Long travel day to Beijing
Trip Start Jul 18, 2013
16Trip End Aug 05, 2013
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We only stopped once--to use the bathroom and shop at a very small but bountiful farmers market. Plenty of mangoes--all different types, bananas and a small red fruit covered in dark colored soft like quills. The outer skin and quills are removed together to reveal a white sort of gooey fruit that is sweeter than any fruit I have ever tasted. Ling-ling and I just bought a few things to eat on the ride, but our Chinese friends bought boxes of different mangoes and large stalks of bananas that they will be allowed to check as baggage.
The ride back was fairly uneventful, but the views of the mountains and the terraced farming made the slow and long ride interesting. One thing I kept trying to figure out was the erection of towers and stretching of electrical cables on top of the tree covered mountains. There were no roads or even tracts that I could see, and I wondered if helicopters might be used, given that it didn't appear that trucks would even be able to navigate such terrains, even with roads cut. I wanted to ask the driver, but was too tired to try to communicate.
We said goodbye to our Save the Children translators, JIn and Ying, at the airport, as the driver was going to deliver them to their homes in Kunming. Our parting was a bit sad, as they had become good friends and fun companions. Peng Yan stayed with us for a while, as she had a flight to Chengdu, which is where she lives and works.
We ate at a famous (chain) noodle restaurant inside the airport. With Yan's help, we ordered two bowls of broth, mushroom and pork, three servings of spaghetti shaped ride noodles, and each of the broth bowls comes with a zillion ingredients (all sliced, diced or shredded) ranging from cilantro, to chicken, to multiple varieties of roots and fungi. The ingredients are all added to the bowls of almost boiling broth, with the instruction to "cook" the ingredients for two minutes. It was all very delicious and even thought I did okay with the chopsticks, I remain skeptical that noodles and chopsticks are a match. The total bill was 254 Yuan, which was a most expensive meal ever, equivalent to about 42 US dollars. Most of our dinners throughout the weeks were anywhere from 11-26 Yuan each, which is about 2-5 US dollars.
We putted around with Yan a little too long and Ling-Ling and I got to our boarding gate for the final boarding call, just 10 minutes to take-off. The 3 hour flight to Beijing seemed very long and Ling-Ling and I spent a lot of the time looking out the window to try to see the Great Wall. While we failed to find it, we did see a lot of North Central China, which consist of greed wooded mountains, with small to large villages in the valleys and sometimes on the sides of the mountains. As we neared Beijing, we saw many high rises, massive highways and large factories, and of course, a very dense smog.
We took a train from the airport to the city and stayed in a very westernized and very nice large hotel, the Novetel, located in the US project coordinator's old neighborhood, where she lived for three years while working at a hospital in the early nineties.
At a small gift shop at the Beijing airport, I had my first experience with the way of the big city. Apparently, there is no recognition of lines, and even though I waited for the person in front of me to finish his transaction, several others just stormed the line, shouting at the clerk with their purchased and money. As one man about my age, reached over my shoulder with is money in hand, calling on the clerk to wait on him, I kindly took his hand and pushed it back, saying I was next in line. As he glared at me, I said "thank you" in Chinese.
After only about ten minutes in the hotel, we left for dinner with the project coordinator for t Save the Children, the US coordinator from Perkins International, and the other two US trainers who has been in Sichuan for the entire weeks, We spent the meal debriefing the trainings and giving feedback about working with the translators, who are Save the Children Staff.
Saturday morning we woke early, had breakfast in the hotel and went off to the Antiques Market. It is really an Arts and Crafts market. We spent only about 90 minutes there, and probably saw less than 10% of the entire market, it might have been the size of a county fairground, made of permanent shops in buildings and then hundreds and hundreds of small stalls set up under a large pavilion. We saw mostly gems, beads, and jewelry making materials, fabrics, pillow cased, and paintings. All very interesting and very beautiful. Many of the items that interested my most were the brass and metal sculptures and the marble and stone carvings, all which were too heavy to bring back.
We leave Beijing airport at a little past 3 pm, but have to leave the hotel before noon, as we will take the train and Helen prefers to arrive 3-4 hours pre-flight.