Life with 4 kids 6 and under. Our trip to pick up Tonito in China is: mid-March 2008 through April 12. Our trips to pick up Ricky in Ethiopia are in June and August of 2010.

Friday, March 28, 2008

DAY 3: Hutong tour, Temple of Heaven, and Chinese Acrobats

Today was a fantastic second day in Beijing! Vivi woke us up at 2am, and we kind-of kept her quiet with the lights off until 4am. Then we watched a cooking show in Chinese until the breakfast buffet opened at 6:30am. A couple of the other American CHI families were down eating breakfast at the same early time, having woken up around 2am also! Vivi really gets along with a little 4 year old girl named Lily, who is traveling to Urumqi with us to pick up her 4 year old brother Luke (their blog link is on the right). They share so well and color on their magna-doodles (or "maga-noodles" as Vivi says) together on the bus rides. We are so lucky to have a little travel buddy for Vivi!
Here is part of our delicious breakfast:

I wanted to taste almost everything, except what we are calling the "fear factor" egg. On the plate on the right, you can see a slice of bluish with brown-looking hard boiled egg? It is called the "preserved" egg, though when Tonio tasted it he said it tasted very sulfuric, like a rotten egg. Maybe that's why it was bluish-green. Vivi loved the pepinos (cucumbers), tomatoes, yogurt, and her fav- the cocoa krispies! She's never had them (so I guess that counts as trying "new" food in China?) and loved drinking the chocolate milk afterwards.

We met in the lobby at 8:30 to start our day long tour. First we rode the bus to the hutong neighborhood called LiuLinJie. A hutong is "an ancient city alley or lane typical in Beijing." We actually rode in a rickshaw- a man on a bike pulled us in this mini-taxi much to Vivi's delight.

Here we are in the bike-taxi, a typical storefront, and then the looking down on the hutongs from above. It was a very cold, grey, and rainy day!!
There used to be over 6000 of these alleys, but now many have been replaced by modern buildings. Our guide told us that the hutongs were built during the Ming (1368-1628) and Qing(1644-1908) dynasties. During these eras, the emperors planned the city so that the center of Beijing was the royal palace (the Forbidden City), in order to establish supreme power for themselves. The hutongs to the east and west of the palace were from noblemen and aristocrats, and the north and the south hutongs were for merchants and ordinary people. Usually a hutong was/is a square courtyard surrounded by 4 houses. We visited a kindergarten that has the typical architecture of the hutong house. The kids were SO cute, and Vivi was very disappointed that she couldn't play with them (I guess we couldn't disrupt their lessons). The picture in the middle below is the entrance to the school, and the other 2 are "door" pictures for my mom:).

We had a nice lunch made by a local family in the hutong neighborhood that CHI arranged for us. There were bamboo shoots, beef with potatoes in a sauce, pork meatballs, deep-fried batter that tasted like it had chicken flavoring?, cauliflower in tomato sauce, dumplings, cabbage and carrots, bok choy with mushrooms, rice... lots of little dishes that we passed around our crowded little table, while listening to a bird sing Happy Birthday in Mandarin. When I say "we," I am not including Vivi-squirts, who happily munched on peanut butter crackers, carrot sticks, raisins, and nuts.

After the hutong tour, we said zài jiàn to our rickshaw driver, and took the huge touristy bus (Emily, you would LOVE it!) to the Temple of Heaven. The Temple of Heaven was built in 1420 A.D. during the Ming Dynasty (and used throughout the Qing dynasty also) so the emperors could offer sacrifices to Heaven for a prosperous harvest on the Winter Solstice every year. It is in a huge 675 acre park in the southern part of Beijing, and the Temple area is contained by a double wall. The southern area is a square, to represent the earth, and the northern area is semi-circular to represent the heavens. There are 3 main groups of buildings: the circular mound altar, where the emperors would place the sacrificial oxen, sheep, pigs, rabbits, etc; the imperial heavenly vault; and the Temple. Just for the record, Vivi and I are EXPERTS at squatty potties, having used 3 today. Vivi didn't even question it!

As soon as we arrived to the Temple of Heaven, Vivi was falling asleep. Suddenly, freezing cold and wet from the rain, she asked "Can we get warm?" then "Can we go to Mexico?" It was so funny. She wanted to ask if we could go to the hotel to go to sleep but she couldn't think of the word hotel... "Can we go to the casa de Vivi in China?" Within 5 minutes she was out and did not MOVE for 4 hours, even through the rain, being carried all over by Tonio's aching arms, loaded onto the bus, and then in her hotel bed for an hour nap, and finally carried onto the bus again to go to the Chinese acrobat show. We slowly awoke her in time for the acrobats, which absolutely mesmerized her.
Supposedly, a couple of thousand years ago peasants would take wooden grain dividers, remove the mesh, and use them in performances. Farmers would spin bowls on their feet and balance on a tower of chairs, or juggle. When the annual harvest was celebrated, the new acrobats would show off their skills. In the Han Dynasty (221 BC - AD 220), they called these dexterities the 'Hundred Plays.' But it was really only in recent history that these acrobats would perform in theatres for such large audiences. They must pass these tricks along in their blood, so they can exponentially expand their skills because the contortionists and acrobats we saw were really out of this world. There were 3 year old little boys climbing up these poles and then they would dive down head-first only to catch themselves by grabbing the pole with their legs with their faces inches above a 2 inch mat (that would not have done much had they fallen!). Somersaults through hoops, throwing and balancing each other on their feet along with drums, and flexibility beyond gumby.
Today we packed in so much touring, and they're telling us tomorrow will be even busier (and just as cold at 35 degrees- why didn't we pack our winter coats!!?). We are having so much fun!!!


Anonymous said...

Hey Morales family!!! Looks like you are haveing so much fun-- I love the photos! I saw them all on snapfish. Here we had snow yesterday, but I still let Boudicca and Mingo run around crazy outside. They miss you, but are totally behaving well. Lots of hugs and kisses! Oh-- maya (and M & D) met me for lunch today: we had thai food. She was of course adorable. Speaking of, Vivi seems like she LOVED the bike taxi, and one of my favorite photos is the one of her looking at the camera while walking down s narrow alley-- it's in this article. Everything looks wonderful, we are thinking of you! Besos -- Tía Didi

Kathryn & Kevin said...

I love all the details that you are providing. It's the closet thing to being there.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like you're having a great time. Hope you get to thaw out once in a while, cuz it's going to be pretty cool in Urumqi. Maya says hi, and we'll keep trying to skype you. love dadxxoo

Dana & Rick said...

Wow! I'm having fun reading your
blog! Wishing it was us, but glad for all of you! If you get to visit the orphanage, look for Sha Mei! Her nickname is Mei Mei. She turned four on Wednesday! The pics of all the street vendors, kabobs, and architecture are great! Keep them coming!!

Ann said...

Wonderful photos, Have a life changing trip!!!! Wonderful donation suitcases.! I looked you up on my map when you fist announced your referral. Looking forward to more news from you.
2 kids from China
PAP Vietnam
all with CHI

Anonymous said...

The pictures are amazing again! I loved reading about all the places you are visiting. Vivi is such a traveler. I hope she catches up on her sleep. Thanks for the door pictures too!!!! Maya is being so good. She loves watching the dogs play and having Dad hold her ALOT!! Love, Mom