Sunday, July 5, 2009

People watching.


T
oday would be our last day touring as a group. I’ve made some friends on this trip and it will be sad to say goodbye to them though I know we will keep in touch.

The day started as all the other ones had before us by meeting in the lobby of the hotel. Today, we would be visiting the Temple of Heaven in the morning and Haohai Park in the afternoon.

It was back on a bus to get to the Temple of Heaven and as I have come to accept, the place was crowded with people. Before we got to the actual temple itself, we had to walk through a park and what a great place that turned out to be for *people watching*.

It really was entertaining walking through the park and watching people do their thing, whatever their thing happened to be. In the open areas, there were folks ballroom dancing, doing tai-chi including a form that involves balancing a ball on a paddle. Watching the people do this exercise, you would think the balls are velcroed to the paddles but in fact, their loose balls.

 
There was small group of men playing hacky sacks. Robbie got to show his form :-) 
 
People were even gathered in the covered walkway that ran along one side of the park. Some folks were singing and others were playing musical instruments. There was a large contingent of card and chess players. According to Jenny, anyone can *jump* in and join in on an activity. In fact, Robbie and Bernd ended up doing just that....Robbie trading hacky sack kicks with a Chinese man and Bernd volleying a small ball back and forth with another.
Jenny had promised to give us a lesson in tai-chi so what better place to do this than the park. She started with a basic exercise in breathing in and out and then added some hand and leg movements. Everyone tried to follow her commands but to little avail. Well, all I can say is that is sounded a lot easier to do when she explained it than when we tried it ourselves. Of course, I was too busy taking photos and videos to participate. It’s a dirty job but someone has to record the hilarity of it all :-)
























With people crammed into high rise apartments and the hutongs becoming a rare sight, I think social outings to places like the park at the Temple of Heaven are an integral park of life for many Chinese living in Beijing.

However, If I could generalize, I would say that most of the faces that I saw in the park belonged to people of generations older than mine so it seems like they are the ones that still hold the need for a sense of community and face-to-face interaction with other people. Perhaps the reason why we didn’t see younger faces in the park is because the younger generations have other distractions, such as playing video games to occupy their free time. For these generations, face-to-face interactions with friends and family has been replaced with modern technologies like video chats, text messaging and social networking applications like Facebook and Twitter. I guess in many ways, the younger generations in China are no different than those in other parts of the world.

After we enjoyed our sightseeing, it was back to the *serious* business of sightseeing. On to the Temple itself.