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Jo’s China Diary

March 4, Beijing

We both woke up early and were at the beautiful buffet breakfast when it opened at 6:30 a.m. I’m sorry now that I didn’t have my camera with me but I thought we’d be eating here every morning. Not so with such a large group we had a large room downstairs that was made up for us but not beautifully decorated as this main dining room was . There were islands of food with pictures and flowers and displays of breads that were amazing. We picked and chose from all of the pods. Delightful and delicious. As we were leaving we saw a younger man in a wheelchair and spoke to him and his wife. I think they were Molly and Mike from some southern state and they were a part of our group. He had fallen off the handicapped curb in front of the hotel and had a sharp pain some times in his hip that had been replaced 8 months before. What a thing to have happen the first day they arrived. They were going to see a doctor soon.

After breakfast we went down to the fitness room and pool to check it out. It was huge and gorgeous. I never used the fitness room but used the pool every morning. As soon as we were in our room I got on my bathing suit and water shoes and covered up with the luxurious bathrobe given us. I carried my water belt and pushed my wheelchair and off I went to B2 where the pool was located. Attendants helped me the entire way and the lifeguard was there to help me if I needed help. I think there were two people already in the pool and one was Kathleen who was very friendly and said she would help me out if I needed it. Turned out she is helping Brett with the Stanford group and she is certainly a very pleasant addition because he rarely speaks. So we became water buddies and swam together most days at 6a.m. before the scheduled day began.

I got back from the pool and got dressed warmly and started unpacking and cleaning up the mess I’d left the day before when I was just too exhausted to unpack! We called Jia Bin at 9 a.m. as arranged and we discussed what we would like to do this morning. He was happy to spend the morning with us and take us out to lunch if we didn’t mind his talking on the phone and doing business while his driver drove. We agreed that would be perfectly fine! We had read about one of the excursion offered to the group that we didn’t have time to do.

Off we went about nine –thirty and it was far away so we got to view the amazing building going on all over Beijing. We were going to a group of modern art galleries called 798 Galleries. It was in the Dashanzi art district. The 798 electronics factory was built by the Soviets in the 1950’s and abandoned in the 1980’s. In the ensuing six years, over 200 studios have been created with support from international benefactors, making the 798 one of the most avant-garde and trendiest art centers in Beijing. (Description from excursion options.) We found the area, though Jai-Bin had never been there and visited a few galleries and walked down a long street to view some very Russian statues. Jai-Bin told us underneath all these buildings was a huge bomb shelter which the Chinese used when they feared the Russians might bomb them. I’m sure we didn’t have the tour that the group would have had but we saw enough to get the flavor of the place. I took enough pictures of paintings and buildings to remember our outing and bought some postcards also. I don’t think it would have been modern enough for my friend Jan Huston but it was fine for us!

Jia-Bin took us to a wonderful place for lunch called Tai Fung. I think he told us this restaurant has one in Arcadia. We had steam pork dumplings, braised bean curd with black mushrooms, chopped pork rib, wanton soup, braised meat ball soup, tossed bean curd with sea weed and bean sprouts. Again he wouldn’t let us pay and was very gracious to order many courses describing each as it came. Very delicious. I tried to ask him questions to learn more about his job and what he does. I think he is a very busy and successful man serving on many boards as well as promoting his own growing business. Another wonderful few hours. We certainly wish to entertain Anita and him when they come to visit their son here. He tells us maybe they will come in July. I would also like to meet his son Peter at Claremont and we will do that when we get home. Anita and he have a second son who is now in high school. She could not come today as she was teaching. After lunch he took time to try to find an electronic store to look for a converter for Phil. They struck out and he had a meeting to attend so back to the hotel we went.

After returning to our hotel we explored the beautiful lobby a bit and sat down and enjoyed the music that is played all day. Different local talent is used and they are always dressed as if they are playing a concert. We also finished unpacking and tidied up our room. Phil went for a very long walk to look for a converter. He had asked for directions from a person at the information desk for our trip. He struck out again but saw lots of the neighborhood while I rested with my feet up.

The group officially arrives this afternoon and our first event is from 6:30 -8:00 p.m. a welcome reception in the Grand Ballroom. Earlier in the afternoon we decided to make a reservation for six in the Aria Restaurant located in the hotel. During the welcome reception we rounded up two couples to join us. One was the man in the wheelchair and the other someone we had just met from Bel Air. I’m not good at remembering names but we had a lovely and most expensive time when we got our bill at the end of our stay! Turns out the wine was quite expensive and as we chatted we consumed several bottles. Service was slow but the food delicious and well presented when it finally arrived. We got back to our rooms at 11:00 p.m. It turned out after several days Mike and Molly finally saw an orthopedist who told him he had a fractured hip so they left to go home as we left to fly to Hong Kong. What a shame. Molly managed to see some of the sights while he rested and watched TV in their room. He always was very upbeat and said he was comfortable until he moved a certain way which then became extremely painful.

So ends our busy first complete day here. Thinking of those at home and we send our love.