How the Cookie Crumbles

An irreverant view of life after SIXTY-FIVE

Beijing Part 3, Day 3

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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.

Morning has broken

Morning has broken

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.

Each squat had a door though / Thank you Wikipedia Commons

Each squat had a door though / Thank you Wikipedia Commons

Park Bathroom

  • 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)

Short sleeve weather?

Short sleeve weather?

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).

Tai Chi and in Quilted

Tai Chi and in Quilted

IMG_0151

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.

Ouch

Ouch

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
Elastic Man. How old are you?

Elastic Man. How old are you?

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)

Click on CHINA tab at the top of this page for all links about this trip.

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Author: Let's CUT the Crap!

I'm getting a little LONG in the tooth and have things to say about---ouch---AGEing. I believe it's certainly a state of mind but sometimes it's nice to hear that you're NORMAL. I enjoy reading by the truckload. I'm a grandma but I don't feel OLD although I'm not so young anymore. My plan is to stick it out as long as I can on this lovely planet and only will leave it kicking and screaming!

104 thoughts on “Beijing Part 3, Day 3

  1. I am so happy to be on the tour with you! Traveling and restrooms, There is a book to be written on the diversity. Birds going for a walk? I can not say I have seen that!

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  2. I’m all ears, that toilet stuff is very interesting.

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    • Interesting to me too but to people who have traveled no biggie. I shake my head when I think how some people treat concerns we automatically decide are concerns. Still, dirty and nasty is dirty and nasty.

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  3. The contortionist photo amazing! Interesting trip. So glad to hear you got a good night’s sleep, finally. 🙂

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  4. Contortionists and taking birds for a walk! And yucky restrooms. It’s quite an adventure already! I’m very interested in the food so I look forward to hearing more about that 🙂

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    • Yes, men don’t think this is interesting but women do. There is a pattern I see now that the end of the trip has come. I don’t know what his aunt imagine in her old age when he brought her her old journals. 😀 😀

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  5. How fascinating. I wonder how much of this is in our future. I wouldn’t mind the healthier lifestyle. I could even get used to drying my hands by men. Communism–I don’t know.

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  6. Note to self: Bring toilet paper if you ever go to China. Of course, as you might have read in one of my previous posts, I’m an old pro at the hole-in-the-ground toilets…

    Those contortionists are amazing. Just goes to show you what one can achieve if they maintain their flexibility over the years. Wowsa.

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  7. One look at those johns and I’d be on the first plane home. Yikes!

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    • Hang in there, Karen. I’ll take care of you. Thank goodness this place wasn’t scary, OR we didn’t see anything scary because the doors were closed…know what I mean? Don’t want to reveal too much before it is time.

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  8. What an experience! You are selling me on going some day with your variety of details and capturing the beauty of the people/culture.

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    • Selling you is one thing and I have nothing to gain. The thing is, China will not be China for long. It is changing fast and will not be the same for long–how long? I can’t say but this much is true. Our trip was bargain basement price but will not be for long.

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  9. The people are beautiful. I would have wanted to be able to do what they were doing!!!

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  10. Looks like a gorgeous day and a very community oriented city. Everyone seems to be doing their “thang” in the sunshine, whether you are double jointed or not 🙂

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  11. You got me in the mood for a nice breakfast buffet 🙂

    Those toilet-squat-nasty-dirty things–bleh. (I have limits when it comes to making do.)

    Keep the posts coming!

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  12. You must have had a great experience, and the toilets were my favourite – ‘not’
    I used to check times on my photos and question it. Then I realsed I had not change the time settings to match the country…Lovely story and pictures and fab memory to now have…

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  13. There is an older Chinese woman who catches the bus with me in Vancouver who does Tai Chi while we wait. She is so cute and always has a big smile for me.Great post!

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  14. Well done for the squatter avoidance – bet you didn’t manage it all the time!

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  15. Tess – You are providing us a wonderful tag along and your photos are wonderful. I like the size. It gives me a greater perspective of the space you are in. Looking forward to your next post.

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  16. I am surprised you didn’t ‘squawk’ more at the standing squat. I don’t remember, do they have the signs in China about not standing on the toilets?

    Were you entirely impressed by all the Tai Chi in the park? I would have been. I think we have something to learn Tess.

    Another great addition, bring more. Your impressions are great fun.

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    • I didn’t notice any signs, Val in either language but then I was a little cross-eyed taking everything in and missed such a detail.
      I took Tai Chi for a while and I’d rather watch it. I can’t relax or slow down enough, although it did limber me up. It is a pleasure to watch. So graceful.

      Glad you’re enjoying my perspective. See you soon.
      😀

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  17. My stepdaughter is Korean-American. After hearing about the other side of her family, I’ve come to the conclusion that most westerners, both European side and American side, are wimps in a lot of ways. Her Korean grandmother, though close to being 90 years old, is more active than most 30 year-olds in the western world.

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  18. I can barely tie my own shoes. Let alone put my feet behind my back. You did well to watch. I don’t imagine their hospitals are staffed with the very savvy.

    I recall my grandfather sending us to the outhouse with two squares of toilet paper. I might have been able to cope with the squat pots.

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  19. Looks like a promising beginning. How fun!

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  20. Taking a bird out for a walk in a cage is a bit unkind isn’t it? Can you imagine what it must be thinking – all that open sky and all I have is a single perch!

    Overseas lavatories are always a gamble I find. France and Spain have improved now but Greek toilets can still be rather unpleasant!

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    • Can anyone be worse than China? I haven’t mentioned the holes in cement floors, communal toilets etc . Maybe, as a more frequent traveler, you are more aware. I was aghast when I searched the internet after my return from my holiday and saw how deplorable they used to be and still are in some places.

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  21. I too take advantage of a “potty break” whenever I’m out and about. Love all of your descriptions 🙂

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  22. Brilliant photos such an interesting blog!

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  23. Those loos’ sound awful. I’ll be sure to carry lots of tissues if I ever visit there. Thanks for taking us on your interesting tour, Tess 🙂

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  24. So glad you got the pedestal loo but what a mess…ewwwww…It was the same in France with the squat toilets in some rest areas. I won’t go into details about those, I don’t want to put you off your dinner…
    The buffet sounds wonderful but then you do have to be careful. I’m fascinated by the idea of people taking their birds to the park for walks but you didn’t see any dogs. That would be very strange, a park and no dogs. Loving the grand tour Tess… and how lovely for to have the sunshine after such a cold winter… 😎

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  25. Great post, Tess! And Dang! Those old guys are bendy!

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  26. Ah, the wonder of a squat toilet – “East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet,” to quote Rudyard Kipling!

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  27. If those toilets are in heaven I really fear for what’s at the other side. 🙂

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  28. Oh this is all so interesting and gorgeous! I can just feel the lovely fresh morning! And how lucky to have arrived on a Sunday and straight to the park, where all life happens, I imagine, but in a relaxing, Sunday way! Beautiful! 🙂 and the photos are fantastic!

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  29. I am enjoying this trip and how things appear through your eyes. Taking birds for walks In their cages is a centuries old occurance. Nowadays, dogs are a luxury. Gone are the days when the Pekingnese dogs were guardians of the temple and sole companions to royalty. I love how you talk about toilets. Most folks that travel seem to avoid them, I like how you describe them, the people, and the things allowed or not allowed and flushing the paper. I had a good laugh on that. Whilst travelling ages ago, I always kept those packets of Kleenex In my bag for emergencies. LOL. It is interesting how the food is familiar and yet there are oddnesses. Some of the true Chinese food is scary, especially the street food skewered and grilled scorpions for example. Oh my. I am really truly having fun with you. I can hardly wait for the next installment.

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    • WP doesn’t want me to talk to you. Three times I’ve been deleted…
      I write as I have seen because THIS grabs MY attention. Thank you, Kansen, for your input. Even though I have some information, I do NOT have it all. Your input is MOST welcome to this newbie.

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      • I read a few months ago, a wonderful mystery/narration of a man who was apprentice to an inquiry agent during the 1890’s. The agent had a black pekingnese given to him by the dowager princess of China…it was a spoiled little rascal but I liked him a lot. I thought of him when you mentioned taking the birds for a walk. I believe there are some paintings of Chinese royalty doing just that, centuries ago. WP is acting weird. Once again, When I logged out and later back in, all the likes I had put in had cleared out. most bothersome. I like the oddities that grab your attention. I like this instead of the same old same old….saw old buildings, lots of people, blah blah blah.

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  30. Your post brings back good memories for me Tess. In my working years, I spent a couple of months in Beijing as a part of a team negotiating a business contract with the government. China wasn’t as open in those days, and we were kept on a very short leash (my phone was bugged, so the government could eavesdrop on my calls back to corporate HQ). But, it was one of the most interesting experiences of my life up to that point. Most of China, and Beijing in particular, is an in-your-face destination, and I came away with a different perspective. It sounds like you did as well. ~James

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    • Yes, there is no mistaking this is a different world here but catching up as China grows financially. Although we were insulated in our ‘tour group’ our tour guides were open and full of information. 🙂

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  31. After seeing those squat toilets I know why they all do Tai Chi – otherwise, no way one can bend and flex as needed to fit over those holes.
    I’d love to visit China, but very put off by their social policies. I get to visit with you – thank you!

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  32. Dude that guys legs…its unreal…how is that…???

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  33. Public conveniences. That’s when I love armchair travel 🙂
    They do say Tai Chi keeps your joints flexible, though maybe not as flexible as all that …

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    • All the old(er) citizens find it helpful. Wait it gets better…coming soon to a blog near you.
      I tried Tai Chi for almost a year. At first I heard all my joints creek and figured everyone in the gymnasium could hear them. After a while, I felt more limber and they didn’t snap-crackle-pop out loud anymore. 😀 Trouble is, I couldn’t stand the s-.l-o-w format. Made me crazy. I’m used to moving…when I move, that is. 😀

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  34. Tess, this is wonderful! Your eye for detail, for the daily life, helps us to travel with you. Fortunately, you get to do the messy parts! 😀 I loved your dialogue with Kanzen!

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  35. Hi Tess,
    This is very interesting, and your take on matters cracks me up. When we went to Turkey some of the women we traveled just refused to use the squat toilets. The contortionists make my teeth hurt too! Looking forward to the next episode! Thanks for sharing.

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  36. Toilets in China can be very surprising. My boyfriend told me to always carry toilet paper, because usually you have to buy it if you want to use it in public toilet. And you buy sheet by sheet, how crazy is that ? 😀

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    • Paper is not as plentiful there as we are used to in Canada and the U.S. I packed my own toilet paper and carried it with me always. If there was paper in the washrooms I used it instead of my own to make sure it would last. Our hotel had paper but lots of times we had to ask for more because you’d get the leftover roll from the last people who stayed in the room.

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