Sunday was another solo trip around Beijing. I finally headed back over to the Drum and Bell Towers (after my failed attempt at finding them a few weeks ago) and checked them out. They're definitely worth visiting. The Bell Tower has an enormous, beautiful bell and is apparently "structurally more interesting than the Drum Tower" according to the American who was reading to his family out of their guide book. Lacking any knowledge about structures, though, I was rather more interested in the Drum Tower. They had a lot of huge drums and they do demonstrations several times a day. The sound is incredible. It's like thunder. Both towers took a little bit of effort to get into. The stairs are extremely steep.
Just outside of the Drum Tower, I walked by a shop with artwork in the window. I've been looking for artwork to take to my family as gifts, so I stuck my head in just to see. I figured the prices would be way more than what I wanted to pay, but there's no harm in looking. Much to my surprise, I walked into a conversation between an old Chinese man and an Italian woman-- in Italian. It took me a minute to catch up, because I'm so used to hearing either rapid Chinese or faulty English. The Chinese man looked at me when I walked in and switched into Chinese to ask me where I studied Chinese. I couldn't figure out how he knew that I study Chinese, since most people assume I don't speak any. Then I realized that I was wearing my W&M Confucius Institute shirt. Right. So I chatted with him in Chinese for a while and he asked me what my Chinese name was so that he could write it in calligraphy for me as a gift. He said he really likes it when students come to China and he wants them to feel welcome and encouraged to keep studying. While he was at it, I looked through the paintings and he told me that since I was a student, he would give me a good price. He was true to his word. I've been looking at artwork for the whole trip and his prices were better than I had seen anywhere else. I explained that I hoped to get something for my parents and for my twin brother.
"You have a twin brother? 龙凤胎？" he asked. 龙凤胎 is what boy-girl twins are called. They're literally "dragon-phoenix twins." I told him that I did and he wrote another piece of calligraphy for me as a gift. "The dragon and phoenix bring eternal happiness." Then he wrote my Chinese name and Iain's (he made one up since Iain doesn't have one). We talked a bit more and then I headed off to my next stop of the day, feeling really happy.
Next I went to the Yonghegong Lama Temple. I went mostly on a whim- I had seen the subway stop for it and realized that it was probably my last chance to check it out. So I went in not sure what to expect. It was a lot bigger than I had anticipated, with a ton of deity statues and beautiful buildings. There were also some interesting exhibits that gave information about the different deities, which was really helpful. The highlight is the 26 meter tall statue that's carved out of a single tree (and there's a Guiness World Record plaque on the wall to prove it). All in all, it was a really interesting visit.
Today, Grace and I went to the Pearl Markets, something I've been meaning to do for weeks. Christina couldn't come because she came down with another cold and her mom was afraid that it would turn into bronchitis again. So we went off to haggle. It was a good last Chinese adventure, and I got some nice things there. I was really glad to have Grace, because I'm terrible at haggling. It isn't really a language issue. I have the vocabulary and language skills for it, I'm just awful at it. I give in too easily. Grace let me try for a bit before jumping in because I was bringing my price up too quickly. She helped me get a good amount off, so I owe her one for that.
I guess this is all for my China blog this summmer. I can't believe it's already time to go. It's been a lot of fun and I've gotten some good practice in with my Chinese. I'm pretty much done packing for my flight tomorrow evening. But I'll be sure to update from Scotland when I get there safely. If anyone has any recommendations for things to do or see in Glasgow or the surrounding area, let me know.