All the Happy People
For the next morning's explorations, I decided to head south down Hufang Lu. I thought I might visit the Temple of the Source of the Law (Fayuan Si), but instead I ended up at Happy (People's) Pavilion Park (Taoranting Gongyuan), somewhat farther south. Once the only park accessible to the common people, it is still very much a local spot; I did not see any other foreigners (or even obvious Asian tourists) while I was strolling around the grounds.

I found the park quite charming. It's known mainly for a few tombs of prominent Communist Party leaders, on an island reached by a graceful stone bridge, but also contains a collection of reproduced famous temple pavilions from all over China. Many of these have connections with Chinese poets such as Li Bai.
Happy People's Pavilion Park might not rate with the more historical and/or famous scenic spots in Beijing, but it was here that I took more scenic photos -- of lovely archways, quiet ponds, secluded pavilions -- than just about anywhere else during this trip. Maybe it was being in "wind down" mode, or the local atmosphere. I sat and listened to two men singing (probably) folk songs -- just standing on the sidewalk facing a tree, holding their plastic bags of lunch or groceries. Off one path a woman was singing opera and practicing movements with her fan. I had a short chat with an older lady who was sitting in the shade of one pavilion: she complimented my Chinese. From the top of one hillside came the sounds of drums played by a group of men in another pavilion. Happy, indeed!
Images of Happy Pavilion Park
Mao Mao had arranged with the local tour company rep to have dinner with Bob, and he graciously invited me to join them. We both figured it might be a good opportunity to clue the local connection in on the relative sophistication and expectations of CCSF groups, having had a couple of less than stellar arrangements this time. But it didn't pan out: the director we expected to have as our host was unavailable and sent a very young woman, with minimal English, instead. Since Bob's Mandarin is excellent, there's no problem communicating, but also no point in trying to discuss policy improvements. We dine in one of the Muslim hot pot restaurants ("very famous" -- this seems to be a local mantra) and the food is excellent. Mao Mao even phoned our guide while we were heading to dinner in a taxi, so we all had a nice final chat.

It's an early dinner, as Bob and I decided to take in the Beijing opera performance on our last evening. This couldn't be more convenient, as it's in our hotel, one of a handful of regular venues in the city. Obviously catering to tourists -- the hotel lobby fills up with busloads of them every evening -- the program is a revolving selection of short scenes from the standard repertoir. Tonight's is "Dropping the Handkerchief" and a piece from Journey to the West about the Monkey King fighting twelve arhats. The latter is the better of the two, with some good acrobatics. I enjoyed being able to see some Chinese opera on stage in BJ, even if not the top quality.

Afterwards, back upstairs to pack as we were returning home the next morning. The BJ fans had told me which channel to watch for You Peng's new mobile phone ad, and I did catch this: very short but he looked great.

Return Home

There's some sort of shuttle bus service to the airport from the hotel, but Bob and I decided to split a taxi and depart in comfort. We really lucked out, too, and got the best cab driver in BJ. He takes a route through the city rather than opting for the closest ring road, so we have a last chance to gaze at Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City walls, Wanfujing, several government buildings, consulates and high end hotels. Within an hour, we are at the airport: Whoa! Is this guy good!

Check in takes a while: lines are long and a bit anarchic, but there is some friendly conversation and no problems. Both of us take turns doing a little shopping. I picked up some Five Friendlies cell phone dangly thingies in one of the official 2008 Olympics outlets, figuring I can give them to the linguists at Mythcon next month.

During the flight (which leaves on time!) I mostly veg out listening to my iPod, napping, eating, watching a few movies, doing the crossword puzzle. Not much energy for anything constructive; didn't bring any books for general reading. The SYP playlist lasted all the way to San Francisco. I feel both happy and sad to be back home!

Note: I'll add some links for more information and resources as soon as I have time! Honest!

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