Sunday, May 18, 2008
After the best night's sleep in a week, we got up around 5:30, showered and headed down to breakfast. We couldn't wait to hear how everyone else did yesterday. Every one in our group finished what they started. How amazing is that. There were many stories shared over breakfast of the event. We were all quite proud of ourselves. Several people were hobbling along - hurting from their achievement - most people looked great. A few had even gone for a run before breakfast!
After breakfast, we boarded the bus for a relaxing day. The first stop was a trip via rickshaw through old Beijing. When you hear this, you would think we were going to the part of Beijing from hundreds of years ago...not so. There have been massive changes in Beijing in the last ten years. A city that used to be full of one story homes and alleyways is now a city of high rise buildings and constant construction. This "old Beijing" is what is left of the the one story houses. It is a neighborhood in an enormous city. The residents of these places have all be relocated - either out of the city or to tennament buildings. It is hard to imagine this change happened so fast. In 2001 - they completed 10 high rise buildings per day in Beijing. The people are still adjusting to these changes.
Trevor and I got into our rickshaw, sat back and enjoyed the ride. Our legs loved the rest - while a nice Chinese man pedaled his heart out! We made a stop at the house of a "regular citizen" of Old Beijing. This was our propoganda stop. I doubt that very many regular Chinese live in a nice one story house and allow tour groups to come in and visit. The man's father had been in the miliarty and was apparently very important. This was an interesting stop and I didn't really know what to think about it.
We got back to the rickshaw, back to the bus and headed to lunch. After lunch we went to a tea ceremony. This was one of my favorite parts of the trip. They showed us how to make tea from loose leaves and how to drink tea - what each type of tea was good for. Then they let us shop and I spent way too much money here - I'll have enough tea to last me 5 years!
Then it was off to the silk market for some shopping. This is a 5 story market full of kiosk type shops. This experience was unlike any other in my life. Talk about high pressure sales. We were mobbed as we walked through the shops, "hey pretty lady", "look at this", "you like", "hey mister - buy this for your pretty lady", "want a suit made". It was unreal. I bought two beautiful silk shirts - I love them - I hated every minute of the purchasing process. It was half an hour of bargaining. I probably still paid too much - I was just ready to get out of there. We agreed on a price and the women told me that she wasn't going to make any money, it was so cheap - but she felt like I was her sister, so it was okay. We then realized we didn't have enough cash. She told us about an ATM and walked with us to it. We got there and realized we had taken our debit cards out of the wallet, all we had was a credit card and we weren't going to give her that. She was disgusted and began bargaining again for the cash we had on hand. We finally said forget it and. started to walk away. In utter disgust, she said she would take what we had and that she was losing money on the deal. So it all worked out in the end!
We walked back to the hotel and got cleaned up for dinner. Tonight was a gala dinner for the marathon. All the participants got together for a banquet and awards. We were so tired, we really just wanted to go to bed. It was our last night and we knew we needed to go to the gala - so we did. We sat and waited while they did all kinds of awards - we couldn't hear a word that was said - we were sitting all the way at the back. It was finally time for dinner around 8 and we devoured it!
After dinner, we headed back to the hotel - got to bed around 10. We were all packed and ready to go in the morning