What’s more popular than the Great Wall? My daughter’s blond hair.

8.23. On Sunday we made a early morning trip to Beihai Park, a beautiful park with a white pagoda in central Beijing. The highlight was that locals asked Andrea and I to participate in a morning exercise that involved slow and flowing coordinated movement, a ball and a paddle. In the afternoon, we went Zhongshan Park and it’s Forbidden City Concert Hall to see a percussion orchestra called Clavier de Lyon.

8.24. On Monday, we rented a car and driver (a very good idea) and went to the Summer Palace. In the evening we had my birthday dinner, eating traditional Beijing cuisine. One of the Chinese scholars who visited Vermont Law School this past year joined us, and brought her niece (great for my kids) and a Haagen Dazs ice cream cake (great for everyone).

8.25. Today we took the subway to Wangfujing Shopping Street to go to Xin Zhing Guo Kid’s Stuff, and went to the famous Quanjude Beijing Duck Restaurant for lunch.

The family vacation will soon come to a close. The Fulbright Orientation begins this weekend, and then it’s off to Guangzhou (which most abbreviate GZ). This weekend I plan to start focusing on how to structure my Introduction to American Legal System course. I’ll likely use Aspen’s Scheb text, but I really want to teach from a map of the US and the 150 copies of the US Constitution that I’ve sent to campus.

As for environmental issues, since the tap water is not potable here, we drink LOTS of bottled water. The amount of plastic is staggering even though we are now buying the biggest bottles possible and we’ve brought our SIGG bottles. In the sidebar, I’m going to keep a running total on the amount of plastic bottles used. So far, 18 small, 18 medium, 2 large. Total = 38

Finally, my light-skinned blond-haired younger daughter is a big tourist attraction. Everywhere we go, a dozen or so Chinese follow us, touch her, and ask to take her picture. She is learning to say “bu yao” (no want). We want a T-shirt that says in Chinese: “You can take my picture…but it will cost you 50 kuai.” (But that would be poor soft diplomacy).

I should also add that you need to take A LOT a taxis in Beijing to get around. Car seats are too big and cumbersome. But before we left the states, we found Ride Safer Travel Vests which help small kids safely buckle into seat belts. However, the car still needs to have working seat belts. Many cabs in Beijing either don’t have seatbelts or have them stuffed way under the seats. I have started to pull up seat cushions in taxis to reveal the seatbelts. So far, we’ve created 4 new seatbelt friendly taxis in Beijing.

UPDATE: We’ve learned, in order to save face, it’s more effective to say “Wo men mei you shi jian” (we don’t have time) when people want to take pictures of our kids if they’ve have their fill of modeling for the day.  And based on emails we’ve received from folks in the States, I think our readers underestimate the interest in our kids.  We do let LOTS of people take photos, especially when they have small children, but multiple times a day DOZENS of people will surround the kids.  At the Forbidden City on Thursday, a group of 31 (!!!) people surrounded us in a big circle to talk and take pictures.  I also want to say that we have been very gracious and the Chinese have been VERY nice and friendly, and our oldest daughter now says to the surrounding crowd: “Ni hao” (Hello), “Ni jia zhu zai Beijing?” (Are you from Beijing?), “Zai Jian” (Good-bye).

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