It’s skating. On a chair.
Specifically, chair skating is skating on a pair of chairs made of cheap iron (and plywood for the seats), welded onto an iron frame at the bottom. The whole thing is like a sled with two chairs welded onto it (one behind the other).
Since the Great Wall, our camera is NOT HAPPY. It’s functional inside (where it’s warm), but lasts about three seconds outside, and only then if it’s been in your armpit for at least half an hour. It’s a good camera, too. Fortunately we have at least one chair-skating photo, which (when we have the cable again later today) I’ll add here:
The chair skating was great. Other than the sled-chair, you get two iron thingies that resemble ski poles (sharp on the end). You use these to push yourself around. The whole place was outside, on one section of a frozen lake (which is used for paddle-boating in the summer). I’ve never seen natural ice thick enough to stand on. It was beautiful. We could clearly see through the ice, and it was about 15cm deep. Many fault lines spidered across the surface of the ice in fine lines, and shone pure white all the way down through the ice to the water. Inside the ice there were patches of snow and curious formations of bubbles, like forests of white fungus under my feet.
A lot of young children (as wide in their down coats as they are high) were there with a parent or grandparent. Three 16-year old girls gathered their courage and actually had a conversation with me (I really don’t think Beijing people care about seeing foreigners much – unless they’re selling something and you foolishly made eye contact).
Readers familiar with aerodynamics will realise at once that sled-chairs don’t turn particularly well. They don’t turn at all, unless you’re actually moving – and the only way to turn is to slide. Which is great 🙂
We also went and visited the CCTV Headquarters (aka the “underpants building” because it’s roughly the shape of a person’s legs if they were sitting in a chair with their legs far apart). It is a ridiculous building, and I don’t blame people for not wanting to go inside – it really doesn’t look like there’s any good reason for it to stay up. And it’s huge.
Interestingly, there’s a burnt-out shell of a high-rise hotel next to it (Chinese New Year fireworks happened rather too close last year). It’s so badly burnt that one wall is completely peeled away, showing hundreds of individual rooms. The rest of it is black.
Other than building a giant keep-out fence around it, no-one has done anything about the burnt hotel. Rumour has it that it’s built on the same concrete foundation as the underpants building, and helps to balance it. So if the burnt-out shell is removed, the underpants fall down.
That’s pretty much not good.
Today’s taste of the day is some kind of lolly. It’s made of gelatinous rice (similar in taste and texture to the inside of a jelly bean) coated in sesame seeds. I like it.
So tired now that when I walk I veer left.
Each morning when I wake up, I hear the scrape, scrape, scrape of the snow shovellers. There is still heaps of snow and ice and slush everywhere, and trucks are constantly passing with piles of snow in the back. Even though the scraping is unusual, I will always associate the sound of a shovel on concrete with Beijing.
Tomorrow is our last day here, and we’ll spend Saturday travelling to Indonesia (at roughly the same time as our hero). You can read more of our adventures at http://felicitybloomfield.wordpress.com