Dave's Sketch Journal

Drawing is taking a line for a walk. - Paul Klee

Last Days in Beijing

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We got started a little late but wanted to check out Beihei Gongyuan(North Water Park) in the center of Beijing. It's worth the visit. There are flowers and trees and rocks and a huge lake. You can rent boats or take a small "shuttle boat" from a point at the edge of the lake to the island. There are small rock clusters where you can sit and have lunch, and many did. Ruth said to me: "It's amazing how peaceful and inviting the rocks look." It was amazing how comfortable they looked. There are also larger shaded pavilions where people gather and sing and dance. In one pavilion we saw three men on harmonicas playing folk songs while woman danced with scarfs in the center. A weiguoren boy danced with his mother while the dad snapped a picture. There was an old man with a tambourine inviting others into the dance or gesturing to one of the dancing woman to do a solo jig. One woman did a kind of robot thing with her head, jerking it from side to side and gesturing mechanically with her hands.

It was 3:00 and we still hadn't eaten lunch. We always carry a few Kashi bars to hold us over but I was feeling dizzy by the time we walked the mile to Wangfujing. We found a McD's and downed a Big Mac and coke (never got our fries) and that just made matters worse. Ruth left me to veg in an indoor AC'd Starbucks. Here's the strange thing, McD's and the KFCs we went to never ran their air conditioners. It was always hot and stuffy inside. At one McD's it was unbearable as the seating area was upstairs (heat rises) and the music was blaring.

So I veged while reading my new learn to read/write Chinese book. She was gone and back with a few things within the hour.

We did a little shopping together and then met a couple in the store sitting on hand carved jet-black Chinese chairs. They spoke some English so we got to chat a little. Very nice folks. We had been looking for an American film on DVD with Chinese audio and English subtitles. They offered to show us a couple of stores. Se we walked and talked together down Wangfujing street. They asked if we had dinner and what we planned for the evening. They were just honestly pleasant people. We hated to say "Goodbye" but had arranged to meet someone else for dinner. So I took a picture and exchanged emails.

And that was our general experience in China. Always someone willing to help a foreigner out. Sure there were grumpy taxi drivers here or there but on the whole they were truly helpful. We even entertained some with our clumsy Chinese. We'd all laugh together while our driver dogged busses and pedestrians in the streets.

Tonight was Ruth's turn to select a restaurant. She picked a Morrocan style restaurant. That's right, Morrocan in China. The servers were dressed in the garb of the country and the walls had persian rugs hanging from them. She ordered lamb kabob. I just sat and had a Qingdao beer. My stomach was still doing funny things. There was a table up against the wall of about 20 people. Obviously some kind of celebration. They were doing gambei (empty cup) toasts and each person around the table took turns singing. It was beautiful Mongolian tunes. Many in the restaurant knew the tunes and would sometime mouth or sing aloud the words. It sounded like tunes I've heard Navaho Indians sing. While the singer stood, everyone around the table would clap in time and sing the choris. A young long haired Mongolian man sang so well, holding notes longer than I can hold my breath, received claps all around the restaurant when at last he finished his last note. I wish I'd had a recorder to convey the wonderful sounds we heard in our last night in Beijing. What a treat and a cultural experience.

We got back to the room after eating dinner and heard fireworks. We pulled back our hotel room curtain and watched a fireworks display just across the street. Obviously someone heard that we are leaving tomorrow and decided to give us a great send off. Such nice people here in China.

We love CCTV. Chinese Cable TV is fantastic. We watched a few shows to get sleepy. They have everything: Chinese lessons, news, sports, circus acts, and movies. If we can get it in Georgia, it would be worth installing cable.

Before you beat a dog, find out who its master is. -Chinese proverb
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