I had such a wonderful, crazy day here in Beijing yesterday but couldn’t get into my blog at my hotel computer. I tried again today at an internet cafe, but again, was blocked from getting into it so I went back to the hotel to try again.
Turns out, there are websites and IP addresses that are blocked by the Chinese government! The woman at my hotel explained to me that it’s for everyone’s “protection.” She pointed out that at all internet cafes, their computers are blocked so that I can’t plug in my flash drive and post photos. Again, that’s done on purpose for “protection.”
I guess if you don’t know any better, “protection” seems like a good reason. When I asked the hotel computer woman “protection from what?” She told me from computer viruses. It’s so strange to me that that’s okay with everyone. Computer viruses can be fixed — but blocking information is a huge issue, in my eyes!
I guess that also explains why the guy at the internet cafe was so confused when I tried to explain that I author my own blog. I guess no one does that here (is no one allowed to?) access to the administration page on my own website was denied!
So I’m sending this blog as an email to myself, to be posted and back-dated later — I wonder if the Chinese government is going to read it and flag me upon my return to America!
I’m finding myself strangely drawn to the secrets in this country, though based on my anti-blogging experience and the censorship I’m encountering, I think it would drive me mad to actually live here.
Beijing is a crazy place where people believe in monsters, legends, dragons and luck. Luck is a common theme here during the Chinese New Year and the people are very superstitious. For example, you’re supposed to clean your house and start everything fresh for the new year — but don’t clean on the first day of the new year, as you might “sweep away” your good luck.
Yesterday, I went to Tian’amen Square. Everyone was lining up for something, so I got in line, too. After about 15 minutes of following this huge crowd, which it turns out, they were all in line to see the grave of Mao Tse Tung, these women started tapping on my backpack. Then a guard pulled me out of line (literally, but my arm) and said gruffly, “No bags!” That was that. No Mao Tse Tung for me.
After warming up at a bookstore and picking up and English guidebook on Beijing, I walked to the Forbidden City. Earlier in the day, I had the concierge write out a few places to see in Chinese. That made it really easy to communicate. I pointed to where I wanted to go, and people would point me in the right direction.
The Forbidden City is the center of Beijing, where many emperors, their emperesses and concubines lived throughout the dynasties.
It’s huge, it’s literally a city onto itself where all the matters of the state took place. The photo of Mao Tse Tung is right there, huge, posted on the front wall as you enter.
I walked all around the Forbidden City with my guided audio tour. By the time I was done, I had blisters on my feet.
When I left, I wanted to go see this one park that the concierge had recommened. He said it was a great place to experience the New Year. I pointed to the name of the place on my paper, in Chinese, as my concierge had written it. The man I asked, pointed me to the bus…. actually, he literally walked me under the underpass and ushered me right onto the bus, waited until I got on and indicated to me that I should show my paper to the woman taking tickets on the bus. He was overly helpful, which I found sort of strange; but they seem to do that, here. They’re sort of overly helpful here in general in Asia, in a way I’m not used to in America. In America, people are helpful, but we give each other space. Here in Asia, if for example you want to buy a coat (which I did in Beijing. It’s cold!) They’ll put it on you and zip it up for you! But I digress…
So I asked the woman taking the tickets on the bus about the park and she indicated she’d tell me where to get off. (Here in Beijing, all the bus driver does is drive. Nothing else. Don’t even try to talk to him. There’s another person who sits by the back door to take tickets, make sure everyone paid, and help with directions. It’s also very cheap to ride the bus — about 15 cents!) I kept looking back at her to see if I’d arrived. I had been on the bus for about 20 or 25 minutes. Then she told me I was to get off and cross the bridge. When I got to the park, it was a huge festival for the Chinese New Year! There were rows and rows of food stalls, carnival games and toys. There was an arena for games and lots and lots of people just walking around.
I decided to come back as it was getting dark. I crossed the street to take the bus, but the people at the bus stop told me I can’t get to my hotel by bus alone so this one guy who was there told me I could follow him on the bus and then he’s show me to the subway.
Once on the subway, I started a conversation with this woman that I found pretty interesting. She and I were talking about the one child rule of China and if it still impacts the population. She said the people in the city generally don’t want more than one child because it’s too much work and too hard to have children. (Do they really believe that? Have they been influenced to believe that?) She said it’s the people who live in the suburbs who want more kids, so if their first child is a girl, they’ll petition the government for another child, hoping to get a boy. (Yes, she actually said that!)
I asked her if this practice makes the population male-heavy and she said yes, there are more men than women in China. She said it’s sometimes difficult for men to find women to marry, but didn’t really go into detail.
Anyway, I got back to the hotel, tried unsucessfully to blog and then just gave up and crashed into bed. I had been up for so long and was exhauseted, since the flight to Bejing from Singapore was an overnight flight and didn’t sleep afterwards.
Now that I’ve figured out this email, blogging censorship nonsense, I’m gonna go off and explore a little more of Beijing. Tammy is off exploring on her own today and Allison joins us tomorrow, after which we’ll all go see the Great Wall of China together before we head home. Can’t wait for that!