For the first time, Beijing's gloomy overcast weather has cleared enough to reveal blue skies. Our class has broken into small groups to see the sights, with two students joining me on a quest to visit World Park [check out the pix]. As most of my friends will attest, I'm a sucker for "tiny towns," and when I first caught a glimpse of World Park in Jia Zhangke's 2004 film Shìjiè - seeing Beijing's mininature version of the Eiffel Tower, the Taj Mahal, and, believe it or not, a fake Great Wall of China - I grew determined to visit this place for myself. So our tiny group took the metro to Wukesong station and caught the 905 bus (around the corner from Exit A), searching for those surreal gates.
We rented a paddleboat, took pictures on a camel (next to a fake Egyptian pyramid, of course) and rode a rollercoaster with park employees who constantly exhorted us to shout louder. They were hoping to attract more business, but we were the only folks on this ride. An amusement park for people who may never leave China, World Park even offers an eerie island of Manhattan where the Twin Towers still stand. Entranced, amazed, and bemused, we dutifully visited photo-spot after photo-spot, finally boarding our bus back home in late afternoon.
In the evening I joined a few students who'd gathered in a hotel room to sing songs and chat about our Beijing adventures. Normally I'm not all that sociable of a professor, but this group is welcoming and mellow. And we are living in the same hotel! I hung out for about two hours before returning to my room. A check-in with Jenny and then it's off to bed!