Tomorrow I need to go to the train station and pick up a classmate who lives in Shenyang in Liaoning Province. Shenyang isn’t as big as Tianjin, but it does contain 7+ million people. That’s kind of a lot. When Megan lived in Beijing, going to the train station was a weekly thing for me. I will take the bus to get there and probably ride in a taxi back home. It is a 30-45 minute drive depending on traffic and mode of transportation. A bus ride costs less than 20 cents and the taxi will cost about $2.50. When I get back I will prepare for my classes, and Megan will visit an orphanage with some of her students.
On our last Saturday of March, we decided to go shopping in neighboring Beijing. This was the first time the four of us have been to China’s capital as a family. We hired a driver to take us up to BJ, and the fun started soon after we left the city limits of Tianjin. Apparently Grace does a better job on long train rides as opposed to long car rides ’cause she blew some major chunkage during the morning ride. Fortunately Megan packed some extra clothes for Grace and not too much spillage flowed onto Megan’s clothes. A slight aroma lingered in the air after we cleaned up the mess, but we certainly smell worse smells changing Grace’s diapers. When we arrived in Beijing we visited three shopping meccas – Panjiayuan Jiuhou Shichang (the Dirt Market), Hongqiao Market (the Pearl Market), and Xiushui Shichang (Silk Alley). Panjiayuan Jiuhuo Shichang is a very cool place. A whole assortment of goodies can be found here – wooden chests, Tibetan carpets, reproductions of 1920s cigarette ads, Mao alarm clocks, ceramics, and more. Hongqiao Market and Xiushui Shichang are totally different shopping experiences. Vendors here sell not so authentic goods such as Gap, Northface, and Prada. It is not uncommon for the salespeople to grab your arm and pay you a compliment of some kind that is also not always so authentic. Why do we come here then? We can find products that are relatively inexpensive that makes others happy which makes us happy. As the day wore on, my body became sore due to all the walking and carrying I had to do. At least the exercise makes up for the lack of weight training in my life now. I think the highlight of our day was eating dinner at my former employer, Subway Sandwiches. Can we say roasted BMT? Yum, yum to the tum, tum. We can’t find those in Tianjin. On top of that, my sandwich was free due to all those little stamps they give you when you make purchases there. That’s what I"m talking about. All in all, it was another great day in the life of the Wickershams.
This afternoon Megan’s parents arrive in Beijing, and they will be visiting us for 2 1/2 weeks. This will be their third trip to the Middle Kingdom, but first to Tianjin. Their last trip to China was during SARS in 2003 so I’m sure this trip will have a quite a different flavor. Megan and I are pumped about their visit and look forward to showing them around what we call home. During the May Day Holiday we all plan to fly down to beautiful Yangshuo. Megan went to Yangshuo several years ago, but I’ve never been to southern China so I really look forward to that break. This might be my last blog for some time, but I will post up new pictures within several weeks. Tally-ho!
Here are some scary stats that I recently read. 15,000 new drivers hit the roads of China everyday. With that comes accidents. Last year almost 100,000 people were killed in traffic accidents and another 470,000 were injured. China’s 450,000 road accidents put them #1 in the world for traffic accidents and fatalities. The death rate from automobiles in China per automobile is more than ten times what it is in most developed countries. Wow, now that is scary. I can NOT dig that.
On January 29th Megan and I land in Ho Chi Minh City, and we’ll see the spectacular scenery of southern Vietnam until February 11th. Like the airline tickets we got to Singapore last year, they’re free. Can we say frequent flyer miles rule? Frequent flyer miles rule. We only had to pay for the tax and phone charges. We will stop in South Korea before arriving in Southeast Asia and have a small layover in Singapore on the way back. Our plans are to explore HCMC (the largest city in Nam), the Mekong Delta (Cai Be, Vinh Long, Can Tho, Long Xuyen, Chau Doc – along the Cambodian border), Nha Trang (the most popular beaches in Nam), and Dalat (a cool hill station honeymoon retreat). Some of what we will do include snorkeling in the deep blue, visiting some fishing villages and minority groups, checking out several museums, purchasing some handicrafts at a local market, cruise down the Mekong River, hunker down on some delicious food, enjoy the scenery, and do the tunnel thing. We are really looking forward to this trip.
Yesterday Megan and I went to Beijing to visit one of her former students from Changchun. Arnold now lives in Beijing and is the general manager of a shopping mall. For lunch we ate some dishes I’ve never eaten before. My favorite dish was an old favorite though – Peking Duck. Why don’t we eat duck in America? It’s da’ diggity bomb! After lunch Arnold and his driver took us to a couple famous temples nearby. One temple we went to was Cudrania Pool Temple (Tanzhe Si). It is the largest and oldest temple in Beijing. This Buddhist complex is big time ancient (third century) and is decorated with dragons as well as other mythical animal sculptures. Locals may come here in hopes of rain during droughts. Trees are located here that some believe will cure women of sterility. My old nature wants to poke fun, but it’s really a sad thing. Check out pictures of our trip on Megan’s website.
It’s good to be home. Megan and I have hunkered down at several restaurants – Bob Evans, Olive Garden, and Macaroni Grill to name a few, and I’m lovin’ it. I still haven’t seen my father, but he arrives today from Albania. He was workin’ the elections there. Today my mother returned to work, but we got a good deal of time in together. We went shoppin’, saw Mr. & Mrs. Smith, and rented the Final Cut. I enjoyed both movies, but I think Mr. & Mrs. Smith was a little better. I enjoyed the comedic relief. Megan and I visited my grandmother, and she has made some new friends at her retirement home. She doesn’t see and hear like she used to, but she still can’t bust a move on the dance floor.