Sunday, December 24, 2006

Yesterday, I did a good bit of Googling in an effort to find an English-speaking church that we might attend today (Sunday), Christmas Eve, 2006. We were delighted to discover that Shanghai Community Church has two services for expatriates during which only English is spoken. We decided to attend the service at 2:00 PM. Another would follow at 4:00 PM.
We took a taxi from the hotel, arriving at the church in plenty of time to get choice seats near the front. We were also in time to hear the groups and band rehearsing (picture above -- you can see Phil's blond hair in the center of the photo). (Brought back lots of memories of doing that ourselves while people were coming into the church prior to our concerts!)
We were so glad we made the effort to attend. A young Chinese woman who has just returned from the USA after three years of theological training spoke first. Then there were the usual Christmas carols -- all very meaningful; a men's quartet sang "Do You Hear What I Hear?"; and the most exquisite and meaningful part of the service for both Phil and me: six young women dressed in red flowing gowns, each with a large white lily in her hair, performed an absolutely beautiful interpretive dance to the song by 4Him, "A Strange Way to Save the World."
We have the 4Him Christmas album; it's one of our very favorites! My favorite song on that album is "A Strange Way to Save the World."
Imagine: God brought us all the way to Shanghai, China, so that we could both cry while listening to that wonderful song and watching those young women do such a beautifully expressive and meaningful job in their dance! What a special experience for Phil and me!
A gentleman whom we assumed is the pastor gave a very meaningful message, and after "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing," we were dismissed so that the next "group" could enter for the 4 PM service.

Of course, after any event: gotta get "home," so somebody has to flag down a taxi! And somebody has to take the pictures!

Now we will soon leave the room in order to attend a beautiful Christmas eve buffet in the restaurant on the 38th floor -- just to the right of that beautiful curving staircase (I posted that picture previously).

Have a blessed Christmas Eve, everyone.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

On an outing yesterday, Phil took these two pictures of Christmas trees, the one above in a park, and the one below outside the JW Marriott where we are staying in Shanghai.

The 38th floor of the hotel used to act as the lobby. The lobby is now on the first floor. However, the 38th floor is still where one of the restaurants and seating areas happen to be located. Also, a beautiful stairway to the 39th and 40th floors where there are additional restaurants.

Outside the entryway to the Executive Lounge where we are able to have breakfasts and dinners at no cost (due to Phil's status with Marriott).

Christmas tree in the Executive Lounge

Located in the northwest corner of the People's Square (right across the street from our hotel) is the Shanghai Grand Theatre. Notice the G clef, in the upper portion of the picture, made of manicured bushes!

The People's Square at night. The circles in the lower left: a fountain.

The People's Square during the day.

Yesterday, Phil went out to purchase a couple of things for us and during his outing, took some pictures. Above, beautiful flowers (look like camelias?); below, a lagoon in front of an apartment complex.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Today, Saturday December 23rd, finds Phil and me in Shanghai, China. We left Chicago Thursday morning (12/21) for San Francisco, then caught a flight at 12:18 (west coast time) for Shanghai. The flight took 13.5 hours; we arrived at 5:15 PM Friday, December 22nd.
One really fun item for us: we were confirmed in first class (by upgrading) on a two-class United 777 from Chicago to San Francisco. The aircraft was changed to a 747, and we somehow maintained first class seating on that 747! What a fun way to begin our trip!
The picture above is of Phil opening the luggage bin in business class, upstairs on the 747 bound for Shanghai from San Francisco. That business class area (there's also business class downstairs behind first class) is right behind where the cockpit is located. By the way, the pilot of Air Force One, which is the plane on which the president of the United States flies, says the trickiest part of flying a 747 is the taxiing -- it's like "dragging a gymnasium behind you." One of the pilots on our flight yesterday said that is true....and he added, "You also hate to get this thing stuck in the mud!" :-)

Part of our journey from San Francisco to Shanghai took us over Siberia. Here are three photos I took looking out the plane window.

Siberia December 2006

Siberia December 2006

More photos I was able to take from the plane window as we flew over Siberia.
Isn't the shot above "a jewel," to quote Phil? :-)

I wondered if this could be a volcano because of the steam hovering and the flat, bowl-like top on this mountain.

Siberia December 2006

Siberia December 2006

Siberia December 2006

Our room at the JW Marriott, downtown Shanghai, on the 56th floor. We have a corner room with large windows that look out to the east and the south.

I took these pictures last night (Dec 22nd) after we were settled in our room. The above picture is of The People's Square located across the street from our hotel.

You already know how I love playing with my digital camera! ha

We traveled into the city last evening via this expressway. It was interesting to see that the expressways that are built up and over the city have blue lights directly underneath the roadbed, so there's a purplish-blue glow to them.

Phil took this photo very early this morning right after the sun had risen. There was a very heavy fog (marine layer?) that was hanging over the city at the time.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Phil doing his favorite thing (and which he prefers to do by himself): placing the icycles, one at a time, on our tree last year, 2005, our first Christmas in Huntley.

The two of us with the marvelous Marshall Field's tree behind us, December 2004 when we brought the "AZ kids" to Chicago for a weekend as our Christmas gift to all of them.

As we entered an indoor mall in Sydney, Australia last December (2005), we had to walk underneath this Christmas tree in order to get into the mall itself. Just beautiful!

I took this picture December 2005 at San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf. That's the early evening moon to the left of the Christmas tree.
Befitting this wonderful season, following are more Christmas trees.

Sydney, Australia - December 2005

December 2004, when we had lunch at Marshall Field's Walnut Room, Chicago

Lobby of the Drake Hotel, Chicago - December 2004

Marriott Hotel lobby - Sydney, Australia December 2005

Fun stuff! :-)
Lights of San Francisco Airport landing strip, distorted by the movement of my hands while taking the photo above and below.

Yesterday, a flock of seagulls cavorting right outside our hotel window. They kept flying by as though they saw me with my camera, and were ready for "action" shots!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

December evening sky near our Illlinois home.

A photo of our good friends and neighbors from Sun City where we live in Huntley, IL. (This was taken at a Christmas program in Wheaton, IL.) Seated left to right are Pat Steward and Ron Edmondson. Standing left to right: Phyllis Edmondson, (my) Phil, and Debra Madson. How thankful we are for these great folks!

Same friends from Sun City, but with MOI in this photo! :-)

Our "annual" Christmas get-together with our wonderful friends of many years, Scott and Carolyn, with two of their daughters and their son-in-law. Carolyn gave me a plaque many years ago that says, "Friends are relatives we make for ourselves." This family is truly FAMILY to us, including their daughters!

Thank You, God, for friends who love us unconditionally and add to the quality of our lives, just by being themselves!

Paul and Linda Van Der Molen
Paul and Linda have in their home a large music room which houses a Robert Morton theatre organ. Every year in December, the Van Der Molens open their home to several hundred people (five programs in all) who come to hear a professional theatre organist perform Christmas music on this beautiful instrument. In addition to the organist, there is always an additional instrumentalist or vocalist to perform outstanding Christmas music. It's a wonderful evening, and a great "introduction" to the Christmas season.
This year (2006), the 23rd annual event, Jelani Eddington, was the organist. Mr. Eddington shared the program with pianist Lyudmila Lakisova-Alotta, a Steinway performing artist.

A professional photographer's rendition of the Van Der Molens' theatre organ.

A photo I took December, 2005 when we attended the Van Der Molens' 22nd annual Christmas Music Special.

The organist in 2005, Clark Wilson, theatre organist extraordinaire!

To take a "tour" of the Van Der Molens' Robert Morgan theatre organ, or see their lovely music room:

Friday, December 15, 2006

Along the trail we walk while staying here at the San Francisco Airport Marriott, there are plants with all sorts of pretty little flowers that are presently in bloom. Isn't that blue/lavender pretty?

The yellow flowers look sorta like Rapeseed, but I doubt that's what they actually are.

Lovely little lavender/pink blossom. A tiny fly is resting in the upper right corner.

Isn't this pretty? Tiny furry avocado-colored balls are the "fruit" of this lacy-leaved tree.