Tian’anmen Square, Mao’s body, Zhengyang Gate and the National Museum of China

4/16/15

A family at church moved in just after we did with four kids they homeschool as well. Their oldest is a boy Princess Sparkley’s age and then they have a girl just younger than Buddy and two more girls just older than Little Guy. The mom served a church mission in Taiwan and has traveled in China before as well as studying Chinese in college. Not only is she great at planning field trips and inviting us over, she also speaks Chinese, which is handy when we’re out and about exploring with her. I’ll call them the Ws.

As we get closer to summer, we’ve been going on more field trips. On April 16, we went to Tian’anmen Square and saw Mao’s body.

Tian’anmen Square is about halfway between our apartments (they live at Tuanjiehu subway stop off of line 10). We met them, checked our bags, went through security and got in line. We thought it was already open and were a bit concerned about the line (and the Chinese people constantly trying to push their way in front of our group), but then all of a sudden the line moved and kept moving… it had *just* opened.  Squirt was in a stroller, so when we got to the front they pulled me out of line and had everyone join me so we could enter the building through a more accessible route. At that point, they realized the W mom had a camera (we knew we were supposed to check bags and cameras, but at the bag check, they told us we couldn’t have cameras in our bags. It turns out, the cameras just needed to be checked separately. I waited with all eight kids for about ten minutes while she ran back to bag check and then came back through security. While waiting, we attracted some attention. And as a first, I was handed a Chinese baby to hold for a photo shoot. Then they moved on to Princess Sparkley and had her hold their baby as well. (The longer we are here, the more I can tell when people are from out in the country somewhere and way more hillbilly-like about spotting westerners/big families/blonde toddlers.) Once the camera was checked and we were all together again, we went into the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong. Princess Sparkley was particularly freaked out about seeing his body. We whispered to her that he’s been dead since 1976 and back then, China’s technology probably wasn’t so that they could preserve his body so we were of the mind that it’s a wax figure. It helped this story along that all you can see of him is his head with a bright light shining on it making him glow orange.

Afterwards, in trying to find a bathroom, we wandered into Zhengyang Gate at the south side of Tian’anmen Square. It ended up being a kind of cool little museum. Then we exited the secure part of the Square, found a quieter sidewalk to sit and eat some snacks for lunch before exploring the top floor of the National Museum of China. It had a cool exhibit that was all the gifts ever given to China from the leader’s of other countries. Gifts from the US, and other countries… art, etc. but also gifts of art from communist countries like North Korea and art from countries like Iran that as Americans, we might never have another chance to see.

On the way home, they rode two subway stops further west with us and got off at Xidan to check out the basement, English language book section as well as get some museum coupon booklets. At the time, the Xidan station was decorated with giant loaves of fake bread for our favorite bakery, Wedome. This is their 10 year old, S.

After we got off at our stop, I successfully bought us five vanilla ice cream cones at McDonalds by looking up how to say vanilla on the Google Translate app on my phone. I didn’t want to end up with five black sesame ice cream cones. Bleh.

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