Friday, December 12, 2008

First Day of Touring

As one might expect, yesterday was a great day - both with highs and lows.
While I grew up in the New England and am used to below freezing weather - there is something about being on Tianenmen Square with a good stiff breeze to chill you to the bone. The day was filled with awsome sights, pictures (we will try to post some later) and experiences. I must say the highlight of the day for me was lunch at an authentic Chinese noodle house where the locals dine. Great food, casual and a busy atmosphere - my Mom would have really loved it. First, no waitresses only young men - they emphasize the traditional roles at this place. When a party enters the door the first waiter yells "party of 4 needs a table". You then walk around a partition and greeted by the 10 or so other waiters all stationed at their tables, who yell "Welcome". They then proceed to loudly coax you to their table. Now, you don't tip, so I'm not sure if there is any sort of financial motive behind the coaxing - but it sure was fun to watch. The cadence of the shouting was like "Here we go Braaahaves [pause] Hooray!"
Sam is pretty much a rock star here. They are very interested in western children and as we were walking in the Temple of Heaven (like an expansive park) about three or four upper middle aged men came up and touched him. As you would imagine it was a bit disconcerting to him and me at first, but as we soon realized that while unusual for us, it was merely a friendly gesture. It was like an older uncle coming up and patting his head and squeezing his shoulders. Now that I have scared everyone concerned back home, let me reassure you, I am watching Sam with an eagle eye and Sam has embraced his fame. Everyone wants a picture of the "little boy". What a treat for our young man.
The low point of the day was having on three occassions persons come up and ask for money. One was a man on crutches who had lost his foot, another was a mother clutching her bundled baby, and the other a man with no hands. What do you do in such situations that come upon you suddenly? We were in tourist areas, pickpockets all over, you take out money and you become a target, even attracting more of a crowd around you. Fear, apprehension and doubt come to the forefront of your thoughts. (The mom and baby will stay in my mind for a long time). Now the real hard part - your son asks, "Dad, why are you telling those people you don't have any money?" Convicted. We were not prepared for such events but hope to be so today. We did do the least of what we could for those people, which happens to be the absolutely most we could do for them - prayer. However, faithfull preparation may serve our actions better today.
We were scheduled for dinner in, yes, a Chinese restaurant, last evening, but Sam conked out, I was feeling queezy, and Michele has caught a bit of cold. So our day ended somewhat early and we will strike out again today. We will see the Great Wall and Summer Palace with a stop at the Cloisenee factory/store.

Blessings to all.

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