Greetings from Beijing!

We just finished up our second full day here and it was amazing. While we have been here since late Tuesday night/early Wednesday morning, we've done so much that it feels like we've been here longer (in a good way). Here is a brief summary of what we have done since then! This is the first of two posts tonight!

We arrived in Beijing around 11pm on Tuesday and after we went through immigration and customs, we met our guide IC and we went to our hotel in Beijing (the airport is a bit outside the city). IC is wonderful; she is funny and very  thorough and understands our desire for a lot of pictures. After we all checked into our rooms, we unintentionally met in the lobby and decided to embark on a search for some food. After all what is more college than dinner at 1am? Dr. Pitner and his lovely wife, Hera, led us and not that far from the hotel we found a convenience store that satisfied our appetites. Eduardo even tried some squid jerky (check the food page for more food news!).

The next morning we began our tour of Beijing in the hutongs, which traditionally refer to the side streets that surround the siheyuans (four sided homes with a courtyard). However, in modern Beijing, hutong has come to mean the neighborhoods that are made up of these homes. In the hutongs, we painted traditional Beijing Opera masks, which have a white base, and up to four colors to create a personality.  Different colors signified different traits; such as green means military, blue means loyalty and yellow means evil. The masks were also symmetrical and if they were not it would signify to an audience that the character is injured. We learned that only the beginner opera singers wear masks, the others paint the elaborate decorations directly on to their own faces.

After that we did calligraphy. This is an art that is learned over many years, sometimes up to nine years. Some of us were better than others. We learned some basic characters such as one, two, and ren, which means person. Eduardo had the best characters, which meant that he  got to keep our teacher's examples!

After we were done with that, it was time for a bike tour of the hutongs. We biked for an hour and covered some serious ground. Our tour was centered around the Beihai Park, which was stunning. We found a street that was filled with bars and restaurants and we plan on going back there later in the week. It was an  interesting juxtaposition between the classic architecture of the hutongs and the Western music blaring from them.  After our bike tour, we met a family and visited their hutong. It was nice, except for the cats.

After that it was lunch. It was delicious. A note about dining in China, at least in the restaurants, there is a large lazy Susan in the middle of the table. The dishes are placed upon it and you share food. The plates are small, so you tend to eat right off of the serving dishes. The boys will fill you in on the food but just know that we are all getting better with chopsticks and eating a large well balanced meal.

Following lunch, we toured two temples. The first was the Llama Temple, which is center of Buddhist worship. Words will not do this justice but put it this way, between the 26 meter tall Buddha, made from a single piece of wood, and the jeweled tones of blue and green that adorned each hall, the Llama Temple was stunning. It like, the Forbidden City, was deceptively big; it took you away from the bustling metropolis that is Beijing.

Next we visited a Confucian Temple, which likewise, had rich tones and beautiful architecture. Additionally, there were trees in the temple that were older than the U.S. We'll post pictures later! For dinner, we ate Peking Duck, which was to die for. Literally, I will never eat it again because I don't want that memory to be ruined.

Total miles walked: 10.2 miles

- Tori
 





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