Friday, November 27, 2009

Bountiful Goes Beijing

Beijing- directly translated as “northern capitol” was a great place for 11 girls to spend a weekend.

Thursday/Friday: We started with the all time favorite train ride there. This one was only 16 hours with hard sleepers. Janae (another teacher) and I even got to sit and watch Indiana Jones with two Chinese men. We all felt like we were riding the Polar Express as we woke up to the passing countryside covered in snow. Within seconds of stepping off the train we quickly became familiar with the BITTER Beijing air. I’ve lived in Utah most of my life, but this weekend was the coldest I remember feeling in a long time. We got situated at the Leo Hostel and went out to see an acrobatic show. AMAZING AMAZING. I couldn’t believe the positions that the acrobats so quickly and gracefully displayed. After taking a hot shower in the cold night air (the community bathroom literally had a gaping hole in the wall) we snuggled up in our bunk beds and warmed up best we could with hot water bottles and layers of clothing.
Saturday: Started off by waking up at 6 am to be up and at ‘em at 7. We piled ourselves into two separate vans and made our way to the GREAT WALL OF CHINA. It’s something you hear about since childhood. Built in the Qing Dynasty and constructed in ten years, the Great Wall of China truly is a sight to be seen. We visited the Mutianyu portion of the wall. Yes it was freezing, yes there was snow, and yes I did get coaxed into paying for a toboggan ride down the hill, but so so worth it. Because of the temperatures and location there were hardly any other tourists- it was great! The skies were blue, we enjoyed some beautiful views, and pretty much just hiked around the thing for 3 hours. Funny that Obama would be there only two days later. After soaking it all up and taking pictures, we bundled up into our vans to begin our 2 hour drive back to our hostel. We grabbed some rice for lunch, warmed up a tad, and paid a visit to Tiananmen Square (Currently the world’s largest public square). Look around a bit and went on our way to the Pearl Market. This place is overwhelming. Floor after floor of everything you can imagine: pearls, scarves, ties, hats, coats, shoes, watches, jeans, electronics, bags, table runners, wallets, purses, antiques, and the list goes on and on and on. I grabbed a few things and began to remember how tiring bartering can get. Some favorite quote lines: “Lady, lady, you beautiful. I give you good price. Cheaper for you, I give cheaper for you. I remember you! Gucci? Prada? We have good quality! Who you buying for? Your mother? Your boyfriend? “

Sunday: Left our hostel at 8 and were on our way to scout out church. Keep in mind that Beijing is HUGE. As the nation’s capitol, a home to over 14 million, and roughly the size of Belgium it can sometimes be difficult to find your way. Church was in a hotel and we wandered for about an hour in the freezing cold to the “Golden Dragon Hotel.” The meetings were great and I even met my oral surgeon who will be extracting my teeth this December when I get home. We found some good food after and made our way to the Olympic sites. After taking the metro we found ourselves in front of what I would suppose is the largest Olympic torch in the world. Honestly- this makes the Salt Lake torch look like a child’s bath toy. Probably three times as tall, it has elevators running up either sides and stands in the middle of the Olympic Square. We took a gander at the Bird’s Nest (Where they held the opening ceremonies and such) and the Cube (aka Michael Phelps stadium) and left ASAP. We were freezing. We had taken our pictures. We were outta there. As far as we had come to see those sights and as amazing as they were, the cold was so unbearable that we could only tolerate it enough to look at everything and head back to the subway.

Monday: The Forbidden City. This is one of the most famous and popular attractions to foreigners and Chinese because of the history. Home to over 24 of China’s Emperors and their families, the Forbidden City is constantly packed but still well worth it. We got up early and walked there from the Leo. FREEZING FREEZING FREEZING. Purchased a map and an audio tour and went to go see the good stuff before my brain froze. Beautiful architecture and layout. Skidaddled after two hours. Obama went to this site the next day. Too bad- it would have been great to discuss Chinese politics with him over hot chocolate. Spent the rest of the day Shopping at the Silk Market (bigger and better than the Pearl Market). Bartered, bartered, bartered. We were all so exhausted when we left, but were so satisfied with all of our loot. By the end of the day, Abby and I had so much to carry home that it was too heavy to haul to the Metro. So, we took a taxi. Taxis are fast, more comfortable, and not too cheap. This taxi however, decided that it would be real cool to drive through Tiananmen Square while President Barrack was cruising through as well. We sat at a light for about 5 minutes and became thoroughly upset when the driver turned off his car for a second time (meter was still going). We were sooo frustrated and tried to explain to him the he KNEW that he was driving us through a busy area just to rack up the cost! But of course, he just waved his hand at us like he didn’t understand and we continued to sit in rage. After a couple minutes more, we didn’t know how long the waiting would continue. So we paid our dues and left the cab in the middle of the street, flustered. Our backpacks were stuffed and we were hauling HUGE plastic bags full of our shopping goods. Abby’s bag ripped, and we suddenly realized that more than anytime our lives, we just wanted to be on the train. We walked forever to the subway, took the subway to the train station, and then walked a bit more. Sweaty and hot, we hurried ourselves onto our 12 hour train ride home in hard seats (no sleeper this time).

Late Monday/Tuesday: Ten O’clock, Eleven, Twelve, One, Two. We sat there amidst the other Chinese people and tried to be positive about not having beds for our train ride home. All the seats were sold out and there were people crammed left and right in extra places on the floor, counters, and even in the bathrooms to find a seat for their “standing” tickets. Con number 1 about the sitting section: They don’t turn the lights off. For the whole duration of this train ride, flickering florescent lights buzzed in sync with the tracks. At two o clock, my legs couldn’t take it any longer, so I laid some newspaper down in the aisle and slept there for about 3 hours. Abby joined me, and we dozed off as people pointed at us and made comments. When we finally made it to Changzhou, and bussed to our Wujin district, I couldn’t believe that I had made it. The best part of coming back was to see the hundreds of kids passing us as we walked to our dorms. They were jumping up and down, screaming “Teacha Barrook! Teacha Happy (Abby)! Teacha Kresta! Teacha Shalice! ”

Beijing was amazing. The kids are amazing. Life in China is amazing.

More Photos

Me and Janae bussing to our hostel.

Street where we stayed

Acrobatic show

Olympic Torch

Tiananmen Square/The Forbidden City

Bags after shopping


Melwel said...

I was in Beijing last year at this time, and I know what you mean about the cold. I'm so happy you can experience all of this. can't wait for you to get home
Love ya

natalie said...

I Love this post. It looks like so much fun! :)

Melanie said...

Love it Shoko,and LOVE the pictures of you in the game show. I can't wait to hear about that. It was the best thing in the world to talk to you last week. Glad you made it safely back to your school.

Si said...

love you Brookie. Hope you can get warm soon...

Kimi said...

So cool hearing about your Beijing adventures. Yes, I was there with Melinda and Laura and the boys in November last year! We also went to the silk market. Good stuff. But the COLD! Miserable and inescapable and seeps into your bones! NOT my favorite. You did a good job describing it.
Thanks for keeping us informed of all your crazy adventures in China! Miss you!

Andrew Gerald Hales said...

Hot chocolate with Barack.