Today was our last day in Beijing. We got up early to go to the Great Wall of China in order to “beat the crowds” and heat. Today was much cooler than yesterday and we were comfortable in jeans and long sleeves. I was excited for John to see the Great Wall, because it was something that I saw when I was here last. Our tour guide, Alice, kept telling us that we would be the “real heroes” when we climbed the Great Wall. I didn’t really understand this because last time I went, we rode a cable car up to what seemed to be the top of the Wall. When we arrived, I understood. We were in a completely different area of the Wall than I had been before. I was honestly very glad to see something new and to experience this with John. We looked up and saw what Alice had meant…you would need to be a hero.
All of the families agreed to go at least a little ways up. The first level is #6 and the top level is #13. We kept climbing and the kids with the Norris family were counting the steps as they went. It was amazing how well everyone did with the steep, uneven, winding steps. Even little Elizabeth, who is 5, did a tremendous job! We all went at our own pace, and several tapped out about half-way up. Others of us kept going for the challenge of it. Katie was the only one who actually made it all the way up to Tower #13. Most of the rest of us made it to #11 before we felt we needed to head back down, due to time constraints.
Going down was almost as challenging as going up! Every step you had to watch or you could slip and fall. There was a railing on at least one side of the stairs, but sometimes only at a small child’s height. We finally made it back down and enjoyed some coffee and looked at the souvenirs. They had medals to commemorate your experience in climbing the Wall, so of course, I had to get one! John wanted one, too. The lady at the store asked us to write down our names and then she etched them in each of our medals with the date. Just like after finishing a big race, I wore that medal the rest of the day! We earned it!!
After the Wall, we went to the Jade Factory. This place was amazing. We had a guide telling us all about the different kinds of jade and how it is formed into different things, what they mean, and how they would be arranged in a home according to Feng Shui. Everything in China has meaning, from numbers to colors and everything they create. The family Happiness Ball was amazing. This is carved from a single piece of jade and has 3 or 4 balls total within the biggest ball. It symbolizes the family generations and brings happiness to the family. The master achieves his level of work after five years. The apprentice works his way up. The cost of the happiness ball depends on size and quality of workmanship. It was simply beautiful.
Then, we were invited into an enormous jade jewelry store area. Honestly, I was overwhelmed by the things in just the few cases around me, so I did not see the entire store. We decided to get a few pieces of jewelry that can be passed down to Mia as she gets older. Alice told us that this was the place to buy jade and be assured that it is not a fake. I am very excited to have these things for my daughter as something special to be presented to her on an important birthday in the future.
After our purchases, our group gathered to another area of the building for lunch at their restaurant. Our group had grown today by two more families who joined, so we split up between two tables and enjoyed the family-style meal, as we had in the other Chinese restaurants we have been to. Again, it was very good food and plenty of options to go around.
We got back on the bus and continued on closer to the city. We drove by the Olympic center where the Water Cube and Bird’s Nest are and Alice explained how they are used now for tourists and special events. Next stop was the acrobatic show. We definitely stood out in the crowd as the few non-Chinese people in attendance, but our seats were only a few rows back and center. The beginning of the show was a showman speaking very loudly in Chinese and we had no idea what was going on. He went on and on and then people in the audience were getting involved. We found out later that he was explaining that a famous Chinese calligrapher was drawing a painting right there and they were auctioning it off. Very strange. Once the show got started, it was full of lights, music, projected scenery, and amazing talent. I wasn’t sure how much they would be able to accomplish on the size of stage that it was, but it was very entertaining! I am glad that we went.
At the hotel, we took a couple minutes to go back to our rooms and then we headed out to dinner. Alice to us and two other couples to the “hot pot” restaurant and helped us to order. She had described this place on the bus earlier and we decided to give it a try. It is a little like “The Melting Pot” where you cook your own food, but the food goes into a flavored boiling water, and then you dip it in sesame sauce. It was certainly interesting, but not my favorite. The good thing about eating out in China is that you can typically order a lot of food and drinks for only about $5/person.
Now, it is time to get to bed early. We have to get up about 4am to get ourselves ready for the day. We have to repack our suitcases and be ready for the bellmen to take them downstairs for 6am. Then, we will leave to go to the train station and head to Zhengzhou. This is where we will meet our daughter on Monday morning! It’s coming so soon!
I am a bag of mixed emotions. We really have no idea what to expect when we meet Mia for the first time. We don’t know how or if she will feel safe with us and we are trusting God to work in this Gotcha Day. We are VERY excited to leave Beijing and finally get to ZZ!!!