Today was a field trip day for the kids and I. We went to the National Museum of China and then shopping in a shopping district. This evening we had a party where the kids put on a show with singing and dancing.
Before I tell you of the day, let me first say that every day is a blessing, no matter how it turns out for me. I know I am very lucky to be in China and experiencing everything I do. And, God delivers me to places he needs me to be. With that said, I must say that I am not very impressed with the sights of Beijing. Let me explain why I say this. If you want to see modern China or just have a need to say that you were at the Forbidden City or other famous sights, then by all means, come to Beijing. But, I want to see old China. I want to experience their long history of culture and traditions. I want to meet the people of old China. Beijing to me is like any other large city in the world. Tall buildings, lots of traffic and people, dirty, noisy, shopping everywhere, and just a normal city. The sights are not as impressive as you might hope. At the National Museum, you would think that there would be some great exhibits showcasing the 5000 years of China history. You would think the exhibits would tell some kind of story. And, you would think the museum would be packed with many artifacts. All this cannot be said about the museum. It is a massive building. The main lobby is huge with the ceiling at 4 stories high. But, the exhibit halls are small compared to the size of the building. There is so much wasted space. The exhibit halls are divided into categories, such as Chinese money, Chinese Jade, National gifts from International countries, and Ancient China. Inside the exhibit halls, the amount of artifacts are underwhelming. I have to remind myself that many of China’s treasures have been destroyed during Mao ruling time, or stolen and taken to other countries in the world. But, surely there is enough treasures in China left that their NATIONAL museum could be filled with things. Maybe I missed something. There are very few maps of the facility inside to guide you. You just have to find your way around. I saw nothing of China’s recent history of the past 200 years or so. It was mostly older history. So, I left the museum a bit disappointed.
I almost forgot to mention the security in the area. A few months ago, some terrorists took a car and ran it into a group of tourists near the Heavenly Gate of the Forbidden City. This is only a couple of blocks from the museum. There is a very strong police presence in the area, as well as many cameras watching you. To enter the museum, you are treated as if you are flying at an airport: metal detectors, body sweeps, and no lighters permitted. Outside there are police, military guards, and security vehicles are everywhere. I guess it might be similar around Washington DC too.
Lunch was very nice. I had lunch with some of the teachers and the bus driver (who spoke no English). We ate hot pot lunch. You take raw meat and veggies and place them in a pot of boiling flavored water. After a few minutes, you can them eat the boiled foods. It is actually very tasty. We then left the restaurant and I had a couple of hours to wander the streets of shops. Most were high end stores like H&M and Rolex watches. But, I did find an interesting street that was decorated like an old Chinese shopping market street. Every shop had the same souvenirs in it. So, once you saw one or two of the outdoor booths, you had seen it all. And there were at least a hundred of the booths in this area. But, it was fun to walk in the replicated old China street.
We loaded the bus to go back to the school. We had a party scheduled for the evening. The kids would sing and dance at the party. I prepared hamburgers for the class. A special treat of beef burgers that they had never had before. I think most of them liked the burgers. The “talent show” was lacking talent. But, it was fun to watch the kids try their best. They all had fun with their party.
It is Lantern Festival today. It is also America’s Valentine’s Day. I had hoped to see many lanterns fill the sky here in Beijing. But, it is nothing more than a bunch of fireworks going off. The air is getting very polluted with smoke. The noise is very loud. And, I see no lanterns in the sky. I am a bit disappointed. I am told that in other parts of China, they are letting lanterns fly in the sky. But, in Beijing and other large cities, it is mostly fireworks. Oh well, maybe next year I can see the lanterns in the sky. I hear it is wonderful to see.
Tomorrow, we are headed to a famous university here in Beijing to tour the campus. After lunch, we will go to the Science and Technology museum. I hope I will be surprised by the trip tomorrow. I have few expectations though. If you come to China, you can bypass Beijing’s sights. There are many more interesting things to see in China.