Goodbye Old Beijing and Hello New Shanghai
Trip Start May 25, 2011
15Trip End Jun 07, 2011
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We really loved Beijing. Our days usually started about 8 am and the official tour stuff ended anywhere from 6 to 9pm allowing a little time to squeeze in some side excursions, doing laundry in the bathtub (the laundry prices are higher than we thought), and calling home. There will be lots of fun stories about all of the tour and group activities as well as the side events.
Now that we are getting to know each other, let me tell you a little about our group -
We have our SINO Trojan leaders, Mrs. Morehouse and Mr. Orsulak, leading our trip and keeping us in line. Susan and John have both been to China and have great advice. Susan is a fabulous negotiator
Ms. Sidner has been a great addition to our group. She will be teaching the 2nd graders for the partial immersion program at Jenks Southeast. She is joining our tour to learn more about China as she takes on this new challenge.
The kids are doing so well. We have a great mix with 6 girls and 5 boys. They are getting along marvelously especially considering the long hours that we are putting in. Doug had a compliment from a stranger at our hotel who said that she had seen us for breakfast for several days and was very impressed with their behavior. They are representing SINO well.
The Mamarazzi - there are 7 moms in the entourage. We are the bag carrying, camera toting group. I have tried to get some of the group pics of the kids and then show you the mamas (mamarazzi) snapping all of their shots. We have been enjoying ourselves, keep drinking the Yanjing to keep our stomachs in line, and making sure the kids have whatever they need/want.
Uncle Carl - everyone needs an Uncle Carl! He is actually Heidi's grandpa but we all call him Uncle Carl. His irrepressible enthusiasm, endless supply of snacks, magic tricks, and ice cream funds have helped to make this trip the best of the best. "There is never a dull moment with Carl" - I had heard this from someone who worked with Carl just before we left for the trip and it is so true. Most of us learned pretty early to say "bu yao" (I do not want) to the vendors and walk by quickly but not Carl. Carl would talk to the vendors, buy from the vendors, take pictures with the vendors and all. I think in the first day he had more paper hats, snot blowers, spinners, postcards, and whistles than anyone could possibly use or gift (so sorry if I spoiled your surprise gift). He was always at the tail end of our line doing his final negotiations and then running to catch up. Finally at the end of day 1 we were in the last push to quickly make it to the bus and something caught Carl's eye. Andrew quickly piped in "Keep moving Carl, don't buy it.". That became the phrase of the day that all of the kids would say to get our line moving again. "Keep moving Carl!". They changed their tune day 2 as they realized that Carl loves ice cream . . . and so do our kids. They have managed to find at least one ice cream stop a day where Carl has enjoyed and treated us to ice cream
Feng Li (Jessica) - our Beijing tour guide. I think that most of us called her Feng Li as we are trying to use our Chinese and she just did not look like a Jessica to me. We loved Feng Li! She was an outstanding tour guide. She has lived in Beijing all her life, began her English training in elementary school and obtained university level schooling. Her knowledge of history, politics, and customs was incredible and nothing seemed to be "off limits" in our questions. If you take a tour in many cities, your guide may try to incorporate jokes into their presentations. Well, the same is true here. She did do it too much and some fell flat due to translation or timing but here were some memorable sayings from Feng Li -
BMW - She said that it stands for break my wallet.
3 generation shirts - Feng Li said that they sold 3 generation shirts in the alley ways of the Great Wall. Then paused to finish - You buy, you wear, you wash, it shrinks. Give to son - he wears, he washes, it shrinks. He gives it to his son - he wear it, he wash it, it shrinks - he throws it away
Garlic - the Chinese love their garlic. The Chinese believe a garlic a day keeps the doctor away. Two garlic a day keeps the husband away. Three garlic a day keeps everybody away.
Cat - " No matter whether white cat or black cat if can catch a mouse it is a good cat."
Favorite things, things I did from Beijing -
Ally - The Temple of Heaven was 4 times bigger than the Forbidden City.
Andrew - My favorite thing was Tienanmen Square. This was the first real day in China - we saw the people, split pants and all. My favorite restaurant was the Noodle Loft restaurant that we found with the Ryans on the last night.
Britton - They would go to the Temple of Heaven to pray for a good harvest. Funny memory standing at the top of the Great Wall under the shelter while it was pouring rain
Cameron - My favorite thing was walking on the Great Wall (editor's note - he did not walk - he ran, ran, ran!) And the surprise was the slide down.
Garrett - I was surprised to see a Ferrari dealership right in the main, high-end shopping area. I asked Uncle Carl if he would buy me a red Ferrari. He never answered me. Now he says if we go back to Beijing he will buy me one.
Grace - I liked the Blue Zoo more than I thought and at the regular zoo I was able to see a panda for the first time in my life.
Heidi - My favorite memory is when Mrs. Morehouse fell off the donkey on the Great Wall. We all could not stopped giggling. A surprise about the visit to Beijing was the split pants that the kids wear. Glad I never had those.
Jack - My favorite thing was the Great Wall
Kendall - the Legend of the Bell Tower was something that I thought was interesting. The emperor commissioned artists to cast a bell for the the tower. The artist was hired. They only had so many days to cast the bell or the bell makers would be beheaded. The bell maker's daughter had a plot to get herself into that area saying there was evil spirits that she was going to cast away. Well she ended up throwing herself into the hot molten metal and died. They one thing remaining was her silver slipper. The emperor designed a monument to her. They would ring the bell in the morning and hit the drum in the evening to note the beginning and end of the day open/close of the city.
Lauren - The Great Wall was my favorite thing and I was surprised there was a slide.
Trent - The the Great Wall of China is SO steep and jagged. I cannot believe that soldiers ran that every day. Now I would like to see other sections of the Great Wall that still remain standing
Just stuff -
Safety - we have really felt very safe in Beijing. The roads are a little crazy as it seems like the lines are only a rough guide and in many places the cars, bikes, and people are all weaving in and out of each other sharing the same space. We have been traveling in a bus all week and being the "large barge" on the road means that everyone else moves out of your way - even when you back into or do a U-turn in the middle of a major intersection. The cab ride home from the Olympic Village was my scariest moment in Beijing - but I think that is the way it is in any major city.
Population - the pop of Beijing as 20 million and Shanghai is about 23 million per the tour guides (when I looked it up the metro pop is closer to 15 mil). Shanghai is the most populated city in the world, Beijing is the 9th and New York City is the 14th with a population of 8 million.
Angles and thresholds - the Chinese believe that evil spirits cannot cross a threshold or turn a corner so we were stepping over pretty high thresholds and zigzagging around in the temples and other buildings
Circles and Squares - there are many circles and squares intentionally used in Chinese architecture to represent heaven (circle) and earth (square). They have carried this forward to modern architecture wanting the balance of heaven and earth just as they balance the round Bird's Nest next to the square Water Cube.
Yin and yang - this is still a common guide in balance in many areas even in meals. Feng Li said that they will cook shrimp (a yin) with ginger ( a yang). Hmmm . . . and I just thought it was because they tasted great together. Apparently they even have food categorized.
So we said goodbye to Feng Li at the Beijing terminal. We have joined the tour guide who was with Group B. She will ride back to Shanghai with us.
( an hour later while on the train to Shanghai) - hmmm . . . . not off to such a great start, we are on the train to Shanghai (11 hour ride) and our tour guide just threw up down the aisle - great. Well . . . surely it can only get better from here . .. only 8 more hours until we get to Shanghai,
towards the end of the train ride -
Train talk - finding a common language
We had a real charmer named Scott (that is his American name) approach our group. He does not know that much English but was able to sing our alphabet song and Old MacDonald. All of our kids sang Jasmin Flower to him. He shared his stickers with our group. Too cute.
. . ..We are in our hotel now. We have free internet access from the room which will be very helpful. We are staying right downtown. Great location. The rooms are very small and you can hear the noise from the streets. A little different from our Beijing hotel but should be great.