Friday, May 22, 2015

                  Yesterday, we climbed the Great Wall, perhaps China’s greatest signature landmark.  It was designed as a military installation not a tourist spot, and it’s fairly difficult to climb due to its uneven surfaces. While there are steps built into the stone they are uneven, and at times the climb is sheer.  I’d done it before  in 2006 and 2007 when I was younger but not as fit.  Frankly, I didn’t know if I was still capable.  I’d brought along clunky hiking boots just for this purpose, and I’d brought a collapsible hiking pole.  Both were difficult to manage on the plane. But gear is important.
                 The Wall is at altitude, where the sun is extremely strong, so it is best to be wearing a hat. I had my ETSU cap, but the other women didn’t have anything, so purchasing hats was the first order of business.  Brittany was pleased with hers. 
I’m not especially fond of heights, but I do enjoy challenges, and I was determined to get to the top if I could.  The climb was tedious. Along the way, I passed Brittany and Shelley, who were more concerned with enjoying the scenery and saw no need to climb to the top.
At the top, a very nice gentleman consented to take my picture.  The way down proved to be difficult, since I was dealing with gravity as well as unstable footing.  The pathways were crowded, and at one point, a woman jostled me.  I chose to ride down on the cable car.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

What time is it?

                      Our analog clock is based on the sundial, an ancient instrument for measuring time.  We saw this one at the Temple of Heaven.  It is read upside down, so the time of this picture was close to Noon. 

Traveler’s Trouble
                   It was a glorious day, not oppressively warm, and the air was clear by Beijing standards.  We went to Tiananmen Square, The Forbidden City, and the Temple of Heaven.  In the evening, we saw a performance of the Chinese Acrobats.

                    Along the way, I developed an ailment politely described as “traveler’s trots.”  I get it pretty often when I’m in China—something to do with unfamiliar bacteria, I think.  It’s even harder to manage in a group than when traveling solo.  On a positive note: there are now an increasing number of Western style toilets in public places.
Objects of Curiosity

                  Westerners are objects of curiosity in China, even now, and when people visit Tiananmen Square, they like to take pictures of us, as if they had sighted a peacock, a camel, or a panda.  With his red hair, John is in particular demand and happy to oblige. The color red is associated with good luck here.

Cafeteria, Chinese Style

                 We assembled in the cafeteria before our day of exploring China.  Shelley’s breakfast consisted of a fried egg, which she ate with chopsticks, a steamed bun, salty tofu soup with green vegetables and bottle of  orange juice.  We eat from tin plates. The “People’s Police” are ever present.

Monday, May 18, 2015

On being a groupy
           Even today, China is not the most common tourist spot, and those who choose trips like this one tend to be nonconformists. I noticed this while I was doing the selection interviews, and working with our group is going to be a challenge. Speaking of the difference between chamber ensembles and symphony orchestras, the great flutist James Galway, once observed that the more who try to do something at once, the less latitude they will have in doing it. 

           It’s already an issue.  When one of the students arrived at the airport a few minutes late, I became decidedly grouchy.  Later, when Shelley Van Camp and I took a long walk in the Atlanta Airport at what turned out to be too close to boarding time, the others were grouchy with us. 

Dubious Well-wishers

This is my tenth visit to China.  Trips of this sort never become routine, but families do get used to one’s departure.  Joe dropped me off at the door of the TRI-Cities Airport Sunday morning and continued on to a preaching engagement at First United Methodist Church, Bristol because he was short on time.  Not all our party’s significant others were this nonchalant.  Brittany Gilbert’s family behaved as if she were leaving for the other side of the world, which she in fact was.

 My co-instructor, John Mooneyham, has done lots of teaching in Asia, but his girlfriend’s pit bull seemed as dubious about our travel plans as Brittany’s send-off committee.

What does tomorrow mean? It is 5:30 pm here, but at home it’s 5:00 in the morning. I leave Weihai tomorrow and make a stop in Beijing. ...