Tuesday, July 16

Beijing Day 3 - Church and Parks

Our plan was to make our way to church on our own and attend sacrament meeting. Our guide would meet us there and we would head to Beihai and Jingsham Parks just north of the Forbidden City. We had read that visiting these parks is an excellent way to see locals enjoying their weekend and it seemed an appropriate way to spend the Sabbath. 

We hit mishap after mishap trying to get to church via subway, but finally made it for the final hour of the three hour block. Our poor guide was beside herself trying to find us! She was worried we would give her a bad review! We felt bad for making her worry so much! We caught the third hour of one of the Beijing English speaking branches and then we were off to see the parks! 

Ryan really enjoyed hearing the Elders Quorum lesson and discussion about Temples. Members here must travel to Hong Kong or Seoul, South Korea. One brother has to leave China every three months for Visa reasons so they use it as an opportunity to go to the temple. It was also interesting talking to the branch president who works for Boeing and travels extensively. We also learned why it was so hard to find the church that day. Very interesting dynamics being in China!

After church, Helen, our guide, tried to flag down a couple cabs for us but none of them were responding so she had to call a service. I thought that was very odd on a major street that empty cabbies wouldn't stop for us. ???

We loved Jinghsam park so much we tried to make it back another day. There were beautiful blossoms and rose bushes in full bloom. The kids loved romping freely among all the trails and climbing rocks. We saw little groups sprinkled here and there doing tai chi, singing karaoke, and dancing. Love, love, loved it!

This park is over 1000 years old and was once part of the Imperial Palace grounds which lie immediately south of it. The park is dominated by a large artificial hill, the result of all the earth moved to create the moat and canals of the Imperial complex. There are five "peaks" on the hill, each with their own pavilion to house a giant Buddha statue although most are shuttered now. It was such a fun thing to do with our climbers! Helen cruised with Jake around the park while the rest of us climbed up and around the five pavilions to enjoy the view and the people around us.

At the first temple we reached, there was a wonderful group of musicians. We stopped to listen and they began playing all sorts of traditional tunes we knew such as "Old Ang Syne" and “Oh Susanna." They were so sweet!

At the next temple, there were beautiful sweeping views of the Forbidden City . . . if the smog hadn't been so thick and allowed us to see further. 

Buddha in the pavilion, complete with incense for sale and devotees praying. It had the “Pay to pray” type of feeling with the air of a street vendor/guard. It was a very Indian looking Buddha. There used to be one in each pavilion but some were destroyed or stolen in various wars.
Up there, people could dress as the emperor, empress, or concubines to have their picture taken for a fee. So fun to people watch! 
McKay NEEDED a ninja sword! Please!!!
Jake on his tour of the grounds with Helen while we climbed.
A beautiful, peaceful place to spend time!
We loved seeing this colorful little group singing their hearts out and dancing! Impromptu groups gathering to sing, dance, perform simply for their own enjoyment. The author of "China Road" an audiobook we'd listened to theorized that the Chinese are so uninhibited in these forms of expression because it is one of the few modes of expression where they are actually free to just be. It was an interesting thought, I wonder if it's true. We stumbled on another group of all men singing opera simply standing around a public square. Awesome!
Then we were on our way to Behai Park. But we had to stop so McKay could watch some men playing Chinese chess. 

Helen tried hard to steer the stroller and it was fun to see her trying to maneuver stairs and curbs. It was awesome to see her go to bat for us at one of the ticket taker counters into the park. When the stewards questioned the number of tickets we purchased as being insufficient, she was all over them and talked them down quite forcefully. Lesson learned: don’t cross Helen. She’s uber feisty!

When asked how she learned English, Helen said they studied reading and writing it in middle school. Then she went to the WallStreet school or the More School (British). She also had two tutors/American friends. She said she'd always liked to show off and teach her mom words and phrases. As a young teen, she worked in a restaurant, eager to earn her own money and be independent from her parents. She was fascinated by a regular tour guide woman who brought groups into the restaurant. She liked seeing this independent, assertive woman leading large groups and decided that's what she wanted to do. She paid for the two courses to certify and passed the exams the first time. She's very driven! The perfect guide!

Beihai Park is also beautiful with a large lake in the middle of it. 
All these weeping willows around the edges create quite an effect too. 

Morgan got tired of all our walking so we gave it a try putting her in the Ergo carrier and she loved it. She looks too big for it but it worked great! Here we are getting in the little ferry to go across the lake to another part of the park. The minute we were seated on the ferry, people were pulling out their cameras to take the kids' pictures again. It was just so surreal to see grownups come and pose with Morgan! Jake would have nothing to do with any of them.

Helen was so efficient moving us around these parks to see the highlights in a quick but leisure pace. This is the nine dragon wall, very ornate and beautiful. The kids couldn't be bothered with it, they were too busy tramping through the trees exploring, Jake too!

Watching tai chi is mesmerizing. The fluid movement, concentration, balance . . . I love it!
Then we headed to the Acrobats show at Chaoyang Theater. This was so much fun! Ryan got the kids giggling good and hard with a running commentary. 

Ryan would say, “Oh man, this can’t end well” and Easton would start giggling his head off. It was so fun seeing the kids sit in amazement. It was a good show, but the dancers weren't quite synchronized at times and it was distracting.

The kids' favorite part was the motorcyclists in the ball cage of death. We thought three riders in there was pretty fascinating! But they fit EIGHT cyclists in that ball at once and it was amazing!!!

We were sufficiently starving so we headed back to the "Chinese Applebees" of the previous night. It wasn't as good this time, you can't win them all. We topped it off with Starbucks hot chocolate. 
Dinner at the Chinese Applebees not as good as the previous night. Starbucks hot chocolate rounded out the night nicely. Then Ryan took the kids for a swim while I bathed Jake and had some downtime to check email, start a load of laundry, shower, clean out the stroller and bags, and lay everything out for tomorrow. Never a dull moment! That's what "downtime" looks like, right? 

Next day - - The Great Wall of China! Yahoo!