It has been quite a vacation. It is January 1, 2012, New Years Day, a Sunday morning in China. I am looking forward to spending last little bit of time with Sarah and Makaela. I get to take them to the airport and then came back and pack up our stuff. We are all traveling today but not even close to the same times. I will get to make two trips to the airport today. We have arranged to have the driver again today; mostly to make sure that our baggage is secure while we are seeing the sights in Beijing before our flight leaves and then to take us to the airport.
Once got everything arranged we said good-bye to Sam and LaDawna and head to the airport. We got her bags unloaded and up to the United service counter. I paid for the extra bag and walked her to the security checkpoint. Hugs and kisses and back to the van to get the rest of my family out of the hotel and on our way. I really wished that we could have made it to one of the LDS branches here in Beijing while we were there but the airport trips just won’t allow that to happen. We got checked out of the hotel and loaded into the van.
We decided that we wanted to see the Temple of Heaven and the Lama Temple while we are waiting for our departure time. I am not used to doing the tourist thing on a “travel” day, but it works out for us today. We head over to the Temple of Heaven, it is very close to the Pearl Market.
The Temple of Heaven was the location of the Beijing New Year’s Eve Party. The remnants are still all over and the cleanup is ongoing as we arrive and pay our entrance fee. We wander through the temple areas and parks surround it. I really wish that I had known that this was happening here and we might have tried to come here for the celebration. It looks like it was pretty spectacular. Oh well, a disadvantage to not knowing the language I guess.
There are a number of unique features at the Temple of Heaven. One is the whispering wall, where you are supposed to be able to stand on nearly opposite sides of the enclosure and whisper at the wall and the person on the other side can hear you. There are too many people here for it to really work for us and we aren’t too interested in finding just the right spot either. This is one of the busiest places we have been so far. In my opinion there are just too many people here.
We continue wandering around the site until we get to the pavilion know as the “center of the universe”. The story goes that this point was considered as some point in Chinese history to be the center of the known universe. We have to wait in a line to get our pictures on the pinnacle point of the pavilion and are once again reminded that the Chinese don’t understand the concept of waiting in line. Many people just walk out into the center and cut the line to get their picture. If I hadn’t reached the point of just accepting this I could have gotten really mad. These people just don’t understand that kind of thing. Wonder if they ever will? One of the things we observe as we wait impatiently for our turn is that the people typically yell something when standing on the spot that is the center. When LaDawna gets her turn she yell “I want to go HOME!” She gets quite a laugh for that one. We learn that what is said from that spot is like a wish that will come true. I would have yelled something to if I had known it was a “wishing” spot.
We still have several hours to go before our flight. We head over the Lama Temple. I think that the streets in China all kind of look the same. Beijing really just looks like any other place in China except at the tourist sites. The places all look the same and they don’t have any character per se like you might find in a neighborhood in the US. I can tell we are getting close to the temple because instead of homes or offices (can’t tell the difference in most cases) we start to see the shops selling gold statues and incense.
Now I have shared with you before some of what we see with incense here in this country. Personally we think that the incense thing reminds us a little too much of the times when we smelled in the US and people were using it to mask another kind of “smoke”. As we pull up to the gate to the location we notice it is packed and everything around us is busy. It is then that I realize that coming here on New Year’s Day doesn’t seem to be the smartest choice.
While China doesn’t really have Freedom of Religion as we might define it in the US, ok – not even close, it does allow people to have the freedom of religion expression (so long as it doesn’t impact the security of the country, whatever that means). There are plenty of people at the Lama Temple today to at least believe that some people believe something.
The Lama temple is one of the oldest religious edifices in Beijing. It has one of the largest golden statues that I have ever seen inside of a building. As it is an actual religious location the photography is pretty limited and is mostly what we could sneak in. I realize about half way through the tour that we are seeing something related to the Dali Lama and Tibet. I guess that I am a little slow on the uptake. We wander and observe and believe that we have seen pretty much all there is to see. We have been stared at more here at the Lama Temple than at any other location we have visited. I will soon understand why.
As we are departing our driver is pulling up to the curb and we have to walk through a crowd of “school girls”. I am not quite sure how old they are but I am sure that they are not Jr. High girls. I realize that they all have their cameras out taking pictures of SAM. He looks back at them he is getting into the van and I caught a glimpse of what it might have been like for the Beatles. All of the cameras are shooting his photo, I tell him that he needs to lean out of the van and blow them a kiss and tell them he loves them. He thinks I am dumb for even thinking something like that, but I would have bet that had he down it they would have screamed like he was Paul McCartney. He might have got on to pass out. Seriously, it was pretty weird to see them looking at him like he was a rock star. I guess that he can be glad that his sister was with him all week or he would have had a complex after 4 days.
We head back to the airport and make the transition to our flight. I have to pay for an extra bag to get all of our stuff home. But it is going to be worth it, one of those bags came from the US and it has stuff we can’t get here in China. It is going to seem like Christmas again when we get home.