So I finally got the interwebz working in the hotel room (obviously).  This post will be long, but others I hope will be shorter.

The flights were flights.  I had Pocky and bought a Good Luck Cat cell phone charm in Narita (Tokyo) just to prove I was there.  Narita was boring--I honestly expected more from the Japanese.

We arrived at 11pm last night (so June 24) and woke up to a beautiful day in Beijing.  The sky was blue and the temperature was a cool 88 degrees.

Our first stop was the Summer Palace, a favourite of the Empress Dowager Cixi (who was by all accounts terrible woman.  The Boxers rebelled for a reason).  
As I walk in, swallows swoop overhead.  There are two huge ponds of lotus, but they are not blooming yet.  The huge lake is surrounded by weeping willows. 

My big adventure at the Summer palace was barganing for a Chairman Mao watch.  The watch has a picture of Mao, and his arm waves as the second hand ticks.  I bargained from 100 yuan to 60 yuan (about $10 USD) and avoided being given counterfeit money (John the Tour Guide had warned us ahead of time).  I drew quite a crowd, and I'm sure the locals probably laughed at the price I paid, but I was proud.

At all of the historical spots there are so many people, mostly Chinese.  The Chinese language is beautiful.  It sounds like everyone is singing.  The language is based on 4 tones, which our incredible tour guide John (Li Juan) taught us.   

Next we watched a Tai Chi master go through the first 4 frames of the Tai Chi exercises. Then we tried some ourselves.  I could get into this Tai Chi business.  Check out the blinding whiteness of my legs.

We took a dragon boat back across the lake, then took off for the pearl market, which was quite an experience.  AFter a family style lunch of delicious food (I haven't had a bad meal here yet) we headed for Tiananmen Square.  While I did not trip in the Square, I did trip going up the stairs for lunch. 

Tiananmen Square is enormous.  Gigantic.  Vast.  It can hold 1 million people.  This pic features my friend Baseemah and the Gate of Heavenly Peace.  This is around the time that it really hit me that I was not, in fact, at Epcot.  I was, in fact, in China for real.  

Tomorrow I will share more about the Forbidden City, and our Peking Duck dinner, which was amazing.  I will also try to get a pic of the Incredible John, tour guide extraordi

My suitcase is packed.  Everything I will have for 10 days overseas in a carry on.  I am an amazing packer.  I still have my backpack to finish, but that includes things like my computer and the book I'm reading.

I have to pick a question to explore while I'm in China (for the Professional Development class I'm taking).  Two options I am considering:
1.  How does Buddhism integrate into the modern Chinese culture?
2. How does literature integrate into the modern Chinese culture?  Are the Chinese reading new releases?  How well do they know older Chinese literature?  Are Chinese students "readers"?

Any other ideas?
I leave on Thursday and I have bought almost nothing I need, besides clothes.  I am trying to carry on all of my luggage, so I need to practice pack as well.  I think as long as I have underwear, a passport and some toilet paper, I should be good to go.  What would you take on an international trip?