I just have to start at the beginning, I guess.
On November 3rd, we heard from our adoption agency that they had received our travel approval from the Chinese government, and that we should have our travel dates within a couple days. This was unexpected, as it had been estimated that it would probably be late November or early December for a travel approval. Again, God had other plans, apparently!
The very next day, November 4th, the agency called to say that we would fly to China the day before Thanksgiving - November 26th! By the end of the day, a travel agency called us with a prospective itinerary and wanted to know if they should go ahead and book our tickets. This was all happening way too fast for my brain to process!! You see, in our family, I am the trip planner. I don't do "seat-of-your-pants" trips - I plan where we will be on what day, which hotel we'll stay at, what we'll see along the way, etc. The fact that the travel planning was completely out of my control was totally stressing me out. On top of that, I was a nervous wreck. This was actually happening! We were going to bring our son home! Much, much sooner than we had expected - we weren't ready!
Delivering the news to my supervisor and co-workers only made it seem that much more real. Friday, November 21st was my last day at work, and they threw a wonderful shower/going away party for me. I managed to make it through the day without crying (too much).
The next four days were such a blur. We said farewell to our church family until we will all be back together (hopefully in just a few weeks). We finished last-minute work on our bedroom upstairs. We hastily packed for two different climates - the north of China, where the weather is much like Ohio, and the south of China, which is more like northern Florida. We had, in the meantime, received a day-by-day itinerary from the agency representative who would accompany the five families on this trip to China. This did much to help put my mind at ease. At least I knew where we would be and what was planned for us each day. But I was still super nervous. I didn't sleep well, and I wasn't eating much. I was faithfully taking my vitamins, hoping I didn't get sick before we even traveled!
The 13+-hour flight to Beijing was intimidating. I am a nervous flyer to begin with, and the thought of spending that much time on a plane was causing a lot of anxiety and tension on my part. Thanks to Dramamine, I slept at least a few hours on the way!
We arrived at Beijing airport a little early, after flying almost directly over the north pole and over a good bit of Canada and Russia. It took us a little over an hour to get to the hotel from the airport. There were four families who all arrived about the same time, so we had a small bus to take us. The fifth family was not arriving until a couple hours later, so they would have a separate car to bring them to the hotel. We began to get acquainted with the other families as we rode. We were from literally coast to coast of the US: two families from California (one of them the family who arrived later), one family from Rhode Island, one family from New Hampshire and us from Ohio. We were the only ones who were first-time parents, though. The other families had biological children or had adopted previously; however, this was everyone's first time to adopt from China.
The jet lag was horrendous. Having taken days to recover from the six-hour time difference to France in October, making up a 13-hour time difference was a massive undertaking for us old fogies!
Our hotel was magnificent. The lobby was spotless; the room was very nice. They provide you with two bottles of water daily, because no one can drink the tap water in China. If you boil it first, then you can drink it, but otherwise avoid it! We were amazed to learn that Beijing has a population of 20-30 million people. That's almost 4 times that of New York City! There must be an incredible bottled water industry in China, if that many people rely on it!
We then traveled to a section of the Great Wall that is near Beijing - perhaps 40 minutes outside of town. It was incredible to be able to walk on this living piece of history. The steps were killers! No need to do any gym workout after this excursion! Some of the stairs were normal height, others would be about two feet high! And they seemed endless! We climbed up and up and up... and it was amazing! I can't imagine being a soldier whose post was at the very top of the mountain! It was incredible to realize that we were seeing and standing on something that was centuries old and an integral part of Chinese history for several dynasties.
After this tiring adventure, we went to a Cloissone factory. It was odd to hear a French word refer to a Chinese art, but it was fascinating. Rather than make ceramic vases that break, the Chinese discovered a way to make vases of brass (or copper). They then draw intricate designs on them, glue very tiny pieces of copper filigree onto the designs to outline them, then fill in the sections with colored glaze and bake it. They do seven layers of color to fill the sections to the level of the copper filigree, baking it after each layer. It can take months to do one vase, if it's a fairly good size. After that there is a clear glaze that covers the color. It's baked then buffed, and the inside of the vase receives one layer of colored glaze, so that the copper doesn't corrode if water is put in it. The end result is beautiful!
Upstairs in this factory is a very nice restaurant where we had lunch. Lunch was served family-style, with all the selections being put onto a large lazy susan in the center of the table. Many selections had either pork or shrimp, so we were somewhat limited, but what we ate was very good. After lunch we made a short stop at the Olympic Stadium that is in Beijing. It was getting dark, and we couldn't get very close, so we don't have any good photos of it.
To be continued...