How China Surprised Me - The Sequel

Continuing from my last post...

China was full of surprises.  And I think we came with a few surprises for China.  

I don't think many of the Chinese were used to seeing a crazy family taking a jumping picture in the middle of the Forbidden City.  Clearly we didn't respect the location's name.

Anyway, here are few more ways China surprised me...

Please Understanding the Signs

One of my favorite parts about China was their written English.

7-11?  Gotta admire them getting to the point.

To be honest, I was surprised that almost all street and building signs in Beijing had an English title in addition to the Chinese title.  Most of the time, their English was spot-on.

I shot so much video footage, I had to go buy an external hard drive.  (As you can see, Walmart is alive and well, and whether you like it or not -- much more trustworthy for electronics than the Chinese swap meet.)

But every now and then, something got a little lost in translation.

They prefer their flames fully clothed, thank you.

Don't you go striding and un-cherishing those relics, now!

This one just confused me.

One day we spent hours touring a treasured historical location called the Temple of Heaven, and the only picture our family took there together was of their construction wall:

This English was apparently translated by the prophet Isaiah.

You know how we Americans have been known to wear shirts with Chinese writing on them, when we really have no idea what the words mean?  Chinese apparently do the same thing with English.  I'll admit, it's very strange and a little disturbing to see a sweet Chinese grandmother wearing pearls and a shirt that says "I wanna do bad things to you."  (Not even kidding -- I saw this very thing, but couldn't get my camera out fast enough.)

Something tells me this nice lady might not know what her shirt says.

All this being said, I can smile all I want at these interpretations of my first (and only) language, but if someone from China told me I could either draw one Chinese character correctly or I would have my tongue glued to the bottom of my chin for the rest of my life, I would be inevitably subjected to looking a lot weirder than Gene Simmons, and being a whole lot less popular and wealthy.  

Chinese might not ace the English interpretation every time around, but I'm willing to bet there are a lot more Americans walking around with tattoos they think say "strength," when they really say something like "pork rind."

Goodbye Google

Because the Chinese government controls pretty much everything in China, including what information gets out to their citizens, Google, Facebook, and pretty much any other time-sucking site is not accessible through WiFi (or any Internet) connections.  This means no Gmail, Blogspot, Wikipedia, Skype, Twitter, Facebook, or weird online dating sites. 

China apparently has their own versions of many of these sites, but they're obviously in Chinese and regulated by the government.

The Chinese version of Facebook, called "Renren," has 200 million users.

A few members of my family purchased month-long VPNs, which allowed them to access these blocked sites, and they let me check my email a couple times.  But for the most part, I just took a vacation from the Internet for a week.

Our Hotel Was Normal

Admittedly, I'm a bit of an uncultured idiot when it comes to going outside of the country.  I've been to Europe, but the culture there was pretty western, and I've been to Canada, which was just like the United States except my cell phone didn't work, and when I went to Mexico for my honeymoon, I stayed in an all-inclusive resort with a bunch of Americans, Canadians, and Europeans.  So I wouldn't really call me "cultured" in terms of getting out and seeing how people of all different lifestyles live.

We stayed in the Park Plaza Hotel, right next to the MasterCard basketball arena.

I don't know if I was expecting to stay in a hotel room that was like a motel 6 with mud walls and blankets on the ground or what, but when I opened my hotel room door for the first time and saw it looked exactly like a nice American hotel, I was quite pleasantly and naively surprised.  

Though -- apparently the Chinese government only allows specific hotels to let foreigners stay there, which makes sense, since our hotel was clearly catering to foreigners and not Chinese visitors (and after observing a few non-foreigner hotels from a distance, I suspect the experience there could be quite different).  

The electrical outlets fit pretty much every plug across the globe, though make sure you bring a down-converter if you're from the U.S. and don't want to deep fry your iPad.  They even provided a hair dryer, and our TV channels included CNN and HBO -- both in English.

The complimentary breakfast each morning was shockingly better than most U.S. "continental breakfasts," with bacon, eggs, rolls, cheese, fruit, and a bunch of yumminess even the pickiest eaters like myself were more than happy with.

The only real differences with our Chinese hotel were that smoking was allowed inside, and complimentary bottled water is provided so you don't drink out of the faucet and bring home a souvenir parasite.

And, something was a little off about how they numbered their floors...

The Great Wall IS Great!

It's a wall.  So what?  So... it's awesome!

The Great Wall of China was a two hour bus ride away from our hotel through narrow winding mountain roads.

Driving to the wall for the first time.

Since we didn't know what to expect, whenever we saw a brick wall or a pile of rocks on the side of the road, one of us asked if it was part of the Great Wall.  It might have been funnier if we had been joking.

Is that the Great Wall of China?  No.

So when we finally came around the final curve and saw the wall for the first time, it was seriously epic.  Much better than a pile of rocks on the side of the road.

It doesn't just sit on the mountain side, but it sits high on the steep and jagged mountain side, among nothing but luscious green vegetation.  It blew my mind to think that human beings built that thing by hand so many years ago.  

One of the best parts is that this particular part of the wall has remained virtually undiscovered by tourists (don't you all go flooding to the wall, now... though since Mom might be my only reader, I guess the risk is low).  The wall and its courtyard sit just above a humble village, and most of its patrons are local Chinese.  It was so natural and rustic, we were lucky to even find a Mr. Hole there.

All of us runners visited the wall twice -- once to walk part of the race route in preparation, and then two days later for the actual race.

Both visits were scenic, historic, cultural (yay!), and amazing -- totally exceeding expectations.  

And I haven't even spoken about the race yet!  More to come...

1 comment:

  1. That "no striding" sign was one of my favorites. Haha! I still am confused.


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