Part 7: Shooting Promos With Sam
This morning I was up again at the crack of dawn uploading all of my photos and videos from our day exploring Beijing. I also used Skype to call my husband and daughter back home in Maryland! The time change is 12 hours, so I have to get up super early in the morning so that I can say goodnight to my 2-year-old on the other side of the world.
I met the crew down in the lobby of the Ascott at 10 a.m., and we all walked over to Starbucks before loading into the van. Ummm, here\’s a tip: Starbucks — not so good in China! The coffee is Nescafe, so you have to order an espresso drink if you want anything to resemble what you would have in the U.S. I made a HUGE mistake and ordered a green tea latte. Sounds yummy, right? Not so much. The best way to describe it is that it tasted like chopped up grass in watery milk. Yuk.
We all piled into the production van and made our way back to the Forbidden City. We did a few stand-ups outside of the gate with the large portrait of Mao in the background. We then walked and walked to our second set-up inside the gates of the city. Remember, this place is huge, and we are a large crew with a lot of equipment. So moving from one set-up to another takes time and patience. It got so bad at one point that we decided to hire a bunch of rickshaws to bring us to our other locations.
After our morning shoot, we took a lunch break at a typical Chinese restaurant in the middle of Beijing. We had pork that we wrapped in tofu, pork ribs, noodles and \”gyouza,\” dumplings filled with fennel and more pork. There were a few strange dishes like a soymilk soup that I tried and a few other tofu dishes that really did not have any flavor at all. Most of the dishes were very spicy, so I stuck with the gyouza and some steamed rice. (All this rice is really adding on the pounds! It makes you wonder how the Chinese stay so skinny!)
After lunch, we made our way back to the hutongs to shoot some more promo material with Sam. It was a hard day of shooting and Sam was getting really tired and just ready for a break. Shooting in a hutong or even in the Forbidden City is challenging. First you have the government that comes every couple of minutes to make sure that you are allowed to be there. Then you have to deal with all of the people on the streets and just moving from one location to another. Lastly it is really hard to keep our battery lives; there is no place to plug in when you are in a building that was constructed thousands of years ago! So we were all glad when we made it to our final set-up for the day!
We also had to stop on time today because this day was a holiday in China! It was called the Mid-Autumn Festival or the \”Mooncake Festival,\” and the tradition is to eat Moon Pies! If you were to ask an elder for the history of this festival, they would tell you of the sacrifice made by Chang\’er, a beautiful concubine of a wicked Chinese emperor who ruled over his people with injustice. Under an empirical edict, physicians in the emperor\’s court were ordered to create an elixir of immortality for him. Chang\’er saw the sorrow of the people and did not want them to endure an eternity of suffering. She stole the elixir from the emperor, swallowed it and turned into a fairy. The Mooncake festival, thus, commemorates the brave act by Chang\’er, which resulted in the liberation of her people from tyranny.
A more modern version says that the Chinese observe this day as a remembrance of the overthrow of the Mongol rulers. The rebellion succeeded largely because the people were able to coordinate their efforts by smuggling to one another messages hidden in mooncakes, a pastry filled with lotus seed paste, melon seeds and egg yolk.
Either version is amazing, each illustrates how a 5,000-year history translates into amazing traditions, rituals and beliefs that have been passed from generation to generation. This is like their version of Thanksgiving, and our Chinese crew really wanted to go home and spend it with their families.
The rest of the crew was invited to dinner at a local restaurant to celebrate with one of the girls from the Ascott, Mae. She took us to a very traditional Chinese restaurant for some of her favorite Chinese foods to celebrate the Mooncake Festival! We had an assortment of dumplings and noodles and then they brought out a beautiful Peking duck that was baked in a clay oven right outside of the front door of the restaurant. You can actually smell the duck being baked as you walk in the front door. Yum. They also brought out a full fried fish topped with a sweet sauce. Everything was amazing! BUT, the dessert was the absolute best and the most memorable dish of the entire trip! It was fried apples that are drizzled in a hot caramel sugar sauce. You basically pick up a piece of the apple and then dunk it into a cold cup of water to crystallize the sugar and pop it into your mouth! It was like candy and the most unique dish of my entire experience in China.
We stayed at the restaurant for a few hours just talking and enjoying our last evening in China. I have only been here for a week, but most of the crew is on their third week and ready for the long flight back to the United States.
In my last blog, I board a 747 and head back over the North Pole to the other side of the world.