The bus set off at 9:00 a.m.
Upon entering the Pearl building, we were bustled into a small room with folding card chairs. Our pearl instruction lady described the different types of pearls: fresh water and salt water and advised the former as best, throwing in some color distinctions. She presented round and irregular samples as well as the reasons for the various colors.
After this quickie presentation, we sprinted behind the pearl instructor into a larger, showier room with thick royal blue carpet and plushier chairs. Models, dressed in formal wear, appeared on the catwalk to showcase and model pearl necklaces and earrings. I wasn’t enthralled, but still astonished by the flashy show, and I cannot lie, the jewelry was gorgeous. The fashion ladies withdrew and The Group 8 were bid to follow by a forward flourish. With a dramatic pull on a set of double doors, a whole new world materialized: a magical place, with lights so bright they blinded at first. Rows and rows of glass cases, shiny as jewels themselves, glittered up and down the aisles. I swear a saleslady appeared for every customer. I noticed only one male clerk. A tour group left as we arrived and shortly afterward the French Group showed up. The showroom hummed and bustled like a beehive. New sales staff seemed to emerge out of thin air as needed.
Set up in one corner, I noticed a coffee and wine bar with bar chairs. No, nothing here was free to pacify / massage the customer. A list of hefty prices hung on obvious display. Avoiding sales staff who followed you like a shadow is thirsty work but I wasn’t buying anything. I’ve never cared about pearls and most jewelry my whole life (except earrings). Why would I buy them at this age?
Lorena and Bonnie bought jewelry. Our few non-buying members huddled together and made for the door at the first opportunity. We found an unbelievable treasure while we wandered around till everyone finished shopping. The walls displayed every size of oyster shell you never imagined with plagued descriptions underneath. However, we weren’t given time to amble around and were hustled out to the bus. Why? We had to go. So fast?
A clerk pushing Pearl skin cream caught my attention and said, “This will make your skin look 20 years younger.”
“Can I have a written guarantee?” I asked.
Such a quick response. “What good is it if my face is young and the rest of me is sagging?”
“Madam, you can use it all over your body.”
“Look at me,” another clerk piped in, “I’m 70.”
We all tittered because she couldn’t have been a day over 29. I gave her kudos for her quick comeback, though. I hope she’s worth her weight in gold.
The Summer Palace
I enjoyed our tour of the Summer Palace. The park was enormous (over 700 acres, taken up mostly by Kunming Lake); a peaceful place to spend the day. It has a long, remarkable history. This will give you a better outline and will take less time to take in.
The Men’s and Ladies’ washrooms were again across from each other with a communal sink in between. The facilities tiny cubicles with elbow-knocking walls. I don’t take up much room but had a difficult doing the deed. Ouch. Lucky for me, the door I happened to offer a pedestal toilet. I heard later, the rest were squats. It was dark as well and I could hardly see.
Quick Facts on Education:
- Kindergarten is bi-lingual (Chinese and English)
- Government-paid until age 15
- School 7:30 to 4:30 p.m. five days per week
- For better school must pay $6,000 to $12,000 extra per year
- Sometimes extra classes on Saturdays
- Music lessons at school (not outside in music school)
- Beijing has 70 universities
- University cost for 2 semesters $3,500 / year
- College costs $1,700 / year
- 70-80% Chinese kids go to college in Beijing
- School vacation in winter 21 days (for travel)
- Summer vacation in summer (2 months for travel)
- $40,000 – $50,000 to study in U.S. paid by parents
Up Next, July 18th, Olympic Park
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