Another very enjoyable thing we did was the ricksha ride. You probably know what a ricksha, or rickshaw, is but I'll catch you up anyway. It's a small buggy, typically seating only two people at the most, and in older times it was pulled by a man who placed himself between two poles extending from the front of the little buggy, and holding the poles, he would run along the streets, pulling the little buggy behind him. Nowadays, the buggy is attached to a bicycle, and the driver rides the bicycle, which pulls the buggy.
Eloise and I got into one together, and our driver was a large, genial man who was very friendly and kind to us. Toom Chris, who (mercifully) rode alone, had a driver who was small of stature and didn't look very strong. The expression on his face when he saw Toom Chris was priceless. The man may have been small, but he had a large sense of humor, and we all had a good laugh when he partially encircled Toom Chris's huge bicep with his hands, then transferred his hands to his own thigh, indicating that Chris's arm was bigger than his leg. Which, indeed, it was. However, once we got under way, it was evident that those thin little legs were made of steel, as he had no trouble at all in powering the ricksha right along with everyone else.
LANNI AND ELOISE IN A RICKSHA
You'll remember that earlier I mentioned that we felt like we were being shown the best of Beijing, but knew that there must be a darker side somewhere, just as there is in any large city. At one point, our bus was passing through an area that obviously had not undergone any renovation. David commented on this, and acknowledged that it's a problem for the government. They want to tear it down and rebuild, but are delaying, surprisingly, for humanitarian reasons. Apparently some of these old sections date back for two hundred years or more, and the little homes within those rabbit-warren areas may have been in a single family for many generations. There are narrow little lanes that traverse the neighborhood, really too small for auto traffic, but bicycles and pedestrians have no problem. The people are well known to each other, and form a very tightly-knit community. They look after each other, and share in each other's joys and sorrows. In short, however poor and rundown the area may look to outsiders, to the residents, it's home.
When the government does tear a neighborhood down, they make every effort to relocate the residents into nicer surroundings, but the people don't want to go. They want to remain where they are, with their old friends and neighbors, and in many cases their family members, close by. We were privileged to be invited to visit a home in one of the back-alley areas, and were surprised at how nice it really was. From the outside, it looked very rundown and dilapidated, but inside it was quite lovely. There was a large TV, comfortable furnishings, family pictures, a modern refrigerator, all the comforts of a home. Outside, there was a tiny patio, with a grape arbor overhead, and some beautiful flowers. The resident, our host, was hospitable and charming, a well-spoken and obviously educated man. Of course, this visit was arranged by our tour guide, and we know that there are areas that he would not want us to see, but then there are parts of Dallas to which I wouldn't take a visitor from China.
Once again, this has grown too long, and I think I'll save the rest for tomorrow.
NOTE: I do know how to paragraph my text. This program does not know how to honor the commands I give it. After re-paragraphing this about four times, I gave up. My apologies.