Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Beijing, Here We Come...

Look at the grin on the girls' faces! They were so excited to finally be heading to China. The trip went off without a hitch, and we even had beautiful views over Alaska on the way. You can see that Jaelyn has brought along Mao-Mao, the panda we bought her in China ten years ago. She is hoping to bring home a friend for him!

We landed late Saturday night, a full day and a half after we left. We stayed in the same hotel as back in our 2004 and 2006 trips, so we had a wonderful breakfast with much needed decent coffee, as we were up early to head to the Juyongguan section of the Great Wall (supposedly wheel-chair friendly), following a quick stop at the Jade Factory. We were happy to be heading to a section we had not seen before. Kaia was not so happy, since breaking her 5th metatarsal bone in her foot just three weeks ago, she was having to tour in a boot and using a scooter. Not so fun in 103º weather! Here we are before we were too hot and sweaty (note Kaia's boot; we left the scooter on the bus)...
This stone reads a famous quote by Chairman Mao: "If we fail to reach the Great Wall we are not men.” Well these women did reach the wall!

We actually climbed in the opposite direction of this photo.
One of Kaia's worries would be that she would not be able to climb the wall. Mike had promised her that he would carry her if he had to.  Kaia did what she could, but as you can see, it gets quite steep, and the stairs are not uniform in height (some were as high as my knee while others were about the height of my ankle). Kaia was double fisted with fans, and they headed up to the first tower. By the way, at 51, my husband rocks!


Our attempt at a selfie before we broke down and bought a stick!
Kaia and I hung out in what little shade we could find, while Mike and Jaelyn headed on. After a short rest, Kaia and I took the slow and steady tortoise pace down, knowing that the others would eventually catch up with us. This view is from where we began. Kaia and I made it to the first tower in the upper right hand of the photo, where we rested in the little shade we could find. Jaelyn and Mike ventured to the building in the top left hand of the photo. Note the fine air quality!

Day two had us up and early yet again, as today we were heading to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City.  Note the smiles on their faces, and once again, 100º+ weather and smoggy skies.  This was probably Kaia's least favorite days, due to the packed crowds, heat, and bumpy drive on her scooter. At one point she declared, "I don't like China. The people are rude and it's too hot."  It took many attempts, but I think we finally convinced her that it was cultural, not being rude. She actually learned how to push back and defend herself with her scooter;)

One of my favorite pictures of the trip; six beautiful girls forever bonded by their trip together visiting their homeland.
First photo with the selfie-stick we bought from a vendor in the Forbidden City. We warned her...
Thankfully in the afternoon we got to be off our feet somewhat, and be pulled by a pedi cab (rickshaw)! We toured through the Hutong section of Beijing, and old style of neighborhoods found mainly in Beijing. At one time there were something like 37 of them, but now there is only one left. Fortunately this hutong, Shichahai Hutong, is thriving with tourism and a revived, hip bar area around the lake, so I don't see it disappearing anytime soon.

We were served lunch by a family in their hutong. Their 12 year old daughter was making hair ties with bows while we ate, so our girls bought from her at the end. We then walked to another hutong, one of a famous artist in the area. We had a Q&A time with him, where he graciously answered our questions. Pretty sure he had more money than the average occupant, as he had a second story!
Kaia with the artist in his home.
We finished the day sampling tea at a tea house. I think we were all wiped out by then, and not too interested in sipping hot tea! The group of six girls were happy to spend the evening swimming at the hotel (fyi, China does not warm their pools quite like we do in the US).

The next day was chock full, once again. Some rain had fallen overnight, so the morning started off with slightly cooler and more tolerable temperatures. It also helped that we were visiting the Temple of Heaven, which unlike are previous two days of touring, is surrounded by green grass and trees. The parks in Beijing are very cheap for the locals, and usually free for seniors, so they are used frequently for exercise and relaxing. Right away we found a group playing Jianzi. It looks similar to a shuttlecock, but is played similarly to hackysack. Jaelyn and I played some (at least attempted to...they were very good) with the locals, and Jaelyn ended up buying a Jianzi from one of the men.

This area was the highest point in the Temple, thus the emperor could be the closest to heaven here. Thankfully we take Jesus wherever we go!

We made a quick stop at the silk museum before heading to lunch. The girls learned how silk items were made in an interactive presentation. We bought them both silk pillows and pillowcases (our biggest splurge of the trip). After lunch, we had some unexpected time before our next experience, so we made a quick stop at the Pearl Market for some shopping. The girls were introduced to Chinese bargaining when their dad purchased two Spiderman cars that drive up the wall (you're welcome Josh!).

If that wasn't enough for the day, we were invited to the CCCWA. Back when we adopted, this was called the CCAA. It was almost a "mystical" place at that time, that seemed secretive. Fast forward 10 years, and now they are the ones sponsoring heritage trips, inviting adoptees on visits back. We got to tour the different rooms, then settled in for some welcoming gifts and calligraphy lessons. Not sure the girls understood the significance of this visit, and it wasn't the most entertaining for them, but we thought it was an important experience.

The girls with the director of the CCCWA.

Loved this shirt the girls were given. It reads "Home in World, Roots in China." They were also given a nice set of chopsticks with stand, as well as a beautiful book on the Chinese art of paper cutting (it includes real examples).
And you would think we were done with our day, but nooooo. The girls got to experience their first taste of Peking Duck for dinner. When we returned to our hotel, the four younger girls and I went out to play jianzi. Once there, we discovered a group of dancers across the street, so we made a daring dart across where Jaelyn and I were the only ones brave enough to join them. She was a trooper, continuing on even after I gracefully bowed out.

Okay, last full day in Beijing. We were scheduled to tour the Summer Palace in the morning, having the afternoon to ourselves. However, the group all wanted to see the pandas, so we elected to do that in the morning before it got too hot, then finish off at the Palace.
Jaelyn bought a new panda at the zoo, so she introduced Kopa to MaoMao
You could get amazingly close to the animals, and sadly, people were feeding them, despite the signs stating not to.

You can see why the Emperor's mother loved the Summer Palace. It was cooler and greener here than at the Forbidden City.  However, it probably wasn't as crowded when she was visiting! We walked one direction shoulder to shoulder most of the time. We wisely chose to take a boat ride back.

As much as we enjoyed our time in Beijing, we were excited to be heading to Xi'an in the morning for new experiences for all of us. Stay tuned...

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