Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Last day in China, Summer Palace, Birds Nest, ect...

Ok, today was our last day of sightseeing and we had a very busy schedule. Mr. Lei, our Guide gave us a cell phone last night and told us to take a cab to the Summer Palace. When we got in the cab I gave the driver the card with the Chinese symbols where to go, and then I called Mr. Lei so he could talk to the cab driver about which gate to drop us off. I think our driver took the long way, but who knows. I paid about 63 rbn, 7 dollars, which is a lot for china standards. We got to the summer palace and it was packed with Chinese people. They come here, like Americans go to D.C. There were many elementary school field trips as well. The Summer Palace is a place on the lake that the Emperor would come to during the summers and holidays. He had over three thousand wives that lived here. It is a very big place with temples, walkways, boats, etc... We looked up and saw the biggest temple and Mr Lei said, come this way, up to the top. Great, more stairs.. Made it fine this time, of course got lots of joking from Karen and the Vasquez's who were with us again. I'm glad we came here, Mr Lei said that many, many, many; many, many generations come here and get the same picture, so we took one as well, we will see if our kids ever carry on the tradition.
After leaving the summer palace, we said goodbye to our new Friends, Hector and Jita Vasquez, they were headed back to their hotel to rest and catch the Beijing Opera that night. Karen, Mr Lei and me headed to the Olympic Stadiums. Again, this place was buzzing with Chinese tourists. They are everywhere around these buildings. We did not pay to go into the Bird's Nest, Mr Lei said nothing to look at but empty seats. We got many pictures outside and were approached about 30 times by people selling junk. Ok, so I finally gave in an bought a Fake Olympic Medal.
We saw the Olympic village, where all the athletes stayed and the water cube, and the arena where basketball and gymnastics were held. The Chinese really built some amazing venues for the Olympics. But what is strange is they don't really use the birds nest much anymore? only rarely do they play soccer or have concerts in there?
Next we were in another cab, to the Forbidden City area. The Drum and Bell tower were next, Where if you remember the man was killed during the Olympics. Under the Bell tower, they have a free demonstration about Tea houses in China. Mr Lei took us there to experience tea and said most tourist pay big money to do this. It was nice having an honest person with us, who wanted to show us as many things as possible. We then headed for lunch. He took us to a small place, and we walked in to everyone in the place staring at us. We sat down and Mr Lei ordered for us, wonton soup stuffed with meat. It was very good and only 4 dollars for three people to eat.
Next we headed in yet another cab to the Forbidden City. Inside there were again, thousands of Chinese tourists and lots of retired Chinese people in this place. The retired folks come here to relax and enjoy the scenery, paint pictures, play some kind of chess game, and play hacky sack?
We trekked up again to the very top of the place, again more stairs, but nothing was like the Great Wall. Got some great pics up top. This place is enormous, and you could spend 3 or 4 days in this place. The flowers were blooming and were everywhere, and the Chinese seemed to be infatuated with them. They were posing and taking pictures of all the flowers. We took the condensed tour of the Forbidden City, and headed to Tiananmen Square.
Tianamen Square is quite a place. The Parliament is next to it, as well as the Chinese Museum and the Hero's Monument. There are guards everywhere and I wanted to take a picture of them, But Mr. Lei said I should try to be sneaky about it, because they do not like tourist to take pictures of them. This was the one place I wanted a picture, because you see it so much on T.V. Mr.Lei says that on Oct. 1 this year they will host a 60 years celebration of something? not sure what he said, and they will have the big parade with military and soldiers marching goose stepping.
After Tianamen, we headed to the dirt market, which is a Chinese flea market. We really didn't see much there we wanted, said goodbye to Mr Lei and headed back the pearl market for some final gifts for folks back home. I love the Pearl market. Even found a toy market behind the Pearl market, so got a few things there as well. Karen learned a couple new phrases from Mr. Lei about how to bargain, so while i would bargain, she would step in and say in Chinese,
Pi Fa Duo Shao Qian (not sure about spelling).
Seemed to really work, but really the key is to smile and stick to your guns. If they sell it to you, then they made a profit.
We finally met an American in our hotel, he was from Nebraska and we only talked a few minutes. Saw a lot of Chinese people though:)
So now we are going to try to get a good night's sleep. We don't fly out until 3:30pm tomorrow, but we aren't going to do anything in the morning, except rest and get packed and ready for the long trip. We are planning to eat at KFC today just to get our first Americanized meal, (although I hear it is different than we are used to).
This will be my last blog. Thanks to anyone who has read it. It was mainly for me and Karen to have as a diary for our trip but hope that it might have brought some insight to my students and friends about china. Again, thanks for putting up with my random thoughts and long run on sentences, Karen didn't proof many of these and hasn't' read many of them, so I'm sure she will have many corrections about my perception of things. She is much smarter than me, and remembers things much better.

Anyway. Thanks to Dick and Jeanne Conners (Karen's Parents) for volunteering to come and take care of Molly Kathryn and Mason for us. We never worried once about the care that they were in, I know they had a great time with their grandkids, and I'm prepared to be called Grandpa for at least a week when I get home. Thanks to Pat Morrow for recommending me for this Conducting job. Thanks to Matt Gaines for hiring me to come work this ACAMIS Band, thanks to Stacia Gaines for taking Karen around for two days while I worked with the bands. Thanks to Band Director Kimberly Hogsett for helping me prepare these great musicians, thanks to Terrance Cobb (my assistant director at HMS for covering for me while I was gone, And to super intern student Chris Hall who I'm sure had to work harder as well.
I cant think of a better school system than Homewood City Schools who let their teachers take on opportunities that come there way, no matter where they might take you. thanks to my principal Martin Nalls, and Superintendent Bill Cleveland for letting me take this incredible journey. I will never forget it, and hope that many of you will get to visit this wonderful place. By the way, i have a great guide for you, if you come.
Now off to SWEET HOME ALABAMA. hope to see ya soon, I won't have any stories to tell you, you already know them all. Chris Cooper


  1. Grammatical errors and all - you tell a wonderful story! Thank YOU for sharing with us! Safe trip home!

  2. I loved the blogs - it brought back so many memories. I'm so glad you had this wonderful experience! Be prepared for some serious jet lag in the next few days. :)

  3. Sounds great, Chris. Glad you got to see and do so much.
    Oct 1 is their National Day. Like our Independence Day (but not! grin).