Friday, July 8, 2011

Final day in Beijing

A temple in old Beijing

On Friday, our final day in Beijing we went to the Great Wall as a group. This was a different section than I had climbed a few days earlier and certainly had tons more people. But it also had a crazy steep incline just to get up to the top. After that it looked flatter than what I had already climbed, but I opted for staying at the entrance this time, eating ice cream and writing post cards:) I've attached a picture here for you to see the hike, though. Yikes! While I was sitting there, a middle school boy came up behind me and said in near perfect English, "what are you doing?" I told him I was writing postcards and we had a short discussion about why he was there and the English he had studied in school. He was so cute and just had no inhibitions. So many of the Chinese have come up and looked at what I was doing if I was reading or writing, or they will listen in to our conversations if we are speaking English in a group. Of course they often ask to have their pictures taken with us too - a very curious group of people, but then I often feel that way towards them since so many things are just very different.

For lunch, the tour always arranges to take us to these very touristy places where we are the only people there is a massive restaurant with lots of tables. The first day it was a hotel and the second was a jade factory where they also served us lunch, hoping that we would also do some shopping in the store afterwards. These kinds of places always remind me of the movie, "If it's Tuesday, this must be Belgium" where the American tourist group is eating lunch in Luxembourg (called Lunchenburg by then since they move through so quiclkly:)) and in wondering what to order one of the Americans asks the waiter was the locals eat. The waiter responds: "Locals do not eat here, Madame, this is reserved for our tourist friends.":) That pretty much sums up the kinds of places we ate - just us and a lot of empty tables in an otherwise fancy place. But still, the food has been good, lots of vegetables, kung pao chicken, rice, various kinds of potatoes, pancakes with raisins, and mini omlets with different kinds of vegetables inside. It has all been good, but still I have been sick to my stomach, as have a few of the other teachers It might just be the kinds of oil they cook with or something, i don't know. But for the past day, I have just had crackers and watermelon - could be worse than that, I guess:)

After lunch we went to the Summer Palace, which is absolutely lovely. This is a palace on a lake that was the summer residence for the Imperial Family about 500 years ago. If you can ignore the insane numbers of people it did feel a little like Switz or Austria. We didn't have time to visit everything, but we got to walk around the lake a bit and see some lotus flowers.

One more great sign from the Summer Palace was the hours in English - High Season and Slack Season:) We decided that "Slack season" must be the few days a year when there is no festival going on:) (See photo below):

Then, the last thing was getting to the train station to take the overnight train to Wuhan. I have never seen so many people pushing to get up the stairs and over the bridge to the station as I have in Beijing. Apparently, about 1 million people per day go through this station and we certainly sensed that. Trying to make your way up the stairs carrying heavy suitcases is hard enough, let alone some of the poor women also carrying babies. Incredible! Pictures can't do it justice, but I tried to capture a little bit of it here.

Finally, we made it inside the train station and onto the train for our overnight ride to Wuhan, where we arrived very early the nex morning.

Train compartments

Our leader, Minru, and teachers as we arrive in Wuhan

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