Starting In Beijing

Aimee tends to send out e-mail on our trips. Here’s her first update.
It’s true about what you hear regarding Beijing’s rapid changes. Traffic is unbelievable, cranes are everywhere, tearing down a lot of old buildings. Lots of bilingual signs, which is good since I don’t read characters (those kind, anyway). Sort of like someone who gets the face lift, boob job, nose job, lipo, etc in anticipation for a class reunion. The 2008 Olympics is on a lot of Beijinger’s minds, and the Chinese govt wants to put it’s best face forward (understandable).
My Putonghua sucks–part of this is my fault for not studying enough, some of this is that unique way of speaking Mandarin that Beijingren are known to do. If you know a couple words, you will be complemented on how well you speak. Just test that theory by saying something else and watch for the puzzled expression. The Chinese are too polite generally to say anything. And yet, I know enough that I’m “making my needs known”, and I’m reminded that the basics for communication require a smile, a sense of humor, & sign language. Knowing a few phrases and numbers help, though, since many do not speak English. And yet Beijing does not feel as foreign as Delhi to me.
Weather is hot and very humid. It’s rained here in the morning a few days–very considerate of Mother Nature to wash the air out, and the asthma has been doing well.
Kelly has, in his usual fashion, been working hard, and I can tell a lot of his colleagues in China are impressed with his knowledge and abilities. He gave a talk yesterday on Diversity that went well.
Sight-wise, the Forbidden City is 20 min away on foot from our hotel. Some of it is under construction/repair, which is likely necessary. It was crowded with Chinese on holiday and of course a few westerners. Tiananmen Square is huge–about the size of 90 football fields. There a mausoleum (mao-soleum?) that has the body–or waxen likeness–of Mao himself. Beijing has some beautiful temples and parks, hope to see a couple more before we return. Great Wall and Summer Palace is for Sunday. One interesting site: a large glass dome about a block west of Tiananmen. Our driver said it was going to be a nursing home! I’ll have to find out more.
Foodwise, have tried a few things, including the “point and shoot” option in a food court. Food court food here is better than its American counterpart. So far have had Beijing home cooking, Japanese food (big here), some delicious jiaozi (fired dumplings) from a street vendor (didn’t get sick so far and I’ve had my Hep A vaccination). Had some greens with small fried bugs in them yesterday–they tasted OK, but didn’t eat many. There’s so much to try and eat, see etc that you can’t do it all in one trip. But me thinks I will be back one day.
All for now–Zaidjan! A & K