May 6th

We went to bed about midnight and awakened on our own about 5 am. There was light coming around the drapes in the hotel room. Light before 5am? We remembered it getting dark about 7:30 pm when we were flying from Tokyo. China does not follow Daylight Savings time, so it gets dark earlier than back at home.

We had breakfast (included) in the hotel, reciting, “don’t eat anything that isn’t cooked or that you didn’t peel or wash yourself…”

At 9 am the group headed out for touring, boarding our bus. We went to Pedestrian Street, which is a famous shopping district according to our guides. We didn’t really shop, but were more intrigued with people-watching. We were surprised that so many of the signs in Beijing are in both Chinese and English. Many Chinese people were wearing t-shirts with English wording. The 2008 Olympics will be held here, so someone suggested that English wording is being put on many things for that reason. But the signs don’t really look new. Many of the products in stores have English and Chinese names on them, too, such as Johnson’s baby products and Ritz crackers.

Just off Pedestrian Street there was an alley with many street vendors and foods. The strangest was “scorpions on a stick.” I swear one of them was still moving as I shot the picture of the proud salesman!

Since we’re white tourists, we’re very identifiable to the street salesman. When our bus would park, the street vendors would flock towards us, chanting “one dolla… one dolla” as they held out their postcards, hats, ties, books, kites, and other things. T-shirts and hats had the 2008 Olympics logos on some of them. I made the mistake of showing a little interest in a packet of postcards for “one dolla.” Then I said no, not now, and it suddenly became, “Two for one dolla.” I gave in, paid the dollar, and was followed down the street by others who had identified me as gullible. We were taught the term “Bu yao” which means “No thank you.” Our tour group was teasing that we should sell t-shirts that say “Just say Bu Yao” on them. Others in our group did buy things from the street vultures – a rolex watch (maybe), kites, baseball caps. Bargaining is very popular, and if you show a little interest then say no, the price comes down drastically. One couple was happy to get two kites for 20 yuan, but then they heard someone else got 5 kites for 10 yuan.

The dollar is worth about 8.2 yuan. Too bad 8’s are my worst numbers in math – I must have missed that day in school, and I’m paying for it now.

Overall the prices are quite good. Bottled water at the store was 1.20 yuan, which is about 17 cents, for 600 ml (a typical bottle of water at home too).

After the Pedestrian Street we reboarded the bus and went to Heaven’s Gate which is a large park with large Chinese buildings. It’s historic and will be closed for renovations for the next year, starting tomorrow. One of the photo opportunities was the Echo wall, where you can reportedly hear a whisper from the other side of the round courtyard. But it was so noisy with tourists that you probably couldn’t hear someone yell from the other side! I took a few photos of Chinese children with their ears plastered to the wall, or yelling into the wall. This week is a holiday week for the Chinese, so the parks and tourist areas are quite crowded.

Then on to lunch. We were served several dishes – beef, chicken, rabbit, pork, soup, and pineapple rice (served in a pineapple). Interestingly, we each had a plate that was smaller than a typical saucer. We would dish up a little (with the square end of the chopsticks if we were coordinated enough), eat, and dish up some more. Yes, I tried rabbit. Unfortunately we were a little scared of eating the fruit or lettuce type vegetables, trying to prevent the dreaded Traveler’s Diarrhea. I was thinking of my childhood when I hated Chinese food, and now here I’m trying a variety of it.

Then we headed for The Silk Factory where we had a tour of how silk is made – silkworms produce about 400 eggs each, which grow into silkworms. The little silk cocoons that develop contain a nymph, which is a delicacy once it’s deep fried (no thanks). The silk cocoons are placed in hot water, then a whisk type brush is used to start the silk thread. One cocoon can provide over 1000 meters of silk thread. About 8 to 10 coccoons are used to wind together one thin silk thread. Then we were shown how silk quilts are made. We ended up buying a silk quilt with a silk cover, after being promised the cats shouldn’t snag it. There were silk clothes available. Most of us were intrigued, planning to buy a couple silk Chinese dresses for our daughters. Wayne and I decided to wait until we get to Guanzhou, where we won’t have to worry about luggage weight. We’re limited to 44 lbs in-country weight limit per person. We’re already overweight, and the quilt added some more weight. We’ve heard it’s about $1 per pound if overweight. That’s really not bad, so we’re not worried.

Once we returned to the hotel, some of us met in the lobby to take a walk to the grocery store to buy some bottled water. “Walk” wasn’t exactly the right description. We had to dart between throngs of people, trying to keep up with our guide, who was quite adept at maneuvering. When we had to cross the busy street with all the buses, cars, and bikes, we fell in pace with a pack of people who shuffled across the street, wedging their way between cars, ignoring buses that were inches from us. We made it through about 6 lanes of traffic unscathed! One of our cohorts called it “people surfing.” We thought it was like the old game of Frogger. The store itself was equally busy, and we darted past people as we wound through the department store, downstairs to the grocery store. Phew! Just as I was feeling a little less frazzled, Maggie, the guide, turned to us and said, “You’ll have to find your way back yourself. I have to go to the airport.” Aack! With the daring attitude of the 6 men and two women in our group, we managed to make it back to the hotel alive.

After that maneuver, we thought we might just stay in the hotel for dinner. But two other adoptees came by, asking “Hey, do you still want to go for that walk?” We decided to head for Beihai Park. We ended up hiking through rather run-down areas of the city, asking directions every couple of blocks. We finally arrived at the park entrance near dusk. We paid the 10 yuan each (80 cents) and headed into the park for a while. It was peaceful and quite beautiful, and would have been nice in the daylight. When we headed back toward the hotel, we made a more direct route and arrived safely at 9 pm. We hadn’t had dinner yet, and we ended up running into several other adopting families from our group in the hotel lobby. Six of us decided to go out for Pizza Hut. So more walking, more ducking around people, and some waiting at Pizza Hut because they were full. When we ordered, it was interesting communicating with the waiter, who apologized for his poor English. We debated whether to drink the Pepsi from a tap, but finally decided to chance it. The whole dinner for 6 of us cost about $20.

As we walked back to the hotel, we realized we’d only been in China for about 24 hours. What a day!

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