Today we spent most of our day with a very good friend. No not this one:
Rob had been in Beijing for the last eight weeks. He flies back to the U.S. today, so we only had an afternoon together. It was so good to spend time with someone that we have history with and compare notes on Chinese culture and our experiences in adapting to a completely foreign environment. Rob’s been teaching English here and has spent most of his time on the campus at Peking University.
We walked around the Summer Palace grounds on the north side of Beijing. Check out the gallery for pics of that.
On Wednesday we headed down to Beijing for JoAnn’s last week here in China. Our plan is to tour some of the more well known sites here and just be together without any other agenda.
Every time we travel, we (meaning JoAnn) have a tradition to search out the nearest Hard Rock Cafe and eat/shop there. JoAnn always buys a guitar stick-pin unique to that location that becomes a part of the memorabilia for that trip. I usually tag along but don’t get too excited because I’m always thinking about how we’re going to pay the mortgage after trying to cover the costs of dinner there.
This time was a little different. You see, they don’t like cheese in China. It’s not that they can’t make it; there are plenty of cows here. They just don’t like dairy products. So you don’t find cheese anywhere. Until now, our saving grace has been Pizza Hut (which is a high-class restaurant in China…no kidding!), but that’s pricy too so we’ve limited our visits there as well. Well, Wednesday night JoAnn ordered a thick, juicy cheese burger with bacon and I had nachos. Yumm (mostly)!
Here’s the weird thing–about an hour later, we both had stomach aches.
We are nearing the two week mark in country and we cannot believe how much has happened! Just last night JoAnn and I were remembering our first encounter as we were walking out of the airport in Beijing and it seemed like an eternity ago.
Here’s what happened: We got off the plane and our next step was to get to the train station. We were almost to the spot where the taxis are, and a man blocked our path. He wanted us to take his shuttle bus instead. He guaranteed he would save us money if we went with him. We had been warned to only take legal taxis, and this guy didn’t look legal to us, so we said “no thanks,” Well, he didn’t really care for that answer and tried to get us to take his ride, even to the point of pulling on my arm and blocking our way to the escalator. He said he would only charge us 300 yuan and that the taxis would charge much more. We kept moving to the taxis and eventually he gave up.
Well, we got to the legal taxi stand and they had a sign posted saying that a ride from the airport to the train station would be 17 yuan. It’s a good thing we were warned!
We are having a great time! We are meeting some great people and developing relationships that are quickly going deep. Our time here is busy, but we slowed down the last few days just to rest some. Make sure you check out the pics in the gallery.
JoAnn has been busy working on enhancing a foster-care program here. There are orphanages that hold hundreds of unloved children and the team hear visits them on a regular basis. As a result of that they begin a foster-care program that has grown so fast they are having a hard time getting their arms around it. Developing programs like this is exactly what JoAnn does, so this is right up her alley.
One of the most fun things I’ve been privileged to do is to speak at a foreigner’s gathering the last two weeks. North Eastern University is a large college (50,000 students) here in Shenyang and people from all over the world come here for their education. China allows foreigners to gather as long as they do not bring Chinese into their gatherings. Therefore, I’ve had the opportunity to share with people from Korea, Germany, France, South America, and various parts of Africa all at the same time.
We’re wrapping up the first part of our trip today and tomorrow. On Wednesday, we get on the train and head down to Beijing. We’re really looking forward to it, because our good friend Rob has been teaching English at Peking University over the summer and we’ll get to spend some time with him.
It’s Monday morning at Los Angeles International airport. Very early Monday morning. In another twenty minutes JoAnn and I will get on our plane and head straight to Beijing. In some ways, it seems like this day came much faster than expected.
It’s hard to believe that it was almost eighteen months ago when we started planning this trip. Those months flew by so fast that when it got close to this day, we were almost not prepared. Everything lined up, of course, as things tend to do when one doggedly follows one’s destiny.
Since JoAnn arrived at the airport more than three hours early, we have the luxury of walking through the duty-free shops. Duty-free. That’s just a fancy way of saying, “We’re ripping you off on the price because you’re a captive in this part of the airport, but we we wont charge tax because we want you to feel good about volunteering for being pilfered.”
Sitting in the international terminal, the smorgasborg of people is delicious. Every country comes together in a mixture of culture and language. The funny thing is, you can’t tell where people are going just by the language they speak. We run into a Korean family who, to our amazement, isn’t headed east to Asia, but south to Mexico.
After coffee, overpriced Burger King hamburgers and a quick recharge of the computer, our flight begins to board. China…here we come.