Prince Gong’s Castle-Beijing Site

               Built during the Qing Dynasty, about 1777 as the private residence of Heshan who had an extremely rapid rise up the Civil Service ladder.  He had acquired great wealth, as well as many enemies.  When the Qing Emperor Qianlong (1736 – 1796) died his successor Jiaqing (1796-1820) had Heshan executed.   The residence passed along to other hands and during the reign of Emperor Xianfeng (1851-1862) ownership was transferred to Prince Gong. 

               However, we were invited to be lead through the Castle by a fengshui scholar who was to describe the design of the space as it followed fengshui principles.  Alas, our fengshui scholar only spoke Chinese and my understanding of his discussion was limited.

               I was accompanied by three bilingual speakers, Chinese/English and none could really supply me with a comprehensive translation, since the language was specialized. 

               As described in the barest detail is that fengshui is the study of creating a space which can take advantage, or even harness the natural forces, qi, of the universe.                

               The best we have is some lovely photos and a nice walk in the lovely gardens.  

Studying Chinese in Beijing

Margaret and Rich at Mandarin Zone School

               Stretch your body   :    Expand your mind.  It is the tag. It is my mantra.   Keep improving, physically and mentally.

               First order on arrival in China are Chinese Lessons with Margaret at Mandarin Zone, her school near the Tuanjiehu station on line 10 in Beijing.  It has been more than two years since my first lesson with her.  Now about six years of study.  What I do not have in intellect I compensate with stubbornness and determination.   Can’t say it’s been an easy process, but fortunately people like Margaret and my first teacher Xin, have stuck with me. 

               From Park Plaza Hotel it is two changes and about forty minutes to the school.  Line 5 change to line 6 at Dongsi.  Line 6 change to Line 10 at Huijialu.  Exit at Tuenjiehu.  Total cost is 3 yuan, or less than a half a dollar, US.  China has put a priority on mass transportation.  Clean trains, clean, well-lit stations, trains running very often at an available price for everyone.  Doesn’t America have the will to serve its people better?  

               Emerge at Exit B, always a critical piece of information in Beijing since there are many exits and the choosing the correct one saves crossing large streets and avoiding attack by Beijing’s crazy drivers.

               The building entrance is in the alley, not on the main street, and a bit dingy.  Two small elevators service a 17 storey building.  At busy times, lines form and it can be two or three elevator cycles before you can get on.  At 9:30 most everyone is already at work, so the line is short.

               We are on the Second Book of the Beijing Language Institute Speak Chinese.  My progress is slow since Margaret reminds me I only have one lesson a week on SKYPE and do miss some.  It is true.  My attention to Chinese when I am at home lags. 

               Margaret is wonderfully kind, accepting my progress, or lack, with poise.  Always ready with positive comments.  What is, is!  During lessons however, she tortures me.  Continual conversation and use of proper grammar.  No error is left unmentioned.  I work hard.  Start sentences and then get lost somewhere in the middle.  Try grammar concepts. Struggle to get it all straight.  Feel happy I completed the sentence and see her face.  “Bu dong,” she says.  “I don’t understand, in English, she says.  Sometimes I try again, sometimes I just give up.  Then she laughs and tells me to try again.  At the start of the lesson I usually try to tell her something that happened to me.  Work on my conversion skills.  After a five minute struggle of confused grammar she says, OK now tell me the whole story again.  Then she giggles as she knows she is torturing me.  But, it does work.

               Truly, I have achieved a valuable plateau.  Basic sentences are ingrained.  Vocabulary has expanded.  Grammar concepts are getting sorted out.  While not fluent, I have a functional level of basic conversation. 

               It is good to see her.  We speak nearly weekly via SKYPE, still the personal experience is different.   Being out and about in China also allows me to test my skills with locals.  While I still do not hear and understand the local people, they understand me.

               Four days, three hours a day in the morning.  All that I have available this trip, but she moved side some other students to make time for me. 

               So we begin.  We spend three days reviewing all of the chapters of book two, 16 to 25 in tow and a half days.  Then we begin the new stuff.  Up to Chapter 28 and “ba” sentences, the last grammar hurdle in this book.  She tells me that Book 3 focusses on conversation and all difficult grammar has been completed. 

               My confidence has improved and I am willing to speak to people, ask questions and get directions.  Yes, I am stopped by many people who are curious about this white haired person.  They wish to engage, practice their English.  I in turn practice my Chinese. 

               I do have a weakness for the children and always offer a “Hello.”  I did learn from JoAnn, see an earlier post, “The Power of Hello.”  The parents always encourage a response.  Sometime we can engage more, and others just say “Hello” or “Ni Hao.”   

               Whatever, I do try to engage.  Practice conversation and improve my ear and my speaking.

On to Beijing – 2019

               At LAX early.  Not going to duplicate yesterday’s error. 

The flight is nearly full, the nearly, fortunately, was the seat adjacent to me.    

I quickly realized the effect of the time of departure on my sleep habit on the long flight. Leaving at 6 AM or so from Boston requires early wake up. Sleeping aboard is easy.  Leaving after midnight, as I did recently to Hong Kong is a natural time to sleep.  At 10 AM departure, I am well rested and alert and not disposed to nap.  Well, lots of reading.

Flight time from LA, Dallas Fort Worth, Boston or New York to Beijing are virtually the same time.  The flight to a stop across the US, via American is wasted travel time, but the network of carriers with American and United offer better pricing for multi-stop travel and this time I am planning to return through Hong Kong.  Although Hainan offers a non-stop between Boston and Beijing, returning from Hong Kong prices this out of reason. 

AA flight 181 is on a Boeing 787-900 Dreamliner.  This plane seems to me a bit more upscale than yesterday’s Airbus.  It is serial number 40653, registration number N834AA and was delivered to American Feb 2018.   It was two years newer than the Airbus of the earlier flight, but a light year ahead in comfort and appointments.   It said it was manufactured in the Charleston SC factory, which I have recently read has had quality issues.  Fortunately, we landed safely so I cannot complain.

 A long but uneventful flight.   Arrived in Beijing on time.  Fast through immigration.  No fingerprints requested of me.  Not sure if because I have been through before.

Driver met me at the exit, no problem.  Dropped me at the hotel, Park Plaza in Wangfujing.  A convenient area.  Went for a walk to buy a SIM card and then get some funds at the bank.  Purchased 5 gigabytes and 50 minutes of time for about $80 USD. We’ll see if this was a wise purchase?

Found a Food Street and indulged.  Not sure, probably octopus tentacles.  Two barbecue sticks for 50 yuan.  Covered with sauce.  Not really high quality, but fast, interesting and cheap. Bought 5 gigabytes and 50 minutes of phone time for $80 USD. We’ll see if there was value in this purchase?

Found a Food Street and indulged.  Not sure, probably octopus tentacles.  Two barbecue sticks for 50 yuan.  Covered with sauce.  Not really high quality, but fast, interesting and cheap.