I'm not sure where I got the idea that the Great Wall would involve lots of walking, but didn't give any idea to the incline...this morning my calves are killing me! Our time in the mountains was lovely and we enjoyed a "farm style" lunch just down the mountain from the wall. Simon would probably say one of his highlights today was taking a toboggan run down the mountain at the end of our visit. It was pretty unbelievable to stand atop something with such a huge historical presence.
Simon, Tami and I have made it safely to Beijing and are settling nicely into local time. I wake up early (I can easily blame that on my Nykamp genes) and want to lay my head done when we're having diner (I can easily blame that on the aftermath of our busy daytime schedules) so it's been fairly manageable.
Our flight was long--about 13 hours from Toronto to Beijing--and I did consider a parachute at about 9 hours, but we survived and Simon was able to sleep the last 4 hours of the trip. A large over-exhausted, 10-year-old flopping around in a confined sleep area was less than ideal but once he got comfortable he was able to get some much needed rest. Upon arrival (around 4:30 pm local time) and pick up by Shawn and Trixi (my sister-in-law's sister and her Chinese husband) we dropped out things at home and then went out to one of their favorite dumpling spots. Dumplings are one of our favorite things at home so having dozens of varieties to choose from was a treat.
Beijing traffic is crazy! Trixi has done a wonderful job of taking her midwest driving skills and becoming one of the locals (she has been here about 9 years) but there are times that Tami and I just close our eyes. Lots of honking, congested streets and locals dodging between traffic on foot or by bike--generally without a care about the traffic flying by them. Simon has thoroughly enjoyed riding beside the many Bentleys and pink cars that feel these congested roads.
The first day Trixi had set up a tour through Beijing's bell tower and the Hutong region. We were pedaled through these by bicyclists in our little carts. We learned about how to figure out what kind of people lived through these ornate doors or very simple doors based on markings above and beside the doors. A Hutong is a home with a central courtyard and living quarters on 4 sides. Most have been converted into regular homes, but they maintain several in this region for historical purposes. Once Simon got over some initial shyness he made conversation with our driver and several of the other drivers who were waiting to give people rides. It was so fun to see people gather around to watch this "big" little kid tell them about his family and the school he attends in the US. They all complimented him that his Chinese was very good--yeah, Excelsior Elementary!
Yesterday we spent the day at the Summer Palace. You can google it to see fabulous pictures of this area without the masses of people that were in attendance with us yesterday. Beijing is a massive city and Monday through Friday this week are their Labor Day holiday--which means people everywhere! Being tall and a different nationality certain helps us stay together, and also gets lots of stares! Trixi is about 7 months pregnant, blonde and about my height, she gets attention wherever she goes. It's unheard of for someone in her condition to be out in public. My favorite is when the older women just shake their head in disgust and her naive ways!
Last evening Shawn gave us a fabulous cooking lesson for dinner and we fell into bed in preparation for today's trip to the Great Wall. We get a great workout every day and I've been warned that today will be a day filled with steps--Simon couldn't be more excited, as you can see from the pictures he embraces every huge flight of stairs as a challenge to his youthful legs--Trixi, Tami and I not so much.
I leave you with the images and faces of our trip so far.
The bags are packed and we're counting down the hours until we're boarded and headed off on our adventure. I will do my best to post pictures and an update every couple of days. Our flight leaves Minneapolis tomorrow at 10:30 am, we fly to Toronto, have a 2 hour layover and then lift off to Beijing at 4:30 Toronto time. We will land in Beijing at 4:30 local time which will be about 3:30 am central time. We will be tired, but excited.
It's really great that at 44-years-old you can still feel so excited about something that you can't sleep at night and you have butterflies in your stomach. It's also a thrill to watch Simon's excitement as we count down the days.
Tami arrives this evening and we will do our best to stay up late so that sleeping on the plane tomorrow comes more easily.
We've been informed that springtime is well underway in Beijing and we should hit the height of their spring flowers! I can't tell you how excited we are to see something green...
Next post -- China!