Day 6: Tian’anmen Square, Planning Museum, Zhongshan Park, Oriental Plaza, and Wangfujing
Well, now I feel that this China writing is more for me now as I’m sure you all have lost hope in my completing my account. But I have good news: I finally have received the itinerary of what I did and when in China so now I can write much more regularly. So, onward to Day 6…
This day was a packed, hot, crowded, and exhilarating day in Beijing. It is a holiday called May Day that is akin to our Labor Day where it basically means everyone goes out and shops to celebrate the fact that they have money to do so. Or, if you don’t have money in this Chinese version, you walk around in any public venue that you can scuffle your feet on. Of course, I got my little paws on the first delicious looking popsicle I could find and it was by far the best I have ever had. I don’t even know how to describe what flavors are in it, but if you go to Beijing just look for an elderly person with a cardboard box of transparent popsicles in a blue wrapper shouting “1 kuai”. You will find it.
The day began at the infamous Tian’anmen Square which I will not be able to be flippant about. As American as this is and as much as I am aware of how the present Chinese government really does seem to strive for the best for their people, I could not help viewing it in any other light besides that video clip I saw in a classroom with tanks rolling in, people desperate for more freedoms. To the best of my knowledge, Carthage Jail was the only other place I have been to where I have stepped on the ground that I knew people had been brutally murdered on. So, while it was sunny and bright and cheery, there was a small part of me that felt there were shadows walking beside my suntanned skin.
We popped into the Beijing Planning Museum; a slightly strange place where the city of Beijing is in miniature and because of the rare vast emptiness of the building, Mari and I could not resist to take Godzilla pictures. The Museum was full of exhibits on the greatness of Beijing and plans to improve the city. I felt both educated and propaganda-ed to death.
We briefly ran up the Guard Tower that sits somewhere in Tian’anmen Square and relished in the gorgeous view of the pulsing city. The skies were wearing their bluest of colors which apparently is reserved only for May Day as I don’t know if I ever saw the sky wear real blue after that. As you can see from the picture, the artwork on so many of their buildings was just exquisite. When I tromped around England, the buildings were utilitarian and practical. It was plain, dull stone and was built simply to keep water and bird poop (and not always successfully) off of people’s heads. The Chinese built to inspire passion.
We then made our way to Zhongshan Park where you LDS folk will be interested to know that is where the LDS church was dedicated and you non-LDS folk will be interested to note that there was a breathtaking tulip festival underway. Although perhaps both kinds of people will appreciate both delightful treasures this park had for me. Since China is strict on its religious policies, there is merely a little plaque in Chinese denoting some sort of facts about who purchased the plaque, but I later learned Heber J. Grant and Hugh J. Cannon dedicated the spot. It was a beautiful and peaceful spot. I got to sit for a few moments, watching people live their ordinary lives around a place that I felt was a little bit more holy than the everyday existence would suggest. It must have been what a lot of people must have felt when I walked through the Lamissary Buddhist Temple.
In this same park, there was the aforementioned tulip festival happening and I noticed on this day that the Chinese view fences/barriers/tape/ropes as much more of an interpretive gesture than us Americans. It was perfectly normal for everyone to jump into the flowers and take syrupy sweet pictures of themselves among the tulips, so I followed suit. When in China, do as the Chinese do, eh? I wonder if anyone said “Lee Hi” to me; the Chinese term for “legit” to be used when someone is acting very Chinese. For instance, if the term was to be used in the reverse for Americans, if I saw someone sitting on their couch eating hamburgers and chips and watching hours of reality TV, I would say “Lee Hi”.
My pictures are out of order, as usual, but we then proceeded to one of my few extremely tourist experiences, Wangfujing; a glamorous shopping village where one can find where the foreigners in Beijing are. This was an extremely recent addition to Beijing and one that held little joy for me simply because I could have been in America if it hadn’t have been for the amazing collection of Chinese hats I encountered. They have the best hats. A sequined cowboy hat was one of my favorites.
Needless to say, I merely skimmed the premises, and then starving to the point of desperation, we raided the Oriental Plaza (a Western style shopping mall with no recognizable stores to Americans) and ate at their food court, which makes our American food courts look as though we eat out of dumpsters and serve it behind a counter. There were a great collection of eateries and due to the complete lack of English, I was forced to sniff and watch what their hands were smacking, pulling, chopping, and frying behind the counters to determine my choice. Nothing was frozen, upon first glance, and from my passionate culinary standpoint, I determined then and there that I would cook more. I decided upon some of the best dumplings a girl could ask for and gorged myself shamelessly. I ate almost my entire plate. See the picture. You will be astonished at my lack of ladylike eating. (For you other foodies, the celery inside those heavenly pockets of dough was perfection. They must have had a celery garden behind that counter.)
We snagged ourselves some semi-cold bottled water (the classic complaint of all internationally traveling Americans) and I snapped the picture of one of the amusing differences in our countries. While we have women frying themselves silly to get wrinkles 15 years earlier than the natural aging schedule pens out along with inserting numerous skin tumors within their body, they have women coating themselves to be as pale as milk. In fact, women walking around on this May Day were carrying umbrellas to avoid the killer rays of the evil sun. I was tempted to buy one of these whitening masks and now wish I had, just to see if they worked. And just like our fabulous Orange Glow zombies running about, they too, had their ghostly, caked on skin colors to try and hide any yellow tones in their skin.
And that, my friends and family, was May Day. My blisters, happiness, and myself all slept very soundly that night.