The whole group on the Great Wall
Well, we have finally arrived. As we got off the plane we did all the customs stuff. They are very relaxed about it. They did not seem to care at all. They did not even look at the forms to see if we were declaring anything. I am not complaining because it got us through a lot faster. Once we got outside we met with our tour guide. Her name is Ally. We all got on the bus and as we drove to the hotel she told us all about the history of the Beijing people, and her family.
The back of the Forbidden City
She was telling us about the tradition for when a couple gets married. Back in the 70’s the parents of the couple would give them three things…a bicycle, a watch, and something else I can’t remember. These were all very useful things. Then in the 80’s came around the three things changed. They then became a color television, a refrigerator, and a washing machine. I know that does not sound very funny, but when she was telling it she made jokes and everything and we all had a really good time listening to her talk.
As we were driving along I could not help but think how Beijing looked exactly like Seattle or San Francisco, or any other major city in the US, except for two very noticeable differences.
The first being that I could not read anything and the second was that it is so polluted it kind of made me sick. When you look into the sun it is blurry and not as bright as it should be. It is almost like looking at the sun through a cloud, except there was not cloud. Even in the evening when we were all walking around you could still see how polluted it was. Same thing when it was dark. You could still see the pollution. It was just disgusting.
The Golden Monkey, at the Peking Opera
I am really beginning to make friends now. The girl whose name I had forgotten is Crystal. My roommates name is Kassandra. She is really great. We talked a bunch when we brought all our stuff into the room. Then we decided to go out and explorer. We met up with a big group of people traveling with us and we all went out and explored the town. There was not a whole lot in the way of shops. There were a lot of food stands. In the ally on the side of our hotel is a street full of food venders. At times you get this big whiff of something really good, and other times it is not so good.
It is kind of a sketchy area though. I would not even think of walking down there by myself. So we all set off to look around.
The Peking Opera
By the time we actually set out it was already dark. We found one little shop that sold all kinds of little pastry treats. It all smelled so good. I wanted to get something but I really did not feel that good. I think something I ate on the airplane did not agree with me very much. So as we continued on down the road we saw people who set up a place of themselves on the sidewalk and teach people how to dance. They were all so fun to watch. We probably walked about 2 miles, which was really good after sitting in the plane for 14 hours.
When we finally got back to the hotel Kassy (my roommate) and I decided to run across the street to the little store and buy some water. We were so thirsty I seriously thought my mouth and throat was going to crumble into dust.
When we finally got back to our room Kassy tried to hook her laptop up to the wireless internet, but it would not work. So she called the office and they sent someone to fix it. When I asked them if I could make a call to the US from the room phone the girl got all flustered and kept confusing me and so then I kept confusing her and it was a big mess, so I just told her that I had figured it out (even though I hadn’t). I went down to the front lobby to see if they sell phone cards. Luckily I ran into two guys from my group, and one of them is actually from China. He lived in Beijing until he was 15 and moved to the US with his family. Anyway, he was able to ask about the phone card since he could talk to them and I couldn’t. The receptionist led us back across to the street where I had bought my water. Then she directed us all the way down that scary street. Luckily I was with 2 guys (and the Chinese one is in the army and so is pretty strong, seriously this guy looked good…lots of muscle) because some of the people there were very scary looking.
Riding Gondolas in Old City Beijing
Finally we found the card. I bought it then brought it back to my room and found out I could not use it on the phone in there, so I am just going to have to call mom tomorrow.
The cool cafes in the old city
So after all that I am so incredibly tired. I took a shower in which I only shaved and soaped up. I did nothing with my hair. It would have been relaxing if the water had not been so darn hot. It burned my skin. I had to turn it off three times so that when I started it again it would at least be a little cooler. So now I am in bed. I am seriously tired. Tomorrow is going to be another long day, but better. No plane ride.
Yes, I know it is really early in the morning, but I have been awake since about 3am.
I woke up sweating it is so hot. I had to go to the bathroom really bad too. I thought I was going to explode. When I got back in bed my roommate asked me if I was awake. She then proceeded to tell me that I talk a lot in my sleep. I know I do, but I feel bad when people tell me because I feel like I have kept them up. But it was really funny when she told me I talk in my sleep because after she said that she said when I got up to go to the bathroom she was afraid I was sleep walking and that I was going to leave the room. Yeah, it was pretty funny.
Walking through Old City
Since it was about 3am I figured it was about noon at home, therefore we were both wide awake. So we have been talking nonstop for the past two hours. It is really nice. We talked about everything from pets, to family, to school, to other vacations. I am glad that I have a roommate I can get along well with. It is also nice because both of us came on this trip not knowing anyone, so we hit it off right away.
Anyway, we are both still wide awake and our alarm is not set to go off for another 1 ½ hours. I think we are just going to get ready now and that way we can have more time at breakfast, and I might be able to call mom.
We toured this man's home which is located in the old city
Kassy just let me use her computer to get on the internet. I tried to email mom on both my emails, but for some reason it would not let me compose anything. I have no idea why. So I sent a message for mom to Phillip over myspace. You gotta love that program. It is really helping me out. I don’t know if I will be able to call mom before she gets that message, but at least I have attempted to reach her, and I have told her that I have arrived safely. That is all I can do for now.
I am now on the bus.
So, to continue on with my morning…When we finally got up and out of bed we opened the blinds and were absolutely disgusted. The pollution is so bad, I really do not know how people live in it. Some of these people must be mutated.
We went down to breakfast after getting ready. It did not seem all that different from a buffet in any American hotel. Fresh fruit, cereal, pastries, scrambled eggs. It was all very good. Kassy and I went out to try and make my phone card work on a pay phone. Of course it didn’t. I think I am going to have to keep in touch with mom and dad through email. But that is ok because it is cheaper.
Ok, now for the really good stuff. So far today we went to the Great Wall of China.
It was absolutely amazing. So much better than anything I could have ever thought. It is so huge. It is amazing to just see the way it rolls over the hills. So we got there (to the section of the hill that we could climb) and we got to choose which way we wanted to go. If we went to the right it would take us on a part of the wall that was not too steep, and the left was pretty steep. So a group of us decided to go left. I really did not know what I was getting into. We chose to go to the left mainly because it was not as crowded as the right side. But man was it steep. I was really not ready for it. The steps were scary to climb. Some of the steps were not very wide, so about only half my foot could go on it and they were really high. I practically had to bring my knee up to my chest for some of the steps. Then they also had dips in them. The rock was worn smooth from so many people walking on them over the years. And you could not really see the dips until you step in it. Then there were then flat areas of no stairs where it just went straight up. It was like climbing a mountain with nothing to hold onto. I am so glad I went that way thought. It almost made me sick going up it was so much work, but the views with every step was breathtaking.
Look at all the people. The bikes are just as dangerous as the cars.
This has to have been one of the most amazing places I have ever been. We thought it would be easier going back down, but trying to keep you balance the whole way down was very challenging.
I greatly admire the people who sell their things on the wall. Every couple feet there were people selling paintings and other touristy things. They climb this wall every day. I can’t even imagine climbing it every day. I could barely make it up the one time. Then I think I forgot to mention how hot it is. I am in shorts and a tank-top, and just standing outside made me sweat. You can imagine what I looked like after climbing the wall. I probably looked like I just stepped out of the pool. The difference with the pool and me is that I smelled. I am glad that I put my deodorant in my bag. I will never go anywhere without it on this trip.
After we left the Great Wall we went to the Jade Gallery.
It was really neat. We took a short tour where we watched people carve the jade. Then the guide showed us how to find real, or the most valuable jade. The tour kind of reminded me of the tour we had at the Waterford Crystal factory. This one was much shorter, but there were some similarities. Then we had lunch.
The great wall of China
I was very happy with lunch. I was so nervous about the food here because I am very picky. I was also surprised because the food tasted very similar to the Chinese food at home. It was really good. The only real difference I could find was the fried rice. I actually like their fried rice better because it was only the rice, the seasoning, and the scrambled egg. The flavoring is different, but it was really good.
After we ate we went shopping. Yay shopping!!! We shopped in the Jade gallery. So many things were very expensive, that would be because we were in a big fancy gallery.
However, many of the good quality jade were pretty reasonable. The really good thing also was that even though we were in this nice place we were still able to bargain. I bought two things. For my dad I bought a pig. I just thought it was really cute. It was fairly good quality. I also bought a family ball for my parents. A family ball is a big ball with holes in it. Inside the big ball is another ball, and another ball inside of that, and so on. The ball I bought has four layers. All the balls within each other are independent and can move around. The big ball has a carving of a dragon and a phoenix. The dragon represents the male, and the phoenix is the female. Together they represent love and a happy family. Each ball represents a part of the family. The outer ball represents the parents, the second is the children, the third is the grandchildren, and the fourth is the great grandchildren. I just thought that it was a nice gift. You could buy balls that were eight layers and some were even sixteen layers. It was huge. The thought I had with my family ball is to make it an heirloom. I will give it to my parents for now, and then someday it will be mine and then my children and so on.
Peking Duck for dinner. Yumm
This was a live dragonfly. He kept it on a leash in his pocket
So we have now finished a tour of the Forbidden City and Tieniman Square. It was all very nice, but I was a bit disappointed in it. The Forbidden City itself was filled with beautiful artwork and buildings, but our tour guide was going so fast that there was not a lot of time to stop and take pictures.
She also had a bad microphone made worse by the fact that she always had it right up against her mouth. I missed the majority of the things she said. It was very disappointing. It got to the point where I was not hearing anything she was saying and I was having a hard time keeping up with her that I just decided not to pay attention. So, I just made sure that I could always know where she was and I took my time taking pictures and just enjoying myself. I decided that I could just look up more information on it when I get home.
On the road again
Tieniman Square was really disappointing because we did not do anything. She did not tell us anything about it. I know that it is a big part of the somewhat recent Chinese history because it was a big part of the rebellion and I also know that it was the place where the student had been run over by the tank. But I really know nothing about the place and would have liked to learn about it.
However, when we got there our tour guide just told us that we had fifteen minutes to walk around.
People taking dance lessons in the street
When we were walking through the Forbidden City my shoulder spazzed out on me. It hurt so badly. I think it was because I hade been carrying my backpack around all day and I am just not used to doing that. You could actually see the knot sticking out of my shoulder. One of the girls was really nice and massaged it as we walked along. The other thing that was really bothering me during this tour was the pollution. I had now been out in it all day and it was really getting to me. My throat has just been really dry and itchy even though I am drinking a ton of water, and whenever I close my eyes (even if it is just to blink) they sting. I think it might be made worse too because I have contacts in. But they really do sting and it hurts.
We went to the Pearl Market.
Everything was so beautiful. The pearls here are fairly cheep because they come from fresh water oysters instead of the sea. From what I understand you can only get fresh water pearls in China. The oysters can make up to about 40 pearls each, where as salt water oysters can only make one. We watched a lady who works there open an oyster. It had about 30 pearls in it. All of them were different colors. I bought a string of pink pearls with matching earrings for my mom.
All made out of Jade
After we left the Pearl Market we went to dinner. Dinner was very good. I liked lunch a little better. For dinner we had Roast Duck. I guess Beijing is known for its roast duck. It was actually very good. Everyone at our table was so tired. I think we could have all fallen asleep if we just closed our eyes. We all felt really horrible after we left the restaurant because there was so much food left over. A whole other group of 8 people could have come and eaten and still have had some leftover.
A beautiful Jade structure
Last night after dinner we went to the Piking, or Beijing Opera. It was amazing. We missed most of the beginning though because people were not getting on the bus when they were supposed to. They kept haggling with the people who come right up to our bus to sell us things. I could not believe that they would not listen to everyone telling them to get on the bus.
It was really rude.
The Forbidden City
Anyway, the part of the show we did see was incredible. I could not understand what they were saying, but this is what I believe the plot of the story was: Buddha was unhappy with the things the Golden Monkey (A person) had been doing so he sent his servants out to kill him. That is just what I think. The whole performance was a big fight scene. They were doing all kinds of flips and these really amazing moves. I got a lot of it on video.
After the show we had to wait in the lobby for a really long time because people just had to go in the gift shop. All of us (meaning the people who did not shop) were so tired. Most of us had been up since 3am, and we have been walking and moving all day long. I was really ready for bed. When we finally got back to the hotel I took a shower and passed out.
Ok, I just had the biggest scare of my life.
I had everything in my room packed and we were about ready to go downstairs and checkout of our room. We are going to go to the U.S. Embassy, so we have to have our passports somewhere we can get to them quickly. SO I went to check my backpack to make sure it was where I remember putting it yesterday. But…IT WAS GONE!!! I could not find it! I emptied my whole backpack looking for it. I was so scarred. My roommate made the comment, “At least we are on our way to the Embassy.” That did not make the situation any better. It was not a time for jokes. So I get to the point where I am freaking out so bad and I open my suitcase and start pulling stuff out. That is when I found it. When it was in my backpack it had gotten in between the two packs of postcards that I had put in my suitcase last night when packing. You can not imagine the relief I felt at the moment I saw it. I was so scared I was having a panic attack. I was sweating really badly. It took me forever to calm down. I am better though.
Inside the Forbidden city
We just met with a woman in the U.S. Embassy whose job it is to help companies in the U.S. bring their companies into China. For a half hour she talked about business and economics. It was all very interesting but I don’t understand all of it, but I got the gist. Then for the next 40 minutes she answered questions. I didn’t really have much to say.
I just did the coolest thing. We went to Old City Beijing; I don’t know the real name for it because I can not pronounce it let alone spell it. What we did when we got there was take a Rickshaw tour. Kassy and I got in one together. The Rickshaw is the carriage that is pulled by a person peddling a bicycle. It was really cool, but the way he was peddling made me think we were really heavy, but I am sure we were not the heaviest he has ever taken. We can’t have been because Kassy can’t weigh more than 100 pounds.
Anyway, they took us to one area, then we got off and the tour guide gave us some history of the city. Then we got back on and they took us to another area. We got off again and the tour guide took us inside to see how the people live. From the outside of the buildings it looked like a very poor place to live. It looked like they had very poor conditions, but I guess you really have to have a lot of money to live there. This is because it is such a historic place. It is a couple hundred years old. One man let us go into his home. It is one room with a bed, dresser, and a desk in one half, a couch, refrigerator, computer, and television in the other half. The man lives there with his wife and 23 year old son. Then you go outside the room, cross the little alley, and go into another very tiny room. This is their dining room. It has a table, two chairs, and a small couch. Then you go back into the alley, walk down it a little ways, and go into another room. This room is long and not very wide, but that is their kitchen. It has a stove, a small refrigerator, a deep freezer, and another stove (kind of like the stoves you take camping). Then attached to that room is a matching one. This makes the room look like an “L” pattern. At the very end of this room is the shower. It is not a stall or anything, just a shower head attached to the wall. There is only a curtain to draw in front of it. In the same room was the washing machine, no dryer. There are only a couple public bathrooms in the entire city.
It was incredible to see how these people live. When the man was talking about his home he said that it had been in his family for 150 years, but the home itself has been there for about 205. I took my picture with the man. From my understanding all the homes in the city are grouped in many different clusters with a courtyard. The cluster this family lived in had 26 rooms and all of them were filled with his other family members. The whole cluster shares one communal bathroom. It is really amazing. What I can’t imagine is why anyone would want to live there when they have enough money to live somewhere very nice.
After the tour of the home we got back on the Rickshaws for one last ride. This was just so cool. After we left that area we went to a big shopping center. It was nice, but it was very commercial, and most of the stores were pretty expensive. I did find one store where everything was 10 yen, this equals out to about $1.25, so I got a small bracelet for myself. It was the first thing I have bought for myself. While Kassy and I were walking around we found a Haggen Dazs. We could not resist. I had a very good scoop of Cookies and Cream. It was so good, especially because it is really warm outside. I have to reapply deodorant all the time. I am afraid I might run out before I get home. That would really suck because I am sweating really badly here.
I found out later that the trip we took today into the old city was not originally on our schedule. From what I have found out we were supposed to spend three hours at this shopping place instead. One of our teachers became really upset when he learned that we would not be going to the old city so he put up a big fuss and got the tour guide to set us up there. I am so glad he did that because I had such a good time at that city and there was really no good shopping in this area. It would have been a really boring three hours.