Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Beijing - Day 3

Here is my 2nd email from China:

It's 5pm in Beijing on Tuesday and we will be leaving in about an hour to go pick up Mario (Jeff's uncle) and head downtown to have dinner with Mario and Deanne. Nico and Talia (cousins) are on an overnight team-building trip with their school so they won't be back until tomorrow evening. Yesterday, our first full day, was a lot of fun. We went shopping at YaShow, which is kind of like a shopping mall but different in that each shop just has a little cubicle where they keep all their stuff. We didn't plan on buying anything really, but ended up with a lot because everything was so cheap! Jeff is getting some shirts made and a suit, and I am getting a dress and a couple shirts made too. We go back on Thursday for a fitting and then pick them up before we leave. It was awesome, you get to pick out any fabric and then tell them what you want and they make it for you. A regular shirt will run about $12, handmade. The other stores besides the tailor were insane. Almost every little cube has a chinese girl trying to get you buy everything. If you touch something, they tell you, that is "very nice, looks very good on you." They sell replicas of everything you can imagine - purses, suitcases, jeans, shirts, sunglasses, and also original chinese trinkets. We were there for about 5 hours total, and even Jeff had fun. The driver, Mr. Hong, picked us about at 3 and took us home. Then the "leather lady" came over and we both got fitted for leather jackets which will be custom made to what we picked out. And then the "cashmere" lady came over and I am getting a couple cashmere sweaters made. We watched Borat with the kids and then had dinner, take-out chinese delivered to the house and by 8:30 pm, Jeff and I were exhausted! We managed to stay up until 9pm but the jetlag was kicking in big time. This morning we woke up about 6:30, had some breakfast with the family and then got picked up at 9am by Mr. Hong. We dropped Deanne off at the stables where she rides her horses, and then drove (about 50 minutes through Beijing) to Tiananmen Square.

We met our tour guide, Catherine, there and walked around the whole square. Tiananmen Square is huge! It's the biggest "square" in the world. There were a ton of people, mostly Chinese, and two teenage boys asked us to be in their picture. Apparently they like to take pictures with "white people" and we thought it was hilarious so went along with it. October 1st is their National day, so there was all kind of preparations being made in the square for the celebration. Directly north of Tiananmen Square is the Forbidden City. It's where the emperor used to live with the empress, concubines, and children. Commoners were not allowed to go in, hence the name. It was huge also. It's probably 2 miles long and 1 mile across with a moat surrounding it. Unfortunately there is a TON of construction going on throughout Beijing in preparation for the olympics, so 3 or 4 of the main buildings were completely covered up. Still, the detail in the building and all the spiritual building guidelines are very interesting. Everything has to do with an animal (lion, dragon, crane, turtle) or number (9 and 8) for their spiritual meaning. Even the olympics will start on \n8.8.08 at 8:08:08 because 8 symbolizes wealth.

After Tiananmen square we took a taxi with Catherine to a noodle house which was excellent. Then we walked to the Temple of Heaven which was beautiful. It's surrounded by a huge forest and there are two main temples. One symbolizes heaven and one for earth. The emperor used to come here twice per year to worship for a good harvest. It's amazing how much clout the emperor had, before he was overthrown of course. Everything revolved around him.

Tomorrow we will be meeting Catherine again, first at the Lama Temple which is a Buddhist temple and then to take a bike ride around a lake (I don't know the name of it). I'm hoping tonight we will have a little more energy to stay up past 9pm.

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