Thursday, June 12, 2008
Beijing - Day Two
(I know, I know, it's been waaaaay too long since we posted. I began this post on June 12,2008 and I am finally editing it today January 11, 2009. We have a friend, Lisa W., who reminds me of that fact every time I see her. Well Lisa, we will try to do better. When I started this trip recap the thought of trying to record all we saw and experienced during our 3 weeks in China became overwhelming. I really do want to record it for Paul William to have in the future. Here is attempt 2, maybe I can do it this time.)
Our second day in China again began with breakfast at the hotel and meeting Lifeng in the lobby. Lifeng served not only as our adoption facilitator for Cradle of Hope Adoption Center but also as our personal tour guide. Most of the time CHAC will have more than one family in China at a time, but as it worked out for us we were the only CHAC family there during June of 2007. That meant we had Lifeng all to ourselves. It was wonderful. Lifeng showed us all over Beijing in his personal vehicle and was a very informative tour guide. He knows Chinese history well.
We left the hotel and began driving north and west through Beijing. The road system there is incredible. We quickly came to realize that the lines painted on the roads in China are simply cosmetic, they serve no useful purpose that we could determine. Chinese drivers have a different sense of road rules than Americans. In China the right of way is yours if you can claim it. To do so simply make sure the front of your car is ahead of the car beside you and you can turn in front of the other driver. The other driver will yield. At one point we were only 200 yards from our exit on the right and we were in the far left lane of a 5 lane freeway. No problem, just start crossing lanes to the right making sure your car is ahead of the one to your right and you can make your exit! There were times when we simply could not watch what was going on as we drove. Traffic does not move as fast on Chinese freeways as our do here. The fastest speed is around 60 mph. The thing that is suprising however is that traffic never seems to slow down much or stop. There is some method to the madness that seems to work for them.
We were heading out to the Great Wall of China. Along the way we stopped at a Jade factory. Here we learned about Jade and watched as the artist carved it into beautiful shapes.
The terrain in and around Beijing is generally pretty flat. As we left Beijing you could see the mountains rising in the distance. After passing through some winding valleys there it was, the Great Wall of China. Until you see it yourself you really can't fathom what the Chinese were able to accomplish with it's construction. While standing on top looking down I asked Greg Jr. what he would have said if he came up the same mountain valley we just did on a horse with an army of men and saw the wall. His reply was, "I would turn around and tell my men to turn their horses around that we are going home!" It really would have been intimidating.
The section of the wall that we saw was at Badaling Pass. Here in the mountains I cannot imagine the effort it took to build the wall. I told Greg Jr. that I could imagine the President of the United States standing at a site like this with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and all the presidents of America's biggest construction companies telling them "I want a wall this tall and this wide built following these mountain ridges". I then imagine them all laughing at him and turning and walking away thinking, "the man has lost his mind!"
After our visit to the wall we stopped at a Friendship Store on the way back to Beijing. The Friendship store is a strange mix that could be compared to a cross between a Cracker Barrel and Stuckeys with a very Chinese flavor. The food was Chinese and good. We enjoyed our meal and wandered through the store for awhile before getting back on the road.
Upon returning to Beijing we visited a "Hutong" neighborhood. This area is representative of how the Chinese have lived for generations. We toured the area in bicycle rickshaws. Our tour guide was a young man not much older than Greg Jr. The guide enjoyed talking to Greg Jr. about American basketball and music. As it turns out the young man was a fan of the American artist "50 Cent". During our tour we stopped and visited a local kindergarten. We were able to wander through and see the classrooms and children. This must happen frequently because the teachers and students didn't seem to pay much attention to the fact we were there.
After the kindergarten visit we stopped and visited a local household. We met the lady that lived there and through our guide she told us about life in her home. It was very hot and we sat on stools in a small outdoor courtyard in the middle of her home. She served us tea and talked about Chinese households. She was very proud that her father knew and served with Chairman Mao. There were photos of both men on the wall in her house. Since I enjoy cooking I was very interested in seeing her kitchen. The woman even lit her stove for me to see how she cooks with a wok. I use the term "stove" loosely here. Here in the states we might call it a blast furnace. The amount of heat generated was amazing.
Our last stop on our Hutong tour was a local Free Market. The market was a large open air building where the local population shops for their daily groceries. Here in the states we might call it a Farmers Market. The market sold anything you could imagine. Fruits, vegetable, meat, fish, poultry and more. All of it VERY fresh. One aisle in the market was spices. The smell was incredible from all the spices mixing together. Greg Jr's. eyes immediately began to water and tear. We had to leave quickly before he was overcome.
We really enjoyed touring the Hutong neighborhood. It really gave us a great understanding of how the Chinese people lead their daily lives and how they have done so for hundreds of years.
After our Hutong tour Lifeng took us to a theatre to see the Chinese Acrobats. If you ever have a chance to see them, do so! They will amaze you with what they do. During many parts of their act you will find yourself saying "that's not possible, a human being cannot do that!"
We returned to our hotel to shower and relax until supper. While waiting I walked to the window and looked out.
From the window in our hotel room we could see a beautifully landscaped area below. Protruding from the ground were large greenhouse type windows. My curiosity was running high. I left the room and walked around to the back of the hotel to find out what these things were. I couldn't find any way to get to the area I wanted to see but found a set of entry doors and inside I could see the top of an escalator going down to . . ?
I went through the door and stepped on the escalator. As I went down what I saw was not what I expected. I don't really know what I expected to see at that point but it definitely was NOT a full size ice skating rink! That's right, an ice skating rink in the middle of an underground shopping mall. A VERY nice mall at that. As nice a mall as any I had ever seen. The mall had all the retailers you would expect to see at any nice mall in this country. I also found a Pizza Hut in the mall.
After returning to the room with this information we quickly concluded pizza was what we wanted for supper. The meal was very good. While sitting there eating it was hard to believe we were not back at home.
Our second day in China was wonderful. We had seen and experienced more than we could have imagined in only 2 days. It was hard to believe we had over 2 1/2 weeks left in China.