OCDF Culture Camp 2
On Tuesday, we learned about the Chinese knotting craft. Everyone did well on their project but Steve needed a lot of help! That afternoon, we took a pedicab tour of one of Beijing's older neighborhoods called a hutong. In a hutong, anywhere from three to six residences surround a central courtyard. Families living in a hutong share a greater sense of community than offered in typical apartment buildings. As Beijing has grown in population, the need for housing (modern, high-rise apartments) has claimed many of the older hutong neighborhoods. Those that remain are clustered in the area around Houhai lake northwest of the Forbidden City. Our pedicab driver took us through the area surrounding the lake and dropped us off at the Drum and Bell Tower complex.
The original Drum and Bell Towers date to the time of Kublai Khan when they marked the northern gates to the city. At 7 PM, twenty-four huge drums were struck to mark the closing of the city gates. At 7 AM, the large bell was rung to mark the start of the new day. Inside the Drum Tower is an expansive tea shop where knowledgeable staff describe the basics of the Chinese tea ceremony and offer samples of many kinds of tea.
On Wednesday, the adults met with a Confucian scholar while the kids learned about Chinese inventions and geography.
Chinese Science and Technology Museum. This is a world-class museum that highlights China's many contributions to science. The kids loved the hands-on exhibits. Some of their favorites included robots, a pendulum swing, the pulley demonstrator (left photo), and a chicken hatchery where you could watch the baby chicks emerge from their eggs. In the museum atrium there was a gift shop that had an excellent collection of Beijing Olympics 2008 products.Later, everyone visited the
After lunch, we visited an artists' colony in the countryside northeast of Beijing. While at the Artist's Village Gallery, we received a lesson in watercolor painting and in Chinese calligraphy. The watercolor painting was easy compared to the calligraphy. Drawing Chinese characters properly is difficult. We worked for over an hour on one character - and barely got it correct!
Our host, Sally Liu showed us around the gallery. While the style was a bit modern for our taste, the paintings are very well done and reflect the skill of the artists who created them.
On Thursday morning we had our last Chinese class and then visited the Beijing Zoo and Purple Bamboo Park. Both of these locations are very close to the Xi Yuan hotel we where we stayed on our first trip to Beijing in 1999.
At the zoo we saw more pandas, many small animals, and visited the famous Monkey Hill. Observing the antics of Monkey Hill's many residents, we decided that this has to be the place where the expression, "more fun than a barrel full of monkeys" originated.
Purple Bamboo Park is a very large park that contains several lakes, pavilions, and many different kinds of trees. At the park, the girls learned about origami (intricate Chinese paper-folding craft) while the adults experienced an exercise lesson in Tai Chi. The great thing about Tai Chi is that the movements are slow which makes it seem kind of easy. Its complexity, however is in the details. At times it felt like we were trying to juggle three or four balls in the air all at once. We did enjoy it and look forward to learning more.
After lunch, it was time to leave Beijing. We said a very fond farewell to our teacher Wang Hui and headed for the airport to catch our flight to Hong Kong. After a quick day in Hong Kong, we were off to visit Kaohsiung, Taiwan.
We left Beijing with many fond memories of the city and its people. Our hosts at OCDF made us feel welcome and were simply wonderful with the girls. In addition to their work with adoptive families, they run an excellent travel agency and can help anyone plan China travel.
Please check out the main OCDF website at: www.OCDF.org
Or their travel/tour website at: http://www.ocdf.org/tours