Tag Archives: church

Do you speak English? (A Santorini photo shoot)

16 Feb

This post is part of our adventures in Greece in the fall of 2013.  To see other posts in the series, please click here.

I'm ready for my close up

I’m ready for my close up

We had spent a pleasant morning in Santorini walking along the old path.  I was dressed in a long white flowing gown that Li had purchased for me that complemented the scenery.  Li wore a blue shirt with a white collar.  We meandered along, looking for the best angles and light.

Along the old path

Along the old path

I felt like a movie star.

We were looking for a certain place that would memorialize our belated honeymoon – a certain view that already had been publicized hundreds of times before.

Looking for the light

Looking for the light

Finally, after asking for directions at multiple places, we found it – the blue roof church with the white bell tower that had appeared on the cover of National Geographic magazine many years ago.  The best views are actually taken from a parking lot above the church so you can look down with the Aegean sea behind you and puffy white clouds.

Together under the blue, blue sky - and dressed for the occasion

Together under the blue, blue sky – and dressed for the occasion

In the parking lot were over a dozen Chinese tourists snapping away – posing together and individually – some in casual clothes, others dressed up for the occasion in similar outfits as Li and myself.  We asked a couple of different people to take photos of us  together and hoped that we would have the “money shot” in the bunch that would represent out trip to Greece, our marriage and give us happy memories for the future.

It was a great experience and after we shot those photos we headed back down to the Old Path and started making our way to find a place to have lunch.  Before we got very far, we were stopped by some people eating at one of the many restaurants along the path.  Their table was closest to the path and they looked at me and very timidly asked “Do you speak English?”

Li and I looked at each other and nodded ascent.  They then asked, “Why are there so many Asian women in long white dresses like yours around here taking pictures?  You look beautiful – but we can’t quite understand why there are so many right here.  We’ve been eating lunch and must have seen two dozen women dressed that way over the last hour or so.”

We smiled and explained how the church above the restaurant had turned into something of a Mecca for Chinese tourists because of its fame in the National Geographic photo shoot.  The group who stopped us said they were Canadian but had never heard of that specific photo.  We then shared how the Aegean Sea could be phonetically translated as the Sea of Love in Chinese and how young Chinese couples wanted to get a shot by the church as a memory.  We suggested they climb up the path to take a look.

We talked a little more, sharing where we were from and why we were there and at the end parted company with a smile and good wishes and went on to look for the perfect spot for lunch.

Have you had a random question like this when you have been traveling?  The funny thing is – most of the Asian couples they had seen could probably have spoken English because if you are traveling in Europe without a tour, you need someone who can talk with the hotels.  It was only because I had a non-Asian face that I was asked this question.

The church and the two of us - a perfect pairing - the money shot

The church and the two of us – a perfect pairing – the money shot

Really? I used to live there!

2 Feb

We got into a taxi, like we have many times before.

Please take us to the corner of Hefei Lu and the elevated highway.  There’s a church there.

The cab driver looked back at us and stared.  He confirmed the intersection and we started off.  It was obvious he knew where he was going – getting there takes less than 10 minutes but there are several one way streets so going the wrong way can be annoying.  We relaxed and watched street life in Shanghai whirl by.  I noticed that another block on the way there was being slowly flattened by the ever-present cranes.

He glanced back again and said – “I used to live by there.  There’s no church – I swear.”

We confirmed that there was a church there again, but the taxi driver had it in his head.  He kept thinking aloud – “Maybe it’s the old park?  No, I bet it’s the old Culture Palace (文化宫).”

We pulled up outside and he confirmed it.  “Yep, it’s the Culture Palace – you were right.  It is a church now.”

Then he asked “Do you believe in God?”

Taken aback – I said, “Yes.”

When we got out of the taxi – I asked Li what a Culture Palace was.  He said that in the big cities there were specific places for the party faithful to go have fun – there may be places to play cards or pool – gathering places for true blue collar communists.

Entering the church I looked at it closely.  I am convinced that it’s structure was that of a church originally.  My guess is that it was taken over during the revolution and converted into a place to play.  Then sometime in the last 10 or 15 years it was converted back to the church that it should have been.

I got a history lesson from a cab driver in Shanghai.  I think that I may have taught him something too – obviously he didn’t know there was a church there!

Shanghai continues to pull me in even six years later.  I wonder what else I’ll stumble on?

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