Saturday, August 02, 2008

Andy Travels To China--August 2nd!

Beijing - Saturday
Today we went to a Pearl factory where they harvest fresh water pearls and make jewelry. I picked an oyster that she opened - it was a 7 year old oyster and there were 10 pearls inside, we each got to keep one. 7 years old is considered a baby oyster and the pearls were not precious. We learned of the 4 different colors of fresh water pearls.

Then we went to the Summer Palace which is where the Emperors stayed on their summer vacations. It was a very large garden on a big lake, also where the Pearl Factory gets their oysters. There was a long corridor with hundreds of painted pictures. Thousands of tourists were visiting the Palace and many rented paddle boats on the lake. We took a dragon boat across the lake. Dad made a friend at the Palace - a little boy asked him where we were from, what hotel we're staying at, do we like Beijing (yes), and are we staying for the Olympics (no). He spoke good English for a little Chinese boy.

After lunch we went on a Hutong tour and rode in a rickshaw which is like a tricycle with a bench for two in back - Mom & I rode in one and Dad rode in the other with Nancy, our Hutong guide. The Hutongs are several homes with a shared courtyard in back. Hutong is the Mongolian name for water well which is how the villages were created. We invited in to one Hutong home and met the lady who lived there and visited with her in their courtyard. The family were artists, her husband had a studio in the front and he is a paper cutter. I bought a tiger painting on a scroll that was made by her brother.

At the end of the day Jonathon took us to a grocery store that was a lot like a Walmart back home. On the drive home we saw sites of 2 more Olympic venues - one was for basketball, and the other was for soccer. We have free time this afternoon and tonight, and I'd like to go to Pizza Hut...we call that comfort food.

Friday, August 1, 2008
Beijing - Olympic Update
A few observations on the Olympic activity that we've noticed in the area - yesterday we drove past the new stadium, a fantastic architectural building that looks a bit like a bird's nest and can seat 90,000 people. Also drove past the huge indoor aquatic center for swimming & diving. At the Great Wall we saw the finish line for a bike race or possibly the triathlon. There were also about 20 Olympic volunteers in blue wind suits coming down the wall while we were going up. We saw members of the Croatia team at the garden area of the Forbidden City. The Olympic mascots, statues of different games, Olympic flags & banners stating "One World, One Dream" are EVERYWHERE. At the jade factory yesterday we were told that the Olympic medals would, for the first time, be encircled with a ring of jade.

Last night on CNN we heard reports of the poor air quality. However, the air here is MUCH better quality than it was in Hong Kong, and yesterday it was quite clear. Today it's even better with clear blue, sunny skies. - Hank

To follow Andy's trip to China, click here.

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