Beijing, China

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Happy Holidays. If you are reading this and it is December you must be very organized and ready for the holidays.  I am not but decided I needed to add this before I forget everything.  We had a great time going to Beijing , China for the Thanksgiving break. The kids did get 3 1/2 days off as it is an American school.  My Dad and sister, Karen, were visiting – I guess I should blog all we did with them too – next time.  We decided to take a trip since they were here and what a great chance it would be.  We left Wed afternoon, 8 people and luggage tightly squeezed into the van for a 1 and 1/2 hour drive to the airport.  Lines were long but the kids were kept occupied by running into many of their friends.  I think half the school was at the airport.  Getting to Beijing was fine. I had arranged with a tour guide and driver to pick us up at the airport in Beijing.  We met Mrs. Li , a 64 year old little Chinese woman, who looked a little overwhelmed that there were so many of us. I had arranged for  4 adults and 4 children. We all thought – OH NO! We are going to have to squeeze into something small.  Much to our surprise and pleasure we had a bus waiting for us, and only us.  We never did figure out why she looked confused.  Anyway , off to the Hilton to check in.  Lovely room and service. 
The next day, Thanksgiving Day, we met at 9:00 to start our touring.  Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden city were first.  It was a little chilly and overcast but we had hats, gloves, etc.  They were a lot bigger than I ever imagined. In the square, there is the famous large picture of Mao Tse Tung. They change it out every year. Thousand of people can fit into the area. I know I need to go do more research on the history of the revolt that went on there. The Forbidden City just kept going and going. I know we did not see everything and we were there for a couple of hours.  It is all very large and built to survive anything.  The one courtyard is 15 layers of bricks deep. The Emporer did not want anyone to be able to tunnel into it.  The history is amazing. Mrs Li could pull out so much info and dates.  The one Empress Dowager seemed very cruel.  After that she took us to a Cantonese restaurant that was very good. Dad and Karen used chopsticks too. I hate to admit that Michael is better than me.  Next we took a rickshaw through an area called the Hutongs. They are small villages that are very traditional Chinese villages. Many are being torn down to make larger buildings. Only about 40 are left.  We went in to the school  where they sang happy birthday to Michael in English. Then we were able to visit with a family. The man was an archaeologist who was retired but used to do carbon dating on artifacts. He told us his most famous item is in a Chinese Museum.  Very cool! That was the end of day one but we were tired and ready to get back to the hotel. 
On Friday morning we woke up to clear skies. YEAH! Because we were off to the Great Wall. It was about a one hour drive to the section of the Great Wall that we were going to.  We had the option of walking up to it, taking a cable car, or taking a ski lift.  We opted for the cable car.  Dad and Karen were tired just getting up the hill to the cable car. It was a hill.  When we got to the top it was amazing to say the least.  We lucked out with  a beautiful blue sky day. The wall just rambles in both directions as far as you can see.  The mountains were gorgeous.We all walked a little ways to the left but started encountering lots of stairs. Karen did not want to go very far so she and Dad waited for us to walk to the highest area we could get to at this section. It took us about 25 minutes. The last part was about a couple of hundred stairs straight up.  One thing you do not think about with the wall is that it is a lot of steps up or down. It is not all a flat surface. We were hot by the time we got there . Everyone had told us to dress warmly. We were taking off layers as we went.  Then we had to get back to Dad and Karen.  To get down we had the same options or we could take the luge slide down.  Everyone opted for the slide. The only catch was we had to walk another long distance to get to that area.  If we had known how far I am sure Dad and Karen would not have done it.  I think we walked 2 miles and mostly up and down stairs. Karen has a depth perception problem and so going down stairs is very difficult for her. She plugged along though. Dad too was a trooper. His foot was hurting a lot. But once you started there was no going back. It was all worth the effort though as the slide was very fun. It took a few minutes to get down.  At the bottom of the hill we had some egg pancakes. Poor Lyndon was the only one who ordered one at first then everyone tried his, therefore eating most of his. We had to order more , but another thing Dad said he and Karen would never have tried.  That night we went to a Chinese Acrobat show.  There was another family , the Gehlmans, who also were in Beijing. They have a daughter who is friends with Catherine and Emily and  a son who is friends with Michael. We kept running in to them They were at the acrobat show too so we actually switched off Michael for Sharon during the show. It was a mini version of a Cirque de Soliel. They were very good.  Later we walked to Hard Rock Cafe, Beijing for dinner. 
Saturday was cloudy again. We drove past the Olympic Stadium and area where much will be going on. 8 is a lucky numer in China. The Opening Ceremony will be on 8/8/08 at 8:08 . That took a lot of planning.  We went to the Summer Palace. Once again, so much bigger than I ever imagined.  There was a corridor called the LONG CORRIDOR that was SOOOOO long. It was an outdoor walkway . I am going to have to look  this up and find out exactly how long but it just kept going and going. The last Emporer was kept imprisoned here at one time. Once again the very evil Empress Dowager’s doings.  There was a huge marble boat here just for them to sit out on. Whoever had it built would get seasick so they did one that did not move.  We went for Chinese again that day for lunch. Dad kept getting hot peppers that were not supposed to be hot. Lyndon, Sarah, Catherine and Emily played Pepper roulette with the remaining peppers. I think only Catherine got a hot one.  After lunch we went to the Temple of Heaven.  It was beautiful.  Very calm feeling about it I thought. It had a park feel about it as well.   Finally off to shopping. Everyone says to shop in China. It is all very cheap.  We did well and got some bargains. Mrs. Li would tell us where to shop and how much to ask or bargain for.  She was great.  I could have bought so much more but we really did not have much time. I think Lyndon must have planned that one.  We eneded the evening with a Peking duck dinner. The city used to called Peking by English speakers and hence Peking Duck. The duck is roasted and covered in molasses. The first course is the skin sliced off. The next course is the juicy meat. You eat both these in a pancake. They then end with soup made from the duck. Another meal completed with chopsticks. Everybody was getting pretty good.
On Sunday morning we left Beijing bright and early.  I honestly think half the plane was people we knew. Emily and Catherine had another friend on the plane who switched around so that they all three could sit together. Sarah had a friend on the plane too and their PE teacher was on the plane.  Many others that we knew as well.
When we got back, very tired, we went out to dinner to celebrate Michael’s birthday . His birthday was the next day but we weren’t sure if Lyndon would be home or not.  We went to Fujimama’s.  A little restaurant near here.  They sang Happy Birthday to him and everything.  When we got home he got to open his presents.  Much to his surprise and excitement he got a  Wii.  I wish I had the video rolling for all to see how happy he was to get it.  A very honest emotional thanks came from him.  All in all a very wonderful Thanksgiving weekend trip.  I know that we are very thankful for all we have and are able to see and do.

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