Wednesday - September 5 - The Summer Palace

     I'm not certain about the design of this shower. The base of the shower is the entire floor of the bathroom. There is a drain behind the toilet but the water freely flows throughout the room and doesn't seem very eager to head toward the drain. So after a shower is over the room sits full of water for about a half hour or more. Perhaps it's the slope of the floor, perhaps it's the fact that I noticed that the drain from the sink, which is openly visible, is only a 1" pipe. Either way it's a challenge to move from the bathroom to the bedroom with wiping your feet each time or getting the floor of the bedroom wet.

Wednesday Morning

     The driver showed up at 7:00AM so we took breakfast in our rooms with granola bars and gorp. Seven is a great time to drive, tour and be outside. Only the early commuters are on the roads as we leave the CAFA campus. The main thoroughfare is busy but the Beijing locked traffic grid is still in our future. Tang greets us warmly at the gate to the summer palace.

     A very significant second factor has limited the writing in this log. Beyond the lack of Internet access is the lack of scare time. We start the day with awakening and preparing for the day. We end the day by dragging ourselves onto our beds. Between the 7:00AM departure with the driver and the 9:30PM return to the room, we are on our feet walking, strolling, watching shopping. We do have our moments of sitting and eating some of the finer food that China can offer. Restaurants range from small family run "holes in the wall" to elaborate dining halls with hundreds of patrons to exquisite restaurants with uniquely decorated private rooms. The point is that not everything will be written real time and if interested you may wish to return these dates at a later time.

The Summer Palace

     The Summer Palace sits on a lake, not one side of the lake but around the entire lake. Relaxed we strolled along the shore which as you may expect with a very old development by royal, every square meter was well groomed. We weren't alone in our relaxed stroll; it seemed to be the venue for relaxing. We spotted a man writing Chinese calligraphy on the walk and after a bit of observation we realized he was merely using water and that several columns back the water was drying leaving only a slight stain on the walk. Asked what he might be writing, we were told that they were probably quotations from Confucius or Mao.

     Along the shore were small boats that one might rent to use on the lake. Across the lake you could see dimly more arched bridges, gazebos, and far on the hill the palace itself. Along the walk were structures of majesty and also functional structures for workers and gardening. As the as the morning proceeded one could even see the increase in the number of people. Many just walking and looking; others purposely exercising or participating in other daily routines. For the side of one longer bridge there were many persons flying kites; but not children, adults with very nice kites, long lines that put the kites nearly out of sight and elaborate reels to control the kites. They sat at the end of the walk and talked and played with their kites.

     We backtracked so that we could find find to get to the palace itself. On the way back Tang introduced us to a junior from BIT (Beijing Institute of Technology) who would serve as a second guide throughout the day. Chen Chen was a very gracious and helpful young lady. Her English was exquisite and her goal was to study law to become a lawyer and judge like her father which probably was a primarily reason for her decision. When I asked her about what freedoms the Chinese students felt they lacked she indicated the choice of a career or job.

     Tang escorted us to a dragon boat which took us across the lake to the base of the palace. This was important because the walk around the lake may have taken all day and our energy would have been completely depleted (again). We gaped at the palace or at least as close as we could get to the outside, and strolled back toward the exit chatting constantly with our guides who by now we considered good friends.

     We had mentioned to Tang how we would have liked to have access to an Internet connection so that we could check our email and affirm some of our details for our presentations the following week. He indicated that apartment was a mess but that we could go there. So we did, and there we used the Internet for a couple emails.

Bookstores

     One of Tang's goals was to show us culture and so we stopped by the Beijing University and several bookstores. The bookstores were grand especially with Tang's knowledge of Chinese literature and his generosity. In the third bookstore he slipped into a small alcove and bought us each a copy of the book that he had written. Despite his youthful appearance, we think that we may be in the presence of one of the foremost English translators in Chinese. Beisdes his day job at the institute, he privately teaches translating and English classes to groups of hundreds of students. We suspect that with the demand for many accurate translations for the upcoming Olympics, he is very busy.

     The last stop of Tang and Chen was for supper with Peking duck. While the duck may have been the focus of the meal it certainly wasn't the only food put before us. Again we dined as royalty. While we remain awkward with our Chinese eating utensils, we are improving.

 


Updated September 5, 2007
Denvy Saxowsky©