Family Gathering Beijing StyleNovember 25, 2017 in China ⋅ ☀️ 8 °C
Hello from Beijing.
Mike and I arrived late Thursday after very long flight. At the last minute our Air Canada flight was rescheduled so we flew Air China. Fortunately, with some persistence from Mike we were able to sit together and, all in all, it was a very pleasant journey. No complaints about the food or service in fact I'd rate it better than Air Canada and heads and tails above some other airlines. Only 2 problems - didn't have a clue what the announcements were trying to communicate even though they were ostensibly translated and 2. When we asked for white wine they looked confused, finally found a bottle and poured us about 2 tablespoonsful in our coffee cup. Not a big seller with the Chinese mainlanders yet, but evidently that's changing like so many things.
Jonathan was at the airport to meet us. Took about an hour to run the gauntlet of immigration, customs, baggage etc. But all smooth. We took a car to the Shangdi area of Beijing .Kind of like arriving at Pearson and driving to Niagara Fall. We were instantly reminded of how huge and busy this city is. Have already had some interesting discussions with Jon about how the government is trying to control the population of this economic hub which threatens to balloon to 50 million people.
Our hotel is a very comfortable Holiday Inn Express near the big University district of the city. We are only 2 subway stops from Jon and Maria's apartment - virtually next door. Our only complaint at all is that the elevator doors slam shut rather quickly and if you don't jump right in you risk shoulder injuries.
Yesterday was Friday . After attending the very extensive breakfast buffet featuring both western and chinese offerings, we met Jon and headed into the centre of the city. We met up with his buddy - a Texan named William who is here teaching English. Unlike Jon, he has made a very concerted effort to learn Mandarin and he helped navigate our day. For anyone who has not been here, unlike Europe and many other parts of the world, English is not widely spoken here, for any number of reasons. I expect the younger generations are traveling more and being exposed to far more Western cultures so that seems to be changing slowly.
We took a stroll up to a temple that looks down over the inner city. Beijing sits in kind of a bowl beside the mountains. It has been cool but very clear so far. The views yesterday were terrific and we could see the Great Wall winding through the distant mountains. We continued with a long walk around various parts of the city centre and stopped for a lunch - everything is family style here. Good Kung Poi chicken - not sure if I'm spelling that correctly .
We spent a few hours visiting the very grand Chinese National Museum. It is in an enormous, very imposing building that sits bordering Tianemen Square. The security was tight and we went through scanners and checks . The main exhibition is mainly about the last 100 to 150 years of Chinese history. So their modern history from the Opium Wars ( lots of information about the bad colonialism) and the throwing off of the feudal Qing dynasty, through the revolution and assumption of rule by Chang Kai Shek, who was overthrown by the Communists under Mao. Very interesting - from what small amount was translated - the explanations of the various changes along the way. Lots of emphasis on Deng Xiaoping who really moved China into a more open, modern society. We also visited the great hall with all the international gifts that have been given to China from visiting world leaders. ( looks like a bit of regifting might have been going on. Not another vase!)
We finally saw Maria last night. She ´s struggling with some of the changing demands of her current job and we chatted with her about that. We had Yunnan style food last night. Specifically a large whole fish bubbling away on a burner that everyone dug into with their chopsticks. Forks and
Knives are as scarce as English speakers here and My clothes are taking a real hit. Those thin, slippery mushrooms are really a challenge with chopsticks!
Today we took the subway to Jon and M's apartment . Jon showed us around his neighbourhood. A large - 1 km long - stretch of apartments. Their place is quite large by Beijing standards. Maria's cousin Chung Chung and his friend also live there. We met up the translator who the kids hired and rode via Uber type car to Chang Ping- the neighbourhood where most of Maria's family live. We were greeted enthusiastically by a large crowd of relatives and spent a very enjoyable few hours visiting and eating a stupendous feast. Dishes on offer included roasted chicken, lamb, roasted pig, Peking Duck with all of the trimmings, a delicious fish dish called squirrel fish due to the way it is sliced and served to look like a squirrel. Also, many interesting side dishes and finally the soup made from the carcass of the duck.
People made the usual rounds of toasts and the Uncles - who we got to meet a couple of years ago- took to the Crown Royal we brought them with much enthusiasm then started on the beer. Mike was right in there with them. We gave out gifts to everyone . They in turn offered gifts to us. Nothing small so now we're trying to figure out getting things shipped to Shanghai in time for our flight home.
The discussion today, not surprisingly turned to Grandchildren with the not so subtle message that I was to start the pressure from our side. The translator, Alice, explained that this is pretty standard for family gatherings. First pressure on the younger ones to get married then to have that child.
We are now back in the hotel taking a much needed break in the action. Tomorrow more family time then Monday bright and early we fly south to Xiamen.
That's all for now. Hopefully this will actually upload. Internet is fine with lots of bandwidth but lots of things get blocked. Hard to tell.
Hope all is well wherever you are.
Love Heather( Mom)Read more