Friday, June 13, 2008

China Day 14: Bright with Banners

This is the best day to visit Chongqing! Because Chongqing is the largest city in China (population 35 million, though this number is kind of inflated because it includes a 100 km radius around the city) they are running the Olympic Torch through here day after tomorrow. Because of the torch, the entire city is spiffed up and is decorated with hundreds of red-and-white Olympic Banners:
There is a particularly high concentration of them at the People's Square, where we stopped briefly before lunch to have a little walk. It was fun, walking around this enormous plaza
full of graceful banyan trees
surrounded with benches where people were socializing in the shade. Here's one who caught my eye:
Dad took a picture of me taking a picture of him...
Chongqing's Great Hall of the People (aka town hall) is fashioned after the Temple of Heaven
except about twice as tall.

There was quite a wind blowing, and Dad and I made several attempts to get good pictures of the banners
before we had to leave for lunch.

On the way there, Irene told us that her parents and grandmother live in attached condos near the square. Then she described her grandma's daily schedule:
She gets up at 6:30 AM, eats a light breakfast and takes a three hour walk.
She goes home for a light lunch and takes a half-hour nap.
In the afternoon she plays mah-jong with several friends; her monthly gambling budget is about 300 yuan (about $43).
Then she does Tai Chi, eats dinner and goes to the People's Square to watch people dance disco - the city sponsors this and encourages it as exercise. After the description, I wouldn't be surprised to hear that Grandma gets up and does disco herself!
Oh, and the kicker?
Grandma is 96 years old! Her mah-jong budget comes from a special stipend the government gives to citizens over 90; you get a larger stipend when you hit 100, and Irene says there are over 900 Chongqing residents who are 100 or more!

Lunch today featured Szechuan cuisine, which can be very, very hot. Due to the general wimpiness of Americans, however, they only gave us one dish (a chicken dish) that took the top of your head off.

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