Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sat 11/22

Saturday: After another night of little sleep, we boarded the bus at 8:00. First stop - a jade factory where we learned about the different types and grades of jade, and about the craftsmen who carve. Carving is a skill that is passed down in families to males only. A jade craftsman specializes in only one style – such as dragon, horse, cabbage, etc. They do the same thing their entire career. Women do the polishing of the final product and can only learn to do this if they marry into a jade craft family.

We learned about jade's role in China's traditions also. Women are given their mother's jade bracelet when at age 18, or when they get married. Several of us made purchases for this reason.

Then we were off to the adventure of a lifetime, The Great Wall of China. Ok, let it be said that tourist portion is NOT a meandering wall through the tops of mountains like you see in pictures. It is The Great STAIRS of China. Stairs, stairs and more stairs – of heights varying irregularly from 2 inches high to 16 inches high, and at a very steep incline. The vast majority were a foot high. We are told The Wall is the only man-made object that can bee seen from space and dates back to the 1400s Ming Dynasty. The labor that built it is unfathomable.

Lunch was in a banquet hall/restaurant where we again had a big spread of great food, and the opportunity to drink Chinese liquor of 56 proof. We can’t remember what it was called but Marc calls it Double Dragon Fire Water. It smelled familiar to me – like rubbing alcohol? I (Laura)took a pass. Chinese beer, lumped into their “soft drink” category is decent – much like Miller Lite.

Our next stop was the tea room where we took part in a tea ceremony and got to drink 5 different types of tea - all very good and substantially better than any tea bag I've ever dunked. We were all so exhausted we were slap happy and everything seemed very funny at that point. So when she showed us a way to see if your water is hot enough - a clay boy that pees when hot water is poured over his head - we all were rolling. Pee pee boy was free with tea purchase. So of course, we all bought tea.

Our last stop on this very adventurous and long day was a Chinese acrobatic show. The most amazing thing I've ever seen. Akin to Cirque de Soleil but only $20 per person!

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