As midterms get smaller in my rear view mirror, I reflect on my Saturday adventures of traveling around Beijing. First thing in the morning, after indulging my love of coffee, I like to show my appreciation for Skype by spending about an hour talking with my family back in The United States for no cost. Family laughter and coffee are preludial to the start of everyday. After family laughter and coffee, I head out to the Beijing subways where the contrast between laid back Mobile Alabama and Beijing China are clearly outlined.
The first adventure on Saturday normally begins with an interesting subway ride. The subway cars are sardine cans and we are the sardines packed in and vacuum sealed tight (the above picture is not that bad for Beijing). When possible, it is a good idea to travel during off-peak hours. Peak hour subway transit involves a lot of rubbing, bumping, racing, and chasing from subway line to subway line (you will know what everybody had for breakfast).
This Saturday I took my friend Southpaw along for the excursion. I don’t know if it’s his smile, his suave demeanor, or the fact that he is a small stuffed animal being toted around by a tall American, but he knows how to draw attention.
Don’t look behind you; they are watching us.
So, at our first stop, Southpaw posed for the camera and snapped it up at the Temple Heaven. The Temple of Heaven is a large park that involves a lot of walking. It is a must stop for anyone spending a little time in this area of China. I think I read every historical plaque I came across – from the Shang Dynasty to the Ming Dynasty.
I find it fascinating to learn about a civilization that existed so long ago and what technology they used to survive and thrive.
Four of the dynasties recently discussed in one of my classes I’m taking here in China – Shang, Zhou, Qin and Ming. Fascinating for an information junkie like myself.
In case you are wondering, when I travel alone I am pinning all necessary communications on my limited ability to speak and read Chinese. Patience and humility helps me get through the tough conversations. Before leaving the temple, Southpaw snapped a final Temple of Heaven picture with a nice family and we headed to the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square.
If I would of had a few Southpaws to go around, this kid definitely would of got one.
Because of our last picture at the Temple of Heaven, half the population of China beat us to the Forbidden City. There is not enough patience left in my body to stand in a line that has no beginning and no end. We settled for a photo-op with the Forbidden City in the background, and a couple of impromptu photos to close out my second visit to the Forbidden City.
Mao Zedong’s portrait at the main entrance to the Forbidden City.
Across the street from Tiananmen Square just before some light shopping. What’s missing in the picture is the cop that swatted the guy who jumped up behind Southie. I didn’t need to speak perfect Mandarin Chinese to grasp that jumping up on the base of a light post is a no-no. Only words I understood from the cop to the guy were, “You know” and “Do you have a problem?” I responded indirectly with a smile, “No problem” in Chinese which got a smile out of the stone-faced cop at my ability to speak a little Chinese. The officer then asked me, “What is that (Southie) for?” I responded, “Wode Meiguo daxue (My American University).” Afterwards, he gave me a thumbs up and off he went.
I often light-shop in China. I don’t plan to do any serious shopping until It is closer to the time for me to leave. Some of the things you have to do to get a shop owner to lower his prices are a little unconventional, but if it works…
This picture is actually from a week or two ago. Another student wanted to know if I ever met a stranger because of my willingness to engage just about anyone I meet. “No, all the strange people are in my family and I already know them.”
No Saturday is complete without finding a new place to enjoy some local cuisine, and today’s meal stop was nothing to brag about. I’m not exactly sure where the meal went wrong, but I think the old gym sock might be the problem. It took exactly two sips of the broth to convince me to push the meal away. I accept responsibility for this gaffe. As soon as I walked in the place, I was suspicious about the quality of service. This goes back to a rule I have adopted about eating out, “When in doubt, walk back out”. I didn’t walk back out, so I ended up with a bad meal. I made up for it by eating at the Paris Baquette which is located just down the street from the University. It’s always nice to take a relaxing stroll through Tus Park just before heading back to Beijing Language and Cultural University.
The Wall Street Bulls at Tus Park.
Now, I am comfortably settling in for a night of some light studying if there is such a thing when learning a foreign language. Until the next blog post.