Posted by He Said
Today was a surreal day for us. It was a long day for us. I wish I could convey all that happened in our 8 hour day, but this will have to suffice. If you have not read Susannes prior post, I recommend you do that first before reading any further.
Our gracious and wonderful hosts Chang and Lydia met us in our lobby at 9am to take us to the Summer Palace.
We have had a bit of a shortage of Chinese cash (yuan) because I have I been too lazy to head over to the bank to exchange my last few American $20 bills. We had a total of 73 yuan (about $10 bucks) in our pockets when our hosts arrive and we were immediately informed that they wanted to take a cab (they had already walked 20 minutes to meet us at the apartment) because the bus would be too crowded (in Beijing, really?). I was expecting to pay $1 yuan for a bus ride. The cab ride is going to cost us $20 yuan and we are going to have to take two cabs. Ok, but um we are a little short on cash? “Don’t worry about it” I am told from the newly married Chinese couple who JUST got back from their honeymoon and love to eat “very cheap”. I know these people are not flush, and so this puts me in a very uncomfortable position as you can imagine. They assure us that it is ok, we can pay them back. I felt like an ass. A total ass, let me tell you. It was not the first time I would feel that way today.
For those of you who are members of the Chinese Cultural Moron’s club like me, this is a very expansive and grand palace that was created in 1750 (Reign Year 15 of Emperor Qianlong). I cannot say how amazing, beautiful and awe inspiring this place is. One day is not enough to take it all in. Take a moment to read the wikipedia page about it. Go ahead. I will wait.
When we arrived alive, once again after a carseat free taxi ride for the children (kids fun 2, Mom’s Heart Attack Scoreboard 42) we learned that it was going to cost us another 60 yuan to get into the park. There we are with a whopping 43 yuan and our hosts insisting they pay for it and that we could pay them back. I hoisted my “I am an ass” flag, swallowed my pride and we moved on. But we didn’t actually get to go anywhere.
A women with only two more teeth than Walter Brennan but a smile that lit up her classically wrinkled Chinese face swooped in on us and began what I can only describe as a chant. Over and over again she was saying (we were told) how beautiful Emily was. Now this elderly woman who in retrospect likely stood only a few inches taller than Emily (no exaggerating), locked onto her target and would not back off. The dance between Emily who was hiding on the opposite side of my legs and this Chinese cheek pinching grandma made me dizzy. Round and round they went till finally I just had to scoop her up and walk away.
And she followed us.
She followed us into the park.
She followed us past the ladies who threw a traditional Chinese dress on Emily (wanting to sell it to us and charge us for pictures).
She followed us on to the bridge where we were taking pictures, and she was IN our pictures when I realized she was tracking us like Susanne can track her way to a Starbucks store in Beijing (it is uncanny really). At that point Chang said something in Chinese and she explained that Emily was just so beautiful that she wanted to be near her.
The attention, the chatter, the reaching out and stroking of the cheek was (and I am NOT exaggerating here) non-stop. In fact, it is so constant that I can guarantee that I can capture a video of it while it happens before the week is out. Seriously.
I just hope she doesn’t let all this fame go to her head.
Do you see how I am holding my precious little AMERICAN PRINCESS. I carried her like that for almost the entire day. And this is no Disneyland, let me tell you. It’s BIGGER!.
This huge palatial compound was interestingly attacked and nearly destroyed twice by “Anglo” forces. Now lets get this out of the way. Yup. The Brits and the Americans were tearing it up over here for two reasons on two different occasions. The first was our united attempt to legalize Opium drug trade (no, the irony is not lost on me here) and the second was a battle to keep out the religious right (ok, my words, but we were here fighting to keep them in, and again, the irony is not lost on me).
Now don’t get all political in your comments. I get to be political here because it’s my blog, and you read it if you can get through all my (subtext) and weird cultural (Walter Brennan) references. I, on the other hand, don’t have to read your flames on my blog. That’s just how it works. Besides, I do bring this up for a very good and relevant reason.
Every sign (and I mean EVERY sign, and I NEVER exaggerate so don’t look at my pictures to see 0 examples of this) describing this Buddha statue or that temple or this courtyard did not fail to point out that the “Anglos” had damaged them during one of the two wars and they had to be restored. Chang mentioned several times (completely in a conversational way to his credit) about the restorations required of areas of the grounds after the Anglo caused damage. There we are. Me raising ANOTHER ASS FLAG because of American actions that took place before my ancestors even CAME to America. What a Charlie Brown I am. I realized this also makes me a member of the American History Morons club because I don’t remember any of this from history class.
I get it, history is history and we cannot change it. So on one hand I have this constant reminder that we destroyed not once, but twice a historic and significantly cultural icon of the Chinese people, and on the other, I don’t even have money to pay for my taxi ride home. Bad American, BAD.
It’s ok. I made up for it by bringing my little piece of Brangelina to the Beijing Summer Palace and don’t you forget it.