Sing for the joy that's found in setting up the pins and knocking them down

Monday, April 29, 2013

Hello from the other side of the world!

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.

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