China Capstone blog - 3/19

March 19 - from Patti
The last 3 days of the 2011 Chinese Capstone trip are over. Wednesday afternoon we visited the Lama Temple. At the temple, the kids did get to interview a monk. Dinner was at an authentic non-tourist Beijing noodle house. Many parents in the group commented that the younger crowd reminded them of Pearl district resturants. This meal was one of the best we had on the trip. After dinner, it was off to the "Legends of Kung Fu" performance 1/2 block from the hotel. The kids (boys in particular) enjoyed the show.

Thursday morning started off in Tiananmen Square, where even with hundreds of security cameras on trained on the square, the street vendors were very in your face. We were all impressed with the police segway scooters - they had seats! Officer Mike Francis finally got a Chinese police officer to pose with him next to these segways. Then the tour of the Forbidden City began - from the gate with the picture of Chairman Mao all the way to the gardens at the back. After lunch we did rest our tired feet during the hutong rickshaw tour. We stopped to visit a hutong. The kids grilled the owner about her house and living in a hutong.

Not counting the people on the Bund and at the Mag Lev station in Shanghai, the kids over all interviewed 6 people: the tea farmer, a famous "farmer painting" painter, the man who discovered the Terracotta Warriors, a muslim at the Great Mosque, a Lama Temple monk, and this Hutong owner. We also had another show after dinner - Chinese acrobats. The kids were most impressed with the juggler and the motorcycle ball. If you haven't seen a motorcycle ball, google it - big spherical metal cage. One motorcycle goes in and rides the whole thing, side to side, top to bottom, you name it. Then a second motorcycle joins him. And a third, then a fourth, and unbelievably a fifth. Then a girl rides out on her motorcycle to join the 5 guys. And we still wonder how traffic can function in the chaos that is the Chinese streets!

Friday. Last tour day. Great Wall, Badaling section. Great Wind Day, blowing dust. Visiblity was okay, you could see the surrounding hills and sections of Great Wall, but it was cold and the dust did a number on my eyes, that's for sure. We went up the east section of the wall with all the Chinese tourists, unknowingly avoiding all the hard core vendors on the western section. We made it to the 8th tower and back down. Others did opt for the cable car, but with the winds, I personally didn't think that was a good idea. Back in the city, we visited the Temple of Heaven, my personal favorite place in the city.

The kids did stand at the Center of the Universe (you knew it had to be in China, the middle kingdom) for a photo op. One reason the Temple of Heaven is one of my favorites, is that the current temple has Oregon roots (according to my Fodor's guide book) - when it burned down in the 1890's, there weren't timbers large enough left in China to make the pillars. Enter Oregon doug firs! It is our temple (or so I like to think). Dinner that night was at a Peking duck resturant. At least 10 different duck based dishes, including soup - some interesting, some not (like the soup). This is also when we said our official thank you so much to our guide Frank.

This is my second Capstone trip with Frank (his 5th with TIS) and I still stand by my assertion that I would only go on a trip like this with Frank. He loves the kids, understands our program, has a great sense of humor, English is great (just be patient when he is trying to talk about cucumbers or concubines - two words that he admits he mixes up), is humble, loveable, a regular shoe-shine boy!