A scorpion on the bathmat in Betty Ann's room on the first morning was a lovely reminder that we weren't in Canada anymore! We started our day at The Temple of Heaven, Chris explained that the circle shape represents the sky and square for earth, this is also why chop sticks have this shape. He explained the significance of lighting 3 incense (earth, heaven, human) and 5 offerings on the alter (incense, along with 2 sets of flowers and candles). This temple was built in the 1400’s in the Ming dynasty, however, the most intriguing thing wasn’t the temple but the hundreds of older Beijing residents exercising around the outer grounds. There were contortionists, dancers, military style jungle gym exercisers. Here was a couple of my favourites, the Bruce Lee look-alike is smoking as he is doing his exercises!
We took part in a tea ceremony, trying 5 different teas, sipping from the cutest little porcelain cups, laughing and learning many interesting facts. For instance, our host kept spilling the hot water on the outside of the tea pot, my first inclination was that she was nervous or in a hurry but later learned that is how they keep the clay from becoming brittle over time. We learned about the different cups and traditions with each type of tea. My favourite was the blooming jasmine blossoms that opened in the warm water.
We also went to Tian’amen Square, and heard a bit of the history about Chairman Mao and the communist party. As we were taking photos of the sights, I noticed that we were also getting our photo taken. We decided to pose for a few shots and all of a sudden there was a line up where each family member wanted their own picture with us. During the afternoon, we went to a market for bargin shopping. Our day ended with a wonderful dinner with our host Dr. Jiang. What a entertaining experience it was at this upscale Chinese restaurant with singers and theatre performances happening during dinner. Here is Tina and I overlooking The Forbidden City.
One of the highlights of this trip so far has been the opportunity to meet, and spend time, with Dr. Jiang, Lily, Chin Chin and her family. Chin Chin (sorry if i am totally off on the spelling) is a young local girl with IBD. She showed me they scars on her abdomen, it sounded like she has been through quite an ordeal at only 18 years of age. Our Chinese friends have all been so warm and gracious that we are here increasing awareness about Crohn’s and Colitis. It is has been an eye opening experience how challenging it is for people with IBD in this country, not only emotionally because the doctors don’t really know how to help them, but also financially. Even though it isn’t perfect, I am truly grateful that in Canada we have the healthcare and network support system we do!