Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Great Wall, Jade Factory, Olympic Park, & Acrobatics Show

Another wonderful day today! We began our day at the Great Wall. It was a beautiful site, and is no doubt a wonder of the world. The wall is very uneven so climbing it can be, umm, challenging in places. One step may be 3 feet high while the next may be 1 foot. No exaggeration. But, my rockstar hubby (and M's!) climbed all the way to the top tower of the section we visited and the kids and I went pretty high up, maybe 1/8 a mile less than the mister.

Until next time Great Wall!
Our next stop was the Jade Factory. We learned about jade, shopped of course, then ate lunch. The more cuts in the jade, the more expensive it is. (You're welcome.) We picked up a few items for Lia Grace for her future "forever family" days as well as a gift for our older daughter and my mom. Lia Grace was born in the year of the dragon so one of the gifts we bought was a little jade dragon.
 VERY expensive piece of jade!!!
 One of the artisans creating something fabulous from the jade...
Our yummy lunch.
 Anyone that knows me knows that I hate seafood so when this put down in front of me I *almost* threw a fit. (winks) You can see how much food was brought out and meals are almost always served family style in Chin@.
After we left the Jade Factory we drove through Olympic Village. This was the site of the 2008 Summer Olympics.  

We saw some of the most fascinating architecture~
 "Water Cube"
 "Bird's Nest"
In the evening we went to the acrobatics show (similar to Cirque du Soleil here). It was pretty intense at the end. 8 men drove their motorcycles simultaneously in a large glass ball! Our hearts skipped many beats throughout that portion! But, it was a great show and we all enjoyed it.
 (Photographs weren't allowed inside)
Here are a few pics of the street scene in and around Beij!ng.

What a HUGE city Beij!ng is. It is a mix of old and new. There are areas that feel very "Western" yet there are other areas that are very, very old, like the Hutong.  We enjoyed our 2 days of touring and feel like we were able to see and do ALOT!
Next stop....HENAN!!!!! Wooooooohoooo! 

The Worst....

Ok, so I am the worst blogger ever. But, before you start throwing things at me, let me explain.

On the morning we left for the Great Wall, Jade Factory, etc., I left my laptop (where the VPN's were loaded) up so I could quickly add the pictures I promised from the previous day. When I returned that night, poof! the VPN's were not there. My sweet husband tried to reload Express and could not. So, I decided to try to blog from my phone. Ummm, I quickly found out that that wasn't going to happen either. It truly was a series of unfortunate events and I am sorry. I hate that I now have the task of trying to go back and blog 16 more days from our trip, and I can only catch up while the lil empress is napping. Bear with me....

Friday, September 12, 2014

Tian'anmen Square, Forbidden City, Hutong Tour

Today was ah-mazing! Completely and utterly ah-mazing.

Before I share what we did, let me do some quick housekeeping for my friends who are traveling soon. 1.) The VPN’s are not reliable. We downloaded Onavo and Express and it has been hit or miss getting a connection. This explains why my blog has been behind. 2.) I have not had any luck posting to FB other than 1 time. Not sure what is going on with that. If you have a group set up in FB, you *might* want to consider a blog as well, just in case, since it seems FB is completely blocked even with the VPN. 3.) Yes, it is true that the beds are harder than what we are accustomed to, but they are not THAT bad. 4.) In BJ, if you are a CCAI family, get bottled water BEFORE you get off the bus each time you depart for the day. The guides always have TONS of water and it will save you a trip to the store. The Sunworld will provide 2 free bottles each day and we use those for teeth brushing. 5.) Take TP with you everywhere you go. Some of the sites have a “Western” potty but they will not have TP for you (squat or not!). Trust me, keep a roll in your backpack. You’re welcome! J

Ok, back to our day. We woke up the first time at 2:30 AM, but went back to sleep within a few minutes. The jet lag has not been bad but I really think it is because I stayed up all night the night before and then slept off and on the entire ride over from Detroit. I also believe we woke up because we heard granpa trying to find his way to the bathroom in the pitch black. Don’t worry, we brought 2 mini flashlights and quickly got up and helped granpa find his way. We also left one of the flashlights in their room for them.  I don’t know if this is prevalent in all the hotels but in this one, in order for your room lights to work, your hotel room key must be plugged in to the wall. It is very interesting and also made for a great laugh when we first arrived to our room and were trying to figure out how on earth to get the lights to turn on. Ha!

When we got up for the second time at 7’ish we got ready and went to the breakfast buffet. Wow to the selection and from what I understand, we have not even seen the best of the breakfast buffets yet! We ate breakfast, chatted with and met some more of the families traveling in our group, and loaded up for TS. On the ride over our guide gave us so much history and information. Honestly I was on overload and couldn’t keep up with my note taking. I do have some to share with Lia though.

Our first stop was TS. Here are just some of the pics from there. Seriously, between the 5 cameras plus 2 i-products the teens had we had going, I am pretty certain we left with no less than 200 pics.

Then we went to the Forbidden City (Imperial Palace). That place is unbelievable! 72 acres of gorgeous architecture and rich history. Again, we were so much information and I wrote down what I could for LG to share with her in the years to come.
Our last stop today was one that I feel incredibly lucky to have experienced. We got on a rickshaw (which was fun!) and were taken through Old Be!jing, referred to as the Hutong. We were able to see how the people of BJ live and their culture. But the best part was eating lunch in a local home. The lunch was prepared by the homeowner. He lives in the home with his wife and baby boy. The home has been in his family for 60-something years and is over 100 years old. They live so simply and without many material possessions, and it made me think, “why on earth can’t we?” They were able to feed 8 families in their very small home and prepare the most delicious feast from what we might call a “third world” kitchen. The family was happy to host us and open up their home and was beyond gracious. The homeowner gladly answered our questions and you could tell he was happy to host us in his home. The love they have for each other and their baby boy was evident. And the food. Oh my stars! We were treated like royalty. The food kept coming and was soooooo good. Truly humbling experience.

The rickshaw ride to the home...
Ha- a reggae bar!
Walking into the home...
 Very narrow walkway between homes. They are kind of like villas. Many families live in a section and they share a shower house and bathroom.  
Here is the kitchen that all the delicious food was prepared in.
 And the cook...
As you can see it is VERY different than what we are accustomed too.
I seriously could have stayed in Hutong all day. Loved, loved, loved it! Lia Grace, you will be back someday to experience this with us.

Safe and Sound


Wednesday the 10th was our travel day. It was a very long day but uneventful, and for that, we are thankful. :)

We decided that since we had to be up very early for our departure we would just stay up all night so we could *try* to get on Ch!na's time sooner than later. Tuesday night we ordered pizzas, ran a few last minute errands, and finished the packing. My good friend Angela, who is also an adoptive mom, drove us to the airport. We met her and her husband at 4 AM at a Waffle House on the way to the airport and she hopped in our vehicle. What a blessing it was and we are so appreciative that she saved us the expense of airport parking fees. Thank you again Angela!

Our plane departed at 7:30 AM Wednesday.  We flew from Atlanta to Detroit then from Detroit to Be!jing. Here are a few pics from the ride over.
  I may or may not have cried the first 30 mins. of the first leg of the trip.
 My sweet parents and I in the Detroit airport waiting for the next flight.
 What my guys and gal did for just about the entire ride over. Literally! You would not believe the entertainment options that were available! HUGE shout to Delta on that. If you were bored, it was your own fault. Paying extra for the upgraded seating was a mistake. I won't go there though. *winks* 7,000+ miles, 15.5 hours, 2 planes, and 2 continents later, we had arrived. We got to BJ on 9/11 at 2:40 PM local time.

 Our guide waiting for us at the airport and we got on the bus. Some of the first sights we saw in BJ~


We came to our hotel and got checked in. The hotel is lovely and is very "Western". For a moment you could easily forget that you aren't in the USA. Well until you need a roll-away bed delivered or the connecting doors unlocked. Ha! Trying to converse was quite humorous but we were able to accomplish both tasks.
Remember my special group of mommas that I referred to when we got Lia's referral? Well, "overseas momma" is in our travel group and we finally were able to meet for the first time. It was an awesome moment and one that we had been waiting for! She and her husband came down to our room, chatted for a while, and discussed how we couldn't believe that we were finally here.
Our girls are in the same SWI so you'll see more pics of her and her sweet mister throughout our trip. Since our referrals, our paperwork has stayed in sync, and I truly believe it's been God ordained. He knew that our girls would need each other and that M and I would need each other. Anyway, meet M.
We met up with another sweet family from our travel group and went to a restaurant our guide recommended for dinner. It was comical to say the least. Besides the language barrier, we (my family) did not know how to use chopsticks, and we all found out that napkins are not a usual part of what is provided. We did eventually get some, but I am pretty sure the locals got a giggle out of us! Here are a few pics from dinner~

After dinner we went to the night market. Thankfully we had already eaten. But, I can assure you that if it crawls, walks, slithers, flies, swims, or is involved in reproduction (yes, I am serious!) it can be found on a stick.

Pictures from the streets as we walked~

 Yes, Divergent in Chin@!

Organized dancing in the church courtyard at 10 pm anyone? Why not? It is so random seeming but we witnessed this on a few street corners. I later asked our guide about it and was told that it is for entertainment and exercise. Hmm...at 10pm? Ok then!
Some of the forms of transportation we saw as we walked. It is so diverse!
 We ended the night by going to the 7-11 for bottled water to keep in our room.
Our hotel...
 The courtyard/atrium
Our room is on the 7th floor and overlooks the courtyard area.

Our first night was perfect. I am beyond grateful for traveling mercies and that we are here safe. I am in awe that we are finally on the same continent as our daughter and now just days away from meeting her.

Please continue the prayers. Please pray that she will know who we are, trust us, and allow us to provide comfort to her while she grieves. Please pray for her health and heart. Please pray for the children who will never know the love of a family. We covet and appreciate your prayers more than you will ever know!