Making Friends Around the World
04.10.2009 - 05.10.2009 78 °F
Our impressions of China have changed dramatically since we've been here. We knew China was gradually opening to the world and developing but we didn't know how much. For example, after a slow start in the 1980s, private businesses are now booming. Also, we've been learning about the traditional Chinese cultures which are different in each part of the country. If you only listen to the news and political pundits you'll only be getting a filtered picture of any part of the world. Traveling opens the mind to the realities that are there in full living color. We share our photographs with friends and family on this blog, but it is the memories of the tactile experience and the real friendships we are making that makes traveling worthwhile.
Annemarie took us to a large Christian church called Beijing International Christian Fellowship. They were having a service led by the youth that morning and the spiritual energy was way up. The church was recently allowed to use "Christian" in its name and it is not allowed to evangelize. The church is not open to Chinese citizens and a foreign passport has to be shown before entry.
We were able to see our friend Dong only twice this trip. When she picked us up at the airport and on our last day when she and her son met us at the Summer Palace near her home. Her husband is a pilot with China Air flying the airbus plane and that leaves Dong to take care of all household things plus her job as an attorney with the government. Nonetheless, the last day was a great one. The Summer Palace was built by the infamous Empress Cixi. She used funds that were suppose to go to the Chinese Navy for modernization. That act is often credited with the decline of the Chinese dynasties. The place is full of history, Cixi also imprisoned her nephew the Emperor in the Summer Palace when she didn't like the reforms he wanted to undertake.
With Dong at the Summer Palace lake.
The place is opulent, as places where Emperors live tend to be. The large grounds were too much to cover in one day, but having Dong with us made it much easier because she knew all the highlights. There's Kunming lake, a man made lake containing a stone ship (the money to build this expensive ship was reportedly taken by Empress Cixi as a tribute to the Navy since she used their money to build it); the longest corridor in of any Chinese garden (2,238 feet) running along the lake; and a temple high above the lake with a spectacular view of the city just to name a few highlights.
The Stone Boat.
The Long Corridor.
After touring the Summer Palace we went to Dong's apartment to meet her husband who had just flown in from Munich. We visited for a while and and she prepared a sumptuous traditional Chinese meal for us of shrimp, vegetables, mushrooms, and fish dumplings. We were stuffed by the time we headed home.
At Annemarie's we stayed up to chat for a little while and traded information to keep up in the future. This was a great couch surfing experience .
The next morning we headed out to the airport to fly to Xi'an and relax at the airport. Our flight was pleasant and we had the best vegetarian lunch on an airline we've ever had. Rice and stewed potatoes and veggies in a really nice sauce.