It is Friday evening, April 15th. We basically lost most of April 14th in flight and going over the International Date Line, so our Beijing touring began today. I know everyone is anxious to see pictures of our sweet girl, and believe me, we are even MORE ready to see her, ourselves. The point of these two days in Beijing is to allow us to learn more about Chinese culture and to ward off the jet lag. And today was a great day for both!
We began our morning with getting to see our awesome kids and John’s mom through zoom. We tried Facetime with not much luck, so through a quick phone call, we set them up with zoom and heard all about their Thursday, as our Friday was just getting started!
It was so good to see them. We tried to suggest a way that they could understand how long Mommy and Daddy will be gone. Maybe they could make a paper chain and take one loop off every day until we get home. I am so grateful they are in good hands, and I know that God was protecting them from the hardship of traveling. I really don’t know that they would have done very well on this trip, but I would love to bring them back as they are older for a heritage tour.
After zoom, we headed to breakfast buffet at our hotel. There were many options, some familiar, others not so much. I stuck mostly with fruits and things I recognized. Tomorrow I will definitely get more eggs! Then, we met our group and loaded on the bus to go to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City.
While I had been to Tiananmen Square when I traveled to China 3.5 years ago, it was really fun to see it again with my husband by my side. I told him to take control of the camera and just have fun! Our agency guide, Alice, has been excellent. She has told us all about China’s history, culture, the dynasties, and what it is like in the current day. She happily answers any questions we have and has been truly invaluable to us.
Next, we were able to go to The Forbidden City. This was a place that was under some renovation and I was not able to see last time. Every time you think you are “in” the Forbidden City, you really haven’t gone through the gate yet! It is courtyard after courtyard with special entrances for each. The center entrance was only for the Emperor, the ones next to it were for princes and the empress, and the outside entrances were for military leaders. The common people were not allowed to enter, hence the “forbidden city.” Again, Alice did a much better job explaining everything throughout the day, and we are able to purchase a memory book about everything we saw, which will include our travel group’s photo as well. These things are important to us as gifts to pass down to Mia.
The Forbidden City was very expansive and every part of the structure had meaning and purpose. The first building in the center of the complex was where the Emperor would make his proclamations from a golden chair. Formal and special events took place here. This was the craziest part of the time there. Alice warned us that the Chinese do not worry about personal space, and in order to catch a glimpse of this chair, we would have to push and shove our way to the front. She wasn’t kidding! It was like a crazy mosh pit! We caught our glimpse and then fought our way back out of the crowds. Then next building was similar, but slightly less crazy: trying to get a glimpse of the “practice” building/chair where the emperor would rehearse his speeches. There was also a third building which was a banquet hall. It was great to see all these things and many Chinese people took pictures of our group of Americans, too!
After this area, we saw the Imperial Gardens. Simply beautiful! The trees and rock formations were very calming and pretty. This is where the ladies would relax and unwind in that time. Then, we saw the Empress’s quarters. The different buildings surrounded a courtyard area. Her bedroom was in one, living room in another, and a banquet hall in another. This was where the “Dragon Lady” lived. Alice told us the entire history of this concubine-turned-Empress who controlled the country from behind a curtain of her son, grandson, and adopted nephew for 48 years. Each of the Emperors took the throne at such young ages that she basically ruled the country through them.
Next up was traveling to our traditional Chinese lunch. We were very much looking forward to this part of the trip. We were taken to a small Beijing back alley and taken by rickshaw to a Chinese home. The roads were very narrow and mostly stone, so the rickshaw was quite the experience! 80% of the homes in Beijing are owned by the government. The family’s home we visited was “lucky” because they were of the 20% who own their own home. The rooms are in separate buildings with a courtyard in the middle. Our four families sat around one table and the man of the house brought us in dishes of food throughout the meal. It was all very good and no one left without being filled! The food here is amazing, but very starchy. I was happy to have more greens at this meal than at other places. We were allowed to see the bedroom and kitchen. This family was a man, his wife, her mother and her brother. Their daughter is currently in a high school boarding school. The man races pigeons and had many pictures of them around the house.
Back on the rickshaw we went! Time to head back to the bus and back to the hotel. While we were all tired, we knew it was best to stay awake and try to sleep again at the “normal” time. John and I went with our new friends, Katie and Patrick, around downtown Beijing, to their mall, to the street market, and some local stores before heading to dinner for some traditional Peking duck.
We finally made it to about 8pm and decided that was long enough to stay awake. It is time to unwind and head to bed. We walked over 7 miles today and tomorrow will be an even earlier day and we will see the Great Wall of China!
Throughout the day I spoke with the other moms on the trip. It is surreal to FINALLY be at this point! We are IN China! We are just DAYS away from holding our children! All of the planning, paperwork, and longing of our hearts is going to finally be fulfilled. It is simply amazing to stand on the other side of the world, knowing we are so close.
While we were touring and walking around Beijing, I just watched all the little children around us. It only made me want to hold Mia more. I cannot WAIT to get my hands on her and hold her and kiss her and tell her how much she is LOVED.
We spoke to a man near the street market tonight who carried on conversation with us and explained he knew a lot about the country and asked about our adopted kiddos. He was very familiar with Katie and Patrick’s daughter’s city, but not very knowledgeable with Mia’s. He said Luoning is very small, and when he looked at her picture, he wasn’t even sure that she was from that city at all. He said that she looked like she was from a different city, and it is very possible that her parents were.
It seems as though no one really knows much about Mia’s orphanage, her city, or even much about her. We have received very few pictures compared to others and no real connection with other families from that orphanage. It is all a mystery, but she will soon be known. Our heavenly Father knows everything about her, inside and out, and He’s got her. He’s holding her right now and her mommy and daddy are on their way! While I am grateful to have the time to learn about China and see some of this great country, I will be VERY glad to see Monday come! We’re coming, Mia! Hold on, baby girl!