Sunday, August 8, 2010

Saturday in Beijing

We have adapted to the time change but for some reason, 4am seems to be our wake-up time. Andy has started taking walks from 6-7am--he choses a different direction out of the hotel and strikes out. No surprise, he has made new friends on each adventure.
Our hotel reminds me of NYC. It is compact and meanders around corners where buildings were added to the initial structure. There is one small elevator to serve the entire building (4 floors with approximately 70 rooms on each). However, the rates are far better than NYC's: we paid 2700RMB (that's about $415US) for the 8 days!
Yesterday, Lu Chao (FGCU's Fulbright Scholar last year), her husband and 2+ year old son came to pick us up. They drove us to the Great Wall. Automobile travel in Beijing is an adventure in tailgating and chicken--never flinch or blink! Andy was very proud of me--I sat in the backseat and never said a word (aloud). It was a cloudy day and cooler but very pleasant. The Great Wall is VERY impressive--so are the mountains that suddenly rise straight up in front of you as you leave the city center.
We were all hungry upon arrival so found a 'country kitchen'. The buildings were traditionally built of bamboo--walls and roof--incredible and beautiful. The food was delicious--sorry I forgot to take pictures!! We had sauteed green vegetable--some sort of cabbage/lettuce but sweeter; kang po (sure that's misspelled), a spicy chicken dish with peanuts and, I think, cucumbers; a fish in red sauce (served whole and you spit out the bones) with Chinese cornbread; fried rice and eggs that on appearance looked overcooked and in aspic but tasted more like they'd been hardboiled with some sort of seasoning. It was all wonderful!
After filling out stomachs, we got back in the car and drove to the starting point of the Wall. It is an amazing engineering feat! Unfortunately, because it was overcast (and actually sprinkled later), the pictures cannot do it justice. We drove back in, visited the street festival for shrimp dumplings and the Chinese version of a chicken enchilada (think dumpling flavor and change the shape!). We are definitely not starving in China!!
For those of you interested, things are very inexpensive here. Canned sodas (cold) are readily available in Beijing and cost about 50 cents US and a banana runs about the same. Dinner items at the street vendors usually cost about $1-$2US. Our hotpot dinner the other night with Ping was more expensive; it cost about $10US per person. Gasoline, however, is over $3US/gallon. A taxi from our hotel to the Summer Palace--a good 20 minute drive--cost us 53RMB or less than $6US! AND you don't pay full price for anything; everything is bartered. And whatever the asking price, cut it to 1/3 at least! Andy discovered this when he went to find a replacement lens cover: instead of the asking price of 200RMB; Andy paid 48RMB (about $7US).
Andy is back from his walk with a report . . .
Sunday morning (6am) in Beijing is like Sunday morning in any big city I've ever been in, except a little quieter and slower. Every other person was walking a dog; big dogs, little dogs, pure breds and mutts. I can't pass up saying "good morning." Usually, I get a big smile back! I passed the oldest Catholic church in town minutes before mass started. Like in the US, there were many folks running for the door because they were late. The custom is (apparently) to bow before you genuflect, then bow again. Sunday is also a semi-normal work day. The drywallers down the street were already hard at it. I think they have been taking lesson from their US cousins- three were watching, one was working. Evidently, unions have rules in China, too.
There was a lot of yawning as people got off the bus. In the park, it was theolder people who were exercising, the young were sitting and smoking. EVERYONE SPITS! I watched this sweet young thing in a mini hack one in the gutter! Also, I found the secret to crossing the street IN TRAFFIC. Wait till an elderly Grandmother crosses. Walk with her-traffic stops.

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