In the morning, the room that housed our dinner buffet the night before became the room that now housed our breakfast buffet. At home, Nick typically eats a very small breakfast (truth be told, a few pieces of chocolate). My breakfast is oatmeal in the winter, and my cousin Janet’s recipe for zucchini, flax and banana muffins in the summer. The breakfast buffet before us was quite different. We saw sushi, dim sum, eggs prepared many ways with sausages and bacon, chicken prepared several ways, veggies, fried rice, watermelon, cantaloupe, and the pastries I mentioned yesterday that look like Portuguese pastela de nata. We tried some, but not all, of these goodies!
Yesterday Nick signed onto a site called WeChat, which would enable us to be in contact with Anna and Liang. When a person sends a message in his or her own language, the recipient presses a button to translate it into his or her language, automatically. Brilliant!
While we were waiting in the lobby, Anna wrote to say that she would not be joining us today. Along came Liang, accompanied by today’s guide, who introduced himself as William. Fortunately for us, William spoke excellent English. He explained that today’s first stop would be the Summer Palace.
The Summer Palace is a must-see for tourists, and it is also enjoyed by the locals. The Palace was originally built in 1750 as a place for the emperor, his family, and his staff to escape from Beijing’s summer heat. We think of a palace as being one building, but Beijing’s Summer Palace contains temples, gardens, pavilions, bridges, gate towers and corridors. A lake fills much of the parkland in the palace property, and many people were enjoying boat rides.
One of the Palaces’ most striking features is called the Long Corridor. Indeed, it is the longest corridor of its type in the world. Its sides are open, but it is covered by a roof that was intended to shield the emperor and his family from the elements while enjoying their surroundings. The ceiling contains more than 14,000 paintings depicting scenes from Chinese history, mythology, and literature, as well as many flowers, birds, and fish. Truly spectacular, the Summer Palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
William explained that our next stop would be Tienanmen Square. Although there were many people there, it is such a huge space—one of the ten largest squares in the world—that it didn’t feel crowded. I had not known in advance that Tienanmen Square contains the Monument to People’s Heroes, the Great Hall of the People, the National Museum of China, and the Mausoleum of Mao. William explained that the portrait of Mao is replaced annually because of the strong sunlight.
Soon it was time for lunch. William asked if we liked noodles. Liang took us to a restaurant that specialized in them, and he presented us with a meal that was more elaborate than the one we enjoyed the day before. There were many other dishes in addition to noodles. You can see tofu designed to look like mah-jongg tiles, chicken with peanuts, a vegetable dish and meat between deep fried bread, which William called a “hamburger.”
After lunch, it was time to go to Gu’an. This suburb is the home of one of the preschools we would visit. We were taken to a lovely home at which we would be staying. There we were joined by an English-speaking teacher from the preschool named Arla. She showed us to our spacious bedroom with private bathroom on the second floor. Having had a very busy day, Nick and I both enjoyed a nap.
Later that day, we met Julian, a college student who was interning at the preschools. His room was on the first floor of our residence. We learned that Julian is a physics major who is studying Chinese. This was a great opportunity for him to take a summer job that would enable him to teach English while using his Chinese skills. Julian told us that we would be picked up to go out for dinner with some teachers.
Julian did the translating from the menu, because it contained no English. We selected various kinds of soup that ranged in heat from “mild” to “on fire.” As usual, we tried everything. Nick, a fellow physics major, enjoyed chatting with Julian. Back in our quarters after dinner, we marveled about the amazing day we had shared.