Beijing 06/17/2011

Keith reporting:
I Think I Just Ate Chicken Feet.

Keith writing here after an interesting second day in Beijing. Jet lag has officially kicked us in the face; we awoke around 4am, and were completely out of gas at around 2pm.

After lying around until our 6:30 wake-up call, we went to a typically interesting Chinese breakfast buffet. They do serve bacon and eggs cooked to order, but then there are all the other delicacies. There are all kinds of vegetables, some recognizable, others not. Everything that we would call some kind of sausage, they (in their best English interpretation), call it intestine something or another. We ate until we were full. Kasen had lots of fruit, including watermelon.

We met our guide, Peter, at 8:30am, headed for Tiananmen Square. This is the largest public square of its kind in the world, made famous in the 80s or 90s student uprising where the student stood in front of the military tank. Over 1 million people gather here on national holidays. It was here that we got our first taste of Kasen Holt, International Rock Star. For some reason, the Chinese people kept coming up asking our guide if they could take a picture of Kasen, either with their kids, or the whole family. When we asked Peter why, he gave a difficult explanation that they wanted to get a picture with their foreign friend. No, we do not get it either, but Kasen loved it.

From Tiananmen Square, we went to the Forbidden City, the home of Chinese emperors from the 1400s through the early 1900s. Its name comes from the fact that only the royal emperors and their staff were permitted in prior to 1920. It is a huge, sprawling home of many palaces, walls and gates for security, a moat, beautiful gardens, and more that surround nearly 1,000 surviving buildings covering over 720,000 square meters. It is a major destination for the Chinese people and all tourists who come to China.

From the Forbidden City, we went to a wonderful restaurant where Peter ordered for us. It was a fantastic meal, as Peter seemed to know how to order for westerners. It was also here that Kasen experienced her first experience with a traditional Chinese bathroom. Look it up on the internet to get the full picture, but its basically a porcelain hole in the floor that you squat over. When I saw it in the mens room, I knew I was in for a definite look from our princess daughter when she came out. She refused to go to the bathroom again until I could find one that had a western toilet. It does make it easier to get her to go before we head out of the hotel room.

After lunch we went to the Temple of Heaven, a beautiful Buddhist temple built for one of the emperors. It was surrounded by a pretty park, and many locals gathered there to hear music, play card or chess, and argue. Spectators would stand around others playing cards or chess and argue loudly about the moves the competitors made. It was funny to watch.

This is also where the jet lag monster started to take over. Peter asked if we wanted to go anywhere else, but we declined, saying we just wanted to go back to the room. We went back to take a short nap, and woke up THREE HOURS later. It was all we could do to make ourselves go downstairs to eat at one of the three restaurants in the lobby. The one we chose had not one person who could speak English, though the hotel has several staff members who can get through any conversation we attempt. I ordered with high anxiety, as the English descriptions of the dishes were barely interpretable. I ordered a spicy, crispy dish for Kasen and Karen, figuring that was safe. What they brought out was small bits of fried chicken that was all gristle. After we spit several pieces of it into our napkins, I’m almost certain that we were eating chopped up chicken feet! I ordered another chicken dish for them which, while edible, still required way too much picking around pieces of bone as it appears they cooked, then chopped a whole chicken. I was adventurous and ordered the prawns. Notice I said prawns, as in more than one prawn. They brought me one prawn for 28 yuan (that is about $5 US). We each had a bowl of rice which was pretty much our dinner. That and a diet coke. I told Kasen we wouldn’t be eating there anymore. A pack of peanut butter crackers is probably in my future before bedtime.

The last thing I will write for the day is especially meant for anyone headed to China, and might have read some instruction book put out by their agency. Contrary to what you might read, the Chinese people dress JUST LIKE US! We were told that it was a sign of disrespect to wear shorts and t-shirts (standard attire for the Holt family outside of work and church). We knew that was wrong from our trip here 6-years ago, yet our guidebook to China still recommended that we wear slacks and a dress shirt. When we met our guide Peter, he had on shorts, a golf shirt (untucked), and sandals. When we told him about the guidebook, he laughed and said it must have been written in the 80s (so long ago!). He said that a family that he guided last week had nothing but long pants and dress shirts, and were miserable in the heat and humidity of China. China is as westernized as we are! So for those involved in our getting here, PLEASE UPDATE YOUR GUIDEBOOKS!

Tomorrow we are off to the Great Wall and Olympic Park, plus an acrobatic show.

That is all for tonight. Please sign our guestbook (located on Karis Trip page). Talk to you soon.