Posted by Sydney
China has been so interesting and has made us all appreciate the freedoms we enjoy in America. At first glance Beijing feels like any other large city – busy, people everywhere, traffic – but then you begin to notice barricades and police at every corner. You have to go through security to enter anything – including the subway. Though most of the police/security standing around look like teenagers.
Tian’an Men Square was bigger than I ever imagined and the buildings surrounding it are truly gigantic. The Forbidden City is also amazingly huge. There are 9,999 rooms (9 is a lucky number here) and 24 Emperors ruled from here.
The Great Wall was amazing! The weather was clear and we were able to climb those uneven stairs to our hearts content! We were at the restored section called Juyong Guan. It is very steep (almost like a ladder) and mountainous. I can’t imagine how the workers carried stones and built this wall in 200BC. I’m sure many lost their lives as it was amazingly steep on either side of the wall.
A true highlight was attending church. There are 3 English branches and 2 Chinese branches that meet on a floor in a high rise here. It was a very nice building. Unlike other churches, however, we didn’t see the church’s name on the outside of the building. At the beginning of our meetings they read a paper reminding us all that we are not allowed to speak of the church here in any way. The meeting was only 2 hours due to all 5 branches needing to meet that day – one branch meets in a few homes remotely via teleconference because they live so far away from the city – every Fast Sunday they have 2 hour meetings so all 5 branches can hold their services in the same building. The sacrament meeting was a large room with a lot of chairs, however, our branch had about 50 people (including visitors) there. The Chinese branch recently split so there are 2 branches here now. All the chairs and the recent split was so encouraging that the Chinese branches are growing! The native Chinese and the International members are not allowed to interact in any way. They cannot have any contact with each other and cannot be in the building at the same time. A kind family invited us to their home for lunch. So kind!
Our last sight to visit was the Temple of Heaven where the Emperor would go to pray for a good harvest. It is in a park that locals go to visit and bride/grooms to be get their pictures taken together (we saw at least 15). The building was beautiful being built without a single nail. The best part was wondering the park and watching groups of ladies sewing, people playing cards, men playing a Chinese version checkers, an older couple playing a form of badminton, and groups of older women doing a dancing exercise class. It feel like real China outside the tourist part. I loved it! Older people gathering and laughing together and having a wonderful time!
Beijing has been wonderful. The architecture is beautiful and the history interesting. We’ve enjoyed eating Chow Mein, egg yolk rolls, and hot pot (cooked right in the middle of the table). Joseph even had a guy do the coolest dance stretching a noodle for his birthday (they don’t have cake here, they eat a really long noodle symbolizing a long life). It is fun to see children skipping down the sidewalk holding their toys bought at a stand on the side of the street and think about how children are the same everywhere you go. What a great place to visit!