Friday, December 12, 2008

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Last night we traveled to the end of the main subway line to meet a young Chinese couple (Bret and Gloria) for dinner. Bret was an English student under Mrs. Yeary who now lives in Abilene, Texas. He was also a university student with Mark Zhu, one of our workers. He and his wife work for Price-Waterhouse. He is an auditor for the Bank of China. He said there were 6 million Chinese who lost their jobs the past few months and it will be more difficult for university students completing their education to find a job. He and Gloria are very fortunate to have finished their degrees and have a good job.

It was a delight to be with Bret and Gloria. Gloria said it was her first time to speak English with anyone from another country. Both of them spoke quite well and it was not difficult to communicate with them.

They asked us to meet them at THE PLACE, which is well-known in Beijing. We walked about 5 minutes after we got off the subway but were not sure we were going the right direction. We stopped at an upscale hotel to ask directions. The doorman immediately asked to help us and said THE PLACE was more than a 30 minute walk. He told us to wait in the hotel lobby and he would get us a taxi. Inside the beautiful lobby, a Christmas tree more than 30 feet high was covered with brown teddy bears (1' and 3' sizes) with red bows tied around their necks. It was a beautiful tree but we didn't have a camera with us. The taxi cost about $1.50 and it was more than five miles away.

Arriving at THE PLACE, we realized that it was a huge shopping mall with upscale shops. In the center of the buildings, there was an ice skating rink, filled with skaters. Above, more than two stories high was a screen with scrolling scenes, much like what you would see at IMAX theatres. A huge Christmas tree was decorated in tiny blue lights and every tree in the area was covered in tiny white lights. It was a very beautiful thing to see.

Bret and Gloria said in years past, you would not see any Christmas decorations but now there are snowflakes on the windows, wreaths on the doors and trees lit up everywhere.

It was a very cold night but we had a great time walking around to see the beauty of the area.

We walked together to a closer subway station. They insisted on going with us until we got on our direct subway line heading in the right direction. Every Chinese is so kind and thoughful and helpful. I think they are all concerned that we, old Americans, will get lost. Ron knows a lot about travel here and speaks a little Chinese, which is helpful. Ron does not mind asking for directions before we get too far off the path so traveling around this big city is not too fearful. As we walked back to the apartment at 10:30 p.m. from the subway station, I mentioned that it would not be safe to walk the streets of Atlanta at night but seems perfectly safe here in China.

A cold front came through yesterday (no rain) but cleared out the smog and today we have clear blue skys but it is windy and cold.

Sunday night, we take an all-night train, leaving at 9:30 p.m. and arriving at 8:30 a.m. in Xi'an. This is the city where we do all of the open heart surgeries in China. It is also the home of Ha Ha and Dan Dan, the little children that came to the U.S. for burn surgeries. We look forward to visiting both of them and their families. Our daughter, Leigh Ann, supports a high school student in Xi'an. If her school is not too far away, we will try to visit her. We will take a night train Tuesday night, arriving in Beijing Wednesday morning. Ron needs to meet someone in Beijing on Wednesday before they leave on a trip so we cut our trip to Xi'an shorter than planned.

I will post pictures and report on our trip to Xi'an next week.

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