To Market, to Market

What a week America has had. I held off posting, because it seemed kind of frivolous to be talking about my great vacation when such awful things were happening. Being 12 hours off from the East Coast gave me an experience that was slightly different than yours. I first heard of the bombings as I woke up, from Facebook posts–the same way I learned of the Newtown school shootings. My Friday morning I decided to see what was going on and turned the tv on to CNN, something I’ve only done a handful of times while here.

I didn’t turn off the tv the rest of the day. News was happening so fast Thursday night, the news feed became like a tv drama–turn away for a few minutes and you’d miss something important. By your Friday morning, the pace of new news slowed considerably and everyone was back to saying the same thing a hundred different ways. It was quite an experience and whether they want to admit it or not, I’m sure those news people were thrilled that something so intense was happening!

I personally am happy that the people of Boston can breath a sigh of relief. I wish a speedy recovery for those hurt in Boston and in Texas.

And really, as irritating as it is to hear those news people jabber on about nothing, I’d say that that’s probably a good thing, considering the alternative.

And now to the post I wrote:

There’s nothing I like better than a good market in a foreign country.

Not far from our hotel was a street of shops–ok, kind of touristy, but there were some interesting things for sale.

Photos - 6426Love these pillows

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Mosaic lamps–very Turkish

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Also very Turkish

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Photos - 6431Hand crocheted ponchos!

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Scarves are popular around the world.

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More mosaic lamps

Be prepared to salivate. Turkish delight and Baklava are rampant in Istanbul. It was amazing. Here’s just a few pictures from a favorite store close to our hotel.

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Who knew there were this many kinds of Turkish Delight? Our favorite was honey and pistachio.Photos - 6437

Different variations of baklava.

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There’s a whole line of desserts that use shredded wheat (no, I don’t think it’s Nabisco’s!) in different ways.

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Different kind of shredded wheat dessert

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Nougat with Turkish Delight on either side

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We thought it’d be nice to go to the Blue Mosque and check it out, but it was closed for several hours for Friday prayers.

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We were able to go into the courtyard though.

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Men seemed to be endlessly pouring out of the mosque.

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The mihrab, which points the direction to Mecca

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Washing before prayers.

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Not sure what was going on with these trees.

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There were already long lines to get into the mosque and it wasn’t going to be open for quite awhile, so we decided to go to the Grand Bazaar and look for yarn. Might not get to see the inside of that mosque, but that’s ok–there’s no shortage of mosques to see in Istanbul!

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Close up. Beautiful building but no indication whether it was a mosque or had some other use. (It had no minarets)

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That’s a lot of lamps!

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It’s was cold out, but that didn’t stop people from eating outside.

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Yet another lamp shop

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Think this was an important gate, but don’t know anything about it.

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Street inside the gate

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Another beautiful building

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The gate to the Grand Bazaar. Construction on the Bazaar began in 1461!

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Bag store

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More fabulous ceilings inside the bazaar.

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Gold bracelet store

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It may be the exit gate, but it’s supposed to take us to yarn!

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Hmm…any ideas? I don’t have any!

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For some reason, it was considerably more crowded out here.

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Must be getting close–where there’s fabric, there’s usually yarn!

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So beautiful

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This is where the locals shop.

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Kurkcu Han! We found it! Ok, we did have a little help from a couple of people as we stood puzzling out the map at crucial spots.

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Who wants to look like a sultan?

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The store I shopped in–crammed with yarn!

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Happy knitter!

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Some locals enjoying the sun in the square around the yarn stores.

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Back out, to find our way back to the hotel

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Wow, who wears this and when?

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Wanted to charge me for taking the picture ūüôā

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This was our best discovery of the day–pomegranate juice. Trust me, Pom Wonderful doesn’t hold a candle to the real stuff!

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Street musicians

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Lady bug cakes!

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Roasted chestnuts are a favorite street food–and they peel them for you here, unlike China where you just have to struggle.

Street scenes:

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The bubble man, seen everywhere on the streets of Istanbul

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This guy didn’t seem to actually be able to play this instrument. Perhaps that’s why he looked so sad.

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Tiny tables and chairs! Where the men drink Turkish coffee or this nasty liquor called Rika.

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Photos - 6512Beautiful gate

Meredith found our way back to the hotel remembering all the twists and turns we had made, without using the map! Clever, young brains.

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Elevator flowers

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Wow, and a Few Other Words

This post was nearly ready to publish a couple days ago and something went nutty with the VPN and well…..let’s just say, most of it had to be done again. But it was worth it! Like I say in the title: Wow!

Friday morning we set out prepared to tackle the Hagia Sophia. We already had tickets! It was just past opening time! We should be able to get right in!

Well, not quite.


Still full of hope in front of the Blue Mosque


Oh my, that’s just a bit of the line to get in! (actually not that bad–about 15-20 min.)


But, the entrance line was still shorter than the “buy your ticket line”.


Beautiful view of the other side of the Blue Mosque while we waited in line.

A little history: The current building is the 3rd that was built on this site, the other two falling victim to riots and and revolts.

This building was built at the behest of Emperor Justinian I of Constantinople beginning in 532. Ten thousand workers and 5 years later, the first masterpiece of the Byzantine era was built.

Sadly, the church was captured and ransacked by the Latin Catholics during the 4th crusade. Precious artifacts were sent to the West where they still reside in museums. The Hagia Sophia became a Catholic church from 1204 to 1261.

The Byzantines recaptured Constantinople in 1261 and the H.S. once again became a Greek Orthodox church until 1453 when¬†¬†Sultan Mehmed captured Constantinople with the intention of bringing Islam to the city. He immediately turned the H.S. into a mosque, the state it remained in until 1935 with the establishment of the Republic of Turkey. It’s been a museum ever since.

The massive dome was a huge architectural feat, especially given that it was built in an earthquake prone country. Over it’s long history the dome cracked or collapsed a number of times. Each time, it was built or repaired by whomever had control at the moment. The last major effort to stabilize the dome was around 1550, and was accomplished by the world’s first earthquake architect,¬†Mimar Sinan.


The beautiful ceiling in the grand hallway before you enter the nave.


Even with the scaffolding set up in it, the place is gorgeous!


Another look at the front hallway before going in.


Look at the size of these doors! They are called the Imperial Doors, and in Byzantine times, only the emperors were allowed to pass through them.


Have I mentioned that it’s all about the ceilings in Istanbul? There are 40 windows at the base of the main dome, another architectural feat. The dome was built like the inside of an umbrella with spokes that distribute the weight down to the floor.


Only a couple of these massive chandeliers had been fitted with electric lights. Originally they were candles or an oil lamp. So Phantom of the Opera-esque, aren’t they?



This spot is where Byzantine emperors were coronated.

Some more views around the nave.

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This cherub and his 3 brothers on the other corners was covered up by the Ottomans. Only he has been restored. Personally, I think he’s a little creepy looking.


This photo looks to the left of the altar–the building is in the shape of a cross like all basilicas (because this was the first one!) ¬†The beautiful ironwork “box” is the Imperial Loggia where the mezzuin would do the call to prayer.


These large discs are scattered throughout the nave and bear the names of Allah, the Prophet Muhammad, the first four caliphs Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman and Ali, and the two grandchildren of Mohammed: Hassan and Hussain. They were added during a large restoration in 1847.

This long staircase ¬†or Minbar is traditional for mosques–it is where the Friday sermon is preached. Behind it is the Mihrab, the most sacred place in any mosque. It points the direction of Mecca and thus the position for prayers.


The mosaic of Mary and the Christ child from 867ad.


The dome where the Mary mosaic sits.


The stained glass windows were beautiful.



Close up of the Mihrab


The main dome is at the top of this picture, with what I think are buttresses (running horizontally through the picture) that support it.


A long view into the sanctuary from the right side.


A panoramic of the upper part of the walls, where all the action is, decoratively.


See, I was there!


How Meredith feels when waiting around while I’m making test bubbles for Ben’s 360degree photo app.


The floor is slippery and smooth from all the millions of people who have walked over them throughout the years–and now that includes us.


Instead of stairs to get to the second floor, there was this continuous sloped tunnel that went round and round many, many times. The stones were very slippery and smooth from so many years of use.


We were now at the same level as the chandelier.


Close up of a medallion. Look to its right at the people, to get a perspective of huge it is.

DSC09626One of the ceilings of the hallway on the second floor.


Another view of the dome with all its 40 windows, from the second floor, looking toward the mihrab.



Arches on the second floor.


One of the mosaics that has been partially restored. They were covered up when the church became a mosque. This one is from the 12th century and is called Judgement Day. Jesus is flanked by Mary and John the Baptist.


The Virgin and Child Enthroned (12th century)


ChristEnthroned, 11th century


One of the many “sort of stray” cats in Istanbul. People make sure that they are fed, as evidenced by this cat we found on the second floor eating the cat food that had been left out for it.


The next few pictures are “pictures of pictures”; professional pictures with good lighting that were displayed upstairs.





Decent photography and no crowds helps, doesn’t it?

DSC09662I think this picture gives a great perspective on the size of this place (it’s mine, btw).


Detail on the columns


Hmmm…hallway to nowhere.

I liked the look of this spot, so I took a picture of it!


You could buy a replica of this famous sword at the gift shop.


The lines were even longer outside when we left about noon.

DSC09682It was such a beautiful day, I had to take a picture of the Blue Mosque with the fountain.

mail envelope easterEaster is over, it’s true, but Happy Easter from Kelly and me!

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Really Old Stuff

There’s a lot to see at Topkapi Palace and a lot of people were there seeing it.

And there’s a lot of pictures in this post, so it could take awhile to load. If pictures come up blank, hit refresh and they should load.

After leaving the Harem we went to see the “Chamber of Petitions”. This was used exactly for what its name describes–petitions to the Sultan, as well as formal affairs.


Again, the ceiling was the best part of the room


The fancy “bed” where the Sultan would entertain the petitioners. Not intimidating at all, right? DSC09456

The building in the distance was maybe the library where they kept documents.


This hollow tree reminded me of a story I read as a kid, about town in a hollowed out log.


Remember how I said it was crowded? This is the line to get into the building with the national treasures. It was one of the shorter ones.


We weren’t allowed to take pictures in those exhibits, but I did sneak a picture of the windows from the door.


Besides these windows, we saw many jewel encrusted items, like chalices and crowns and swords. One room had holy relics, like the the staff of Abraham and items that were Muhammed’s


We couldn’t take pictures, but I can buy postcards and take pictures of the postcards! These are a few of the most famous pieces because of the size of the jewels.




Really, really big diamond.


The palace was located on the Bosphorus, the sliver of water that separates the Asian side of Istanbul from the European side.


I think you can tell what a wretched day it was! Cold, windy and rainy.


Lunch was apple tea and flaky pastries with cheese.


The Imperial Divan where Imperial Council meetings were held.

Leaving the palace, we headed over to the National Archeology museum which was located next door


We were greeted by this rather quirky statue.


And then there was a room of coffins.


Wow, a real mummy! That’s Sidonian King Tabnit from about 500BC (I’ve never heard of him either.)

There were a lot of sarcophagus’ in this museum, which were old, and beautiful.


Lycian Sarcophagus from the end of the 5th century BC.


Look at how these horses seem to be jumping from the background.


The Alexander Sarcophagus from the late 4th century BC


Mighty lions guard the top


Sarcophagus of mourning women from 4th century BC. This was my favorite. It captured so well the grief of these women.


Anthropoid Sarcophagus from 5BC. This one was particularly stunning.


Ancient women, modern woman


It’s Zeus!


Fabulous mosaic floor from the Roman period


The Sidamara Sarcophagus from 5BC. This had the most exquisite detailing of all of them.


Looking out onto the Tiled Kiosk which was built as a pleasure palace in 1472.


As is usually the case in archeology museums, there were a lot o’ pots!


Big pots too.


Big columns


Ooh! Something a knitter would be interested in, even if I don’t spin my own wool!


Ancient buttons (sort of)! Also know as fibulae or pins to fasten clothes. DSC09516 Hordes of school children chased us through the museum.


Lovely painting of the Bosphorus


A piece of the Golden Horn Chain which was strung in the water of the Bosphorus to keep invaders out for many years, until someone had the idea to destroy the buildings it was attached to.


This guy makes me laugh every time I see him–he looks so surprised and stressed by the fact that he’s lost his nose!


This was once covered with green and blue gems.

After the archeology museum we walked over to the Tiled Kiosk to see what was in it.


The front door.


These are beautiful plates from the 16th century.


Beautiful tile work, 1575AD


A tiled niche


Meredith and I had quite the laugh with this plate–it looks so much like something a 5 year old girl would draw.


More beautiful tile work


That is a big head!


Cats are everywhere in Istanbul


The stairs of the Museum of Ancient Orient.


Really old head from about 3BC

DSC09541The¬†Ishtar Gate¬†was the eighth gate to the inner city of Babylon.¬†It was constructed in about 575¬†BC by order of King Nebuchadnezzar II¬†on the north side of the city. (from Wikipedia). It’s made of glazed brick. We thought it was really cool.


Now we know how much a talent was!


Another part of the gate.DSC09550

Scarab amulets (dung beetle). Scarabs were the symbol of the Sun God who was worshipped in ancient Egypt. DSC09552

Cats were a big deal, back in the day, as they represented the goddess Bastet.


Back outside the palace. Kind of reminds you of Disney World, doesn’t it?


Leaving the palace you see the back of the Hagia Sophia–it’s impressively huge.


And in the distance is the Blue Mosque which is conveniently located down the street from our hotel.


Tons of pigeons in Istanbul. This little girl was having a blast making them fly.


The street our hotel (Hotel Ibrahim Pasha) was on–it’s the brown bays that are sticking out just past the green hotel.


We had a lovely couch for our lovely daughter to sit on.

DSC09568Trying to get internet. We especially liked the large painting on the wall. We failed in our attempts to discover the painter. Any ideas?

Elevator FLowers

Elevator FLowers

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Old Money

It’s been quite the hiatus here for the knitter on the loose. That’s because Meredith and I have been on holiday, as they say in England. Can you guess where?

blue mosque athens


Istanbul and Athens!

Meredith had a week and a half for Spring Break so we had enough time to do the 12 hour flight to get there. Istanbul hadn’t even been on my radar, but then I met 2 people within a week of each other who had just moved to Shanghai from Istanbul and I thought, hmmm, that sounds interesting. Meredith suggested we add on Athens since it is so close.

Unfortunately, Mark could not come back to join us. I was a little nervous about Meredith and I venturing out on our own, but everything went just fine. Turns out Meredith has the eyes and map-reading abilities that I lack (why are those street names so tiny??), so we were able to find our way around everywhere we went.

We arrived in Istanbul at 5 am. Our first obstacle was getting our visa. I had assumed we would be able to exchange money before that happened, but no, the exchange places were much farther along in the process of getting into the country. There was a money machine, however, and amazingly my credit union bank card worked in it–it doesn’t work in China!

Next obstacle was exchanging money, so I could pay the driver who was taking us to our hotel. I had assumed I could exchange rmb, but no, that wasn’t going to be possible (the exchange places in Athens did take rmb, however). It was back to another bank machine where, miraculously, I was able to take out quite a bit of Euros before it refused me anymore.

We got to our hotel at 6:15am. Not surprisingly, our room wasn’t ready yet! And of course, the “sights” weren’t open yet either. The hotel kindly let us hang out next to the fire in the lobby and then let us have breakfast when they started serving. (It was fabulous, btw)

Our plan was to go to Topkapi Palace first. Imagine our surprise at 9:00 as we walked past the Hagia Sophia to see a line about an hour long waiting for tickets to get in there! Were we going to have to wait that long at the Palace?

Fortunately, no. There was no line at all and we were able to get a ticket that would get us into all the sights, so we wouldn’t be faced with that long line the next day. So clever of us, don’t you think?


                    The gate of the palaceDSC09384

Yikes! That’s quite the welcome!DSC09385

All that script is pretty, isn’t it?

According to Wikipedia some of the script says:

By the Grace of God, and by His approval, the foundations of this auspicious castle were laid, and its parts were solidly joined together to strengthen peace and tranquility […] May God make eternal his empire, and exalt his residence above the most lucid stars of the firmament.



Wow! They’re really serious about security here!


A hint of what was to come.


A model of the entire complex-not too shabby digs, right?  This palace was home to the Ottoman Sultans from 1465 to 1856. It was like a self-contained town and was home to the government at times, as well as 4000 people.


We entered the Harem first as we had read that there would be a line later. The Harem was the private quarters of the Sultan, all 100 to 400 rooms (depends on who you ask)! Actually he was sharing them with his¬†¬†mother, wives, daughters, female relatives, and young sons, as well as eunuchs (basically the security guards) and slave servant girls. They say that behind every powerful man is a woman and that’s certainly the case here. The sultan’s mother or Valide Sultan had nearly as much influence over what happened in the empire as the Sultan did, especially if the Sultan happened to be very young.

Her room was next to the Sultan’s and she decided which of the concubines he slept with. And you think your mother meddles in your affairs!

The concubines couldn’t be married to the sultan as they were Christian slaves, but by Islamic law their offspring could become Sultan.


More of that pretty script.


Two gigantic mirrors in one of the first halls


One of the courtyards


Fancy fireplace


All the ceilings were fabulous. Perhaps they were encouraging people to look heavenward?





You wouldn’t think it wouldn’t be a good idea to have so many patterns going on in a small room, but it kind of works!


These fancy shelves were throughout the Harem


Competing patterns and angles!



The lighting was terrible in here, but this is the privy chamber of the Sultan


The bed where future sultans were made.


What the Sultans saw when they looked up from their bed.



Another room in the Harem with a slightly different color scheme. The rooms were decorated with a combination of tiles and paint, and often tromp-l’oeil.


View out to the Bosphorus


This was a dining room and had been painted with “foody” pictures. (Yes, I know it says no pictures, but everybody was and nobody yelled at us!)


These are the fabulous windows in the “living room” (or twin kiosk as it is called) that was used by the crown prince.

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The royal couches


Mother of pearl inlay was also used throughout the palace. I think this was in the Mother’s room.DSC09437

As I said, it’s all about the ceilings!


DSC09441 Even the underneath of the roofs were fabulous.



This was called the Golden Road. It linked all the major rooms of the Harem together. It is thought that it got it’s name because the Sultan would throw gold coins on the ground on feast days for the concubines to pick up.


I’ll end today with some of the beautiful flowers that were growing at the Palace.

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Award Ceremony

I’ve been nominated for a Liebster award by the wonderful bloggers Faith and David of¬†¬†fame. Thank you so much! I’m delighted to accept!¬†This is an award for blogs with small readership. (I doubt I will ever reach the heights of for example.)¬†The prize is to tell 11 random things about yourself, answer 11 questions provided by the nominator about yourself, come up with 11 more questions and then to nominate 11 other blogs. ¬†Here goes:

11 Fascinating facts about me that you absolutely can’t live without.

1. I am obsessed with all things food and health, whether eating it, reading about it or watching about it. And yes, The Biggest Loser is one of my favorite shows.

2. For all my obsession with health, I’m actually starting to fall apart, piece by piece. Perhaps my name should be “Ford”: fix or repair daily.

3. I have a terrible sense of direction. The day after we were married it became clear that if we wanted to stay that way, I should drive and Mark should navigate.

4. Mark and I currently own no house or car, something that hasn’t been true since before we were married.

5. When I was a junior in high school I decided I wanted to be a professional violin player. Unfortunately, I played the piano, not the violin.

6. I eventually did take up the violin when my oldest child, Ben, was a year old. Sadly, it’s an instrument that should be started before you understand how difficult it is.

7. When I taught myself to knit from a book at age 7, I learned it in reverse, knitting from the right needle to the left, instead of left to right. See number 3 above.

8. When I met my husband, Mark, I had a suspicion that my future life would never be dull. I was right.

9. Our third child, Meredith was born under water, a sharp contrast to the “keystone cops” atmosphere of the birth of Andy, our second.

10. The most important thing for me when buying a house is whether it is bright and sunny.

11. The most important thing for me when when buying a car is whether there is a place for my purse.

And now for Faith and David’s questions:

1. What is one food you’ve eaten at least once, that really grosses you out?

The heavily salted licorice candy we were given by our Finnish exchange student, which I actually spit out. Stinky tofu is a close second.

2. Which animal would you most expect to see in your nightmares?

Dogs, and they are biting me.

3. What’s the best award/prize you’ve ever won (other than the Liebster, of course)?

The first thing I ever won was a graphing calculator that I got as a door prize for going to some talk of which I had no interest–other than the fact that they were giving away graphing calculators.

4. What’s the best prank/practical joke you’ve ever pulled AND/OR had pulled on you?

I’m pretty gullible and the male members of my family are big teases, so I’ve had more pranks pulled on me than I can remember. My favorite fun “prank”, compliments of my husband, occurred one morning during the Christmas season when I woke up to find the 3 wise men and their camels removed from the manger. They were now outside on the front steps, ready to begin their long trek back to the manger. Each day, they would get a little closer, but some days there would be “difficulties”, like a detour to a dark closet.

5. What is the most likely reason you would ever end up in jail?

Pedestrian road rage, here in Shanghai.

6. What is the one thing about you that most annoys YOU (answer honestly, not as if this is a job interview)?

I’ve always hated my neck/double chin and now gravity is taking over and it’s even worse.

7.  Your house is on fire and you can only go back in for one thing…Why is your house on fire???

No doubt a cooking fiasco. I regularly meet the apartment’s security guys at our front door with a sheepish grin on my face because I’ve set off the smoke alarm yet again. .

8. What is the worst advice anyone has ever given you?

Not to marry my husband.

9. What is the biggest mishap you’ve ever had while travelling?

Going back to Tokyo from Kyoto, on the train that would take us to the airport, we only had seconds to figure out whether the train coming into the station was ours.

It wasn’t. And it was going the wrong direction. ¬†And it didn’t stop again for an hour. And we’d somehow settled into the “ladies only” car and Mark was told to leave.

Flight missed.

10. In retrospect, what’s the worst fashion/style choice you’ve ever made (photos welcome!)

That’s an easy one! Long curly perms were all the rage in the early 80’s and I wanted one. It was a bad choice for someone who’s hair is already curly. It was also a bad choice to have it done at a shopping mall beauty shop.

Sadly, instead of looking hot, I looked like Little Orphan Annie. I saw Mark as I was leaving the shop and he walked right past me, not recognizing me with my new poodle look. It took over a year to grow it out and look normal again.

11. What is the strangest gift anyone has ever given you?

Barbecue tools when we were living on the 20th floor with no balcony.

And now for my nominees:

Ok, another confession. I may write a blog, but I don’t read many blogs. I read somewhere that the rules were actually to nominate 5-11 blogs, so here’s 6 that I do like that still have under 200 followers. But not for long, I’m sure.


And their questions:

1. What is the one thing you do everyday that you would happily never do again?

2. List the top few “moments” of your life.

3. What is one thing you want to do before you die.

4. Cats or dogs?

5. If you were on death row, what would you request for your last meal?

6. Are you still doing what you thought you would be doing when you decided your college major? Give your major and your current occupation.

7. What was the last book you read that warrants a recommendation.

8. What are your favorite 2 movies (because I couldn’t pick just one).

9. If you could live in another century besides this one, when would it be and where would you do it?

10. What is one of your recurring dreams?

11. Snow or rain?

And finally, because it’s been so long:

Elevator flowers

Elevator flowers

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Victims 300,000: The Memorial

The new Nanjing Massacre Museum is a stunning memorial to the victims of the massacre. When seen as a whole, it is a massive work of art, skillfully depicting the enormity of the horrors of that time through shapes and textures and imagery, while simultaneously honoring each victim. The museum was built for the 300,000, but after experiencing  it,  one felt that all suffering in the world had been represented there.

The day we were visiting was cold, foggy and rainy, as you will see in the outdoor pictures. Our guide, the wonderful Janny Chang, said the weather always seems to be that way when she brings people to the museum, as if the weather god is crying along with us.

The moment you get off the bus, you are confronted with statues that wrenchingly depict the suffering that occurred.

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The courtyard of the museum is entered through this massive stone structure with a narrow path cut through it.

The courtyard of the museum is entered through this massive stone structure with a narrow path cut through it.

detailed view

detailed view

Memorial bell

Memorial bell

This darkened room is the first you enter. Looking over the sparkling lights you see an ever changing display of victim's faces. As it changes from one to the next, a deep gong is sounded.

This darkened room is the first you enter. Looking over the sparkling lights you see an ever changing display of victim’s faces, a deep gong sounding as each new face appears.

Along the path to the next room is a wall with victim's names.

Along the path to the next room is a wall of victim’s names.

The next part of the museum is the description of the massacre that you saw last post.  Leaving that part you come to a wall of pictures. There was unfortunately no English description that I could find, so I don't know if these were victims or survivors (although the survivors could also be called victims).

The next part of the museum is the description of the massacre that you saw last post. Leaving that part you come to a wall of pictures. There was unfortunately no English description that I could find, so I don’t know if these were victims or survivors (although the survivors could also be called victims).

One of the many, who stood out especially, for me.

One of the many, who stood out especially for me.

DSC08759Culturally, it is interesting to note the description of the massacre as a national humiliation. While Americans might have individually felt humiliated by such events, as a nation I think the response would likely have been one only of outrage. It’s hard to imagine using the word “humiliating” in a plaque in an American museum. The Chinese, however, are very concerned with “losing face”, and the massacre was a huge instance of losing face for them, another reason that Japan’s lack of humility and apology over their deeds rankles so much.


No picture can quite capture the next room. It is filled with floor to ceiling shelves, containing, 3 deep, binders filled with the biographies of each of the victims.

No picture can quite capture the next room. It is filled, floor to ceiling, with shelves,each containing, 3 deep, binders filled with the biographies of each of the victims.



DSC08773My apologies for the bad picture, it was nearly pitch dark in this room.

The darkened room narrowed to a sharp, thin, vertical line of light in the distance. Every 12 seconds a drop of water was heard falling, representing one of the victims.

The walkway leaving the main building.

The walkway leaving the main building.

The courtyard was a work of art itself. The stones in this courtyard and elsewhere represent the bones of the victims

The courtyard was a work of art itself. All of the stones in the center of this courtyard and elsewhere in the museum represent the bones of the victims

Throughout the museum, textures were used to create feelings.

Throughout the museum, textures were used to great effect to create feelings.

I'm not sure this cross has the same meaning here as it does in the West. Here it has the dates of the massacre.

It’s unlikely that this cross has the same meaning here as it does in the West. It shows the dates of the massacre.
This large sculpture re[resents the bloody edge of the swords that beheaded so many.

This large sculpture represents the bloody edge of the swords that beheaded so many. (You can see a distant view in the panorama of the courtyard.)

The hand of oppression

The hand of oppression


This courtyard was a memorial for the survivors

This courtyard was a memorial of the survivors

the imprints of survivors

Footprints of survivors

Statue of Iris Chang who wrote the definitive book on the massacre, "The Rape of Nanking: the Forgotten Holocaust of WWII." The experience was so painful that it led to her suicide.

Statue of Iris Chang, a Chinese American who wrote the definitive book on the massacre, “The Rape of Nanking: the Forgotten Holocaust of WWII.” The writing experience was so painful that it led to her suicide.


Another view of the main courtyard.

View of the another courtyard.




Memorial Flame

Memorial Flame

Entering this room, a piano could be heard playing melancholy music

Entering this room, a piano could be heard playing melancholy music

Plaque at the back of the hall

Plaque at the back of the hall

This room contained a long ledge filled with origami made by Japanese visitors to represent their sorrow and apologies for the atrocities perpetrated by their country.

This room contained a long ledge filled with origami that has been made by Japanese visitors. The origami figures represent their sorrow, and apologies, for the atrocities perpetrated by their country.

Peace statue

Peace statue

Leaving through the same stones we entered by is a totally different feeling.

Leaving through the same stones we entered by is a totally different feeling.










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Victims 300,000

The next two posts are hard to write and will be difficult to read. Please be aware that there are pictures in this post that are quite disturbing.

On December 13th, 1937, the Japanese army captured Nanking, then the capital of China. Those with money and means had already fled, as well as the government and Chiang Kai-shek who had ordered that all ports and boats, as well as surrounding villages be burned to prevent further evacuation. His elite troops were sent away, so they would be saved to fight the Communists, rather than being sacrificed to the Japanese.

The people of Nanjing were convinced that the Japanese would treat them well. Once the gates fell, many of the soldiers actually gathered themselves together and waited for the Japanese to find them.

The half a million people left in the city were sitting ducks. Japan had finally conquered Shanghai in battles that lasted for three months. The Japanese had been convinced that their superior army would take Shanghai quickly. In fact, it had been their plan to take all of China in three months. The long battle for Shanghai had left them¬†feeling angry and humiliated as they made their way to Nanking. And although the author of the orders has been debated for years, it is clear that the soldiers’ orders were: “Kill everyone.” And although it may not have been explicitly said, it was ¬†also clear to the soldiers that they had the ok to rape and loot.

What followed after the December 13 capture of Nanking was 6 weeks of depravity and murder. Many of the Chinese soldiers had taken off their uniforms and run away, after the Japanese victory. In an effort to capture all the Chinese soldiers, the Japanese rounded up anyone and everyone, not only in the city itself, but also in the surrounding villages. The deaths were brutal and horrifying. People were tied together, brought to ditches or the river, and shot or beheaded with giant swords. They were also buried alive, herded into buildings and set alight, nailed to boards and other horrific tortures. ¬†The river and streets ran red. Two of the commanders had a “killing contest” to see who could kill 100 people first (by beheading). There was a tie and they increased the goal to 150. It is estimated that 300,000 people were killed over those 6 weeks.

And then the raping began. No woman was spared; girls as young as 8 as well as elderly grandmothers were equal targets. Young girls were cut to make them easier to rape. After being used and gang raped multiple times, the women were usually killed, often in horrific sexual ways. Some women were taken to Japanese camps that were specifically used as brothels for the soldiers. The women who survived often committed suicide. If they were pregnant, the babies were usually killed at birth. The babies and women who survived were ostracized because they had been with, or were the product of a Japanese soldier. It is estimated that 20,000 women were raped.

There was however, somewhat of an oasis in the middle of the horrors. Just¬†as the Jews had their Schindler, the Chinese had their John¬†Bare, a German Nazi who was in Nanking working for Siemens. At the time, Germany and Japan were allies. The Japanese soldiers were terrified of the Nazis, which worked to John Bare’s advantage. The sight of a swastika on a flag or armband was enough to stop the bombing and brutality.

There were 22 foreigners still in Nanking. Twenty-two people who chose not to leave, so that they could help the Chinese people. Minnie Vautrin¬†was the headmaster of a girl’s school. She suggested that an International Safety Zone be formed to accept refugees. The zone would be off limits to the Japanese soldiers. John Bare became the leader.

The 22 weren’t able to protect everyone in the safety zone. ¬†For awhile, the expats were able to turn the Japanese back when they came to look for Chinese soldiers. Gradually the Japanese refused to follow the rules and groups of people were taken out and shot. Eventually in March the safety zone was disbanded.

There is now a wonderful museum in Nanking that memorializes the victims and tells the story of the massacre. I went there last week on the high speed train. Take a walk along with me through the museum and try to put yourself in the shoes of the people you see:

captured soldiers

captured soldiers



The guns used to murder the Chinese

The guns used to murder the Chinese




One of the female rape victims

One of the female rape victims, beginning to disrobe.


Some of the 22 international people who staffed the safety zone.

Some of the 22 international people who staffed the safety zone.

Minnie Vautrin, the headmistress who suggested the safety zone.

Minnie Vautrin, the headmistress who suggested the safety zone.

After seeing the horrors of the massacre, Minnie never recovered. She committed suicide 1 year and a day after the fall of Nanking.

Minnie's headstone

Minnie’s headstone

John Rabe, the Nazi employee of Seagrams who decided to stay and help the people he had been working with for years.

John Rabe, the Nazi employee of Seagrams who decided to stay and help the people he had been working with for years.

John Rabe wrote to Hitler about the situation, asking for his help. Hitler never replied. Even after he returned to Germany in March, he continued to lobby for the Chinese people. He was considered an embarrassment and was sent to Afganistan. Upon his return after the war, he was let go by Siemens. He and his wife were destitute. Upon hearing this, survivors of the massacre collected money and food and took it to Germany to rescue the people who had rescued them.

It is estimated that 200,000 people were saved, thanks to the safety zone.


DSC08742DSC08743DSC08744                                                  Refugees in the safety zone

DSC08745¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†From John Rabe’s diary


DSC08748The Japanese wouldn’t allow the burial of the dead, but some brave citizens did it anyway.

The sabers used to behead people.

The sabers used to behead people.

The Chinese people are still very angry about the massacre, and with good reason. They’ve never gotten a formal written apology from Japan (although there was finally a verbal one in the last 10 years.) If a soldier was a part of the royal family, they were immune from punishment for war crimes. Many of them went on to live lives of ease. Even today there are citizens of Japan, as well as some in the conservative part of the government who claim that the massacre didn’t happen, or that it was greatly exaggerated because it was impossible to kill so many people in such a short time. They claim that there is no evidence. Interestingly, the Japanese themselves kept careful documentation during that time and they were unashamed of committing their crimes in front of foreign journalists, and the 22 expats who didn’t evacuate.


Evidence of a saber cut on a skull

Evidence of a saber cut on a skull

I hope they aren't proud

Many mass graves have been found around Nanking, including during the building of the museum on its current site.

Buttons, collected from the graves.

Buttons, collected from the graves.

How does one memorialize such an atrocity? The Nanjing Massacre Museum has done a stunning job of that. In the next post, you’ll get to see what I mean.

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