Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Gratuitous Brunette, Retro

You might be getting a two-fer this week, given the way the stock market is going, not to mention the possibility of advantageously-timed Palin nuptials. So let's cast our eyes on a bit of old-fashioned charm and remember that some people had their own big problems to worry about. I mean, he had 7 kids. He fell in love with a nun, and dodged the Nazis, finally emigrating to the States with the whole brood.
D'ya think the Captain here would have offered Liesl up to marry Rolf just because it might have improved his political standings? Aren't you glad all they did was dance in the gazebo? I know I am.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Meet Peter Hillman

The newest addition to the family! The kids have been so upset about leaving their beloved pets in Tanzania and have asked repeatedly about a dog and a cat. Personally I couldn't take another bout of leaving pets behind, either, so it was either no pets anymore, or more transportable pets (read, small). So, after spending quite some time supressing our feelings about a really beautiful Golden Retriever that met none of our current living conditions criteria, we (Noah) found Peter.
The look on his (Noah's) face says it all. Peter is a lot of Beagle with a splash of either Chihuahua or Pekinese. He's about 2 years old and by all accounts is going to be a great little guy!
Little Peter survived a car ride, a bath and blowdry and very enthusiastic children, all on the first day. He has probably lived most of his life at the shelter, yet he strolled into the house and made it his own immediately. No nerves, no wondering, no shyness. This little guy was born to be in someone's home. The kids found out quickly he loves to fetch and so he's getting a lot of exercise indoors and out. Which is good, because he's a little tubby.
He will be joined by another addition in the next couple weeks as Cameron found several cats that he liked (unfortunately long-hairs, which is not my favorite, but...) and he is very much more a cat person than a dog person. Hopefully Peter will think there's enough room in "his" house for someone new!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Remembering PHS

I know many of you are keeping up with PHF and Tanzania on your own, but check this out to see some really great things happening. Richard and Barb have been volunteering at PHS and took a group hiking up Mount Longido. I can personally attest to the difficulty of the climb...it is very steep, it is very hot, and it is more proof that Tanzanians have not encountered the concept of the switchback. Remember hiking and looking ahead and seeing switchbacks and groaning because you knew it was going to be steep? Well, those switchbacks are a blessing, let me tell you. I had to spend more time catching my breath than worrying about how fresh the large piles of cape buffalo poo on the trail might be! And yes, I do have proof that I (finally) made it to the top!

Anyhoo...in addition to seeing familiar faces and familiar places (and seeing the girls in tennis shoes and jeans) there are several images of students camping in tents and learning how to use a GPS system. Imagine how ordinary and normal putting up a tent is for us--imagine how easy it is to use a propane stove--imagine how amazing those things are for the first time! Imagine how funny they must find those of us who use those things--they only need a match a few bits of wood. We need a special stove and little bottles of fuel. I could definitely relate to them learning how a GPS works, since I find them very cool and a bit mysterious myself.

What I loved seeing was watching the students experience something new and wonderful in a place so utterly familiar to them. Isn't that true for all of us? If there's something I've learned it's that you don't need to move around the world to make changes in your life or grow. Our life choices have forced change upon us, yes, but there are so many ways in which we fall back upon our old habits and thoughts. Trust me--you don't need to live in China or Tanzania or Mexico to learn to be intentional and purposeful about your life, your work, and your family. Many of the people I admire most in that respect are living within a few hundred miles of where they grew up.

I miss Christian, and the teachers, and the students. I miss Tanzania in so many ways. I thought seeing the pictures would make me sad, but instead I was excited at the learning and discovery I saw. I could be happy about something I'm no longer a part of. Maybe we're settling in after all...

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Paging Gratuitous Brunette, STAT.

The New York Post ran an article today entitled "Bill Clinton: I Get Sarah Palin's Appeal." "I come from Arkansas," said Clinton. " I get why she's hot out there."
(yes, that is a direct quote used a bit out of context. But still)
Cloris Leachman is going to be on Dancing with the Stars. What is she, like 80?!
Arctic ice drops to near-record lows.
A severe heel blister forces American teacher working in Beijing to wear Crocs to school for 3 days.

Where can one turn in these dark dark times?
Perhaps to the man with the dark smoldering eyes...

I'll Take "Food in China for $1000", Alex

I think it's good that McDonald's and other fast food restaurants offer quasi-healthy alternatives for their kids' meals. Here in China that alternative is CORN. The Chinese love their corn--you can get a dish of corn just about anywhere. Right now you can get corn by the side of the road, too.

Or right smack dab on the road, for that matter. This seems to me to be a bit Tanzanian--except there it'd be eaten by chickens, goats, cows, and donkeys and stolen by everyone else. This is my twice-daily agricultural experience pedaling back and forth to work. Gee, if they sold something fried on a stick, I could pretend I was at the State Fair! In the evening people set up little tents to watch over their stash at night. It's completely covering one of the lanes, making car dodging a bit more exciting and you have to look carefully--there are pieces of concrete and rocks along the edge--serious biking obstacles!

On a little more cosmopolitan note...

The American Chamber of Commerce's fundraiser theme was "Thirty years of American Music" covering the 50's, 60's, and 70's. What could be more American than a burger? What could be cuter than a teensy-weensy burger? What could make it more un-American than using foie gras instead of the eponymous burger?! Actually they weren't too bad, especially when accompanied by a glass of wine!

I'm starting to groove on sushi--nothing too weird, though. This is Korean sushi, called kimbob. Maybe it's got a red-necky cousin named Jim Bob. It's one of those where you really can't identify what the little bits in it are, but all together it is sooooooo good! Add a bit of wasabi and it's a great lunch.

This little gem might just be the best thing I've eaten in China. Or maybe anywhere. It's what the Chinese should wake up and make moon cakes out of. I'm not a huge dessert fan, but I love lemon anything--and it is absolutely perfect (and rare) to have the tartness and sweetness in absolute perfect balance and harmony. Maybe it's that yin/yang thing here, I don't know. All I know is that it showed up in the dessert case at school today and I ate 3. That's right, three. A trifecta of pure delight.
They are pretty little, though.

Finally, it's not food-related, although we did eat while wearing our fancy-schmancy outfits. Mark is sporting a custom-made tuxedo (can you believe it?) on our way to the fundraiser this weekend. It looked great--it's actually very rare to have a picture of both of us together and, to top it off, we are both clean, smiling, and facing the camera at the same time. It's best to capture those fleeting moments, eh?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Hillman Family Update

Sorry, but this update relies on stock photos, not anything original. Funny how work cuts into your free time so much! Overall we are doing well--learning to manage 3 kids in school and 2 working parents for the first time in a long time--and all the new country stuff, too! But I did want to get someone on about life a la Hillman.

Ava started group violin lessons. She is the youngest in the class by 2 years and just loves it. Very focused and motivated, as usual. She is already asking for a private tutor, but that has to wait until we're sure she still likes it after a few months!

Noah starts soccer this week. He is convinced he will be playing in the World Cup one day. After he renouncing his American citizenship, of course and joins a country that can actually field a team. And when he's not racing cars, breeding Rhodesian Ridgebacks or writing and illustrating his own books. Whew!

Cameron is in the middle school musical. He was disappointed that he didn't get a principal part, but we are understanding that Asians take everything very seriously when it comes to anything about their kids and everyone is privately tutored for hours a day 7 days a week and they never do anything less than 120%. So now he's glad he's in! He's in a literary quiz bowl club, too, that went to London last year. He would have said that he was naturally tops at this--but now he knows that he has to work hard at anything he wants a shot at here. He's also starting trumpet lessons in the next two weeks. He's probably having the hardest adjustment right now, but has the most to manage, too.

We bought a car last week. Yes, it looks this fancy. No, it really isn't. It's a Great Wall Sing, like a Toyota 4Runner. They are not terribly well-made and have a good life of only about 6 years or so--we were lucky to get one that was less than 2 years old so hopefully it'll last awhile. It's hard to find cars big enough for us and a driver so our choices were a bit limited and imported cars are very expensive. We are looking forward to having licenses, but until then we have to hire a driver for when we want to use it. Getting your license is more like what we have to do in the States--studying, though, from a badly translated English manual so you actually have to take time to study! We ride bikes or take cabs to work so it's mostly for weekends, although I suppose we'll drive to work when it gets too cold to bike--the buses don't get us to school early enough in the mornings.

Yes, pets are in our future. What we want is a big dog. What we should get is a smaller dog. We visited a shelter this weekend but are talking alot about the costs and needs of a dog in a very urban setting. Cameron, our cat lover, was covered in cats, so it will be pets, plural. We did see a beautiful Golden Retriever, a lovely Springer Spaniel, and a funny little beagle/something mix. We are committed to keeping whatever we get no matter where we go after Beijing--it was just too traumatic to leave them behind in Tanzania. Noah still tears up if we mention Moshi and Rugby!

That's the quick and dirty on the Hillmans for now. We have the first week of October off and will be trying to fit in several stops around town to see the sights, either by car or cab/subway. Later!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Mythbusters--and Confirmations

We heard a lot about China and Beijing before we arrived. To wit:

Beijing is big. Yep, no argument there. Taking a cab to the subway and riding it all the way across town (standing the whole way) and I've got a good idea of what "big" means. Really, really big.

There are a lot of people in China. Again, DUH. The subway ride where Ava was standing by me and I couldn't see her because it was so so so so so so crowded is a clue. There are always people everywhere. Tanzania was that way, too, but here you see less young adults and kids just standing or hanging. Lots of older folks, but more people are working. The same differences in personal space exist here, too, that we dealt with in Tanzania, so people pushing, not lining up the way we expect, and standing really close are common.

Beijing is dirty. Um, yes and no. Walking around the city, given the number of people and the pace of development, is really pretty clean (children and dogs pooing and peeing on the ground notwithstanding). Subways are clean, there's little grafitti, there's lots of green spaces, and apparently that's the norm and not just something whipped into shape for the Olympics.

Of course, it's what you can't see that's probably killing us. Words can't describe the haze that is over the city all. the. time. I always think it must be getting ready to rain or getting dark, but it's the haze. A clear blue day is fantastic and the number of people that comment on it over and over are an indication of how rare that is. The clear(er) days are apparently the result of Olympic cleanup and so they may go by the wayside in the next few weeks. We do need to invest in air purifiers for the house (they are not cheap) but it really is gross to think what you're breathing in. When you stop to think about it, which I try not to.

People in China smoke. Oh yeah. In fact, I heard that the number of people that smoke in China is greater than the population in the US. Given the total number of people in China, however, I don't know if that's a big percentage. Certainly more people smoke than in Tanzania, where so many couldn't afford (cigarettes could be bought one at a time) and where it was seen as almost sinful behavior. Certainly more people are more obvious about smoking than in the US, where smoking is banned in so many places. It is taking us awhile to get used to eating in restaurants that are fully enclosed after our al fresco meals in Arusha, but we have not been bothered by people smoking at all.

People in China spit. That's one I heard a lot. Given the aforementioned pollution and smoking, people probably do have some gunk they need to hawk out. I haven't been spat upon, or even near, though, and I definitely would notice that. So not a big deal.

Chinese is a difficult language to learn. YOU. HAVE. NO. IDEA. Really, you don't. Unless you're actually taking Chinese. And don't give me any of that "well, it can't be that hard since a billion people have apparently mastered it" nonsense. As a brief primer lesson and what I've learned from trying to help Noah with his Chinese lessons...There are the Chinese characters which do not correspond to letters, but more to words or ideas. When you learn the characters you learn why the character represents that word or idea. The order of the strokes for making the character is important. To write a character out of order would be akin to writing the word "hello" but writing the "o" first, then an "l", then an "h" and so on. It just woudn't make sense.

Then there's pinyin. That's the system of spelling the words in our alphabet and using the tonal marks to indicate pronunciation. Once you learn what different letters and combinations are you can have a go at something. Very few signs are in pinyin, though, but I think it's essential to learning the language.

Then, there's speaking. Chinese is very regular with some aspects that cut you some slack--like a lack of tenses, no articles, no distinguishing between he/him and she/her. How kind of them, because the 4 tones are what makes Chinese especially difficult and they are difficult to hear and reproduce. They also cut across our own tones and ways we emphasize words and end sentences. Needless to say, we've progressed very little beyond "hello" and "thank you." Good thing my phrase book and dictionary give the English, pinyin, and Chinese characters for each word because my ayi doesn't understand any of my attempts to speak Chinese. Also, "to speak Chinese" is a bit inexact. There are a huge number of variations that really can't be considered dialects, because they are distinct enough that someone speaking one can't communicate with someone speaking another. Mandarin is what is spoken here, but in Shanghai and Hong Kong for example, it's Cantonese. So when I asked my student in class (whose family is from Hong Kong) could he speak Chinese, he replied, "no, but I can speak Cantonese."
We are realizing how much flexibility we had in our first months in Tanzania to get out and see life. Here, with both of us working and living in a compound we feel like we haven't been anywhere yet! I carry my camera everywhere, but I'm really falling down on the picture taking! We have the first week of October off for the mid-Autumn holidays and are going someplace each day so keep tuning in!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Gratuitous Brunette, Part Deux

This has been a hell of a week. Not even a post in between the two.
Not even a week between the two.


Sunday, September 14, 2008

Gratuitous Brunette

Karen was feeling all grumpy about the whole McCain/Palin (mostly Palin) news. So she posted some lovely eye candy to take her mind off current events. What a great idea, I thought. In this week of rampant gas prices, raging hurricanes, runaway trains and yes, McCain/Palin, I give you the Gratuitous Brunette. This first one is a two-fer because, well...it's Hugh. 'Nuff said.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

China's Mid-Autumn Festival

The Mid-Autumn Festival falls on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month of the Chinese calendar(usually around mid- or late-September). This is the ideal time, when the moon is at its fullest and brightest, to celebrate the abundance of the summer's harvest. The traditional food of this festival is the mooncake, of which there are many different varieties.

Mooncakes are Chinese pastries traditionally eaten during the Mid-Autumn festival. A thick filling usually made from lotus seed paste is surrounded by a relatively thin crust and may containy yolks from salted duck eggs. Mooncakes are rich, heavy, and dense compared with most Western cakes and pastries. Another difference is that Western cakes actually taste good, and mooncakes...well, not so much. They do look beautiful, though! These are some that we got as gifts. The cut one is filled with date, so it tastes like little like a fig newton. Noah got one that was filled with sesame paste which he said was good. Other, more modern versions can be filled with pork or ham. Coldstone Creamery and Haagan-Das even make ice cream ones! The one I tried was a beautiful pale meringue-y green. And made from some kind of bean paste that tasted like, well...paste. Blech.

Moon cakes come packaged in gorgeous boxes--it's like getting another gift for free! In fact, presentation is key here, so lots of things come in little silk boxes with clever fasteners. When a lady at work found out how much I liked them she found several and loaded me up. Noah and Ava absolutely love boxes and storage things, so they were thrilled.

The Mid-Autumn Festival is one of the two most important holidays in the Chinese calendar
(the other being the Chinese New Year). Farmers celebrate the end of the summer harvesting season on this date. Traditionally, on this day, Chinese family members and friends will gather to admire the bright mid-autumn harvest moon, and eat moon cakes and pomelos together. Accompanying the celebration, there are additional cultural or regional customs, such as:

Eating moon cakes
outside under the moon
Carrying brightly lit lanterns or lighting towers on lanterns
Burning incense in reverence to deities including Chang'e

Planting mid-autumn trees
Fire Dragon dances

While we
are familiar with man in the moon, the Chinese talk about the woman in the moon. The story of the fateful night when Chang'e was lifted up to the moon, familiar to most Chinese citizens, is a favorite subject of poets. Tradition places the story of Houyi and Chang'e around 2170 BC.

There are a lot of versions of the moon legend. In a popular school version, Houyi was a lazy boy who did nothing but to practice his archery. He practiced day and night until he became the greatest archer in the world. One day, the ten suns all assembled around the earth. Their presence destroyed all vegetation, and hundreds of thousands were perishing. The emperor, who was desperate, offered his crown to anyone who could shoot down the suns. Houyi answered his call. He shot down nine of the suns, and as he pulled his bow to shoot the last one, the emperor stopped him. Saying the earth must have one sun. Houyi then became the emperor. He was pampered to the extent that he wanted to be emperor forever. He called his advisors to look for a way to make him immortal. His advisors found a way. They found a recipe for the Pill of Immortality. His wife Chang'e could not bear to watch her husband become the tyrannical dictator for eternity. She prayed to Xi Wang Mu for help. She stole the pill, with Houyi shooting arrows at her, and flew to the moon grabbing a rabbit to keep her company. The Chinese say that if you look up at the moon to this day you can sometimes see a rabbit making moon cakes.

According to tradition, the Jade Rabbit pounds medicine, together with the lady, Chang'e, for the gods. Others say that the Jade Rabbit is a shape, assumed by Chang'e herself. You may find that the dark areas to the top of the full moon may be construed as the figure of a rabbit. The animal's ears point to the upper right, while at the left are two large circular areas, representing its head and body.

(From Wikipedia)


Like to join us for dinner? Beijing has great food!
We bought a car but can't legally drive it yet so we're looking for a driver. We did, however, drive it a short way to a great restaurant that serves a lot of Sichuan food. Sichuan is the province of China that is reknowned for its spicy food as you can see! We ordered chicken with chiles, lemon chicken, beef and green beans, beans with spices, steamed rolls, spring rolls, and fried potatoes with chiles and coriander. The chicken and chiles and beef/green beans were pretty spicy. The lemon chicken was wonderful--very sweet. The chunks of watermelon coated with the lemon glaze tasted like Jolly Rancher candies. For dessert we had toffee apples--apples fried in a thin breading and drenched with a caramel sugar--you speared one and lifted it out, dripping with hot sugar and dropped it into a bowl of cold water to freeze the sugar. Absolutely decadent--and delicious!

Our kids were never fond of Chinese food, so we're working on trying lots of different things so they can find things they like. Ava loved the lemon chicken, Noah the beef and beans, and Cameron the chicken and chiles. Making the dinner a big success! Mark and I thought everything was fantastic, including he price. about $35, including the drinks!

Monday, September 08, 2008

One Last Olympics

Yes, the Olympics are still on...the Paralympics started on Saturday and we were at the Cube on Sunday morning to see the start of the swimming trials. We were all pretty excited to get inside the Cube and to see these athletes compete. For one, a former student athlete of Mark's from Eden Prairie, Melissa Stockwell, is swimming this week so there was a personal connection. For another, a Paralympic athlete spoke at ISB this week. He was an Olympic contender in the hurdles when he hyperextended his knee in practice, wrecked the artery, and had to have his leg amputated. He continued training and won a silver medal at the Syndey Paralympic games. He invited us to a dinner with about 20 teenagers, all with physical disabilities, who were attending after winning an essay contest. That night he told a story about a student who was an essay winner 4 years ago, attended the Paralympics, and is now competing in Beijing!

"Wet" described the day...the weather, the decor, the events...the lobby of the Cube is minimalist, but water everywhere. The kids are standing in front of a pool and a wall of cascading water. The cubes that are visible from the outside are also visible inside in the halls...it really does feel like you are in a bubble!
The pool--is cool. It's HUGE, but the seating is steep and swimming is an event where watching it from overhead works just fine. The athletes are organized to compete against others with similar disabilities, so there are a lot of heats of every trial. Athletes can start from a variety of positions--on the platforms, in the water, supported by coaches--to accommodate their various needs. It was quite humbling to watch them. Not only have they committed themselves to training as hard as any other Olympic athlete, they have had to overcome all the issues associated with being/becoming disabled. They have persisted where so many would have given up and are a real inspiration to children and other adults in similar situations. It's also a valuable opportunity to break down barriers and stereotypes in countries where people with disabilities are so often hidden away, ignored, or abandoned. A couple people mentioned feeling uncomfortable with a curiosity combined with a different perspective on physical space as people at the airport or on the street got up close and personal to see the differences (in skin color, dress, hair, or disability) for themselves!

It was great to watch Melissa swim (they are wearing the same suits as the other Olympians--very impressive up close!). She swam the 100m butterfly, which is not her best event, but we cheered loudly and said "hi" after. She will be competing in the 400m later this week, an event in which she is the American record-holder. Good luck, Melissa!

Sunday, September 07, 2008

The Dirt Market

Sounds...well, dirty, right? Maybe like a Tanzanian market? Plants? Animals? I knew it was huge...55,000 per day on the weekends (it's only open on weekends). I knew you have to get there early (5 am) to get the very best deals. Other than that...we just knew it was our destination this weekend.

Does THIS look dirty?! Well, there were some aspects, yes, (like when the little girl wandered over near where we were sitting, squatted and peed. On the cement. Only about 25 feet from a public toilet. And then walked away. Which is normal. And they did it in Tanzania, too. Only not as obviously. And it soaks into the dirt there. So I realized that all the little piles of poo along side the road when I ride my bike to school are maybe not all from dogs. But I digress.) but on the whole it was very very clean. They sell every trinket and bauble you could ever want, and with 55,000 people there, they can't all be tourists. But most are Chinese.

Actually, we are realizing that China is not catering to Westerners, but to other Chinese in their tourism market, so learning Chinese is becoming more important as my frustration rises (we hope to have a tutor by the end of October). But at least everyone understands numbers! There are rows of porcelein, Tibetan rugs, paper products, musical instruments, and calligraphy supplies. This man was practicing strokes. He dipped the brush into ink but as he made the stroke, the ink didn't appear at first, so it looked magical. You can see the huge brushes behind him!

I adored the little teapots. I'm not much of a collector (mostly since I'm not much of a duster) but I found myself ooh-ing and ah-ing over this little one shaped like a pig and that one with a tiny mouse on the top, and ooh, over there! that one in the shape of a lilypad with the teeniest frog perched on the spout...until Mark intervened and broke me away (although not before I started mentally constructing the disply shelves for all my teapot treasures). They have lots of regular and beautiful porcelein and pottery pots, but the little ones were "oh, for darling." Maybe I can get Ava interested in collecting...

One of the biggest shopping draws here in Beijing are pearls. There is an actual Pearl Market (on our "to-visit" list) but lots of places hawk pearls. The lumpy seed (or freshwater pearls) are the cheapest, but I've always liked them for everyday wear, so I picked up 3 strands (a wine-colored one for Ava and two strands of mixed gray, black, and cream for me) for about $15. Then I remembered earrings--about $4. The round matched strands, of course, start cheap and can run into the thousands of dollars. I've always loved pearls, and they come in so many different colors!

"Made in China" is already stamped on most everything we own anyway, but in addition to beautiful artwork, woodcraft, and porcelein, they have every kitschy thing known to man. Want a waving golden kitty for good luck? How about a Charman Mao wristwatch--he'll wave merrily to you all day long! Or a series of little ceramic boys, pants-less? Maybe some metal windup toys, circa 1950s are more up your alley. If there's something you want that is delicate, graceful, and sublime, they've got it. If, on the other hand your tastes run to the more colorful, tacky, or humerous, you won't be disappointed, either!

Bargaining is harder here...maybe because of the Olympics and having so many people in town paying high prices. The rule is to offer 1/2 (or less). I want a set of these lanterns and I know the smallest run about $1 and the bigger ones for $3-4. A set of 3 would run about $10. So the price he quoted was about $22. So I countered with $7 (and I was willing to pay $13). He shooed me away! I really thought he'd stop me when I walked by a few other times, but no. That's happened to me several times and in this instance I know the price range I wanted was fair because I asked someone who already had them. Sometimes in Tanzania I'd pay a bit higher because people were so obviously poor and I'd be tired, but the prices start here much higher, so I need to work the system a bit more!

Of course we were starving. Predictably, some people's children were down on experimenting. Fatalistically, we passed a huge KFC. When you can't recognize anything on the menu (and you can't because their menus don't look exactly like the ones we remember and everything's in Chinese) they give you a picture menu that shows every item. So we point and order popcorn chicken (score), fries (check), 7-up and Coke (OK, we got 2 7-ups, but we can live with that) and a chicken sandwich. Oops. Not chicken; rather, some mish-mash of corn and peas and carrots, and...Cameron lovingly dubbed it the "upchuck burger", grabbed some cash and went back to try again.
Luckily his attempt yielded an honest-to-goodness chicken sandwich. A trip on the subway, a jump in a cab, and we're home!

A Day at School

No, nothing so dull as watching me actually work. Just some recess fun. My kids still there are just too many people everywhere, but Ava loves to climb the ropes and Noah is making friends on the soccer field. Ava also pronounced these twisty things as good fun.

Wading in the creek appear to be very popular. It's really hot and really humid and the play areas aren't covered, so (I admit) it does feel good!

It's hard to see but the bac wall of the sand pit has dinosaur "fossils" and pieces of "bone" are scattered in the sand for junior archaelogists to uncover. The claw in the foreground is a foot of a large dragon that surrounds the elementary play area...for protection, of course! (You can scroll down to a previous post to see the head of the dragon.)