There was supposed to be a lot of free time scattered throughout the week, but with all the juggling of things (like the Olympics kickoff), everything was packed together, and Friday become a completely free day.
We didn't get going 'til lunchtime, when we walked with Liss's dad and a lady in our group to ... a mall. So this was where the kids were hanging out. This was the place to be, for them. Every shop was high-end: fashion, jewelry, etc. The advertisements were all slick, with a "this makes you cool, like an American!" kind of feel. Since we were just looking for lunch, we found our way to the "food forum," where we found nothing we wanted. Eventually we settled on a fast food Chinese-ish place.
Side note: The only schools we saw in Beijing were sports schools. We asked Ping about everyday public schools, which exist somewhere. She said the elementary schools have about 2000 kids each, but she wasn't able to point one out.
After lunch, Liss and I split from the others and walked to an art museum. On the way, we stopped in a smaller park, which was packed with retirees, mostly playing Chinese chess (pic).
Side notes about traffic: The intersections are so busy and chaotic that the (city?) government has crosswalk guys on almost every corner (pic - they're under the green/white umbrellas). We sat to rest at this intersection (pic), which was basically a standstill for as long as we were there, backing things up for blocks (pic). It was a good time to be a pedestrian.
We got to the art museum, with its harsh rules (Engrish alert: No blatancy! pic). Among those rules was No Cameras, and they could afford to hire two people per room to enforce that, sorry. But inside was - an exhibit of Renaissance painters. On one floor. It was cool and all - the English translations were done by a native speaker - but we expected some Chinese art in a Chinese art museum. The exhibit took up one of the four floors, and everywhere else was closed for renovation. Joy.
Then, we walked to a crowded pedestrian mall area. We were specifically looking for a bookstore, but also anything else that caught our eye. We went into one place that was very stratified. By that I mean the lower level was crowded with people and goods, and had a pushy saleswoman who was nonetheless charming and got us to buy an "everlast match" for a friend. The visage of Chairman Mao on it was the topper. The second floor was more subdued, with higher-end stuff. One salesguy followed us around at a decent distance, and didn't talk to us, which is reasonable. The third floor was very odd, considering our other China salesperson experiences. They turned their backs to us. I don't think they were trying to be rude, just avoiding the work. But it was eerie.
We managed to make it to our intended destination - a "four language" bookstore. However, there was nothing there that we couldn't get back home for the same price. Again, I didn't go to China to pay American prices. Since we had enough airplane entertainment already, we bought nothing there.
Just about every place that could have a poster in the bookstore, including the outer staircase leading to it, had a Harry Potter 7 poster. There were dozens up. I guess they figured we wouldn't have otherwise known. I wonder what they have up at other times?
(Ran out of steam here)
|Thursday, August 9th
|To be continued