Adventures of a teenage author...

This is Marta, author of the Darkwoods series and of Marta's Blog. I created this blog specifically for blogging about my 2015 study abroad adventures in Europe, but it's becoming the blog for all my travels. I hope you enjoy all the pictures and stories!

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Shenyang!

Yes, I did make it all right, but I’ve been very busy. But I figured that, since it's been over a month since I arrived, it was time for me to make a post.

I've only been to one tourist-type place, which will get its own post later, so this is mostly a blog about how my life has been here. I have lived abroad before, in Ireland, but then I was basically living in a college dormitory, so it wasn't really the same.

First off, Shenyang is a provincial capitol, but that doesn't make it anything like other capitols I've been to. To show you what I mean, check out the satellite image of Su Jia Tun, the district I live in. In the Google satellite image, it's mostly farmland. I think that picture is a few years old, because there are many more buildings now (for example, I found my apartment complex, and there are lots more buildings now than there were when that picture was taken), but it's not too far off from what it looks like now - a combination of farms and skyscrapers.

To give you an idea of what I mean, my apartment is 33 floors tall (and I'm on the 33rd floor), but when I go downstairs and step out of the gate, there's a farm of some kind right outside the walls. I don't know what they're growing, but I've seen people harvesting it. Also, along Nan Jing Nan Jie (the major north-south road in Shenyang), I've seen several patches of corn squeezed in between the buildings. There's even an actual corn farm right across the street from the school I work at.

Nang Jing Nan Jie

Nearby
I remember how city-fatigued I was when I landed in Reykjavik, back in 2015 (I cannot believe that was over three years ago!), but I just don't see that happening here. It's a city, for sure, with all the nice commodities of cities, but it's so spread-out and far-flung that it doesn't really feel like a city of 8 million people.

And then there are all the skyscrapers - they all look same!








There's a game called Hotels that my brother and I used to play, and it has all these hotel buildings you put on the game when you get enough money. All the buildings around here remind me so much of the buildings in that game.

Then... this is the view we get:




Chinese tap water is unsafe to drink, rather like water in most countries besides America (and the eastern half of America is debatable). So the solution is, of course, bottled water. But one practice that is very common is to have those office water dispensers in your home:


All I do is walk down to the nearest convenience store, point to one of the water tubs, and show them my apartment number. They deliver! This is a nice dispenser, too, by the way. The "hot" tab actually does have hot water. We've started making morning coffee without needing to boil any water.

Then, there's this picture:


I was surprised when I saw that. It looked like the birds we see in backyards in America! According to my father, that's a Eurasian siskin. (Back home, we have pine siskins, which are notoriously stupid birds. They're the ones always flying into our windows.)

And, this is where I stop for now. Don't worry, I have three more posts about Shenyang coming soon, and then I have even more fun stuff to talk about. But for now, I'm signing off, because I have to get back to work!

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Olympia - Washington's Capitol

Happy Fourth of July!

I realize this isn't foreign travel, but I think it fits better here than on my writing blog. And anyway, I was here as part of my visa-getting process for China, so this kind of counts as travel.

Besides, my blog needs a taste of America, especially on the Fourth of July.

A reasonable non-Washingtonian might expect Seattle to be the capitol of Washington, but it is not. The capitol is Olympia, which is on the crossroads between the peninsula and the rest of the state. You can see it here:

Source

I've been to Olympia twice, I think, for various school field trips, but a few weeks ago I was in Olympia to get paperwork signed and discovered that the capitol works much faster than the DMV, so I had an extra couple of hours to wander around and learn some more. So, as is my custom, I did a bit of walking, and looking, and re-learning.

Welcome to my home state capitol.

About the Capitol

The capitol campus is comprised of five buildings; I went into two of them. All of them are designed in the same way the founding fathers designed their mansions and government buildings, which is to say, designed to resemble Greco-Roman architecture with a healthy helping of gardens.

Gardens

Because it's Washington, we have to have greenery around everything. Here are some pictures of the gardens in front of the Capitol:


Here's a view of two of the buildings from the gardens out front. That temple-looking building is called the Insurance Building, and it's one of the five buildings associated with the capitol campus; the dome to the right is the Legislative Building.

Inside the gardens




Temple of Justice

The Capitol campus houses the three branches of Washington's state government - Executive, Legislative, and Judicial (sound familiar?). The Judicial branch (the branch I hear the most about - my parents are both lawyers) is the system of courts and judges. The highest part of the Judicial Branch is the state's Supreme Court. Their main courtroom, as well as the official law library of the state, is in a building called the Temple of Justice.


I assume that referring to it as a "Temple" also goes back to the Founding Fathers and the era of the Enlightenment; Reason, Justice, Liberty, etc., all achieved venerated status in that time period. The Temple of Justice was begun in 1912 and finished in 1920 (after WWI, so well after the Enlightenment was over). 

The Dome and the Temple of Justice face each other across a huge roundabout, so here's a picture of the Temple from the steps of the Dome:


These first pictures are from the beautiful, beautiful law library:


There's the Capitol Dome from the window.

I love this picture; the scales are the symbol of justice, so they're all over the courthouses everywhere, but in the background is the legislative building. 

This is a view the other way, looking down at Capitol Lake. 

I love this picture, too. I didn't know it when I took this picture, but that room you can see through the door, across the entryway, is the courtroom. 
I was trying to maintain some decorum, so I didn't snap too many pictures, but these two are of the beautiful marble work inside the building (but I think the green and pink around the ceiling is plaster, not marble). 



This looks like the marble inside the Legislative Building, which is Alaskan marble

The Capitol Dome

Also known as the Legislative Building, the Capitol Dome is that beautiful dome you've been seeing. Like the rest of the Capitol campus, it was designed to resemble early American architecture, which was designed to resemble Greco-Roman architecture. The Dome itself is the tallest stone dome in North America, and the fifth tallest in the world. 

Side trip to Seattle: The whole Capitol campus in Olympia was designed by two brothers from New York, who won a national competition. I didn't know that until I got into the tour (tours of the capitol are free, by the way), but when I first heard that, I almost laughed. The story about the first permanent settlement where Seattle is now is that the settlers sailed into Elliot Bay, and as they built their settlement, they named it "New York". The Duwamish Indians (the tribe my Seahawk bear is named after) had heard about the original New York, and they looked at the new settlement and called it "New York Alki", which means "New York By and By" (or "one day", "some day", etc.). Well, the first winter rains came through and that little settlement was swamped, so the settlers wound up moving to where Seattle is now, and the place of their original settlement is currently a famous residential neighborhood called Alki. The point of this side trip is that New York has been influencing Washington in a few ways throughout our history. But, you'll also see a few things in here that are influenced from places to the west as well.

Back to Olympia, now. First, the Dome from the Temple of Justice:


Every state has two statues in D.C. of important people from our history. These next two statues are copies of Washington's.

First, Mother Joseph:
Mother Joseph was a nun and, if I remember correctly, a trained nurse. I dressed up as her for a school project when I was in fourth grade!

Dr. Marcus Whitman, who Whitman University in Walla Walla, Washington is named after. Dr. Whitman and his wife, Narcissa, were medical missionaries to a variety of tribes in the southeastern corner of Washington, where Walla Walla is now. His wife Narcissa and another missioanry wife, Eliza Spalding, were the first women to cross the Rocky Mountains, and their settlement was the first permanent American settlement in Washington. During an outbreak (I think of measles), white children treated by Dr. Whitman survived, while the tribal children he treated did not. Thanks to modern science, we know now that this is because tribal peoples did not have the immune system that Europeans did, but the tribes did not know this, so they assumed that Dr. Whitman was deliberately letting tribal children die. In response, one tribe attacked the Whitman's mission house and killed Dr. Whitman, his wife Narcissa, and eleven other people in what is now called the Whitman Massacre

Now, the central part inside:

That chandelier comes from New York. It has an entire steel frame behind the plaster in the wall to hold it up!

All the marble in this picture is Alaskan marble, along with most of the marble throughout the building. There is marble from all around the world in the building, but most of it is from Alaska.
There are four of these bowls around the main area. They are "lit" (turned on) when the government is in session. This is another throwback to Ancient Rome - according to the tour guide, similar torches in Rome would be lit when the Senate was in session.

These are flags of some of the counties in Washington (Washington has 39 total). If I remember the tour guide correctly, the green one on the right is King County, where I live!

Imagine this, parallel, and you have some idea of how magnificent the inside is. 

This is the room where the state's Senate meets (again, sound familiar?)


The Governor's Ballroom. This is where a new governor is sworn in.

The gold for the letters in this curtain is the only real gold in the entire building. That's to make the letters stand out more.
In case you were wondering, yes, Washington was named after George Washington himself. So, there will be lots of George Washington in these pictures.

This is the room for the House of Representatives, from a balcony. If I remember correctly, this marble came from France. My grandfather used to work in this room!
Do you see the lettering in that green band going around the top? Each one of those panels has the name of two of Washington's counties, one from west of the mountains, and one from east of the mountains, to remind the state that the mountains don't divide us into two states.

Here's King County. They share it with Ferry.


George Washington!

Back in the Senate room. This marble comes from Germany. Notice that they also have the names of the counties going around the top.

More George Washington - on the doorknobs!

Capitol Lake

This is the lake that's downhill of the campus.



The Dome from the lake.
I went walking around the lake and found these little placards on the ground, talking about each of the counties. They go in alphabetical order. Here's King County's:





War Memorial

I don't know how to better end this Fourth of July post than with the pictures of a war memorial in front of the campus:


This is a memorial to all Washingtonian men who died in World War I. There are five people in it: a woman, an angel (who may be there to represent Liberty) and three soldiers. The base has writings on it from various sayings about liberty, democracy, etc., but this side is my favorite:

Greater love hath no man than this: that a man lay down his life for his friends

Happy Fourth of July, everyone!