Tian'amen and the giant portrait of Mao.
The many curved roofs in the Forbidden City.
A relief of a dragon, the emperor's special symbol.
The phoenix, the empress's special symbol. She wasn't allowed to wander about the Forbidden City, so we can pretty much tell where she might have gone based on the location of the phoenixes.
A hard-shelled turtle, which is known for tenacity and bravery. Obviously not a soft-shelled turtle.
Again, we couldn't hold still for too long or pose for our own pictures-- the Chinese would quickly jump in. A few of us were standing for a good five minutes while at least ten jumped in and out of photos. I'm not sure if I should feel flattered or like a star of a freak show. Still, I know this could get irritating after a couple of days. Dr. Cai says that we have to learn how to say "Bu" (no), but they don't give you a chance. I really need to start charging.
A scene from the Forbidden City gardens. There is really no point to me including this. I just thought it was pretty.
After the City, we took out bus to the Capitol Normal University to hear Dr. Shorten give a lecture about water and sanitation. His speech was enlightening, but to us and the Chinese students who listened in. We engaged in a discussion afterwards in groups, though the topics were not limited to those of pollution and water conservation. I spoke pretty extensively to a bunch of English lit students, who seemed very interested in my studies and life in the US. One thing that I hadn't realized was so prevalent was young people picking out English names. I'm not sure how I feel about that. On one hand, they do seem to pick out their own names, which gives them meaning. On the other, perhaps we should be making an effort to learn their given names. I don't see why they should have to take on new names for the benefit of the West.
Speaking of East meets West, I had my first encountered with a Chinese toilet today. It's little more than a porcelain hole in the ground that you have to squat over. I've never wished harder to be a guy in my life. Ultimately, I had to visit the facilities twice-- once to get the feel for it, another to actually do the deed. As a kid, I used to be deathly afraid of public toilets. I would have never survived in China.
Our final stop was dinner for Beijing Duck, which is basically what they call crispy duck pancakes in the UK. Our hosts were the Chinese Universities Alumni Association, though the representatives at our table didn't have much to say. They did show us how to make a tasty duck taco, though.
Our duck dinner. I think it's a little gross that they served duck meat from a duck-shaped tray. Gross and morbidly funny.