It has been a great couple of days in Beijing. On Friday, we went to the Great Wall of China. It was as magnificent as I always dreamed it would be. However, the idea that it could keep out invaders is rather silly. I know quite a few people who could climb it with ease. Though this was much easier, a few of us climbed up onto one of the watch towers. I have never done much climbing in that way, so I gratefully received assistance from two of the guys in my class. I didn't feel like dying that day.

The Chinese people while watching us climb kept calling out to be careful in Chinese and telling us we were "so strong"! They were clearly impressed, even though it didn't take much talent on our part (other than maybe with Zach because he climbed impressively our groups standards). The Chinese people don't seem to have an interest in climbing or doing a lot of activities that make you muscular.

Inside the covered areas all throughout the wall it is very short. The tallest people in our group had to duck their heads in order to walk through them. The wall itself was built well though, with gutters to catch the water when it rained. I thought it was interesting that back when they built the wall they thought to build gutters, but in Liaocheng, whenever it rained a lot of the roads flooded because they didn't have a proper gutter system and people used high rocks to step across the water.

Yesterday (Saturday) Kate and I went on an all day adventure. We started by going to the Botanical Gardens which were fairly far out from the city. We got to take a bus for the first time and discovered that paying is on a trust system. You jump on and are expected to put your 1yuan (17cents) into a bucket. There is no change, and it is 1yuan anywhere you go. The bus system works just like the subway system as far as getting around, except the bus system goes out further from central Beijing.

The Botanical Gardens initially were disappointing to me. I had to remember that it is summer and not spring or autumn, but there was a lot of space where there was just dry dirt. There were some beautiful lillies and roses and something that looked sort of like daisies, but other than that not much was blooming and where things weren't blooming, it wasn't being kept up very well. I could definitely tell that the layout made for potential to be beautiful everywhere, but at that time it wasn't. There also weren't very many people there, so it must really not be it's prime season.

The green houses also were a bit of a disappointment. Again, nothing was blooming and it was mostly just hot in there with lots of plants that weren't being kept up very well. But, then we went out further into the gardens, (the place is huge), and the rest of it was beautiful. It was green everywhere and even where there were no blooms it was kept up or somehow made aesthetically pleasing. It was a stroll in the park, with lots of wysteria and grape vines hanging on various overhanging areas. There were a couple of bodies of water with water lillies that were so beautiful. It was definitely worth the trip.

We took a walk throught the Ancient Chinese Medicine and Herbs garden and there were several plants with some sort of fruit looking things that I had never seen before. I have posted some pictures. I am wondering if I can find anyone who knows what they are.

After that, we needed food. We had been there for 4 hours and it was 3 in the afternoon. We decided to go to a popular 小吃街, xiao chi jie which means "small eat street", which is a big thing in China. It's basically a street of food vendors with lots of exciting types of food. By the time we found it, we were so hungry and overwhelmed that we couldn't deal with it, so we found a sit down restaurant instead and ordered 西红柿鸡蛋面, xihongshi jidan mian which is a tomato, egg & noodles dish. It wasn't as good as the one that we used to get in Liaocheng, but it was still good.

After that, we walked around. They had strange seacreatures that I have never seen before, different types of scorpions (some were alive and flailing about on sticks about to be fried), starfish, seahorses, cicadas, cocoons, and "stinky tofu" (which I find nauseating). It was all quite overwhelming. But, they also had some familiar foods. I ate some fresh fruit on a stick with sugar poured over it - dragonfruit and kiwi and strawberries and honeydue mellon. I haven't had strawberries or kiwi in a long time. In fact, fresh fruit around here that is safe and not a hastle.

The man who was selling it told me he loved me. It seems to be a thing in Beijing that the peddlers have learned. They tell you that you are beautiful and that they love you and like you hope that will make you buy their things. It's cute because you know that they hardly speak enough English to really understand what they are saying other than it is some sort of flattery. When the man found out we spoke some Chinese he asked us how to say cold. Cleary he is just picking up words here and there to use for his business. He struggled to pronounce the "d" at the end and we did our best to correct him. He was very nice.

After we left there, we decided to go to find the Forbidden City entrance for our assignment on Tuesday so we can take everyone there. The entrance is basically just going to TianAnMen Square. Since we were there, we decided we wanted to go get some Haagen Dazs icecream since we knew where one was. After icecream, since we were in the shopping district. we decided to do some shopping.

We walked around and ended up in this clothing shop with the most beautiful skirts we have seen. Kate and I had been looking for these skirts since we came to China. Everyone has them and they are gorgeous. We stayed in there and tried things on for quite a while, and each wanted 3 articles of clothing. The original price on each of them was about 169yuan.

We decided we should try to bargain them down to 100yuan a piece since we were buying so much. They were not having it. The total for all 6 that they were asking for was 1074yuan. We kept arguing and trying all of our tricks in the book we have learned and the best we got out of her was down to 1000yuan. Knowing that this actually was fairly good quality clothing and that in America the price would have been about $75 American Dollars a piece at least, we decided we are still getting a really good deal. When we pulled out our money, we discovered between the two of us, we only had 830Yuan. The woman told us that we could use our credit card, but since we don't carry our cards around for safety reasons we not only couldn't do that, but we couldn't even go to an ATM and get more money. She looked very frustrated, but she gave us all of the items we wanted for the 830yuan. That is definitely not a bargaining tactic we knew before now.

After that since we were broke we decided we needed to come straight back to our living quarters. We had saved just enough money for the subway home when we were bargaining with the woman, but when we were trying to purchase our tickets, Kate realized inside a wad of 1's she actually had about 50yuan. So we decided we wanted to go check out Beijing's Ancient Observatory. When we got there, we were disappointed to find out that it was closed and only open during the daylight hours. But, it still looked really neat, and it has some of the oldest astronomy equipment in the world (back to 1414AD or something like that) in it. We are about to leave to go back today.

Well, that's the last few days! I'm still ready to come home, but I'm enjoying myself in the mean time. We won't get to have too exciting of a day today I don't think other than going to the museum, just because we have a lot of homework tonight. We are going to the Temple of Heaven, the Pearl Market, and a Variety show on Monday after class, and then on Tuesday we go to the Forbidden City. I'll try to post again soon!