Beijing: Fast, Fashionable, unfathomable

Post number 5. Thursday October 18th and Friday October 19th

Thursday October 18th. Ahhhh. Knowing that Lizzy is doing so well, that the baby is thriving, breathing on her own, and even nursing a little in Lizzy’s arms, makes the peace of this day so wonderful. Hannah is is considered by the neonatal staff to be the “heavy weight of the NICU,” and everyone is thrilled by her progress (and of course, her hair!)

I’m spending the morning doing laundry (welcome to John’s world!) and sorting out the details of our trip in this blog. The days have been jumbled since our first phone call leading to Hannah’s birth that the actual details of our experiences here seem to vanish instantly as our thoughts and hearts are in Charlotte.

Went to the Silk market by taxi and browsed several of the floors. No luck finding nice cotton prints – only bolts and bolts of silk – and clothing, electronics, leather, you name it. I know they have cute cotton quilting fabric somewhere in this city, but I’m giving up. It’s silk, silk, silk.

The Silk Market – Beijing

John and I met Andy and walked to Sun Yuan Qiao Quanjude, the same Peking duck place where we went with Alice years ago. On the way we negotiated with “Joe” at the nearby shop for a couple “Burberry” and “Polo” sweaters for the boys and a replacement for my watch. “No problem. You are good customers. Come back tomorrow.” So here’s my new watch, a “Patek Phlippe” brand, sort of.

Peking duck! After the carving ritual, a server creates neat little packages of the duck pieces by wrapping them in crepes and adding some greens and duck sauce – all with chop sticks! Our little duck packages weren’t so neat, but they were delicious.

Friday October 19th: Forbidden City.
After another leisurely breakfast in the hotel and time for an Internet fix of family photos and baby updates, I taxied to the National Grand Theatre (stunning, modern Performing Arts Center). I didn’t mean to go there actually, but it was a pleasant walk to my destination, the Palace Museum of the Forbidden City.

Lost in Translation. Had a funny conversation with a uniformed man who appeared to be one of several official guards in front of the place which I thought was my destination museum, a giant building across from the Arts Center. Gives you a flavor of a typical information-gathering conversation, speaking in English to a Chinese person, also speaking in English.

Martha: “Is this the museum?”
Chinese guard: “I don’t know.”
Martha (gesturing). “Can I come in?”
Chinese guard: (shaking head, pointing away from building) “You go.”
Martha (now pantomiming seeing amazing things spread out in front of you in a museum) “This is the museum, right? Where you see things?”
Chinese guard (goes away, consults another guard, and returns) “Tomorrow.”

I walked along the huge reflecting pool surrounding the National Grand Theatre and then through the lovely Zhongshan Park with its giant rocks, small pagodas, and winding pathways leading to a lake where little boats were offered for rent. Along the lake, I found the source of the haunting, zen-like music which wafted through the garden. The man playing the horn picked up the pace of his tune when he saw me videotaping with two one-yuan notes in my hand.

This was my second trip through the Forbidden City, but it was still overwhelming. You go through one elaborate gateway after another, where separate openings in the gateway were once reserved for different folks, depending on whether you were the emperor, his first wife, one of the 20 or so concubines, a diplomat, or God forbid one of the thousands of maids and eunuchs who lived in the walled city. Each time you step over a raised threshold, you enter yet another expansive courtyard surrounded by elaborately decorated buildings with stunning rooftops decorated, at the corners of their their graceful rooflines, with animal motifs. The more animals, the more important the building. Buildings had special purposes – a storage house for gold, a library, a throne room, a changing room, a wedding building.

A cup of Chrysanthemum tea. The flowers open up in the boiling water and it is just the best, relaxing drink. It must be good for you! Little almond cookies completed the tea break during shopping in the art area.

Liuichang Street (the art district) is a short taxi ride south of the Forbidden City. These shops all sell slightly different assortments of the same things – calligraphy brushes, stacks of calligraphy paper, carved stone stamps (which they will carve with your name), scroll covers, posters, books, and the usual silk scarves. It’s hard to see how the smaller ones make a living.

My brush is bigger than your brush!

Posters of the Chairman. It’s baffling why Mao seems to be revered so much here. Short memories?

Here’s a little guy taking his first steps, and his mom seemed pleased with my interest.

Here’s a little trip to travelers in China. Do not leave “home” without one of these little cards. The consierges will prepare these for you so that you stand a chance of getting to your destination. These Chinese characters give directions to the art district where I went today. No, taxi drivers here do not speak English. (They also do not have functional seat belts like they do in Singapore. In Japan, seat belts, even in taxis, are required!).

Japanese All-You-Can-Eat night. We had a fabulous dinner in a mall-like collection of fancy shops and restaurants in Beijing which “the most interesting man in the world” located based on past trips. We found a Japanese all-you-can-eat Teppanyaki restaurant called Tairyo. When you see the menu, which offers a full range of starters, salads, desserts and main dishes, everything from sea urchin to scallops in the shell, you realize quickly that the $40 charge per person for anything you want including the beer, wine, or sake is the way to go. Just like the old KiKu’s in our Sheboygan neighborhood, the chefs prepare everything in front of you and you sit at long tables with others. We chatted with a Canadian expat English teacher who is married to a Chinese lady, a nice young kid maybe in his early thirties. I hope he wasn’t much older than that because he said we reminded him of his parents! We finished the night with fried bananas (sweet, with panko crumbs) and ice cream. Yum.

Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Beijing, China


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