Friday, October 1, 2010

National Day and Other Observations

Today is National Day, celebrating the 61st anniversary of the country and the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949. It's odd to me that they don't consider the 1500+ years of China's history prior to the founding of the PRC - while I consider 1949 to just be a government/regime change, they consider it to be a brand new country's founding. Unfortunately, the 61st anniversary did not include major military parades or fireworks, and the Chinese most definitely do not follow the  American custom of grilling hamburgers and barbecuing, which made me quite sad as I ate noodles and tomatoes for dinner.

However, in commemoration of the special day, China schools are given the entire next week of off school, and most workers had today off, as well. Slightly defeating the purpose, there are extra classes the week after next to make up for missed classes. Us Chicago students were given the day off, but not next week, though we won't have Chinese class, since our teachers have off (Language teachers are Renmin University faculty). Let loose in a metropolis of 23 million, me and three classmates did what seemed the most logical idea: took ourselves to the Beijing Zoo, called dong wu gong yuan in Chinese, which literally translates to Animal Park. :)

Since it was National Day, the zoo was fairly crowded, although in a city the size of Beijing anything is crowded. I've heard it said about NYC that if you decide to do something, you can be sure at least 100 other people have the same idea; here, I think it's something like 10,000 people have the same idea. The subway line on our way back was absolutely insane, we probably waited in line for 10 minutes just to get into the subway station. Thankfully we were heading out of the city rather than into it, so the train itself wasn't too packed. There was also a stronger police force out because of the day - though why you need four police officers by the lemurs and marmosets, I have no idea. (I guess to avoid any monkey business!)

I've also read that a characteristic of  China is a pervasive belief that the rules were meant for other people, something that seemed to be verified today. Like most (all?) zoos, there were signs on every exhibit telling visitors not to feed the animals or throw anything in their cages, but people here did a lot of it. Especially at the monkey exhibit, there were several people throwing peanuts and other food over the divider into the cage - the elder monkey would chase all the younger ones away, and then eat all the nuts himself. At the gorilla habitat, several of the gorillas were handling and seemingly drinking from water bottles. I thought, since three of the gorillas had bottles, that maybe the zookeepers gave the bottles to them to play with. I realized I was mistaken when the person right next to me chucked his iced tea bottle in, too, though a police officer did come over and talk to him. And at the otter exhibit, the otter was putting his paws up on the glass, looking up at us, and then scurrying away and coming back. In order to get his attention, someone poured yogurt on the poor little guy. :( It made me think about how it's kind of funny that we follow the rules in the US without being forced to - a kind of self regulating society (?), where not bothering animals is normal enough that you get yelled/glared at if you do it.

Overall, the zoo was excellent, especially seeing the zebras, gnus, wildebeests, ostriches, and giraffes - I think God had fun when he made Africa! :) I'll likely update later this weekend, too, with some info on classes, maybe the food? Let me know if there's anything you want me to cover, or if you have stylistic suggestions to improve my writing. [criticism is welcome, too!] :)


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