Thursday, October 23, 2008

No Blogger for Me! - Brought in from Facebook Notes

Well, I tried to make an entry in Blogger about my day yesterday, but was greeted instead with an unfriendly screen that forbid me to continue. I don't read Chinese, but I can only assume it says something like "Wait until you get back to your own country to practice freedom of speech."

Fortunately for me, I realized that I can write it as a note in Facebook until I get home :)

It took me a while to recover from the queasiness of the plane ride, in fact I'm not sure I have yet. My first night's sleep was incredible, in a beautiful bed with goose down pillows and comforter. I had pampered myself the night before with a bath from a luxurious tub where I watched tv and had a cup of tea. In the morning, I had just started to stir when I got a call from my travel-mates, Mike and Toby, that they were ready for breakfast.

The breakfast buffet was so tasty. There were pieces of fried dough with ground meats in the middle, fried buns wrapped around ground meat, and ground meat surrounded by pasty and fried. They had a rainbow of juices and tasty gelatinous treats. It was so yummy that it gave me hope for the cuisine of the day.

We met Andrjez and Steve downstairs and decided to share a cab to Tienanmen Square and the Forbidden city. The cab ride was long, but the company was great. The first hour or more after we arrived was filled by picture-taking and getting our direction. I was prepared for large crowds and shoulder to shoulder sight-seeing, but instead saw a desolate and quiet downtown area.

After navigating through Tienanmen, we headed to the forbidden city, but first, a bathroom stop. The public restrooms were actually fairly clean. I wasn't shocked to find that I was expected to squat over a hole in the ground (I had been told about it before I arrived) but I was surprised to see that there was no place for toilet paper, nor were there any hooks to hang our belongings. I was a little concerned about how clean the floors were, so I opted to skip the preemptive potty break. After that, it was back on the sidewalk to the palace.

At the gates of the Forbidden City, many people stopped to take pictures of the buildings and all of the guards. We stopped momentarily and a Chinese native grabbed Mike and asked to have his picture taken with him. Mike politely agreed, and I laughed hysterically. When he realized that I was included in the bargain, he asked me to come join them for the picture. After trading off with his friend for one last shot with the blonde and the red-head, they shook our hands and set us free. It was very odd, like a mixture between being a celebrity and a sideshow attraction.

Once inside the gates, the professors left us, and Mike and I explored the Forbidden City alone.

Alone is just the term I would use, too. There were so few people in most of the areas, that we were able to get several pictures without any passers-by. It was almost creepy how easily we could navigate the area...that is, until we reached the Emperor's bedroom. Throngs of people gathered to oogle and photograph the ancient boudoir. Once satisfied with the peek, the crowd moved on and traffic dispersed.

I was a little disappointed with myself for being so jaded by it all (excuse the pun) but years of seeing all the sights in pictures and on television took some of the awe away. It was fun to be in the images, but it felt very normal, not at all surreal.

Early in the afternoon, we left to get some lunch, then decided to take a bus back to the hotel. The bus ride was about 18 miles and took a little over 2 hours. The highlight of that trip was the end, where a very cute Chinese girl came up to Mike and struck up a conversation. She helped us locate our stop and gave Dalby her card, asking us to call her if we needed anything while we were in Beijing. She then gave him a great big smile. She was obviously into him.

With her help, we were deposited right in front of the Lakeview hotel. I was absolutely exhausted, so I went up to take a nap before heading out for the night. Unfortunately, I couldn't get myself to wake up again! I ended up sleeping clear through the night until 2 am when I awoke completely refreshed and ready to play. Everything around was dark, so I decided to contact my family and video chat with my boys instead. I was really grateful to see how happy they are, and even happier that they grew tired of watching me in the webcam in less than 10 minutes. It let me know that they aren't missing me too badly.

Now, here I am, nearly 6 in the morning, and ready to start another fun day! Yay for Beijing.

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