Greetings from Beijing!
Well, what can I say-we finally got here! I canít believe we are on the other side of the planet! The Airport Connection van picked us up Sunday morning, September 14, at 4:50 AM. We flew from Milwaukee to Chicago, and then Chicago to Beijing. The good news was, the flight was only 12 Ĺ hours, not the 18 hours I expected. There were little movies screens in the seat backs in front of us, which displayed a map showing in real-time our exact location, altitude, speed, remaining flight time, etc. They were so cool! I knew this was quite the adventure when we were flying over Siberia! Then, for our snack they gave us Chinese noodles with either a spork, or chopsticks. Scott of course was brave and used the chopsticks. I, on the other hand, was sitting next to two Chinese guys who were quite proficient with chopsticks. I opted for the spork!
Anyway, we finally landed at around 2:00 PM on Monday. We had a bit of a scare at the border patrol in the airport. Scottís hair is quite a bit longer than it was when his passport picture was taken, and they pulled him aside and had to have three different border guards look at his passport before they decided it was indeed him. But, after I regained consciousness, we proceeded through SARS screening and customs with no other problems. Yeah! We were met by a very nice guide named Rose, who took us to the bus and on to the Jianguo Hotel. Rose checked us in, introduced us to Chen Chen, our guide for the rest of our time in Beijing, and told us to meet Chen Chen in the lobby at 8:00AM. We decided to walk down the block to the grocery store to buy some bottled water and M&Mís. Obviously we stand out like a sore thumb as Americans, because we were immediately descended upon by street vendors selling fake Rolex watches, postcards, CDís, DVDís, etc. You cannot imagine what this is like unless you have experienced it. The street vendors are extremely persistent and numerous! I really think everyone should have the experience sometime in their life of being a minority in a completely different culture. Itís really quite a humbling experience. Kind of puts the whole world in perspective. On the way back to the hotel, we were all too tired to deal with shopping/bargaining, etc., so we decided to take the underground tunnels across the street to try to hide. It worked! So, by 6:30 PM, we were all sound asleep in bed!
This morning (Tuesday, Sept. 16), we had breakfast (American food) in the hotel, and then met Chen Chen in the lobby. We headed straight out for the Great Wall, about an hour away. It was so awesome! The section we went to was the best preserved/original part of the wall, which is over 2500 years old! First we took a gondola up to the base of the wall, and then climbed the stairs up to the top, and walked along quite a long section of it. We were the only Americans there, and evidently quite an attraction, because about 10 different groups of people stopped us to have their pictures taken with the kids!
After the Wall tour, we rode back into town (after getting stuck for an hour in a traffic jam) and had lunch at a very good Chinese restaurant. (well, I guess theyíre all Chinese here!) This time I had no choice but to use the chopsticks! No one spoke English there, they just brought out plates of food for us to pick from. We ate everything we recognized. Then, we were off to the Forbidden City.
The Forbidden City was built around 600 years ago at the beginning of the Ming Dynasty, and was lived in by Emperors, their concubines, and their eunuchs until the last Emperor in the early 1900ís. Itís really a beautiful city, with amazingly well preserved artifacts still in it. And the place is huge!
After that, we walked across the street to Tiananmen Square (also huge!), which used to be only for the emperor, but now is devoted to Chairman Mao, as well as the current Chinese officials.
Finally, at about 5:30, we returned to our hotel, had dinner, and are ready to go to sleep! Hopefully tomorrow when we arrive in Nanchang, we will get our babies, although it sounds more likely that we wonít get them until Thursday morning. Iíve uploaded some of our pictures to a web site at www.precario.com/annaemma/china.htm . Iíll try to add more pictures each time I send an email, so you can go back to that page and just click on the added links.
Terri, Scott, Bill, Alex, Katie and Rianne