Tag Archives: Beijing

Beijing Trip Part 3: The Great Wall, A Trip to Heaven and Oh Yeah Some Animal Slaughter

18 Mar

No trip to Beijing would be complete without a day-trip to the Great Wall. You heard me: it’s a clean 3-hour bus ride there, in the best of times. I was really lucky because I got to see the reconstructed wall, complete with handrail (you know, for the Mongolian invaders who were differently abled) as well as the epic, crumbling old Wall. Contrary to popular misconception, the Great Wall mostly dates from the Ming period. It’s also not visible from space. There’s also no Santa Claus. But there are probably hundreds of skeletons within the foundations and environs of the Great Wall, because of all the workers who died building it. Cheery, no?

This enterprising lady sold me a t-shirt, and promptly invited me in for tea! She had no idea who I was, and she didn’t speak a word of English, but she made sure I felt darn welcome in Beijing. I’ll never forget her hospitality. 🙂

That’s Tiantan–the Temple of Heaven. Actually literally it’s the “altar” of heaven, I believe. Translation is a tricky thing. This is the same park/temple complex that had “pavilion of animal slaughtering,” at one end. Not animal killing, or execution. Slaughter. Doesn’t that make you feel all Zen? Wait no, that’s more a Japanese branch of Buddhism. But “feeling all Dao,” or “feeling all Taoist” doesn’t really have quite the same ring in English…

Just give me a few years more Chinese language study, and I’ll be all like, “Hold on guys, let me go get my I Ching on.”

Roof detail from the Temple of Heaven. China does roofs differently from the West, but it does them well.

Overall I actually enjoyed Beijing way more than Shanghai (don’t tell my Shanghainese friends!). Shanghai seemed very much about shopping and clubbing and status, whereas in Beijing I saw way more people just chilling and playing majong in the street. Suits were older but well taken care of.  There was more history. Plus I sort of just like wheat in my food.

Next post: Hangzhou, the Paris of the East (heavy on the Haussman)

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Beijing Trip Part 1: Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City

16 Mar

Tiananmen Square

My first holiday period of the year was what the Chinese call “Golden Week,” a sort of extended National Day celebration. Students get a break, and so do workers–and it takes place during the first week of October, which is the only time of year that Beijing isn’t scorching, freezing or covered in sand. So that explains how I wound up in Tiananmen Square (above) along with everyone else in China.

I’m a total fair-weather traveler. That week I was almost trampled to death, but the temperature was so mild! Success.

That’s me in the Forbidden City (neither forbidden, nor a city!). Why yes, I am wearing a very classy t-shirt, because I’m just that kind of girl. I’m standing in front of a big lion guardian, can’t remember if it was the lady or the dude lion guardian–the lady guardian had a cub under her paw, while the dude guardian had a ball. Because as we all know, ladies give birth to babies, while men give birth to…balls?

The lighting that day was pretty stellar, even if it was crowded (these shots don’t really convey the density of humans). What’s really crazy about the Forbidden Palace is that even after China became a republic (in 1911), the last emperor Puyi lived there for over a decade (until 1924). It’s like the Chinese Empire just kept living on, within those walls, for a stolen 13 years.

I’ve got a feeling that kid was NOT WELL-BALANCED when he finally got out.

I think if you’re going to get mixed up in Chinese history, your safest bet is to be a conqueror. Intellectuals go out of fashion, kings get overthrown, capitalists periodically get expelled…I think the best advice is to enter shooting arrows from horseback. For a more offensive take on Chinese history, and to experience what I was subjected to in the bus on my way to the Great Wall, see this South Park episode.

Next post: the Summer Palace!

Teaching English in China with CIEE

7 Mar

CIEE sent us to some cool events, including an acrobatics show (above). See that big hollow metal ball? They rode MOTORCYCLES in it. Like, straight up. Well not straight…you know what I mean.

Overall CIEE was a pretty decent placement agency. I wound up with a workweek of around 8 hours/week, paid the equivalent of $6,000 for the whole year, which was enough to live pretty large in that area. Plus, when I was stranded in the Middle of @#$king nowhere, Yunnan Province (a very scenic area), the lead Shanghai staffperson totally wired me $50 to get my sorry butt back to civilization (also known as Kunming).

That said, they did technically place me in an “extralegal” position. You know, like every teaching position in Changsha.  I didn’t figure this out until about 7 months in; apparently you are technically supposed to have two years post-graduation work experience before teaching English ANYWHERE in China, for visa reasons I guess. Except…nobody with two years experience is going to accept a position in Changsha! They’re going for Beijing or Shanghai or someplace else with milkshakes and peanut butter on every corner. So the one year they enforced this rule, Changsha had no English teachers.

That’s mainland China for you–existing on the creative side of the law.