Wednesday, November 5, 2008

10-21-08 – Forbidden City, Tian’an men Square, Silk factory, and University Visit

I only slept about 2 hours last night and kept waking up, so between the fatigue, lack of food, and feeling sick, all combined to make me feel queasy the whole day. We started out by visiting the Tian’an men Square.

It was really packed with other visitors, but we took lots of pictures and actually had a professional group shot taken which was placed into a book all about China for only $15 US! Everyone in the group got a copy!

After walking through the square we headed into the Forbidden City. It is called Forbidden City because in the old days only the emperor and his family were allowed to enter. The Forbidden City was surrounded by the Imperial Palace, which is where the advisors and relatives of the emperor lived. This was very beautiful, but since I was not feeling good it was not as enjoyable as perhaps it should have been.
There was lots of pushing and shoving needed to get close to see the thrones and other special areas, but it totally accepted here to push your way close and then you are pushed away again. It is kind of like a ride at an amusement park, you don’t really have any control, and you are along for the ride. It was hard to get used to not saying “excuse me” or “sorry” when you bumped into someone, and hard to feel ok about pushing someone else out of your way, but it seems totally fine to everyone here.

It was funny to watch the Chinese notice us and people kept staring at us! The most popular seem to be the African-Americans especially Monica, she is a very tall, statuesque and beautiful black woman and the Chinese seem to think that she is the rarest thing they have ever seen!! I also had a few people want to take pictures with me and several people give me the thumbs up signal, saying “USA”. It was very cool all in all!

After getting through the Forbidden City, we had some time so we went to the Silk Factory and learned all about how the silk is harvested and processed to create silk comforters and silk clothing.

Again, since I was feeling lousy, this was less enjoyable for me than it could have been. I ended up heading to the bus to close my eyes while everyone else shopped. I am starting to run out of money, so I need to try to find an ATM today. I hate passing up a good deal because I am worried about having enough cash.

I am sort of glad that I was feeling badly, because I totally would have spent more money in the silk shop, everything is such high quality and really very reasonably priced. I am having issues finding gift items for the men in my life, like Dad and my brothers-in-law. I still need to find something cool for each of them and something really special for my darling husband. I think that I am missing him really badly today, there is so much of this that I would love to share with him, not to mention that he always makes me feel safe and comforted when I feel ill.

After leaving the silk factory, we headed over to the Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics. The school was very new looking and was beautifully landscaped. They led us to a small classroom where Professor Chin gave a short speech welcoming us. Dr. Wally also gave a short speech about Averett and the GPA program. We then took a tour of some of the grounds of the University.

This tour was a little strange! Probably because we were such a large group, it was hard to make everyone hear where we were going and what we were looking at, but it was obvious that the students take a great deal of pride in their school. We were shown 5 floors of library rooms! The biggest issue with all this for me was my stomach! While I was starting to feel slightly better, the smell coming from all the bathrooms caused my stomach to do flip-flops.

We also toured the University’s museum and garden before heading to the café for a nice Chinese meal. I really enjoyed talking with all the students; I can’t believe that we have not met a single person that we have not liked a lot. All these students are so happy to have people to practice English with and are so anxious to know about the culture in the US.

I have noticed that there are many people in our group that have issues paying attention to their surroundings. This could be construed as either a good or bad thing, as they are generally so involved in talking with a Chinese student that they fail to see that the group has started moving or changed direction, but I have also noticed that they tend to be talking with each other and having the same effect.

This University visit was not what I expected at all, I thought that we were going to hear a lecture from Professor Chin. I thought it would be something to help us understand how students in China are taught differently, or how economics are different in China, so I was a little disappointed in this visit, and my feet hurt from so much walking! The one really good thing to come out of this visit was the opportunity to talk with the Chinese students! So, we may not be learning from the professors, but we are learning tons from the students!

I was feeling really lousy again by the time the bus started for the hotel, but Ann talked me into having a massage and boy am I glad she did!!!! The ladies came to our hotel room and after getting undressed and laying on the bed under a towel they started working on us. She started with my face and head and worked down the rest of my body, hitting every pressure point and sore spot. I then turned over and she worked on my back and neck until I thought that I was going to drool all over the bed I was so relaxed.
She then had me get dressed and she put my feet into a bag full of hot water and Chinese herbs. After my feet soaked for a bit, she massaged my feet, again hitting all these pressure points and helping me to relax even further! Even with a nice tip I only spent 200 Yuan or $30 US and she worked on me for over 90 minutes!! That would cost $150 or more back in the states and the experience would not have been nearly as wonderful!! I am now totally ruined for US massages!! Ann and I are thinking about having them back on Saturday night before we head home!!

I felt wonderful and just climbed under the covers and fell asleep.

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