While “Waiting” is an excellent novel, by the author Ha Jin that should be on everyone’s reading list, it more accurately describes what we are doing. We have about 8 hours until we get Lili. I’ve picked up a wicked case of sinus congestion and drainage which means I can’t sleep well and therefore Catherine can’t sleep well either because my snoring wakes her up. Or I could just be restless because the day we’ve been waiting for so long, is finally here.
But let’s catch everybody up with our day yesterday. We went to see the Summer Palace yesterday. A spectacular building on a massive man-made lake made even more astonishing when you realize it was created with shovels and picks and no machines.
But before we went there guess what we did first? Let’s say it together…..Factory Store. This time it was a pearl factory store, with some absolutely beautiful pearl necklaces, pearl facial cream for wrinkles, etc. They actually have the fresh water oysters in the store complete with turtles and goldfish. The store guide opened one up to reveal about 20-30 small little pearls, irregular in shape or color and fairly small they would have been destined for facial cream if the families weren’t given them as an optional souvenir. The pearls can grow quite large and some of the jewelry was quite beautiful, but unfortunately the prices also matched that beauty.
We went to the summer palace next after being given explicit instructions, by our guide Candy (seen above holding garfield on a stick) to stay with the group and not to stop or talk to the vendors hawking $3 coach purses, Gucci bags, Northface jackets for $20 (I was tempted) and endless sellers of postcards. Apparently in the past people have been targeted by the sellers and pick pocketed by accomplices. Not too mention once the money comes out of the pocket, the vendors realize they have a live one and they swarm. We witnessed a few of the swarms and it wasn’t pretty.
An older gentleman performs a graceful style of calligraphy, called grass style (or it might be running style) which is similar to cursive in western writing. Next to that is a detail on the covered walkway next to the lake that must go on for a mile or two and every beam is covered like these.
It is a really beautiful setting with a lot of history, a good portion of it bad – the destruction of the buildings multiple times by US, British, et al, armies in the 19th and 20th centuries; the wasting of the people’s money on a marble boat instead of spending the money on the real ships needed to protect the country from said foreign armies. Basically except for the artisans who made it, no one comes off looking that great. It really is beautiful though with tons of little details and paintings, so your eye always has something pleasing to see no matter where you are looking.
Candy led us on on a tour explaining some of the history and significance of what we were seeing but as you might imagine Catherine and I while trying to be obedient began to chafe. Once we were set free to walk around for 30 minutes, we immediately went were we weren’t supposed to go and found some beautiful quiet areas away from the madding crowd.
After the tour we had another good meal and drove back to the hotel. While Beijing has more bicycles than a tour de france video, it seems to have even more cars, if that’s possible. So a simple drive of a few miles can take hours, and it did. But it gave me the chance to snap a few photos of street life as seen from a bus. Below is your basic Beijing beer truck, with the tasty Tsing Tao beer for about 39 cents a 20 oz bottle or 3 Yuan. No nasty diesel fumes just clean refreshing ice-cold beer.
We went to the shopping district a few blocks from our hotel and finally found the crush of the crowds we’d been expecting to see. One thing we discovered, and it’s something I fully support, is “food on a stick”. Basically if it’s edible, it’s on a stick. Corn on the cob, hotdogs, candied strawberries and pineapple (which I think looks tasty – sugared fruit – what could be better), chicken, pork, and our favorite food on a stick sighting was the “Squid on a Stick” – essentially whole calamari grilled to a tasty-looking perfection. Alas we didn’t sample any of the above items deciding discretion was the better part of valor because who wants to risk getting a really nasty stomach bug the day before you finally meet your daughter. Catherine doesn’t see the charm in the sugar-syrup coated fruit on a stick. You can tell me your opinions. As for me, there’s always next week to try the tastiest looking items.
A few local contestants in the daily game of Human Frogger. Surprisingly no one ever seems to lose.
Time to close the computer and check out of the room and fly to Nanchang, Jiang xi province. It’s 8:15 am Monday morning here in Beijing and we should have Lili around 4:30 or so. Catherine can’t stop moving around she’s so excited and I might be just a little excited as well. -t
L – 8 hours and counting