Friday, May 4, 2012

Having a great time, wish you were here!

We did arrive safe and sound in Beijing on Wednesday and have been trying to access our blog with no luck. We are hearing that it is because Hilary is in town and they shut everything down while she's visiting......we'll see if it works when she heads for home. Until then, we are very grateful to have a friend posting for us - thanks Kami!
Beijing has been amazing! We are staying at the same hotel that we were in for our last trip here & it is beautiful and within walking distance of a lot of shopping and restaurants. We arrived to the hotel at around noon and relaxed for a bit in our rooms. We have connecting rooms, which is great for the kids....they're having fun going back and forth. Not so sure how well Ash & Aimee like it :).....the kids end up spending more time in their room then in ours. We realized pretty quick that we needed to keep moving otherwise we'd all fall asleep, so we hit the pool and then did some shopping and had dinner. We were out by about 7 and up at 2:30....that was fun. We're getting closer to China's schedule after last night, though.....out at 9 and up at 5. 

Yesterday was the Great Wall tour, lunch at a jade factory and a Hutong tour. The weather was in the 90's, but its not as humid as it has been our past two trips. Our guide says the heat is about a month early, as it should be in the 70's in early May. The heat made for a tough climb on the Great Wall, but we did it......we made it to the top, or the end of one section of the Badaling portion of the wall.

I think we took a different route than we did last time we did the tour, because we didn't remember the steep, really steep, uneven and often narrow steps we were met with on this route. It was crazy, beautiful and amazing to realize how long ago the wall was built. It wasn't very crowded when we arrived, so the trek up was nice, but as we were coming down, there were a lot more people and that made for some tight squeezes. The kids did so great....I can't believe their little legs made it the whole way. Some of the steps were so high that if they sat on them, their legs wouldn't reach the next step down. There was a little ice cream cart at about the halfway point (really? how did they get that up there?) so the kids got a treat on the way down. Oh, and one group of boys thought that Aimee was Lady Gaga :).

On the bus ride from the wall to the jade factory, the a/c broke & we were all about to melt, so walking into the air conditioned factory where we were served an amazing lunch was heavenly. After lunch, they gave us a tour and told us all about jade and how they carve these giant, yet intricate pieces that were on display. One was a ship that weighed 4,000 was so detailed and beautiful...and all one piece. It took 5 masters (as they call the carvers) 2 years to complete.

After the factory, we headed for the Hutong, which is an old village originally built by the Monguls (Mongolians) for the common people when they chose Beijing as the capitol. We all hopped in rickshaws (instead of them being pulled on foot as they did in the early days, they are pulled by bicycles) and it was fascinating, again, to wander through this little village and see how the middle class people of China live.

The homes are very small, but very expensive. We were welcomed into one home by a very hospitable family.....they served us tea and told us about their lives. The father and his two sons are KungFu masters and the father said his wife stays home and practices KungFu in the kitchen :) He had a wonderful sense of humor. He spoke so proudly of his sons, his eldest who now lives in Houston and teaches at a prominent KungFu school. Their home consisted of one very small kitchen, a dining area that was about 10x10, a sitting area (like our living rooms) that was about 10x20, a small bathroom (which they are fortunate to have, because they live close to the main road), and an upstairs sleeping are that we weren't able to see. Their home had been in their family for 150 years and we were told that if the government wanted to buy it, to get an idea of how much they would have to pay, one meter square would cost them $35,000US. Many of the homes in the village don't have a wash room, as they call it, so the government put in many community ones throughout. Makena & the girls got to experience their first "squattie potties".....Makena is not a fan :)

Traveling throughout the Hutong, it struck us how many of the people were just hanging outside, many playing games, many just sitting and talking. There was a common area, like a small park, that there were some playing their version of hackysack, and doing exercises. We thought, wow, if we all took the time to just sit outside and visit with our neighbors and family, we'd probably lead much less stressful lives! They live so simply, so un-extravagantly, and they are reminds us how much we could live without and how much we take for granted.

We were exhausted by the time our day was done, and we ended up having McDonalds for dinner....a Chinese cheeseburger tastes pretty much the same.
Today we have our orientation where we should get the coveted red folder that has updated information about Leah. After that, we tour the Forbidden City and Tianamen Square. We are traveling with 4 other families from across the US (FL, AL and TX), so it has been fun meeting and getting to know them. The kids have become fast friends with the kids of the other families. Tomorrow we fly out to Guangzhou and the next day we meet Leah!! We'll send more to post later today! Miss everyone back home!