China SST 2005

26 08 2005

We’re here, all save and sound. Tired, but safe. Given the fact that we’re almost exactly on the opposite side of the world, I think I’m adjusting to the time well. I slept well all last night, and until we got our wake up call. Today I was kind of tired, but we also had a long day of lots of walking, so I think that was normal. Granted it’s only 9:15 and I’m about to drop, but it wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing for me to have an earlier schedule. The trip was fairly uneventful, I slept for about an hour on the bus, but then was not able to sleep at all on the 12 1/2 hour plane ride. On the plane I started to read Wicked, wrote in my journal, talked to people, and watched Madagascar, Monster-in-law, and Cheaper by the Dozen. The food was actually really good for plane food. Once we got to Beijing, we gathered our group, went through customs, got our bags, exchanged money, and piled onto the bus. We’re really packed into this bus that we take around, but it’s comfortable. We had just enough time to take quick showers before dinner. Supper was good, but I can tell that the spice might be a bit of a problem for me. Some of the dishes were really mild, but a couple were really spicy for me. Beijing food is alot milder than what we’ll get in Chengdu. After dinner we went to a acrobatics show which I slept through most of unfortunately. I couldn’t help it. What I did see was fantastic. The girl’s tumbling made me jealous, and there was a really cute part with large dog suits with two men in each suit. There was also a point where they were balancing about 10-15 girls on one single bike (or unicycle, I can’t remember clearly) After that I journaled a bit and crashed. I slept soundly all night, just getting up once. We’re 13 hours ahead of Central time in the US, so our night is your day. This morning breakfast was at 7:30. It was good, but a few things were too greasy for my taste. After that Meryl and I did a little wandering and found this little playground, except most of the stuff was exercise equipment. The other stuff didn’t seem to have a whole lot of point except a teeter totter. Then we all piled onto the bus again and headed downtown to Tiananmen Square. It’s huge, and beautiful in an odd way, although the Mao Moliseum is kind of a blight on it. We went into the Mao Moliseum next, and it was really strange. In some ways it was intense seeing people’s admiration/devotion to this past leader, but my strongest impression was one of weirdness and a little disgust. I was struck that people bowed in front of a huge statue of Mao instead of in front of his body. They have Mao’s body embalmed and on display in a glass case. I know this is not very culturally sensitive, but it’s kind of creepy. Of course this comes from someone that wants to be cremated because I never want to decompose. After that we went to the Forbidden City and wandered around for about an hour and a half. It’s very beautiful, but stark. I tried to imagine what it would be like with people living in it. There would be a very different feel. There were lots of people, and lots of bustle, but tourist give a very fleeting presence to a place, there was very little sense of permanence to anything other than the buildings. The only thing that felt sort of like real life in it was the soldiers who where learning to march. I kept trying to see the place bustling with the day to day life of the Emperor, Empress, and all his concubines. We had lunch at a noodle place, and then climbed a large hill (it had stairs to the top) that had several pagodas at the top that overlooked the Forbidden City. I hadn’t realized how big the City was until we looked over it from above. The top Pagoda had a huge statue of Buddha, and a few people were there to worship before it. There had been Buddahs in the other two pagodas too, but they had been stolen by Europeans. I think it’s sad that the Europeans have such a history of destruction of other people’s culture and relics. However, it probably would have been taken down during the Cultural Revolution by the Chinese themselves if they hadn’t been stolen, not that that makes it better or anything. We walked around a lake, and into some small ally ways were people lived after that. It was interesting to get a little sense of day to day life in Beijing. We went to a Beijing Duck restaurant for supper, and the food was great. Then several of us walked to Wu Mart. I had already had several cases of language frustration, but I had my worst on there. I needed the restroom pretty badly, but couldn’t remember how to ask. When I found someone in the group who remembered, the worker didn’t understand us. Finally I found it on my own, but I definitely felt very helpless at points. The smog is really bad here, I don’t breathe nearly as deeply as usual, and when I do, I start coughing. There are alot of intense smells. When we stepped out the the airport, I remember thinking “this smells like Lusaka (the capitol of Zambia). Also the traffic is not nearly as orderly as in the states. I’m so amazed we haven’t seen someone run over/ killed, or a bad accident. We did see a really minor one between a bike-taxi and a small truck. We can’t drink the water unless it’s boiled, but we have lots of bottled water in our rooms. Alot of the toilets are squat toilets and we have to supply our own toilet paper. Crowds can be hard if you’re timid, or tend to be polite in them, because there’s not really a sense of “go ahead you were here slightly before me”. But I’m learning to quell that tendency, or I’d never get anywhere. It’s not that the Chinese are rude, it’s just that they aren’t necessarily friendly on just a passerby type basis. There’s no smile and nod to a stranger here. There’s so much I could gripe about, but so far the trip has been a string of very interesting, beautiful things with lots of history. That’s one the most amazing things about China, the US doesn’t have history like the Chinese do, history that goes back thousands of years. We still can see some stuff from native people, but it’s not connected to the current culture the way ancient history is connected the present day Chinese. Mostly I love the fact that we are milking ever drop out of every day so far. Living life fully is always sweet. But tiring, so good night all.




2 responses

26 08 2005
lovin' it

Hey steph, cool blog! I’ll be following it. When you get a chance, check out my blog, Let me know what you think.


27 08 2005

Hi Steph-
Glad to hear that you guys made it safe and sound. It’s so weird not to have all of you guys around. I miss you!! Take care!

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