Friday, September 15, 2006

Touring Beijing

Happy Birthday to my mom, who turned 61 today (sort of). We were joking that for half of the day it was still Sept. 14 in Florida, so at home she was still only 60!

We all woke up before the breakfast buffet opened at 6:30 this morning, and the kids were hungry, so we made instant oatmeal in the room. Then we chowed down on omelets, bacon, sausage, cereal, fried cabbage, sesame balls, pancakes, fruit, fried rice, and lots of coffee at the buffet.

We then headed out to explore the area around our hotel. We found lots of shops, a kids' playground, and a McDonalds. At 1 p.m., we met our Hutong tour guides back at the hotel. We rode by taxi to an area just outside of the Forbidden City, where there was a drum tower and a bell tower. Both the drums and the bells were formerly used to let the Beijing citizens know what time it was. We climbed 69 very steep stairs to the top of the drum tower, where we saw an awesome drum show, the world's oldest drum, and one of the the world's largest drums. Next, at the bell tower, we experienced an Asian tea ceremony.

Then, we got into rickshaws and rode through the Hutong area. These are ancient alley ways that surround the Forbidden City, with thousands of homes. We stopped a few times, and actually got to visit in a home. It was a cool tour, and we felt we got to see a part of Beijing we would have never seen on our own.

I cannot let today go by without mentioning the bathrooms. (For those with more delicate dispositions, skip to the next paragraph). For the first time, we experienced the different bathrooms we'd heard so much about. And let me tell you, the kids were not impressed. Near the towers, they had what our guide called "3 star bathrooms". They had stalls with porcelain basins, which flushed, but they did not have seats, so you had to squat. Katie was very much against this, and we had two major arguments in the bathroom, before she gave in. In the market, I would say they had "1 star bathrooms" -- no stalls and no flushing! Ryan could not get over this, and had to describe everything he saw (and smelled) in great detail to the rest of us. At one point, I made the mistake of walking into the men's room, realizing there were lots of guys squatting down, and running out, very embarrassed!

Tonight, we went to an acobratics show. It seemed like a good idea when we bought the tickets yesterday, but by tonight we were all too tired to really enjoy it. Four of the five kids were asleep within the first 30 minutes, and 3 of the 7 adults dozed on and off throughout the whole thing. What I saw of the show was amazing, I just couldn't keep my eyes open.

On the bus ride home, Mom had an interesting conversaion with our guide. Rui mentioned that it was nice to see a big family like ours. She said in China, since the one-child policy began in 1980, most people only have one child, and no nieces, nephews, or cousins. She said she is unusual in her generation, because she has an older sister and a nephew. She said her parents always joke about the fact that she was very expensive, because they had to pay many fines to the government after she was born. Mom said she didn't know you could have a second child, and pay fines. Rui explained that in addition to the fines, they take your job away, but her parents had their own farm, so could still earn a living. Mom asked what people did when they lost their jobs, and Rui replied: "They just don't have a second child." But, she then went on to say that the one-child policy was necessary, or China would have "too many people."

By the way, in case anyone was worried, we did find Katie's blanket. She had no intention of leaving Beijing without it, so we were all very relieved.

Tomorrow we have a full day of touring, Sunday we are off to Anhui province, and Monday we get our Zoe!


At 1:45 PM, Anonymous Kerri said...

Oh my goodness - the bathroom thing is too funny!

I watched A Baby Story on TLC a couple days ago that featured a Chinese adoption. I cried when they brought the babies out to their new families. And you guys will be experiencing that in a few short days! Enjoy your trip and keep on blogging.


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