Sunday, April 17, 2011

Lost in Translation

On our last full day in Beijing we were given a free day.  Our tour guide gave us specific instructions to dilligently watch out for cars to avoid being hit.  He also warned us not to eat anything from a street vendor.  He also advised carrying a card from the hotel so that we could give it to a taxi driver in case we got completely lost.  Several times during the week we had passed by the working Lama temple.  Several of us decided we would love to go to the Temple and back to the Hu Tong.   I was surprised at the number of incence vendors around and in the temple.  There were Buda's after Buda's.  They grew increasingly more ornate and large as we progressed through the temple.  The final Buda was about 250 meters tall and carved out of a single tree - very impressive.

We walked several miles in search of the Hu Tong.  We finally gave up and found a restaurant that looked like it needed customers.  Deanna gave her paper to the workers explaining that she should not be given any MSG.  Amazingly we were able to order and eat a meal without speaking any Mandarin and without the workers speaking a word of English.  No one got sick and we paid the equivalent to about $2.30 per person, including a drink.

We went to the Silk and Pearl Market next.  I bought some tea to decorate some of the handmade soaps I make.  I also bought some jade.  Deanna and I saw some ladies wearing Hard Rock Cafe Beijing shirts.  They were the real thing and we decided that our Joes should have the real thing.  The Australian ladies couldn't remember exactly where it was, but they knew we needed a taxi.

We finally got a taxi to stop, but he didn't understand us, so we had to let him go.  We went back to the Silk and Pearl Market and found a Chinese woman who could speak English.  She was there with her German speaking boy friend.  She used his translator and his computer to look up the address.  She wrote down the "Hard Rock Cafe" in Chinese characters on a piece of paper for us.  We walked about a half a mile away to get a cab.  We were so grateful to be sitting in the cab.  The cab driver took our paper with the address to see where he was going to take us.  All of the sudden he slammed on the brakes and motioned in a mean disgusted way that we needed to get out of the cab.  I thought he was upset that we were only going a short distance and that he didn't want to waste his time.  I tried to argue with him but he kept insisting that we get out.  So we got out and went back to the Silk and Pearl Market.  That was when we saw a rickshaw.  If the taxi driver didn't consider it a good enough fare, maybe she would.  We got in her rickshaw after showing her our paper and she took us about a block down the street and gave us to her husband.  Perhaps we are too heavy, or the way was too far.  We showed the man our paper and negotiated a price of twenty Yuan.  He nodded when we asked him if he knew where we were going.  We felt happy that he was using an electrically powered bicycle on the rickshaw.  I seemed we went down the street for about fifteen minutes.  Then we stopped in front of some seedy little restaurant called Woody's with Chinese characters that I assume meant restaurant.  The driver turns to us and makes some gross eating motion indicating, «here we are».  I shoved the paper in his face trying to tell him he had taken us to the wrong place.  Do you know how hard it is to argue with someone who can't understand you?  We got out.  I wasn't going to pay him, but I felt sorry for all of the time he took, so we gave him half.  When he started chasing Deanna to get more money from her, I shoved the paper in his face again to remind him that he took us to the wrong place.  He finally drove off cursing us as he went.

We had to take stock of where we were.  I started looking around and noticed several sexually oriented businesses like the "Love Cellar".  That was when I got mad.  How dare he take us to this nasty part of town!  I had been unsuccessfully trying to hail a cab, but not surprisingly no one would stop.  All of the sudden I saw the rickshaw approaching.  I have never flipped anyone off in my life, but it was going to happen at this moment.  I was hoping that the finger would mean the same thing in Mandarin as it does in English.  I was trying to catch his eye so that he would be looking when I realized it was a different guy.  He looked at me and gave me the worst come hither leer.  Ooh.  No one ever looks at me that way.  At that moment I caught the sign for Woody's in the background of the leering man and a memory stirred.  I have a husband and have had two teenage sons.  I have watched Saturday Night Live.  They had translated Hard Rock cafe an entirely different way.  That explains how we got kicked out of the cab.  That explains why the woman didn't want to take us.  That explains why we got dropped off in front of Woody's Cafe.

We eventually snuck up on a cab driver and hopped in his taxi before he could leave us.  We gave him the precious hotel card and we were home about forty-five minutes later after a ride past the Forbidden City and Tieneman Square.  Back at the Hotel I asked the concierge to interpret what was written on our paper.  He said it was "Hard Rock Cafe" but that it could also be interpreted as "Hard as a Stone Restaurant".  He made further explanations on the name so that if we chose to go back the taxi driver would not be confused.  I guess it is all in the mind of the reader.  Later that night we went to the Snack Street Market where food like roasted scorpions is sold. We stayed long enough to take pictures, but then we hopped in a cab and went to the real Hard Rock Cafe and got the Joes real t-shirts.  The lengths I will go to completely spoil that cute son of mine.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Knockin on Heaven's Door

I can't believe how fantastic the weather has been the whole time we have been here.  Today we started out with a Tai Chi lesson at the Temple of Heaven.   I know there is something about balance and control.  I wish I had either one.  The grounds of the temple were filled with retired people playing.  In America adults rarely play.  That is one aspect of Chinese society that I love.  The older people feel free to dance, to sing, to play shuttlecock, and to play badminton.  It is as if they have worked hard all of their lives, and now they get to have fun.

We made it up to the temple and were only given about forty minutes to explore.  Not enough time.  Deanna and I took a little too long looking around and discovered that Lilly the photographer was assigned to find us.  We were rushed off to the state run silk factory for some really pricey shopping.  The high-end shopping is just not me.

We went to the Houtong district for a rickshaw ride and a home-made lunch.  After so many meals at the government run restaurants, it was nice to have something home-made.  I loved the way the cook put garlic shoots into a chicken dish.  But my favorite dish was the peanuts.  We are all getting pretty good with chop sticks.

It was interesting to see how a family in this area lives.

Our next stop was a flea market.  I thought I would buy a lot, but I ended with a t-shirt and some DVDs.  Deanna bought some great things.

After dinner we went to the acrobatics show.  Everything was interesting, fascinating, and entertaining until they wheeled in a motorcycle cage.  I was able to watch one motorcycle in the big cage ball.  But when the second one entered the cage, I had to get up and leave.  I can't even get away from my issues on the other side of the world.  Other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how was the show?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Dragon Lady Wasn't All Bad

What a beautiful day!  We started out the day at the Summer Palace.  Our Tour guide keeps telling us about the wicked Dragon Lady who controlled the Chinese political scene around the turn of the twentieth century.  I bet she was just as conniving as her male counterparts - bad woman.  But she did a great job at making improvements to the Summer Palace.  As we entered the Summer Palace we heard music and saw a dance going on.  By dance I mean a boy ask girl ballroom event.  Deanna and I know a little bit from watching Dancing with the Stars so we participated.  What a way to start the day.  We walked around and enjoyed some of the most beautiful scenery and architecture that we have seen so far.  We saw a peaceful lake with gorgeous boats.  It is a wonderful national park.  As we were walking around we heard more music so we went up a hill to a pagoda to investigate and found about 250 retired people singing folk songs and dancing to a band.  Retirement age here is fifty so the people were not too old but they were having a great time.  The music was simple and the tunes predictable so Deanna and I found ourselves singing along.  One woman could tell we were struggling with the words, so she shared her song book.  To help us along, she pointed to the Chinese characters we should be singing.  I must have done pretty well because a few minutes later Deanna and I were invited to join the ten ladies in the middle who were holding hands and dancing while singing in front of the band.  Our dancing must have been equally as impressive because another woman came up and put garland around my neck and Deanna's neck!

Our guide told us that every day the retired people come to the Summer Palace to sing and to dance.  I love this tradition!  On our way out we stopped at a street vendor's cart and bought a Mongolian princess hat to match the garland.  Does this scream tourist?

Our next stop was a government owned pearl store - it was pretty pricey.  But I did get some face cream infused with pearl powder.  It will make me look even more young and beautiful than I am now.  Wow.  It's going to be unbelievable.

We went to a school to watch a student performance.  The middle school students took turns singing and dancing and doing Kung Fu.  Then I got the idea that we should do something for them.  We decided to sing America the Beautiful.  I was able to convince Darcy, a physics teacher from American Fork high, to lead the music.  Several in the group were able to sing the alto part, so it sounded like we had been practicing for weeks.  We met some really cute second and third grade students who had been practicing saying hello my name is _____.  I love how they were unembarrassed to practice.  Many of the high school age boys are too embarrassed to speak the language they are required to study.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

And She's Buying a Stairway to Heaven

Third day in China and I am missing Mexican food.  We are all getting a little tired of Chinese food.  But the good news is that no one is sick.  So rather than complain, I will be grateful.

Today's tour included a visit to the Beijing Museum of Art and History.  We saw some really beautiful ancient jade pieces and some ornate bronze.  We looked at a calligraphy display but it was hard to
appreciate the beauty of the poetry when we could not read the writing.  Now we know how the illiterate feel.  While at the museum, Deanna had to use the restroom but none of the workers could understand what she was asking for despite her use of several variations such as bathroom, washroom, toilet and restroom.  She really had to go, so I grabbed my crotch and crossed my eyes and was immediately understood.  Some sign language is universal.

We went to a jade factory but everything was so expensive we decided to buy our jade in Hong Kong.   It is pretty funny how we are taken to some really high priced shops every day.  But as Deanna pointed out, "We are a bunch of educators.  Why are they taking us here?"

The Great Wall was amazing.  The drive was reminiscent of a drive through the canyons in Utah.  I asked our tour guide if he skied and he said that he does.  He said that there is skiing about an hour out of Beijing.  He said that it costs about three hundred yen to rent the equipment and to pay for the lift ticket.  That is about fifty bucks.  That sounds like a good deal to me.

Deanna and I got our picture taken in traditional chinese soldier costumes - think Moulan.  The altitude is really high.  I ran out of steam after about a hundred feet.  Deanna helped me to pace myself by climbing twenty-five steps at a time then taking a rest.  We made it up to the eleventh guard house.  But the best feeling of all was standing on the Great Wall of China today.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Foreign Facination

Spotty technology has been a little frustrating, but I am grateful to be able to eventually get on the blog.  Check out Deanna's blog to see how we got beat up by Chinese women last night at

We started our tour at the Forbidden City.  Our tour guide's name was Biyoung.  Everything about the Forbidden City is ornate.  The gardens are beautiful.  With 9999 rooms we were warned not to get lost from the group or we might never be found.  I bought a little emperor's hat for Andrew and I can't wait to take a picture of him.

So we were on a field trip.  The best thing about this field trip is that I am not in charge.  Our tour guide and his photographer kept counting heads and making sure we took potty breaks.  They get us where we need to be when we need to be there.  It is great to be a kid again.

One man in our group is an African American who runs an after school program for troubled youth in LA.  We noticed that he and his mom were being sought out by random Chinese families for photographs.  He was unsure why he was so popular, then I pointed out to him that he was the only Black man in the Forbidden City.  He was pretty good natured about it and thought that Beijing would be a great place for a black man to go who suffered from self esteem issues.  His mother failed to share his good humor.  This didn't stop mothers from placing their children in front of her and getting pictures anyway.

At Tieneman Square, Deanna and I decided to turn the tables.  We found two outrageously dressed teen aged boys and took our picture with them.  Everyone else in our group thought this was a great idea, so they got pictures too.  I bet those boys had quite the tale to tell tonight in their blogs.

We went to Dr. Tea for a tea ceremony.  Our tour guide arranged for several herbal teas to be served.  My favorite was a fruit tea.  I never realized that certain teas have medicinal powers.

We next went to the Olympic Park and were given some free time.  This is where Deanna and I were walking around looking at the sights when we noticed a woman walking with us who wanted to take our picture, so we stopped and posed.  She then indicated through gestures that she wanted to take it one step further and get a picture of us with her husband.  When we each put an arm around his shoulder, her teenaged daughter doubled over in a fit of laughter.  I am SURPRISED that Chinese teens are embarrassed about their parents too.

Dinner was Peking Duck with many side dishes.  I am grateful that we brought some salt packages from the LA airport.  My biggest complaint about the food is that I can't get a cold drink.  All of our beverages are served at room temperature with no ice.  I am dying for a big gulp.  I bet if 7-11 came to China they would be life changing.  If the street vendors would carry coolers full of cold icy drinks I don't think I would even stop to barter.  I would pay whatever outrageous price they initially offered.  China, are you listening?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

They Don't All Look Alike

A twelve hour flight in coach isn't so bad on Air China, but then again, I didn't have too much of a problem with the tram at Snowbird Ski Resort.  I got up at least four times to stretch my legs.  I was able to walk around for about ten minutes each time I got up.  Deanna and I entertained each other by acting as interpreter when ever any announcements were made in Cantonese.  I feel kind of sorry for our traveling companions tomorrow.  They might not find us as hilariously funny as we find ourselves.

We went to a few little shops close to the hotel today.  Today is our day to rest up and adjust to the new time.  I stayed awake all day today with the solemn hope that I will sleep through the night.  For about three hours, Deanna and I did not see one other caucasian.  And if anyone is worried that the Chinese are training up all of the kids to speak English you can put aside your fears.  Very few people we spoke to could understand us.  We resort to gestures of  international understanding.  I just hope I never have to try to get some toilet paper.

We found a noodle house his afternoon and we found that the owner's brother could speak English enough for Deanna to feel comfortable that she wasn't going to get poisoned with MSG.  Keiko was a twenty-five year old semantics student from north of Beijing.  He hopes to study Spanish in Spain and is hoping to get a visa.  I told him I would be his facebook friend, but he said facebook doesn't work in China now.  He is the fourth child in a five child family.  He told us that it is possible for couples to have a lot of kids in China but that it is very expensive.  He ordered for us and all of the food was delicious.  There was a spinach dish with nuts that turned out to be the insides of peach pits.  He said they were a special kind of pit that was not bitter.  We had chicken wings, garlic chicken and a noodle dish with eggs and vegetables.  We provided the entertainment for the entire restaurant by eating noodles with chop sticks.  Yes, people got behind us and moved closer so that they could get a better view.

I will have to post pictures when I get back.  Not all sources on the internet allow blog access.

We saw a group of teens doing a flash dance or maybe just practicing for a flash dance.  We watched them and clapped for them.  We were the only ones to express our appreciation for their efforts.

Friday, April 8, 2011

All My Bags are Packed

Yesterday I left Dallas to go to LA.  It was my birthday so I got to have a special birthday party with my favorite little guy, Andrew.  He took me to the Cheesecake Factory.  We had a great time and he was very well behaved.  He allowed his mommy and daddy to go with us.  I think it was because he is just a little to young to be driving.

Today we did a some last minute shopping.  I decided to return my luggage to Costco and get a lighter weight set.  If the weight of the luggage takes up 1/3 of the total allowed weight, how am I ever going to haul the treasures of the Orient back to Dallas?  Megan and I went to some high end stores looking for high end handbags in Santa Monica today so that I would be prepared to recognize the good stuff in Hong Kong.  


About Me

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I am a stay at home mom but the clock is ticking. My husband and I only have one child left at home. I enjoy shopping and finding great bargains.