Sunday, August 10, 2008
China Update 5: Jeff comes to China!!
Nihao all! I am sorry this update is a little late, but I am sure you'll all understand why!
Since I last wrote, I have had quite an exciting Chinese experience! On Friday of last week, I had another day of training. Then on Saturday we had the opportunity to go see the Opening Ceremony Dress Rehearsal! It was amazing. I am sure if you have seen it by now, you know why. To be in the Bird's Nest with nearly 90,000 other people, all enjoying a sneak peak at the Opening Ceremony was amazing. My favorite part was with the men who climbed into a formation to become the Bird's Nest--very cool. It was nice to see it all come together. After weeks of working in the Bird's Nest, seeing props in the hallways and the men and women who worked to put the entire thing together, and realizing how many people would be in the ceremony, it was nice to be part of one of the dress rehearsals.
On Sunday morning, after a long night of getting home late from the opening ceremony dress rehearsal, I was awoken at 8:30 by a knock on the door. I was confused because I didn't know who'd be knocking so early, and I thought it was Paul, one of our chaperons. Someone said, "Package for Palluzzi" so I assumed it was Paul, and I opened the door to Jeff, standing there was goldfish crackers, the new Usher CD, and our friend Ruby, videotapping. After a couple of minutes of yelling at him, and yelling at everyone who knew that he was coming and did a wonderful job of keeping it from me, I finally realized that he was really in China! Of course I was very very excited!
Later that day, Jeff and I went to American Cafe, a Western-style restaurant I had wanted to check out, with Ruby, Laura, and Anna. Then we all split up, and Jeff and I went to the mall nearby and then to Wangfujing, a very popular part of town I have already been to. It is where I ate the scorpion. Jeff and I were not so adventurous, and instead I got some fried ice cream, and we walked along the moat area near the Forbidden City to Jingshan Park, which is behind the Forbidden City.
Then we hopped in a cab that took us two feet to Beihai Park. The cab driver probably thought we were crazy and lazy, because it was only 1 km away, but we had thought it was farther. There, we met up with Anna, Laura, and Laura's friend, Jason. We walked around the park for a bit and went out on a motor boat across Beihai Lake to the other side of the park. Then we walked back to the beginning of the park and took a cab back to the Wangfujing street to get a Peking Duck dinner. Part of the dinner included duck web (the foot) and liver. It was interesting, and maybe not the best introduction to Chinese food, but I think Jeff liked it anyways, because although it was a little gross it was also a good experience. Jason had ordered our whole dinner (he is from Hong Kong) and he was excited about it, so I tried the duck web, which I never want to eat again, and the liver, which was actually OK.
The next day, I had training. Jeff went off to find his hostel, and then he did the Lama Temple. We met up after I got off of work, and went to eat dinner at Saddle Cantina, a restaurant in Sanlitun, a popular expat bar area here. It was nice to be somewhere Western, although I ended up getting sick from the food. It's funny how you can eat scorpion on a stick and duck webbed feet and be OK, but eat something normal like steak fajitas and get so ill. I guess that's the way the body works, though.
On Tuesday, the 5th, Jeff and and I went to the Tian'anmen Square and Forbidden City. I had not yet been to Tian'anmen Square, even though I have been here for nearly a month, so it was quite a site to see. The square is huge, and has the Mausoleum of Mao in the center, and a gate at the southern edge of the city called Qianmen. It is a 15th century gate that "was once part of a city wall that divided the ancient Inner CIty from the outside world." (According to my guidebook, Lonely Planet's Beijing Encounter). Then we went to the Forbidden City. I had already been, but this time we went through the Jewelry section on the right hand side, and I got to see an entire section I had yet to see. After that, we went to Houhai, another one of the lakes in the "Back Lake/HouHai" area. I had not been yet. Jeff and I rented a boat for an hour and went out on the lake and paddled around. Then we met up with some friends to get drinks and dinner around the lake.
Wednesday morning, we woke up and headed to Dongzhimen Long-Distance Bus Station and boarded a bus for the Mutianyu Great Wall. This part of the wall is a cross between Badaling and Simatai. It was a little more touristy than Simatai, but the wall was older and more authentic than the one at Badaling. We got there around noon, after an hour and a half bus ride and a half hour taxi ride (which we had to haggle for.) We got tickets to the cable line, and the alpine slide. I got into the wall for free with my credentials, which was neat. I also got a free bus ride! Having credentials has its perks.
We took the cable car up to the top (much nicer and much safer, I thought, than the one at Simatai) and it took about 15 minutes. Then we hiked from one side to the other in a little over an hour and a half, stopping along the way for lunch. We got to see some beautiful sites, and then took the slide down! I had never been on a slide like that, and it was definitely scarier than the zipline! You have a little thing you sit on, and you push down and the wheels go down, and if you pull back there are rubber pads that slow you down. It was a long slide too--1500 m (which is almost a mile!)
After the Great Wall, we headed back to the bus stop, and took the bus back to Dongzhimen. Then we got in a cab and went to 798 art district. The art district reminded me a lot of Fort Point, for those of you in Boston. It is an area of town that used to be industrial. It is made of buildings built in the 1950s, which were used to build electronics. It was shut down after Beijing was urbanized, and in 2002 the art community took up the area and turned it into a major artistic hub. It is a little outside the main part of the city, but it was well worth our trip! We went to gallery after gallery, soaking in Chinese modern art. Then we went to a museum called Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, or UCCA. It had a bunch of cool exhibits including one that was like an "news tunnel" that you walked up stairs into, and was full of TVs that were all blasting news from around the world. At the end of it, you slide down a slide, and then when you're out of it you realize you've come through a tunnel made of metal mesh with TVs that has newspapers for stuffing. It was really interesting. After 798 we headed back to get dinner at a restaurant near Sanlitun ( a Chinese one) that was pretty good. Then we headed back to the hostel to change, and went to Kokomo. It is a bar in the Sanlitun area that is set up like a beach Cabana, and even has sand for a floor! We got drinks and nachos here, and then headed home.
Thursday we also had a busy day! In the morning Jeff and I headed to the Bird's Nest so Jeff could see it. Then we went to the Beijing Zoo! It was a little sad, because the animals aren't treated as well as they are in US zoos, but it was still cool to see the animals. We saw a whole bunch of panda bears! It was very exciting to see. We also saw a ton of other animals (lions, tigers, (panda) bears, panthers, elephants, zebras, ostriches, rhinos, hippos, etc.) After the zoo, we headed to the Silk Market. Jeff bargained for shoes and a belt, which was very exciting. Jeff came to realize why I wanted to keep going back to the Silk Market--because everything is so cheap!! That night we adventured to a restaurant with a sign in the window that said, "English menu available." It turned out to be a very good adventure! It was some good traditional food, and it filled us up!
Friday was Jeff's last full day. We got up and went to the Temple of Heaven Park. It was beautiful! Then we headed to the Pearl Market which is right there, and did a little shopping. After that, we went to All-Star Bar and Grill, which is a brand new bar and grill north of Sanlitun in Chaoyang Park. We got there just in time to start the Olympic's Opening Ceremony. They were amazing! The crowd at the bar was international, so there was a lot of cheering for multiple countries. When the United States was called, the entire bar erupted into cheers. Then, when they showed President Bush, the entire bar started booing. It was a wonderful moment, I must say. All the Americans in the bar love their country, but it was nice to see we also all do not approve of President Bush. It was a really great night, because I could enjoy the entire event be seeing all the fireworks that I couldn't see during the rehearsal. At the end of it, when they lifted Li Ning (a famed Chinese gymnast in the 1984 LA Olympics) into the air to light the torch, the entire bar let out a cry of disbelief and then cheered like crazy! It was truly amazing.
Saturday, Jeff and I headed to the airport, and had a nice lunch before he went through security. Then I headed back to the CUC, and had a lazy afternoon cleaning up and doing laundry!
This week, as the Olympics pick up, it should be very exciting. We are going to be going to a Beach Volleyball game (hopefully) tomorrow, which should be very exciting!! Then we'll be beginning work, and next week the Track and Field (Athletics) events start, so I will be working non-stop. I can't believe that we are coming home in two and a half weeks! It will truly fly by!! That's all for now. I hope to hear from you all soon!
love love love,