Tuesday, February 22, 2011

China Update #2

(From Jay) Monday Evening

Hello Everyone, or as we are learning to say here, "Ni Hao" (Pronounced NEE-HOW)

Like Camille, I wanted to unload some thoughts about our trip so far.  Some of these might be the same as Camille's but will be from a different perspective, so bear with me as I type away.

First, let me say that the trip over was tough.  Sitting in an airplane for 13 hours is difficult.  You don't realize how hard it is to sit for so long.  Several times we had to get up and walk around.  The plane was huge with 2 rows on one side, five rows in the middle and two rows on the far side.  Here's a pic from inside the plane.

Despite the hard trip... we made it, and walking into the Beijing International Airport it was kinda surreal thinking that we were in China.  The first thing I noticed was the sky.  I was told by my good friend Ed "Kowboi" Tyler that I would miss blue sky, and that's exactly what I noticed.  I finally experienced what a city with smog looks like.  It was a cloudy/foggy mix, but just seemed oppressive.  You could notice a difference in the smell of the air once we got off the plane and we noticed many people wearing masks.

We made it through customs and on to baggage claim with not too much difficulty.  When we made it to the exit where the public could wait, I was amazed by the number of people waiting.  After walking a short distance, we found our guide in line holding the movie-like white sheet with our family name.  It seemed weird yet very comforting at the same time.

After a 40 minute van ride in the craziest traffic I have ever seen, we made it to our hotel which is located in the heart of the city...comparable to Times Square in NYC.  The room was nice, and all we wanted to do was eat something and get some sleep.  Although we reached the hotel at 6pm Beijing time, our bodies told us it was 2am and we were tired.  Not having a clue where to go, we went down to the hotel restaurant and grabbed a table for the buffet.  Before proceeding I inquired about the price, because Kowboi had warned me about the prices at the hotel and we arre on a budget!  We were told that the price was 220 RMB per person...which works out to $135 for the four of us...hmmm...no thank you...and we politely and a little embarrassed excused ourselves.  We found a small french-style bistro next to the hotel, and grabbed a couple pizzas and some bottled water for less than $60...still expensive, but less than the hotel.

It may sound funny, but when you travel abroad like this, it's very possible to experience several weird emotions...I remember thatn from when I went to Romania a few years ago.  I remember feeling panic and extreme homesickness.  There's something about being in a land that's not yours, you don't look like anyone, you don't talk like anyone...that just makes you feel very lost...and I could see some of our group having the same struggles.  Madison seems to be dealing with it better than the others.

Well...after a decent night's rest we spent Monday touring some.  We had built in an extra day in case our plane was delayed, but since it wasn't we were able to go through with our scheduled tour.  We spent the morning at a section of the Great Wall.  On the way, our guide told us so much of the history.  It was very amazing to hear the stories that date back so much earlier than our country's history.  We didn't go to the more common tourist areas of the wall, like an area called Badaling.  Instead we went to the Juyongguan section which was about 40 minutes outside of Beijing.  We quickly figured out that climbing the Great Wall is tough!  It was steep, the steps were very uneven, the surface of each step was uneven and there was snow on the steps.  Combine all of that, and I just pictured myself tumbling down 500 stairs and headed to a Chinese ER.  But the Lord blessed us with safety and away we climbed.  After a short time climbing we reached the steep section heading up the mountain to a watch tower.  Camille and Annie decided to opt out of the steep climb, but Maddie and I charged on to the top to the watch tower.  It reminded me of Sam and Frodo climbing the stairs as using our hands and feet we bear crawled up the incredibly steep stairs.  But it felt great to make it to the top.

Here are a few pics of the Great Wall...we have many more to come.

After a nice lunch and a fascinating tour of a jade factory, we headed back in to Beijing to the Forbidden City.  The first word I think of when describing it is HUGE.  It just kept going and going.  It was incredible to see, and I just wondered what it would have been like to see it in its prime.

(You can click on any of the photos in this post, by the way, to view a larger version of the image.)

I especially liked the image below that shows that outer castle wall with the huge moat (which was frozen)!  We could have stayed there for hours, and went through various exhibits and museums, but at around 3pm, our bodies were still not adjusted to the time frame and we were walking around half asleep.  We finally said we were done, and it was time to head back to the hotel.

So we came back to the hotel around 3pm and slept til 10pm...then we woke up and stayed up til 2am....our timing is so off!

Now, we lie in bed awaiting tomorrow...we have our orientation and then, we head to the orphanage to meet our Lori.  I'm so nervous and excited.  Please continue to pray for us on this trip.

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