Beginning in Beijing

Beijing China – October 6, 2014.

I know this is the first full day in China. I think it is Monday. Everything from Saturday morning is a blur of interrupted sleep, airplane food, screaming babies, tossing and turning in a very comfortable hotel bed but never really sleeping.

We started the day with the required getting to know you and here are the rules meeting.
Because this is the National Holiday week, our schedule is being altered so we can avoid crowds.

Our first stop was the zoo. We only went to see the Pandas who were totally uncooperative.
they eat until they are full, they sleep long hours everyday, have sex once a year…you would think they would be totally entertaining for the national holiday crowds but they weren’t, alas I have no Panda pictures. If you really need a picture, look it up on wikipedia where they will explain the debate about which family they belong to, racoon or bear. They will also tell you the life expectancy is about 30 years. They only eat four of the hundreds of kinds of bamboo in China, none of which grow in Beijing, it must be shipped in at an enormous cost to the zoo.
Beijing Pandas eat mostly meat.

Today was culture day. We rode a trishaw to a family home for a true family meal. We learned how to make dumplings. I am an absolute cultural failure with chopsticks. The house was very small by American standards, our table of 10 was placed in in the bedroom. The kitchen was The size of a closet in an older American home. The cooking utensils were a burner and a electric roaster. From roasted peanuts and bean curd , through several stir fry dishes to the dumplings the meal was a gourmet treat. We said xi xi and moved on to the Houtangs. The Houtangs are a maze of alleys created by courtyard houses. The Mongols built the first of these when they invaded Beijing. The house forms four walls that surround a courtyard where the mongals kept their horses. The current government reversed the policy of removing these houses and is now preserving them. We had tea with a older woman, retired telecommunications worker, who was given a lifetime lease for one fourth of the courtyard with shared bath facilities. She raised her family here along with three co workers who shared the unit. As the co workers died their adult children took over their parents part of the residence She said her life is lonely, she spends a lot of time walking and doing tai chi in the park.

The parks are lovely, there are many of them in the city and they seem to be very busy. With small residences the parks are very important in the life of the community.
The landscaping along the roads is meticulous, colourful flowers, manicured hedges and many trees. The military has planted many trees to protect the city from the sands blowing in from the gobi desert.

Before our dinner we walked in one of the parks, lovely trails around a lotus filled lake, benches with men playing chess, a garden pagoda with men playing cards, children fishing, several people practicing tai chi and young men playing what I would describe as foot badminton or hackie sac with a shuttle cock.

The last stop of the day was for Peking Duck. The meal was an unending procession of fabulous dishes.

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