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Published: April 2nd 2010
Sleeping in HCMC Airport
waiting for our flight to leave at 3:30am
OK so it's been awhile... sorry to be such a delinquent correspondent!! Since we last spoke -- we had another through-the-meat-grinder day of travel from Vietnam to China. Doesn't seem like it would take that long -- but with odd flight times and uncomfortable transitions to new flights -- the travel was brutal. Any kinks that were worked out with a massage or a day of golf were most definitely re-kinked!
I admit to being completely unprepared for China -- and to be honest -- I'm not sure that we ever could have been. This place is full of history and mystery. There are events (like the student protest at Tian'anmen Square) that we learn about in the United States that are literally blips on the screen of the enormous expanse of China's history. When we walk through the Forbidden City or the Emperor's Summer Palace, it is humbling to think about the number of people over hundreds of years who have stepped in that same spot. China is not a simple place.
Beijing itself is an enormous city with traffic that makes rush hour in Columbus laughable. We have toured the usual sites (pictures will tell that tale),
but getting the feel of the people here is not very easy. To be fair -- we have no scheduled school visits or friends who live here -- so to get a peek of life behind the tour will probably not happen (not on this trip anyway). I would say Vietnam was like meeting your cousin's new girlfriend -- sultry and welcoming -- a woman with a big smile who tells you her life story -- and you tell her yours. You laugh and joke easily together and at the end of the night -- you like her better than your cousin. China is a little like meeting your new step dad who is a little stern and answers your questions in one word. He's got a story - but he's not going to tell you it -- not just yet. You know there's got to be more to him (because your Mom married him after-all), but he's just sitting there at Thanksgiving dinner as a tight-lipped observer politely eating the cranberry relish that no one else likes. It's going to take some time to get to know him.
What was your reaction to how strict
the Chinese Customs and Immigration people were at the airport? Carly: I thought it was pretty crazy -- the woman who had to look at my passport made me smile and turn my head to check that it was really me. She took her job very seriously. Jake: The guy wouldn't crack a smile. Will: Even Helen couldn't get him to smile. Abby: Very different - none of the other airports we've been through have been like that.
How's the weather in Beijing? Helen: Surprisingly very cold. Abby: we didn't pack warmly enough. Jake and Carly: Windy!
Describe your first meal in China. What was it that made it so good? Jake: we hadn't eaten in, like, 24 hours - so it tasted really good. Carly: The food was more of what we are used to. It didn't look so odd to us. Will: We had good chicken and rice. Tracy: we had cooked vegetables -- and since we haven't been able to eat the raw vegetables -- it tasted so nice!
What is the Chinese currency? Abby: Yuan. Jake: 6.6 Yuan = 1 US Dollar "USD"
How do we know that we are not in
Vietnam just by traffic? Jake: Mopeds - there aren't any. Carly: They won't allow them due to pollution. Jake: They made e-bikes, but they are not very popular yet (according to our tour guide).
How can you tell soldiers, police and security apart? Helen: they all wear different colors. Will: Gray- security, Green- Soldiers, Jake: and Navy Blue- police
Would you have wanted to be a female or male in the 15th century? Why? Abby: a male -- probably -- because girls couldn't do anything and I wouldn't want my feet to be bound. Carly: a male, because women weren't valued at all.
What are the elements of Feng Shui? Abby: Wood, Water, Metal Carly: Earth Jake: Fire
What types of foods did you see being sold by the vendors at the summer palace? Kris: whole cooked sweet potatoes, roasted chestnuts, pineapple on a stick and corn on the cob Abby: big blocks of dried fruits and nuts (David thinks it looked like pate - Kris thinks it looked like a big rice crispie treat)
What 4 color of pearls did you see at the Pearl Market? Will: Pink, Black, White and Jake: Lavender
How many pearls did we see come from one oyster?? Helen: 30
Going to the Great Wall tomorrow!!!
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