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Monday, October 23, 2006

Hip, hip, Hubei

It's 7:30am China time and we're leaving for the airport in a few minutes, but first one quick post before we head out to meet our girls!!!! I'm probably just flapping my jaws in the wind here, no one will even read this, since y'all are just waiting for the good stuff, but here 'tis anyhow.

Yesterday, Oct 23, was All Beijing All The Time! Wow, what an action-packed day. We hopped in the big blue bus early in the morning and headed out of the downtown area, narrowly avoided killing at least 5 pedestrians and 18 bicyclists by my count. First stop was quick peek at a Jade factory where we learned how to tell real jade from the fake stuff (I'm still not sure I'd be able to do it very well - guess I'm a slow learner). The factory was massive and jam-packed with temptingly beautiful jade masterpieces in every color of the rainbow. We bought a cool carved "Family Ball" that represents 4 generations of family. We picked one out that had a double dragon and double phoenix in honor of our girls. IMG_2783

Next we zipped over to the Great Wall - the place we'd all been waiting for. And I don't even know what to say about it, because it was jaw droppingly amazing. I couldn't believe I was actually saying "hey, we're sitting on the Great Wall!!!" Never in a million years thought those words would come out of my mouth. It's mind boggling just being there. Some of IMG_2775our group went all the way to the top (Susie and Pete!), some went about halfway, and some went a smidge less and then sat in the middle of the stairs for about 20 minutes grinning at everyone in sight and cheering everyone on (ok, that was me and Michelle). We got smiles from everyone who passed us right there on the steps of the Great Wall and just had a grand time. Here's the view from where we were sitting. Oh, we even saw a man in a bathrobe carrying a bottle of wine - what the heck?

Next stop was the Friendship Store for a cloisonne demonstration and then lunch (oh thank god), complete with the tiny little place settings we've come to expect. Here's what they look like next to TubaDad's hand - see? Lunch was great - not like yesterdays "how hot can we make it before they cry" banquet, and you'll be happy to know I didn't even have to break out the peanut butter. I still have it with me though, and I'm not afraid to use it. Never underestimate the value of a little comfort food when you're nervous and so, so far from home. IMG_2824

Ok I'm running out of time so I'll have to cut this short. The Sacred Way was after lunch and I loved every step through that beautiful long tunnel of willow trees and statues. It was relaxing and a little whimsical in mind. I'm guessing the ancient Chinese weren't smiling when walking through this very serious area, but the turtles, elephants, camels, etc., just lit up my smile. Oh, and we had another blue sky day in Beijing (a rarity I'm told). IMG_2832

You'd think we'd be done after that long day, but nooooooo. When we went downstairs to meet our parents for a nice, quiet dinner that evening my dad came running out of the elevator and herded us out the door frantically saying "hurry, hurry, there are like 800,000 people out there - you have to see this. This is worth missing dinner for!" And off we careened down the street, tailing the tall crazy man in the Team Salsa cap.

Turned out there was some kind of a late night shopping area open on one of the huge streets a few blocks from out hotel. I've never seen so many people, so much activity, and so much neon. Incredible! We cruised all around, stopped for a little pizza, ventured into a bunch of stores, including what seemed to be a Five and Dime store (that turned out to be 4 or 5 stories tall inside!), and just couldn't believe our eyes. What a sight, and what an adventure. Throughout the whole day the six of us kept poking each other, grinning, and saying "Hey, we're in China!" Unbelievable. Alright now, bring on those girls!!! OMG!

Click here for all of today's pictures in a slideshow.