Nan and Ro’s Excellent Adventure
by Rosanna Schmidgall
The rains fell. And fell. And fell. No one escaped the soaking. Not even Nan, who always has the sun at her beck and call.
Fast forward to Guilin and the quest for dry pants and shoes. Ro takes Nan in hand and we trek through the marketplace. In and out of shop after shop until we find the perfect pants, and they’re DRY! Onward for shoes. “Do you have my size?” asks Nan. “One hundred yuan” replies the young man . “No, but do you have my size?” “One hundred yuan.” Bye, bye, young man.Nearing the end of our hopeless search, Nan spies her dream shoe. “Crocs!” she cries. And soon nan is wearing her beautiful green Crocs on her happy feet. All in all, an excellent adventure was had by Nan and Ro.
The Emperor’s Summer Palace
by Judith Nelson
Another temperate day with blue skies as we begin our day by visiting the Summer Palace. This is China’s largest Imperial garden with classical landscape design. We especially enjoyed the Long Corridor, a covered walkway nearly 2,300 feet in length. The views from its bays are each photo ops, but more incredible is the artwork that covers the entire ceiling, and each cross beam. From here we took a pleasure Dragon boat on Kunming Lake which afforded excellent views of the Seventeen Arch Bridge. We were told a lot about the Empress Dowager, about whom the best that can be said is that her beauty tip #3 is still sound: after every meal take a 30 minute walk.As for the Peking Duck,it would have been better if they had let the duck live!
by Chas. Schwartz
We entered the Forbidden City through the back door to the Emperor’s private garden, a magical space of twisted rock formations and towering ancient trees. This is one of the only green and domestic areas within the walls of the immense complex: most of the Forbidden City is a maze of cold official buildings and hardscaped outdoor spaces, very much like an ancient Chinese versoin of the Pentagon.Proceeding through offices, throne rooms, ceremonial temples, and the Emperor’s personal breeding quarter, we emerged in the largest and most famous section of the complex, whose well preserved, gigantic buildings were reserved for ceremonial occassions involving thousands of participants plus horses and elephants. All around are reminders of the pervasive paranoia of the Emperors: the pavement of the immense squares is said to be 15 layers thick in order to discourage assassin’s from tunneling in to spoil the fun during ceremonies.Gate after ceremonial gate, bridge after ceremonial bridge, demonstrate how well the Chinese dynastic rulers knew how to impress and intimidate their kowtowing guests.The last gate from the Forbidden City faces Tianeman Square, a more modern but no cherrier public showplace. Chairman Mao’s two-ton portrait gazes benevolently toward his own masoleum, secure in the knowledge his body is perfectly preserved in a crystal box. This is the heart of the old and new China – a sight even more unforgettable at night when everything including one huge Palace of Congresses (government building) and National Museum (closed for rennovation) is outlined with white Christmas lights. This space,approximately the size of Sacramento, swept, but it is all amazingly clean.
A Visit to a Hutong
by Sandie Reilly
After a full day of Chinese history, some of us want to understand the story of average citizens. So, we set out in rickshaws (sp.?) to visit the city’s Hutong neighborhoods of traditional courtyard houses. Robin, our guide, says many of the residents were relocated to make way for the Olympics. Recently, the Chinese government pulled back, realizing the historic value of the neighborhoods and is trying to preserve and adapt what remains of the old city.Robin takes us to one of the homes where a man and his adult son are home to greet us. At first we feel uncomfortable. Is this an invasion of their privacy? I quickly learn the father and son enjoy jobs in the ‘tour’ business so I take comfort that they are getting something out of our visit too. And clearly, it’s a chance to learn more about us during our opportunity to learn more about them. Graciously, tea and food are prepared and many small stools await us in their living room. I scan the area for household pets eager to bring back the answers to Maggie’s question “which pets are most popular for a family?” I see a fish tank, so I relax and take in the rest of the experience. The house isn’t as small as it appears from the outside of the quadrant. When I first walk in I see a flush toilet and washing machine in a small service room. This seems like a modern home to me. Robin explains there are 5 rooms in this home. A kitchen, bathroom, living room and two bedrooms. The most striking decorations are the Chinese Brush art paintings that hang on the wall. Proudly, the father says his mother is the artist. Our destiny is revealed, we are meant to pay this family a visit!The father tells us he’s lived in this home for 28 years. His parents live nearby in an apartment & his wife is at work in a restaurant now. We ask about his pet fish because he is standing in front of the tank & we can’t see it contents clearly. He laughs & motions that his fish is sleeping!! Oops, we likely aren’t staying for the sushi course.After asking the standard questions; “what do you do for a living,” etc., we are directed to see the other “pets” the family cares for. Robin displays two tiny wood cages, one for a cricket and the other for a grasshopper. Chinese people enjoy keeping them as pets for the chirping sounds of song and sport of fighting? Yeah, that’s right! Robin’s face lights up as he reveals the tools necessary for the care and feeding of the cricket.Our comes the “mini me” sized food & water bowl, pooper scooper, love box & prod stick used to anger him into a fighting champion. At this point, I feel I’m part of an audience at the Tonight Show as Robin, with great comedic skill, puts on his little show. After a quick tour of the other rooms and our sincere thanks to our hosts we leave crouching cricket and sleeping fish for our final date for Peking Duck.The trepedation I first felt when learning of our evenings plans was replaced by a vedry real sense of balance & harmony in Chinese life.
by Chaz. Schwartz
Six of us piled into cabs for the hour & a half cross-town journey to a performance of “Beijing’s Famous Peking Opera”.More like vaudeville than Western Opera, the evening featured two unrelated sequences. The first was an act in two tellings. The story of a love-sick 19 year old nun who has run away to chase her lover as he pants down the Autumn River toward a distant town. She meets a tricky elderly boatman who decides to have a little fun teasing her, but ultimately helps her catch up to her lover. The story is told in a combination of song, dance, and pantomine on a bare stage brought vividly to life by the performer, rich beautiful costumes, and minimal props.The second episode is an adaptation of one of the famous tales of the Monkey King. In this one, Buddah sends 18 disciples to catch the monkey, but his magic is powerful and he’s able to defeat them each in turn with truly amazing dance, acrobatics, and martial arts moves.A small live orchestra accompanies the performance. The whole thing was a real treat.
Loong Palace Hotel Shop
by Chas. Schwartz
The Loong Palace, on the far northern edge of Beijing, is an oversize complex that’s closer to the Great Wall than to the Forbidden City, in the heart of Beijing. The lobby has several shops, but nothing like a place for notions and travelers’ needs as is found in most hotels. I went into the most likely shop hoping to find slide film and aspirin’s. They had neither, but they had many unexpected items such as model race cars, 17 types of condoms, and several brands of knock-off viagra, one of which was called “American Brother.”
The Art Store Experience
by Sandie Reilly