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End of Beijing & Xi'an


So I can’t guarantee that this post will be as interesting as the last. After all, it’s not every day you’re invited to a plenary and meet someone as brave as Wu Qing. Also, it’s going to be longer since it’s been a few days since I’ve posted. However, I will do my best to entertain you :)

Our last days in Beijing were amazing. On Saturday we had a free day, and a few of us started our day at the Temple of Heaven. When you get into the park, there are already an incredible amount of people there. I’m pretty sure we arrived about 8am. People are singing, dancing, doing tai chi, playing instruments, playing Chinese chess, and our very favorite, doing this: 

(This guy had to be in his 50s, by the way, and was totally preening for us)

Next to our hotel in Beijing, there was also a similar park where everyone just hangs out in the morning, exercising individually and as a group. We’ve all made the observation about how important community is in this culture. Additionally, senior citizens get access to the public parks for about 100 yuan per year and can just go and hang out. All matter of exercise equipment is there, and the park by our hotel was free. We did tai chi a few times and hung out there after our morning runs. Everyone was very welcoming, even though we were very uncoordinated doing the tai chi. They helped us stretch, and so many pulled out their “olympics” English, “Welcome to Beijing!”

There were also these guys, playing Chinese chess.

Once we arrived at the gate to the Temple of Heaven, we were not disappointed. (I don’t know what this pose is, don’t ask. When it’s really hot outside, you start to do strange things). It is beautiful, the grounds are beautiful…like nothing I’ve ever seen. It was in complete disrepair and has been renovated. That’s the other thing we’ve been told about China–the Chinese like for things to be new, but tourists (especially Western tourists), like to see things in their original state. Sometimes they keep half of it old and repaint the other half with the bright colors it would have been in its time. On our way out of the park, this kid was talking to us, practicing his English.

Super cute!

After the Temple of Heaven we went to the Lama Temple, which was incredible as well. I’m so glad the other teachers in my group are so intrepid, because I was having a heck of a time trying to figure out what I wanted to do on our free day. This Buddha is 16 meters tall, about 5 stories. Very impressive. 

(We weren’t supposed to be taking pictures, so that’s why this is blurry. It was on the sly). 

After the Lama temple we had a quick lunch at KFC (yeah, I know). However, I was happy to have some iced coffee, since the coffee at our hotel was disgusting and weak (the only thing worse than weak coffee is a dull cutting knife. Dad, you taught me well ;) ). We went to a gigantic flea market (4,000 vendors) and I could hear the sound of the “patter” instrument cutting through the market place. (We saw patter at the tea house and I loved it. I was so glad to find the instruments!) I took a video of the guy showing off, and bought a set. I’m terrible, but I’m hoping I’ll get better and maybe even find some videos that are translated into English. I’ll try to post the video when we get to a place with better wifi. In the meantime, here’s a picture of one of the vendor stands at the flea market. 

Also, this little girl was drawing characters on the pavement with a water bottle. 

On the way back to the hotel I spotted a little nail salon, hoping they’d do a pedicure. They told me to come back in 45 minutes, so I went and got my roommate and came back. As we were talking to them, I asked how long they’d been open. “10 days,” the girl said, crossing her fingers. It was so awesome to be able to support two enterprising young ladies, about our same age. They were so accommodating and did a great job. However, a pedicure in China involves only a soak and your toes. No sloughing. More on that later. Here’s the very pink salon, and the owners. 

On Sunday, we took the super fast (that’s the technical term) train to Xi'an. It took about 5 hours. Let’s all just agree that both airplane food and train food suck. The train did have more space though, and we got up to about 292 km/hr.

When we arrived our hotel was not ready for us to be checked in, so we went to the Muslim quarter to see the grand mosque. Very pretty, the grounds were lovely, and there is a HUGE market outside. We returned there last night (Monday) after a meal where I consumed at least 20 different kinds of dumplings, had two of a few of them, plus appetizers and a bit of soup. Needless to say, I’m totally gaining weight on this trip, in spite of running about every other day. Oh well–that’s what vacation is for, right?

Sunday night we had a foot massage, which was brilliant. Our Chinese guide that is travelling with us showed us the way. Erin and I had a short back massage, a foot soak, and they sloughed off all the dead skin with the wonderful razor that is unfortunately banned in most states. After walking around for a week solid, I needed that. It ended with the massage which felt wonderful. 

Monday we had a talk about the Silk Road, which was interesting. Then a really long talk about Buddhism in China, that went on about an hour too long (it was 2.5 hours total). In the afternoon we had a painfully long talk about acupuncture and moxibustion. Yeah, I didn’t know what that was either. Now I am enlightened. We went to the museum at the school of Chinese traditional medicine, and then went to the “training hospital.”


Let’s just say there’s not any “medical tourism” going on at this place. Tons of people sauntering about like the hospital was a museum, and cleanliness standards? Hmm, definitely not up to par with Western hospitals. The doctors were all wearing open-toed shoes. HIPPAA laws? We walked into rooms where random people had needles sticking out of their faces, stomach, etc. Four of our group volunteered to have acupuncture done. They were brave souls. Lindsay almost passed out. Erin says her foot feels better today, but we’re not sure if it was from the needles or from the strong manipulation the lady did before she stuck the needle in. Clara had a needle sticking out of the top of her head. I left the room; that was not for me.

I did sneak back in once to see the “cupping,” where they light a little jar on fire and use suction/vacuum to stick the jar to your back. I’ll spare you that picture. It’s a little strange. 

After our huge dumpling dinner, we went back to the aforementioned Muslim quarter and did some shopping. Here’s one of my favorite pictures. Can you tell what this is?

No? It’s a whole bunch of garbage from all of the food on sticks. Chinese people litter left and right–then pay a whole bunch of people to sweep it up. There are garbage cans, but also a sheer mass of humanity. The cans and the people can’t keep up in this place. 

I also had a very unfortunate bathroom experience. I’m sure anyone who’s traveled to India or other parts of Asia can commiserate. It was a public bathroom in a market, so I’m not sure what I was expecting. But when you gotta go, you gotta go. No doors on the stalls, the most putrescent smell EVER, and well, lots of misses. LOTS and lots of misses. And you don’t flush toilet paper here, there’s a wastebasket by the squat toilet (the plumbing systems can’t handle toilet paper). So lots of paper on the floor. It’s all part of the experience, friends. Or so I’m telling myself. As Erin said, “What is seen cannot be unseen.” The image is burned into my mind. Also, the image of the teenager calmly sitting on her phone in the “stall” next to me, squatting over the toilet and probably surfing the internet. I didn’t want to bring myself in there, much less my electronic devices. Moving on to happier subjects…

This was the pagoda last night, with a beautiful full moon. Of course pictures cannot do it justice. 

Today we went to a “farm.” Farm is in parentheses because it really just felt like a Chinese suburb. Like Highland Park with pagodas. The farmer is a painter, and we all were enamored with his work. I bought some prints for me and a print for the ‘rents. I know they’re reading this, so here’s a sample of his artwork. I think you’ll like what I got you :)

This is my dumpling making concentration face. It’s also the same face I make when I’m sight-reading or playing piano. Sherry took these pictures, and I didn’t know she was doing it. They are sincere. hahahahha. 

After the farm we went to the ancient city walls and had a bike ride. It was probably 95-100 degrees today. Pretty miserable for a bike ride, but when in China… here’s me before the ride.

And in the middle of the ride. 

Tonight ended with a short walk to Starbucks for a snack and a trip to the salon. Clara and Lindsay got a haircut, Erin and I got our hair washed and styled for $5. Pretty sweet! 

Our days and nights have been packed, so this post has been really long. Thanks for reading, and let me know if you have any questions about what’s going on here. I welcome feedback :)

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