Favorite Foods were hands down, in northern eastern China, the region called DONG BEI
What is Jiao Zi? 饺子 We call it "pot stickers" in the USA (you know LingLing brand?), but I am here to tell you that this is like comparing a cracker to a deli sandwich. No comparison at all. The deliciousness and freshness of the Jiao Zi is unparalleled, and just watch the video... they make it fresh from scratch just before they cook it.
"YOU'LL BE IN MY HEART" sung by Johnson's at China University annual SINGING CONTEST @ LiaoGongDa University. 🎼🎶🎶🎶🎤
We lived on the 15th floor, and there was a need to clean 🌇almost every day. 2014年12月1日, 在阜新
Probably not OK to sing a church hymn, of which we had MANY that were ready to go... this just wasn't the type of event for that, and at this government institution, probably not appropriate as well. We had to do something SECULAR. Problem? Yes. We did not have ANY secular songs outside of maybe "jingle bells" learned, and so we had to come up with something.
We ended up looking through websites that had top 10 lists of favorite "American" songs that were loved by the Chinese. Problem was, we didn't like many of those songs. They just didn't fit the kind of image that we wanted to sing AS A FAMILY up there on a stage. It couldn't be some romantic love song, some heartbreak song, some angst song, or some radical rock and roll song... we had to find something that would work.
We finally thought of the Disney animation TARZAN and the Phil Collins songs in it. Surely, many Chinese would be familiar with these and the songs, and one of them was a song called "YOU'LL BE IN MY HEART" and the lyrics and theme fit perfectly well into the family concept, and in being there for each other. It was a winner, had a great beat, and so we set out to learn it.
I downloaded the karaoke version of the song from iTunes and loaded that into our library which already had the original song of it with Phil singing. So we sang along with this. We also loaded up our cell phones with the APP for QQ Streaming music which also had this song but with floating lyrics so we could sing along with the lyrics on our phones privately in our own time.
We also spent many evenings together singing the song together in our living room with the big speakers playing the song in the background. We practiced a lot, but for me, it was not enough. I still did not know the lyrics. The others were having trouble with the harmonies. How were we going to learn the various harmonies for this song and to make it work well for our 7 singers?
We ended up seeking some help from Stephanie our music singing and harmonizing genius from America, and we used a cell phone APP called WECHAT to exchange musical audio file recordings of her singing various parts of the song. I sent her an MP3 and she would play that on her computer, and record on her cell phone WECHAT audio a 60 second clip of her singing a harmony part. She sounded awesome and gave us some ideas that we could run with for these other parts for Christa and the other kids.
So Christa would listen to these and get some practice on her harder to hear part. We eventually go to the point where we were ready to sing together and practice harmonizing together, facing each other in the "circle of fear" and hear how we really sound to each other. We also practiced getting the lyrics and the words right on the beat, together, making it a tight performance. We got really good at it and felt ready. Ready enough. We remembered that this was just a guest performance and a family one, so the most important thing was going to be smiling, being a family, and doing something special that showed that we do love each other and work together on things.
When we began to sing we had found that they only had 3 microphones for us all to use. Well, that's not enough, because how can we MIX that sound with only three mics, and how will our vocal volume be high enough to compete with the loud karaoke track that will be playing on the main speakers? I knew we were going to have a problem being heard. But we rolled with it...
So fascinating to me, this ice on a river.
The kids ice skated on that same river out there sparkling blue, once it froze!
I was so nervous to even set foot on it. It took some trust but Christa talked me into it a couple of weeks ago when we first tried and went and talked to the locals down on the ice. Its thicker now than it was then. There are some large cracks now because the temperature has fluctuated a bit lately, but they run deep and are huge and don't show any separation. Indeed, it can't separate because its locked together like this puzzle of huge pieces. Weird to think that there is this deep column of water RUNNING below us. its not some static lake.
An amazing event of nature here!
What if the ice breaks?That's a good question! Something to think about… two weeks ago when I first went to visit the river to see how it looked being frozen, I saw some people down on the ice walking on it even ice skating on it, and I thought about how they were brave enough to do that or stupid enough… I happen to be with my wife at the time. She wanted to go down on the ice and of course I was thinking what happens if this ice breaks and I fall in the river in the current sweeps me away under the ice? I don't remember exactly what we said but I do know that she didn't think anything would happen. I reminded her that I probably weighed almost 100 pounds more than her and maybe the ice would break for me, so when I first stepped onto the edge of the ice from the bank of the river I was very nervous.
But soon my nervousness turned to fascination as I looked down and studied the bubbles and cracks and layers in the ice that was somewhat cloudy to transparent below me. I could see it seemed to be at least 4 to 6 inches thick at that time, and I thought about how rigid a piece of ice that thick would actually be… rock hard actually.
The kids want to go ice-skatingwe had some friends come to town yesterday, the Fraziers who are friends from church in a faraway city called ShenYang (3 hours by car). They have four young kids and so we all had our ice skates from Christmas gifts and we're ready to go.
A nice pair of ice skates here costs 15 bucks is all...They had a car so we jammed everybody in from our apartment and went down to the river. Here's some more photos from that experience:
A Break Amid the Turmoil
on the eve of the China Consulate visa run, we made time to check out the Hong Kong Disneyland attraction, and it was a whole lot of FUN!!
China Citizens out Exercising with Jump Ropes and Skates at the River Pavilion in Fuxin, China 2015年6月3日, 在阜新
We went to the JUMP ROPE and LANTERNS place and made lots of friends. Jump roping on the way there, we got lassoed in to a sidewalk restaurant and said "why not?" and ate there. GLAD we did. It was great and fun to try and read their Chinese menus. After that to the huge Pavilion by the river. People all over, dancing or jump roping mostly, and our kids got coached by some of the pros there. Old men who really knew how to jump rope fancy. Also met some young girls and Emily, Adam and Audrey jump roped with them. This was a fantastically FUN night and felt so good to be out among the people, socializing, and feeling very happy. A very happy night. We decided we are going to get out many nights in the future and join the social fun times. This was just on a Wednesday night, so no big deal, but its good fun, no trouble, and people go home at about 9 o clock. No riff raff ha. If anybody is the riff raff, we are!
Here's the video capturing that cultural experience. Even using some Chinese Pop for background music:
After this night out was complete, and we were walking home, we talked about how it made us FEEL. We all felt great. It was so wonderful to be out among the people of this land, experiencing their culture, and to participate in it with such arms there to welcome us and be friendly to us. Truly we felt blessed and walked back to the apartment talking about how we wanted to do this again and again, regularly...
The company I worked for made a mistake and we had to go to Hong Kong to get another Type Z Visa for working in China. Surprise!
These experiences sure changed up the status quo of life, and we did get a free trip to Hong Kong out of it. However, it was super stressful with all of the unknown of what would happen to us if this "trick" didn't work. It would mean denial of entry and we could lose all of our stuff at our apartment in Fuxin. So we were worried. It all worked out though! I am a worry wart, but getting better, I think.
July 4, 2015 @ Shenyang. Used Chinese Fireworks to celebrate 4th of July in China! Not the normal time for fireworks, but nobody seemed to know what had happened :)
We were in Hong Kong getting our Type Z Visa taken care of with the help of the Chinese company I was working for in Fuxin northern China (I was the Chief Site Engineer overseeing the construction on a 70 km section of the famed Bullet Trains project from Beijing to Shenyang). We needed the break, as the rest of the official document business was very stressful from time to time. Especially the unknowns.
Citywide Singing Contest Televised in FuXin, China. Kevan was singing today.
He did OK, so he will be moving on to the next contest or event. We'll find out about that some time later. We are just kind of flying blind on this, because we only heard two days ago that he would be doing this... so its pretty spontaneous. Kevan decided to sing the same song again, because, well, preparation time for a new song wasn't very adequate. Turns out that the Josh Groban song You Raise Me Up is a pretty great song to run with, so it was alright!
Our friends the Fraziers bought some chinese fireworks and we got to help them light them off.
It was the 4th of July, in China, ha. But actually, this is also my son Adam's birthday too (he's in the vid). These were the real deal fireworks, dangerous enough to be EXCITING. None of that "safe and sane" nonsense you have to buy in America which are also very boring. No, these were real fireworks and a lot of fun to watch.
I have also seen these used throughout the year in China at various celebrations of company openings, or weddings, usually in the day however, so they are mostly about making a lot of noise high up in the sky. These ones we lit off here were of the colorful and exciting variety. It was really cool. Coolest firework experience up close and personal I ever had.
The MC is fielding questions from the judges and Kevan is answering, this time through a translator
3 Judge Panel after Kevan sang, offering commentary and a SCORE of 3 out of 3 check! On to the next phase another day. Even I got on the show since I was filming, and I was the father, I guess. Their cameras turned on me.
Got my 15 seconds of fame LOL.
all photos taken by and copyright 2014 by grant johnson
Outside the Venue in FuXin. We were on 3rd floor. The back of the venue on 3rd floor