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Happy New Year

As I type this it's twenty minutes to the new year in Bellingham. Aiyun and I rang in the new year sixteen hours ago, fast asleep. We were both tired and wiped out. She taught twelve hours of English and I was just feeling super sleepy.

Aiyun got to ring in the new year with a big event. She paid off her mortgage today and now owns her apartment outright. Well, not exactly, but her lease for the next 70 years is fully paid. She was super excited and happy with the thought of being debt free. A big difference between here and the states, they don't pay property taxes each year, or ever for that matter. She has a small cleaning and management fee. It's about $300USD per year. Other utilities that's her only financial obligation related to her home.

We spent the opening of the new year today at Lingshan Buddhist Scenic Area. It's a giant park like temple with some cool stuff including a GIANT Buddha that overlooks the entire space. Our taxi there was about fifty minutes. Aiyun found a deal. A private taxi was headed to the same place already. He was going to pray and start the new year on a good note. It's traditional for Chinese Buddhist to do this. We arrived and the taxi driver stopped at a small place to buy incense and candles. He said it was much cheaper to do this before going in.

There were five prayer locations after entry all the way to the top. If you look in that last picture you can see the giant Buddha on the right side. He's pretty far away. Dude was ginormous.

Each step along the way we ran into something cool and picture worthy. An enormous mechanical fountain. The lotus on top opens up and there's a baby inside as the fountains are spraying all over the place.

People write their hopes, dreams, wishes, and prayers on small decorated wooden tags and hang them in designated areas along the path.

We arrived at the first prayer area. There are spots set up to light your incense.

You hold it in prayer hands and bow three times to the four compass points. Then plant them in the sand. For the record, Aiyun is not a practicing Buddhist, but it's traditional for a Chinese people to do this and make wishes on the first day of the year. It was fairly busy there today. Packed even.

Just more cool scenery along the way.

We got to the last stage. Serious climb up stairs. The big thing to do is get to the end and touch the foot of the Buddha. Up up we go.

We made it! The view looking back down from where we came was spectacular. It's a thing to get a picture giving the Buddha a five five, so, yeah. We were down.

The final prayer area was at the very top. The combination of flickering candles and billowing smoke from all the incense was very cool.

There were two other large buildings in the campus. The first was the Brahma Palace.

Inside there was a very cool temple...

That led to a large theater that gave some history of the Buddha and his path to enlightenment. Its was 360 degrees in the round. A giant video wall that lifted up to reveal the stage behind, and a Banyon tree that arose in the center along with the Buddha.

We left the show and made our way towards the exit. Along the way we ran into another big building next to a pond.

And finally the Buddhist prayer wheels that you spin as you walk by and touch them all. The power of the mantra is activated for you as you go through the process, so I got that going for me now, which is nice.

Overall a visually stunningly day.

We finished the night with a nice dinner. We went to Xibei Youmian Village. They specialize in lamb. They were pretty busy, so the two items they are known for were both sold out. No matter. We had some stewed lamb and beef short ribs. A bit of rice. Some veggies. Balloon animals. Good times.

It was fun to see Aiyun on such a high all day due to paying off her mortgage. Tomorrow we test before our trip to Harbin. We're thinking a full day of movies on the couch. Maybe some cribbage. Mike D Certainly approves of that.

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