Something different today, off to learn how to understand and appreciate the Beijing opera. This was great fun, how to stand as a man or woman. Hand movements, how to flirt (on stage only of course) operatically. Bit of a challenge that one, girl meets boy, is incredibly shy about it, ok, now our girls turn. Hard to believe that our girls had trouble being shy, but they got there in the end. From the meaning behind different costume items to the face masks and some individual painting. We actually have quite an artistic group here, some wonderful masks created, although Jackson managed to erase most Chinese cultural references from his mask, Leroy Ferris made up the difference with an incredibly artistic piece, definitely a keeper that one. Lots of piccies later we are off to lunch. The usual wonderful fare and then the kids finally get the cultural experience they have been after since we arrived. The chance to shop till you drop. 

The Silk Road shopping centre. 5 stories of shopping experience. Most of the little shops in here allow bargaining and this is a nice enclosed environment for the students to learn the finer points of this art, and learn they did. Some wonderful bargains made, some groans as prices attained were shared and realisations made that ‘you’ great bargain was bested by someone else. But overall a good time by all (many of whom now realise they have run out of money – sorry parents you may be getting some emergency finding requests soon. (we did warn them we were still just starting but the fever was on them and they were off). Great credit to Jaxon D. who was offered a ‘genuine’ Rolex for 4000 Yuan (about $900), he offered 100 Yuan. The shopkeeper tried to brazen it out and said it’s a Rolex, Jaxon answer –‘It’s fake – 100 Yuan’ – our shopkeeper obviously realised he wasn’t getting away with and said OK. End of bargaining. Jaxon now owns a ‘Rolex’ and no illusions. 

That was most of the afternoon, first time for major shopping and a great time had by all. 

Final activity was dinner and a short ‘Face Changing’ show; short being the operative word. It was fun but literally a 5 minute show. The guy was talented but we had expected a bit longer to make use of our morning lessons on the meaning of the masks etc. He did come out again about 20 min later and started the show again then left after about a minute, we weren’t sure if he realised the dinner audience hadn’t actually changed so gave up on repeating it, or a technical problem with his costume for the face changing masks had happened. Ah well, not every activity can be epic. 

Tomorrow however is epic – packed to leave Beijing – Forbidden City – Hutong Village visit with lunch and rickshaw ride – and the dreaded train boarding for the night trip to Xian. Just another day in our Asian paradise. Tell you all about it soon. 

Martin Keen