Friday morning we met our tour guide Lydia in the hotel lobby at 8:30am. This was an exciting morning because we were meeting other Holt families for the first time. We arrived a day earlier than others because we went to Lucy's orphanage. We met with four other families. One of them from PA has a daughter with them who is 10 years old so Abigail was excited for a friend on this journey.
We loaded in the bus and drove to the Great Wall. It's about an hour drive north of the city. The day was not perfectly clear but clear enough that we could see a lot of the wall. The mountains north of Beijing are really beautiful. It's amazing that so close to such a busy city are gorgeous mountains. The wall is 4000 miles long and took 2000 years to construct. It really is an amazing site to see. The spot where we hiked was SO steep. I'm not sure you can even get the true incline from the pictures. The steps on the wall are all different sizes. Some very small and some very big so that the enemy always had to be looking down not to trip. It was quite a hike. By the time we got to the third tower, my heart was pumping out of my chest. The wall gets very narrow at parts so there is only one path going up and one down so you really need to keep moving,, although some people just sat down in the middle of the path which then made hiking around them quite difficult. At the third tower, we stopped to rest and take some pictures. So many Chinese people were gathering around Abigail to take their picture with her. It was so funny. I have no idea what they are talking about but they go crazy when they see her. Any mom with a child would force their kid to stand by Abigail and try to get a picture.
Hiking down was just as interesting as going up. So steep! At the bottom we walked around at the touristy shops. Russ tried a Chinese beer. It was actually very smooth. I was impressed! Abigail and I tried some traditional Chinese ice cream. It tasted like butter cream icing mixed with ice cream. Very sweet. Which is funny because we've tried their cookies and it's like they don't like as much sugar in their cookies as we would normally have at home but the ice cream was very sweet. Strange!
After the Great Wall, our bus tour took us to a Jade Factory where we first ate lunch upstairs, then saw a demonstration on how they make Jade statues and jewelry. Of course then there was the show room where you could buy Jade. Wow, that place was HUGE!
After the Jade Factory, we headed to Hutong Lane. This is the old part of China. Everywhere we have been so far, people only live in apartment buildings. There are no homes. Even outside of Beijing towards the farm land, we still saw apartment buildings, no homes. The Hutong area is all one or two story homes but not like what you would think. They are all attached to each other and the streets are so narrow and they share a public restroom. The restrooms are so disgusting, I can't even describe. First there are squatty potty's so that in itself is an experience. The smell is horrendous and they don't have toilet paper. Any toilet paper that's used is put in the trash cans and not flushed so the smell is just awful. No sinks in most of them either and those with sinks do not have soap. So we carry toilet paper and hand sanitizer wipes everywhere we go!
We went into the home of a man on Hutong Lane. His family owns three homes together. Families live together in China and each generation helps take care of the next. Not many kids go to daycare around China, they all have grandparents to spoil them. He said that 1 sq meter of his house is worth $30,000 (Us dollars, not Yuan). That would be IF he sold it. These homes are all passed down to generation to generation so rarely is one ever sold. The home was SO small compared to where even the smallest homes int he US. Her kitchen was about the size of my laundry room. Her whole living room space was maybe the size of my laundry room and bathroom put together. This man had two sons. He was allowed to have two because he is a minority, from Mongolia. China has special laws for minorities that they are allowed to have two children. Now China is changing their one child policy a bit that if either parent is an only child they can still have two children. Our guide Angela explained that the cost to raise a child in China is so outrageous that even those that can have two many times chose not to.
We learned that in Beijing, the average IT guy would make $1000 US dollars a month. However the cost of living is way beyond that. It's so hard for them to get ahead. The cost to send a child to preschool was about $700 a month.
After Hutong Lane, we came back to the hotel. Here we got our red books from our guide. This includes new pictures and more information about your child. We did have two new pictures of Rachel in there which was so exciting to see. We have her updated measurements and a little on her personality. It says that she does not like strangers or strange environments but is happy and sleeps well in familiar places. So we're expecting that the handoff and the rest of this trip will be quite difficult for her. Expecting the worst and hoping for the best.
Tonight we walked down to the night markets again. The smell from these vendors is so horrific that I was having trouble not barfing. I thought I was going to puke all over the sidewalk. Russ was taking lots of pictures of all the unique culinary options. I'll try to include some of those pictures.
Abigail and her new friend Isabella have become fast friends. We went to dinner with their family and the girls swam in the pool until about 8pm. She showered and passed out within minutes. We all slept well and woke up around 5:30. So we are adjusting to the time a little each day. We are thankful for the opportunity to be here a few days before we get Rachel. This time adjustment has been rough. Holt designs these travel days so you can learn as much about Chinese culture and history as possible to be able to share that with your child. We are so happy we chose to tour with them before getting Rachel and now have a lot to share with her.