My iPad Mini tells me this picture was taken at 6:31 a.m. Fog hung over the city our first morning. Sue hadn’t slept well and had been up and down all night. My unconscious self hadn’t moved all night and I heard nothing. Sue picked up the wake-up call, “You wake up now.” After a quick shower, I felt refreshed. I think.
Breakfast had started at 6:30 a.m. The eating area this time was on the second floor unlike the first one for dinner the night prior. There were no shortage of choices: buffet style for visitors from both east and west. The usual items such as bacon; sausages; eggs boiled or eggs to order; various familiar cereals; yoghurt; bread to slice; rolls; butter and jams were available. As well, roasted potatoes, corn, pasta, congee soups, spring rolls, and a variety of vegetables and more were on offer. Of course, an assortment of juices, coffee, tea and sliced fruits: watermelon, cut-up oranges, bananas, sushi, and tossed and bean salads were available. Prior warnings, by the travel agency, about not eating anything not boiled, were uppermost in our minds. I passed on most of these, though the presentations made my mouth water.
Introductions: At 9:30 a.m., our guide, waited in the hotel lobby and the bus waited outside. The dazzling morning sun had burned off the fog and the fresh air smelled of glorious summer. What a leap from winter, which we’d left behind almost two days ago, to a balmy Chinese spring.
Our tour guide was called Robert in English. I believe he was 40-something. He had the hint of a tummy, but otherwise has an average five-foot five, or six-inch frame. He didn’t avoid eye-contact and his command of English was excellent.
Our bus driver didn’t need to speak but he helped the ladies step up into the bus. I evaded his assistance. I didn’t want help. I don’t need any—not yet. Our traveling companions, the English 8 Group were all retired and eager to start.
Jim and Carolyn (Canada)
Russ and Bonnie (Canada)
Ernesto and Lorena (Mexico). They have a daughter in Canada who fingered the travel ad
Sue and I (Canada)
Upon arrival at the Temple of Heaven, the ladies squirmed and the inquisition began. “Where are the washrooms, please?” Who knew the ladies all followed an unwritten rule: never miss an opportunity. My mantra had begun at Chicago airport.
- Had both squat and pedestal toilets
- Men’s and women’s washrooms across from each other
- No toilet paper supplied
- shared sinks are in between the two
- Both sexes wash their hands side-by-side
- Soap supplied
- Driers weak, no paper towels
- Counters drowning in splashed water
I lucked out with a pedestal model, but the floor and toilet seat were a wet mess. How does this happen? Thank goodness I came prepared with my own paper and dried up the worst bits so my clothes wouldn’t get dirty. I managed not to slip and fall and I hadn’t even needed to use a squat toilet. I hadn’t thought to pack a change of clothing. My first flush was an oopsie. I forgot to put the paper in the basket instead of flushing it. The sanitary system cannot handle paper as well due to the extreme volume of usage. We were stared at. I smiled, washed my hands and waved them around when the drier didn’t work. It felt strange standing shoulder to shoulder, next to a man, in what feels like the women’s washroom.
Temple of Heaven (the park)
The area was park-like and filled with young people, seniors and everyone in between. We had come dressed for summer and removed our light jackets. The day was warm and the air clear. Most of the locals wore wool everything, long sleeves, hats and quilted jackets. Even the older folk stretched limbs (legs) against wrought iron fences or practiced Tai chi. The younger groups—most of them female—danced to music (comparable to line dancing or Zumba here).
A few of the older generation (gulp) were contortionists. Say what? I have pictures to back ME up. See. Ouch. My back and legs can’t do that. My teeth hurt to watch. How is this still possible at this guy’s age? He must be over 75 at least.
The man in the red sweater holds something akin to a bird (as in badminton). Demonstrations for its use look similar to a soccer player keeping his ball in motion. The feet and ankles are kept active. An effective exercise, I think and your competition is a small white plastic thing with feathers you must not allow to touch the ground.
- Hawkers everywhere, with shawls, scarves, kites, badminton-like birdies etc.
- Hawkers were persistent but not rude
- Young and old come to the park for exercise and fresh air
- I saw no dogs walked
- Birds taken for walks. Their cages were hung on tree limb
- It was the weekend, a Sunday
We had free time to wander the park for about 20 minutes. Throngs of people surrounded us everywhere we turned. I imagined all these people were occupants from the many tall apartment buildings. The belief there is that fresh air and exercise are necessary to a good life. I kept a low profile—I might have gawked once or twice—the locals stared openly. It is their country after all and we were the odd balls.
Next on June 13th, Beijing Part 4, Day 3 (cont’d)
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