Yesterday was our first full day here in China. At breakfast, we met the three other families who will be traveling with us while here in Beijing. One of them will be heading on with us to Guangzhou later this morning-- our girls, in fact, live in the same orphanage and appear to be playmates! The other two families will travel to different provinces, but next Friday, they, too, will fly in to Guangzhou for the tail end of their trip. As for our boys-- they are the only siblings among the bunch, save one... a lovely young girl named Hannah who was adopted here 7 years ago and has now returned with her parents to complete the adoption of their newest family member!
No amount of reading will ever prepare you for experiencing a culture first hand. The sights, the sounds, the smells... each one invades the senses in raw and interesting ways; I just don't think I ever fully appreciated the "normalcy" of small-town Americana until yesterday! Here, horns blare loudly all day long. Bicycles weave & mopeds speed through the highways and byways at all hours-- no helmets, no concern for oncoming traffic. Tiny children straddle the bar, and multiples pile on top, unconcerned with the traffic that soars around them. Crowds step off the curb to cross 5-lane interstates, and they do not do it quickly! And yet not one accident throughout it all (well, except for one, but it didn't involve pedestrians, bikes or rickshaws).
The air quality is also very poor here. The smog is so thick, that even if the sky was blue, you'd never know it. One guide told me that 30km (or so) beyond the Great Wall, the air is much, much clearer, but in the city, it hangs thick like a blanket.
With regards to the people-- I think they are the smiliest bunch I've ever seen, and they are fascinated with westerners! One gentleman snagged my eldest for a photo-op with his son, and a kind woman walked up to my middler and gently squeezed his arm (to feel his skin perhaps?). Another gal grabbed me for a picture at the Great Wall, sign language clearly expressing her desire. They all speak a mile-a-minute-- a cacophony of sound I can't even begin to comprehend--and much-- MUCH-- is lost in translation. The incredibly persistent street vendors don't seem to understand 'no,' yet they're never rude or offensive. Just persistent. Still, it was a real treat to observe the ways & means of a culture that has seen much in its centuries-long history.
As for the specifics of our day~
Entrance to the Forbidden City in the background
The Forbidden City
Built from 1406-1420, this imperial palace was home to China's emperors and their families for the next 500 years.
Pops, Chris wants to know if you can do this in the cupola??
And Grammoggie & Poppa, fear the Turtle!
The Great Wall
A few years ago, I taught a small group of 1st and 2nd graders in our co-op about the Great Wall of China. Now, to stand upon those stones, to climb a few of the countless steps-- absolutely surreal.
Quite possibly the highlight of the day for the boys-- the Cube, where Michael Phelps made history when he won 8 gold medals in the 2008 Olympics.
And the Eagle's Nest. So, so cool.
Up next: Guangzhou. We fly out in 5 hours.