Tuesday, November 11, 2008

10-24-08 – Temple of Heaven, Carpet Factory, Hutong Tour, Lunch, Cricket Man, Tea Ceremony, Silk Market

I had another bad night; I ended up falling asleep a little after 7pm and then woke up about 1am. I ended up falling back asleep eventually, but woke up for good about 4am. We did not have to meet the bus for the day until 8:30am, so we had a nice breakfast, got showered and ready to go and then talked about the plan on how to accomplish the last few things that we wanted to do before leaving.

We got on the bus and headed for the Temple of Heaven. This temple was a place for the emperor to go a few times a year to pray for good harvest, but now is a place where the local people, mostly the retired, go to exercise, play cards, sing, dance, and generally have a wonderful time out in the fresh air and sunshine. The first group we came across we all dancing; ballroom style and just getting down.
A few members of our group joined the dancing, some dancing with the locals and some dancing with each other. When the steps and cadence of the local dances became too difficult for our group to follow, they just started doing the electric slide!

I think that we should institute this in the US, what a lovely way to greet the morning!
As we moved through the temple grounds we came upon people playing hacky-sack, a form of badmitten, playing cards, playing a game with what looked to be dominos, knitting and crocheting, singing, playing instruments, and generally having a nice time together.
On the far end of the gardens, we moved into the temple area itself. This is a large rounded building with three tiers, surrounded by three layers of steps leading up to the temple from the garden. We took pictures of the amazing beauty of it all and then headed back to the bus.

When we were leaving the Temple, Dr. Wally asked Ann and I if we were upset that we had not had a corporate visit at Wal-Mart and then told us that there were about 5 students who were very unhappy with the fact that some of the items on the syllabus changed during this trip. I feel really badly for him on this point, because this is a really wonderful experience and so what if it was not exactly what we expected, how could a foreign culture be? Ann and I assured him that we were having a wonderful time and so grateful to him for taking us on this trip. I know that he spent the rest of the day feeling badly about the situation. I know that he wants this to be a wonderful experience for everyone and it probably hurts him to know that people are unhappy.

Several of our group had been working on a gift for Dr. Wally, a scroll with his name written in Chinese. We had been talking a few days earlier about how the term “Lama” is used for a highly revered and respected teacher who has reached the status of a God, that conversation turned to talk of the Dali Lama and someone realized that Wally rhymed with Wally and from then on we started calling Dr. Wally our Wally Lama. So the scroll with his name on it was Wally Lama! We all signed the back of the scroll with notes about how much we loved this trip. After hearing about his morning of being chewed out, we thought that this would be a good time to present him with our gift.

I am not sure how I got voted to be the presenter, but I got up in the front of the bus and took the mike. I started out by asking for everyone’s attention and that I was going to sing or dance as the afternoon’s entertainment, which earned a laugh. I then said that we were having the time of our lives and this whole experience would not have been possible without our dear Wally Lama and as such we wanted to present him with a very small token of our appreciation. We seemed really touched by the gesture and I really hope that it took some of the sting out of his day.
We drove to the Silk Carpet factory next and learned how they painstakingly, by hand weave these carpets.

It is amazing the skill and patience it takes to create even a small rug. I ended up finding a silk embroidered piece of artwork for my dad for his birthday there, but everything else was WAY out of my price range!

After leaving the carpet factory we met up with another tour guide for the Hutong tour and we all got to ride in peddle cabs throughout the whole area.

This area is very old and the only place in Beijing where a person can have a house with a yard, everywhere else in Beijing people live in high rise apartments or condos. It takes about $3 million US to purchase a home in this area and that is if you can find someone willing to sell! The homes here pass from generation to generation, so they are all owned outright. We learned about the history of the area and got to walk though the market where the local people purchase their food. This was an experience! All the meat and fish are just lying out in the open with no refrigeration or anything.

We then went to a local family home to have lunch and they were so great to us! They even made like four different vegetarian dishes just for me!

Ann had been feeling sick to her stomach all day, so she only ate a little and I think that there is a smell that does not agree with me. I think that when we first arrived I smelled both food and the bathroom smell together and now my body associates some food smells with the bathroom and that combination really does not agree with me!

After lunch the owner of the house told us that the house had been in her family for several generations and now three generations currently live here. The government at one point took control of these houses and their family had to leave, but now it is back in their hands. Then we went outside to meet “The Cricket Man”! He is totally cool and very proud of his cricket training and fighting lifestyle.

Actually cricket fighting is no longer practiced in China, but the cricket man has been featured in several books (One Night in Beijing) and newspapers and magazines. He proudly pointed out pictures of his wife and dog too. He was really sweet and moved around slowly to allow everyone to see and take pictures.

We finished the Hutong tour by climbing the drum tower. This is 69 steps straight up!

It was quite a climb, but once at the top you can see all the old and all the new areas of Beijing. There were replicas of the drums and the water clock, which is a series of graduating buckets of water in which a certain amount of water is poured in at the top and as it drips down into the other buckets and finally into a barrel where the time indicator will rise according to how much water is in the barrel.

There is a little statue holding cymbals in his hands and every 15 minutes (roughly) it claps the cymbals together to tell the villagers the time! It was very beautiful and we were able to hear a drum demonstration and take pictures before we CAREFULLY climbed back down those 69 steps.

Since we did not finish as quickly as anticipated, the tea ceremony in the bell tower was canceled and we went to another tea house that was closer to the hotel. This was they very coolest thing! I spent $271 US on tea! They showed us the different types of tea and what each one was good for; they showed us how to prepare it properly and how to drink it. The final show stopping thing they showed us was called “a pee-pee boy” and since we have been hearing odd sounding Chinese words this whole trip no one thought anything about it, but basically you soak the boy in cold water and then to test to see if your tea water is hot enough you pour some of the hot water down over the boy and if the water is hot enough – HE WILL PEE ALL OVER YOU!!!

We all squealed and laughed and told her to ring up the whole kit and caboodle! I love tea anyway and I just love the idea of having a little show and tell for my family and friends, showing them all that I did, bought, and learned in China and I can serve them tea and have the little clay boy pee all over them! It will be great!!

After we left the tea house, we came back to the hotel, dropped off our stuff and met up with a few other students that wanted to go to Wal-Mart again, so we hopped a cab for the quick drive and then spent 45 minutes stuck in traffic! There has been this big summit meeting in Beijing this week and everything was jammed up. We finally got there and picked up candy and a few other things for the trip home and hopped another cab to get back to the hotel again. We dropped that stuff off in the room and then Ann and I went back to the Silk Market to get the last few gift items we needed. We negotiated and got what we needed for the money we had left and got finished just before they closed for the evening.

On the way back to the hotel, we stopped at the french bakery and picked up some pastry and booked it back to the hotel. We spent some time trying to get all our loot packed into appropriate bags, unpacking and repacking and starting to panic about being able to get everything home! The massage ladies arrived right at 10pm for our last hooray in Beijing and we settled down to be rubbed and beaten into relaxation. They were so wonderful and worked on us until after 11:30pm. Then we showered and fell into bed. I had trouble falling asleep, my stomach was bothering me a little bit and I think that maybe I was feeling so excited about going home that I could not fully relax into sleep.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, looks like you guys had an amazing time in China!! Must have been a terrific trip.