08.11.2012 71 °F
Sitting on the plane; it's still hard for me to believe - as far as the eye can see; it's China.
All my life I've been told - keep your eye on China - well I'm watching. What I see is a country that's no longer "developing" - they've developed. They're pouring their money into education and infrastructure. Their elementary schools are rated among the best in the world as are some of their universities. Ironically one of their best universities was founded by Americans.
I'm completely comfortable here. One of the advantages of being a tourist is meeting other tourists - most of whom are Chinese. Just as in the states; everyone flocks to the Great (Long) Wall, Summer Palace & Forbidden City - much the same as when we go to Washington DC to see the capitol, Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial; you see Americans from every state. People here are the same as us - friendly, curious and maybe a little kinder. I've felt at ease wandering away from the tour group from time to time - people ask me to take their pictures, we enjoy the beauty of the buildings and gardens. And if we can't talk to one another, we smile and gesture.
I'm having trouble finding old Beijing. This city is huge - 3 hours to drive from one side to another; if there's no traffic. And there's always traffic and mostly grid-lock. Eventually Beijing will have to do something about their traffic issues - too many cars on the road, constantly idling because of the traffic jams...the pollution is dreadful. They are building a subway. Yesterday as our bus was stuck in traffic and I was trying not to think about how the smell was choking me; I watched cars. I saw Mercedes, Buick, Honda, Fiat, Chrysler, VW - big, small, SUVs, pickups - and mostly only one person to a car. And the wealth...oh me...oh my....it's everywhere in the inner city - fantastic futuristic buildings and color everywhere. shopping malls with all the brands I recognized and some I've only heard about.
There are canals and parks everywhere. I particularly enjoyed the visit to the hutong where one the guides with her grandmother. We rode bicycle rickshaws along narrow streets where the tour bus couldn't go. The communal living was particularly interesting as I've thought lots about how families are breaking down into smaller and smaller units.
I'm astounded at the freedom of discussion...to a point. Sometimes the tour guides prefer to have discussions in the confines of the bus...but if ask a question; they answer. The young woman was particularly proud of women's rights in China. She gave examples of the lives of her mother and grandmother and even some of her early youth. All of the guides are in their early 30's so the Cultural Revolution was not part of their immediate lives but almost everyone had a family member who suffered.
Censorship - usually can't get in on google and never on Facebook. No problems is I use the Blackberry but almost everyone else is struggling with internet connections.