Saturday, September 13, 2008

What A Day!

We had a fabulous day of sight-seeing with our tour guide, Sam. He's originally from just north of Beijing and is married with one little girl. He's a sweet guy and very knowledgeable. He spent the day filling our head with tons of history, including dates and names and details about everything we saw. I just know I'll never remember it all, but I'll try to summarize a few things that impressed me the most!

Our first stop was at the Summer Palace. We learned all about the significance of dragons and phoenix, architecture, and ancient engineering feats with some impressive amounts of history about the royal family thrown in for kicks. What stuck out the most is the concept of the "Power behind the curtain." It's an expression Sam used to explain the dynamics that happened when one of the emperors passed away and left the throne to his young son. Since the son was too young to lead, his mother, the Empress Dowager, instructed him on what decisions to make and how to govern rightly. He wasn't even a teen yet! We also walked the "Long Corridor" with over 15,000 hand painted murals on the over head beams and headers. (Dr. D, do you remember telling me about those this summer?) In person, they are intricate and beautiful. Some of the details that Sam was throwing around made us shake our heads in amazement: when this stuff was happening, America wasn't even a twinkle in the Pilgrims eyes yet!

We headed then to the local pearl market and got a great demonstration of the way freshwater pearls are made. We learned that they come in white, pink, lavender and black. We each got a tiny pearl as a souvenir. LadyBug, you would have LOVED this jewelry market! Shopping there was really fun, but the clerks were serious. They've got the hard-sell down pat! Lunch (cuz I know Shaggy will want to know!) was a great little buffet restaurant with several really yummy dishes. And good old fashioned Diet Coke for a caffeine recharge.

From there, we headed to the Forbidden City. It is a walled-in city within the city of Beijing. This huge, sprawling fortress was full of people and we got a first hand experience in the cultural differences regarding personal space. I slipped on a stone and bumped into an elderly woman, causing her to bump into her companion. I apologized nicely and walked on. But I could hear them laughing and saying, "she said 'Sorry' to me!" I was their daily dose of the crazy Westerners, I guess.

The thing that struck The Boss and I the most about the Forbidden City was the precision and attention to detail regarding EVERY aspect of daily life. Certain doors for certain people. Only certain of those people could go in but not out those doors. Each building had a specific and often single time use. For example, one of the temples on the mountain behind the city was enormous. From where we stood, we could see the amazing colors and detailed murals. But that temple was built specifically for the ONE day of the year in which only the emperor was allowed to pray to Buddha for the nation. Such devotion and attention to the building details was impressive. We were at the Forbidden City for hours. We visited the wings for his beauties, some of whom were lucky enough to be chosen to become his concubines. There were buildings for the retired empress and her family and staff and more buildings for the retired concubines. Heads of state and other foreign dignitaries were housed in yet another wing. It was massive.

We exited the Forbidden City by way of Tianeman Square. There were police all over and the gardens were amazing. With the Olympics and now the Paralympics hosted here in Beijing, the whole city was full of gorgeous and colorful flower sculptures. The square is huge. By the end of it, we were mighty glad to see our driver with his air-conditioned van!

We made our way to the oldest silk market in Beijing. The demonstrations in the lobby were interesting, and we got to see the many stages of a silk worms life. I kept thinking that the boys would have loved that part of the day! There are two kinds of silk cocoons: one with a singular worm that creates threads suitable for clothing and fine needle work, and another with two worms that tangle and weave the threads in the cocoon to make a heavier thread for bed linens and such. Again the shopping was fun, with so many textures to touch and colors to see. The hard-sell was more genteel here, but there was lots of pressure nonetheless.

Finally, we went to the Beijing Roast Duck Restaurant. The meal was fantastic and The Boss taught us how to use chopsticks. I figured out why most Chinese people are so tiny. They cannot possibly get enough food into their mouths to satisfy a large appetite, and their poor little tummies must all be shrunk! (I'm just kidding!!!) I did actually get the hang of the chopsticks with bigger pieces of meat. But that rice and those bamboo shoots escaped almost every time.

We all opted to eat early and head back to the hotel. We're pretty beat today and still adjusting to the time. I gotta give little Bayley some serious props: she made it through the whole day without any complaining and kept up with the rest of us adults quite well. It's been thoroughly enjoyable to get to know Brittany and Bayley - they are great company. You can check their blog at Journey to Addie. Tell them The Gang sent ya!

Only 2 1/2 days till we get Aidan . . . it helped that today went so quickly, but with all the beautiful babies and toddlers we saw today, our thoughts were never far from our little sweetie.
Well, it's 8:30 and I think we're heading to bed. Actually, The Boss has been snoozing for the whole time I've been writing. He must be tired: he missed the whole Jackie Chan movie he switched to when he sat down! Tomorrow, we climb a portion of the Great Wall and visit the orphanage training center run by Living Hope International. It will be amazing!


Kempers said...

Sounds like a fun day. Climbing the Great Wall, huh? Sounds strenuous to me. I'm going to eat a brownie! :-) Thanks for keeps us informed and makes us feel a part of the adventure. Love ya

Salzwedel Family said...

The Forbidden City sounds very cool. And I have to say I drool a little every time you talk about your meals!

Dad said...

Just a note to let you know that we are keeping everything as normal as possible here at home. We had blueberry pancakes and bacon for breakfast this morning. The kids are being very good! And, Maggie and Buddy were nose to nose this morning with no barking or hissing. How's that for progress? We think about you a lot and pray for you at every occasion. Continue to enjoy your touring! Love, Dad/Grandpa

Jonni, John & Sofia said...

I am enjoying reading about your trip and the great information that Sam shared with you. It is so nice to document all of this since it is so easy to forget. Luckily, you have it on your blog, so you will always be able to look back at it. I can't wait until we go back for baby #2.

Thanks for the update and can't wait to see Aidan. Take care honey and we are thinking of The Gang! :)


Jonni, John & Sofia said...

P.S. Can we go stay with your parents too? I saw your dad wrote above that they had blueberry pancakes. Wish I was there (lol).


Melissa said...

I'm so very, very excited for you!!!! This is an amazing journey! Thanks for taking us along on the ride!

Sharon said...

I want blueberry pancakes too!!

I'm finally back to the computer while MaryAlice is sleeping. Thanks for all your comments during my journey. I'm looking forward to following yours now. You've done alot more in Beijing than we got to do.

My theory on why the Chinese are so thin lean more to the bad Chinese water effects!! LOL!

Have fun! Go job with the blog posting. Its hard to keep up with when you are tired, but they are so much fun to read.


Mervy said...

Well, dumplings and blueberry pancakes and lots of chinese food...I'm hungry now. All these pics are going to bring a smile to the roomies face cause she was just in all those places...I'm so glad you're enjoying your trip. Can't wait to see the reunion pics...I have your schedule on the wall of my cubicle and my "Pray for China" bracelet to remember to pray for you guys.

mylittlenest said...

Thanks for all the tidbits of Chinese history and culture. The kids and I studied this last year, so now they can read about it here. Praying daily for ya'!

Jessica said...

It sounds like your days are full and fun. I can't wait till you get your little one in your arms. I am sitting in my grandmothers house at the shore doing nothing but relaxing. Last vacation before this baby comes.

Just wanted you both to know that we are thinking of you and praying for you.

Love ya,


Anonymous said...

Gram & Gramp are keeping up with you trip. Can't wait to see the little one.

Cindi and David said...

So glad to see you there finally. Please say hello to Sam for us, he was our guide and just wonderful. He will take great care of you. Can't wait to see "gotcha" pictures.

Cindi and David Kildoo - Living Hope

Anonymous said...

Hey Gal, you always have a way with words. I am enjoying your journey and getting in my cry as my heart rejoices with you in this dream being realized! Best wishes...we are praying for you! of your cohosts on The View ;)
.....the one with the horse & buggy! :)

Kamandemmi said...

We just celebrated our 10th"gotcha" day and your posts makes it seem even more like it was just yesterday. Enjoy every minute! Walking on the Great Wall was an experience like no other in this world. I LOVE your blog. It makes me feel like I am there again. Thanks! Just think it is now less than 48 hours to Aidan.

Amy said...

Ok, I just read your facebook status which clued me into what was happening! I'm so happy for you and am praying for you all!!

Mike and Barb said...

Gosh, I hadn't realized yet that you left!!!
Wohoo for you and little Miss Aidan!! I'm so happy for you. China is a wonderful country, and I hope you will enjoy most every minute of it!
Blessings to you!

Amie@HeartSmiles said...

Saw on stefs blog that you were in China.. WOW!!!!!!!!!!!! Congrats! Congrats! Congrats!
I can't wait to peek back in to follow along!

Happy Day!


julie said...

Wow, I loved reading all your posts from China. Very fun. Can't wait to see the first pictures of your baby girl in your arms.

Kateri said...

Yes, please tell Sam that the Lambrose's said HELLO! As Cindi said, he was our guide. He amazed us with his knowledge of Chinese history AND American history.
Ok, so you haven't posted today. Did you make it up the Great Wall?? You ok, woman??? That Wall kicked my butt. My 7 year old made it farther than I did. I've told myself over and over that it was just the altitude getting to me. We live at sea level so when Sam took us to that rather high part of the Wall, I was having trouble drawing air. Wasn't the Training Center amazing? Those kids...we just feel in love. That was one of the high lights of our trip for sure.
I keep looking at the clock, thinking about what time it is there. Just stalking, I mean thinking about the Gang. Talk to us soon, ok? No pressure though:)
Love ya

VikingClanEnMass said...

I'm taking a few free minutes, just catching up on your adventures...and all the talk about food is making me hungry! Blueberry pancakes, Chinese food...Yum! Sounds like you guys are learning a lot about culture and sites there. It will be wonderful for Aiden to see her birth country when she gets bigger!
Much love and prayers!

Anonymous said...

Amazing! Todd, I do hope you stopped long enough to take pics. Tracy, I loved your desc of each site and the silk worms. VB