the Great Wall

Here are some photos from our recent visit to the Great Wall at Mutianyu. It is an hour and a half drive from our house. We were lucky to have excellent weather and visibility. To access the Wall, you walk up a steep hill with souvenir vendors hawking the same items on both sides. You can get the best bargains here! I felt really bad for the poor schmuck who paid $45 for a bronze dragon, when he could have gotten it for under $10. At the top of the hill, we took the gondola up to the Wall, and hiked along for about an hour. This section is on a mountain crest and the watchtowers are at the top of steep steps. Some of these are broken and many are of different heights, so you really have to look down! Afterwards, we had lunch at an excellent restaurant at the bottom of the hill called “the Schoolhouse” and watched a glass blowing demonstration in their shop. 

 

 

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Three year olds pay attention to the little details: like this bug!
Three year olds pay attention to the little details: like this bug!

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A lesson in Mooncake making

This thursday happens to be the fifteenth day of the eighth month of the Chinese calendar, in other words, the Mid-Autumn Festival. This holiday originated from the harvest celebrations of the Chinese and Vietnamese people. It is a time to celebrate family and unity. There is always a full moon on the festival date, so it is also a time of fertility and love. Mooncakes are everywhere in China right now. Even Starbucks has jumped on board to sell some. 

My curiousity was piqued and I had to take Sophie to a mooncake making class. The class was  held at the Green-T.-House in Shunyi. This is a gorgeous location which has a lovely pond and chairs hidden in the shade trees.  

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When we arrived, the table was set with our materials. My spot was mistakenly marked, “Benne”, but it made me smile because one of my former three year old students used to call me that. 

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The first step was to pour the water into the honey/molasses. 

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Next, add the flour and stir it up to make dough. 

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Next, make small balls about 20g each. Flatten the balls into round pancakes. Then, place the filling in the center. Our filling balls were either green tea, red date, or black sesame flavor. Wrap and smooth the filling with the outer dough. Image

 

Then insert the ball into a press to make it into a nice moon shape with a design on top. Ours happened to 

be Winnie the Pooh. To make it fun for children, the tea house provided sprinkles and candies to decorate the top…

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Bake in a medium heat oven for five minutes. Coat with egg yolk, then bake an additional ten minutes. 

Allow to cool and eat!

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Below is an antique mooncake mold, that the co-owner and her family were using. 

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“Scent-sational Beijing”

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I haven’t written about daily life here in awhile. This week we have been wearing our masks quite a bit. The one I sport is a stylish design with our school logo, made by Vogmask. Purchased through the school for a mere 120 RMB or $20. It is a  fabric design which is washable. The girls and I find these masks to be the most comfortable, and we were able to find it in a size that fit Hollis, which was imperative! This week, we have had to wear our masks on the walk to school in the mornings. Usually, by noon, the air is good enough to go “sans mask”. I am shocked by how few people I see wearing their masks. I prefer to filter the air I’m breathing into my lungs!  Of course, the air has only been in the 200’s in the morning, maybe most people wear the masks when its higher into the “dangerous” range. Who knows? Ignorance is Bliss, I suppose. When the air is really bad, you can smell it. 

Another concern that I heard horror stories about prior to moving here was “getting a proper western hair cut and color”. Well, after nearly ten weeks since my last cut in the US, I decided to take the plunge. I’m quite happy with my “do”, which was done by Simon, a Brit expat in my clubhouse salon! He grew up in southwestern England and somehow made his way here to Beijing.  He’s a gray-haired, Harley-Davidson tee sporting gentleman. Never had a cut from such a chap before, but I think he did a fab job! I did not color it yet…that will be next week. 

One thing that I really miss about the US are government regulations. (Oh, also traffic guidelines. Here, there are none.) Eco-friendly everything. I walk down the street and painters are painting the speed bumps. The fumes are so strong you can smell it 20 feet away. The same goes for wall paint. I walked by the apartment building and painters were working in one unit with the windows open. I was 35 feet away and smelled the fumes. Ugh. I AM happy to report that the school recycles. Prior to school starting, the ayi would take the recycling and turn it in for cash. Now, the girls take the recycling to school and sort it into the bins. The school can get the cash, which they use for the “greening” of the school. I am optimistic about Beijing’s recycling program. I would love to follow the recycling process to see what happens to all those items. 

Yesterday we got our Sea Shipment of Household Goods. Yay!! Sixty boxes delivered, most of them unpacked, and removed by four men in an hour and a half. Now that is efficiency that you don’t get in the US! They would have unpacked all of them for me, but I requested to handle the last six or so by myself. (Note: don’t bother bringing any appliances to China. Now I need to buy adaptors!) Our house is starting to feel like a home now. Once I get the pictures on the walls, we will be all settled! We all have bikes and helmets, so we are independently mobile. Sophie rode her bike to school this morning. She was thrilled! I have a little child seat on the back of my bike, but one tire needs air or replacement. For now, Hollis likes to run to school in the morning. 

What else can I tell you? The air is getting cooler in the mornings…this week it was in the 60’s-80’s. Next week, it will be in the 50’s-70’s. Speaking of weather, I should mention the thunderstorms here. The sound of thunder is different. Its lower, more like a truck than what we heard in NC. I don’t know if that is because of the mountains, or the desert?? Rain is good. It clears out the bad air. So as it rains and rumbles tonight, I’m hopeful for good clean air and blue skies tomorrow. 

 

Summer Palace: Imperial Court playground

Last weekend we had another gorgeous Saturday for our adventures in Beijing. We drove to the Haidian district in northwest Beijing (about forty-five minutes from home) to visit the Summer Palace. 

This is where the imperial court would go to escape the heat! It has temples, pavilions, gardens, and a 700m open air corridor, all along Kunming Lake. This may be my favorite tourist site so far. We heard musicians drumming in one of the gardens, rode a covered paddle boat on the lake and enjoyed the sun. 

Longevity Hill at Summer Palace
Longevity Hill at Summer Palace

At the end of the long corridor is this high hill with temples and pavilions. It was not stroller friendly, and I could see the steps climbing up the hill, so that is one section we will attempt later in the Spring!
The long corridor
The long corridor

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The long corridor curves all along the lake. The ceiling is painted throughout with mythical and historic scenes. It was splendid.
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After exploring the courtyards and pavilions, we went for a boat ride on the lake. We remembered Grandma Gerry, who would have loved the beauty of this place. I imagine that she was looking down on us and smiling.

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Sophie on the paddle boat
Sophie on the paddle boat