Beijing: Hidden Gems of SF Tourism Tips.


A close up of the Giant Buddha on the second level of the Hua Zang Si Buddhist Temple.

A close up of the Giant Buddha on the second level of the Hua Zang Si Buddhist Temple.


Jill’s site, SF Tourism Tips, is in a never ending process of being updated and improved.  Jill wanted to update her “Hidden Gems” page and so we decided to head into San Francisco for the day.

I really admire Jill’s trait of never being happy with “enough” and always wanting to better her site and the experience for the people that visit it and want to learn more about San Francisco and how to improve their trip to our lovely city.

We went into San Francisco, by Golden Gate Transit from Petaluma, and then walked around the rest of the day.  We did have to catch one bus ($2.25 USD) to the Columbarium in the Richmond District, but otherwise all our travel was on foot and for free.  Since we are car-less, we didn’t have to pay a toll to get into SF ($6 USD on the GG Bridge), parking ($2-3 USD per hour) or deal with worries about car crashes, gas, or tickets.  The cost to get into SF on Golden Gate transit was $10.75 per person.  A very good exchange for comfort, relaxation and 1.75 hours to either talk or check emails as we rode in on a very comfortable and clean bus.

A longer shot of the bridge with the new movable divider on the left.

A longer shot of the bridge with the new movable divider on the left.

This is also part of our frugal living in that we want to see how realistic it is to live car-less and only use mass transit.  We actually really enjoy mass transit and we’ve met some wonderful people who are traveling around the world and living a upwardly mobile vagabond life like we are at the same time.  I also had a great conversation with a bus driver that will be retiring in one year and his hopes to do a ’round-the-world trip right after his job is over.  We talked about where to go, what to see, and I sent him some links on how to get great deals on flights and cruises.  I’m hoping we catch the same bus he drives, again, and we can see how he has progressed on his plans!

Our first stop was the Columbarium and it was magnificent.  It is one grave site in San Francisco that is taking interments and it is kept up beautifully.  Harvey Milk’s memorial is there as is Carlos Santana’s father’s ashes.  There are also many other people, and memorials, that are stunning and touching.  It sounds a bit strange to think of this as a place to visit and enjoy, but it is, and we actually were there during an interment and the family and friends were quite joyous and happy.  If you are interested in seeing it, make sure to call ahead and ask for Emmit to give you a tour.  He has been with the Columbarium for many, many years and knows stories and the history like no one else.  We will have a tour when we go back next time with him to learn more about this amazing structure and final resting place.

We walked over to Pizza Orgasmica and had their lunch special of salad, beer and a pizza for $10.50 each.  It was delicious and utterly filling.  I also was able to check in on one of my favorite apps, Untappd, and add the beers that Jill and I tried for lunch.  It is a fun social app and keeps track of how many beers you’ve had and gives badges for different categories.

Jill's pesto pizza.  Yummy!

Jill’s pesto pizza. Yummy!


We then headed down to Hua Zang Si Buddhist Temple.  This is a Buddhist Temple in the middle of the Mission District.  That, alone, would make sure it is a hidden gem.  It was originally a Lutheran Church and later became a temple.  We were blown away by the two Buddhas, especially that massive one on the second level, and the friendliness of the monks that were at the temple that day.  Most of them didn’t speak a lot of English but they seemed so happy and content that words weren’t needed to express what they were feeling.  As we walked back outside into the Mission District, we saw this gorgeous mural of Carlos Santana.  The cultures are so different and yet they are side by side.


After the temple, we headed down to Southern Pacific Brewery in the SOMA district.  Again, this was all just walking around and seeing the sites so we could experience it as if we were tourists and make sure to give people a “true to life” impression of what they can expect as they cruise around the Streets of San Francisco.  By the way, where are Mike Douglas and Karl Malden when you need them?

Our refreshing beers at Southern Pacific Brewing.

Our refreshing beers at Southern Pacific Brewing.


This brewery is only about 3 years old and it is inside a very cool tin roof hangar type building.  The beer is good and the food seems to be fairly priced.  We didn’t eat any food while we were there but had a great time talking to the bartender and just digging the atmosphere.  It will be added to a new page Jill is writing about all the different brewpubs in San Francisco.  Did you know there are over 15 at this point with 10 more scheduled to open during 2015?

By the way, this was also the same day we say the Austin Healey and the Tiny Tesla I’ve just posted about.  There is so much to do in San Francisco when you just walk and observe so check out SF Tourism Tips and find out all the newest information for all your San Francisco tips!

Day 547 In Beijing: Daniel Pantonassa Church in the Ihlara Valley.


The dome above the main area in the church.

The dome above the main area in the church.


After Jill and I descended the stairs, Sibel showed us the Daniel Pantonassa Church at starting of the valley.

It was cut into the side of the mountain and the frescoes on the walls were amazing.

Many had been partially destroyed, either by time or by vandalism, but they were still very beautiful and worth seeing.

As we traveled, we noticed that the faces, and eyes, of the figures in many of the faces in the frescoes that we’d seen had been destroyed.

We asked about that and the reason is that in the Muslim religion, idols are illegal and so when the Muslims took over these areas, they specifically destroyed the eyes or faces as per their customs.

Luckily, some went unnoticed and still survive while others have been retouched so that the original portraits are now visible.  Many others will never be fixed because no one knows whose face was destroyed and only the rest of the figure remains.

The Daniel Pantonassa Church was very small, and could only hold about 10-15 people at one time, but that would have been more than enough when it was originally built in the 10th Century.

Think about that: These frescoes have lasted over 1,000 years in this desolate climate and region.  It is absolutely amazing to think of how improbable that is even with today’s paints and knowledge of science to keep artifacts safe.





Day 541 In Beijing: Derinkuyu: The Underground City.


Jill and me in the opening of Derinkuyu.

Jill and me in the opening room of Derinkuyu.


After we finished up with the balloon ride, Jill and I were picked up for our Red Tour.

There are four main tours, and they are all code named by color: Red, Green, and Blue.

We only did the red and the blue since we were limited to a few days and didn’t want to be totally rushed and busy.

We drove for about 45 minutes until w reached Derinkuyu.

It is an underground cave that housed up to twenty thousand people for a few hundred years.

Let me repeat that:  It is an underground cave that housed up to twenty thousand people for a few hundred years.

These cities were supposedly built in the 7th-8th century by the Phrygians and then later the Greeks inhabited them and turned some of the rooms into chapels as they were Christians.

The Christians stayed underground so they’d be safe from the Muslims during the Arab-Byzantine Wars.

The Christians also used it as protection during the Mongolian invasions in the 14th Century.

The cities are miles long and very deep into the Earth.

Up until the 20th Century, Christians were still using these cities as a refuge against the Muslim leaders and the Ottoman Empire.

There are stories that people would be elected to go outside, once a month, to see what was happening.

They would also have to bring out the dead bodies since no one else was allowed to leave other than during this time.

In 1923, the Christian followers were expelled and the cities were no longer used by inhabitants and seemed to be forgotten.

They were found when a villager was digging out a new room and broke through a wall in the 1960s.

They have now become a major tourist attraction for this area.


Day 526 In Beijing: Blue Tour In Cappadocia, Goreme Open Air Museum.


Just imagine living in these homes.

Just imagine living in these homes.


The last stop on our tour was to the Goreme Open Air Museum.

I didn’t take a lot of pictures here because we were pretty tired and there are a lot of churches.

Most the churches in this area don’t allow pictures inside so we only have pictures of the outside.

There are many paintings, and frescoes, on the Church walls and they are quite impressive.

However, many of them have the saints eyes scratched out through vandalism.

Also, the Muslim religion forbids the depiction of the human form, or icons, and supposedly they were afraid of the “evil eye.”

Considering how old these paintings are, and that they are not from the dominant religion in the area, it is rather amazing they are in the shape they are in.

We actually made one more stop, after the Goreme Open Air Museum and stopped by a Jewelry store.

Jill and I had wanted to buy her a ring and we wanted our guide, Sukru, to help us with the bargaining and make sure we weren’t ripped off.

We bought a ring, with a Zultanite stone, and it was gorgeous.

I’ll post some pictures of it, in the near future, as it is a stone that changes color with light (up to 6 colors that we’ve seen so far) and is only mined in Turkey.


Day 477 In Beijing: The 3rd Western China Multi-national Sourcing Fair.


Jill, the Kaiwai Winery owner/winemaker and me.

Jill, the Kaiwai Winery owner/winemaker and me.

The whole reason for this trip, paid for by EACHAM, was for Jill and me to go to a sourcing fair.

Now, we weren’t even sure what a sourcing fair was, but we were told the trips were fun and, so far, that had been proven true.

Basically, we got a trip, by train, and got to stay in a 5 star hotel, for free.  The tickets and transport to the Terracotta Army cost us about 75 USD, total, and that was a deal considering this trip would have cost us about 400 USD if we paid for it ourselves.

Therefore, we were obliged to go to the sourcing fair and meet the vendors.

Our vendors were chosen, in advance, by what we were interested in doing and learning about, so we were set up with some interesting machine companies (no idea what we were able to build and I’m pretty sure semi truck axles are not on my holiday shopping list.  It was still interesting to see how they were assembled).

They actually did a very good job of putting us in contact with a few wineries and a brewery.

Along with Jill’s main website and business, SF Tourism Tips, Jill has a second website, All About Red Wine, it was quite useful for her to talk to the winery owners, and winemakers, and discuss how the wine is made here and what they are doing with it.

Our favorite winery, Kaiwai, and winemaker, asked us to hang out with him and told us all about what he did and how special it is to him.  Everything is organic and handmade.  They even has some other their own grape varietals, one named “Weibei” that is delicious.

The owner asked us to come and visit his winery next time we are in Xian and, if we ever make it back up this way, we definitely will!

As mentioned before, we were also given two translators, Miranda and Lizzy, who were fun, smart and very cute.

We made sure they were able to taste the beer, and wine, and they seemed to enjoy spending time with us.

Miranda is wearing the glasses in the picture and Lizzy is not.

We hope they come and visit us in the USA when we return home so we can return the favor and tour them around San Francisco!


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Day 476 In Beijing: Trip To Xian, Terracotta Warriors, Part 6.


Jill and I primarily take photographs but we also realize that having a video of something as magnificent as the Terracotta Army makes a real impression on others.

It is still hard to comprehend the size, and amount of soldiers, if you aren’t there in person, but this gives a better representation of it all.

If you are ever in town, to paraphrase Ferris Bueller, I highly recommend visiting it.




Day 475 In Beijing: Trip To Xian, Terracotta Warriors, Part 5.


The final shot of the Terracotta Army.

The final shot of the Terracotta Army.


Jill and I continued our tour around Pit 1 and were able to see more of the warriors that were getting excavated and refurbished.

We didn’t hire a guide, since we were in a rush and didn’t want to bargain.

Yes, everything in China is a bargaining event and it gets very tiring.

Sometimes we just want to pay a fair price and be done with it so we just give up and don’t bother.

Imagine living each day as if you were going into a car dealership and having to bargain for a lot of what you want.

It tends to make us cynical and jaded and we, therefore, don’t have as much interaction as we normally would with others.

So, we skipped the tour guide and I wish we hadn’t because I would have liked to know why they are wrapped in cellophane.

Our guess was they were being glued back together and this allows them to hold until the glue settles but we aren’t sure.

Either way, walking around the back of the exhibit was a wonderful way to end our visit to the Terracotta Army.


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Day 474 In Beijing: Trip To Xian, Terracotta Warriors, Part 4.


Jill and me in front of the army.

Jill and me in front of the army.

Jill and I kept cruising around Pit 1 and looking for places to take pictures of this magnificent vision.

We loved every second of it, other than the pushing and shoving, and we really amazed by all the different people visiting the site.

We didn’t realize it, but there were about 15 other EACHAM people there at the same time we were there.

How do we know this?

Well, we saw a bunch of expatriates walking around and one of them was very noticeable.

His name, we found out later in the day, was Phil, and he was from Austria.

Why did Phil stand out?

Phil stood out because Phil stands about 6 feet and 7 inches tall.

He is a giant in China.

He is also a very kind person and when we ran into him the next day at the expo that EACHAM paid for us to go to, he invited us to tour the Xian City Wall and check out the Muslim Quarter inside the wall afterward.

We ended up meeting a bunch of new friends, from many different countries, which I will blog about in a few days, and having a wonderful time.

It is repetitive but this is why Jill and I love being expats:  We meet so many people, with so many different stories, from so many different parts of the world.

I think that is also why I loved dancing Cuban style salsa back in the USA: It brings together such a diverse community, from all over the world, the just enjoy being together and connecting.

I’ve included a few of the pictures that the nice Australian couple took of us while we spoke with them.


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Day 473 In Beijing: Trip To Xian: Terracotta Warriors, Part 3.


Soldiers at attention.

Soldiers at attention.

It was time to for Jill and me to see Pit 1.

We went in a side door as we were continuing our backwards trip and therefore we entered into the end which was not nearly as busy as the main doors.

It was actually a wonderful way to start/end this visit as the crowds near Pit 1’s main entrance were incredibly deep and people were pushing and shoving a lot.

Now, pushing and shoving is very common in China but Jill and I just get sick and tired of feeling like you have to fight someone just to stand where you are.

It is honestly something we will not miss when we leave and one of the most aggravating issues with crowds in China: people just have no sense of space or respect for other people who are near them.

It is a cultural issue that I will never get used to, and honestly, don’t intend to because if I did that in the USA, or pretty much anywhere else, I’d get beaten up.

Therefore, going in the back way, where it was almost empty, was incredibly relaxing and a relief.

We also wandered against the flow of people which allowed us to stop and see what we wanted and not be pushed along by the masses.

Pit 1 was absolutely amazing.

It is as simple as that.

It is massively long and incredibly wide.

They have done a wonderful job rebuilding the warriors and making them as realistic as possible, again without the painted armor and wagons, and it is very powerful to see them lined up and ready for action.

Jill and I walked all the way around the pit and asked an Australian gentleman to take our picture so we could show that we were there and have some wonderful memories.

We talked to both he and his wife, and they were on a one month tour, and they were retired.

He lived about 1 hour north of Melbourne and had run an organic farm that was very successful and now just relaxes, enjoys life, and they travel for about 1-2 months a year.

This year they chose to visit China.  They said that they had enjoyed their trip but are ready to get home to some peace and quiet and fresh air.

As I lived in Melbourne, back in 1990, for one month, I absolutely understood and envied them.

Living on the beach, in fresh air, and with quiet, is something Jill and I are very much looking forward to sometime in the future.

They told us that they generally aren’t tour group people but decided to do one because they’d heard traveling in China is tough.

They had booked a tour through an agency in the USA and ended up with 35 North American tourists, 1 Canadian and themselves.

They said it had been fun to meet all these North Americans, and the one Canadian, and it was a very different experience than it would have been with just Australians.

Just another reason I love to travel, meeting so many people, having so many different experiences and view points, and allowing themselves to be exposed to life in a different way.

This is exactly the life Jill and I want to have, and are having, at this moment.

We are incredibly grateful for the ability to live this life, have these experiences, and go places that many people will never go.

Such is the life of an expatriate.


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