On Saturday, June 22nd, we started our first day in Beijing with most of us groggy and tired from the overnight train. We were stuck to the windows as the train slowly made its way into the city, passing by the outer ring and its living conditions. Upon arriving in the train station we hurried off and into the tour bus where we met our tour guide for the city, Dave.
However, our growling stomachs made the decision to stop for breakfast before heading out at a KFC near the train station. Sadly, to much of our disappointment, the menu was tweaked for the morning pallet and the food was not what we where expecting.
With full bellies and a switch in the itinerary, we headed out to the Temple Of Heaven. There, we met up with Mr. Girard who had arrived in Beijing the night before. We followed a long smooth and wide path in the incredible heat. The only thing interrupting the path were the temples, magnificent and breathtaking. Each temple had a history of being rebuilt and destroyed with wars, occupation, and even lightning. The heat was particularly powerful and many of us bought hats, the fan favorite being Henry’s and George’s rainbow umbrella hats. Sadly the heat took a hard tole on Brendan, who recovered in the shade while the rest of us listened to Dave’s information on the Temples and God’s they were for. Yang 老师 graciously bought all of us popsicles to beat the heat.
After the Temple we headed to a huge 5 floor shopping mall where we bought various knock off items and clothes, practiced our now mastered haggling skills, and had fun together, even staying for an additional hour. After the mall we went to check into our hotel to have some down time and some well needed showers. After our relaxing period we took a walk to dinner, which was only ten minutes away.
The restaurant we went to had a hot pot style where at tables of four, we dunked raw meet into boiling water with various spices to cook it. The food was delicious and the entire experience was new, fun, and exciting. After spending a considerable amount of time at the restaurant we split into two groups, one to head back to the hotel, and the other to walk the streets of Beijing in search of a guitar string for Henry. After walking for a little, we realized the idea was becoming unrealistic so instead we went to a huge French super market. There, we all got a variety of snacks, drinks, and sweets that we could never find in the states, many to Yang 老师’s wise suggestion.
Our walk back was beautiful, the weather was pleasantly hot with a cool breeze and the night sky brought a new glow to the city, making the whole scene magical. On the way back we stopped by a group of people dancing under some trees near the road. The ages ranged from children to grandparents, many of who were dancing slowly to the electronic dance music. Henry, Sam, Max, and Dan took the dance floor together, dancing with an older man. The man was dancing with two fans and clearly had a lot of experience. As the song ended, Henry and the man took to the clearing, Henry showing his incredibly impressive ballet skills while the man upped his fan game. At the end of the song we talked with him. As it turned out his name was along the lines of Tian Shu Chow and he had been a soldier. During his service he met Nixon and was very proud of his incredible life. We left with promises of coming again the next night and we plan to hit the dance floor again tomorrow.