Wednesday, August 31, 2005

 

Last Day in Beijing


Our last day in Beijing was packed with activity. We ate this morning at the hotel buffet where we get a free breakfast. They have mostly western style food and some Chinese dishes such as fried rice, porridge, and congee rice porridge with fish or egg). We usually fill up at breakfast since we have yet to find the time to stop for an actual lunch. We usually eat granola bars, slim Jims, and ice cream bars which are for sale all over the city. And let me mention that with the heat and humidity here, we go through liters and liters of bottled water every day.

Tiananmen Square was huge. There are thousands of people milling about the square on their way to see Chairman Mao’s tomb or the Forbidden City. We purchased some Beijing 2008 Olympic hats, a copy of Mao’s Quotations (the little red book) in both English and Chinese, and a great watch that features a waving Mao (with actual arm waving motion!) I think Tiana bought some postcards as well. The Forbidden City was interesting, but the self guided audio tour was long and most of our group plowed through the city quickly and we waited in the courtyard for our bus. It was very hot and after two hard days of touring we were all pretty beat. Reidar was a major celebrity as tour groups of young women kept asking us if they could take a picture of him. They are fascinated with little blonde kids for some reason. After the third or fourth photo op, Reid informed us that it was creeping him out a little bit so we said we would not honor any more photo requests. What can I say? The kid has his limits, even with fame.

Then we went on a rickshaw tour of the Houtung section of the city. This is one of the few areas of the city where the traditional homes have been preserved (some 200-400 years old) rather than building skyscrapers and apartment buildings over top of them. We rode down the narrow streets with our guide and saw businesses and homes that were still very much the same as they would have been a hundred years ago. The last stop on the tour was at the home of “Mr. Cricket”, a homeowner who graciously invited all 20 or so families into his modest home and served us loose leaf Jasmine tea and local delicacies which his son the chef had prepared. We were able to ask him any questions we wanted about living in this part of the city, and he showed us his entire collection of gear for training “fighting crickets”. This is a thousand year old practice in China and Mr. Cricket takes it very seriously. He says that you can invest more in one of the fighting crickets than you would in a racehorse. There is apparently a lot of money to be made in gambling on these fighting matches on the black market.

He also had Koi fish and an assortment of exotic birds, all the marks of a successful homeowner. The compound of 8 family dwellings was once the Governor of the Sichuan Province’s home when he stayed in Beijing on official business. Reidar’s favorite part of the home tour (besides the crickets) was the Minor Bird who could say Nin Hao! (Hello) and ask for a beer (peegeot). Of course we were followed all over Houtung by merchants aggressively selling their wares of silk purses, books, postcards, kites, and other paraphernalia. We shooed them off with cries of “Bu Cheong” and “Bu Yao” (don’t want). One homeowner chastised a woman for making noise during the lunch period (about 3 hours in the afternoon when people return home from work for lunch). A scuffle arose and we made a hasty getaway back to our rickshaws which then returned us to our nice air-conditioned bus.

One word about our bus driver--and all bus drivers in Beijing. There is a symbiotic relationship between pedestrians, buses, taxis, and bicyclists in Beijing. If you want to merge into traffic, just do it. If you want to change lanes, go ahead. If you need to turn left, go for it. All of this seems similar to American driving except for one aspect; no one cares if someone else is in the way. Somehow, nobody seems to get hit by the vehicles and the vehicles don’t hit each other despite the fact that there are a million people during rush hour all playing chicken with each other. It’s really amazing to watch once you get over the shock of seeing your driver narrowly missing everything that has the misfortune of finding itself in front of him.

So we made it back to the hotel and went across the street to Chinese McDonalds. We were able to order off of picture menus like the clueless American’s we are and the meal was very satisfying. They also have a KFC and a Pizza Hut here which seem to do very booming business. Score a couple of points for the U.S.A. on the fast food front. The sad fact is that I have been in China for four days and I still haven’t had a Chinese meal. Maybe we can sneak away to a good restaurant in Wuhan.

After dinner we were all bussed over to a theatre where we caught a Chinese acrobatic show. It was really amazing and very entertaining but the other two thirds of my family fell asleep along with several other members of our group because of the hectic pace we have been keeping. I think everyone is anxious to get to the Province and get our girls. We are all off to bed early tonight.

We leave on Thursday morning at 9am for the airport and will arrive in Wuhan in the Hubei Province at 1:30 p.m. We will have our Ariana by 3 p.m. Then the adventure really begins. We’ve got a lot of tired, jet-lagged, emotional people who are about to finally get their daughters after waiting for a year. I’ll give you the big scoop on how it goes hopefully tomorrow. I hope to have a better time posting to the blog from Wuhan since here in Beijing they seem to be blocking us from seeing the blog somehow. I can post but I can’t see what I just posted. Its kind of like flying blind so let me know if the blog looks freaky for some reason.

Comments:
Hi guys!

Maybe the reason they wear you out with all the tourist attractions is to give you half a chance of sleeping tonight before you get Ariana! Who are we kidding; you won't be sleeping!!! You may have just visited one of the 7 wonders of the world, but the real wonder will be in your arms soon. We're so happy for you all and can't wait to hear about your big day.

Love, Bert, Jen & Thomas
 
Hey Big Dog,

What's going on? I really hope you are having fun all the way on the other side of the world. Just think today is the last day you are a family of three and tomorrow you will be a family of four. I know you can't wait to see your new little sister. Only a couple more hours! Make sure you keep your Mom and Dad calm. See Ya Big Dog.

Love,

Big Dog
 
" Hi It's Mom " - - - And I'm still trying this blogspot thing. Know that I love you & have been thinking of you often. I'm the typical Grandma & have been bragging my new grandaughter up. Can't help it !!! Can't wait to see all of you. :o) Love ~ Mom ~
 
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