Wednesday, June 6, 2007

third china post - May 21

Well I have been in China for ten days and it is still just as fabulous as it was when I first arrived. I have, however, cooled down a little bit and am not running at top-speed like I was for the first week or so. Of course when we first got here there was the whole jet-lag, 13 hours ahead being up for way too long business to deal with. I got accustomed pretty quickly, but we still don't get an incredible amount of sleep (meaning only like 7 hours, which for an old lady like me is not nearly enough.) Plus we are walking around like maniacs ALL DAY EVERY DAY. And it takes a lot out of me to try to have to translate things and to attempt to learn to speak things or even try to get around. And I am definitely not getting all the normal nutrients (plenty of rice, of course), and I have no idea what I am eating half the time. So all in all, we are definitely slowing down and taking more breaks to just sit and talk and reflect on what has happened so far this trip. It has been no less fantastic than all the sightseeing we have been doing, though. And it was good to take a day or two to rest since we will be sightseeing till Wednesday then Thursay we fly to Xian and since we are only there for five days we are constantly doing things. I am excited for that, though.

Saturday, after our exciting but exhausting great wall adventure, I woke up at 8 am again (on a saturday - I don't know what's gotten into me, really...) to go with Margaret to see the sights that she had us see. And let me tell you, her list was incredibly long. We walked all day. I mean ALL DAY - we left at 8 am and didn't get back until 8 pm and were pretty much walking the whole time, stopping only to eat. she is a slave driver, for all of her five foot two height and her tiny body she walks incredibly fast and i don't think she ever tires. it was fabulous however to see the things that she wanted us to see. we took a bus to see her college, beijing union university, and the park across the street was the oldest park in beijing built in the yuan dynasty (that's 1300s) and it is beautiful. they really know how to do parks in china. there were elderly people dancing in the parks, and it made me miss swing dancing a bit, i must say. there are so many parks partly because there is little space in beijing otherwise, but they are so peaceful and relaxing and just beautiful. incredibly serene. we walked to the "rear sea" in the middle of old beijing which is actually a smaller lake but the mongols had never seen a large body of water so they called it a sea. the area around is where the old hutongs, or neighborhoods, of beijing are. they are small alleyways where most people live, with community bathrooms. it promotes a big community atmosphere among neighbors. it's hard to believe that i hardly know most of my neighbors, and that i thought a townhouse was crowded. talk about lack of parking. there are a lot of bicycles, though, as always. margaret took us to her mother's work and the hutong where she grew up, which i thought was very nice of her and it was good to see where she is coming from. her mother is a barber in a small one-room shop, the next door of which used to be where they live but is now some sort of restaurant. we walked around more and more, and then ate lunch at her father's favorite restaurant which is quite popular in beijing, apparently. the food was pretty good but if you know what beancurd smells like then you would know that the smell wasn't exactly enticing. we sat for an hour i think because we were all so exhausted.

we then went to a market, and then we went to bei hai park in beijing which is next to the forbidden city. it was beautiful as always (i don't think i have to remind you what i think of china's parks...). so much ancient architecture and they had preserved the qing emperor's private garden, where he listened to the zither and painted and read. in that park were young kids practicing their painting with a special sort of paint and they were SO good. i mean i could not even attempt to recreate their paintings. and it was cool to see them all just relaxing, getting entertainment not from tv or video games but from painting in an ancient, imperial garden. talk about my fantasy life, let me tell you. in the middle of this park is a man-made lake and we took a boat to an island in the middle with a large white buddhist stupa and also some temples. they were pretty interesting, with large buddhas and some of the boddhisatvas on the sides and actually it had some hindu influence which i can't quite figure out but it was tibetan buddhism so i'm not sure what it might represent. that was just fascinating. by then we were so tired so we ate dinner. actually along the way margaret introduced me to about a billion of her favorite snacks since i asked her what were some native chinese snacks. and margaret, i have to tell you, is a typeA personality big time and would fit right in at wheaton, so she takes things very seriously, especially in regards to us. which i appreciate immensely. so i had some delicious lemon bread and some popsicles which were creamy and SO delicious. you can never have too many chinese snacks. too much rice, yes, but snacks, of course not. so dinner was incredible (we watched dumplings being made right in front of us... and of cours it was delicious (fresh crab!!)) and i talked to margaret for an hour. it was an incredible convo. she talked to us openly about politics and her impressions of america, and whlie i can't say everything, it was just so encouraging. she told me that she loves to see us because to her, our eyes represent an entirely new world that she gets to see every day. she told me that she is so lucky to have the opportunity to help us because to her, helping is the most happiness. i was pretty much in tears. she has no idea that we are in fact the lucky ones because she is so willing to help and is so willing to be open with us about her culture and her impressions. she really is a blessing to us.
sunday we went to the TSPM church that Bush and condi went to when they came to china, and it was interesting because we had translations this time and english-chinese hymnals. it was really a sense of the global church to be able to listen to them sing in chinese while we were singing in english at the same time. it was an incredible feeling. the message was about suffereing and i just felt it was very very applicable....without delving into details. we went with spring, one of the pastor's wives, to wangfunjing which is the most famous shopping street in beijing. we had a delicious lunch talking with spring, who is also incredibly sweet. every chinese person i have met is so unselfish and just so willing to listen to us and to answer our annoying questions and to just talk to us and they care so much that we enjoy ourselves and let us know that they enjoy spending time with us. i have just come to treasure those mealtimes with them. i have an overwhelming sense of the global church and just through them I can really feel the love of our father. i only hope that we, and myself personally, give them even a fraction of that experience.

at this place i had my favorite thing in china so far. (okay so maybe top ten... basically everything i have is my favorite...but it's so hard to choose!) it was a berry-like fruit covered with sugar, like melted molasses. you eat in on a stick. DELICIOUS. right next door were live scorpions on a stick. needless to say i did not eat those... maybe next time... (i'm only half joking... :) we were pretty much exhausted from early mornings and so much walking so we spent the rest of the day (after taking the subway and the bus... i feel so much more like a real beijinger!!! except for not being able to understand the stops.... but hey i'm working on it!) doing homework and such. yes i still have homework... but really it's not because the books are fascinating. and so is the history. here is my nerd coming out but hey i am not ashamed... :) today we had class all day. pretty boring....

so--- still kinda long but not as long as the other ones!!! thanks so much for reading them and writing me back, you guys are very encouraing and it means a lot to me that you will read my rambling!! i hope you are having a good week and everyone please have a good day, as it is 7AM there! (or at least ET... everyone else can figure it out based on that. goodness i have friends all over the globe. that's pretty incredible and very exciting to realize... :)

ps i broke down and had starbucks... only because they don't drink coffee EVER and i was pretty much going through withdrawal and i only had it at starbucks because it's the only coffeeshop around and i only had regular, plain coffee.... so i am not really going to count it as eating western food which i am trying very hard not to do while i am here. :) bye!

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