March 19, 2007 BEIJING ...visiting the Peking Opera School and Summer Palace
Some notes of possible interest:
The envelopes do not have glue on them…you have to add that to seal the envelope….no lickem’ and stickems’!
Our local guide grew up in an 80 sq ft apartment with her parents; they all three slept in the same bed. She still lives with her parents but has her own bedroom now which is 100 sq ft…the standard of living is increasing rapidly.She has purchased a condo for herself with her boyfriend; but they have a tenant. When you purchase a new home (condo) it is only four bare walls and bare floors. The water is piped in the wall to the unit but no inside piping or appliances. Each person does their own after they buy. The way to spot residential buildings as opposed to an office building: each unit has an air conditioning unit attached to the wall outside the building. There is no central system for the residential buildings.
There are more bikes on the streets of Beijing than Shanghai. Cars have the right of way…you take your life in your hands when you cross the street.Driving laws…only suggestions unless a policeman is present!
Food is always cut into small pieces and served family style on the lazy susan table. What do we eat…mostly vegetables, beef and pork, very little seafood or fish. No bread with the meals and dessert is always fresh fruit sliced very thinly. Soup is served near the end of very meal: generally very thin soup. And of course: as much tea as you can drink!
The guides say that Chinese people eat everything:
That flies except the airplanes
That has four legs except the table
That swims in the water except for submarines
Toilets: Mostly “squat” type; we do find a western toilet occasionally. Toilet paper is very rare; everyone carries their own supply.
Disneyland: Everyone knows about the one in Hong Kong but they are also building a new Disneyland Theme Park in Shanghai we are told; out by the airport.
BACK TO OUR TOUR STORY.....
Our morning began early again as we were up and out of the hotel by 8 am.Rained during the night and we had a light mist most of the day. Again, very cold!
Our first stop was at a Silk Carpet Factory. We learned about the process from the cocoon to the dying of the yarn and then watched the young girls weaving the carpets. They are all farm girls who come to the city to work for the factory for about six years and then return to the farm. They are paid about $90 month plus room and board. Very tedious work and the results are beautiful. Several of our group purchased rugs. The more knots on the rug the more expensive it was. A small throw rug was several thousand dollars.
Back on the bus we headed across town for another hour to reach theOpera School where we visited classrooms to see how the children are trained to perform in The Peking Opera. They are auditioned at the age of ten for their voice and ability to mimic the instructor. Once chosen they spend six years training and about ninety percent of them become performers for the Opera Company Tours. They are trained in dancing, music, singing and acrobatics. Basic educational classes are also provided for their education here at the boarding school.
On to a nice Chinese lunch at a local restaurant and then some elected to go back to the hotel by cab and the rest of us drove to the Summer Palace located about ten miles away from the Forbidden City. The Empress Dowager liked to spend six months a year at this location. She had a telephone between the Summer Palace and the Forbidden City and also electricity; both did not exist elsewhere in China at that time. It is very large complex built around a manmade lake. The dirt removed from the lake was used to build a mountain. For luck one wants a lake in front of their home and a mountain behind their home.
Several of the buildings are under renovation for the upcoming Olympics. By the way…Beijing is only one of four cities being used for the 2008 Olympics. There will be venues in Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Xian (I’m not positive on that fourth one). So if you plan to see several different events it may include airplane trips around the country.
The Summer Palace was very beautiful but even colder than the rest of the city because of the lake. You would have thought we were in Sibera the way we were dressed and then we were still freezing when we arrive back at the bus after an hour plus of walking through the palace grounds along the edge of the lake under the recently renovated corridor. The mist continued to fall all afternoon; just enough to make us damp but not enough for umbrellas.
Traffic jams made the ten mile trip to the hotel last for an hour. Arrived back just in time to freshen up before leaving for another Chinese Dinner….and I wonder why I’m gaining weight…before walking from the restaurant to Madam Mao’s Theatre to enjoy an abbreviated Chinese Opera. It lasted for about an hour; the regular ones last a minimum of four hours. It helped to have seen the children practicing in their classrooms this morning. Arrived home by 9 pm and hit the pillow early. My thighs were sore all day from the Great Wall walking yesterday. Literally had to be helped up and down the steps on the bus each time; and I wasn’t the only one suffering from problems created by our hike on steep and uneven stone steps the day before. But worth every ounce of pain!