Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Day 8 (January 7)
Jet lag has nothing on me because I had no problem sleeping through the night (which would be day time in the States). First up on the day’s agenda … breakfast, American style! We had cereal, orange juice, doughnuts, and even an omelet chef. Then we left to face the bitter cold. North Florida may be the coldest part of the state, but below zero weather is way out of my comfort zone. My fingers and toes lost all feeling after about five minutes, and everything else soon followed. Nonetheless, Beijing has too much to see to be hindered by the cold. We started off at the Temple of Heaven. This is a place where the ancient Emperors could come to pray or offer sacrifices to Buddha. Next, we went to Tiananmen Square. I was absolutely in awe as I stood in the place where about 3,000 people lost their lives in anti-communist protests. Although the rest of the world calls it the Tiananmen Square Massacre, in China, it is referred to as the June Fourth Incident. On the edge of the square, a picture is hanging of China’s Chairman Mao, the first Chairman of the Communist Party in China. Even though most of the world views Mao Zedong as a tyrant, our tour guides explained that the Chinese people had great respect for him and the things he had done for the country. His body remains frozen in a museum to the edge of the square. From there we walked to the Forbidden City where the most important building in Chinese history is located. The entire area was covered with the most intricate artwork. Even the trees were planted to create unique and beautiful designs. Every detail on the buildings is significant to Chinese history in some way. The Forbidden City, I learned, was home to Chinese Emperors for over five centuries and remains to be the largest collection of preserved ancient structures in the world. Each building had up to 10 ceramic animals on the corners of the roof. The number of animals represented the importance of the building. In the center of the city was the building where the Emperor would sit to make decisions, and this is the only building with 10 animals.
After another interesting lunch, we visited the U.S. embassy for a briefing from the USDA attaché. We learned a great deal about the reemergence of China into the global scene, the growing yet still under-developed Chinese agriculture, and changing Chinese education system. The day wrapped up with a visit to a large (by Chinese standards) cattle farm with about 2,000 head of beef cattle. Seeing the cattle, I was reminded of pictures I had seen of American cattle about 50 years ago. These cattle were short and stocky because of the lack of modern genetic technology. The owners of the farm also ran a beef Hot Pot Restaurant. It reminded me of the Melting Pot, only you cooked your meat and vegetables in boiling water not cheese or other flavorful sauce. After a nice dinner, I learned one distinct stereotype of Americans. The Chinese think that Americans love to sing and dance. This is definitely true with a group of FFA members, even if the music is in another language. Before we knew it, a disco ball had dropped from the ceiling and all of our waitresses and cooks began passing out microphones and dancing around the room. Dancing with Chinese people to Chinese techno in China…a perfect end to a great day, and an experience I will never forget!

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