Friday, June 7, 2013

A different perspective:

Hi, this is Janice, Mack’s mom. Here are my thoughts and memories of visiting Mack in Beijing for two weeks.


I can’t believe how BIG it is.

I can’t believe how Flat it is.

All of these words make up my memories of China. I had no idea what it would be like to go to China, so my imagination got the better of me.   My fears, before my trip, – that caused me to wake up in the middle of the night, were:
  1. Getting lost, not being able to get back to Mack’s apt or find him if we were separated.
  2. Not being able to cross the street (valid fear, I traveled to Bangkok many years ago and could not cross any of the streets).
  3. Eating something weird that would make me sick for the duration of the trip.
  4. The last fear was that I might unintentionally do something wrong and I would get picked up and questioned by the police or the military.
I’m happy to say that my fears were unfounded (except crossing the street, but I’ll get to that later).
Mack lives in the center of Beijing, close to everything –well, as close as you can in a city that huge! He was such a good sport to host his Uncle and myself for 2 weeks. We made him get up every morning at 9am so we could start touring.

The first evening we (my brother Jim came with me to China) discovered that Mack speaks Mandarin! Not just a couple of words, but many words…he holds conversations with people! As soon as we heard Mack speak, we relaxed; he could get us where ever we wanted to go. And he could order for us too!

Jim and I loved the subway, we wanted to ride it everywhere. Once you figure out the line and the stop, it was pretty easy to get around. During the Olympics they redid the directions on the subway so not only areEnglish maps but the recorded voice says the stops in English as well as Spanish. Mack loves the taxi’s and ½ the time we would ride in a taxi and ½ the time the subway. Jim and I hated the taxi because they would never pick us up and it was so humiliating being rejected. Almost like they personally knew something about us that they didn’t want us in their cab. So, when Jim and I started out and about by ourselves (about the 3rdevening) we never took a cab! Only walked and rode the subway.
The first night we could only turn right…couldn’t go anywhere that didn’t have an overpass. No overpass, no crossing the street. The traffic was horrible, many vehicles going super fast and never stopping, and just about 6 lanes of traffic in each direction! To cross the street you moved in a large mass. Cars would never stop for you but would slowly maneuver around you. I hated it and almost had a heart attack several times. So, on that first night we turned right only – didn’t cross the street. The next night we had to cross the street. We waited for awhile, a woman came up near us and started across. I grabbed Jim and we walked next to her. Of course, we were ½ way across (crossed 6 lanes of traffic) and she got a phone call. She stopped at the small traffic barrier between lanes and answered her call. We stood there for 10 min with traffic rushing in both directions in front and behind us. The barrier was about 18 inches wide. Finally a man came up and we walked on his coat tails to get to the other side. He knew what we were doing and smiled at us as he walked away! Whew…and it never got better!
We visited all major tourist areas and they are exactly like every picture you have ever seen…except for the thousands of people. I will just mention a couple of places:
Tiananmen Square: has the mausoleum with Mao’s body in it. Every day from 8am to 11am they raise Mao’s body up from the ? (where ever his body is) and put it on display for the thousands of Chinese tourists to visit. We did not go see it, didn’t really want to. One thing did happen that is worth mentioning. We were walking in the square with Mack’s two friends (who are also his Chinese teachers). I was talking with Hanna – all of a sudden she grabbed my arm and pulled me quickly to the side. I looked behind me and about 3 feet away were the military marching – goose step. Apparently they were yelling for Hanna and I to get out of the way…"Get out of the way, we will not stop, get out of the way" . It was so noisy that neither of us heard it until they almost ran us over. Hanna told me that they would have just ran us over and trampled on us!!! Eeeeeee, ok.
We saw the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace, Temple of Heaven and many other historical places. We went to every park available to see. There were so many people at every place we visited. There were not many foreigners, but Chinese tourists visiting Beijing from the countryside. I have one picture out of 500 that is people free.
There is such a juxtaposition (how come I can’t use that word in my "words with friends" game?) between the old Beijing and the new modern Beijing. Everywhere we visited was the old, historical Beijing within the new, modern Beijing. I can’t even describe the feeling of walking through the Forbidden City and day dreaming about the history. But then, I would bump into someone doing the same thing. That took some getting used to. When I was traveling in Peru and went to Machu Pichu, I spent a lot of time sitting, staring and daydreaming about what might have happened there. I thought I was going to do the same thing in China…but no, didn’t happen at all. I DIDN’T GET TO DAY DREAM AT ALL! Instead, I spent a lot of time smiling at all the Chinese who were taking my picture (thousands of pictures are on the internet somewhere of me, Mack and Jim), saying hello and posing with their families in pictures. I was a ROCK STAR! J
One day we took the Bullet Train to Shanghai, a five-hour trip and spent 3 days there. I think every architect in the world dreams of building a giant building in Shanghai. We saw the craziest buildings in Shanghai and they are starting in Beijing now too. The train averaged 189mph but it went up to 210 too. Smoothest ride ever.
In Shanghai we went into a snow bar…a bar that was many degrees below 0 and had a shot of vodka. We had to put North Face jackets on to go into the bar. Funny. There was snow and ice on top of the bar.
The food was great. Only ate one weird thing, which was Duck’s head. I thought I was ordering duck wings but it was the head split down the middle. It was quite an adventure, and I ate 2 until Mack told me what it was. Then I saw the eyeball staring at me…just couldn’t eat anymore. I ate tripe, which surprised me at how delicious it was. Everything was family style and you could only use chopsticks. About the 4th day I mastered them without dumping food in my lap or on my chest.
We managed to go to the Olympic Park where the Beijing Olympics were held. So windy we almost blew over. It was fun seeing the Birds Nest and the Swimming Cube. We walked the entire park.
We also went to the Great Wall. Tons of people, very steep walking and very odd sized steps. For some reason I thought the wall would be fairly level walking…maybe from pictures that I have seen. We went to the most visited section and it had handrails so you wouldn’t fall down the steep slopes. We also took some kind of tram up to the wall (it was exactly like riding in the helicopter ride at carnivals) which was hilarious. Mack said they don’t really stop, you have to jump in. Yes, we did and it was funny. Loved the Great Wall – I could almost day dream there…
The people in China made it such a wonderful trip. Nothing but kindness was shown to us (except by the taxi drivers that wouldn’t pick us up). Mack has made some great friends and it was so much fun to visit him.
Next year it will be a new place, right Mack?