Saturday, January 22, 2005
January 22, 2005
***Click here to view the latest pictures from China. 8 AM Mark, Josh and Nick took a taxi to Changping to pick up some of Josh’s things that we’re taking back with us. 10:17 AM Marlene, Alan and I are in a taxi heading to Tiananmen Square. This is the final place I wanted to visit on our trip to Beijing because it’s the equivalent of our National Mall in Washington. Each year on National Day, over 1 million Chinese fill the massive square in a public celebration. Another gathering much remembered this week took place there in 1989. 12:22 PM We found the Square easily enough. It’s directly across from the Forbidden City and flanked on two sides by the parliament and the National Museum. The Chairman Mao Memorial occupies the south side of the Square. His body rests in a crystal casket and people still file past to view his body, 29 years after his death. Unfortunately we didn’t make it in time for the morning viewing and were gone by the time the memorial opened again in the afternoon. Police and various security guards were strategically stationed around the massive Square. We were among a few hundred people walking the vast area. Several tour guides stopped and offered their services, which we declined. Otherwise, everything was quiet and peaceful. It seemed like a typical Saturday in Beijing. We saw three people flying kites. We didn’t see any political banners of any kind. 12:47 PM Every Westerner who visits Beijing should spend some time in the National Museum, especially the “Waxen Museum” because it is here that you will understand most clearly what lies at the heart of the government. The “Waxen Museum” contains two sections. The northern half combines wax figures of various ancient leaders, such as Confucius, with modern leaders such as Mao Tse-Tung and other Communist leaders. At a central point (situated so you can’t miss it), you see life-size figures of Lenin, Marx and Engels, the fathers of the modern Communist movement. When you enter the southern half of the exhibit, you see wax figures of various Chinese doctors, lawyers, scientists, inventors, and other notable individuals. Nearly all of these were unknown to me. Go around the corner and you enter the room reserved for sports figures. In the middle are life-size figures of three great heroes—soccer star Pele, Michael Jordan, and Yao Ming, the Chinese star who plays for the Houston Rockets of the NBA. Then there are a number of Chinese Olympic medal winners. Turn the corner and you come to a row of wax figures who are definitely not Chinese. Exactly why they are there, I could not say. The first one was Charlie Chaplin. Then Marilyn Monroe, then Ingrid Bergman, then Picasso. Then Sir Isaac Newton (father of modern science and a fervent Christian), then Einstein. And guess who was the final person immortalized in wax? Bill Gates. Somehow it seems fitting. I would like to repeat that every visitor should come to the “Waxen Museum” and see it for yourself. 2:30 PM We’re on our way back to the Mac Center. After the museum, we rode the subway to the Wang Fu Jing shopping district and had lunch at the “Hot Pot” restaurant where we ate a few days ago. I mention this simply because Josh isn’t with us and we’re feeling pretty good about our ability to make our way around Beijing on our own. Plus we have a little card in Chinese that tells taxi drivers how to find the Mac Center. 7:18 PM Tonight we’re celebrating by having supper at the Shangri-La Hotel. The boys love the lavish buffet and it seems a good way to wrap up our time together. It’s more expensive our other meals put together, but this is the last time we’ll be together as a family until July so it’s more than worth it. 8:45 PM Final plans, lots of talk, laughter, joking, counting up our money, making sure we have enough for the airport tax., figuring our how many taxis we’ll need tomorrow, and so on. A good spirit prevails, that mix of gladness and sadness that comes as you end a journey together, knowing that soon we will be separated again. We fly to Chicago on Sunday and Josh flies to Bangkok on Monday and then to Calcutta on Tuesday. 9:32 PM Since this is our final night in Beijing, we’re busily packing for the trip to the airport tomorrow afternoon. Right now there is heavy snow in Chicago. The storm front should be well to the east by the time we land in 36 hours, but we’re keeping a close watch nonetheless.