Sunday, July 26, 2015

China Trip: Beijing


On Wednesday morning we flew from Houston to Korea, had a 4 hour layover in Seoul, and then flew the rest of the way to Beijing.  During that over 24 hour time period, Zak and I probably slept for about an hour so by the time we landed in Beijing we were slightly delirious and ready for bed.  Thankfully it was 8:30pm Beijing time so we took a couple of pills to help us sleep and all went to bed.  Well, first I modified the bathroom sink with a Ziplock bag and a rubberband over the faucet (to avoid any accidental drinking of the water in the middle of the night), then we went to bed.   It was great because our bodies have adjusted to China time really well since then!  We have hardly had any jet lag (going back is going to be brutal though, something I keep warning Zak about since he's never experienced it). 

During the flight from Korea to Beijing, Storey started getting her picture taken, something she is thrilled about.  Some random lady on the plane also felt her face and nose, which was weird and not something Storey enjoyed but I told her to get used to it.  Even Monkey was the star of the pictures because Storey held it up next to her face.  People now have a photo of an American kid and her raggedy monkey.    What do they do with pictures of some random kid???

Our driver showed up at the airport to pick us up (first win in China!) and I was expecting the crazy driving that we'd been warned about, but he drove SO SLOW.  Way below the speed limit and all of the other cars on the road were passing us.  We eventually got to the hotel which is all that really matters.
Friday morning we ate at the hotel's breakfast buffet, which was delicious and well worth the money for the convenience and food (the kids are free.  Jak because of the rollaway we ordered and Storey because she's short.  Who knew that would ever be a benefit???!)  There are two sides to the buffet-the Western side and the Chinese side.   I made the kids try a few things from the Asian side.  Storey is now in love with spring rolls.  She ate about 8 for breakfast. And they had donuts that taste just like churros and bacon so Jak was pretty happy too (he wasn't impressed with the Chinese breakfast choices).

After breakfast we headed to the Great Wall and had a taxi driver (Lee) arranged by the hotel.  Lee was awesome and so helpful.  He spoke very little English but Jak kept coughing in the car (his asthma has been bothering him today) so he pulled over and went into a shop to buy him some cough drops. Jak of course gagged because of the taste but it was really thoughtful. He also walked us up and helped us buy the tickets for the shuttle and Great Wall.   Storey had to use the bathroom before we rode the chair lift up and I was so glad that I remembered to grab a roll of toilet paper from the hotel.  I still don't understand the lack of toilet paper.  They weren't selling it anywhere either!  

We took a chair lift up to the wall, which scared Storey to death (she is not into heights).  Even Jakson thought it was a little bit scary and had a tight grip on the rails.  Zak and I thought it was beautiful and peaceful (well peaceful surroundings, Storey kept going on and on about her imminent death).


Once we got to the top, the kids weren't too impressed with either the heat or the stairs.


When we got to hot, we would stuck our head between the gaps in the wall to feel the breeze from below.  It was a nice reprieve.



We walked around for about an hour and a half and then when we got tired of listening to the kids ask how much longer before they got to go down the "Alpine Slide", we rode down on the toboggan.


Unfortunately there were some slow people ahead of us so we didn't get to go as fast as we wanted, but that's probably safer anyway.


We bought chops (stamps) for all three kids with their name in English and Chinese carved into it at one of the booths on the way to the shuttle.  It's always interesting to negotiate the price of everything.  We bought each of us an ice cream as well and the lady started at a ridiculous price that no one would ever pay for an ice cream.  Very different than what we are used to, though I guess I could start trying that out when I go shopping.

On the way home we went through some intersections where we experienced the much talked about crazy driving.   I thought for sure we were going to get hit or hit someone.  The people on bikes and scooters are crazy!!  Zak said it's a lot like the driving on the Las Vegas strip just throw in a lot of bikes and scooters and probably more recklessness.

We went to the Wangfujing Night Market Friday night.  It was right down the street from our hotel.  Lots of crazy food skewered on sticks.  Starfish, roach, cricket, scorpion...we even saw fried tarantula (I think it was fried).


We also had our first encounter with a kid peeing on the sidewalk just wherever he felt the urge.  Strange and gross (especially since so many people were eating in the same area, no such thing as the 10 second rule here).  Jakson didn't notice which is a good thing since he probably would have dry heaved all the way back to the hotel.  The kids held their noses the whole time and didn't want to get too close to anything.  It definitely was an experience! 

As we walked back to the hotel, we stopped to watch a bunch of people dancing in front of a church (kind of a town square area in front of the church). There were several different groups of people who all seemed to know the dance of their group.  Some looked like they were doing a line dance of sorts, one group a more traditional dance, and then there were couples dancing what looked like a fox trot but had one too many steps in it.  We finished our walk home and went to bed.  The kids were exhausted.


So far we have eaten every meal in the hotel.  We eat a big breakfast at the buffet and then snacks we brought for lunch and then eat in the executive lounge for dinner, though the kids weren't really hungry for dinner last night and just picked at everything (also I am now sick of pork dumplings).   Storey mostly ate fruit (which may explain today's issue on the way to the Forbidden City).

This morning Storey was very disappointed to see that there were no spring rolls at breakfast.  She even went and found someone who spoke English so she could complain about the lack of spring rolls.  There were samosas in their place, which she tried but didn't really like.  Instead she ate more fruit (again, probably a contributing factor to the afternoon).

After breakfast we headed to the Pearl and Toy Market, the most anticipated adventure of the Beijing part of the trip by the kids.  They have talked about it nonstop.  We rode the subway (something they also were looking forward to) and it was super easy to do.  Plus both kids were free (which we didn't discover until the ride back).  Thank goodness for short kids.  As we were walking to the subway, we ran into Lee, our taxi driver from yesterday!  He was excited to see us and even offered to drive us to the subway station for free.  We weren't too far so declined but he helped us figure out which stop to get off at, etc.  What a nice man.

We went to the Toy Market first. We walked around and looked at everything, though the kids already had a good idea of what they wanted when we walked in.  It's set up sort of like a flea market with booth after booth of pretty much the same knock off stuff.   Jak was looking for Legos and Storey a watch.  We bargained with several different shop owners and the kids each got a couple of things.  Storey ended up getting a cute watch and Jak got a couple of small Lego sets (called Ninjaga instead of Ninjago).    It was fun, but I was terrible at bargaining because I can't convert currency fast enough in my head.   I am really bad at math.   They would type out on a calculator the "super low price just for you" and you'd type a price (much much lower) to start the negotiation.  Unfortunately,  I had to borrow their calculator a couple of times just to see what the conversion would be.  Zak did a great job though (well at least we think so).   My mom taught Storey to say "too much" in Chinese.  She threw it out there a couple of times and the booth owners were so impressed.  She's China's little sweetheart.  

After we got back to the hotel and dropped off our purchases, we decided, since it was already after 2pm that we would forego our plans of visiting the Summer Palace (about an hour away) and go to the much closer Forbidden City instead.  We tried to get a taxi (where is Lee when you need him???) but were told that taxis can't drop people off at the Forbidden City?    Not sure if we got that right but figured we would just take the subway instead since it worked so well this morning.  The subway station was a different direction, about a mile away.  We almost reached the station when suddenly Storey started yelling about needing to use the bathroom. "Right now!!"  Thinking it was one of her usual shenanigans, I got a little upset with her and lectured her about telling me before she starts peeing.  We went into a nearby mall and found a western toilet, which is when I discovered that she actually had diarrhea.  Oh my.  Thankfully we had plastic ziplock bags and toilet paper from the hotel room so I could help her clean up.   She hung out in the smelly bathroom (thank goodness it was a western toilet!!!!!) for a little while and then turned around and walked back to the hotel.

The life of a celebrity never stops though and she had to pause several times on the way back to the hotel to have her picture taken.  They got a grumpy look from her instead of a smile.  I took the opportunity to teach the kids the very valuable lesson that they never want to actually be famous because then people accost you all the time.  Not sure of that was effective but I don't get very many chances to give that lecture.

My worst fear was that we would t make it back to the hotel before she had another episode, but after the peeing kid last night, I guess when in Rome???

So we won't be seeing the Forbidden City, but we have done and seen a lot and are really working with the kids on being "flexible thinkers" instead of "rock thinkers" (Jakson therapy speak) this trip so figured this was a good time to set that example.  Who knows, maybe we will all come back when Mabel is older and then historical sites will actually mean something to them.


The kids have been AMAZING.   I'm so proud of them.  Storey didn't even dissolve into tears when she found herself feeling a little sick in a strange country on a dirty toilet (thank goodness for Handi Wipes).   It has been such a fantastic experience so far and we are do glad to be doing it together.  I think it has been really valuable for the kids and since I have them to worry about, I haven't had time to freak out about the fact that we meet Mabel in about 36 hours!  

Okay, maybe I'll freak out now.  


Leanna said...

this is so great! I love reading about your adventures. Glad you're all doing well

Sabrina said...

Sounds like things are off to a fabulous start! Praying for Mabel and the remainder of your trip.

Courtney said...

The family picture in front of the Great Wall is so cool and special, I just love it! I cannot get over the kid peeing in the streets! We live in such a bubble. I hope Storey is feeling better. This is such an incredible experience. Loved reading this post!

Melissa said...

I'm impressed that you posted all this, I'm sure you're exhausted! Youll be so glad you took the time to write all this down. I've been praying for you and Mabel today, love you guys!!

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