Well, I’m back at it again! After a long flight and a very short amount of sleep, how do you think I felt this morning? Yes it was true, the jet lag kicked in, but after a shower and a strawberry frosted Pop Tart rom ShopRite in Lansdale, I was ready to go! The first stop was Tiananmen Square. I have to say that Tiananmen Square was large and in charge, and filled with tons of people. Our host said that a million people could fit into the square at one time. It almost felt we were a quarter of the way there today! Everyone was getting ready for October 1st which is National Day in the People’s Republic of China, so the government was putting up a special display just for this National holiday. This year it is a large bouquet of flowers made from silk and last year I was told it was a large bowl of assorted fruit. The display changes every year so lots of people were coming to the square to take a peek at what the government was planning for this year’s celebration. I asked why there were so many people inTiananmen Square; this is their political arena, just like the White House or the National Mall is to us. After Tiananmen Square, we walked underground and up the other side to cross the street to see the Forbidden City. This was insane! There were people EVERYWHERE! Since the government controls everything, even the flow of traffic, people were lined up waiting to enter. After we entered and walked around, we finally got to the real entrance which was a madhouse. People were pushing each other almost to the point of being trampled on just to get in to stand in another line to go through security. We just stood there with nowhere to go while you could feel the weight of the crowds pushing against you. Good thing I am not claustrophobic! Then just when we were getting ready to enter the gate, they closed that gate and we had to shift directions until finally some of the Chinese people began to yell at the security guards. This seemed to be intimidating to those around me, but it worked and we were able to walk through! After going through security and walking over a small bridge, an entire world opened up. There was palace after palace and tour groups, oh my! Lots and lots of tour groups. When we stopped to take a group photo in front of one of the palaces, lots of people kept wanting to get in our picture because the local people wanted to hang with the Americans. It was a pretty funny sight! I had no idea at how big and how vast the Forbidden City was. I was blown away at the sheer size of it all and it was all made of wood. After we walked through the entire City, we wound up in the Imperial Gardens, which was just breathtaking. There were lots of unique plants and statues that just surrounded the grounds. After leaving the Forbidden City alive, we ventured to the Famous Peking Duck Restaurant. It is so famous that a lot of dignitaries from around the world have visited and there was even a picture of Jackie Chan eating there. This made me laugh! The restaurant definitely earned its name as the Peking Duck. The wide variety of other foods that were ordered was superb. We all walked away very full and then it was off to the Temple of Heaven and Earth. This temple was pretty amazing and inside there were lots of local people dancing, singing and playing games. This park just was recently opened to the public a few years ago so lots of retired individuals go there to relax. Apparently, the retiring age was 55 for women and 60 for men, but the age was just changed to 65. After that we went to a tea store where they performed a tea ceremony. I learned all about and sampled several types of Chinese tea and this tea was fantastic. I’ve had Oolong and Jasmine tea before, but for some reason this tea was amazing. I think the ambiance added to the overall taste! We all found ourselves leaving the tea store with lots of tea and we were then off to the Chinese Kung Fu Show at Red Theatre. This show is a traveling show, so you might have heard of it before. It was quite impressive and there were several children who performed in the show, which made all of us appreciate hard work and talent so much more. The first day was quite jam packed yet very educational. I learned that number 4 in China symbols death which is why the hotels don’t have a fourth floor and the number 7 means anger. This is why most Chinese do not want a license plate with 4 or 7 on it. This is similar to the number 13 and the superstitions behind it here in the United States. I also saw lots of people today and every time I travel abroad, it reminds me that people are people wherever you go. The Chinese children still throw temper tantrums in the middle of the Forbidden city and they still yearn for the ice cream treats that the vendors are selling. It was nice to see how loving the families are towards one another here and how well they take care of their senior members in their family. I was impressed by the commitment the local people have to their culture, their family and to their commitment to value the history that China is known for. It makes me wish that we valued our history and culture more in the United States. Even though we are a melting pot, or as I say a tossed salad, the United States has seemed to have lost some of the history and culture that the once immigrants bring to our country. Some of the dates on the buildings I saw today date back to the 1500’s and I was amazed that these landmarks of Chinese history were in such good condition. I have a greater appreciation for the Chinese culture and it’s history a lot more now since I have seen it in person. It’s almost like when we stand in front of the Liberty Bell or the Constitution, reminiscing on exactly what our country has gone through to get where we are today. The United States may not have history as old as China, but I can say that the freedom that we have makes up for a whole lot more than what we lack! Until tomorrow…..